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Reading Between the Lines by Weasley Freckles

Format: Novel
Chapters: 30
Word Count: 86,287
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 12+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature,

Genres: Mystery, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lupin, Snape, Sirius, Fred/George, Ginny, OC
Pairings:

First Published: 05/02/2004
Last Chapter: 07/27/2005
Last Updated: 08/07/2006

Summary:
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What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in the middle of your favorite Harry Potter book? Absorb all the magical knowledge you could? Give the character you hate a piece of your mind? Hook up your favorite couple? Try to save the life of Sirius Black? Well Claire is about to get a chance to do just that...Over 45,000 reads! Thanks, guys! ^.~


Chapter 1: The Birthday Present
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[a/n: Hello everyone! I’m very excited about this story because I got this idea from a dream I had a while ago before the 5th book came out. This chappie is boring and I don’t get into what the main character is like too much but I PROMISE it gets better! I hope you like it and thanks for reading!]

Disclaimer: I don’t Harry Potter. And even if I DID, I would be working on the 6th book and not on this pathetic fic (HINT HINT JK Rowling!!!). ^.~

Chapter 1: The Birthday Present

Claire Woods opened her eyes at nine o’clock to the bright June sun shine pouring into her bedroom. She sat up quickly and her eyes flew to her calendar. Today was June 21, her birthday.

In a rush of excitement, she dressed quickly and ran down the stairs. As she came to the kitchen, she saw a small pile of presents waiting for her. Not even aware of the trip from the doorway to the table, she found herself searching through the gifts immediately, looking for the one she’d been waiting the past three years for.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” her mother said from the stove where she was making pancakes.

“Where is it...where is it?!” Claire said, tossing present after present aside, searching, hoping with all her might that it was there.

“What are you talking about, Claire, hmm?” her mother taunted as she flipped another perfect pancake into the air, knowing perfectly well what her daughter was so eager to get her hands on.

“It’s not here...” Claire said, falling into a chair completely out of breath and trying not to cry. How could her mom have done this? She promised that it would be waiting for her when she woke up on her birthday. Well, it was her birthday, but it looked like her mom hadn’t kept her promise...

“Oh, is this”—her mom pulled out a thick package out from one of the cabinets—“what you’re looking for?”

Claire felt her heart skip a beat and a huge smile growing on her face. She ran over and had the present out of her mother’s outstretched hand before she had time to blink.

“YES!!!!!!!!!” she screamed as the last bit of wrapping paper fell to the floor. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

“Shhh!” her mother warned, but she still grinned that way all mothers do when they know they’ve made their child happy. “You’ll wake up you’re brother!”

“Ahh!” Claire continued to shriek with excitement, hugging the fifth Harry Potter book as if it was a friend she hadn’t seen in ten years. “I love you, mom! You’re the best!”

“I’d better be,” her mother replied, walking over and putting their breakfast on the table. “That store was a zoo this morning! All over that book!”

“This isn’t just a book, mom!” Claire said, staring at the cover with happy tears in her eyes. “This is the book! The book I’ve been dreaming about for three years!”

And with that Claire ran out of the kitchen, her eyes darting back and forth quickly reading the first page.

“So what do you wanna do today?” her mom called after her as Claire was halfway up the stairs.

“Absolutely nothing!” she shouted back as she neared her bedroom door. “I don’t want to go anywhere and I want the house very very SILENT!”

And with that she shut her door, flopped down on her unmade bed and began to read:

The hottest day of summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large square houses of Privet Drive...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Two days later, the entire Woods family, minus Claire, was sitting in the living room, watching the five o’clock news when they heard a cry from upstairs.

“What was that?” Mrs. Woods asked from the couch where she was playing checkers with her son, Dylan.

“Claire,” Mr. Woods answered. “I’ll go see what happened.”

On his way up the stairs, the crying got louder and louder. He was afraid his twelve-year-old daughter had somehow gotten hurt, and his pace quickened.

Without even knocking, he opened her door and said in a worried voice, “What happened?! What’s wrong?!”

But when he saw Claire he knew immediately she wasn’t hurt in any way. She was lying on her bed, her head in her arms on her Harry Potter book, which was open to what looked like the last one hundred or so pages. She was sobbing like she had just been told the sky was falling and everyone on Earth was doomed.

“Dead!” she cried. “He’s d-d-dead!!!”

Mr. Woods walked over and sat down on the edge of his daughter’s bed and placed a comforting arm around her.

“I’m sorry, Claire,” he said.

Claire simply sobbed in reply, shutting her book so it wouldn’t be made unreadable by her tears.

After Claire had regained her self-composure, her dad went downstairs to get her a glass of water. Claire simply stared at the closed book in disbelief.

“How could she do that?” Claire said, drying her eyes on her Harry Potter blanket. “How could she kill Sirius?”

In order to prove to herself that he wasn’t really dead, that the words had been a figment of her imagination, she opened the book again to that fateful page that had crushed the hearts of so many Harry Potter readers.

"There’s nothing you can do Harry...nothing...he’s gone.”

She began to cry all over again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Two weeks later on a rainy afternoon, the doorbell rang.

“Grandma!” Claire heard her mom shout from downstairs. “I’m so glad you made it!”

Claire groaned. Her great-grandmother was cool for being a million years old, but her visit meant that she wouldn’t be able to read much for the next three days, since they would be taking her all over the city to see the “sights”...whatever those were.

“Claire!!” Mrs. Woods hollered up the stairs. “Claire, get down here!”

“That child’s never been one to stay up in her room,” the old woman commented. “What’s she doing up there?”

“Oh she’s been re-reading those Harry Potter books again,” Mrs. Woods replied. “I swear I think she’s been depressed since she read the newest one.”

“Yeah, it was very sad,” the old woman replied. “I myself cried for an hour.”

Claire’s mother about fell over in shock.

“You read them?!” she asked.

“Of course, don’t you?”

“Hi Grandma,” Claire said, coming down the stairs unenthusiastically.

The rest of the day passed fairly slowly. They had a big lunch and went out to eat for dinner, and in between they caught up on everything the kids had been up to and the most recent travelings of their great-grandma. But that night, as Claire was busy reading, there was a knock on her door she didn’t expect.

“Can I come in?” her grandma asked, poking in her head.

“Sure,” Claire said, drying her eyes. Every time Sirius was brought into the story she found herself crying, even his brief mentioning in The Sorcerer’s Stone.

“What’re you reading there, honey?” the woman asked, sitting down on Claire’s bed and putting her cane next to her. “Ah, this one is my favorite,” she added, seeing it was the third Harry Potter book, “So much action at the end! Kept me on my toes!”

“Me too,” Claire said in a sniffly voice.

Her great-grandmother looked at her, concerned and asked, “You still upset about ‘ol Sirius kicking the bucket?”

Claire felt her blood boiling. She hated this old woman talking about one of her favorite characters “kicking the bucket”.

“Yes,” she replied shortly, shutting the book and folding her arms across her chest.

“Ah, I can see the wheels spinning in your head,” the woman said in a wise voice. “You’d have written it differently, changed the whole story line so he could’ve lived, is that it?”

“Of course I would, if there was a way!” Claire stated simply.

“Hmm...I see...”

Claire looked up and saw her great-grandmother staring at her curiously. Then something very peculiar happened. The old woman reached out a wrinkled hand and placed on top of her great-granddaughter’s dark hair. Her eyes were shut tight as if she was concentrating very hard on something.

“Uh...Grandma? What are you doing?” Claire asked after a minute of waiting.

The old woman removed her hand and said, “You’ll see.” As she got up to leave and added, “Good night, honey.”

“’Night,” Claire said, picking up the book again and wondering about the old woman’s sanity.

But as the door of her room closed, Claire began to feel very sleepy. She finally drifted off with the book open in her hands having read this line:

Peeves flipped over and grinned at Dumbledore from between his own legs. “Nasty temper he’s got, that Sirius Black.”

In her sleep she felt she was falling...falling...falling like she was never going to stop. Her eyes were wide open in this dream-like world, watching things fly past her. An owl...a cauldron...a black set of wizard’s robes...a wand....

THUMP.

She landed on the hard stone floor of a castle she had visited many times in her dreams and in the world of reading.

Only this time...it wasn’t a dream...

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAA! How did this happen? What will happen to Claire? Review me and I’ll tell you in the next chapter! ^.~ Thanks for reading everyone!]







Chapter 2: The Owl
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[a/n: omg I LOVE you guys! thanks a bunch for reading this, it wasn't getting hardly any reviews on the other site! *weeps* I thought myself a failure--but I guess not! YAY! *hugs everyone*]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, but I DO own a nice pair of woolen socks. They keep my toes nice and toasty! ^^

Chapter Two: The Owl

She was staring at a sea of black—the legs of all the students milling around in the Entrance Hall. It was obviously dinnertime. She looked behind her and there were the oak front doors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This was the castle, not from the Harry Potter films, but her Hogwarts, the way she pictured it.

She was brought out of her thoughts by someone pulling her to her feet.

“Honestly, Claire, you should be more careful where you’re walking!” said a small girl about Claire’s height with short, light brown hair and dark eyes. “You nearly knocked over that sixth year in front of us! She looked like she could’ve clobbered you—”

Claire was hardly taking in a word this girl was saying. What was this? Was it a dream? Was this her mind just wandering before she drifted off to sleep? But, she felt so awake! She was wearing the black Hogwarts robes; she could feel their weight on her skin. And, if she wasn’t mistaken, there was something long and thin in her pocket—a wand!

She was at Hogwarts!

“Am I really here?” she thought aloud, her excitement barely containable.

The girl that had helped her off the floor stared.

“Did you hit your head when you fell?” the girl asked her.

Claire turned to look at her in curiosity. She, too, was wearing the robes. Her outline wasn’t blurry at all. Claire reached out and touched her arm. She was solid.

“Oh my God, I’m awake?” Claire said, a smile spreading again across her face. “I’m really here?”

“Claire, maybe you should go to the Hospital Wing?” the girl suggested, staring at Claire in concern.

“Oh no, really, I’m fine!” Claire insisted. “Listen, can I ask you something without you thinking I’m crazy?”

“Well, no matter what you ask, I can’t possibly think you’re any crazier than I already think you are,” the girl replied simply.

I like her, Claire thought. She speaks her mind.

“Am I at Hogwarts?” Claire asked her, wanting to make sure this wasn’t a dream.

The girl continued to stare at her as if she had escaped the insane asylum.

“Yeeeeeah, where did you think you were?” the girl answered. “Did you think when you tripped just now you’d get back up and be on another planet?”

Claire laughed.

“No, of course not,” she told the curious girl. “I just—oh my God!”

Over the girl’s shoulder Claire saw three people coming out of the Entrance Hall. One was a tall boy with flaming red hair and freckles. Another, a girl with bushy brown hair and pretty brown eyes. And the third, was a skinny boy with jet black hair, bright green eyes, and black glasses.

“Is that Ron Weasley???!!!” Claire nearly squeaked in her moment of discovery (for Ron was her favorite character of all time ^^), grabbing the girl that’d helped her and spinning her around. “And Hermione and Harry?! Is that really them?!” She was fighting the impulse to run up and hug them.

“Well, the last one is right, and I don’t know who the other two are. Just his friends. They’re in our House, you’ve seen them before Claire,” the girl said, looking at her quizzically. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“You mean I’m in Gryff—hang on, what do you mean I’ve seen them before?” Claire asked curiously. “I’ve never been here before...have I?”

“That’s it, I’m taking you to Madam Pomfrey,” the girl said, grabbing Claire’s hand and trying to lead her up the marble staircase. “You’ve lost it.”

“No, no, no!” Claire told her. “I swear I’m just fine. Listen, if you can help me by answering some questions and not asking me until I can figure out what’s going on, I promise I’ll explain everything! We’re obviously friends, so don’t you trust me?”

The girl sighed and said, “Yeah, I guess so. But you are really worrying me.”

“I told you, I’ll explain everything in a minute,” Claire said, thinking quickly of all the things she’d need to know. She was obviously a student here, a student that had always been here, if that made any sense. If that was true she’d have to make sure she didn’t look completely brainless. If this girl was walking with her, they were probably friends and in the same House, which meant she could be of some help.

“First of all, and please don’t think I’ve lost my marbles, what’s your name?” Claire asked her.

The girl looked all the more worried but still answered her question.

“Bethany,” she replied. “Bethany Anderson.”

“Well, nice to meet you, Bethie,” Claire said shaking her hand. Bethany looked somewhat relieved when Claire said that.

“Well, I know you’re not totally nuts now,” Bethany said with a sigh. “You’re the only person who’s ever called me ‘Bethie’.”

“Really?” Claire said, speaking what was on her mind without thinking as usual. “That’s cool. Okay, can you take me to our dormitory?” After another worried glance from Bethany she added, “I’ll explain everything later, I promise!”

“Alright, follow me,” Bethany said, beginning to climb the marble staircase after Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

As soon as Bethany lead her through a door concealed behind a tapestry, Claire knew exactly where they were going.

I’m in Gryffindor, she thought triumphantly, the same house as Harry and Ron and Hermione! This is so cool! I wonder if we’re in the same year...

That would be a good thing to know.

“Hey, Bethie?” Claire said, running in front of her so she was walking backwards. “What year are we in?”

“This is too weird,” Bethany said to herself, shaking her head. To Claire she said, “Second, why?”

“Just curious,” Claire replied, beginning to walk correctly again alongside Beth. “And what year is Harry Potter in? Do you know?”

“He’s a year older than us! Don’t you remember how excited we were after the sorting? When we went back to the common room he and his friend with the red hair, Ron’s his name I think—”

“Yeah, it is,” said Claire, watching Ron who was walking ahead of her.

“Riiiight, well, don’t you remember how they were being congratulated for flying that car to school?”

“Yeah, I remember!” Claire said, getting excited as she remembered that part of the second book. “And when Ron’s wand broke?! Oh, I felt so bad for him! Poor guy...hey, what did you stop for? I thought the Fat Lady was the portrait we were looking for!”

Bethany was stopped dead in front of a picture of Wilma the Wonderful and gawking at Claire in shock.

“How is it you can remember stuff like that, but you can’t even remember what House and year you’re in?” Bethany asked her, eyes narrowed as if Claire was playing a trick on her. “Like Harry Potter’s friend’s name, and that he broke his wand last year?”

It was then Claire realized she had said too much. She needed to be way more careful about the stuff that she knew about Harry, if he himself didn’t even know certain things—

She gasped. Excitement though flooded her. She knew everything there was to know about the Harry Potter books! She practically had them memorized! And if Harry was only in third year...so many things hadn’t happened yet! So many bad things—maybe she could somehow stop them from happening! And maybe, just maybe something she changed would save Sirius’s life in the end, by making Harry do something differently now! It was brilliant!

“Here we are,” Bethany said as if she was giving Claire a tour around the school.

“What a minute,” Claire said, staring at the picture of a knight next to a chubby pony. “This is...Sir Cadogan! Beth, did Sirius Black break into the castle last night?”

This simple question caused Ron, halfway through the portrait hole, Harry and Hermione, who were already inside, to turn around and stare. It was the only thing anyone was talking about all day! How could she not know?

“Hi, Ron, how are ya?” Claire asked with a big smile. Then she turned back to Bethany and said, “So did he?”

Bethany looked horrorstruck. Ron had just muttered something to Harry about “stupid second years”.

“Could you save the weird questions until we get up into the dormitory?!” Beth hissed angrily. “And yes, he did. Don’t you remember? We had to spend the night in the Great Hall!”

“I told you, I know absolutely—wow! This place is even more amazing than what I thought!” Claire exclaimed happily as she entered the common room, causing more people to stare as if she’d announced she was going to join a heard of lemmings and jump into the ocean and drown.

“C’mon!”

Bethany grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the girl’s staircases. They had the dorm second from the top of the tower. Inside were four four-posters.

“Wow!” Claire said to the empty room. “Which bed is mine?”

Bethany pointed to the one second from their right. Claire ran and jumped on it, and to her surprise, found that she landed on some important items.

“What the—”

Sitting on her bed were two more sets of wizard’s robes, all of the books she’s need if she was to attend classes, a cauldron, a clapsable telescope, and—

“Oh my God!” Claire said, staring at a full set of brand new Harry Potter books.

“What are those?” Bethany asked her curiously. Picking up The Chamber of Secrets and flipping through it’s pages.

Claire was just starting to look through a trunk of other equipment at the foot of her bed, when a small brown and white owl flew through the open window. It landed on top of The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 2 and brandished a small roll of parchment attached to it’s leg.

With Bethany reading over her shoulder, Claire unrolled the parchment and read:

Dearest Claire,
Welcome to your birthday present from your great-grandmother! Whatever you last read last night, you will find yourself sucked into that part of the story. All the necessary equipment for your classes has been sent along with you. Also, I’m sure you found the set of Harry Potter books that also went into the story. These have been sent so that you’ll be able to know exactly what Harry and his friends are up to, and, if you feel it necessary, can try and help them along. Remember: READ BETWEEN THE LINES! You will be sent home when, and only when, you know it’s time. Have fun and READ BETWEEN THE LINES!

~Love from, Grandma~

“What does that mean?” Bethany asked, totally bewildered.

“It means,” Claire said, a smile playing at her lips, “I’m never going home and I’m going to be having a lot of fun tomorrow. What’s our first class?”

“Transfiguration, why?”

“Because, I can hardly wait!” Claire said, flopping down on her bed with a feeling of immense excitement.

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaaa! What will happen in Claire’s first class? How will she be of help to Harry and his friends? Will Ron continue to think she’s a loony? Tune in next chapter to find out! ^^ Thanks for reading!]



Chapter 3: A Lot to Learn
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[a/n: I'm glad everyone seems to like this, it makes me happy!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own a life-size replica of the giant squid. What would I do with such a thing anyway?? *blink*

Chapter Three: A Lot to Learn

“WAKE UP, BETHIE!!!! We have CLASS today!!!”

“Ugh...what? No, Claire, go back to bed! It’s way too early!”

Beth was obviously exhausted because she had been up very late with Claire, who had spent half the night convincing her that she was from another world where Harry Potter was a book series, and that she could never remember being at Hogwarts before. But by 3 am, Beth really had no choice but not to believe her. But she said she’d help Claire out as much as she could, which was the important thing. If only she would’ve just believed her to begin with, she could’ve gone to bed so much earlier!

Claire rolled her eyes at her sleeping friend. It was her first day of classes and she was not about to go back to bed. Falling asleep was hard enough, after all! She kept wondering what they were going to learn today and if she’d be any good at it. She also couldn’t wait to meet all the other people in their class. Just thinking about all the young wizards and witches that hadn’t been in the books yet that she had a chance to meet sent shivers down her spine. How could Bethie sleep at a time like this?!

“Wingardium Leviosa!” Claire said promptly, causing Bethany’s covers to hover three feet above her.

“Not funny, Claire!” Bethie said, making an attempt to grab them. But the sheets simply formed a fist and punched her hand out of the way.

“FINE!” she shouted, giving in and walking over the water basin to wash her face.

“What’s with all the screaming?” said the occupant of the bed next to Claire’s. She had long, flaming red hair and rubbed her brown eyes in an attempt to kill the drowsiness she felt. Claire felt her stomach flip over.

“GINNY!!” she squealed happily, running over to her bed and hugging her.

“Um—good morning to you too, Claire,” Ginny said confused. Then she suddenly groaned, “We have Transfiguration first, don’t we?”

“Yep,” Bethany said, pulling her hair out of her face with a rubber band. “Rumor has it McGonagall is giving us a pop quiz today. Something about changing a teacup into a crab.”

“There’s something we really need to know to succeed in life!” Ginny huffed, pulling her robes over her head. “Might as well go down and get some breakfast now that we’re all up.”

“What about her?” Claire asked, pointing to the blonde-haired girl who was sleeping soundly in the bed on the other side of Bethany.

“Robin? You don’t need to worry about her, she’ll get up eventually,” Bethie said as she tied her shoelace neatly.

“Why aren’t we waiting for her, too?” Claire asked, confused.

Ginny stared at her. Bethany looked worried. Obviously, Claire was supposed to know the answer to that question.

“No one ever talks to her,” Bethie replied.

“And she doesn’t talk to us,” Ginny said back, fastening a silver barrette in her hair and grabbing her bag. “C’mon, if we hurry we can get first dibs on all the food!”

Claire excitedly grabbed her bag and followed Bethany and Ginny out of the room, but not without one last look at their sleeping roommate. She looked nice enough, what was so wrong with eating breakfast with her?

At the bottom of the girl’s staircase, Ginny stopped abruptly and made a sound that sounded something like “Eeep!!” Claire looked up to see what it was that made her stop, and noticed that Harry was on his way out the portrait hole with Percy right behind him. She giggled.

“You’re so great, Ginny,” she muttered to herself.

“Eh?” Ginny asked, still blushing and following a fifth year out the portrait hole.

“Nothing!” Claire responded with a grin.

Once they got down to the Great Hall, they chose seats at the Gryffindor table and began devouring a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, and pumpkin juice.

“J.K. Rowling always make my mouth water whenever she describes what their eating at the feasts,” Claire said to Bethany quietly in between shoveling the eggs in her mouth. “Now I finally get to eat one!”

“You’re crazy,” Bethany replied, pouring the three of them juice as a cloud of owls soared through the hall making their morning deliveries. Claire was very surprised as the little brown and white owl that had visited her the evening before landed on top of her toast and handed her a note that said:

Be at the quidditch pitch tonight at seven. You’ll find something very useful there.

“Sweet!” Claire exclaimed. The quidditch field! How amazing was that?!

“I’ll come with you,” Bethany said, reading the note over her shoulder. Noticing the owl that was now nibbling on her cornflakes, she asked, “Is that supposed to be your owl then?”

“I don’t know, but I like the idea!” Claire said, stroking the bird’s feathers lovingly. “Can we go to class now?!”

Bethany chugged down the last of her juice and they left the Hall, Claire practically skipping in ecstasy. Once they found the classroom, Claire chose a seat in the very front row, Bethany behind her, eager to start.

“Take your seats, class!” Professor McGonagall said once the majority of them had arrived. “Today I will be giving you a short examination to see how well you retained the spell we used last class. I will give you five minutes to practice.”

McGonagall flipped over a small hour glass and everyone scrambled about the room gathering teacups and nervously practicing transforming them into small crabs. Bethany showed Claire how to hold her wand and how to pronounce the spell, and when Beth preformed the spell herself it worked perfectly. She was obviously one of the smarter students in the second year.

“Time to begin the examination!” Professor McGonagall said sternly over the noise. “Back to your seats! We’ll begin with you, Miss Woods.”

Claire smiled and stood up, concentrating hard on the teacup. She prodded it with the tip of her wand and said, “Scuttilius!”

It worked pretty well, actually, minus the fact that the crab only had three legs (the other was still attached in the shape of the handle, and completely useless to the poor creature) and was still a hideous shade of turquoise.

“I did it!” Claire shouted happily, dancing a bit in jubilation. The class laughed and Bethany sank down a bit in her chair. Claire took no notice. She had just turned a TEACUP into a LIVE ANIMAL, for heaven’s sake!

“That spell needs some serious work, Miss Woods,” McGonagall responded, writing something on the parchment she’d magicked into the air to keep track of the student’s grades. “Mr. Biggs, step up please.”

A short boy with light brown hair stood up, pointed at his target, and preformed the spell with no problem. Everyone applauded.

“Well done, Biggs,” McGonagall scribbled something on her parchment. “Miss Gregory, you next please.”

Claire was aware of an uncomfortable silence in the room. She turned around in her seat and saw that Miss Gregory happened to be Robin from her dormitory. She was sitting in the very back of class in a desk by herself, and also stood up and preformed the spell without flaw.

Claire was the only person who clapped for her.

“I don’t understand why no one likes Robin,” Claire muttered to Bethany as the room exploded in laughter as Ginny’s crab toppled onto the floor do to the fact that two of its legs were only a centimeter long. “She seems very nice to me.”

Bethany shrugged. “She’s just the crazy one, I suppose. Kinda like Loony Lovegood in Ravenclaw—”

“I love Luna!!!” Claire said excitedly. “She was hilarious in the fifth book—”

“Miss Woods, would you kindly pay attention? Or do I need to take away five points from Gryffindor for you to be quiet?” the professor threatened.

“Oh no, Professor, I’ll be quiet! Do you think maybe I could try my spell again, also? Just for grins?” Claire asked quickly.

McGonagall looked stunned. Take the quiz twice? Most students were uncomfortable doing a spell in front of their class to begin with!

“You can do the spell on your own later, Miss Woods,” she said simply, calling the next student.

“Please, Professor?” Claire said, raising her hand without waiting to be called on. “I really want to get it right!”

“Five points from Gryffindor,” McGonagall said sternly. “I suggest you be quiet, Miss Woods.”

Claire was stunned, yet she still smiled. She loved Professor McGonagall, she was such a hard nut to crack, but she really cared about the students. Like in the fifth book when she got hit by those stunning spells! Claire was so afraid she was done for, because the books just wouldn’t be the same without her.

“Is something funny, Miss Woods?” asked McGonagall in an aggravated voice. The entire class looked nervously between the two of them. What was Claire playing at? She was going to loose them all their hard earned points if she wasn’t careful.

“Oh no, Professor!” Claire said in a perfectly chipper voice. “I’m just very happy today!”

“You’ll be very happy serving detention if you do not give your fellow students the courtesy of your silence while they perform their spells for me.”

Bethany kicked her and she stopped smiling.

“Wow!” Claire said after stepping out of the classroom. “She really is that intense! I can see why Ron called her an old bat now!”

“Claire, I know you’re excited and everything,” Bethany said as they made their down the corridor, “but you need to be more careful. You really don’t want to make the teacher’s angry. Detention isn’t a fun event around here.”

“I just wanted to try the spell again!” Claire said, twirling her wand between her fingers. “Is that so wrong? Hey look, it’s Harry!”

Harry and Ron were on their way up the marble staircase, closely followed by Percy. Claire whipped The Prisoner of Azkaban out of her bag and begin flipping through the pages.

“What are you doing?!” Bethany asked, trying to grab the book out of her hands. “What if someone sees?!”

“Will you relax?” Claire asked politely. “I don’t remember what’s going on in the story right now! Let’s see...okay, here we go. ‘The school talked of nothing but Sirius Black for the next few days.’ Looks like nothing important is going on except for Percy following Harry around to make sure no one attacks him. I hate Percy, the stupid little—OH MY GOD!”

“What?!” Bethany asked, trying to read over her shoulder.

“The quidditch match against Hufflepuff! It’s this weekend!” she said, pointing to the title of the chapter, Grim Defeat.

“Yeah, I know. Why is that so important?” Bethany asked as they walked out the oak front doors and onto the lawn for Herbology.

“Because, this is a perfect opportunity for me to try and fix something!” Claire said, reading the chapter quickly as she walked.

Sirius was coming to that match. Harry was going to see him in the stands, and then the dementors would come, he’d fall of his broom, and pretty boy Diggory was going to catch the Snitch. Surely she could help Harry out a little so he wouldn’t lose, right? Maybe that’s why she was supposed to go the quidditch pitch tonight...

As they entered green house three, she looked out across the lawn toward the quidditch stadium. Was Padfoot there now, waiting until the next time he could see his godson? The thought felt like a knot in her chest. Perhaps seeing Harry was the only thing keeping him going now...

I’ll figure out how to save you, Sirius, she thought. I promise.

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAaaaa!!! How will Claire save the quidditch match? What’s awaiting her at the quidditch field? What’s with the mysterious roomy number 4 of her dormitory? Why is the author of this story so crazy? Well, that one we’ll never know...but tune in next chapter for everything else! Thanks for reading! Be nice and drop me a review!]



Chapter 4: A Few Helpful Items
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[a/n: I would just like to say thank you to everyone who’s read this! It really means a lot to me. ^^ It was getting hardly any reviews on the other site, so this is quite a transformation! *happy sniffle* I’m NOT a failure! Yay! I apologize for the lack of updates—exams are a killer >.< but I’m out of school now so the updates should be more frequent! Hope you guys like the chapter!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own my own country. I’m working on the second one though, LOOK OUT! ^.~

Chapter 4: A Few Helpful Items

Seven o’clock finally rolled around and Claire managed to get out of the portrait hole and down to the first floor without getting lost once (Bethany had had something else to do and said she would meet Claire outside). As she was just about to head down the elegant marble staircase, she heard a somber voice coming from down the hall that reached her ears at a curious moment.

She walked slowly toward the door, stopping a few feet away from it and listening closely to the voices inside.

“There’s no point in hiding it from you any longer, Potter,” she heard Professor McGonagall saying. “I know this will come as a shock to you, but Sirius Black—”

“I know he’s after me,” the voice of Harry Potter replied in almost a bored tone. Claire supposed that having particularly dangerous men after him was becoming almost routine by this point. “I overheard Ron’s dad telling his mum. Mr. Weasley works for the Ministry of Magic.”

There was a pause in which Claire whipped The Prisoner of Azkaban out of her bag. She read McGonagall’s next line word for word as she said it.

“I see! Well in that case, Potter, you’ll understand why I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be practicing Quidditch in the evenings. Out on the field with only your team members, it’s very exposed, Potter—”

“We’ve got our first match on Saturday!” Harry chimed in, right on cue. “I’ve got to train, Professor!”

Claire didn’t need to hear any more, she knew the end of this conversation. McGonagall would consent to let Harry practice as long as Madam Hooch was there to supervise. Old news. Nothing an avid fan such as herself couldn’t remember.

She leapt lightly down the marble stairs and pushed open the oak front doors, feeling a light breeze on her face. This world was so incredibly beautiful! The sky was turning an unusual shade of periwinkle as she walked thoughtfully along towards the Quidditch pitch, wondering what was awaiting her there that would be helpful in her mission to save Sirius Black.

“There you are!” Bethany called to her, walking around from the other side of the castle. Apparently she had been working in the greenhouses. “I was watching for you, what took you so long?”

“Oh, sorry, I was just—you know—looking at things,” Claire said, waiting until Bethany caught up with her before continuing on her way. “Hey, Beth, I know this is like the third time I’ve asked you this today, but that other girl—Robin—why is it everyone avoids her? I mean, there’s no way there can’t be a reason for it, it’s completely cruel the way everyone treats her—”

“First of all, if you’re going to ask me a question, at least wait for the answer before you go on stereotyping all of us as ‘cruel.’ And secondly, you’re right; I just didn’t want to explain it to you in front of the entire class. There is a reason she has no friends,” Bethany responded, readjusting the books that were toppling out of her arms, “and that reason is her parents.”

“I don’t understand,” Claire asked with a confused look on her face.

“There isn’t much to understand,” Bethany said in a stony tone, “except for the fact that they were death eaters.”

Claire felt all the blood drain from her face. If she had been reading the book, she would’ve gasped of course—but now that it was real, the fear became real too. Only a year or so from the particular day she was in right now, Voldemort would rise again and all his death eaters would return to him, begging for mercy. The thought made her sick to her stomach.

“I don’t remember a death eater with the name ‘Gregory’, but my memory isn’t the best. What did her parents do? And if they were death eaters, why is their daughter in Gryffindor?”

“That’s what everyone has wondered since the Sorting Ceremony last year,” Bethany said as they walked through the gate and under a tunnel that lead onto the Quidditch field. “No one can figure out how she got into the noblest house, famous for turning out aurors and Ministry of Magic leaders, when her parents were the scum of the earth—leaders in muggle torture and whatnot. No one talks to her, and she doesn’t talk to us. It’s kind of a non-verbal agreement we’ve made with each other. Hey—is that the thing we’re coming to get?”

“What?” Claire asked, looking up. She had been so involved in the conversation that she hadn’t even noticed that she was standing on the sidelines of the greenest field she’d seen in her life. The stands rose high into the air and she got a crick in her neck from looking up and the golden goal posts. She couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off of her face as she ran towards a trunk that was placed neatly in the middle of the field where the Hogwarts crest was emblazed upon the grass.

“It’s locked!” she said, tugging on the chain around the trunk’s opening. Taking her wand out of her pocket and pointing it at the lock she exclaimed, “Alohomora!”

Click.

She opened the trunk and found that several things were inside, including what looked like a Sneakoscope, a Rememberall, a pair of ominoculars, and three rusty keys attached to a silver chain.

“Cool!” Claire said, watching Bethany scratch her nose again, and again, and again with the ominoculars. “This stuff is awesome! But...”

“But what?” Bethany asked, tossing the Rememberall from hand to hand.

“I don’t understand why I have all these things,” Claire asked. “What are they for?”

“Probably just stuff to have,” Bethany replied. “No particular reason.”

“Maybe,” she replied, putting the ominoculars back up to her eyes and looking towards the other end of the stadium. She was moving them quickly back and forth across the stands, looking at random things. The goal posts, Lee Jordon’s press box, a dog....

A dog?!

She flew back to the spot so quickly that she felt the omnioculars denting the skin around her eyes. And she saw him: a great shaggy black dog sitting in the first row, starting to walk away because he’d noticed that he’d been spotted.

“It’s him!” she whispered in a serious voice. “STOP!”

She ran towards the stands, not knowing exactly what she would do or say if she reached him, but she knew she needed to stop him now if she could.

“Padfoot!!” she called, but by the time she’d reached the spot he was gone.

“Who the hell is that?!” Bethany asked, irritated and completely out of breath.

“A dead man if I don’t do something about it,” Claire answered. Turning back to her friend, she said, “Could you help me carry this stuff? I think I’m going to go to the library for a while. I have some things I need to research.”

Not pausing to wait for a response, Claire rushed back to the trunk to make sure all the contents were safely secured inside. Bethany followed her back to the center of the field, muttering to herself.

“This is going to get old pretty fast...”

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaa! Is the author aware of how boring this chapter was?! Yes she is, but she’s setting stuff up for later, so she apologizes a thousand times and advises you pay close attention! Are you guys ready for some Quidditch?! There’ll be plenty in the next chapter, I promise! Thanks for reading everyone, you make me happy! ^^]

Chapter 5: A Slip Up
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[a/n: My most sincere apologies on this chapter coming much later than expected!! I’ve been really busy working this summer so I haven’t had any time to sit down and write. But now here I am, along with the next chapter! *throws confetti and blows on a noise maker* Yay for the end of the procrastination!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I DO own a sword! Sue me at your own risk. ^.~

Chapter 5: A Slip Up

“Miss Woods, the library is closing now. You need to be heading back to your dormitory.”

Claire was sitting at a table in the back corner of the library, pouring over a great quantity of books having to do with time travel and changing the course of events in the past. She wanted to make sure she didn’t do anything wrong. Screwing up the lives of these characters would not only destroy her, but all of the millions of other readers she was changing the book for. She felt obligated not to let them down.

“Woods! OUT!!” Madam Pince shouted, dangling a lantern over Claire’s head.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Claire apologized, taking the lantern along with an armful of the books and heading back towards the Gryffindor Tower.

The countless occasions that the trio had been out of bed after hours wandering around aimlessly down the dark corridors did not do the true experience justice. Claire had to admit she was fairly intimidated by the shadows cast down from the giant statues and suits of armor, and the way the torch light danced along the walls gave her a start every now and then. But it was really the ghosts that creeped her out. It was really something when you were walking down a practically pitch dark corridor, searching for a tapestry and trying not to be caught by a teacher or evil caretaker, and suddenly a transparent, glittering silver person flew out of the wall directly to your right. But eventually she found her way to Sir Cadogan’s frame and muttered the password, thinking of sitting by the fireside to read some more.

But no sooner had she entered the common did she start thinking about exiting it quickly.

“What do you MEAN she won’t let you play, Potter?!”

“You heard me the first time, Oliver!”

The entire Gryffindor quidditch team was standing in the middle of the common room, not troubling to keep their voices down as an argument brewed between Captain and Seeker. Claire stood just inside the portrait hole, clutching her books and watching with wide eyes. A horribly sick feeling mulled over her. She didn’t remember Wood and Harry getting into a fight...

“I don’t get it, Harry!” Angelina Johnson said in a terribly strained voice. “Why didn’t she just get Hooch to watch us while we practiced?! Hell, McGonagall could watch us while we practice if she’s that worried!”

“It’s not like it’s the end of training,” Harry explained, sounding as if he didn’t even believe his own words. “I mean, you lot can still practice—”

“And what’s the good of training without a full team?!” Wood exploded.

“It’s not my fault, Wood! You think I asked for this?!” Harry exclaimed.

Suddenly Claire felt a tap on her shoulder. Bethany had worked her way around the edge of the room to talk to her.

“I don’t mean to use your extensive knowledge of events to my advantage,” Bethany began, “but would you mind telling me what’s going on?”

“I have no idea!” Claire said, feeling hysterical. “I don’t remember this happening! Harry is supposed to play in the match on Saturday, Madam Hooch is supposed to watch the team while practice is going on, and he’s not supposed to develop that ‘oh-woe-is-me’ attitude until book five! Here, hold these—”

She handed Bethany the large stack of books and whipped out The Prisoner of Azkaban once again to the bookmark she had fashioned in the proper place. But as the book opened, she let out a short gasp of surprise.

“It’s changing!” she whispered. “The words are changing!”

With every word that was passed between the Quidditch players the sentences printed on the page were rearranging themselves. Harry’s feelings of guilt, worry, and anger were also being described. Claire just didn’t understand it! She hadn’t changed anything yet, there was no way this should be happening! She hadn’t even spoken to Harry yet, after all...

The color drained from her face as she flipped back a few pages to Harry and Professor McGonagall’s previous conversation, the one she had overheard on her way out to the Quidditch pitch. Her eyes were wide as she read the revised conversation:

“Hmm...” Professor McGonagall stood up and began to make her way over to the window, when suddenly she paused. Harry stopped too and turned around in his seat. He had just heard footsteps heading away from just beyond the door.

“You see what I mean now, Potter?” McGonagall exclaimed, drawing her wand and opening the door. “Everything around the castle is acting unpredictably. Goodness knows I’d like to bring the Cup back to Gryffindor this year, but I’m not willing to risk your life to do it! That was probably Black...I must go inform the headmaster at once!”


Claire stopped reading there. Here hands were shaking as Bethany read over her shoulder. They had heard her! Something as simple as eavesdropping on an innocent conversation had changed the course of events for the entire week! And now she’d just made it even more difficult for Sirius, seeing as McGonagall had gone to inform the headmaster of the footsteps she had heard.

“This is my fault!” Claire murmured to her friend. After another moment of thought, she turned to head out of the portrait hole once again. “I have to fix this!”

And before Bethany could stop her she was flying down the corridor, off in search of the staff room.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Professor McGonagall!” Claire banged on the door of the staff room, bouncing around on the balls of her feet. “Professor, are you in—”

“Good heavens, Woods, are you trying to wake up the entire castle?” Professor McGonagall said, opening the door a bit and revealing Professors Flitwick and Snape inside, sitting at a table and shuffling the cards of an Exploding Snap game. Claire would have laughed at the scene, three professors gambling over a game of cards, except she had a mission she needed to complete.

“I’m sorry, Professor, it’s just I needed to explain something,” Claire said, looking around McGonagall at the two other curious teachers. “Could we talk out here?”

“You will explain your reasons for being out of bed after hours presently, before I give you a few good reasons to get back to the dormitories,” the stern woman replied.

Claire gulped. “Professor, you can’t keep Harry Potter from practicing! It wasn’t Sirius Black outside your office this afternoon—it was me. I overheard you saying something about Sirius Black and, like everyone else, I was eager to hear about any other details and—Professor, don’t punish Harry because of me. Let him practice, please!”

Professor McGonagall looked astonished. Her eyebrows were slightly narrowed and her mouth was but a thin line. Claire desperately wished she had behaved herself in her class that morning. Maybe her punishment would have been lessened?

“I did not think it was Sirius Black outside my office, Woods,” the teacher said. “I realized my extreme moment of paranoia upon reaching the headmaster’s office to inform him of the footsteps. However, I am shocked that you would do such as thing as to spy on a private conversation between a teacher and pupil, especially Harry Potter. As if his life isn’t posted around enough as it is, you had to eavesdrop on such an occasion as this? Miss Woods, I’m horrified by your actions. I’m awarding this with a detention. Now get back to your dormitory, I have already informed Madam Hooch to oversee the practices of the Gryffindor team.”

With a head hanging low and a muttered, “Yes, professor,” Claire headed back to Gryffindor Tower, slightly relieved that she didn’t cause too much damage.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Surprising herself, Claire managed to stay out of any major trouble until Saturday. For the remainder of that week she had been entranced with her studies, working hard and trying to get back on Professor McGonagall’s good side. She also spent long hours reading over different cases in which wizards had changed the course of time and pondering over what she should do once the quidditch match finally rolled around.

Walking down the corridor on the way back from a particularly difficult Charms lesson while the rain splashed against the castle walls outside, Claire overheard a familiar voice coming from near the Defense Against the Dark Arts room.

“I’ve got to scrub the bed pans in the hospital wing. Without magic!” Ron was shouting angrily. “Why couldn’t Black have hidden in Snape’s office, eh? He could have finished him off for us!”

Claire laughed out loud. She knew Sirius would have been all too happy to finish Snape off, regardless of the circumstances.

“What’s so funny?” Bethany asked, walking along beside her and stuffing a quill into her pocket.

“Nothing,” Claire replied. “Ron just got a detention for sticking up for Hermione...ahh I would have loved to watch that lesson. Him and Hermione are meant for each other, you know.”

“Whatever you say,” Bethany replied, rolling her eyes. “Oh, and you were right about the team getting switched—we’re playing Hufflepuff tomorrow. Could you tell me who’s going to win? I’d like to place a bet, if you know...”

Claire laughed, “Well I know who wins in here,” she tapped on the book, “but I’m going to try and change it. So your guess is as good as mine.”

That night Claire was the last one in the common room, sitting there with The Prisoner of Azkaban in her lap, thinking. She was going to go and talk to Sirius tomorrow at the game, but she needed something to take with her so that he’d know he could trust her. But what? Nothing in the trunk could possibly help her here, unless those rusty keys were meant for something like this...

She felt something fluffy rub up against her leg and looked down. There was Crookshanks, purring and looking for a little attention. Bingo!

“Wow, I’m stupid!” Claire said, picking up the ginger ball of fluff and stroking it lovingly. “You can come with me to the match tomorrow! Padfoot knows you by now I think, and if not I’ll introduce you! What do you say to that?”

He purred in reply. A clock chimed somewhere. Four AM. That meant...

“Harry’s about to come downstairs!” she said, looking down at the book. “I better get going, Crookshanks, I’ll see you tomorrow. Try and eat that rat before then, it’d make my job so much easier...”

And as she closed the door of her dormitory and dropped onto her four-poster, Harry kicked Crookshanks down the stairs saying, “There are plenty of mice around this place—go chase them. Go on! Leave Scabbers alone...”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“We’re going to get soaked out here!” Ginny commented.

“That’s what usually happens when it rains, Gin,” Bethany replied, rubbing her hands together under the large umbrella they were seated under.

Claire wasn’t paying them any attention. She had her ominoculars pressed up to her eyes, looking around in search of dementors, a great shaggy black dog, and trying to take in all the quidditch at once. It was a shame that the first match she had to see had to be the only one Harry ever lost, not to mention the one with the worst weather imaginable. Seeing nothing, she set the ominoculars down in her lap, slipped on her gloves, and wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck. Crookshanks was sitting under her seat, hissing at the state of his fur and awaiting Claire’s instructions on finding Sirius.

“There you are, Ginny!” Hermione called, closely followed by Ron.

Claire felt her pulse quicken. She had forgotten that Ron and Hermione would probably be sitting with Ginny. This was not a good thing, since she’d “borrowed” Hermione’s pet without asking.

“They’re starting!” Bethany exclaimed suddenly, squinting through the sheets of rain. “At least...I think they are...”

“They are,” Claire answered, zooming in with her ominoculars in time to see the two captains shake hands. “WOW! That’s Cedric Diggory?! Whoa...no wonder Cho was so depressed...maybe I’ll think about hating her a little less...”

“He’s very good-looking,” Bethany agreed with a sigh. “Let me use those for a minute, I wanna see!”

“I’m not looking for Diggory, you moron! There are more pressing issues to deal with!”

The quaffle was thrown into the air and the stands erupted with cheers. Angelina took off with it, racing up the field while Fred Weasley knocked a Hufflepuff Chaser out of her path with a bludger.

“Brilliant!” she whispered to herself.

It was quite an absurd match. The players kept running into each other, blinded by the rain. Harry was having a particularly difficult time with his glasses fogging up.

“He can’t see a thing!” Hermione said after watching fifteen minutes of this through her own pair of binoculars. “He’ll never catch the Snitch!”

And with that she headed off down the stands to fix the problem.

“Hermione?! Where are you going?!” Ron shouted down the row. “Jeez, sometimes she’s such a—”

“DUCK!!!!” Claire shouted, diving to the ground.

A Hufflepuff and Gryffindor beater were flying forward too fast, unable to see where they were going. They crashed into each other with a sickening crunch, falling off their brooms and into the stands. In all this confusion, Claire managed to slip away with Crookshanks darting just ahead of her, having been scared by Fred’s club landing on his tail.

Walking into the next set of stands, she pulled out her ominoculars and turned towards the highest row of empty seats.

“Gotcha,” she said, freezing the picture and running up the stands.

Shivering with a mixture of cold and excitement, she climbed around the empty seats. The rain became her friend at that point—he couldn’t see her. Crookshanks jumped onto the seat beside him and he looked up.

“Hello, Padfoot,” Claire said.

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAaaa!! What is Claire going to say to Sirius? Is it even possible to help Harry win the match now? Now that the author made this chapter so much longer than the others, does she have your forgiveness for not updating? Well the last question is up to you, but everything else will be answered. Much thanks for reading, a multitude of thanks if you review! ^^]


Chapter 6: Even Grimmer Defeat
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[a/n: Weren’t betting on seeing me within a week, now were you?! Well HAH, here I am! Once again, thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing, you bring a smile to my face every time you click that ‘lil review button at the bottom of the screen! ^_^ And now without further ado, onward to the chapter! *jams a helmet on her head, hops on a horse, draws her blade, and charges forward into the text*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, although I do own a Hedwig plushy! *hugs her stuffed Hedwig*

Chapter 6: Even Grimmer Defeat

For a moment Claire just stood there, staring into the glowing eyes of Padfoot. She didn’t really know what to expect and felt a small wave of sadness sweep over her. Here before her sat a man, disguised as a dog, who had just escaped the worst place imaginable where he’d been held captive for twelve years for a crime he didn’t commit—a man who wanted nothing more than to help the ones he loved and always getting penalized beyond reason for trying to do just that. Little did he know his time on Earth was growing short, and the days ahead of him would only grow darker. If she didn’t know better that Harry would need his guidance more than anything else, Claire would have advised this man on fleeing his fate and never coming back into the wizarding world—but she did know better.

“I know who you are, Padfoot,” Claire continued while Crookshanks stared at Sirius in a curious manner. “I know who you are and I want to help you. You can trust me...Sirius Black.”

The great dog stood up so suddenly that Claire was taken aback. He mashed his large, sharp teeth together, growling as if he was about to attack. Panicking, Claire tried to take on the Crookshanks approach she had prepared for herself.

“I’m friends with this cat!” she said desperately, backing away so that he wouldn’t try to bite her. “See, you can trust me!”

But this seemed to have sort of the opposite effect that she was going for. Instead of beginning to trust Claire, Sirius instead turned to growl at Crookshanks, now believing he was untrustworthy in leading a young witch straight to him. But before Claire could try and fix this mistake, there was a crack of lightning that illuminated all the stands. Her first reflex was to spin around and see where the lightning had come from, and in doing so she saw that a certain young Gryffindor Seeker was staring directly at her, Padfoot, and Crookshanks. Her blood seemed to freeze in mid-pump through her veins.

“Harry’s seen!” she shouted. “Padfoot get out of here!”

Sirius didn’t need telling twice. By the time Claire had grabbed Crookshanks and ducked under the seats in front of her, Padfoot was gone. She counted to five slowly, and then peaked her head out from under the stands just in time to feel the sensation of her blood freezing again, but this time it wasn’t from fear. It was from the dementors.

No less then a hundred of the scabby, black floating figurines were swarming underneath the quidditch match, hands outstretched as if they were desperately trying to grab hold of something their hearts greatly desired. The wind wasn’t howling, no one in the stand made a sound. Claire felt as if her heart was being ripped out of her chest, and all of her emotions along with it. Suddenly, she saw Harry falling from the sky as his Nimbus headed in the complete other direction. She had started to take out her wand to help him, not even knowing if she knew how to summon a Patronus or even slow Harry’s crash to the Earth, but the wand was barely out of her pocket before her head began to pound. She could hear voices in her head...her own voice was screaming in alarm.

“Please don’t kill Harry! It’s my fault, all my fault! Please, sir, have mercy on him!”

“Stand aside, girl, no one believes your foolish tales!”

“No! Please, don’t do this...take me! Please you can’t kill him!”

“I can and I will! NOW STAND ASIDE!”


Suddenly everything grew dark, and Claire knew no more.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Madam Pomfrey, she seems to be coming around!”

“Who? Woods?”

“Yes, she’s stirring, ma’am.”

Claire opened her eyes and found that she was in none other than the Hogwarts hospital wing. The room itself seemed to be spinning, she felt so light-headed. It took her a moment to remember what had happened, and then she sat up with a start. The match! Padfoot! The dementors! And those voices...those voices she had heard in her head. What were they? Who were they? She needed to know.

“Easy there, Woods, lie back down!” Madam Pomfrey had run over with a large slab of chocolate, and handed all of it to Claire.

“Claire! Are you okay?!”

It was Bethany and Ginny, standing at the foot of her bed. Ginny wasn’t really paying attention to Claire, however. She was looking at someone in the bed opposite her, along with the entire Gryffindor quidditch team, Ron, and Hermione.

“Harry...” Claire whispered.

“Don’t worry about him, dear,” Madam Pomfrey said, shoving a rather large chunk of the chocolate into Claire’s mouth, causing her to choke. “Honestly, I’ve never had this many students in here just because of dementors! The headmaster is quite right, it is simply ridiculous to have them here! Making students pass out every few feet! I mean, honestly—”

“Harry!” Fred Weasley shouted suddenly in a relieved voice. “How are you feeling?”

“What happened?” Claire heard Harry say. Everyone gasped as he sat up suddenly.

“You fell off,” said Fred. “Must’ve been—what—fifty feet?”

“We thought you’d died,” said Alicia in a shaky tone.

Hermione let out a sob, as Harry looked around at all of them. Claire remembered this part. He was about to ask about the match and who had caught the Snitch.

But that wasn’t at all what Harry Potter asked the group around his bedside.

“That girl...” he muttered. “There was a girl in the top box. She was with a dog. Did anyone see her?”

Claire felt suddenly dizzy again and flopped back on her pillows once again. This sudden movement was enough to draw Harry’s attention.

“That’s her!” said Harry excitedly, pointing across the way at her. “She was up top with a great shaggy dog! I saw her just before I—wait a minute, what happened in the match?”

Claire felt herself relax slightly as the conversation from the book resumed. Harry discovered that he’d lost the match, nearly died, and that Wood was trying to commit suicide in the showers over the lot of it. Eventually, Madam Pomfrey shooed the team out (along with Ginny and Bethany), and only Ron and Hermione remained. It wasn’t until then that Claire noticed Hermione was holding a rather weather-beaten Crookshanks.

As soon as Madam Pomfrey was out of earshot, Ron asked Harry in a tone similar to that of Alicia’s, “What were you saying about a dog Harry?”

“That girl,” Harry nodded towards Claire, “was in the top box with a dog that looked exactly like the one I saw on Magnolia Crescent when I left the Dursley’s last summer. It looked like—like the grim...”

“What’s your name, honey?” Hermione asked Claire in a sweet voice.

“Huh?” Claire asked in a dazed sort of way. “Er—Claire. Claire Woods.”

“Claire,” Hermione repeated. “Are you feeling alright? It was very lucky Crookshanks found you. You were lying flat on your back in the stands where no one could see you. He led Ginny over to you—I was down trying to find out about Harry—and she brought you here. I don’t really know what Crookshanks was doing at the game, but it was rather fortunate that he was.”

“Fortunate?!” Harry burst out suddenly. “He was there! Sitting right next to the dog! I saw him!”

“Well, why doesn’t it surprise me that your maniac cat is associating with a grim?” Ron said in a sarcastic tone. Claire couldn’t help but grin slightly at this, despite the utter confusion she felt. Ron and Hermione’s arguing would make her grin no matter what the circumstances.

“Honestly, Ron, this is not the time to discuss Crookshanks behavior!” Hermione said in her voice of authority.

“Why were you with that dog?” Harry asked Claire, glaring at her as if she herself had just escaped the Azkaban walls. “I don’t understand.”

Claire felt her throat grow suddenly dry. Luckily the piece of chocolate she had just shoved in her mouth stalled for time, but as she swallowed she could think of nothing else. She had to lie.

“I just saw him there,” she replied in a small voice. “I went over to check on him. He was just sitting there in the rain, after all—”

“And Crookshanks?” Ron added, sounding hopeful.

“Er—Crookshanks followed me to the match to begin with,” Claire heard herself say. “I couldn’t get him to go back inside, so I figured it was alright if he tagged along.”

“Crookshanks hates to get his fur wet,” Hermione chimed in suspiciously. “He would never follow you outside into the pouring rain.”

Claire felt she was done for, but luckily Professor Flitwick saved her. He walked in, carrying a bag that contained Harry’s broomstick “crumbs.” Learning that his broomstick had been smashed seemed to distract the trio, giving Claire enough time to pretend to fall asleep.

While she lied there feinting a quiet slumber, she couldn’t help but feel worried. As Ron and Hermione were finally ushered out of the room, one quote from Hermione particularly stuck out in her mind as sleep finally claimed her:

“...Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn’t a good sign...”

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAaaaa!! What exactly were the voices Claire heard while in the presence of the dementors? Will the trio ever by her story about the dog and Crookshanks? Will Claire ever get the chance to see Sirius again? Well if I told you all that, there’d be no point in writing the next chapter, silly! ^_^ Thanks for reading, please take a moment and leave me a review!]


Chapter 7: The Daughter of Death Eaters
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[a/n: Hello everyone! Welcome to chapter seven! *throws confetti* Anyway, as most of you can probably tell this is not my native fanfiction site, and I'm still fairly new around here. I've slowly been getting less reviews for this story and was wondering if my lovely readers had any suggestions as far as boosting the number of reads? Please let me know! It's not exactly a gigantic problem, but I just love suggestions! Hope you enjoy the chappie!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, and if you don’t know that by now SOMETHING is not working right up in your brain!!

Chapter 7: The Daughter of Death Eaters

After Claire had woken up from her nap that evening and was handed another large bar of chocolate from Madam Pomfrey, she learned that she would be spending the remainder of the weekend in the hospital wing along with Harry, and some other girl who had passed out during the match. Ordinarily, Claire would have thought this very fortunate; she would easily be able to see what Harry was up to. But under the circumstances of being seen with a dog Harry believed to be no better than the Devil himself, Claire didn’t think it was a smart idea to get terribly excited about this. However, she didn’t remember anyone else besides Harry passing out at the match...

“Who else besides me and Harry Potter passed out, Madam Pomfrey?” Claire asked, innocently enough.

“That’s really none of your business, Miss Woods,” the nurse answered. “Honestly, the girl is embarrassed enough! Asked to have the curtains drawn around her bed and everything! I’m not here to fill your head with ridiculous rumors, only mend your injuries!” And with that she bustled off to a bed down on the other end of the wing, covered with slightly shabby grey curtains.

“How’re you feeling, Claire?” asked a voice from just opposite her.

It was Hermione, sitting with her legs crossed next to Harry’s bed, a book propped open in her hands. She wasn’t taking her eyes off Claire, and neither was Ron, who was sitting on the other side of the bed. Harry lay asleep, clutching the bag that contained his beloved broomstick.

“Er—just fine, thanks for asking,” Claire said, feeling a little apprehensive. She didn’t like the stares she was getting.

“Your friend just left,” Hermione commented, returning her gaze to her book (to Claire’s great relief). “She said she’d be back after dinner.”

“Oh,” Claire replied, unable to think of what else to say. “Thanks, Hermione.”

The next few minutes passed by in a rather strained silence. Claire simply stared at the ceiling, trying to ignore the fact that Ron and Hermione kept glancing up at her every now and then, and a few times even looked at each other and had rather animated, mouthed conversations. A few times she came close to smiling, but used all her self-control to contain it. She didn’t want them thinking she was any crazier than they probably already thought.

“Oh, you’re awake!” Bethany said happily, entering the hospital wing holding a few cookies on a napkin. She ran to Claire’s bedside and handed them to her, saying, “Thought you might want some of those. Madam Pomfrey tends to not allow too much sugar in here if she can help it.”

“Thanks, Bethie!” said Claire thankfully, happy to have something else to eat besides chocolate. As she gratefully stuffed a sugar cookie into her mouth, she asked, “So have I missed anything exciting since I’ve been asleep?”

Bethany shook her head. “Nothing that I’ve noticed.”

“Well, perhaps we should double check? What do you think? Hmmm?” Claire asked, winking furiously.

Eventually, Bethany caught on and said she’d be back in a second. Five minutes later she returned with The Prisoner of Azkaban.

“Much thanks!” Claire said, taking off the cover and stuffing it under her pillow. She didn’t want Ron or Hermione to catch sight of it and grow curious as to why the name of their best friend was on the cover of a book this peculiar girl was reading.

“I take back what I said before about nothing exciting happening,” Bethany added, as Claire began flicking through the book. “Ginny’s sitting in the common room with a piece of parchment, annoying the heck out of everyone! The parchment keeps jumping up on the table and screeching! When I went over to ask her if she needed any help, she just crumpled it up and said no. Weirdest thing—why are you laughing? I mean it’s funny, but not that funny!”

Claire couldn’t contain herself. Obviously Bethany was referring to the get well card Ginny was going to bring to Harry tomorrow. It had been a few hours since Claire had found anything remotely amusing, so she laughed a bit harder than necessary or wise.

“Sorry,” Claire replied.

“Anyway, there’s one other thing,” Bethany said, lowering her voice before she continued. “Nobody’s seen Robin since before the match. I noticed she wasn’t in the common room and started to ask around, and no one knows where she is. Is anything in there about where she went—I mean now that people have noticed they’re starting to think she had something to do with the dementors—”

Claire was shocked. Robin Gregory—a second year—having something to do with bringing over a hundred dementors into the quidditch stadium?! The very thought was not only impossible, but a horrible thing to even consider! Why would anyone want to go anywhere near those things—regardless of whom their parents were? She opened her mouth to say all these things to Bethany...when her eyes suddenly fell on the curtains on the other side of the room.

Suddenly she understood who was behind that curtain, ashamed to be seen. And as realization hit her, she was surprised at the words that came out of her mouth.

“No, I don’t know where she is, Bethie.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire sighed. Hermione, Ron, and Bethany had long since been shooed out of the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey had long since retired to her office. She had been sitting there, staring at the book in her hands for probably a decent hour, still unable to believe what she saw:

Harry’s eyes snapped open. He was lying in the hospital wing. The Gryffindor Quidditch team, spattered with mud from head to foot, was gathered around his bed. Ron and Hermione were also there, looking as thought they’d just climbed out of a swimming pool.

It was though Harry’s memory was on fast forward. The lightening—the Grim—that girl—Crookshanks—the dementors...


She sighed again. That entire part of the story had now been altered. But it wasn’t exactly that particular part that freaked her out the most:

“That girl,” Harry nodded towards the girl in the bed opposite him, “was in the top box with a dog that looked exactly like the one I saw on Magnolia Crescent when I left the Dursley’s last summer. It looked like—like the grim...”

“What’s your name, honey?” Hermione asked the girl in a tone of someone not wanting to frighten a small puppy.

“Huh?” the dark-haired girl asked, as if she didn’t understand the question. “Er—Claire. Claire Woods.”


And it went on further still! Right before Harry received the news about his broomstick there was a paragraph on his thoughts:

Harry couldn’t help but agree with Ron about Crookshanks now. At first he was sure it was just another frivolous fight with Hermione, but now that he’d seen the cat with the grim—he didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

He turned to interrogate Claire Woods further, when suddenly Professor Flitwick came hurrying in...


She snapped the book shut. She was now a character in the Harry Potter books! She hadn’t even paused to think that by talking with Harry, Ron, and Hermione at such a pivotal part in the story would surely end up in the book! She knew she should be far more careful the remainder of her time in the hospital wing, or the trio would soon discover that the girl they already thought was dumb and suspicious was much more unusual than they thought...

She jumped when she heard someone cough. It’d been so silent in the room that this simple noise simply caught her off guard. She looked down the row of beds to the one that was covered in shabby grey curtains, and saw that its occupant, thinking everyone else in the wing was asleep, had lit a candle.

Struck by a sudden, small idea, Claire threw off her covers, slipped her feet into a pair of slippers next to her bed, and grabbed a candlestick off her night table. She did this as silently as possible, picking up her wand and pillow in her other hand and walking down the row with her nightgown grazing the floor underneath her.

When she reached the bed, she looked over her shoulder to make sure everyone was asleep. Seeing that it was so, she turned around to draw back the curtains—and nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw a pair of rather hallow eyes gazing back at her, instead of the shabby hangings that had been there but a moment before.

“Can I help you with something?” asked the girl, not taking her eyes off Claire’s.

Having just barely stopped herself from crying out in fright, Claire took a moment to catch her breath. The girl glaring back at her had indeed been Robin Gregory, with her long, coarse blonde hair and eyes as dark and cold as any Claire had ever seen. She was the sort of person who just looked like a loner, the kind that trusted no one. Claire gulped.

“I just wanted to see if you were alright,” Claire said, lighting her candle with the tip of an ignited wand and stuffing the slender piece of wood into the pocket of her nightgown. “I saw your light come on and—well, I thought maybe you needed something—”

“We’ve been in classes together and shared a dormitory for the past year and a half,” Robin replied coldly. Claire wished she would blink or something, she was starting to feel rather uncomfortable. “All this time you’ve never spoken two words to me. And now all of a sudden you care? How touching. Did this sudden change of heart happen because you couldn’t see who I was? Is that why you came over here?”

Claire was taken aback. She was getting this kind of speech just from asking if Robin was alright? Her surprise must’ve been all over her face, because Robin said, “That’s what I figured,” and made a grab to draw the curtains once more.

“Wait!” Claire said, throwing out her hand to stop her. “Don’t shove me off so easily! I knew you were over here the entire time! I was just looking for a decent excuse to come over and talk to you.”

“Oh really?” Robin replied in a cynical tone. “And since when have you become a Divination expert?”

“You couldn’t pay me to take that class!” Claire said with a horrified look. “Trelawney is far to freaky for my liking. Besides, who wants to know what the future holds in store anyway? But I knew you were over here when Bethany said you weren’t in the common room.”

“There’s a million other places I could’ve been besides the common room,” Robin continued, still keeping those dark eyes on Claire. “Why assume I’m over here? There’s the library, or the Great Hall, or the bathrooms—”

“Ordinary people don’t pass out from dementor attacks,” Claire replied coolly.

This was the right thing to say if she wanted Robin to look away, but the wrong thing to say if she wanted to befriend the girl. To Claire’s surprise, Robin looked away with eyes full of tears. She didn’t sob or allow her lip to tremble; her features were as stony as ever. It was as if watching a statue cry: rather extraordinary and slightly alarming. Claire didn’t know what to do.

“I’ve never passed out seeing them before,” she said. If Claire were blind she wouldn’t have known she were crying, but the tears were now flowing down her pale cheeks. “I’ve seen them dozens of times before today—but I’ve never passed out.”

Without further ado, Claire climbed onto Robin’s bed, sitting cross-legged across from her, hugging her pillow in her lap.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is the first time we’ve met,” Claire said in the tone of someone apologizing, when really her statement was rather ironic. She extended her hand and added, “My name is Claire Woods, and I’ve never passed out in my life until today.”

Robin stared at Claire’s hand for a few seconds. She seemed to be thinking rather hard. Finally she said, “Oh—what the hell!” and grasped Claire’s hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Claire said with a smile, letting go of Robin’s hand and using her wand to magick the candle she was holding into the air. “You said you’ve seen the dementors before this year?”

“Yeah, bet it doesn’t surprise you at all,” Robin said, lying back on her pillows with a rather evil smirk Claire would’ve thought only capable of a Slytherin. “I’m sure there’s a rumor going around the House that I was sent to Azkaban at the age of seven, or something like that...”

“But why would people say such a thing?” Claire asked, puzzled.

Robin cocked an eyebrow. “Do I really have to answer that question?”

Claire felt the heat rising in her face. “If you mean your parents—”

“That’s exactly who I mean,” Robin said in an icy tone. She looked away and let out a short laugh before she continued, “The daughter of death eaters in Gryffindor House—whoever heard of such a thing? Certainly not anyone you know—you were there in the Hall the day I was sorted. You know something—I didn’t want to be sorted into Slytherin, but after the way things have been the past year and a half I almost wish I was. At least there I would’ve been respected—”

“You shouldn’t say things like that, Robin,” Claire said in a concerned voice. “You got sorted into Gryffindor because of who you are, not because of who your parents are—”

“Were,” Robin corrected, not taking her eyes off the spot in the drapery she was staring so contently at. “My parents are dead.”

Claire felt her breath catch in her chest. She hadn’t counted on that.

“I’m sorry to her that,” Claire said in the most sympathetic voice she could manage.

“No you’re not,” Robin replied. “No one is. My parents worked for the Dark Lord. They tortured and murdered several innocent people. Most people say death is the only fitting thing for people who do things like that.”

Claire was quiet for a minute before she asked, “How old were you when they—you know...”

“Died?” Robin said, turning her head swiftly to stare at Claire again. “I was five. Someone knocked on the door of our house one day and I answered the door. I’ll bet there were about five or six dementors standing there. Of course, I’d never seen anything like ‘em before, and I was scared stiff. I just stepped over to the side and they came in and took my parents away. I just sat there for the longest time, until an Auror came and took me to the Ministry of Magic.”

Claire just sat there, completely stunned. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how traumatizing this ordeal must’ve been, especially if Robin was so young. Claire was trying to think of something to say or ask when Robin suddenly go the urge to continue.

“So I had to sit there through the entire trial process. It took weeks. I had no idea of anything my parents had done, seeing as I was born after the Dark Lord’s downfall. I think my parents even changed their names so that they wouldn’t be found. They hid everything well from me, even the tattoos on their arms. I remember how completely amazed I was seeing those in the trial...”

Her voice trailed off and she looked up, suddenly realizing she had an audience. Her tone grew cold once more, as opposed to calm and remembering.

“Why am I telling you this?” she asked aloud. “You’re just another Gryffindor. What do you care about why I passed out?”

”Because I did, too,” Claire replied. “And by the looks of it, we can both use a friend who can understand that.”

Robin seemed to dismiss the idea immediately.

“Look, Robin, I know people have treated you badly in the past because of your parents’ mistakes,” Claire said, “but you had nothing to do with them. And if people actually gave you a chance, they’d know that. I’m giving you a chance, Robin, can’t you give me one?”

Robin simply stared at her, not moving a muscle.

“Well, think about it,” Claire said, standing up, grabbing her pillow, and jumping lightly off the bed. As she did so, something fluttered onto the bed and right into Robin’s lap. Claire froze.

It was The Prisoner of Azkaban cover she’d stuffed under her pillow hours before.

Robin picked it up and studied it. Claire couldn’t move for fear as she heard her ask the worst question she’d ever heard in her life:

“What is this?”

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaaa! How can this POSSIBLY bode well on a blooming friendship?! Just HOW much trouble has Claire just landed herself in?! Will there ever be a NORMAL day in this story?! Well, probably not...but until the next chapter I’m gonna be mean and leave ya hanging! MWHAHAHA! Thanks for reading everyone, please take a moment and leave a review!]

Chapter 8: Insane with Worry
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[a/n: That’s gotta be some kinda new record with all the death threats I’ve received as result of posting the last chapter. AHH! O_o Should I hire a body guard? It might be a wise investment! *wink* Anyway, much thanks to all of you have been reading and reviewing regularly, and also thanks to all of you who are just gonna read what I have and then move on and never think of me or my silly story ever again! *dramatic sigh* I guess that’s okay...yeah lol! Okay, now if I remember right, I left you guys hanging last time—*flips back and looks*—why look at that! I did! (lol) Okay, I have a feeling I’m making many people groan and grow angry right now, so yeah, go read people!! ^.~]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own a ticket stub from WARPED TOUR! Wo0o0o0o0o it was amazing—anyone who went is beyond awesome, anyone who is going in other cities better brace themselves cuz its just like—WHOA! O_O Wow, I’m so good at describing things... hehe ^^;

Chapter 8: Insane with Worry

Claire just stood there, unable to move, unable to breathe for fear. Robin was a lot of things—slightly alarming, outwardly evil, all alone in the world—yes, many things, but she was not stupid. Claire could just envision her figuring out what the book cover was all about, how Claire wasn’t really from Hogwarts, what she was up to...she suddenly felt the need to pass out again.

Robin had been staring at the beautiful drawing of Buckbeak in flight, Hermione and Harry gripping his reins, Sirius’s silhouette against the setting sun coming in though the window of the Hogwarts tower. It seemed like her eyes were darting over it for hours, when at most it was probably a single minute. Claire fought hard to keep her breathing even and her expression blank—but when Robin looked at her and grinned she knew she had not succeeded.

“Not going to tell me, eh?” Robin said, grinning and folding the cover back as it had been when it had fluttered into her lap as if caught on the wind of fate. “Well that’s just fine with me—don’t get me wrong, you’re going to tell me what this is all about—but I’ll keep my silence as long as you keep yours...”

Claire’s eyes widened and she could feel sweat growing on her brow. She couldn’t tell her--Robin would surely blow her cover! It was the first time Claire truly, one hundred percent doubted anything to Sorting Hat had said. Blackmail—a trait of a girl destined for Gryffindor?! Perhaps it had one too many patches to still be in decent working condition...

“Robin...” Claire spoke in a raspy voice, shaking her head in disbelief, “I can’t tell you what that is. I can’t. No one can know—”

“If you don’t want anyone to find out, you best tell me then,” Robin said in that evil tone of hers. “You tell me, I keep quiet. Just like I told you, and you will keep quiet. That’s our deal. We’ll be even.”

“Oh believe me, we won’t be even!” Claire said, starting to get hysterical. “If anyone finds out your story the worst you’ll get is understanding from people who see you as a mystery—now as for me, I’ll get something much much much worse—”

“Sit down, Woods,” Robin said, tossing the book cover lightly to the place she wished Claire to sit, “unless you don’t want to get that worse worse worse thing by me taking that and just randomly throwing it into the loudest group of people in the Gryffindor common room...”

Claire wasn’t entirely sure Robin was capable of such a thing, but she was giving Claire such a look that she just couldn’t take any chances. If the Sorting Hat had any brains left at all, Robin would be true to her word...

“Okay, fine,” Claire sighed, sitting down glumly on the end of the bed. “I’ll tell you, but you won’t believe anything I say—Lordy, where do I start?—er—okay, here’s the deal. See, I’m not exactly from this world—”

“You’re an alien?” Robin said, the corners of her mouth turning up into an evil smirk.

“No, I am not an alien, damn it!” Claire said, growing annoyed. “I mean I’m not from the magical world. I just fell and ended up here at Hogwarts. In the world I’m from” –here Claire lowered her voice, for fear that Harry would somehow wake and overhear, in which case she’d be COMPLETELY screwed— “Harry Potter is a character in a book series. None of this is real. I’m a big fan of the books, and somehow I ended up in the middle of the story. I’m here trying to save the life of a man who dies in the latest book. What you have in your hand right there is the cover of the story I’m in right now. I took it off so Harry wouldn’t see it earlier. Now you can go ahead and laugh at me, but I’m being completely serious.”

Robin didn’t laugh, however. She stared at the cover curiously, as if it was a piece of homework and she just didn’t grasp the concept. Her brow was furrowed in thought. Then she handed Claire the cover back, and blew out the candle that floated between them.

“Off my bed, Woods,” Robin said, rolling over and pulling the covers up to her chin.

Claire just sat there in amazement. That was it?! Was this girl completely mad?!

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Claire burst out in a hissing whisper. “I just told you I’m from—”

“I heard you, Woods,” Robin said. “Now off my bed! I’d like to get to sleep sometime before morning.”

It took a while for Claire to understand. By not commenting, Robin was keeping true to her word of silence. Did this mean she would just go on knowing about Claire and her mission without ever once raising a question as to Claire’s sanity? Was this just all part of the plot to drive Claire into keeping quiet about everything Robin had vented about earlier? Or was this just the Slytherin deep within her, trying to get inside her head until she went insane with the blackmail?

Whether it was one of these reasons or something completely different, Claire no longer cared enough to think about it. It had been a very long day, and she had been ready for it to end hours ago. Carefully stowing the cover in the pocket of her nightgown and holding the book tightly to her chest, Claire finally drifted off into the world of sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire awoke the Sunday morning to find Bethany sitting next to her, reading the latest copy of Witch Weekly while jiggling her foot to a tune that was obviously stuck in her head. As soon as she noticed Claire was awake, she put the magazine down and inquired about how she was feeling.

“Not so hot,” Claire admitted. “I had an interesting evening...”

“Why? What happened?” Bethany demanded, drawing a curious glance from Hermione, while Harry and Ron gabbed on quietly about nothing in particular.

But Claire shook her head at her friend and muttered, “Not now. Wait until tomorrow when I get outa here, I’ll explain everything then.”

After a few minutes of quiet arguing, Bethany finally agreed to wait until the following day to learn what the trouble was all about.

Nothing of great interest happened that day, which was a very nice change compared to the day before, Claire thought. Instead of being nearly attacked by a dog/human, collapsing at the sound of a voice yelling in her head that she had never heard before, and being found out or narrowly escaping questioning from her fellow Gryffindors about her mission—Claire got to sit back and be amused by all of the visitors streaming in to see Harry. She had to draw the curtains around her bed and pretend to be changing her nightgown when Ginny turned up with her homemade card for Harry—she was laughing far too hard and didn’t want to embarrass the poor girl. But she watched intently when the Gryffindor quidditch team showed up, and Oliver Wood was forced to tell Harry he “didn’t blame him in the slightest” for their loss against Hufflepuff in their match the day before.

But her fun and glee was always quickly extinguished whenever she caught sight of the shabby curtains on the other end of the room. If Robin had wanted to get inside her head by being silent after Claire’s confession the day before, Robin had certainly succeeded in full measure. Claire couldn’t get the sick feeling of worry to leave her stomach, and this was almost the cause of her having to stay in the hospital wing Monday as well.

“Really, Madam Pomfrey, I swear I’m just fine!” Claire begged as Madam Pomfrey took yet another look down Claire’s throat. “Just a bit nervous about a test coming up today is all, I promise!”

Eventually Claire had her convinced, however, and she quickly changed into her robes and rushed down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

“There you are!” Bethany exclaimed, scooting over a bit to allow Claire to sit down beside her. “We were wondering if you were coming at all!”

“You feeling okay, Claire?” Ginny asked her, sipping her orange juice.

Claire noticed that her eyes drifted over to Harry while she asked this, and that made it much easier for her to lie and say, “Yes, I’m fine,” with a nice cheesy smile on her face.

But she wasn’t fine. She had been up half the night, worried sick that Robin was going to rat her out. That silence was simply killing her! How could she have just been quiet after what Claire had said? HOW?!

She couldn’t take it any more. Claire looked up and down the table, and quickly spotted Robin sitting alone at the other end, reading a book and healthily munching on some cornflakes. Without a thought in her head, Claire began to get up and walk over to her.

But she was stopped by Bethany grabbing her arm.

“Where are you going?” Bethany asked in an accusing voice, following Claire’s gaze to the other end of the Gryffindor table.

“To have a word with Robin, if you don’t mind,” Claire snapped, wrenching her arm free of Bethany’s grip. “It’s not like my life is in danger—I think. Anyway I’ll be back in two seconds and we can go to class, okay?”

And with that she marched off to the other end of the table, just as Draco Malfoy stood up to give another performance of Harry falling off his broomstick and the owls fluttered in from outside, bringing their morning deliveries to their masters. It wasn’t until she had slid into the seat across from her that Robin had even noticed Claire was coming.

Robin gave her a quick glance by way of saying hello and then took another bite of her cornflakes before asking, “What ‘ou want?”

“Robin, if you’re trying to drive me crazy, I beg of you, please cut it out,” Claire said in a low voice, even though no one was sitting anywhere near enough to overhear. “What I told you—I don’t understand how you couldn’t at least ask me if I’ve ever lived in an asylum before after I said that! I mean, please, I at least acknowledged that you had said something when you were talking to me. Please, don’t you have anything to say? Anything?”

Robin looked up. She had a slightly surprised, slightly blank and unpredictable look on her face. She took a final bite of her cornflakes before pointing over Claire’s shoulder and answering her, “You have an owl.”

Not exactly expecting this, Claire spun around and sure enough, fluttering just behind her was the little brown and white owl that had visited her a few times before. Taking the scroll off his leg, Claire turned around to interrogate Robin further, demand that she at least show some sign of curiosity, but all she saw was a blank chair and an empty bowl of cereal, for Robin had swung her bag over her shoulder and was on her way out of the Hall.

“Robin—!” Claire half-heartedly called, drawing a few curious stares from down the table, but to no avail; Robin wasn’t going to turn around. Claire sighed, and with nothing better to do with herself, opened the scroll to read a short message:


Your detention will be served tonight at 8pm. Please meet Professor Lupin in the dungeons at this time. Have a pleasant day.

Yours sincerely,
Professor M. McGonagall


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAaaa!! (I’ll bet you thought I forgot about that detention, didn’t you?! WELL HAH, I’m not as dumb as I seem!) Well what is Claire going to be doing as punishment for nearly causing Harry and Oliver Wood a panic attack?! Is Robin’s blackmail going to drive Claire into the loony bin?! Well tune in to the next chapter and you’re questions shall be answered...

On a less fun note, just to warn you guys it may be a week or 2 before I update again. My little sister is having a pretty major operation this Thursday (the 29th of July, should you be reading this after that day) and depending on how it goes and how long she’s going to be in the hospital it might be a while before I can sit down and write the next chapter. I hope you guys can bear with me, it’s kinda exhausting having to run back and forth between the hospital and home for several days on end. Thank you for your understanding and patience, and if you have a minute please say a little prayer that everything goes alright! Thanks guys, you all rock muh socks! *hugs*]



Chapter 9: Meeting Professor R.J. Lupin
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[a/n: Hey everyone! I would just like to say that I LOVE all of my reviewers—Siriusly guys, you are totally amazing! I have an update as to how my sister’s surgery went, etc. at the end of the chappie, in case any of you were wondering. Thanks so much for all the prayers you said and thinking about her, it means a lot to me—and her as well, *lol* she was amazed when I read my reviews to her! ^.^ Thank you everyone, you completely rock my socks! And now, let’s dive into the chapter, shall we? *snaps a shower cap on her head, takes a deeeeeep breath, and dives into the story*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own a couple Harry Potter calendars, a few Harry Potter posters, a Harry Potter pillow, a Harry Potter blanket, various Harry Potter plushies, a couple Harry Potter T-shirts...(author’s voice fades out, as this list could go on for a very very long time)...

Chapter 9: Meeting Professor R.J. Lupin

Claire just sat there for a second, staring at the piece of parchment in her hand. In the excitement of the weekend, she had quite forgotten she owed Professor McGonagall a detention. But seeing as she had it with Professor Lupin, she wasn’t worried about it at all, but instead rather excited. Claire had been looking forward to today’s classes anyway, because she had just barely missed going to Defense Against the Dark Arts last week (they had it on Mondays and Thursdays—Lupin had been “ill” last Thursday and she had missed Monday, seeing as she wasn’t at Hogwarts yet). It looked as if she would be spending most of the day with him!

“Well, I suppose it could be worse,” Claire muttered to herself with a little grin on her face, folding up the parchment and slipping it inside her robes. “At least it’s not detention with Dolores!”

“Who?”

Claire jumped. Bethany had just appeared behind her.

“Don’t do that!” Claire said, clutching her chest. “You scared me!”

“Sorry,” Bethany said. She sounded rather irritated. “So are you ever going to explain to me what happened in the hospital wing Saturday night, or what?”

“Oh yeah! Here, sit down—”

Claire explained how she had had a little chat with Robin, although she didn’t tell Bethany anything Robin had said about her parents or her childhood. Even if Robin was going to blackmail her or mess with her mind, Claire was not about to sink that low! Basically the only thing she told in great detail to Bethany was how Robin has seen the book cover.

Bethany was not pleased.

“You WHAT?!” she half-shouted, making passerby stare and wonder what they were discussing. Lowing her tone as she noticed this, Bethany went on, “Claire, I realize you don’t know much yet, because you haven’t ‘been here that long’ or whatever, but I told you what people think about that girl! I know you think it’s wrong, but if you start mixing with her no one is going to trust you, or believe anything you say for that matter. I’m not saying its right, I’m just saying that’s the way it works.”

Bethany had this kind of pleading in her eyes, as if she was trying to say she was sorry for having to break the news and asking Claire without words not to kill the messenger bringer. Nevertheless, Claire was still slightly infuriated.

“Well if that’s the way things work around here, Bethie,” Claire said, rising and throwing her bag over her shoulder, “maybe it’s time to change the way things work around here.” And to complete the point she was making, she followed Robin’s lead in leaving the Great Hall.

Tears slightly stung her eyes as she made her way to Lupin’s classroom. She felt as if part of the thrill of Hogwarts had just died for her. She had always envisioned it as a place where all the popularity and social standings didn’t matter—everyone had magic, everyone was friends with everyone else. That was the way she had hoped it would be. But in fact, it turned out to be just like every other school she’d ever been to, where everyone had to worry and fret over what people thought of you. Claire was never one of the popular kids; rather she was often teased and made fun of because of how smart she was and how often she read Harry Potter. Her nick name at school, to those who didn’t care to find out her real name, was “The Harry Freak.” Even now that she was finally in a place she thought she had always belonged, had nothing changed? Still was she just another person passing all the “important” people in the halls? It certainly looked that way.

Lost in her thoughts and trying to keep her tears on a manageable level, she didn’t even notice that Harry Potter himself was watching her curiously as she fought her way through the throng of people in the Entrance Hall to reach the marble staircase.

Having left the Great Hall in such a rush, she reached the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom a bit earlier than everyone else. She slumped against the wall, staring into space. This must be how Harry always felt, she thought to herself. He was a boy in his prime, and he was supposed to be out there having fun, going on dates, with nothing more important than quidditch practice to worry about; and instead he had to fight off evil Dark wizards, rescue innocent men from a fate worse than death, and smuggle baby dragons off the grounds. She smiled slightly and dried her eyes on her robes. She was getting the true Harry Potter experience, there was no doubt about that.

She was brought out of her thoughts by a door slamming into her face.

“AHH!”

“Good Lord—Claire! Are you alright?”

Blinking a few times, she looked up and into the kind eyes of Remus Lupin, marauder and dear friend of James Potter and Sirius Black. She could hardly believe he was there, and remembered by the sight of his robes and bags under his eyes that the full moon had been the previous week.

“Oh, yes, I’m fine, professor,” Claire said in a nasal voice. (She was holding her nose, as if this would make the pain magically go away.) “I suppose it wasn’t terribly brilliant of me to choose a seat right where the door swings open.”

“Nevertheless, from now on I’ll make sure that seat isn’t occupied before I open the door for classes!” Lupin said, smiling. “You sure you’re alright? I’d let you go to the hospital wing, but seeing as you just got out of there about half an hour ago I’m guessing you’re not in a great hurry to go back. What brings you to class so early anyway? You are usually one of the last minute stragglers if memory serves me correctly.”

Claire laughed. That sounded like her, alright.

“No, actually—”

She spotted Bethany coming up the stairs. She looked rather upset with herself. Taking the hint that this was one of those stupid girl things, Professor Lupin returned to his classroom to finish preparing for the lesson.

“I’m sorry, Claire,” Bethany said, and truly looked it. “That was stupid of me to say. It’s just—I don’t know, I agreed to help you out and I just wanted to forewarn you that you were going to run into problems getting people to help you out if you try to be friends with Robin. People have tried before, she just refuses to accept us, just like we all appear to have refused to accept her. It’s just...kinda a bad situation on both ends of the stick, you know?”

“I know,” said Claire, trying to be open-minded about the whole thing. “It’s just—I don’t understand why everyone worries so much about what other people think. As long as they’re happy with themselves, who cares, right?”

Bethany nodded, but she didn’t look like she truly agreed. But they had no further time to discuss the matter, as the rest of the students had arrived for class. They filed in, and chose seats next to each other in the middle of the room.

“So...we’re okay then?” Bethany asked in a worried voice.

“Oh yeah—half of that was just because I’m worried about the person knowing about you-know-what,” Claire muttered in response. “No worries!” she added with a wink.

“Alright, class, settle down,” Professor Lupin said, raising his voice to be heard. The class silenced itself immediately, looking forward to another good lesson. “I would just like to take the time to apologize for falling ill. I trust that everything went well while I was out?”

Claire half expected the class to burst out complaining about an unfair assignment Professor Snape had given them, as this is what usually happened whenever Professor Lupin inquired about how classes had gone when he was ill in the books. But all that happened were a few pleasant nods and comments like, “No, nothing too interesting.”

“Very good!” Lupin replied to these responses, clapping his hands together. “In that case, let’s get started with today’s lesson. Everyone take out your wands and move the desks to the walls, please...”

It turned out the second years were practicing basic self-defense spells, such as disarming, jelly-legs, the full body-bind, etc. Today they were working with disarming, and spent a fun-filled hour and half making each other’s wands fly about the room.

“Ow!!” Bethany shouted as Claire’s wand flew straight into her ear.

“Sorry, Bethie!” Claire said, unable to stop herself from laughing as Professor Lupin rushed over to assist her in pulling it out.

“I can see we need to work on control and concentration a bit more in the next class,” Lupin said with a grin, returning the wand to Claire. “Everyone, for Thursday’s class I would like everyone to write a one page essay about an occasion when the Disarming spell could prove itself useful. Feel free to be creative! Now if you all would please move the desks back, that will be all for today...”

After the room had been properly rearranged, Claire thought for a minute about asking Professor Lupin what her punishment was going to be that evening. But her friends were so hungry, they dragged her out of the room and down to the Great Hall for lunch before she had a chance to comment otherwise.

“What was that letter you got this morning, Claire?” Bethany asked her as she shoveled mashed potatoes into her mouth.

“Oh, that,” Claire replied, pouring herself some pumpkin juice (which really didn’t taste as nasty as it sounded in the books). “It was from Professor McGonagall, about my detention tonight. I’m supposed to” –she whipped the note out of her robes to double check— “ ‘meet Professor Lupin in the dungeons at 8 o’clock.’ I wonder what he’s gonna have me doing down there...”

Bethany shrugged. “Beats me. Why didn’t you ask him after the lesson?”

Claire glared at her as she took a large bite out of her roast beef sandwich.

After lunch they sat through one of the most boring History of Magic lessons in school history. As Professor Binns droned on and on endlessly talking about goblin so-and-so’s great conquer over wizard what’s-his-face’s fort, Claire couldn’t help but let her mind wander freely. Curiosity about the detention was pouring over her. What would she be doing in the dungeons in a couple hours time? Maybe while the rest of her friends ran off to dinner (if this class EVER ended...), she could slip off to Professor Lupin’s classroom and just ask really quick if she would need to bring anything with her. Maybe they were fighting bogarts or something...

So when the bell (finally) rang, Claire told Bethany and Ginny she was going to drop off her books, and headed quickly to the Defense Against the Dark Arts room.

When she finally reached the door, however, it was slightly ajar, and voices could be heard inside...

“Why did they have to come to the match?” said a bitter voice.

Now I don’t want you to think that for a moment, Claire didn’t remember the reason she had received a detention was because she had been eavesdropping in the first place. No, Claire was more thoughtful than that, and she did think a thought quite similar to the one I just mentioned...even if it was only for a small moment....^.~

In a flash she had her eye pressed up to the crack in the door, watching as she listened to the conversation.

“—I don’t think they could resist the large crowd around the Quidditch field. All that excitement...emotions running high...it was their idea of a feast,” Lupin was saying.

“Azkaban must be terrible,” Harry muttered while Lupin nodded in agreement. Claire realized then that the professor must have been remembering at that moment that one of his best friends had been tortured in there for the past twelve years, and how it had changed him. Sadness swelled up inside her, but then again, so did her determination to succeed and make these people’s lives happy once again.

“The fortress is set on a tiny island, way out to sea,” Lupin explained, “but they don’t need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re all trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks.”

Claire wiped a tear off her cheek, thinking about Sirius.

“But Sirius Black escaped from them,” Harry said, sounding as if he was choosing his words carefully. “He got away...”

“Yes,” Lupin replied, “Black must have found a way to fight them. I wouldn’t have believed it possible.....Dementors are supposed to drain a wizard of his powers if he is left with them too long...”

“You made that dementor on train back off,” Harry said, but at that point Claire stopped listening.

She had begun to gasp, but she covered her mouth with her hand and flattened herself against the wall next to the door, in case the occupants of the room she had been watching and had heard. Her eyes were wide and a smile was spreading across her face. She had just had a brilliant idea, a wonderfully brilliant idea she should have thought of weeks ago. She skipped off to the Great Hall in a rush of excitement, wondering how in the world she was going to be able to contain her idea until 8 o’clock.

She was going to ask Professor Lupin for Patronus lessons.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAaaaa!!! What will be the answer when Claire asks Professor Lupin her question?! Can you even be SURE she makes it to her detention ALIVE?! I mean, skipping down the hallway can be dangerous business! *ticks off the possibilities on her fingers* She could crash into a suit of armor, trip down the stairs, discover a hidden entrance in the castle that leads directly into a lion’s cage, or have a sudden case of amnesia and suddenly not have any idea who she is or what she’s doing!...I mean the possibilities are ENDLESS! *wink* Thanks for reading and my apologies for not putting the detention in this chapter—I thought it would be too long and it would be better if the detention was in the next one!

Oh! And my sister is doing very well to all of you who asked! The operation took about 12 hours—very boring to those of us sitting in the waiting room -_- lol—and she was in the hospital for about 6 days. But now she is home, and she can’t move too much ‘cus she’s still pretty sore and stuff—thus the reason you haven’t seen a new chapter from me in a couple weeks. I’ve had to assist the family in fulfilling her every need! *puts on a waitress outfit and drapes a cloth over her arm* Duty calls! *bustles out of the room, calling to her lovely readers* I love you guys! If I could apparate I would poof to each of your houses and hug you all!]

Chapter 10: "Yay! Detention!"
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[a/n: Greetings to you, oh lovely readers! *waves merrily* I know I tell you guys this in just about every chapter, but I Siriusly love you all! I’m getting such a great energy boost from all the happy reviews—not to mention many excellent and stylish souvenirs! *holds up the box of “trust” (aka: mist) from mellie and the crown that says “I LOVE HP!” that bLuEcOw219 covets* hehe ^_^ So yeah, in conclusion to my sillyness here, you guys KNOW you rock, right??? *hands everyone who’s reviewed a party hat with a fuzzy Snitch on top that says “I’m obsessed and I’m proud!”* Wear them well, everyone! *ushers everyone into chapter 10*]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, nor do I own a pair of radish earrings like Luna Lovegood. *sulks* I am DETERMINED to find a pair of those and wear them for the rest of eternity! *strikes a super hero pose and flies off to the store to—YET AGAIN—ask the clerk if there are any in stock* (lol Store clerks just adore me...*wink*)

Chapter 10: “Yay! Detention!”

“For the last time, Claire,” Bethany said, looking up from her potions essay for the third time in ten minutes, “will you PLEASE stop fidgeting?!”

They were sitting in the Gryffindor common room, most of the second years hard at work tweaking their essays for their potions class first thing tomorrow morning. Claire was not one of these people—she was far too antsy to sit down and write a paper, for heaven’s sake! It was a good thing she had finished it already, or she would never have been able to sit down and complete it, seeing as detention would probably last late into the night.

“I can’t!!” Claire cried, also for the third time in the past ten minutes. “I’m too excited!!”

“About detention?” Bethany inquired, raising her eyebrows in disbelief. Shaking her head and turning the page in her notes, she added, “And yet again, you cease to amaze me...”

“C’mon, Bethie! It’s with Lupin of all people!! Lupin!” Claire said, standing up and pacing again, her steps lively and full of enthusiasm. “I mean, if you knew the man’s life story you’d be thrilled too!”

“So...” Bethany said skeptically, “...what is the man’s life story? Hmm?”

Claire paused in her pacing. She knew Bethany was completely trustworthy, but as the common room was very full and she was pretty certain Bethany would shriek with surprise if she suddenly found out that one of her teachers was a werewolf, she didn’t think it was wise to share the information.

“I—erm—I really can’t tell you that, Bethie,” she replied. “You’ll find out at the end of term anyway—the whole school will be talking about it...wait a minute! I can change that too!”

She threw herself into an armchair, beside herself with happiness. Maybe there was something she could do that could somehow keep Lupin on as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher! And if she succeeded in doing that...Voldemort would never be able to position Barty Crouch Jr. at Hogwarts! Plus Harry wouldn’t have to go through the agony of the Triwizard Tournament, and no one would have to meet the toad-like Dolores Jane Umbridge! It was brilliant....

“Whatever you say, Claire,” Bethany said, laughing at her friend and continuing to flip through her papers. It wasn’t until she caught sight of her watch a few minutes later that she added, “Heavens, is that the time?! Claire you only have five minutes, you’d better get going—”

“YAY! DETENTION!” Claire exclaimed, jumping up from her seat and waving her arms in the air as if she was a three-year-old whose mother had just agreed to take her to the zoo for the day. She ran to the portrait hole with another shout of excitement, waving to everyone in the common room before she made her exit and proceeded to bounce merrily all the way to the dungeons.

The common room was rather quiet while everyone stared after her in disbelief. A few people laughed as Bethany’s face burned and she ducked to hide under the table, but no one said anything until Fred Weasley broke the silence.

“Now there’s a kid who’s going places!” he said proudly as he and his twin stood up and applauded Claire.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Heeeeeeeeello?” Claire called in a small whisper, peaking around the corner of the hallway she was in and into a dark corridor. None of the torches in the dungeon were lit and no one appeared to be around. It made her wonder if she was supposed to be meeting Professor Lupin somewhere else. Could Professor McGonagall have made a mistake?

“Hello to you too, Miss Woods,” said a cold voice that made Claire jump about three feet in the air.

She spun around to see, not Professor Lupin, but the dark silhouette of Professor Severus Snape. He gave his wand a flick and fire sprung out of the nearest torch holder. The light reflected almost blindingly off his greasy hair and nose. It made Claire gag.

“May I ask what business you have being in the dungeons at this hour?” Snape said with the air of someone about to take twenty points from Gryffindor.

“She has detention with me tonight, Severus,” said a voice as more light flooded the corridor.

Looking around Snape, she saw Professor Lupin standing there, holding a lantern and watching the scene with a small smile on his kind face. Claire grinned too, remembering the rivalry that was probably still fresh on both these men’s minds from their school days.

“Hmm, I should have guessed,” Snape said, turning back to Claire. “I wouldn’t be smiling if I were you, Miss Woods. You hardly know what you’re dealing with.” He shot a nasty glance at Lupin and turned to be on his way.

But Claire muttered quietly to herself, “Actually, I know exactly what I’m dealing with plus additional information, thank you.”

Claire didn’t notice that Snape’s ears perked at these words, as he merely continued on in the direction of his office.

Lupin then directed his attention to Claire, smiling as he said, “Well, Miss Woods, let the punishment commence! Follow me, if you please...”

He proceeded down the dark corridor, and Claire walked alongside, a grin spreading across her face in spite of herself. Each time they passed a torch bracketed to the wall, flames would roar to life, making their shadows dance along the walls. It was kinda cheery actually, despite the cold atmosphere the dungeons were well-known for. Claire was having trouble containing her excitement.

“What’re we gonna be doing, Professor?” Claire asked, resuming her skipping rather than walking like a normal human being.

“Tonight you will be assisting me in removing all of the doxie’s from one of these rooms,” Professor Lupin replied, taking a right turn down yet another hallway. “Have you ever used Doxycide or seen a doxie before, Claire?”

“No,” Claire replied, “but I know what a doxie is. Highly poisonous, aren’t they? Like to live in curtains, couches, places with fabric and such?”

Professor Lupin looked surprised at her knowledge of magical household pests. Claire, of course, knew all about them from The Order of the Phoenix, when Harry and co. spent an entire day demobilizing doxies at Grimmauld Place. She would have mentioned her source, but had no doubt in her mind Lupin would be even more astonished that she knew where Sirius Black once lived. Not wanting to ruin her chance of Patronus lessons, she just grinned and said, “I read a lot, professor.”

Lupin chuckled and opened the door to a large room on the right side of the hallway. “I can see that there is at least one of those types of students in each year of Gryffindor House.”

“Are you talking about Hermione Granger, sir?” Claire asked.

“Friends with her, are you?” Lupin asked, taking some Doxycide out of a closet and tossing a bottle to Claire.

“Er—I wouldn’t say that. I know her though,” Claire replied, rolling up her sleeves and tossing the cap of the spray bottle into a corner of the room.

“Very clever girl,” Lupin commented before turning his attention to a long table in the middle of the room. “Commonly, Professor Dumbledore has meetings with the staff down here. However this table cloth is highly infested with doxies, and one of them bit Professor Sinistra just last Tuesday. Naturally, Professor Dumbledore did not want half the staff in the hospital wing, and asked that I get a student to assist me in getting rid of the problem. Do you know what to do?”

Claire, knowing precisely how to handle the situation, twirled the bottle in her fingers and set herself in a ready stance.

“Bring it on,” she said, a grin to send the doxie’s fleeing for cover spreading across her face.

“One...two...three...SPRAY!”

It was actually a highly enjoyable activity. Claire had fun spraying three or four doxies at a time, and tossing them into the basin between her and Lupin with the enthusiasm of a basketball player. Professor Lupin laughed at this.

“You’re attitude has always impressed me, Claire,” he said. “You never take anything for granted it seems. That’s an excellent trait to have in life.”

“Well, I don’t know how long I’m gonna be here—no one does,” Claire replied, tossing three more doxies over her shoulder and under her leg into the bin. “It is my personal belief that people should enjoy what they have when they have it, ‘cause they could wake up tomorrow and it’ll all be different.”

“A good way to live your life,” Professor Lupin agreed. Claire imaged him enjoying his time with his friends at school twice as much as the usual boy, because once a month he’d be taken away from them and sent into isolation, living like an animal for a few days. The situation wasn’t fair to Lupin, but it probably gave him a different perspective on life.

Claire figured she’d better start changing the conversation over to Patronus lessons. She decided to sort of progressively work it into their chat.

“Especially lately...” Claire said, trying to look worried. “Ever since the quidditch match I’ve just had this nasty feeling.”

“You mean because you passed out?” Professor Lupin asked, spraying a doxie just before it took a large chunk out of his nose.

“Yeah, I guess,” Claire said. She wasn’t lying either; those voices really did creep her out. “I heard things when the dementors came into the stadium...things in my head. There was this voice—two voices, actually—one of them was me...and I was begging someone not to hurt—er, people.”

She didn’t feel it necessary to bring Harry into the conversation. She didn’t want to give Lupin reason to think her suspicious.

“Hmm...that’s interesting,” Lupin commented, sounding very interested in the matter. “Usually dementors cause us to relive the worst moments in our past—memories that haunt us. But you're saying you have no recollection of the conversation you heard?”

“Exactly,” Claire answered.

“Curious...” Lupin said in a mysterious voice.

They were silent for a few minutes to concentrate better on their task. The doxies seemed to be rebelling, attempting to gang up on Lupin and Claire and drive them from the room. After narrowly avoiding an aerial attack by no less than a dozen of the creatures, Claire ventured onward in the conversation.

“Professor?” she asked, gathering up the aerial-attacking doxies off the stone floor. “Isn’t there any way to fight it? The dementor attacks, I mean.”

Lupin stared at her, letting the doxie he just sprayed fall lightly into his hand.

“You came back to my classroom before dinner, didn’t you?” he asked.

Claire flushed. Had she been that obvious in her approach?

“Erm—”

Lupin laughed. “It’s alright, Claire. The only thing that disturbs me about your spying habits is that you always happen to overhear the conversations that are very personal to the people involved. Did you hear what Harry was saying?”

“I already knew all of that, professor.” Claire said this and followed it with a sharp breath. She had said to much! Trying to cover up her mistake, she added, “Harry was in the hospital wing with me, so he mentioned it before.”

Lupin didn’t look entirely convinced, but he didn’t argue.

“I see,” he replied, sending another spray at the table cloth even though there didn’t appear to be any more doxies concealed inside. “Well, naturally you’ll understand if I ask you not to repeat anything you heard to other students. Harry has enough to deal with at the present time without everyone harping on him about that...”

Lupin looked older when he said that. He was obviously worried about Harry, the son of his best friend. Claire felt guilty.

“I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that, professor,” Claire said in a small voice. “I understand how Harry’s feeling.”

There was a moment of silence before Professor Lupin spoke.

“I suppose you want to ask me if I’ll also give you Patronus lessons?” he asked.

Claire gulped. “Well—erm—I know you didn’t want to give them to anyone else, but...”

Lupin held up a hand to quiet her.

“Naturally, if I’m going to help one student, I will certainly have to help another,” he said logically. “I’ll give you lessons, and you may ask Robin if she would like the same. I’ll talk to Harry about it and see if he doesn’t mind learning with you two at the same time. If he does, I shall give them to you all separately.”

“Thank you so much, Professor Lupin!” Claire said, running over and hugging him.

Lupin, taken aback, laughed and said, “Of course.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire returned to her dormitory around 11:30. She felt so light-hearted and happy as she practically sang Sir Cadogan the password. Quite the opposite of how she had felt that morning!

Quite a few people were still in the common room, but Claire, wanting to check over her potions essay one more time, headed up the girl’s staircase. She opened the door of her dormitory, expecting to find it dark with three sleeping people inside.

But this was not at all the case.

All of the candles and lanterns in the room were lit, and the room was unoccupied with the exception of the brown and white owl that had visited her on a couple occasions before. He was sitting on one of the posts of her bed.

“Fancy seeing you here!” Claire said, running over to see what news the owl had brought her.

But there was no letter attached to the owl’s leg, and Claire nearly jumped out of her skin a moment later.

“You better fancy seeing me here, after all the trouble I went through to GET here!” the owl said.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaaa!!!! Why are there talking animals in this story?! Will Robin want to take Patronus lessons as well?! Who knows? *author raises her hand* I do! I do! But I love it when people guess! 10 points that mean absolutely nothing will be given to whoever can guess the deal with the owl! I shall post the points in the next chappie! Much thanks for reading everyone, you make my life worth living! ^_^ Don’t forget, wear your fuzzy Snitch party hat and feel special doing so! *waves*

IMPORTANT...AGAIN! If someone would be kind enough to tell me how to make a banner, or if someone would like to make one for this story, PLEASE email or review me! Thanks guys! See you in the next chappie! *ushers all her readers out the exits of the chapter*]

Chapter 11: Aquinas
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[a/n: This is being reposted cuz the new server spazzed--I TOLD YOU ALL IT WAS EVIL! lol, anyway, since most of my regular readers already reviewed/read this before the server spazzed, please review me again if you would like me to email you when i update! thanks guys, i love you!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own a nice stack of homework. *eyes the pile of books sitting next to her desk* If anyone would like to take that off my hands, just let me know…>.<

Chapter 11: Aquinas

Claire stared. Now she HAD to be dreaming. Talking animals?! Even for Harry Potter that was a little farfetched, and slightly childish. Her mind was spinning with reasons for the owl’s sudden desire to speak. She decided to ask the first thing that popped into her head.

“Are you an animagus?” she said, taking a step closer to get a better look at the bird, who was casually flicking bits of dust off his feathers.

“Tuh! And I thought your grandmother said you were intelligent!” he scoffed. “Don’t you know that animagi can’t talk when they’re in their animal form?!”

“Sorry,” Claire said, realizing the owl was quite correct. Sirius had never talked when he was a dog, she should have thought of that. “I didn’t think—”

“And that is the precise reason I’m here!” the owl said, sitting up to his full height (an amazing six inches tall) as if to send shivers down her spin. Claire merely cocked an eyebrow, waiting for him to go on. He sighed and impatiently added, “Didn’t you ever wonder who was sending you all the letters? Who the box at the quidditch pitch was from? ANYTHING?!”

Claire replied, “Well—I figured they were from my grandma—”

“At long last, you show proof that there is a brain inside that skull of yours!” the owl commented, swooping down from the bed post to perch instead on the foot of the bed. “However small it might be, it’ll prove itself useful…”

“And just who do you think you are, coming in here and insulting me like this?” Claire asked, more intrigued than outraged. She rushed over and ungracefully plopped down on the floor to have a better look at this fellow. He was simply staring at his outstretched wing feathers, looking like a human who was checking to see if his nails were still in order.

“Who, me?” he asked, dragging out his introduction in an unnecessary manner.

“No, the talking gopher over there,” Claire said sarcastically.

He tucked back his wing, clucking his beak. “Impatience is not a virtue, Claire, and something I refuse to work with.”

“That’s pretty big talk coming from someone who’s about a twentieth my size,” she said coolly, poking the owl’s fluffy stomach, sending him crashing onto the mattress.

“Eeeeek!!!” shouted the bird, ruffling his feathers as he tried to get up. “Watch it, toughie! I have a beak and I’m not afraid to use it! You’ll pay for that—!”

“Hey, hey, take it easy!” Claire said, grabbing the bird carefully and setting him upright on the footboard once more. She was trying not to giggle because his feathers (which he obviously tried very hard to keep clean and tidy) were completely amuck and he seemed very perturbed by this. “I’m sorry.”

“As you should be!” he squawked, readjusting himself. After he had finished this, he said, “Anyway, my name is Aquinas, messenger and loyal servant of Paulette Griggs—aka your grandmother.”

“I know my own grandmother’s name, thank you very much,” Claire said indignantly, chuckling a bit at Aquinas. “But it is nice to know yours. Pleasure to meet you Aquinas, loyal message—or whatever it was!” She shook his wing with two fingers.

“Hey! HEY! Don’t touch the feathers!!” Aquinas said, jumping back from Claire, causing her to yank out one of his feathers. “C’mon! I need those! If I meet a nice female she’s gonna think I’m molting!” He grabbed it back and attempted to stick it back in place. Claire laughed.

“Not exactly a wise move for you to be making fun of someone who was sent to help you, is it?” he commented coolly, abandoning the feather attempt and letting it flutter to the floor. “It might impair my judgment in a moment of dire need, wouldn’t you think?’

Claire chose to end her giggling and mutter an apology.

“That’s what I thought,” Aquinas said with a proud little smirk. “Now, to business.” He straightened up. “You’re great-grandmother thinks you need to get more serious about your task.”

Claire couldn’t keep quiet at that, and burst out, “What do you think I’ve BEEN doing?! I nearly got myself killed at the quidditch match to try and talk to Sirius! Doesn’t that could as something?!”

Aquinas made a rude sound.

“You haven’t looked at any of the other books, have you?” he said, in a voice that suggested he already knew that answer to what he was inquiring. “You’ve only been concentrating on the story you’re in right now, rather than the big picture, right?”

“Erm—”

“Yes, I am right! Go me! Go me!” Aquinas wiggled about, jostling his wings in some absurd form of a victory dance. He took a moment to recollect himself (while Claire nearly suffocated herself trying not to laugh, mind you) and went on, “Get the fifth book out of your trunk and take a look. Go on, some time this year please? Jeez…”

Muttering under her breath, Claire opened the trunk at the foot of her bed and took out The Order of the Phoenix. She looked up at Aquinas uncertainly before she opened to one of the last and fateful chapters, and sighed with sorrow as she read aloud the words still printed on the page:

“There’s nothing you can do, Harry…nothing…He’s gone.”

“Precisely,” said Aquinas. “You’re too busy thinking of things to fix THIS particular book, THIS part of the story, when the reason you were sent here was to fix THAT part of the story.” He gestured toward the book that was open in Claire’s hands. “Haven’t you thought of anything that could be changed now, something that could change the outcome in the end?”

Claire thought for a moment, and then her eyes grew wide as the thoughts connected in her brain.

“Dumbledore!” she exclaimed. “If he would have just told Harry sooner—about the prophecy—about Voldemort and his parents—maybe Harry wouldn’t have gone to the Department of Mysteries…”

Aquinas began to look excited. No doubt he was a great adventure lover, like Claire.

“And what can you do to make that possible?” Aquinas said, trying to help her along.

Claire grinned.

“Somehow,” she thought aloud, “I have to get myself sent to Dumbledore’s office.”

Aquinas flew over and rested on her shoulder. “Now you’re speaking my language.”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa!!! What kind of tricks and treats are Claire and Aquinas going to pull in order to reach Dumbledore? Will Aquinas’s sarcastic nature get in the way of Claire’s cause? Is she, in fact, about to land herself in even more trouble with him at her side? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you? ::wink:: Thank you for reading, I’ll be back with a new chappie soon! ::hugs all her readers::]


Chapter 12: Havoc in the Dungeons
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[a/n: Hey guys, my apologies for this chapter coming so late…again. Feel free to yell at me for not updating sooner—I’ll simply ignore you if you choose to leave a review like that lol. Those of you who read the note on my profile saw that I’ve been kinda busy with school lately. It’s a nightmare; I’ve had well over 30 tests the past 3-4 weeks and countless projects, papers, and whatnot. Plus my little sister was back in the hospital for an emergency operation this week. So I’m really sorry about this coming so incredibly late. Please release your anger at me, bottling things up is never healthy. ^.~ Anyway, gold stars to everyone for their patience! *whips out a wand and reigns down gold and scarlet stars on her lovely readers*

OH and another thing, I don’t know if all of you post stories on here, but there is a wonderful person that goes by the name of “Shade” that has to sit and read all the millions and zillions of chapters before they get posted on this wonderful website! To put it briefly, I drive Shade cRaZy!! I have little to no patience with technology and that is made obvious by my posts on the forums as well as my lovely cynical author’s notes *points to her previous chapter*. ^^;;; Anyway, I just wanted to thank Shade for putting up with me and my sad excuse of a fic! You rock my socks, Shade! (Am I gonna get yelled at for putting this note in here, Shade?...*crickets chirp*…Yep, most likely! But thanks anyway…^.~)]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I NOW own…*drum roll as author brandishes her left wrist*…A HARRY POTTER WATCH!! *gets very excited and begins bouncing in her chair* See, looky!! *points* It has Harry playing Quidditch and it has the ‘lil thing that ticks around that says “Something wicked this way comes!!!” Everyone needs one!! *runs off to buy watches for her readers singing “Double Trouble” really loudly as she skips down the street*

Chapter 12: Havoc in the Dungeons

Aquinas has a very loud snore for such a small little fellow, Claire thought in an irritated manner, watching the bird dosing on her nightstand next to her four-poster. The hands on the clock were pushing ever closer to morning, and Claire hadn’t caught a wink of sleep. This wasn’t caused entirely by the small feathery distraction to her right, but mainly because the excitement of her quest was finally starting to catch up to her. As she stared at the ceiling, she thought of all the millions of ways that she could easily get herself sent to the infamous headmaster. If she was going to get into trouble, she was at the very least going to have the time of her life doing so…

At that moment, Aquinas gave a particularly loud grunt, making Claire start. She huffed, remembering their earlier conversation before they had blown out the candles and gone to bed.

“You really can’t get sent to Dumbledore’s office until you come up with a decent game plan, you know,” Aquinas had said. “I mean, sure you can get sent to the headmaster’s easily enough—but what will you say to the man when you get there? Hmm? I mean, you don’t particularly strike me as someone who excels in extemporaneous speeches…”

She glared at him through the darkness. She could tell Dumbledore everything without memorizing a script first. Why not? Besides, she had checked the book and JK Rowling didn’t mention anything of great importance happening until Christmas—which gave her free reign to do whatever she pleased without screwing up the book until then…or so she assumed anyway. Plus she had Potions first thing in the morning…and she was NOT about to miss her grand opportunity to start getting into some trouble.

Grinning to herself, she rolled over and fell asleep just as the sun began to glow faintly over the distant mountains.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“You look like a gnome who’s been thrown across a dung heap,” Aquinas muttered as they descended the girl’s staircase.

“Good morning to you too, darling,” Claire commented to the bird on her shoulder, her words dripping with sarcasm and her eyes threatening to close with fatigue. “I suggest you be careful what you say to me. After all, we have Potions first and one never does know—I might slip some poison in your breakfast…”

“Tuh! As if you’d risk losing your only link to the outside world!” he commented, once again beginning to clean his feathers. “Even you aren’t that dull.”

But as they entered the Great Hall and seated themselves at the Gryffindor table, Claire couldn’t help but notice that Aquinas wouldn’t touch the cornflakes in front of him.

“I’m not hungry,” he muttered, turning his beak in the air with a sense of stubbornness when Claire commented about not really intending to kill him.

“Oh, did you get another letter from your grandmother?” Bethany asked as she took the seat next to Claire, pointing to Aquinas.

“Eh—no,” Claire replied between munches on toast. “The owl just keeps following me everywhere. He’s quite a pathetic little thing…” He scowled. Claire smirked. “His name is Aquinas, though.”

“Hey, little guy,” Bethany said, stroking his feathers. Claire, noticing the owl’s displeasure, brought her index finger across her throat in a swift motion. He took the hint and remained silent.

While Bethany chatted away about an upcoming Charms test and poured herself some pumpkin juice, Claire had a look around the Hall. She spotted Robin in her usual spot at the end of the Gryffindor table, once again unaccompanied. Deciding it would be wise to let things settle a bit before she attempted a conversation with her again, Claire resumed her scanning of the table. She immediately spotted Harry, Ron, and Hermione sitting together at the opposite end, laughing as Fred and George reenacted something that had happened in one of their classes (it was obviously a very violent “something”, seeing as George kept hitting Fred over the head with a muffin). She smiled in their direction. These were the days she was going to enjoy the most, she suspected—the unwritten part of the story in which everyone was happy, and not worrying about death or dangerous sorcerer’s jumping out from behind suits of armor to attack them.

That reminded her of something.

“I left my potion’s kit in my trunk, Bethie,” Claire said, jumping up from her seat and cutting Bethany off in mid-sentence. “I’ll meet you in the dungeons!”

And with that she threw her bag over her shoulder, plucked Aquinas off the table as if he was the last spec of food left and she hadn’t eaten in three days (“Ooof!!”), and made herself scarce.

“What the bloody hell was that for?!” Aquinas said through a clamped beak, like a human gritting their teeth in attempt not release their irritation. He immediately carried on in the ongoing battle to keep his feathers clean. “There are nicer ways to say, ‘Excuse me, would you mind? I’d like to leave very quickly and rudely while my friend talks to herself—’ ”

“Never mind that, and keep your voice down!!” Claire hissed. She didn’t want everyone knowing about Aquinas’s unusual talent—she was getting enough unwanted attention as it was. “I want you to do something for me today to help me out.”

“I will not be sent on frivolous tasks by an amateur marauder,” Aquinas said sharply. “Besides, you don’t know your left any better than your right, and I’ve been strictly instructed—”

“—to help me out when I ask you for something,” Claire finished for him, drowning out his words. “And today you are going to do that by scanning the grounds for Sirius Black.”

The bird was not pleased.

“I’m a BIRD,” he explained. “He is a STARVING DOG. He’s going to EAT ME!!!”

Claire rolled her eyes.

“You imbecile…” she muttered. “He won’t eat you, he’s a wizard. Wizards wouldn’t eat owls because they cherish you’re service, for reasons unknown.” She watched Aquinas’s eye twitch as he plucked a cornflake out of his ear with a cocked eyebrow. “Look, you’re the one who told me I needed to start looking at the big picture here, and the big picture is saving Sirius. Therefore, I think it would be prudent to know where he is at present.”

Aquinas grinned and said, “You think you can use bigger vocabulary and make me do as you wish? Well fine, you’ll see how it is. I’ll go on this little ‘quest’ as you call it, and we’ll see how well you do without me.”

“Well, considering I’ve been just fine the past couple weeks without you, I’d bet a considerable amount that I would do just peachy on my own,” Claire retorted. “Anyway, you get looking for Sirius, and give me any updates on his whereabouts when you return. Maybe we can figure out some way to keep track of him…anyway, just look for the man—er—dog, ok Aquinas? Please?”

She pouted. He sighed.

“Alright alright,” he muttered. And away he flew out the open oak doors and onto the grounds.

She grinned triumphantly.

“…Sucker…”

And off she ran to Potions class.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

She chose a seat at the very back table next to Bethany and Ginny. The dungeons were getting colder as the season of winter drew closer and the pupils were nearly shivering with cold. The shivering only worsened when a particularly greasy teacher entered the room.

“Parchment out, quills poised,” Snape snapped at the class, walking up and down the aisles as he spoke. “Follow my dictating as I guide you through the brewing a proper sleepy draft. The most prudent item to have would be a bezoar, as this is what will actually loll the drinker into a deep slumber…”

Snape’s lecture continued on endlessly while the class struggled to write down all the needed information that seemed to be positively flying off their professor’s tongue. Halfway through Snape explaining why the temperature must be changed from medium to cool when the potion was nearly ready, he paused in front of Claire’s table.

“Woods, what are you doing?” he asked, his tone icy. The class turned to stare.

“Nothing, sir,” Claire insisted, an innocent grin spreading across her guilty face.

“Nothing, eh?” Snape said, walking around the table, apparently trying to instill fear in the pupil in question. But Claire remained perfectly calm, smiling away while Bethany trembled in fear beside her, for she knew that Claire had been drawing rude, but also hysterical, cartoons of Professor Snape half the period instead of taking notes.

“That’s right, sir,” Claire went on. “Nothing but listening to your fascinating lecture, sir.”

“Oh really?” Snape replied, unconvinced. “Well, are you aware you are supposed to be taking notes on this lecture, Woods?”

“Oh, yes sir!” Claire piped up. “I have them right here, sir!” She pulled a bunch of papers out from under the table where they had been sitting on her lap, patiently awaiting their time to serve their purpose.

Professor Snape snatched them from her grasp and began thumbing through them. He glowered. Claire smirked.

“Twenty points from Gryffindor,” Snape muttered menacingly, “and I’ll see you after class, Miss Woods…”

And with that he shoved the parchment in his pocket and continued the lecture. Claire’s classmates continued to shoot her curious glances, wondering what was written on the parchment that now resided in the pockets of their Potions teacher.

“Claire, you’re gonna get us all in trouble!” Bethany hissed. “Why did you draw all that??”

“It’s all part of the grand scheme, m’dear,” Claire said slickly.

“Well, if it’s a scheme to loose us the House Cup, you’re doing a fine job,” Ginny said out of the side of her mouth, scribbling down a note about the Ignatius the Insomniatic, who fell into a cauldron of a strong sleeping drought and didn’t wake up for thirty years, inspiring a popular author to write a best selling novel about how confused Ignatius was when he woke up.

“Don’t worry, you’ll thank me later,” Claire insisted.

After the lecture was complete, Snape had them get into pairs and attempt to start making very weak sleeping drafts themselves. Claire ended up paired with Ginny, as Bethany rushed off mumbling something about promising Colin Creevey she’d help him out. Claire knew Bethany just didn’t want to be involved when she caused a ruckus…which she was very well about to do.

Claire tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for the opportune moment. Finally, the time came when they were supposed to move the cauldron off the fire to let it cool. Ginny took care of this, and as she bent over to dig a quill out of the bottom of her bag Claire scooted the cauldron back onto the flames with the edge of a foot.

“Damn it,” Ginny muttered, not finding the quill she had been searching for. “Claire, did you see where I—why is that back on the fire?” Her eyes were wide with panic. Claire transfigured her stool into an umbrella and smiled a single word before chaos relinquished on the poor, unsuspecting students:

“Duck.”

SPLASH.

“AHHHHHH!!!”

Potion was spewing out of the cauldron as if it were a volcano that had been impatiently waiting to erupt. Claire managed to block the majority of what was shot at her with her umbrella, but the rest of the students were left scrambling to get under desks, chairs, and a few even attempted an escape behind a bookshelf. But alas, before any of them had even made it halfway to their targets, they found themselves peacefully dozing on the hard, cold stone floor.

One of these poor, unsuspecting souls was none other then Severus Snape.

“Brilliant.”

Claire closed her umbrella with a snap, the last one left standing in the room. Without a moment’s haste, she bustled off into Snape’s supply closet.

“Poison antidote…wart remover…nose hair clipper—ew!” Claire commented to herself, running an index finger along the labels of the jars. After noticing the last one, she decided to keep her hands safely in her pockets. “Hmm…where is it…AHA!” She recovered a bright blue bottle with some red liquid inside. “The counter-part to sleeping draft!”

She was about to head back into the classroom when she took one more glance behind her. Everyone in the room would be asleep for the next few minutes at least…and it would be a shame to let all these helpful supplies go to waste, she thought. With a quick check to make sure no one had stirred, she rushed back along the shelves and found the thing she was looking for.

“Bingo.”

She slipped the vile into her pocket, and rushed back into the room without a moment to spare. From her opposite pocket, she took out a quill and some ink, and wrote a single word across Snape’s forehead.

“That was for Lily, you slime ball,” she muttered with satisfaction.

Once again making sure no one was coming, she dipped her hand into the nearest cauldron, and licked the potion off her finger tips. Before sleep claimed her, she dropped a single dollop of the waking solution on the corner of Snape’s mouth, broke the bottle on the floor, and collapsed on the way back to her desk in slumber.

A few minutes later, the rest of the class was being aroused by one particularly ferocious Professor Snape.

“WHO DID THIS?!” he roared to his drowsy pupils. “WHEN I FIND OUT WHO’S BEHIND THIS, THEY WILL BE EXPELL—why are you laughing?!”

Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Claire grinned evilly at what her classmates were now pointing and laughing at openly. For printed on Snape’s head was a single word: Snivillus.

Because everyone was askew about the room in hysteria, Professor Snape could not make a correct assumption at who precisely was behind the dastardly act. Combine that with the fact that he could not seem to get the ink off his forehead and the humiliation from this and it could only equal one thing: triple the usual amount of homework and a detention for Claire for what had been written on the parchment.

Bethany and Ginny would not speak to her on the way to lunch, but she hardly noticed. News of what had happened in the dungeons quickly spread through the Great Hall, and somehow the Gryffindors knew who was behind it.

And then everything immediately fell into place.

“Hey!” Someone was tapping her shoulder as she drank her pumpkin juice.

She spun around to face Ron Weasley, accompanied by his twin brothers and none other than Harry Potter.

She swallowed.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Are you the second year that just reeked utter mayhem on Snape’s class?” George asked, his eyes as wide as his twin’s.

“Well…” She took a bite out of her sandwich. “I really don’t want to get expelled, so let’s keep this under raps, shall we?”

The twins beamed with pride.

“You are my hero!” Ron said, shaking her hand with both his own. Claire was glowing. “Hermione would never let us pull a stunt like that! Not that we haven’t tried several times, mind you…”

“Tuh! Don’t let the woman stop ya, mate!” Fred said with an air of disgust. Ron glared.

“Yeah, it’s never stopped us from making Filch’s life a living hell!” George said in agreement. “Hey, maybe this one can help us out, Fred…” He nodded at Claire.

“An excellent idea, George!” Fred commented, winking at her. Claire's face was hurting from smiling so much.

As the Weasleys continued to talk excitedly, Claire couldn’t help but notice how quiet Harry was, surveying her with more curiosity than admiration.

“Never thought you were one to favor Snape, Harry,” Claire commented, taking another sip of pumpkin juice. “I thought you’d at least be smiling at the fact that he’s scrubbing his dungeon clean at the moment.”

Harry was quiet for a second before he said, “I don’t like Snape. At all. I’m just having trouble understanding why you did that. What have you got against him?”

“Loads,” Claire replied simply.

“I see…”

Claire received a few more pats on the back from the Weasleys before they dispersed. She was happily turning back to her lunch when she felt a sharp bite on her ear.

“OW!” she exclaimed.

“There’s plenty where that came from!” a rather ruffled looking Aquinas said. “I found the wanted man. And I’m supposed to bring you this.” He held out a piece of parchment on his leg. “I already read it—you have detention tomorrow. What the bloody hell have you been up to?!”

Claire suppressed a grin. “Nothing!”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAaaaa! The possibilities for what could happen are ENDLESS! Is this attempt to get in closer with Harry’s group of friends going to backfire?! (Most likely.) Is he even more suspicious of her now than he was before?! (Eh—probably.) How long will Claire’s ears be ringing from the lecture she’s going to get from Aquinas?! (Many, many years.) And….what was the second vile that Claire took from the Potion’s closet? *eerie music plays* MWHAHA, I’m not gonna tell you! Thanks for sticking with me guys, I’ll try and be back sooner this time. Say a prayer for my sister if you have a moment, she’s still recuperating. I love you all! *hugs*

OH and I’m taking a poll this chapter! *gets out clipboard* Even though the end of this fic is far, FAR away, I still want your input! How many of you would be opposed to me making the last chapter of this story a song fic? What about if I made some of the other chapters song fics? Please let me know what you think! I’ve found some good songs that might work if’n you guys are interested! And I’m sure I made loads of people mad with this chapter for “tearing apart the books” so please, for the love of Harry, GIMME SOME CONSTRUTIVE CRITISM! Or just yell at me, flames will be used to fuel my mind! Thanks guys!]


Chapter 13: A Small Step Towards Friendship
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[a/n: *waves merrily* Hey guys, what’s shaking? I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you liked the last chapter! *dances about in happy circles* I was sure I was going to mess it up—I’m not terribly good at writing things like that—but YAY everyone was happy! ^__^ Sorry this took so long…again again. I’ll be writing faster now, as there are many days off from school in the near future! *shouts at the sky* C’mon, snow!!!

Oh, and I’m gonna write a note to Shade at the beginning of every chapter now, 'cuz she rocks my socks! *laughs to self* Thanks to Lellywen for forwarding her my message, you rock my socks too! *hands the staff a basket of pumpkin pasties* ^.~v]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own a grow-your-own-warts kit. However, I think the latter would come in useful in scaring all the stupid oafs in my history class, so if anyone is interested in giving me one, please contact me at—*is hit over the head by many a flying object, as people would rather read the chapter then listen to her insanities* Oh FINE, be that way!!

Chapter 13: A Small Step Towards Friendship

“—irresponsible, jumble-brained, kan’t think straight—”

“‘Can’t’ starts with a ‘c’, Quin,” Claire said helpfully, continuing to work on her tenth potion’s essay. She was about halfway through Snape’s mass of homework while Aquinas proceeded to tell her all of her worst traits in alphabetical order.

“That’s beside the point!” hissed the ball of feathers indignantly. “You are really going to make things difficult for yourself if you don’t watch it! What if you had gotten sent to Dumbledore?! You have no idea what you were going to say to him, you could have really—”

“Will you keep it down!” Madam Pince shouted from a shelf not far away from them where she was reorganizing the Encyclopedia of Magical Fungi.

“Look,” Claire whispered to Aquinas, who was perched atop a stack of books with wings folded in an aggravated manner, “I know what I’m going to say to Dumbledore—but if I just virtually destroyed the dungeons and didn’t get sent to him, then what will get me sent there?”

Aquinas rolled his eyes. “Typical,” he muttered. After Claire shot him a furtive glance, he added, “Sure, you destroyed the dungeons and humiliated an authority figure in front of a group of second years—that’s fine and dandy. But you didn’t get caught, did you? And that’s the only way you’re going to be held responsible for your actions and be sent to punishment, correct? Obviously you didn’t realize this apparent fact, and now here we are, going to detention in an hour’s time—”

“Hey Aquinas,” Claire said, interrupting him as she pulled the ink jar he had been leaning on out from underneath his propped up wing to refill her quill, “you never told me where you found our dear friend Padfoot. Where is he?”

As Aquinas righted himself, glowering, he replied, “I plead the fifth.”

“We’re in England, kid. The Constitution doesn’t apply here,” Claire said, poking him.

“Ow! Stop it!” he said, dodging her fingers. “And that doesn’t matter! Your grandmother put me in charge, and I’m thinking that you can’t be trusted with information on—” He looked around to make sure no one was listening, and lowered his voice. “—Sirius’s whereabouts.”

“Aquinas, you could save yourself the trouble of being overheard by just calling him Snuffles,” Claire injected.

“Whatever,” he answered with a wave of impatience. “Nevertheless, I’ll keep the proper tabs on him. It isn’t really necessary for both of us to know where he is, seeing as we’re working as a team. Don’t you agree?”

“No, no I don’t!” Claire said, raising her voice.

“Well I do,” Aquinas said, kicking a spec of dust off the top-most book and sending it floating onto the floor. “So far all you’ve done as soon as you’ve learned something is used the information to do something pointless and stupid. Therefore, keeping track of Sirius will remain solely my responsibility.”

“That’s not fair!” Claire cried, once again being shushed by the stern librarian.

Aquinas shrugged. “I don’t see why it wouldn’t be fair. You saw Snuffles at the quidditch match and went running up to him without a second thought as to how he’d react—although you did take the cat with you, I’ll give you that. But did you bother to check and see if Crookshanks even knew who Snuffles was first? No. See, you need to think of everything you need before you take action!”

“Yeah but—”

“But nothing! It’s not that hard, and besides, you have me to help you now.”

Claire stared at the owl, who was the size of a small softball and currently employing himself in seeing how far he could spin his head around without getting a neck spasm.

“We’re doomed.”

“Ha,” Aquinas said sarcastically.

“So you talk to your animals as well as travel across the imaginary universe, hmm?” said a voice.

The air in Claire’s lungs seemed to come to a stand still as she looked up abruptly to face her inquisitor. She found herself staring into the cold eyes of none other than Robin Gregory. She blinked.

“Can I do something for you, Robin?” Claire asked, returning her attention to her potions essay.

Robin remained still as if she were made of stone, the stack of books in her arm leaning lazily against her hip. A piece of her blonde hair was covering half of her face in an intimidating manor, but Claire was too busy working on her essay to notice.

“Professor Lupin just caught me in the hallway,” Robin inserted into the conversation.

Claire set down her quill and looked up, leaning back in her chair without saying a word. Aquinas remained silent, his eyes darting back and forth between them as if watching a tennis match where an opponent was likely to blow fire and burn down the net in protest.

Robin went on, “He mentioned something about you taking Patronus lessons—” She seated herself across from Claire as if at a business meeting, setting down her books to the side, folding her hands and crossing her legs. Claire remained slouched in her chair, unblinking and rigid. “—along with the infamous Harry Potter.”

Aquinas was flapping his tiny wings to try and get some attention. Claire allowed herself a small smirk, as she was sure Aquinas was simply itching to inject his opinion in the matter of Patronus lessons with the main character of a story they were trying to alter. Annoying him was far too much fun, but getting under Robin’s skin would be at least three times as enjoyable.

“Your point?” Claire inquired.

Robin was very good at keeping a set expression. She picked at a hangnail casually, saying, “He asked if I would like to join you.”

Claire blinked.

“And…you said…?”

Robin looked up startlingly quick, completely forgetting her hangnail. Aquinas actually started a little.

“I don’t really understand why lessons are necessary, let alone with you and Potter.”

Claire sighed.

“Look, Robin, if you want people to understand you—or at least like you—then you have to be willing to take the necessary steps! Not to mention, not only would this help you with your nightmares and fainting, but befriending Harry would certainly look good to all the other Gryffindors,” Claire said, as if it were the most obvious benefit in learning how to summon a protector.

“What do I care what they think?” Robin perused. “If I take the lessons it’s going to be for my benefit, no one else’s considered.”

“Fine then,” Claire said, picking up her quill and returning to her parchment. “Good luck with your decision then. I hope you take everything carefully into account.”

Robin actually looked a little hurt at this sudden change in Claire’s attention, but it didn’t last dreadfully long. She stood from the table, picked up her books, and began walking off without pushing in her chair.

Claire frowned and set down her quill.

“Robin?” she said as quietly as she could, but still Madam Pince threw a fit.

Robin turned around and stared.

“I just wanted to tell you, that if you did—you know, take the lessons…that’d be cool with me,” Claire said, attempting to show Robin a smile. “I’d like to get to know you better, and I think the lessons would help you a lot.”

Robin said nothing, but Claire let herself believe that Robin’s face was slightly more cheerful as she exited the library and Claire returned her attention to her never-ending potions essay.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Claire, are you coming to dinner?” Bethany asked for the third time.

“Wh—?” Claire started. She was sitting in front of the fire, deeply emersed in a copy of Hogwarts, A History. She had decided she was on Hermione’s side on this issue; how could the boys find this book boring?!

Bethany laughed. “I’ll let you read. Do you want me to bring you anything?”

“I’d love you forever!” Claire said, as her stomach gave a particularly loud growl.

Bethany exited the portrait hole and Claire gave a happy sigh. Winter was coming upon the castle—it was one of those things you could feel in the air. If she had been home, perhaps they might even have had a snow day, and she would be curled up next to the fire in her living room with a cup of hot chocolate and a Harry Potter book. She smiled, thinking of how she would have never imagined doing the exact same thing inside the very book she had spent those long hours reading.

Claire managed to read a sentence or two before she realized that someone had seated themselves in the chair next to her.

“Hello,” Harry said.

Claire shut her book and sat up properly in the chair.

“Hi,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound suspicious in any way.

Harry hid a small smile and said, “Er—Professor Lupin talked to me after Defense Against the Dark Arts today. He told me you overheard us talking about Patronus lessons?”

Her stomach slipped a few notches.

“Harry, I’m sorry,” she said, truly meaning it. “I didn’t mean to pry, it’s just…I’ve never passed out before and I really want to learn how—and why—it happened, and maybe a way to fight it.” She stared into the fire. “But your conversation was pretty personal. I didn’t mean to interfere.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Harry insisted, leaning back and also staring into the fire. Claire turned to look at him; he seemed to be lost in his thoughts. “I mean, it’s not like there’s anyone who doesn’t know about my parents. No harm done.”

Claire was trying so hard to suppress her emotions, but Lily and James were like a part of her, too. It saddened her greatly that Harry never knew them, and she probably knew more about their lives than he did.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she sniffed. “Anyway, do you mind if I take lessons also? Lupin said we could take the separately if you want…”

But Harry shook his head. “It might be easier if I have some more people in the room to keep me company,” he said, as if trying to convince himself. “Although, Ron and Hermione were both there the first time it happened…but who knows? Bottom line though, I don’t really mind. Is it okay with you if we take lessons together?”

Claire grinned and nodded. “Robin might be taking lessons, too, though.”

“Who’s Robin?”

“You know, she’s in my year, blonde curly hair, a little taller than me?”

Harry thought for a moment and then his eyes went slightly wide.

“You mean the Slythindor?” he asked.

Claire blinked. “The what?”

“The Slythindor,” Harry continued. “It’s what we call her. Since she’s a Death Eater’s daughter and all, she should be in Slytherin, but she’s in this House instead.”

Claire’s mouth fell open.

“Don’t call her that!” she said, taken aback. “She’s really nice! She just doesn’t have any friends because none of you have ever even tried to talk to her!”

“I don’t recall you being best friends with her either,” Harry replied coolly.

Claire narrowed her eyes slightly. Boy, was he stubborn!

“Well, I’ve seen the error of my ways, and if you’re who I think you are, you’ll see yours too,” she replied, standing up sharply. “I plan on convincing her to take the lessons with us. Why shouldn’t she get help just because of her parents’ mistakes, eh?”

Harry blinked.

“I’m going to dinner,” Claire said, turning on her heel. “See you, Harry.”

She walked right past Bethany, who was carrying a flask of pumpkin juice and a turkey sandwich, on her way out the portrait hole.

“Psst!” she heard just behind her as she walked into the Entrance Hall.

“Claire!” she heard on the opposite side.

She spun around, thinking maybe a picture was trying to catch her eye. But as she did, a Weasley twin stepped out from behind a suit of armor on either side of the staircase. She smiled at them.

“Hi, guys!” she beamed, running over to them. “What’s up?”

The exchanged evil glances.

“We’ve got a plan cooking to get Filchy in a spot of trouble—” Fred began.

“—and we were wondering if you wanted to assist us,” George finished.

“Consider this your job interview,” Fred smiled.

“You do this—” George said.

“—then you can help us with our experiments any time,” Fred ended.

Claire smirked.

“I’m in.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A tiny owl was on the prowl. Dusk was falling. The castle was alight behind him, and the village aglow ahead with thousands of burning torches and candles. The wind had a slight chill to it as it glided under his wings, giving him strength as he flew toward the mountains

A cave was what he was looking for. A small cave with an equally small opening…just big enough for a dog to slip inside…

For ages he searched. Before when Aquinas had seen him, he had been on the outskirts of town, hunting through a garbage bin. That was when the letter came and he had to return to the castle before he could search for the hideout. He huffed. That girl was going to be the death of them all. He didn’t know what Paulette had been thinking, giving such an irresponsible girl such an outrageous birthday present.

Finally, out of the corner of an eye, he spotted a break in the rock. He swooped downward, and landed gratefully on the ground with a slight hop, happy to rest his tired wings. After catching his breath, he hopped carefully inside.

To his great surprise, there was no dog inside this cave.

“Hello, ‘lil guy,” croaked the ragged man.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaaa!!! Will Robin finally decide to give Claire a chance?! What exactly do those dastardly delvish twins have cookin’?! And can you be SURE that the ragged man is Sirius?! Well…okay, yeah you can! ^.~ But I’m not saying any more! Sorry for the LARGE amount of dialogue and the COMPLETE lack of action—but it had to be done because…well, you’ll see! *grins evilly as she skips of singing* I know something yoooooooou don’t knoooooooooow!! Nah nah nah nah nah nah…>_

Chapter 14: A Secret Left Untold
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[a/n: OMG WE'VE REACHED 200 REVIEWS! *happy tears* that's more than i've ever had in my whole history of fanfiction-ing! You guys deserve a party--and just for Jane Potter, there will be lots and lots of cheescake! ^_^ I love you guys, enjoy the chappie! *dances off the screen*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Pretty basic concept. Don’t know HOW you people haven’t grasped that by now…*winks*

Chapter 14: A Secret Left Untold

Claire knew Fred and George were conniving little twerps to Filch. She just didn’t know how truly evil they could be until they told her their plan…mapped out in full, gruesome, horrendous detail. This was the reason why she absolutely adored them.

However, they were less then thrilled when she told them their devilish scheme would have to wait another night.

“I have detention!” she tried her best to explain to their disapproving faces. “I’m in enough hot water as it is, and I’d rather get in the most trouble with you two! Can’t you guys wait one more night? Who knows! I might get assigned some frivolous task that will give us some more insight—”

Fred snorted.

“George, explain.”

“Look, Claire,” George said while Fred continued to snicker amusedly, “there isn’t a single secret in the castle we don’t know about. Not one, I assure you.”

“We’ve been in every secret passage—” Fred cut in.

“—in every hidden room—” George continued.

“—in every floor of this accursed building,” Fred finished proudly.

“Therefore, the chance of you finding something we already haven’t—” said George.

“—is undoubtedly, very very slim,” said Fred.

Claire crossed her arms.

“It’s not fair if I don’t get to be present at my own ‘job interview,’ wouldn’t you agree?” she said with a set expression.

The twins sighed identical, bummed out sighs.

“I am eager to see her at work, George,” Fred said aside to his brother.

“As am I, Fred, as am I,” George commented.

“Agreed?” Fred asked.

“Agreed,” George answered.

They turned back to Claire.

“You have two days to get back to us,” Fred said.

“Thanks guys!” Claire shouted, hugging them both. Each boy grinned. “Now really, I must be going! I was supposed to be in the dungeons five minutes ago…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Aquinas stood there, not knowing what he should do. Immediately, he threw out the option of speaking. That didn’t seem wise at this point in time. Perhaps he should just act like a normal, stupid bird? But that wouldn’t do! He was just no good at being stupid!

The girl would probably say otherwise, he thought to himself, as if she’s really one to talk! Tuh!

The ragged man in the plain grey robes coughed. He was in desperate need of a haircut and shave, and his eyes were shallow and empty, like a lantern burned black with ashes that hadn’t been lit in a very long time.

“Come in, little guy,” the man croaked. “I won’t hurt you.”

Aquinas took a couple cautious hops into the cave. It was lit only with a dull fire. Obviously, this one was not made by magic. Elbow grease. His opinion of Sirius rose higher. Most wizards would have sat there with only their pride to keep them warm, but this man had taken matters into his own hands.

“Did you come from the school?” Sirius asked him, nudging the fire with a piece of broken metal that looked oddly like a fence post. Aquinas cocked his head to the side. Being mute was not an easy task, he decided. Sirius chuckled.

“It’s fine if you don’t trust me,” he said, his eyes full of anger as he stared into the fire with a smirk across his dirty face. “It’s not like anyone else does.”

Aquinas, feeling pity, rose and flew around the tiny flames and rested upon Sirius’s knee. The man looked surprised.

“Well, well,” he croaked, stroking Aquinas. The dirt under his fingernails made the bird’s impulse to hop off his equally dirty perch even more urgent, but for the sake of his mission he remained still. “I suppose I was wrong about you. A little more trusting than I presumed. How kind…how kind…”

Aquinas allowed him a few more stokes before he nipped at a finger in warning. His feathers were his pride and joy, after all!

Sirius let out a small bark of laughter. “Still have the guard up, I see? I like you. You got spunk.”

Aquinas puffed out his chest proudly. He wished the girl could hear what her hero was saying about him. Spunk!!!

“How are things up at the school? Have they died down since I’ve last been to visit?” Sirius asked, as if desperately hoping to get an answer.

Aquinas flapped his wings, wondering if Sirius would understand him.

“Yeah, I figured it’d be crazy.” He turned his head to stare out the tiny crack in the cave. Aquinas imagined he was probably a good-looking kid once, probably full of “spunk” himself! But now he was empty, worn, and tired from the bumpy roller coaster of hell he’d been a passenger on for the past twelve years. Aquinas felt a twinge in his little heart.

It was quiet for a long time, then Sirius spoke again.

“You know, I’m gonna be here a while,” he said. “If you are from the castle, and you seem trustworthy to me, you think by chance you could bring me something of use? Like—I don’t know—a newspaper? Or food? Food would be good…”

Aquinas nipped his finger in the form of a promise.

“Thanks, little guy.” Sirius patted his head affectionately. After a minute he added. “I wish I could see him…I hope he’s alright…”

Aquinas immediately knew he was referring to Harry.

“I’ve thought about him a lot, you know,” Sirius went on. “Every day in Azkaban. The thought that he was living a miserable life with muggles—a life I was supposed to prevent him from having—is all that kept me going. I escaped solely for him…and to avenge his parents…”

Although this story was very heart-warming and all that jazz, Aquinas had just realized Claire’s detention had started ten minutes ago—and who knew what kind of trouble she would get into without him being there, the Jiminy Cricket in her ear?!

He nipped Sirius’s finger a final time to give him some courage and swooped out into the night air in the direction of the castle, hoping against hope Claire wasn’t up to anything incredibly stupid…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

She was.

Since Professor Snape had already scrubbed his own room clean, he put Claire to work cleaning the remainder of the dungeons. Now, this would have been dull, boring, and painful for a normal person…but we all know Claire was a little on the abnormal side.

“Ninety-eight bottles of butterbeer on the wall! Ninety-eight bottles of butterbeer!” she sang loudly, scrubbing at a particularly moldy section of stone wall.

“HUSH!” Snape shouted down the corridor from where he sat in his office, busily grading papers.

Claire glared in his general direction.

“Fine!” she mouthed, talking back. “I’ll just start scrubbing the gunk down THERE off the wall instead of THIS gunk on THIS part of the wall!”

She picked up her bucket and sponge, stalking off to the far end of the dungeons. She didn’t stop to clean up the steps when water sloshed all over them, feeling a sense of satisfaction.

“This spot looks dandy!” she said, dropping her bucket onto the concrete with a loud BANG. Reaching deep into its depths, she withdrew the sponge, wringing it over the bucket so as not to drip any more water onto the floor. As she set to work, she let her mind wander freely. Scrub…scrub…scrub…

She wondered where a great many people were at this moment. Robin, for example, could be sitting alone up in their dormitory, seriously contemplating what her answer to Professor Lupin would be. Harry…Harry would probably be somewhere with Ron and Hermione. Maybe joining forces with Ron to try and come up with some evil scheme to copy her homework when she next turned her back? She grinned. They really were amazing people, all three of them. If only they knew the trials that lie ahead of them in the next two years…

She sighed, leaning particularly hard on the sponge that was pressed up against the stone. She stared at the water dripping onto the floor. Something was missing…where had Aquinas gotten off too?

“OW!” she felt a sharp bite on her ear and jumped. She would’ve turned around to see what had disturbed her, except…the stone had moved.

“What did you do?!” Aquinas piped, furious. “Going about ripping apart the castle, are you?! I leave you alone for ten measly minutes…”

“Shut your trap!” Claire snapped, expertly stopping Aquinas’s moving beak between a forefinger and thumb. “Snape’s just down the hall! And I didn’t do anything…this stone just moved…”

Aquinas sank his claws into her forearm and she had to bite her cheek to keep from yelling a random obsinity. But while she was attempting rub the pain away, Aquinas swooped down to have a gander at the wall.

“I knew you were curious,” Claire hissed through gritted teeth. “I’m amazed that you aren’t a cat instead of a bird…although, owing to the size of your brain it makes sense—”

“This section of stone is a different color,” Aquinas observed, not paying a spec of attention to Claire. “Come, have a look…it looks like all these stones were added on later—perhaps after the castle was finished…”

Forgetting her throbbing arm, Claire leaned down on all fours next to Aquinas to get a closer look. Indeed, he was right—the stone was much a much lighter grey than the rest of the walls, as were the four or five stones surrounding it. And if that stone could move…

She began pushing on all of the other light rocks. Aquinas snapped his beak at her.

“Hey, I know you just love to abuse me, but I want to see what this is!” she whispered urgently.

“Are you mad?!” Aquinas said. “This is exactly what I meant! You never think before you act, do you?! We have no idea what could be in there, if anything and—why are you smiling?!”

Claire smirked.

“You’re dying to know what’s back there, aren’t you?” she said, unfooled.

Aquinas sighed, his gaze returning back to the wall. After a moment of thoughtful reflection, he turned back to Claire and made one, simple comment.

“Don’t tell your grandmother.”

Claire smiled widely and the two of them began pushing in on the stones with all their might. Finally, the one that had budged first fell inward with a small “clink.”

“What is it?! What is it?!” Aquinas fluttered about excitedly.

“I don’t know yet, you moron! Be quiet!” Claire hissed. She took out her wand and stuck it through the tiny opening. “Lumos!”

She couldn’t see much through the hole, owing to the fact that it wasn’t very big and also due to Aquinas’s excitement (“Let me have a look! Let me see! Let me see!”) but it was apparent that there was indeed something back there.

“Help me push in the rest of these!” she said, her heart thumping in anticipation.

Using all of their strength, the final bricks of concrete finally fell in. The effect was a mouse-hole of sorts in the wall…just big enough for a man to crawl through…

“Me first! Me first!” Aquinas cried. But Claire was already stooping into the tunnel.

“Do you see anything?!” Aquinas asked, flying along behind her as she crawled.

“Lumos!” she said again. The end of the short tunnel came into view. “Keep going, ‘Quin! I see the end!!”

“Eeeeee!” Aquinas squealed excitedly.

“Yet another time in my life I wish I had a tape recorder handy…” Claire muttered to herself.

As she reached the end, Claire put a hand on either side of the tunnel wall and pulled herself out. She stood up and didn’t even bother to dust herself off as she gaped open-mouthed at the chamber they had found. Aquinas landed on her shoulder weakly, unable to believe what they were seeing.

In front of them were four wooden doors. Light sprung to the torches on the walls, as if the chamber itself sensed someone was present. As the candle-light flooded the chamber, golden inscriptions above the doors were made visible.

“ ‘Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and Salazar Slytherin’,” Aquinas read aloud, sounding rather parched. He swallowed. “Does this mean…?”

“Yes!” Claire replied excitedly, grinning from ear to ear. “This must be where the founders of Hogwarts once lived!”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaaa!!! Bet you weren’t expecting THAT, now were you? Well this leads to some interesting questions! What will Claire and Aquinas do now?! Will this affect Fred and George’s scheme in the slightest?! And did in FACT Ron and Harry succeed in stealing Hermione’s homework?! Well…okay that last one isn’t REALLY important to the plot…but it’s a fun thought, is it not? ::wink::

Hope all of you had a very happy Thanksgiving, filled with lots of good food, fun, and family! And to those of you who don’t live in America, I’m sending lots of turkey and mashed potatoes your way! Did everyone get the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD and/or VHS? I just finished watching it myself…and even though I love it—MAN did they screw up the plot or what?! Anyways, I’ll see you all in the next chapter! *waves* Love ya! ^.~v]


Chapter 15: Honor or Fun?
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[a/n: YAY! Exams are DONE! Which means Weasley Freckles gets to work on her fic full time! YAY! I have been positively dreadful at updating quickly, but I’m a bit of a Hermione when it comes to school—so my apologies ^^;;;. Anyways, no doubt you all want the chappie? Okay, well here ya go! *hands chapter to readers, all wrapped up with a little red bow*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own a copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince…but thanks to JK Rowling, I will own #2 on July 16th! *sobs hysterically* Bless you, JKR! You listened to the disclaimer in chapter one of this silly story! *cries happy tears while skipping down the street merrily, annoying all the neighbors just like she did when she found out book 5 was coming…*

Chapter 15: Honor or Fun?

“We’ll be famous!”

“We’ll be rich!”

“People will whisper when they pass us in the hallways and say, ‘Look! There’s the girl who so smartly found the secret passage…’ ”

“I can employ someone to clean my feathers for me!”

Claire rolled her eyes, staring at the bird flitting about the chamber excitedly.

“What?” Aquinas said, looking a little shot-down. “A bird can dream, can’t he?”

Deciding that was a rhetorical question, Claire didn’t answer. Instead, she returned to her task of trying to decide which door she wanted to go through first.

Duh.

She took several cautious steps toward door number three. Her steps echoed around her as she stared up at the golden inscription.

“Godric Gryffindor,” she said in awe.

“Yeah yeah, we know you can read,” Aquinas said impatiently, landing on her shoulder once more. “Now open the door!!”

“Sheesh! Can’t you at least allow me a moment to bask in the glory of my discovery?!”

Your discovery?” he said, cocking a feathery eyebrow. “Excuse me, but who’s the one who made the stone move first?”

“I moved it after you bit me, if my memory serves me well,” Claire retorted.

“All beside the point! Now, open it open it open it—!”

Claire slowly curved her slender fingers around the golden handle. She took a breath and tugged.

Nothing. The door was locked.

“Ugh!!” said Aquinas in frustration, rustling his wings and hitting Claire repeatedly in the process. “You and your girlish muscles will NEVER open the door! Here, let me have a whack at it—”

“No! Get away!” she said, swatting at him as if he was an annoying mosquito. “And what do you mean ‘girlish muscles’?! You don’t even have thumbs!!”

“Bite me!” Aquinas said, tugging on the handle with his claws.

“I just might—”

“WOODS! KEEP IT DOWN!”

Their argument was immediately silenced by the voice of Severus Snape. The pair had completely forgot that Claire was supposed to be serving detention, and it wasn’t like Professor Snape was very far away…had he heard everything that had been going on?

The pair exchanged a nervous glance.

“Let’s go,” Aquinas said, swooping into the tunnel. “This will have to wait for a more pertinent time…”

Claire sighed, knowing he was right. With one last glance back at the chamber, she clambered into the tunnel and the torch lights extinguished themselves.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Actually I think this chamber could have an overall positive effect on our mission, Claire,” Aquinas was saying as they headed up the stairs as a clock struck midnight somewhere in the depths of the castle.

“Huh?” Claire replied thickly. Her mind had been wandering as it usually did whenever Aquinas was talking. “What’re you talking about? The tunnel has nothing to do with Snuffles! And while we’re on this subject, are you gonna tell me—”

“No.”

She sighed.

“Fine. Then explain how this could ‘have a positive effect’ or whatever it is you were babbling on about,” she said, stepping into the dimly lit Entrance Hall.

“As I was saying,” Aquinas continued, swooping around her and up the marble staircase, “this gives you a good reason to go to Dumbledore! Now tonight I’ll help you come up with a short speech to explain to him, and tomorrow you can go to McGonagall—”

“What?” Claire said, stopping in mid-step and getting her foot caught in the trick-stair.

“NOW look what you’ve done!” Aquinas said, attempting to pull her out by yanking on the shoulder of her robes with his talons. “Jeez, you really aren’t any good at multi-tasking! Even if it’s just listening and walking—”

“Quin, why do I have to tell McGonagall about the chamber tomorrow?” Claire said, ignoring the numbing sensation spreading through her leg. The crestfallen feeling in her chest was far more painful. “Going to Dumbledore so soon? I mean—I won’t get to have nearly the amount of fun I was planning on having…”

“Claire, I hate to break it to you, but you weren’t sent here to have fun!” Aquinas said, tugging harder on her robes to no avail. “You were sent here to save someone’s life, if I was informed correctly.”

“But…if I go to Dumbledore this early…won’t my mission be compl—”

“Claire?”

She looked up, blood draining from her face. She hadn’t realized how loudly she had been talking—she really needed to stop doing that! And the person standing at the top of the stairs wasn’t exactly the person she wanted to overhear this kind of conversation.

“H-Harry,” she said, trying to remember how to talk. How much had he heard?

He shot her an amused sort of smile. It was then she remembered that she had her leg halfway stuck in the staircase, an owl the size of a large grapefruit tugging on her sleeve, and it looked to the passerby like she was talking to herself. Great way to make a decent impression on the kid. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks.

“Erm…” Harry choked back a laugh and actually managed a half decent attempt at a straight face. “D’you want a hand?”

“That’d be lovely, thanks,” she said sarcastically, swatting at Aquinas.

He jogged down the stairs to help.

“Here, put your arm around my neck and I’ll pull ya out,” he offered.

“I’m really sorry,” she said, truly wishing she hadn’t been so careless. “I just wasn’t paying attention.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Harry said, putting both arms around her waist and pulling her out with one good heave. Aquinas huffed as Harry set Claire down safely with both feet on the stairs. “It happens to Neville all the time—except I usually can’t pull him out by myself.”

Claire laughed as Aquinas landed on her arm. “Well I appreciate it. I woulda been stuck there all night if you—hang on—what are you doing out of the dormitory so late?!”

This was actually a cause for more panic. She didn’t remember Harry taking any midnight strolls around November of this story…

“Um—I was actually meeting with Lupin.” Harry said quickly. “He had some stuff he wanted to show me.”

Claire smirked. He wasn’t a bad liar—it’s just that she knew him too well to know whether or not he was telling the truth. But what exactly he was doing, she couldn’t be sure.

“Alright, you just keep telling yourself that,” Claire laughed. “I myself was coming from detention, so I better be getting upstairs.”

“I’ll walk with you,” Harry said, following her up the remainder of the stairs and down the corridor. “I really shouldn’t be out. Kinda dumb of me. I mean the teachers get mad enough if I go to the toilet by myself…”

“That’s gotta suck,” Claire said, poking Aquinas just to make him angry. He glared, knowing she was only doing it because he couldn’t talk in front of Harry.

Harry shrugged. “I guess so.”

It was quiet until they got to the portrait of the Fat Lady.

“Oh, by the way,” Harry said as the entered the common room. “That Robin girl—she’s taking Patronus lessons, too. She told Lupin this afternoon.”

“She is?!” Claire said excitedly. “Oh my God I KNEW she would! Hah! And she thought she could scare me! HAH!” Harry cocked an eyebrow. Claire coughed. “Sorry.”

He smiled. “It’s alright. Well, I guess I’ll see you later.”

“G’night,” Claire yawned, heading up the girl’s staircase with Aquinas still latched to her arm.

“Once again you prove my theory that you never think,” the bird muttered as Claire changed into her nightgown.

“C’mon, Quin!” Claire hissed back, climbing into the four-poster and blowing out her candle so not to wake her sleeping roommates. “I was going to have to talk to Harry sooner or later! So what?”

“So what?!” Aquinas repeated, flapping his wings to get his point across. “Claire, do you realize that whatever you say to Harry could drastically alter the story?! You could have a serious effect on the PLOT, here—”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Claire muttered, rolling over in attempt to drain him out.

“Claire, I’m being quite serious!” Aquinas hissed, hopping over so that his gigantic eyes were right in her face.

“Gah!!!” Claire exclaimed, turning onto her other side. Did he EVER give up?!

“Listen to me, Claire!” Aquinas persisted, leaping onto her head and leaning over so that his eyes were level with hers. He looked so stern upside down that she actually didn’t talk back this time. “I know you are very excited to be here at Hogwarts and get the full experience, but that was NOT what your birthday gift was intended for! You are here to save Snuffles and leave. Not change the outcome of a Quidditch match! Not to change who dates whoever else! Not to destroy the teacher you hate! You have some serious thinking to do about why you’re really here and what your real intentions are. You have a reason to see Dumbledore, and you should take that chance while that door is still open. We’ll see what you decide tomorrow night, and if you chose honor over fun, I’ll help you get to Dumbledore. If not…well, that’s your choice. You decide.”

And with that he hopped over onto his perch on the bedside table and nuzzled into his feathers for some sleep.

Claire’s eyes, however, remained wide open. Did the bird brain have a case? Was she being careless to enjoy her stay at Hogwarts rather than to just complete her task and get back home?

Home. Never did it sound as final as it did in that sentence. To go home was to leave this wonderful place forever; one of the only places she had ever been really happy…would she have to give that up? Was it really necessary?

She sighed. Aquinas was too deep for her, she decided. Always concerned with the big picture. That was the problem with people: why didn’t they just live in the moment more often? She sighed again and rolled over, shutting her eyes and trying to ignore the voice inside her head that was telling her Aquinas was right.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After classes ended the next day, as everyone else was heading into the Great Hall for dinner, Claire met the twins outside Filch’s office as planned. She walked up the stairs on her way there, thinking hard. Should she help them? Or should she just go down to dinner with Bethany and pretend she forgot? She was completely torn.

In the midst of all her thinking, she made it to the office nevertheless. Fred and George were there waiting for her.

“Ah, greetings, Grasshopper!” George said, bowing to her.

“Hey,” Claire said, feeling sick to her stomach.

“Nervous?” Fred asked. Claire assumed she must’ve looked kinda pale.

“Slightly,” she replied.

“Ah, it’s only natural,” Fred said with a wave of his hand. “Remember the first time we got sent to Filch’s office, George?”

“Indeed I do, Fred,” George commented, thrusting a bag into Claire’s hands. “I was scared shitless, I was!”

“But just look at us now,” Fred said proudly, “helping out a future trouble-maker such as ourselves!”

“You ready?” George said, smirking mischievously while his twin checked for witnesses. None were present.

“Erm—”

“Now remember,” Fred said, “just slip that into his tea and we’ll take care of the rest!”

“Best go now, before anyone comes…” George said.

And together, the twins shoved her into the grubby office.

As the door snapped shut behind her, Claire took a vague look at her surroundings. A file cabinet, a desk, a chair, a fireplace; it was nothing special. And on the desk sat a cup of steaming hot tea. Filch would no doubt be back any minute to kick back and read the paper for a few minutes before he returned to torturing the students as he liked to spend his evenings doing. All she had to do was pour the contents of this bag into the cup and slip back outside with the boys…

If you want honor over fun, I can help you…If not…well, that’s your choice.

She gulped. She already had the excuse to go see Dumbledore. If she wanted to back out, now was her last chance…


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaa!!! Will Claire side with Aquinas or the twinnies?! How will her decision effect…well, everything?! And when will these questions be answered?! Well fear not, my friends, for the author is on Christmas vacation, and can update whenever she pleases! But will the amount of reviews effect her desire to write? Hmm…maybe…^.~v See you guys soon!

Are you excited about Half Blood Prince?! YOU BETTER BE! *still dancing happily*]

Chapter 16: Not Playing with a Full Deck
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[a/n: *ahem* We wish you a Harry Christmas! We wish you a Harry Christmas! We wish you a Harry Christmas, with lots of butterbeer!!! *bows* Yay, Weasley Freckles is in a caroling kinda mood! You wanna know why, kids?! *smiles and points to the review page* 24 reviews in ONE DAY??? You guys are the most AWESOME, INCREDIBLE, MARVOLOUS, WONDERFUL, FANTASTIC obsessed-with-HP people I have ever met! And believe me, I have met many! ^.~v OH, and to keep those fuzzy Snitch hats in season, here you go! *hands everyone a bunch of streamers, confetti, and glitter* Gotta be ready for the new year! Anywho, enjoy the chappie!

OH and I keep forgetting a note for Shade—my favorite admin. on this site! A very Harry Christmas to all the hpff.com administration! *hands the amazing people a big plate of Christmas cookies* Hope it was a very good one! ^_^]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own a nice fruitcake! *shoots the fruitcake a quizzical glance and edges away from it* Um…maybe “nice” wasn’t exactly the word I was looking for…^^;;;

Chapter 16: Not Playing with a Full Deck

“Can’t…BREATHE…Must…keep flying…Gah…”

Now as you’ve been informed, Aquinas was not the largest of birds. In fact, he probably would be a fit rival for the smallest. But this was a fact Aquinas would simply have to ignore, for he was a bird of his word. And he had promised a very flea-bitten fugitive he would bring him some food—even if that meant the food was larger than he was.

“Yes…I can…see…the cave!...ARGHHH!!”

Aquinas experienced a slight loss of altitude in his moment of excitement, but it made it all the easier for him to swoop into the cave and come in for a crash landing along with his sack of food.

However, the crash did not earn him the hero’s welcome he thought he’d receive. Instead, he was greeted by a dog growling at him with very, very sharp pointed teeth.

He gulped, raising both his wings in a sign of surrender. Thankfully, the dog spotted him and put it’s sharp fangs away (“Whew…”). Thinking it was unwise to transform, Sirius came over and sniffed Aquinas. After completely destroying cleanliness and discovering that this was indeed the same bird—Sirius turned his attention to the large parcel, which contained an entire meatloaf, a large flask of water, and some biscuits.

The dog leapt back on his hind legs in celebration, and actually licked Aquinas’s feathery head he was so excited! Shivering involuntarily, Aquinas merely gave a hoot of acknowledgment before flying up onto a sheaf of rock to watch the dog wolf down a meal. He had a content feeling inside, very glad he had done some good.

However, there was another feeling inside Aquinas: distress. That prank on the unsuspecting caretaker was supposed to take place tonight and he was pretty sure the girl was going to go through with it. Oh, how he wished she wouldn’t! If only she knew what could happen…but that was all part of the rules. She couldn’t know; decisions of this nature had to be made on one’s own. He sighed. He only wished that he didn’t know what was going to happen, then it wouldn’t be so incredibly painful to watch.

Nevertheless, it was his duty to oversee the situation—otherwise he’d be in trouble with the System. So he gave the dog a quick nip on the ear in promise that he would return in a few days and soared out the tiny hole and into the darkening sky.

As he flew, his little brain was formulating a big plan. You see, Aquinas wasn’t allowed to be present when Claire made her decision, but being a small, aerial creature was going to work to his advantage this time around. Ah, how he loved loopholes!

Counting over the correct number of windows, Aquinas swooped over to hover outside the office of the caretaker. Perching himself on the windowsill, he squinted to look inside.

Almost immediately he wished he hadn’t.

“Oh no…”

His little heart sunk in his chest as he saw Claire open the tiny drawstring bag in her hands.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire peered out the door at the two boys smiling mischievously. One of them gave her a thumbs up.

She sighed. What would they say if she came out of the room with this little bag still fully of powder? They would certainly be very disappointed…maybe not even speak to her ever again! And then on top of that she’d have to go to Professor McGonagall about the chamber, and in turn go talk to the headmaster, meaning her mission would be complete and she would have to leave Hogwarts…

And she had questioned herself?!

She dumped the powder into the caretaker’s coffee mug. Stuffing the empty bag in the pocket of her robes, she exhaled quickly and looked up at the window before she turned to leave.

Her breath caught in her chest. A small brown and white owl was watching her sadly through narrowed eyes. But it was too late to worry about Aquinas’s disappointment now. The deed was done.

She took one step back and slipped out the door quietly.

“Excellent job, mate!” Fred said, clapping her on the back proudly.

“See, that wasn’t so bad was it?” George said with a smile.

Claire saw the owl fly away from the window and out of sight.

“I guess not,” she said, also grinning.

“Okay,” Fred said, clapping his hands together. “It looks like George and I can handle it from here!”

“You head off for some well-deserved dinner!” George said as Fred looked up and down the hallway once more.

“Thanks guys! See ya later!”

And as she headed down the marble staircase, the boys slipped behind a suit of armor, waiting for Filch to return.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After dinner, Claire returned to Gryffindor Tower with Bethany and Ginny. She made tons of stupid jokes, laughing loudly and causing her friends to go into random fits of giggles. She couldn’t help it; half of it was just the relief of knowing she was allowed to enjoy their company for a while longer, the other half was letting off some steam. She was actually shaking in fear of what Aquinas was going to say when they reached their destination.

But Aquinas was nowhere to be seen in the common room. Claire breathed a sigh of relief.

“How ‘bout a game of Exploding Snap?” Ginny suggested, pulling out a deck of cards and jumping into a squashy armchair.

“I’m in!” said Claire, plopping down as well while Ginny began to shuffle. She looked up. “What about you, Bethie? Wanna play?”

Bethany looked hesitant, her eyes shoting a longing look over to the girl’s staircase. Claire shot her a look.

“C’mon, your homework won’t jump out the window while your playing—” Claire started to tease.

“No, it’s just…” Bethany’s eyes darted about the room. “What if the cards explode? All these people are in here…”

Claire actually laughed out loud. Ginny grinned. Bethany looked rather uncomfortable.

“If you’re that conscious of yourself that you can’t play a card game in a room full of people, then you have something to learn, darlin’,” Claire replied, beckoning her over to sit down. She did, however reluctantly, as Claire added, “You care that much about what people think?”

“Well—no..”

“Yeah, ya do!” Ginny snuck in, dealing out seven cards to each player. “I tell ya, when you live in a house with six brothers you learn not to care about these things…”

Claire let out a short laugh again.

“What?!” Ginny demanded, drawing one card from the pile in the middle and adding it to her hand. “It’s the truth!”

“Well, maybe it is,” Claire said simply, placing two cards face down and drawing two more, “but if you did learn that from your brothers, you certainly don’t abide by it every day.”

“Now wait just a—” Ginny began defensively.

“C’mon!” Claire laughed, leaning forward a little a lowering her voice. “Everybody knows that you fancy Harry Potter. But do you even talk to the guy? No!”

Ginny’s face flushed a brilliant shade of magenta, a blush worthy to rival her big brother’s.

“Well—er…”

Claire smirked. Ginny was growing irritated. Bethany merely peered over her hand curiously at the other two.

“Watch it there, Bethie! It might explode!” Claire said jokingly.

“How can I even think of talking to Harry!” Ginny continued while Claire continued to play, smirking some more. “He’s my brother’s best friend! He comes over to our house every summer, practically! How could I—”

“No, no, no!” Claire said, shaking her head. “The proper question is how could you NOT? C’mon, you’re around him all the time! You don’t have to flirt or anything, just start with a simple ‘hello’ for Merlin’s sake…”

Claire gave herself a pat on the back for the Merlin comment. She was getting used to this wizard lingo.

“But—oh, I don’t know,” Ginny admitted, looking a little put out as she threw down her cards in frustration. “I just get so—I don’t know he just makes me freeze.”

“Awwwwww!” Claire said before she could stop herself. Ginny flushed a little rosier. Bethany chuckled.

“It’s not a bad idea, Gin,” Bethany agreed, trying to set down a couple of cards as gingerly as possible. “I mean, saying hi wouldn’t kill you—AHH!”

The entire deck chose that moment to explode. Bethany, Claire, and Ginny’s hair stood on end from the static electricity and the whole room went silent.

Claire couldn’t help it—she burst out laughing, shortly followed by Ginny. Even Bethany couldn’t keep a straight face for long. Slowly, the room resumed it’s usually rambunctious aura.

“That’s a nice look for you, Ginny,” said a voice from behind Claire. It was Ron. “Mum would be so proud.”

“I’m sure she would,” Ginny replied, doing her best to try and flatten out the frizzy mess.

“Who made it explode?” Ron demanded, looking around at the three of them as Harry and Hermione came over and joined him.

“Er—that would be me,” Bethany responded. “Sorry if you were studying or something…”

Hermione snorted.

“Ron? Studying? Yeah right!” she said with a smirk.

“Very funny, very funny,” Ron retorted while Claire smiled in an all-knowing manner. It was amazing how blind they were! She just might have to do something about that, too…

Ron turned back to the girls. “I was just saying, it’s no wonder the cards exploded! You aren’t playing with a full deck, Gin, these were up in my dormitory.”

“She’s not the only one playing without a full deck...” Hermione commented as Ron threw three other cards onto the table.

“What was that?” Ron asked, turning around and glaring.

“Nothing, Ronald! Nothing!” she said, smirking.

“Well, let’s see if you play cards better than you come back to Hermione’s insults,” Harry said, leaping over the back of the couch to sit between Claire and Bethany. “Can we play?”

“Sure!” Claire insisted. “Deal him in, Ginny,” she added pointedly.

If you combined her hair color, freckles, and flushed cheeks, Ginny looked like a little strawberry as she dealt out three more hands.

“Oh, don’t deal me in,” Hermione said, picking up a ball of fluff that was Crookshanks. “I’m going to go study for our Transfiguration test, like these two should be doing!”

“Studying! More like brushing that demon you call a cat, that’s what,” Ron muttered to no one in particular while rearranging his hand.

“What was that, Ron?” Hermione said, spinning around. Apparently she wasn’t out of earshot.

“Nothing, ‘Mione! Nothing!” Ron said, smiling sweetly over his shoulder.

Hermione rolled her eyes and retreated up the girl’s staircases. Claire chuckled.

“What?” Ron asked.

“Nothing,” Claire added, throwing a couple cards down on the table where they turned into a small puff of smoke. “Well, sadly, I have some things of my own I must attend to. But luckily, Ginny can still stay and play, right Ginny?

The little strawberry gulped.

“Can’t you at least play one game?” Harry protested.

“Yeah!” Ron joined in. “What’s so important that you can’t play one game, eh?”

Claire thought for a second how best to put it.

“Well, I have to go see a bird about a dog,” Claire said simply, shrugging. “I’ll see you all in the morning!”

And with that she skipped off up the girl’s staircases after Hermione, leaving them all with very quizzical looks on their faces. Hopefully, she had just given Ginny plenty of material to strike up a decent conversation.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

She took a deep breath before entering the dormitory. It was empty except for a little brown and white owl perched on the edge of her open trunk. Apparently, he was looking for something.

“Quin?” she said tentatively, edging forward.

The bird said nothing. Claire felt as if a lead weight had dropped into her stomach. All he wanted was for her to follow his advice…but she just couldn’t do it! Not now! Not so soon…

“Quin?” she said again. Maybe he didn’t hear her?

Still silent.

She sighed.

“Look, Aquinas, I’m sorry—”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Aquinas said, hopping into the trunk to continue his search for whatever it was. “You needed to make a choice and, clearly, you have made it.”

It was quiet once more. Was that all he was going to say? For once he wasn’t going to make any sarcastic remarks about her lack of brain power? Wow…the poor little guy must have really been troubled…

“But—?” Claire said, lost for words.

“But nothing. That’s the end of it. Period.” Aquinas said, hopping out of the trunk with something shiny in his beak. He flew into the air and tossed whatever it was at Claire.

She caught it, but it cut her hand a little, as it was thrown with a little more force than really necessary. It was the set of three rusty keys that she had received her first day at Hogwarts. It had been in the trunk at the Quidditch pitch along with the Rememberall, ominoculars, and Sneakoscope.

“Why are you giving me these…?” Claire said, completely bewildered. But Aquinas was rummaging in the trunk once again.

“They open locked doors of course,” Aquinas said obviously. He was muttering to himself. Claire edged forward, the better to hear. “Honestly, I’m all for a bit of fun! I mean—when I’m not a midget, twitchy bird I can prank better than best of ‘em, I can…”

“What do you mean, ‘when I’m not a midget, twitchy bird,’ Aquinas?” Claire said suspiciously. What was he talking about?

“Never you mind!” he snapped, tossing something else up at her. As she caught it, he added, “You might want to have a gander at that, too. Now I’m going to spend the night in the owlery. Good night.”

And with that he flew out the open window and into the night.

Claire frowned. As much as he annoyed her, it didn’t feel right to be on bad terms with him. He was, after all, just trying to help…

She looked down at her hand and saw that Aquinas had tossed her the Rememberall. As she stared down at the sphere, the smoke swirling within was turning scarlet.

She stared from the keys in one hand to the open window, lost in thought. What had she forgotten?


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaa!! Oh the juiciness of it all! Anyone know what Claire forgot? Anyone have an incline as to what Aquinas was talking about? (I very much doubt this, but you can guess if you like! ^.~) And who wants to guess what the Twinnies did after Claire left? Or if Ginny did in fact strike up that “interesting conversation?” I hope you’re in a guessing kinda mood…or else you’ll just have to sit around and wait until the next chapter to find out…]


Chapter 17: Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff
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[a/n: Happy New Year to everyone! *bangs on a pot* This is going to be a good year, kids! It shall be full of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Goblet of Fire movie (even though it’s gonna suck…but that’s okay, it’s still Harry Potter! ^.^), and, of course, lots of good fanfiction! And I’ve made one of my resolutions to update more often…yeah that’s going REALLY well…Hahaha! *winks* Here’s chapter seventeen for you! *showers her readers with confetti*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own this lovely noisemaker! *shatters everyone’s eardrums by blowing into the noisemaker* Hehehe…I can’t wait to take this baby to school…*proceeds to go to her teachers’ houses, waking them all up with her beloved noisemaker*

Chapter 17: Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff

Friday morning, Claire went downstairs to breakfast a little early. She hadn’t slept very well the night before; Aquinas sure knew how to make a person feel stupid and regretful.

Every time she woke up last night, she had held the Rememberall in her hands, trying with all her might to remember what it was she had forgotten. But nothing came to her. As for the keys, well she had thought for a second that perhaps they were to open the Founder’s rooms that she had found during her detention…but there were only three! Was it possible that the other key was missing? Or were the keys’ purpose what she had forgotten? She didn’t remember coming across any other locked doors...but then again, she had been rather busy since she’d arrived. It could have easily slipped her mind.

“Budge up, will ya,” said someone small and feathery as they landed on her cereal bowl.

“Aquinas!” she exclaimed, nearly knocking over the jug of milk in surprise. “I didn’t think you’d be coming down—I thought you were mad at me!”

“Well ‘mad’ wouldn’t be the best word to use in the instance,” Aquinas said, munching on the crust of Claire’s toast thoughtfully. “I was thinking more ‘disappointed’ or ‘slightly aggravated.’ But mad? Nah…”

She hugged him.

“Lemme go! Lemme go!” Aquinas squealed, trying to get away. “If I’m not mad yet I’m about to be—!”

She laughed, “You know you love me, Quin!”

“I beg to differ,” he said, brushing off his wings.

She ended her chuckling there and turned to the more important matters at hand. “Look, Quin, if there’s any way I can make up for this…”

“There’s not,” Aquinas said solemnly. “The task is done.”

“No, I don’t mean change the decision I made. I feel I made a fine one,” Claire explained. Her feathery friend rolled his eyes. “I just want to know if there’s anyway I can make it up to you.”

Aquinas looked shocked. Tapping his talons against the end of the bowl, he seemed to be thinking carefully.

“I’ll stay out of trouble for an entire week!” Claire offered.

Aquinas looked skeptical.

“You mean it?” he asked.

“Yes, I do,” Claire said, smiling at him. “I’ll be good just for you! But there is one thing I wanted to ask you about.”

“What’s that?” Aquinas asked. “Did you forget which one is the salt and which one’s the pepper again? Jeez, haven’t I explained this to you enough times—”

“No,” Claire said, leaning down to his level and lowering her voice a bit more. This was more for a dramatic effect rather than the fear of being overheard, seeing as the Hall was almost empty. “What did you mean when you said, ‘when I’m not a little owl’ or whatever it was you said?”

Aquinas seemed to pale underneath his brown and white feathers. He gulped.

“Well—er—that’s really none of your concern,” he said, rapidly stuffing cornflakes into his mouth. “I shouldn’t have said that—it’s just I was upset and I wasn’t really paying attention to what was coming out of my beak—”

“C’mon, Aquinas!” Claire egged on. “We’re friends! You can tell me!” She poked him.

“Ow!” he whined. “I fail to understand how you think poking me will help you find out what you want to know!”

“Sorry.”

“And anyway, I can’t tell you. Put it from your mind and don’t ask me about it again.”

Good enough. She finished her breakfast quietly and hung around to wait for Bethany so they could walk to class together.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Despite many opportunities arising for Claire to do a little “maraudering”, she managed to do all of her homework, not make fun of the teachers, and even avoid Harry except for the occasional cheery, “Hello!” in the corridors. Aquinas seemed much more relaxed as the last weekend of the November rolled around.

Although happy to be back on good terms with her companion, Claire was simply dying from lack of excitement. She could hardly wait for Saturday, as another chance to see something only mentioned in very small detail in the books was coming around.

“Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff on Saturday, Bethie!” Claire reminded her friend Thursday in between Potions and Transfiguration.

“Yes, it is,” Bethany commented lightly.

“Aww, why aren’t you more excited?!” Claire said, skipping ahead of her a bit and shouting over her shoulder as they headed down a flight of stairs. “It’s Quidditch!’

“Yes, it is,” Bethany repeated. “But our House isn’t playing in the game, Claire. I don’t think I’m gonna go. We do have that History of Magic paper due Monday…”

Claire gawked at her.

“But the race for the Cup is so close!” Claire pushed on. “You can’t miss it!”

“Sure I can,” Bethany insisted, not even looking at Claire, “and if you were smart, you would, too. Anyway, I’m sure you can find someone else to hang around with at the game. I’ve left my book upstairs, I’ll see you in class.”

And with that she headed off towards Gryffindor Tower. Claire looked at her watch. Class was going to begin in less than three minutes, Bethany would never make it back in time! And she was usually always impeccably on time to all her classes…

What was up with her?

Aquinas flew over and landed on her shoulder. He had been gone on some “business” most of the morning. He needn’t have lied; Claire knew he was off checking on Sirius.

“Is everything okay?” he asked, his eyes darting between Claire and Bethany.

Staring after her, Claire furrowed her brow and said, “I’m not sure…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire rose before everyone else in the dormitory on Saturday morning, happy to see that the sun was shining. She would get a chance to see some real Quidditch today!

Aquinas stirred as she eagerly ran about the dormitory getting ready.

“Whatreyoudoinup?” he yawned in a barely comprehendible voice.

“There’s a Quidditch match today!” Claire whispered, flopping onto her bed and pulling on her socks. “I’ve been looking forward to it all week!”

“Oh.” He shut his eyes again.

Ungracefully slipping into her robes, she leapt across the bed and poked Aquinas.

“Buzz off!” Aquinas said irritably, swatting at her hand and nuzzling his beak into his chest once again to sleep.

“C’mon, Quin!” Claire said, laughing quietly. “Aren’t you tagging along? You can critisize how bad the players are at flying! I woulda thought you’d enjoy that!”

Aquinas mumbled something into his feathers. Claire rolled her eyes, grinning as she said, “I can’t hear you, Aquinas.”

He put his head upright, not opening his eyes and lazily saying, “I can do that any old time. I need sleep. Go on without me.”

Claire’s eyes widened. He didn’t want to tag along to keep an eye on her mischievous habits? Something was up…

“But what if I—oh I don’t know—” Claire cast around in the dark corners of her mind for an idea. “—decide to jump onto the field and do the hokey pokey? Wouldn’t you want to be there to stop me?”

“Right now the only place I want to be is La-La Land,” Aquinas yawned. “Have fun at the game.”

Claire shrugged and grabbed her hair brush. “I’ll let you know who wins, then.”

A few minutes later she headed out of the dormitory. The second her cloak swished around the corner, Aquinas’s eyes snapped open. He sighed, got a quick drink from the basin on the window sill, and flew out into the early morning mist.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A short while later, Claire joined the throng heading out to the Quidditch pitch unaccompanied. It had been a while since she had been able to roam around the grounds without Bethany or Aquinas tagging along beside her, and she was grateful for the alone time. Even if she couldn’t find anyone to sit with, she would be happy occupying a seat in the top-most stands watching the game. She patted the ominoculers around her neck and smiled, giddy with anticipation for the match.

“Who’re ya bettin’ on winnin’ today?” some random boy asked her on the way into the stadium.

Claire grinned, remembering the exact page in the book.

“Ravenclaw. Hands down.”

“Good answer,” said the boy with another grin. Apparently, that was his House. He walked off before Claire could comment further.

Finding a seat wasn’t an easy a task. Nearly the entire school showed up for the match because the race for the Cup was neck and neck. Almost every seat was taken. About to turn back to go look for a vacancy in another section, she heard someone calling her name.

“Hey, Claire!” someone shouted from the middle of the box. “Up here!”

Looking around for the speaker, Claire felt the color drain from her face as she realized it was Harry. The match wasn’t written in great detail in the books…if she sat with the trio would that mess up some later event?

She couldn’t think of any reason not to, and there really was nowhere else for her to sit, so she returned his wave and made her way to the empty seat.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Perched atop a Hufflepuff flag on the other side of the stadium, Aquinas watched as Claire slid into the same row as Harry Potter.

“Does she ever think?” he thought aloud.

Looking for somewhere else to cast his eyes, he looked down at the box closest to him and saw a shaggy black dog occupied one of the seats. He chuckled.

“Well, that makes two people that don’t think,” he continued to talk to himself. “Honestly, anyone could see him. It’s bloody packed today…”

Sighing, he turned back to the field just as Madam Hooch threw the quaffle into the air.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I was beginning to wonder if anyone in your year was coming,” Harry said to her as she slid past Dean Thomas, who had shot her a rather ominous look as she shook his hand and said, “I’ve always liked you, Dean!”

“Why? Am I the only one that came?” Claire asked, looking around.

“Other than that Creevey git, yeah,” Ron said from Harry’s other side. “Apparently second years value sleep over Quidditch.”

After greeting Ron, Claire looked around for Hermione, but didn’t see her.

“Is Hermione doing homework then?” she asked. The boys didn’t answer; they were too busy cheering as Ravenclaw scored their first goal. Claire cursed herself for missing it, and instinctively put the ominoculars up to her eyes and pressed the replay button, watching Roger Davies score again.

“Wow…” Ron commented, staring at the ominoculars. “Where’d you get those?”

“Um…” Claire twiddled her fingers on the sides of the ominoculars, trying to decide which excuse sounded more reasonable. “My aunt works for a company that makes things like this. She gave them to me last Christmas.”

Harry and Ron exchanged quizzical glances. Claire stared at them curiously. It wasn’t a glance you’d give a friend after Luna Lovegood explained her theory on thestral breeding to you, more like a glance you’d give a friend when you knew someone was lying…but they couldn’t know that, could they?

Claire shrugged it off and returned to watching the game. She pointed the ominoculars everywhere, looking for the Seekers. Sure enough, Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory were circling the top of the game, casting around for the Snitch. But with her handy dandy zoom in knob, Claire observed that they were actually deep in conversation.

“She is so weird!” Claire exclaimed. “Honestly, she’s up there making a date with Diggory when she’s supposed to be playing Quidditch! Oh, I’ve never liked her, the little—”

“Who?” Harry asked.

“No one,” Claire said quickly, putting down the ominoculars. She forgot that Harry and Cho hadn’t exactly met yet…

Add that to the list of things to be changed, Claire thought while smirking.

“Hey, can I see those?” Harry asked, pointing to the ominoculars. “If you aren’t using them, I mean.”

“Oh!” Claire said, holding them up for him to take. “Sure!”

Instead of taking them, though, Harry merely put his hands over hers and peered into the device. Claire felt kind of awkward, wondering if he meant to do that or if he just wasn’t paying attention. She guessed the latter, as he let go quickly, reddening slightly and mumbling, “Oh, sorry.”

Claire laughed, taking the ominoculars off her neck. “It’s alright! Here, take a look…”

Harry played with the ominoculars for a while, fiddling with the knobs before handing them to Ron, who did the same thing somewhat enviously. Claire felt a twinge of guilt.

“You have the coolest stuff!” Ron said, handing them back to her.

“Thanks,” Claire said, unsure of what else to say.

The match proved to be very exciting. Claire’s favorite part so far had definitely been the part where a Hufflepuff beater sent a bludger rocketing into Cho Chang’s broomstick. She had managed to swerve in time so it didn’t hit her, but Claire chuckled nonetheless.

“Why are you laughing?!” Harry exclaimed. “We want Ravenclaw to win! It’ll put is back in place for the Cup!”

“I’m aware,” Claire said, annoyed that Harry didn’t think she knew what was going on. “I just don’t like Ravenclaw’s Seeker.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Why’s that?”

“Bad vibes,” Claire grinned, lifting the ominoculars to her face once more.

“Sorry I’m late!” said a voice, making them all jump.

Hermione had just appeared out of nowhere, sneaking up behind them from the other side of the stands. Ron had actually fallen over his seat into the row behind them he was so startled!

“Would you stop doing that!!” he snapped at her.

Hermione was fiddling with a chain around her neck as she replied, perfectly casually, “Doing what?”

Claire smiled and waved. “Hi, Hermione!”

She returned the smile. “Hi, Claire.”

It was really something to have the three of them know her on a first name basis. She felt important and special, staring around at everyone else in the stands as if to say, I get to sit with Harry and Ron and Hermione because I am special! And who are you sitting by??

A couple hours later, Claire left the stadium with the three of them, arguing about the end of the match with Ron.

“He let her catch the Snitch!!” she said for the hundredth time. “Are you blind?! It was so obvious!”

“He did not! Diggory isn’t bright, but he’s not that dumb!” Ron pressed, making a group of nearby Hufflepuffs glare in his direction.

They walked back into the castle and into the Great Hall for dinner, Claire laughing and smiling more than any of them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“They always stick me with the complete morons, they do!” Aquinas was saying to himself as he sat in the stands, watching Claire head back towards the castle. “It would be so nice if she would think once in a while—”

His thoughts were interrupted by a bark from behind him. His heart sinking horribly, he turned to stare into the eyes of a dog that had crept up in the seat beside him.

Sirius had heard him speak.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaa!!! How deep in trouble is Aquinas?! Has Claire changed anything without realizing it?! Are the readers catching all the hints the author is leaving in the chapters?! Or are they catching the fact that she really is writing this story with the third through fifth books sitting next to her, actually thinking about what would change depending on how she wrote the fic and using them for reference?! ^.~ Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, it was fun to write! I’ll be back soon with chapter 18 and in there I will tell you “THE plan” for like when this fic will end and stuff—in correlation to the 6th book and everything! I think you’ll like it…Mwhahaha!]


Chapter 18: The Plot Thickens...Literally.
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[a/n: Hey guys! Alright all of you out there who like to complain about me never updating, this is the chapter where I get to make you take back all your complaints! I spent a LONG time writing this chapter and making sure it made sense for you to read, as well as making sure I didn’t leave out anything important. This is the chapter many of your long lost questions will be answered. *smiles* I do hope you’ll find it worth the wait. Please enjoy it whole-heartedly.

Also, when you’re finished and you’re looking for a REALLY good story written by a VERY talented writer, check out my dear friend Contrarian’s fic A Broken Song. It’s all about Luna and it’s AMAZING! I promise you won’t be disappointed! Anyway, on with the chapter!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own a Gryffindor tie! I got lots of funny stares when I wore it to school. Aren’t you guys proud of me? ^.~v

Chapter 18: The Plot Thickens…Literally

Aquinas gulped, afraid to move. He was certain that there was no excuse that could save him now. It wasn’t so much that he was worried about Sirius knowing of his rare talent, it was more a matter of what he heard more than the fact that he heard at all.

“Erm…” Aquinas stuttered.

Sirius wagged his tail and panted in a happy manner. Oddly enough, he bent down and licked the top of Aquinas’s head, barking in a way that suggested he was laughing amusedly on the inside. Aquinas cocked an eyebrow as the dog turned to leap down the stairs and exit the stadium. He blinked.

“Well…that was weird.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“How was the game?” Bethany asked as Claire returned to the dormitory after dinner.

“It was so much fun!” Claire said happily, taking off her cloak and throwing it on her bed. “Ravenclaw won, of course.”

“I figured as much,” Bethany commented, looking back and forth between her open Potions book on the floor and the parchment in her hand. Apparently she was answering some questions for Snape’s class. “I’m glad you had a good time.”

Claire sat down on the edge of her bed, kicking her feet back and forth in a precarious manner. She was still worried that something weird was going on with Bethany, and felt the need to ask her about it.

“Hey, Bethie—” she began.

“Have you done these questions yet?” Bethany asked, jabbing at the paper with her quill. “Number fourteen has me completely stumped…”

Claire blinked a few times, wondering why she had been cut off.

“Is everything okay, Bethany?” Claire asked.

Bethany looked up and shot Claire a quick smile.

“Everything’s great aside for the fact that Snape’s a git,” Bethany replied. “Now about this question…”

“Oh,” Claire said, jumping up. “Yeah, let me get my parchment out of my bag…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

As December rolled in, so did a new, cheery atmosphere amongst the students. Claire could hardly help smiling as she entered the Great Hall several days later to find that it had been decorated for the season. Frost-coated Christmas trees, two dozen strands of colorful tinsel, and garlands of holy and mistletoe were enough to make any Hogwarts student put a little spring in their step as they left breakfast to begin another day of classes.

But along with all this holiday cheer, something else surfaced that Claire had undoubtedly overlooked…

Two weeks before the end of term, Claire was sitting down to lunch with Bethany and Ginny, cramming for the Transfiguration test they were having directly following their meal. Slurping up a spoonful of chicken noodle soup, Claire caught sight of Professor McGonagall walking around the table, talking to the students and writing down names on a slip of parchment. Assuming this was for something that didn’t effect her, Claire returned her attention to her soup.

“Oh, I forgot!” Ginny said, also catching sight of Professor McGonagall. “She’s taking down the people who’re staying for the holidays today.”

“I’m going home this year,” Bethany chimed in. “My cousins from London are coming to our house. I haven’t seen them in ages! What about you, Ginny?”

“Yeah, I’m going home, too,” she replied, flipping through her notes. “Mum’s dinner is too much to miss.”

Claire observed that Ginny’s eyes darted down to the other end of the table where Harry, Ron, and Hermione were writing their names down on McGonagall’s list. Almost instantly, Ginny’s glance turned to Claire, but then quickly returned to her notes. Cocking an eyebrow at her, Claire shrugged and returned to her own studying material.

“Miss Weasley? Miss Anderson?” Professor McGonagall said as she approached the threesome. “Are either of you staying this year for the holidays?”

Just as Claire was beginning to wonder why the professor had not asked her if she was staying, the studious teacher turned her attention to Claire. With an almost sympathetic tone, she said, “Don’t worry, Miss Woods, your name is already on my list.”

Claire’s eyes widened in surprise. How did McGonagall know she was going to be staying for Christmas? Did McGonagall know that she didn’t have a family in this world to go home to? Or was Claire missing some important piece of information that should have been obvious? She swallowed hard, her heart racing. This wasn’t right…

“I’m going home, Professor,” Bethany answered, pouring herself some more juice.

“Alright, Anderson,” McGonagall said, making a note. She turned to Ginny. “And you, Miss Weasley?”

Ginny glanced from McGonagall to Claire, and then back to McGonagall before anyone could take notice.

“I’ll be staying at Hogwarts, too, Professor,” Ginny answered.

Claire had to grip the table for support. Ginny went home for Christmas in the book! Only Harry, Ron, and Hermione had remained at school! Why was she staying?! Something very strange was going on…

As McGonagall continued to make her way down the table, Ginny swallowed her last bite of soup and asked Bethany and Claire if they wanted to head out early.

“Sure,” Bethany answered. She turned to Claire and was about to say something, but stopped when she saw how pale she was.

“Claire, are you okay?” Bethany asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You’re shaking!”

Claire reminded herself to breathe.

“I’m—I’m fine,” she replied. “I think I studied the wrong chapter for this test and I just realized it. I’m gonna skim it for a bit, you two go on without me.”

Bethany knew that wasn’t it, but agreed. As Ginny got up and headed for the door, Bethany mouthed, “Tell me later.” With that she followed Ginny and left Claire to puzzle over what had just happened.

“Curious, isn’t it?” said a voice in her ear.

She jumped, realizing Aquinas had just landed on her shoulder. She let out a sigh of relief, happy that someone was here who could possibly answer her question.

“What the hell is going on?!” she hissed at him in a panicky tone. “How did McGonagall know I was staying at Hogwarts? And…I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be staying! But, I don’t have anywhere else to go in this world, so I guess that’s right but—”

“That,” Aquinas said, grinning a grin that simply screamed I-told-you-so, “is where you’d be incorrect.”

“Wh—what?” Claire said. It was as if someone had clamped shut the airways to her lungs. “I don’t have anywhere else to go! I’ve never even been here before—!”

Aquinas chuckled.

“Oh you poor, poor, ignorant little soul,” Aquinas said.

“Explain. Now.”

“Well, I really can’t now, seeing as it will obviously take a while, and you do have a test to be taking…”

“SCREW the test!” Claire exclaimed, putting Aquinas in a choke hold and shaking him violently. “What’s going on?!?!”

“Let go!” Aquinas gasped. Claire obeyed. Ruffling his feathers, Aquinas added, “Gather up your stuff and follow me. We’ll go back to the dormitory.”

Claire did so at a lightening speed, racing out of the Hall and flying through the corridors. A minute and a half later, Claire slammed the door to her dormitory shut and locked it tightly. Throwing down her bag, she looked up at Aquinas, who was perched atop the four-poster, and shouted once again for him to explain.

“See, this is where I get to have my fun,” Aquinas muttered. Claire glared, and Aquinas abandoned his taunting to offer an explanation. “Alright, here’s the deal. Unlike you, you’re grandmother actually thinks before she acts.”

“Oh, that really explains a lot, Quin!!” Claire snapped.

Aquinas chuckled some more, but regained composure and went on.

“Do you honestly think your grandmother would send you into a story randomly, with not so much as a clue to give the other characters as to how you just appeared there?” Aquinas asked rhetorically. “Claire, don’t you remember several weeks ago when you arrived here, Bethany knew your name and who you were?”

Claire nodded, feeling her knees begin to lock.

“Well, that’s because, to her, you were always a character in this story,” Aquinas explained. “When JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books, she mentioned that there were around a thousand students at Hogwarts. Naturally, Harry isn’t going to meet every single one of them. They are people in the background; objects in the plot to take up space. The character of Claire Woods is one of these such students.”

“You’ve lost me,” Claire said, shaking.

Aquinas sighed.

“When your great-grandmother sent you here, she was putting you into one of these nameless roles. All of the students here have lives, personalities, families, and histories. JK Rowling just doesn’t mention specifically who they are and what their lives are like. This gives people like your grandmother the possibility of putting kids into any of these characters that they so choose. People like your grandmother give kids what they like to call the Gift—the chance to literally be a part of a story they cherish by putting them into one of these nameless roles.”

Claire licked her dry lips as the tidal wave of reality splashed over her. She should have realized all of this before now. When she had first arrived here, Ginny and Bethany knew her name. That should have been her first clue. And she had a feeling she was about to catch several more.

“When you’re grandmother bestowed upon you this Gift, she was choosing for you which nameless role you were going to have. The way Gifts are supposed to be given is that the Bestowed is close to a character they are familiar with, but far enough away that they won’t completely change the story.

“However, your grandmother knew that you wanted to save the life of Sirius Black. This is why she put you with a character that was much closer to Harry than the Bestowed usually get to be with.”

“Wait—you’re saying that there are other people in this story besides me?!” Claire burst out.

“Possibly.”

Claire’s knees gave way and she sunk onto the floor. She had never even contemplated the fact that she might not have been the only one that had been lucky enough to get a trip to Hogwarts for her twelfth birthday…

Aquinas casually stretched his wings and continued, “Your grandmother observed that JK Rowling never really mentions who Ginny Weasley’s friends are. The author never even gives them names. She thought that this would be a suitable role for you to fill, seeing as Ginny is Harry’s best friend’s sister. She assumed this was as close to Harry as she dare attempt.”

“Holy shit…” Claire muttered, feeling slightly nauseous.

“Yeah, that about sums it up,” Aquinas agreed, flashing a grin that was dripping with sarcasm. “Anyway, as soon as your grandmother realized you had other fish to fry besides the whale of an adventure you were sent here for, she employed me to come into the story and keep an eye on you. She wanted to make sure you didn’t get in too close with any of the main characters.” Aquinas’s smile widened as he saw the horrified look Claire was sure she was wearing.

“Oh, how the tables have turned!” Aquinas added with satisfaction.

“Holy shit!” Claire exclaimed again.

“My goal was to get you out of the story as quickly as possible. I did my best, but technically, I’m not supposed to interfere much either,” Aquinas went on, the grin fading off his face being replaced with a look of vague irritation. “In the end the decision to pull the pranks was yours and yours alone. I am simply a reference guide for you, a resource not many of the Bestowed are blessed with.” He paused here for emphasis, closing his eyes in a bored way. “Apparently, you didn’t pick up on that either. Most of the Bestowed would have been hounding me for some background information on themselves, wanting to be able to fill their character as best they didn’t appear too suspicious. Another thing you didn’t do.”

“So what is my history then?” Claire said, grabbing her stomach and trying not to be sick. “And why the hell didn’t you tell me all this before now?!”

“You were supposed to realize all this for yourself, Claire,” Aquinas replied, flicking some dust off his wing. “Nevertheless, here it goes…

“You, Claire Woods, are an orphan.”

Claire slumped lower onto the floor.

An orphan?!

“Yes,” Aquinas continued. “You’re parents were murdered when you were five years old. You’ve lived in an orphanage ever since and are typically a very grateful person, happy to be here instead of where you live in the summer. Although generally kind to everyone, you hold grudges very easily. You follow the crowd, not wanting to stand out and be noticed. Your character fits the perfect description of that girl in the background that no one can seem to remember the name of.”

Her mind was spinning. No wonder McGonagall knew she would be staying for the holidays! She felt stupid once more, remembering how Ginny and Bethany also had kept asking her if she felt alright, thinking she was acting strangely. That would have been the second clue. She wasn’t acting like the girl they knew before. She wasn’t acting like her character at all…she had been acting like herself.

“Let me guess,” Aquinas said helpfully. “Holy shit?”

Claire nodded mutely, afraid she’d ruin the carpet if she opened her mouth.

“Obvious to everyone except you, once again,” Aquinas went on, “the show you’ve been putting has caught everyone’s attention. People in the common room can now put a name to your face. Even Harry Potter knows who you are. Which brings me to my final point…”

Claire swallowed hard.

“You had another point?” she managed to say.

Aquinas nodded, smirking. He flew over to her bedside table and picked up The Prisoner of Azkaban with two taloned feet. He tossed it at her and said, “You’ll find that an interesting read.”

Claire stared at from the owl perched on her bed post to the book in her lap. A book she would never find boring, but certainly a book that had lost the element of surprise to someone like Claire, who had read it dozens of times.

“Aquinas, I’ve read this book before,” she said, hoping against hope that he wasn’t about to throw any more surprises her way.

“Oh really?” Aquinas asked, continuing to smirk in that annoying way. “Know it from front to back, do you?”

Claire shook her head and muttered, “I don’t really know what I know and don’t at the moment.”

Thinking it would help her train of thought, Claire picked up the book and tossed it lightly from hand to hand. However, in the midst of doing this, the book thumped onto the floor as Claire’s hand didn’t get a good grip on it. But this wasn’t because of clumsiness…

“It’s…” Claire said, picking it up and flipping to the back, “It’s thicker…”

“The pages seem to be multiplying, Miss Woods,” Aquinas said with raised eyebrows. “And I fear this is only the beginning.”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaa!! Was that worth the wait, kids? Hmm? *grins evilly and leans back in her chair* Well, I’d ask my usual array of end-of-the-chapter questions, but this chapter is a lot to take in, so I’ll let you soak it up and see you the next time I update…*cackles evilly* Things are about to get interesting. Brace yourselves…]


Chapter 19: A Shot at Redemption
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[a/n: Mwhahaha! I’m back! Ready for another fun-filled chapter, everyone? You had better be…And just FYI, you might want to click back to chappies 12 and 13 of this fic for some reference, in case you don’t remember certain conversations that’re gonna be slightly important…*cackles evilly*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own my own car. *sigh* Life is such a drag.

Chapter 19: A Shot at Redemption

“What do you mean the pages are multiplying?” Claire asked, heart rate increasing by the second.

“Well, we seem to be growing more and more forgetful, now don’t we?” Aquinas said, having a jolly ol’ time being the deliverer of bad news. “You don’t remember way back when you first came into the story, when you almost changed the outcome of a certain rainy Quidditch match?”

“What are you talking about?” Claire said, looking up from the book in her lap to the bird on her bedpost. “I didn’t come anywhere near to changing who won that match—”

“I’m not talking about the winner, Claire,” Aquinas said, rolling his eyes in frustration. “I’m referring more to the practice before the Quidditch match. Don’t you remember standing in the common room, watching Oliver Wood chew Harry out for not being able to practice because McGonagall was sure that—”

—Sirius was still in the castle!” Claire finished for him, the memory flooding back to her. “Bethany asked me what was going on, and I opened the book and…the words were changing on the page. I do remember that…but…” She looked up at Aquinas curiously. “YOU weren’t here yet! How did you know that that happened?!”

“I have my secrets and I prefer that they remain just that,” Aquinas replied, trying to look important. He realized it was a frivolous task for a bird of his stature to look anything more important than a common English pigeon, and went on in a slightly put out tone, “Anyway, yes, you did witness the book changing because of something YOU did. And all you did there was listen in on a minor conversation. Naturally, if you’re putting two and two together in that walnut-sized brain of yours, you can only begin to imagine what happened now that you’ve had several conversations with the key character...”

Claire’s pulse began to rocket as she turned her gaze once again to the slightly thicker third book in her hands.

“Do I even want to know?” she asked, wincing slightly at the thought.

“Probably not,” Aquinas said, and to Claire’s mounting annoyance his smirk grew a bit wider.

She sighed.

“What page?” she asked.

“Oh, you can pretty much open it up anywhere and find something you’ve never read before,” Aquinas replied, stretching his wings and flying down to rest instead on her trunk. All the better to see her reaction, Claire supposed.

Holding her breath, Claire opened to the place her bookmark had remained since a couple weeks ago, back when she was actually keeping track of where she was in the story…

The chapter was Grim Defeat. Now when she had been in the hospital wing, she had noticed then that there were some changes in the story. Only small ones though, where Harry and Ron and Hermione had questioned her about being at the match. There was nothing she hadn’t seen before on these pages.

“There’s nothing new here…” Claire said, looking up at Aquinas, who was (surprise surprise) smiling while admiring his beautifully clean feathers.

“Flip forward a few pages,” he instructed, confident that he was correct.

She did as she was told…and then began breathing very, very hard and very, very fast…

“Aww, c’mon now!” Aquinas taunted. “You aren’t at least going to do me the pleasure of reading out loud? I thought I would at least deserve that much…”

Claire swallowed hard and read, “ ‘Ch-Chapter Ten…Hufflepuff vs. Ravenclaw.’ But…I thought th-that—”

“JK Rowling didn’t write that part? Yeah, that seems to be what most people remember. Boy, are they going to be surprised the next time they open their books, eh?” Aquinas chuckled happily to himself. “Well, go on now, read it!”

Claire’s breath came in short, quick gasps as her eyes darted across the page:

“Harry!” Fred and George shouted in unison as they entered the Great Hall for lunch. “Did you hear the news?!”

“What news?” Ron asked curiously. Harry was certain that he, like himself, was also wondering what the identical, proud smirks on their faces were about.

“Some second year just trashed the dungeons—” George began excitedly.

“—and completely wrecked Snapey’s facial excellence!” Fred finished in a similar tone, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“Huh?” Harry and Ron said.

The twins were far too excited to answer.

“We have to meet this girl!” Fred said. “Come on, George, let’s go find her!”

“Right behind you, Fred!” George replied. And with that the two hurried into the Hall.

“What the—” Harry began.

“Hey, Dean,” Ron called behind him. “Have you heard what’s happened? We’re completely confused…”

“It’s amazing!” Dean said, a proud smug on his face similar to that of the Weasley twin’s.

“Some second year girl just showered her entire Potions class with a mild sleeping draft, putting the entire class to sleep!” Seamus cut in.

“Including the professor,” Dean said as he and Seamus exchanged pleased grins.

Hermione’s eyes widened in shock and Ron’s mouth dropped open in a wondrous state of awe.

“That’s not even the half of it, mate,” Seamus said upon noticing Ron’s expression. “You go ahead and tell them, Dean.”

Dean cleared his throat, leaving them hanging in anticipation.

“Well, what is it?!” Hermione asked. “Surely she didn’t
curse anyone, did she—?”

“Oh no, it’s much better than that…” Dean said while Seamus began chuckling. “She wrote all over Snape’s face with Inerasable Ink!”

“WHAT?!” Harry, Ron, and Hermione exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Seamus exclaimed excitedly, while Dean nodded furiously at his side. “She called him a name. ‘Snivillus’ is what I heard—”

“That’s bloody brilliant!” Ron said, receiving a glare from Hermione. “I’m with Fred and George, we have to meet this girl! Come on, Harry—”

Harry followed Ron into the Great Hall, running over to where the Weasley twins were standing. Ron rushed forward and tapped the girl they were in front of on the shoulder. It wasn’t until the girl spun around to face them that Harry recognized her…

It was the girl from the Quidditch match: Claire Woods.

As happy as Harry was that someone seemed to loathe Snape as much as he did, enough so to humiliate him in front of a group of students, he couldn’t help but wonder what her motives were. Why would she go through all that trouble unless she had a really,
really good reason?

Claire seemed to notice he was standing there at that moment, after the Weasleys had moved aside to jabber on excitedly about the miraculous coming out of a fellow trouble maker.

“Never thought you were one to favor Snape, Harry,” Claire commented lightly, sipping her pumpkin juice. “I thought you’d at least be smiling at the fact that he’s scrubbing his dungeon clean at the moment.”

Before he responded he couldn’t help but ponder how peculiar this girl was. He was certain he had never really talked to her much before, so how did she know how much he hated Snape? He wondered if perhaps she was friends with Colin Creevey—then remembered she had asked him a question.

“I don’t like Snape. At all.” Harry said truthfully. But before he could stop himself, he seemed to be voicing all his questions. “I’m just having trouble understanding why you did that. What have you got against him?”

Her reply was as simple as all her other had been.

“Loads,” she said.

“I see…” Harry answered, not seeing at all.


Claire looked up at Aquinas.

“That’s not so bad,” she said, assuming that was all. Seeing the smirk was still growing on her feathery friends face, she added, “Or is it?”

“Read on, my dear,” Aquinas said, leaning back and crossing his short, knobby talons in the mannor of a leisurely human. “Read on!”

Claire flipped ahead a couple pages and felt the color once again drain from her face:

“Harry?” Lupin called over the mass of people running out the door to dinner. “A word, if you don’t mind?”

“See you at dinner then,” Harry said to Ron and Hermione.

He walked over to Lupin’s desk, wondering what this was all about. Lupin seemed to be thinking about how to word what he was about to say.

“Harry, I know I promised to give you lessons on how to fight the dementors—” Lupin began.

Harry felt his heart sinking immediately. Had Lupin changed his mind?

Noticing the look on Harry’s face, Lupin added, “Don’t worry, I’m still giving them to you. It’s just it appears that one of the other students that passed out at the game overheard our conversation after class the other day about the lessons. She asked if she could take them as well.”

Harry nodded, not knowing what he was supposed to say. Lupin sighed.

“I understand completely if you want to take them one on one,” Lupin said, “I just wanted you to be aware that this girl would like to take them as well. Do you have any objections?”

Harry reflected for a minute on the prospect. He didn’t much like the idea of someone else being in the room if he were to hear his mother and pass out again. Enough people knew about his dementor problem as it was.

“Could I ask who the student is, Professor?” Harry asked.

“She’s in your House,” Lupin said. “A second year, though. Her name is Claire Woods.”

Harry’s mind began to spin. How was it this girl was becoming the subject of everything all of a sudden? However, he couldn’t deny the fact that he was very intrigued by her, and would very much like the chance to know a bit more about her and why she was the way she was. He couldn’t quite explain it, but he had been wondering that very thing ever since the girl had introduced herself to him in the Hospital Wing. In addition to that, if she passed out from the dementors too…she must have some horrors in her past that were at least vaguely similar to his. He felt rather content knowing he wasn’t alone in this any more.

“I think that’d be fine, Professor,” Harry said.

“Very good, as long as it doesn’t bother you that’s fine with me,” Lupin said, shutting his briefcase and walking with Harry to the door. “I’ll let her know the next time I see her—”

“Oh, no need for the Professor Lupin,” Harry said before he could stop himself. Lupin looked at him oddly. “I mean, she’s in my House. I can tell her myself the next time I see her.”


Claire cocked an eyebrow at the book. Harry’s personality wasn’t exactly how she remembered. Since when was he so brave in talking to strange people? He was even tentative around Luna in Order of the Phoenix for a while! Why was he so eager to know about Claire?

“Confused?” Aquinas asked.

“Quite,” Claire replied.

“Read some more,” Aquinas said, clapping his wings together with glee.

Glaring, Claire continued:

Not feeling much like eating, Harry decided to return to the common room and perhaps start his homework. Upon entering the portrait hole, however, any thought of studying quickly left his mind.

As it turned out, it looked like Claire Woods had also abandoned eating that evening, because she was seated with her legs swinging over the arm rest of a chair in front of the fire, apparently deeply immersed in a book.


No time like the present, Harry thought.

He set down his bag and flopped down in a chair next to her.

“Hello,” he said, trying to be friendly.

Claire shut her book and sat up quickly, her long dark brown ponytail swinging back and forth as she did so.

“Hi,” she replied, smiling warmly.

Harry felt something funny in the pit of his stomach. He had been so overwhelmed in the hospital wing after seeing her with the grim that he hadn’t noticed how pretty this girl was before...


She stopped reading right there, her stomach doing an odd sort of flip.

“Harry thinks I’m—I’m pretty?” Claire said, astounded.

Being only twelve years of age, Claire didn’t exactly have a lot of experience with boys. In fact, she had none. The very thought of someone thinking her pretty sounded ridiculous to her.

Aquinas seemed to flinch at her question.

“You are definitely in for it,” he muttered. “Anyway, forget about that for a minute and open this thing, will you?”

He gave the trunk a tap and Claire shuffled over on her knees to unlock it. As she opened it, Aquinas flew inside and began shoving things aside.

“Where are your other Harry Potter books?” he asked her.

“Why?” Claire asked. Her stomach immediately changed from the flip-flop feeling back to nausea.

“Ah, here they are!” he said, reaching the bottom of the trunk. “Here, take this big one, will you?”

Goblet of Fire?” Claire asked, picking it up. “What for?”

“Open it up to the World Cup chapter,” Aquinas said, perching himself on the lid of the trunk.

Doing as she was told, Claire found the correct chapter and began flipping through it.

“Actually, the one before it might be a better choice, now that I think of it,” Aquinas said thoughtfully.

Flipping back, Claire read:

There was a wizard selling brass binoculars. Harry recognized them immediately as ominoculars, the kind that Claire Woods had showed him in his third year.

“Time out!” Claire exclaimed, her voice coming out oddly squeaky. “I’m in book four now?! How did that happen?!”

Aquinas grinned.

“Didn’t realize that you let Harry and Ron use an instrument they weren’t supposed to ever see until next year, now did you?” Aquinas said. “See, Claire, this is what happens to people who don’t think. They get these nasty little surprises that they aren’t quite ready for.”

Claire glanced into her trunk at the fifth book. She couldn’t bring herself to look at it.

“You don’t have to look at that one now if you don’t want to, but yes, you are in it,” Aquinas said.

She flopped down off her knees and onto the floor, staring into space.

“How do I fix this?” Claire asked.

Aquinas put on a thoughtful expression.

“Well,” he began, “as of right now, you haven’t changed anything terribly major in the plot. I advise that you be careful not to do this in the future, however, as you have come fairly close on many occasions.”

Claire nodded, not knowing what else to say.

“Well, you appear to have missed most of your first class,” Aquinas said, bringing Claire out of her thoughts. “If you want to be ‘sick’ for the rest of the day, I wouldn’t blame you.”

“I’m going to bed,” said Claire.

And without another word, she jumped onto the mattress and closed the curtains. A minute or two later, she heard Aquinas fly out the window. She flopped back on her pillows and sighed. Her mind was too full for sleep anyway...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Scared out of her wits by all of her newly acquired knowledge, Claire stayed as far away from Harry and company as possible for the remainder of the term. She was starting to be really serious about it, even going as far as jumping into empty classrooms and running out of the common room unexpectedly whenever she saw one of the trio coming her direction. She wasn’t doing well in many of her classes the last few weeks before the holidays or being seen much by anyone—her sole concern was to stay out of the books as much as humanly possible.

Aquinas took to perching on her shoulder as she walked through the corridors, laughing quietly at the way she was acting. Claire didn’t even have the impulse to slug him; she just wasn’t in the mood.

Saturday morning before the end of term, Claire was enjoying a quiet breakfast in the Great Hall. Most of the older students had already left, as this was a Hogsmeade weekend and most of them were eager to do some shopping in the village before Christmas rolled around. Aquinas happily munched some toast as Claire ate her cereal, and the two of them were just heading up the marble staircase when they were cornered by two red haired boys.

“Hi Fred, George,” Claire said, trying to make a run for it.

“Not so fast!” the twins said, grabbing her arms and dragging her and a ruffled Aquinas into a nearby empty classroom. She stared longingly at the door after they shut it.

“We’ve been trying to find you all week!” George said. “Where have you been hiding?”

“Er—the library,” Claire lied. “Catching up on some homework.”

“I see,” the twins said together.

“Well,” said Fred with a smile. “We had something we wanted to give you.”

“Consider is an early Christmas gift,” George insisted, thrusting something into her hands.

Claire stared at the object with a new horror.

It was the Marauder’s Map.

“But—” Claire started.

“No need to thank us,” the twins said in unison.

She felt hopeless. Harry was supposed to receive this map and go to Hogsmeade today, not Claire!

“But—why?!” Claire asked, feeling anxious.

“Just wanted to help out a fellow marauder, mate!” George said, clapping her on the shoulder.

“We wanted to pass it on to future trouble makers,” Fred added.

“We have it memorized anyway,” they said together.

She tried to give them a smile, but she was certain it came out as more of a face one would make when suffering from indigestion.

The twins happily showed her how to use it (she decided not to point out that she already knew how it worked), and left quickly so that they could join the throng heading to the village. After they’d left, Claire looked at Aquinas, who was sitting on her shoulder, wings crossed and eyes narrowed.

She sighed.

“Don’t worry,” Claire said sadly, shoving the parchment into her robes. “I’ll give the map to Harry. He’s the one that should have gotten it…”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAaaaa! My, that was a long chapter! *wipes sweat from brow* Soooo…How will this drastic change in gift-giving effect Harry and co?! Is Claire going to pass out from all this stress?! Will Aquinas’s face fall off because he’s so smug and thrilled that he proved someone wrong?! Tune in next chapter and find out…

And by the way…*takes out guitar and sings to reviewers in a horribly out-of-tune voice*

Have I toooooold you late-ly….that-I-love-you?! *strums strings* Have I toooooold you, there’s-no-one-else-above-you?!....*pretends she knows the words to this song…which she DOESN’T own (please note the disclaimer ^.~v)*…La la la la la….Anyway, you guys know you rock, right?! *hugs everyone* I love you all so much, thank you for sticking with this silly story for so long, even though I don’t update too terribly often! You make my day every time you send me a review! I’m being sincere here, really, I love you guys!!! Thanks for being so wonderful!]


Chapter 20: The Three Broomsticks
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[a/n: Hello again to all you wonderful people! Let’s see what’s on the agenda for this author’s note, shall we? *flips through a clipboard full of things she wanted to remember to tell her readers* Hmmm…ah yes! DID YOU GUYS SEE THE COVER FOR HALF-BLOOD PRINCE?!?! *throws clipboard in the air excitedly, showering everyone nearby with papers* It’s AMAZING! *people glare in Weasley Freckles’s direction* It’s so green! And so Harry! And so Dumbledore! And so Pensieve (I think…)! *mob comes over and carries Weasley Freckles away while she continues to jabber on endlessly* And so purple lettering-ish! And so smokey! And— ]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own a large, fuzzy, stuffed duck! *clutches the plushy* YOU CAN’T TAKE IT FROM ME!! *runs away*

Chapter 20: The Three Broomsticks

“And just how do you propose you propose you give the map back to Harry?!” Aquinas hissed as she walked quickly out of the room and up the stairs. “How are you going to explain how you got the map in the first place?!”

“Will you relax?” Claire hissed back, slipping behind a suit of armor and taking out the parchment from inside her robes.

“What are you doing?!” Aquinas spazzed, looking anxiously up and down the hallway.

Claire pulled out her wand, looked left, then right, and returned her gaze to the parchment. Poising the wand’s tip on the page, she muttered, “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.”

“I’ll say!” Aquinas said, biting his talons nervously.

Claire’s eyes grew wide as a beautiful map traced itself across the scratchy, yellowing paper. Immediately, she began searching about for a particular dot.

“There!” She pointed to a dot that was on the move down to the Entrance Hall, accompanied by two other dots, heading in the direction of a bunch of other dots.

Put it away!” Aquinas nearly squealed.

Claire rolled her eyes

“Don’t you get it?” Claire said, not used to knowing something Aquinas didn’t. “Harry is on the way to the Entrance Hall with Ron and Hermione! They’re going to Hogsmeade, which means that Harry is going to be coming back upstairs in a few minutes.”

Aquinas blinked.

“That’s lovely,” he said blankly. “I hope he has a nice walk…without his map!”

Claire sighed and ducked out from behind the armor, running up another flight of stairs as she explained, “No, you bird brain! It means that we can leave the map somewhere in his path for him to find!”

“ARE YOU CRAZY?!” Aquinas burst out. A seventh year Ravenclaw shot Claire a piercing look, assuming Claire was insulting her. Claire smiled weakly and the girl stalked off. She glared at her feathery friend.

“Thanks a lot, Quin.”

“Don’t be mad at me! You’re still not thinking!” He swayed on her shoulder as she began running faster, having to grab a lock of her thick, dark hair to keep balanced. “What if someone other than Harry takes the map? What are you going to do THEN, eh?”

“Trust me,” Claire said, pulling a piece of scrap parchment out of her pocket from Transfiguration the day before.

“To trust you is suicide,” he said bluntly.

Using the cool, stone wall as a writing easel, Claire scribbled a note:

Harry—
We want you to have this. Your needs are greater than ours. Besides, we’ve got the whole thing memorized anyhow. Have fun and remember, you didn’t get it from us.

P.S. “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.”


Satisfied, she took her wand and preformed a tricky little charm to make the word “Harry” flash brightly so that it would catch passerby’s attention. Then she took out the map a final time and checked to make sure no one else was anywhere nearby. Seeing no one, she wiped the map clean and attached the note to it, leaving it on the statue of the one-eyed witch.

“There,” she said resolutely. “It’s fool-proof.”

Aquinas was staring at the note, as if determined to find a flaw in Claire’s seemingly brilliant idea. His expression was one of thoughtful concentration. Then, suddenly, he gasped and his eyes grew wide.

“Claire!” he exclaimed. “You forgot—

They could hear quick footsteps coming up the staircase.

“Silencio!” Claire muttered, pointing her wand at Aquinas. His sentence left unfinished, she dove behind another suit of armor across the hall.

She peaked around and watched Harry as he came slowly in their direction. He seemed kind of distracted, obviously deep in thought. Claire knew he was thinking about working on his homework to distract himself from the fact that his friends were having a jolly time without him at the moment. She felt a surge of pride in knowing that she, Claire, was assisting in cheering him up.

As planned, Harry saw his name flashing on the statue. He went over to it, read the note, and stared the parchment curiously. Apparently, he was trying to make a decision. Then she saw him take his wand, look up and down the corridor, and finally mutter the magic words. She smiled as everything else played out just as she had hoped, Harry opened the hump of the one-eyed witch and slid down on his way into Hogsmeade for the very first time.

“Mission accomplished,” she said happily, looking over at her partner in crime. Aquinas was waving his wings, trying to get her attention and pointing to his beak.

“Oops, sorry, Quin!” she said, flicking her wand at him and muttering the counter-spell.

The first words out of his mouth weren’t pleasant ones.

“What?!” Claire said, both offended and confused.

You idiot!” Aquinas said through gritted teeth, rephrasing his earlier statement. “You didn’t tell Harry how to wipe the map clean!

She gasped, realizing he was right. Was there anyway to fix this?

“Wait,” she said, thinking aloud. “I think I might still be okay. I need to check the book, c’mon…”

She stood up and ran in the direction of Gryffindor Tower. Yelling out the password to the Fat Lady, she flew through the common room and up the girl’s staircase. She snatched the book off her nightstand and flipped open to the correct chapter, hoping against hope that she was right…

“Yes!” she said in relief. “Harry is going to hear about how Sirius supposedly betrayed his parents and not run into anyone on the way back from the Three Broomsticks. I’ll just sneak up to his dormitory and leave him another note as to how you wipe the map clean. Safe again!”

She could have danced for joy, but Aquinas was not feeling the need to tap his toes.

“I hope I’m there to see the look on your face when you don’t get a lucky break,” he said, angered by her scraping by. “You’ve had one too many close shaves, in my opinion…”

“A close shave is not a failure,” Claire reminded him, busily scribbling down a quick message to Harry, “even if I had two in less than five minutes.”

He sighed in an aggravated tone as she finished her note, then the two of them headed down the stairs and into the common room. Unfortunately, almost the entire group of first and second years seemed to be sitting in one of the squashy purple chairs that morning. How in the world was Claire supposed to get into Harry’s dormitory unnoticed?

“I’ll help you out,” Aquinas muttered in her ear, “if you promise only to leave the note and come straight back down.”

She narrowed her eyes at his distrust, but agreed.

“I’ll distract them, but you better hurry,” Aquinas said. “If anyone pulls out so much as one feather…you’re dead.”

She hid a chuckle as Aquinas flew off her shoulder and began diving at the group of students, pecking at their heads and squawking obscenely. In all the chaos, Claire slipped up the boy’s staircase and up to the dormitory at the very top of the tower.

Even though she was supposed to hurry, Claire couldn’t help but have a look around. This was a room often described in the books, after all! She smiled at Dean’s immobile poster of his favorite soccer team on the wall, and also couldn’t help but grin at the disorganized state of Neville’s trunk. However, she had a job to finish, so she headed over to Harry’s bed and left the note on his pillow where he would easily spot it.

As she was turning to head out of the room, she couldn’t help but feel that awful twinge of her coscience that one feels only when they really want to do something they know they shouldn’t. Claire knew how badly she’d love to hear that conversation in the Three Broomsticks right now. To hear how Harry’s parents were betrayed, or at least how everyone thought they’d been betrayed, as Harry heard it…what an experience! And to see Hogsmeade, one of the coolest places in the whole magical world…she’d almost kill for the chance to see it…

She sighed. She knew there could be major consequences to taking such a risk. For one, she could end up in trouble with the school, seeing as second years weren’t allowed to visit the village under any circumstance anyway. For another, Aquinas would be madder than a hungry skrewt. But that really wasn’t anything new—the bird was easily ticked off. Even if she didn’t go she’d probably end up making him mad in some way or another. Wasn’t there some way she could trick him?

A light bulb flicked on in her brain. An evil grin spread across her face as she spun around to face Harry’s trunk. Somewhere in there, hidden at the very bottom, was an Invisibility Cloak…

Not thinking about anything else, as she often did, she marched right over to the trunk.

Alohomora!” she said, making the trunk fly open.

Careful not to make it too obvious that she had been in the trunk, Claire moved this and that aside in search of the cloak. Then she caught a glimpse of something sliver—like water reflecting the moonlight. She’d found it!

Slipping it on, Claire watched her body disappear. With a rush of excitement, she locked the trunk and flew out of the dormitory, easily slipping out into the corridor as half the Gryffindor students were trying to catch Aquinas in what appeared to be a large butterfly net.

Patting herself on the back for her brilliance, Claire ran all the way to the one-eyed witch and all along the path to the Honeyduke’s cellar. She was going to finally get to see the wizarding village! Her heart was pounding with anticipation. Maybe she could even visit the Shrieking Shack, or play with some of the jokes at Zonko’s shop…

“OW!”

Her thoughts were interrupted by something very heavy colliding with her head. Massaging her scalp and cursing herself for her ignorance, she felt around for the handle of the trap door. She opened it and slipped inside the cellar and up the stairs.

She crossed over the threshold and into the shop. Her mouth fell open. It wasn’t anything like she had imagined—it was even better. Candies of every imaginable shape, size, and color lined the shelves. Barrels of chocolates and strange sweets were being scavenged through by hungry Hogwarts students, all of which were wearing a smile. Claire snatched a lollipop off one of the trays and headed out of the shop into the snowy village.

“Brilliant…”

Claire wished she had more time to visit all the shops, but she needed to be making her way to the Three Broomsticks quickly if she wanted to be there for the whole conversation she wished to hear. She skipped happily down the street, licking her lollipop and humming. Oh, how she wished she could stay there forever…

A bell of a pub chimed somewhere in the wintry air. Claire looked up and saw the sign of the place she was looking for. Eager to warm up, she darted into the middle of a group of fifth year Hufflepuffs just as the door closed to the snowy wonderland outside.

Ducking out of the way so that no one would run into her, Claire surveyed the scene. The trio was nowhere to be found; clearly she was early. She grabbed a bottle off the counter and headed to the back corner of the pub. She figured she’d sit down have a drink to kill some time while she waited for the story to play out. Seating herself at the table next to the one she believed the trio would be sitting at in a movement, she allowed the butterbeer to warm her insides as she watched the door.

Right on cue, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, pink-faced and out of breath, appeared in the doorway. She smiled as she watched a beat-red Ron go over to Madam Rosmerta and order three drinks as Harry and Hermione headed in her direction. The three of them all sat down at the table beside Claire’s and raised their glasses.

“Merry Christmas!” Ron said happily.

“Merry Christmas, indeed!” Claire whispered, raising her glass to the group as well.

Suddenly, the trio’s heads turned in unison to the door. Claire looked, too, just in time to see Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Hagrid come in from the cold shortly followed by Cornelius Fudge. Claire narrowed her eyes and fingered her wand lovingly. Oh, what she’d give for the chance to curse him right now…

Mobiliarbus!” Hermione whispered, moving a Christmas tree in front of their corner.

“Damn!” Claire muttered, for the tree had blocked her view entirely. Abandoning her drink, she slipped out of her chair and onto the floor beside Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s table. Putting an ear close to the tablecloth, she could hear Harry muttering about his butterbeer being spilt on him as Ron and Hermione muttered at him to be quiet.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Claire watched as Madam Rosmerta took the teachers’ order, and then joined them herself. Slowly, the conversation turned to Sirius Black, and all signs of breathing under the table were silenced.

“You don’t know the half of it, Rosmerta…” Fudge was saying.

“And neither do you,” Claire mouthed.

“The worst?” Rosmerta replied curiously. “Worse than murdering all those poor people, you mean?”

“I certainly do,” Fudge said.

“I beg to differ,” Claire retorted silently.

“—What could possibly be worse?” Rosmerta was asking.

“You say you remember him at Hogwarts, Rosmerta,” said Professor McGonagall, lowering her voice. “Do you remember who his best friend was?”

“Naturally,” said Madam Rosmerta, chuckling lightly. “Never saw one without the other, did you? The number of times I had them in here—ooh, they used to make me laugh. Quite the double act, Sirius Black and James Potter!”

Claire heard a thud from underneath the table as Harry dropped his glass onto the floor. Ron kicked him immediately after.

A lead weight was attaching itself to Claire’s heart. Poor Harry—she’d never realized quite how hard hearing this must’ve been for him. Here he thought Sirius was his enemy, a madman after his life, and now to find out that this apparent phsyco killer was his father’s best friend?

Still listening to the conversation, Claire crawled around to the back of the table, and slipped underneath between Ron’s and Hermione’s chairs. Harry was just sitting there, as if in a daze, completely absorbed in the conversation. His eyes were wide and glassy like a porcelain doll and his lips were curling downward into a frown. As quietly as she could, Claire crept over and sat down next to him. The conversation she had heard a hundred times, but Harry’s expression at the time was one thing she had yet to witness.

After getting herself situated, Claire turned her attention back to the ongoing conversation.

“—Black was best man when James married Lily,” Fudge was saying, as if he was the supreme knower of all things knowable. “Then they named him godfather to Harry. Harry has no idea, of course. You can imagine how the idea would torment him.”

The look on Harry’s face told Claire the clearly Fudge was right (for once).

“Because Black turned out to be in league with You-Know-Who?” whispered Madam Rosmerta.

“Worse even than that, m’dear…” Fudge whispered back.

Claire was about ready to cry—the look on Harry’s expression was one to kill. Pain was etched all over his face. He simply had a look that screamed, “Why me? Why is it always me?” His eyes were growing wider and wider as Fudge went on explaining about how the Potters went into hiding, and Claire turned her attention back to the adults as the conversation turned to the Fidelius Charm.

“An immensely complex spell,” Flitwick piped up in his squeaky little voice, “involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chose person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find—unless, of course, the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it. As long as the Secret-Keeper refused to speak, You-Know-Who could search the village where Lily and James were staying for years and never find them, not even if he had his nose pressed against their sitting room window!”

“So Black was the Potters’ Secret-Keeper?” whispered Madam Rosmerta.

A tear rolled down Claire’s cheek as she turned to look at Harry’s face. It was one of betrayal and loss. If only he knew that it wasn’t true! If only he knew that Sirius would never do that to his best friends! If only he knew then he wouldn’t have to be in so much pain…

“—James Potter told Dumbledore that Black would rather die than tell where they were, that Black was planning on going into hiding himself…”

Claire knew that Sirius was going to have to go into hiding eventually, whether he was planning on it or not he was going to have to flee from the Ministry. The injustice of this whole situation was too much to bear…

“…yet Dumbledore still remained worried.” Professor McGonagall went on. “I remember him offering to be the Potters’ Secret-Keeper himself.”

“He suspected Black?” gasped Madam Rosmerta.

“He was sure that somebody close to the Potters had been keeping You-Know-Who informed of their movements…”

Claire let out a silent sob as she turned to look at Harry. His expression had turned stony and hateful—if only he knew how much he’d regret those feelings later! If only he knew how much he was going to miss his godfather after he was gone…

Unable to just sit there and let Harry look so miserable, she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. She hated to be around people who were hurting so badly; compassion was simply in her nature. Besides, Harry was far to consumed in the conversation to notice that he was being hugged anyway…

Suddenly, Claire heard the door to the pub open and a rush of cold air blow inside. Curious, she let go of Harry and crawled out from under the table. Peering around the Christmas tree, she saw that some rather wind-blown witches had come in, but she wasn’t really interested in them. She was more interested in the owl that was perched on the counter, drinking out of some old warlock’s water glass.

“Damn it!” she cursed. Aquinas had found her! She had to get out of there fast!

Sadly, she looked back at the table. Harry was concealed underneath, as she knew, and Ron and Hermione were also entrance by the conversation, although the two of them kept meeting each other’s eyes worriedly. Claire dried her eyes on the sleeve of her robes and stood up. She edged around the professors’ table, only wasting one second to stick her tongue out at Fudge, and then darted out the door behind some exiting Hogwarts students.

Cursing her misfortune at only getting to hear part of the conversation, Claire began running back to Honeydukes. Aquinas couldn’t see her, could he? She hoped not. She had heard one too many lectures from that bird…

Suddenly, she slammed right into something incredibly solid and fell back into a snow bank. She shook the snow off of her and looked up to see what she had run into. Her mouth fell open in surprise.

There, lying on the ground in front of her, was the person she had run into. Only it wasn’t really a person, it was only a floating head…the head of someone very familiar…

Robin?” Claire gasped.

Robin’s eyes were wide with the shock of falling down. She looked left and right, wondering what she had run into. Unable to see anything unusual, her hands appeared in the snow bank. They reached up and pulled on a hood of silvery fabric and she disappeared once more.

What was going on…?


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAAaaa! What exactly was Robin Gregory’s head doing in Hogsmeade?! Is Claire in trouble with Aquinas?! And furthermore, did Harry notice that someone was sitting beside him in the Three Broomsticks?! Mwhahaha…the world may never know…until the next chapter at least! Sorry If that was boring for anyone! It’s really hard to write these chapters where you have to get all the dialogue out of the book…>.< Anyway, see you guys soon!]


Chapter 21: The Fog Turns Clear
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[a/n: Okay, so here’s how it is: I love you. You know that I love you because I tell you all the time. You at least sort of like this fic. I know that you at least sort of like this fic because if you didn’t, then what the heck are you doing reading chapter 21? Seeing as we both know all this stuff, is an author’s note really necessary? Nah… ]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, but I do own the record that plays the snazzy music at the end of every chapter! *puts the gigantic record in the record player and sings along to the theme music* DUN DUN DAAAAAAaaaa!!!

Chapter 21: The Fog Turns Clear

Claire blinked at the spot where Robin’s head had been in the snow bank. It was obvious to her what was going on: Robin had somehow got her hands on an Invisibility Cloak and snuck into Hogsmeade as well. But for what purpose? Apparently, she wasn’t coming from the Three Broomsticks, as Claire had been, but judging from the position they ran into each other, Robin had been running from the opposite direction…

Curiosity was coursing through her body like a contagious disease. Looking down at the snow, Claire saw several newly-made footprints heading in the direction from which she had just come. Based on the judgment that Aquinas would stay put in the pub until his belly was good and full, Claire stealthily followed the mysteriously appearing marks in the snow.

She nearly walked to the other end of Hogsmeade, only having to step aside a few times to let someone pass; the footprints were doing a good enough job of dodging people that Claire didn’t really have to pay attention to much else.

Finally, Claire heard the tinkling of a shop bell. She looked up to see that they were outside of Honeyduke’s. The footprints disappeared at that point; Claire supposed whoever was making them had stepped into the shop. She wasn’t worried about following them any longer; she had a hunch where they were headed…

Ducking behind a group of chattering sixth year Ravenclaws, Claire slipped into the shop and headed for the back room. She checked that the person at the register was occupied in helping the students purchase their sweets and then edged quietly into the cellar.

Just as she shut the door behind her, she heard another one at the bottom of the stairs snap shut. She grinned and leaped down the stairs. Placing her hand with care on the handle, she mentally counted to ten, opened the trap door as quietly as she could, and then dropped herself down into the secret passage.

At this point, she broke into a run. She had to get to the end of the tunnel before the person she was pursuing did if she wanted to catch them…

Trying not to breathe too loudly, she finally saw the small door that lead out of the witch’s hump and back into the corridor. Had she beat them there?

She stood by the exit and waited. About a minute later, she thought she heard someone coming…

She began counting to herself, 1…2…3!

Claire threw out her arms and bumped into something. Grabbing a hold of some sort of fabric, she pulled.

“Aha!!

And there was Robin, glaring into space, looking around for her attacker.

“Who’s there?!” she said. Claire detected a hint of fear in her voice.

“Oh, no one really,” Claire said, enjoying her moment of success. Reaching up, she too pulled down her hood. “Just me.”

“Woods,” Robin snarled, her eyes reduced to slits behind her sheaf of dark blonde hair.

“Yes, it’s me,” Claire said, grinning mischievously. “But that’s not the question. The question is what are you doing here, Robin?”

Robin didn’t answer, but merely continued to glare. It was a good thing she didn’t have laser vision, otherwise Claire was certain she’d be dead.

“Whose Invisibility Cloak did you, shall we say, ‘borrow?’ Hmm?” Claire egged on.

“None of your business,” Robin said, tugging out of her grip and trying to escape quickly out of the witch’s hump.

“Not so fast!” Claire said, throwing out an arm to stop her. “What makes you think I won’t go to McGonagall and tell her that you were in Hogsmeade today, eh?”

“Let me think,” Robin said, sarcastically putting a finger to her chin. “Oh yes, how about the fact that you were there too?

“Funny,” Claire said, happy that Robin was falling into her trap. “You sound as if you were expecting to run into me.”

Robin rolled her eyes.

“Woods, you are entirely too predictable,” she said, shooting a look over her shoulder. “Now will you let me through before someone else comes this way? I’d rather not be thrown out of Hogwarts today, thanks…”

Claire realized that Harry might be coming any minute and let Robin pass. But as she did so, something else hit her…

“Wait a minute…” she said, scrambling out of the witch’s hump after her. “How did you know someone else was coming?!”

“I never said I knew for sure. You assumed,” Robin said, slipping off her Invisibility Cloak and stuffing it into her bag, which was sitting next to the statue of the one-eyed witch. Eyeing Claire, she added, “You might want to take that off. Never know when someone might come by and see your head floating about in the middle of the hallway.”

I’m going to return this,” Claire said, throwing the hood back over her head, “and you should do the same with yours—”

“Return mine?” Robin asked, annoyed. “Whoever said this didn’t belong to me?”

“Well—”

“That’s your problem, Woods,” Robin said, walking through a door concealed behind a tapestry on her way to Gryffindor Tower. “You speak before you know the answer. And in response to your earlier question, about knowing someone was coming? Well, perhaps someone” –Here she looked directly at Claire, eerily, considering that she was invisible— “should stop leaving their books lying around.”

And with that she continued on her way, leaving Claire standing there awestruck with a tapestry flapping back in her face.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire wasn’t entirely sure how she made it back to the common room, up the boy’s staircase, into Harry’s trunk, and then back down again without being noticed, but hey, perhaps she was just gifted at this whole stealth thing. The important thing was that the Invisibility Cloak was now back where it belonged, no damage done.

Or so she thought…

Claire threw herself into an armchair, thinking hard. Ordinarily, she would have been furious with herself for leaving one of the Harry Potter books lying around for anyone in her dormitory to read, but that just wasn’t the case. In fact, as far she could recall, she never remembered ever leaving one of the books out anywhere more noticeable than her bedside table drawer. And even Robin, who put on a mean and sarcastic face, would not go snooping through her roommate’s belongings…

This only left one possibility: Robin was lying. Trying to cover something up, more likely. But the question was why…

Claire gasped, making a first year sitting nearby jump. As she apologized, she couldn’t help but give herself a pat on the back. The answer had hit her like a snowball in the face. It was completely obvious! She could have kicked herself for not realizing it before…

Without another thought in her head, she raced up the girl’s staircase and up to her dormitory to wait for Aquinas to return.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Brrr!!!”

Claire looked curiously at a small, fluffy snowball that had just landed on the windowsill. A moment later, she ducked to avoid the snow flying everywhere as Aquinas shook off his feathers.

“Can you believe this weather?!” he huffed indignantly as he shut the window behind him. “It’s horrendous! It’s going to take me weeks just to get all the snowflakes out of my ears!”

“Oh, you poor thing,” Claire said sarcastically.

Aquinas turned to glare at her. She was leaning back on her four-poster, tossing her Rememberall from hand to hand. The smoke inside it was as clear as glass.

Aquinas noticed this and grinned.

“I had something I wanted to ask you,” Claire said, grinning as well.

“Oh really?” Aquinas said, shuffling his tail feathers in a vain attempt to get an icicle off his rear end. “And what might that be?”

“Well, you remember a little while ago when we had that chat about how I’m stupid and never think about things before I act?” she said.

Aquinas sighed happily.

“Of course I remember!” he said, breaking the icicle off and throwing it into the fireplace. “There are so few memories I cherish in life. Lecturing imbeciles is one that I hold very dear to my heart.”

“Uh-huh,” Claire said, spinning the Rememberall on the tip of her finger. “Well, I just wanted to say that if you don’t like the cold, you better pack a sweater or something, because we’re going to be hiding out next week.”

Aquinas cocked a feathery, frost-bitten eyebrow.

“What the devil for?!” he demanded.

“Because if we stay at Hogwarts over Christmas, we’re going to create a few problems,” she said, tapping her finger on the book at her side.

Aquinas raised his eyebrows at her.

“I must admit, I’m impressed,” he said, shaking his head. “Anything else?”

“Yes, actually,” she replied, resuming her Rememberall-tossing. “I need you to tell me some things about my past, about why I’m an orphan and whatnot.”

“I can manage that,” Aquinas said, smirking in spite of himself. Claire could see he was thrilled that he was now working with someone who was actually using their brain.

“And one more thing,” Claire continued, sitting up and setting the glass ball down on her sheets.

“Do tell,” Aquinas said.

“You remember when you told me that it was a possibility that there could be other people in this story besides me?” Claire said slowly, wanting to savor the moment.

“I do recall saying something to that effect,” Aquinas said, warming his talons in front of the fire. “Why do you ask?”

“Is there any way you could check on that?” Claire said, tracing the surface of the Rememberall with her fingertip.

Aquinas stared at her.

“I don’t know,” he said, cocking his eyebrow once more. “I suppose I might be able to. But why?”

“Oh trust me,” Claire said, smiling broadly now, “it’s going to be, very, very important.”

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaa!! What the heck is Claire talking about?! Why exactly does she have to hide out over Christmas break?! And is Aquinas EVER going to get his feathers properly dried?! Okay, okay—you probably don’t care a great deal about that last one. But all the other stuff will be answered in the next chapter…plus much, much more...See you then! ^.~v

And a Happy Easter to everyone and their families! *hands everyone large eggs filled with yummy candy*]

Chapter 22: Hiding Out Holiday
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[a/n: Sorry for the long wait. School is really bearing down hard right now, my mom was really sick, blah blah blah. To make up for it, I’m going to sit here and write as many chapters as I can so I can upload them ASAP for you! Please enjoy.]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, but I do own this little ticket that tells me I can get Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at midnight on July 16th. *hugs the ticket* This thing is the key to all happiness, yes, yes it is…

Chapter 22: Hiding Out Holiday

“Lumos!”

Using the small amount of light at the tip of her wand, Claire looked down at her watch. Half-past two. She hopped out of bed just as Aquinas flew in through the doorway.

“Ready?” he whispered.

“Just a second,” Claire said, taking out a piece of parchment and a quill. Dipping the tip into a bottle of ink on the dresser, she scribbled a note to one of her roommates:

Ginny—I hope you have a very nice break! I just wanted to let you know I had a change of plans and will be going home for the holidays. Could you tell McGonagall for me? See you in the new year! ~Claire~

Aquinas landed on her shoulder and skimmed the note.

“That oughta do it,” he said with a nod. “Hurry, grab your things. We need to be heading out of here before anyone wakes up to catch the train.”

Claire threw her cloak about her shoulders and wrapped a thick scarf around her neck. Throwing a small bag with some clothes over her shoulder, she followed Aquinas down the staircase, through the common room, and out the portrait hole into a dark and silent corridor.

Luckily, they met no one as the traveled down several floors and to the large oak doors leading out to the grounds. Claire tugged one door open and Aquinas soared out into the night. She was about to follow, but she couldn’t help but take one last look back at the castle so appropriately decorated for the season.

“Merry Christmas, Hogwarts,” she said. She stepped onto the steps and the oak door swung shut mutely behind her.

Girl and bird made their way across the sloping lawns in the snow. Claire drew her cloak tighter around her. It was going to be a long two weeks, especially if she only had Aquinas to talk to. She wasn’t terribly distraught over this; she needed to get some answers from her small, feathery well of information.

The forest was looming nearer and nearer. Claire could see a small lantern alight in Hagrid’s small, wooden house. At least she would have some form of entertainment during her time there—it would be interesting to watch Hagrid tending to the grounds.

“This way,” Aquinas called back to her. He swooped into the branches of a giant fir tree as Claire marched into the forest. On the ground in the middle of a clearing was a package Aquinas had swiped from Hogsmeade. It contained a small tent just big enough to keep Claire from getting frostbite.

“Start putting that together,” Aquinas said, snapping the branch he was sitting on off the tree trunk. “I’m going to go cover up your tracks.”

“Alright,” Claire said obediently, untying the string holding the rough brown paper around the package. Successfully undoing the knot, Claire ripped off the remainder of the paper and went to go set the trash next to a nearby tree.

That was when she saw Buckbeak.

The Hippogriff was snoozing lazily about a hundred yards off in gamekeeper’s back garden. She could just barely make out the black color of his coat, and the fluffy white feathers of his wings. Hagrid seemed to have conjured a small fire to keep him warm as he dozed in his bed made of fresh snow. Claire wondered if he was enjoying the peaceful sleep as much as he should have been, for in a few months time this creature would start a chase that would last two long years while a wrongfully accused fugitive road upon his back…

Claire edged along the trees until only a mighty oak and a snowdrift stood between her and the bizarre creature. She smiled through the low hanging, frost-covered branches. Hagrid was right; if you looked at it properly, it was easy to see the Hippogriff's true beauty.

While trying to position herself were she could get a better look at the supposed “beast,” a twig snapped beneath her foot, making Claire wince. Buckbeak’s neck rose upright into the air, curious as to what in the forest would dare be disturbing his evening rest.

Claire looked around at Hagrid’s hut. She could see a large, patchwork quilt moving slowly up and down to the rhythmic breathing of the body it was keeping warm on this wintry evening. The gamekeeper was sound asleep.

She stepped out from behind the tree, taking two cautious steps forward before stopping. For a moment, the pair did nothing but stare at each other. Then, gazing into Buckbeak’s fiery orange eyes, Claire lowered herself into an elegant bow.

Hardly breathing, Claire watched as the creature lowered its feathery neck into the snow.

Calmly, she moved forward, dusting the snow bank lightly out of the way of Hagrid’s garden gate. She vaulted it gracefully, and stopped just short of Buckbeak, the hem of her cloak flowing lightly over the snow glittering underneath the twinkling stars.

“Hello, Buckbeak,” she said, patting his beak kindly.

He blinked at her, sleep in his eyes still from waking but a minute before. Then he opened his beak wide in a yawn, laying his head back down in the snowdrift he’d been using as a pillow. His eyes began to close lazily into another quiet slumber, but as if coming to his senses, he allowed one eyelid to droop but the other he kept wide open, a large fiery eyeball staring directly at Claire.

She stroked his feathers lovingly, saying, “Don’t trust me, huh? I’m sorry. Very, sorry that you had to be locked up like this. But don’t you worry, you’ll be free soon.”

Claire could have sworn that Buckbeak’s eye rolled as if to say, “Yeah right.” She chuckled.

“You and Aquinas would get along nicely, I think,” she said, dusting some snow off of one of his wings. Spotting the chain around his neck, she sighed, “I wish I could take you flying…”

Speaking of flying, she thought as she heard an owl swoop overhead. She sighed up at it, knowing that she’d better get back to her hiding place before Aquinas found her missing.

“Well, I best be going, Buckbeak,” she muttered. “That bird might be small, but he’s got a temper that could shatter windows if provoked properly.”

She stood to go, but as she did so she noticed that the fire Buckbeak was seated by was nothing but smoldering ash. Reaching into her robes, she retrieved her wand and pointed it at the glowing embers.

“Ignito!” she muttered as two orange flames shot out of the tip of her wand with two small pops. Moments later, a small fire was crackling gently by her feet and Buckbeak was sound asleep.

“Sweet dreams, Buckbeak,” Claire whispered, blowing him a kiss. She was just clambering over the gate when she heard Aquinas crash land into his fir tree.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Aquinas’s eyes blinked open to some fresh morning sunlight. Apparently, the light reflecting off the fresh, glittery snow was a bit much for his eyes, seeing as Claire heard a loud “GAH!” and something small and feathery fall into a snow bank.

“Nice to see you finally up, sleepyhead!” Claire said cheerfully, plucking him out of the snow by his tail.

“Put me down! Put me down!” Aquinas squealed, squirming free.

“C’mon, Scrooge, cheer up!” Claire continued, munching on a home-made snow cone. “It is Christmas after all!”

“It is not!” Aquinas argued, hopping over to the fire in attempt to gain more warmth. “Not for three more days! And until then, it’s just winter and cold—which I hate. And—AH, IT’S GOT ME! IT’S GOT ME!”

Claire spun around and cocked an eyebrow at the scene. Aquinas had apparently been sitting too close to the fire, because his tail feathers were now slightly on fire and he was hopping around in panicky circles. She rolled her eyes and threw a rather large snowball at him. Aquinas was nowhere to be seen under the ball of fluffy white, but Claire detected a small sizzling noise like a flame being extinguished.

“You’re welcome,” she said to the pile of snow.

“Harry! Slow down!”

Claire turned around and peered around the trunk of the fir tree. Reaching into her cloak, she pulled out her ominoculars and fiddled with the knobs until the person who had shouted became focused. Ron and Hermione were trudging as quickly as the could after Harry, who was practically leaping across the snow in the direction of Hagrid’s hut, which was about fifty yards away from were Claire presently stood.

She sighed and lowered the ominoculars. They were right on cue to find out the bad news about Buckbeak’s trial. If only they knew that everything would work out okay, then that would be one less worry on their chest.

As Claire gazed into the ominoculars once more, she heard a loud sputtering noise behind her as Aquinas emerged gasping from underneath the snow.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU GET—” he began to shout.

“Shut up!” Claire hissed over her shoulder. “Harry and co are heading this way.”

Aquinas shook off his feathers in a dog-like fashion as Claire bent down to dig Prisoner of Azkaban out of her knapsack. The owl surveyed the damage of his singed tail feathers as if it was the end of the world while Claire seated herself comfortably in the snow and turned to the proper page.

An angry fist thumping on a solid wood door was heard, shortly followed by Harry shouting, “Hagrid! Hagrid, are you in there?”

“It took me weeks to get my tail professionally trimmed!” Aquinas was whining loudly. “It’ll never grow back as nicely—”

“Pipe down, I can’t hear,” Claire snapped, as Hagrid began to wail loudly.

“How can you not hear that?!” Aquinas said, plugging his ears so they wouldn’t throb with the sound of Hagrid expressing his sorrow. “Sirius can probably hear it from where he is, which is nowhere close by, mind you—”

Claire heard Hagrid’s cabin door shut as Ron and Hermione helped Harry ease Hagrid back into his hut. She stared in the direction of the wooden cabin, tuning Aquinas out as he continued to complain about his feathers and the inconvenience of hiding out in the winter and so on. A cold wind blew Claire’s long hair all around her as she sat in thoughtful silence. This really wasn’t going to be the trio’s most cheerful Christmas.

“—and as long as you’ve got that book open,” Aquinas was saying, “you might as well check and see if a certain redhead went home for the holidays or not—”

“Already did,” Claire said, flipping the pages casually, still half entranced by her thoughts. “Ginny took the train home this morning, or at least nothing indicates that she’s still here. I imagine she would have tagged along with them or been in the common room this morning at some point if she had stayed.” She tapped the book, indicating that she had already read through the chapter they were in again to make sure that Ginny wasn’t mentioned anywhere in its contents.

“Good,” Aquinas said, still surveying his burnt rear end with a look of disgust on his face. “That’s one less thing we’ll have to worry about.”

And as Claire pressed the ominoculars to her eyes and stared through the trees to where Buckbeak the Hippogriff was playing in the snow, it suddenly hit her what a big job she had. Even though she was trying to change a few things around and save a few lives, she still needed to make sure that those who hadn’t died yet remained alive as long as she was here.

“Yeah,” Claire muttered to herself. “One less thing…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Much to Claire and Aquinas’s dismay, the week was passing by very slowly. Seeing as so few students had stayed behind this year for the holiday season, the only person they really saw walking along the grounds was Hagrid trudging up to the castle for the occasional meal or chat with Dumbledore. The trio wasn’t outside because they were all in the library trying to help Hagrid out by finding some information for Buckbeak’s trial, and it seemed the temperature kept dropping lower and lower by the hour. It was setting up to be a bleak holiday…

Apart from lolling about in their clearing working on some homework or trying to see how few words she could say to make Aquinas yell at her, Claire had the evenings to look forward to. Although the tent was warm and cozy, Claire much preferred to sit outside underneath the stars next to Buckbeak while he slept quietly next to her. He was very good company, and had even learned to trust her enough that she could cuddle close to his feathers for warmth in the chill of the night. He was like an oversized puppy she wished she could take home with her.

Late on the night of Christmas Eve, Claire was tossing a few wood chips into the fire while Buckbeak rested his head in her lap. She stroked his head lovingly, once again thinking about what a huge job she had and how a lot of pressure was now on her not to mess things up for Harry and his friends. Despite herself, a small tear rolled gracefully down her cheek.

“Frostbite finally got your toes?”

Claire looked up to see Aquinas perched on a crooked fencepost. To her surprise, he didn’t seem angry that she was sitting in Hagrid’s garden, stroking a bird of sorts that was much larger than himself.

“No,” Claire said, drying her cheek with a corner of her cloak. “Just thinking.”

Aquinas nodded, staring into the fire. He seemed to have something to say, but was looking for the right words.

“I tried to check on that other people in the story thing for you a couple hours ago,” Aquinas said finally. “It’s classified information, so naturally they wouldn’t give it to me.”

“That’s fine,” Claire said, resting her head on Buckbeak’s shoulder and gazing into the fire as well. “I was just wondering.”

“And—er—well, do you want me to tell you about your history and everything?” Aquinas asked awkwardly. “Of your character, I mean?”

“Oh,” Claire said. “Sure, why not.”

Aquinas cleared his throat.

“Well, you’re an orphan, as you already know,” Aquinas said matter-of-factly. “You’re parents were a wizard and muggle woman. Both were murdered at the hands of death eaters shortly after the fall of the Dark Lord.”

Claire nodded mutely. After a moment, she asked, “The Gregorys killed them, right? Robin’s mom and dad?”

Aquinas stared at her, shocked that she knew such detailed information.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, they were,” Aquinas said. “How did you know that?”

“Lucky guess,” Claire shrugged. “And that answers my question about other people being in the story, too. I had a feeling that Robin knew a little more than she was letting on…”

“Oh.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Claire broke the silence once again.

“It’s just hit me what a big responsibility I have, Aquinas,” Claire said, voicing her fears aloud to her friend.

Aquinas snorted.

“Well, you’re only several weeks late in realizing that, but hey, better late than never,” he said with a shrug.

“I’m being serious here, Quin,” she said, her voice shaking with cold. “I’m scared. What if I screw something up and something awful happens to someone who was supposed to be safe?”

Aquinas sighed.

“Well, Claire, you can only do so much,” Aquinas said by means of trying to give some good advice. “Don’t lose any sleep over things that haven’t happened yet. Besides, you have me to help you out, and I promise I’m going to do whatever I can to make things easier for ya, okay?”

Claire was astounded that he was being so pleasant and concerned. She smiled at him weakly.

“Thanks, Aquinas,” she said. “That makes me feel a little bit better.”

“Damn right it should,” Aquinas said, puffing out his chest. “I’m the best in the business!”

She chuckled, motioning for Aquinas to come over and sit with her and Buckbeak. He landed gratefully on her knee and before the fire before them smoldered into a dull ash again, Aquinas was snuggled up in the fold of her cloak fast asleep.

Gently as she could, Claire set Buckbeak’s feathery head back down into the snow and rekindled the fire. Just as she was about to stand up to go back to the tent, a bell chimed somewhere in the village. Midnight. She looked down at the little bird in her lap.

“Merry Christmas, Aquinas,” she whispered.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAaaa! *giggles* I thought I’d be nice and end the chapter on a cute note rather than in my usual cliffhanger fashion. Anyway, questions! Will Claire be able to calm down from the sudden realization of her responsibility? Did everything happen as it was supposed to during the holidays up at the school? Will Aquinas’s tail ever be the same again?! *winks* I’ll see you very soon with the next chapter so you can find out…]


Chapter 23: Post Holiday Blues
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[a/n: Hello, hello, everyone! You know, it’s just occurred to me how annoying these notes must be for those of you who were just starting to read this maybe tonight or yesterday, and you have to listen to me ramble every time you click to go to the next chapter! Haha, my apologies to those of you who are finding that annoying…and to everyone else: HEY!]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own the gum that’s in my mouth at this very moment as I’m typing this Disclaimer. That is, unless anyone else wants it? Nope, didn’t think so…^.~v

Chapter 23: Post Holiday Blues

“I appreciate the feast of a dinner you’ve brought me, little fellow.”

The small owl hooted graciously in reply. Desperate to get away from Claire, who was so bored hanging out in a tent all day that she had taken to hexing the trees nearby to change into brilliant shades of neon colors at random, Aquinas decided to bring a little bit of Christmas dinner to Sirius. Since he was just an owl, and a tiny one at that, it was simple for him to sneak back into the castle every now and then for a little extra food and perhaps a nice nap in the Owlery. In fact, he quite enjoyed doing this, simply because he enjoyed the look on the girl’s face when she couldn’t come along. Oh, how he loved torturing her!

Sirius sunk his teeth into a turkey leg, chewing happily as he said, “I would have had a very lonely holiday if you hadn’t dropped by again. Not that I ever had much on the holidays…not since…”

He trailed off. Aquinas frowned. He knew Sirius was thinking about his friends who had passed on many years before. Although Aquinas often tried hard not to get attached to the characters in the stories he inhabited, he couldn’t help feeling a bit sad that the cheerful young group of marauders had never got to spend a proper Christmas together.

Sirius forced a smile onto his rugged face.

“You don’t seem to be having such a jolly time either, my friend,” Sirius said.

He was pointing at the owl’s singed tail feathers. Aquinas sulked. It was hard to be comforting and helpful with half your tail missing. He wasn’t sure why; it just was!

Sirius chuckled, “Well, I hope things go better for you. After all you’ve done for me these past couple months, the least I can do is wish you happier days.”

If you could just promise not to die you’d make my days considerably happier, Aquinas thought, thinking longingly of the days before he had met a certain girl by the name of Woods whose goal in life was to save a fictional person’s life. How sad, indeed.

Growing disheartened from their little talk, Aquinas nibbled the ragged man’s boot and flew out of the cave, remembering all too quickly how much he loathed the cold.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Pleeeeeeeeeeease?”

“I said no.”

A moment’s pause pursued.

Pretty please?”

“What difference does it make if your request is attractive or not? I said no!”

Silence.

“What if I just went—”

“NO!”

Claire sighed and stared out the opening of their little heated tent longingly. She had been trying to convince Aquinas to let her fly one of the school’s brooms in the Quidditch shed up to Gryffindor Tower just to peak in a window and see what was going on.

“If you are so curious as to what’s going on,” Aquinas persisted, using a nail file to perfect his already perfect talons, “why don’t you just open that handy little book over there and read about it?

Claire narrowed her eyes at her obsessive compulsive little friend. She had been checking her book every hour on the hour and nothing had been altered. But still, Aquinas knew perfectly well she just wanted to watch events play out. It was a thousand times more fun than sitting in a tent watching a bird clipping his toenails.

Having witnessed quite enough of Aquinas’s odd hygiene habits for one day, Claire exited the tent and flopped quietly down into a snowdrift. She sighed boredly. Only a few more days and she could go back to the castle…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

On the second day of January, Aquinas and Claire merged into the mob of students trudging back into the castle from Hogsmeade Station. Most them seemed generally in good spirits, but none more so than Claire. It was so nice to be among people again!

She felt a tap on her back and turned around to see Bethany, who was wrapped in a new scarf and hat that were made out of the same purple material. No doubt these were a Christmas gift from a certain jolly old man in a red suit.

“I’m so glad to see you!” Claire said, feeling that no truer words had ever passed her lips. She embraced Bethany in a tight hug.

“Good to see you too,” Bethany laughed. “How was your holiday? We got your note in the morning, Ginny and I. I thought you hated to spend your breaks at the orphanage?”

Claire grinned guiltily.

“Erm—well, I didn’t exactly go home for Christmas…” she muttered, shifting her eyes back and forth so that her friend would catch on.

Bethany’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.

“You mean you stayed here?” she asked loudly, Claire having to check to see who was listening and shush her. “But where?! I mean, you weren’t in the dorm in the morning—”

Claire cast a sideways glance towards the trees in the distance. Bethany’s eyes narrowed.

“You’re a fool!” she said bluntly. “Why didn’t you just come stay at my house? Or anyone’s house for that matter? I mean—the forest?! You’re nuts!”

“Hey now!” Claire said, blushing slightly. “I had some things I needed to take care of.” She glanced behind her once again to see if anyone was paying attention to them and then lowered her voice as she added, “Important things.

“Oh…” Bethany said, catching on. “Well, alright then. But your cheeks sure are pink! Are you sure you feel okay?”

“Never better!” Claire said with a grin.

Secretly though, Claire knew she hadn’t been up to anything that couldn’t have been done quietly while staying at the warm residence of one her friends. It really was the obvious thing to have done! But, after reflection, Claire decided in defense of her stupid (and very cold) hiding place—at the very least there was no need to worry about messing anything up. While Claire was in isolation, the story was guaranteed safe.

They made their way up to the common room along with their fellow Gryffindors. Immediately, Claire surveyed the scene. Harry and Ron were sitting on one side, Harry pretending to read Flying with the Cannons and Ron glaring across the room, and Hermione was sitting on the opposite side, taking notes out of a large book and pretending she didn’t notice a certain red-head glaring at her back. Everything seemed to be perfectly in order.

Claire and Bethany went up to their dormitory to drop off their things and found Ginny and Robin both already there, loading clothes and personal items back into their proper places.

“Hello Robin! Hi Ginny!” Claire said, flinging her knapsack onto her bed. “Have a nice Christmas?”

“Yes, it was great, thank you!” Ginny said, pointing to her brand new, bright blue Weasley sweater.

“It was fine, thanks,” Robin said, not bothering to look up from her nightstand where she was loading fresh ink and quills into a drawer.

Something funny struck Claire at that moment. If she was right in thinking that Robin had also received the Gift and was sucked into the Harry Potter books like herself, then where did she go over the holidays? Claire made a mental note to find this out later and returned to unloading her own belongings.

After dinner, most of the Gryffindors were lolling about in the common room, discussing what they got for Christmas and trying to finish up all the homework they had put off over the break. Claire, who had had more than enough time to complete her assignments, was sitting in a corner reading Prisoner of Azkaban (which she had cleverly hidden under the book cover of Quidditch Through the Ages) and watching everyone else go about their business. She loved being in such a crowded, happy environment again!

Claire looked over towards the fire and saw Harry and Ron playing a game of chess when Oliver Wood approached them. Although she couldn’t hear them over the noise, she followed along in her book to their conversation:

“Had a good Christmas?” he said, and then, without waiting for an answer, he sat down, lowered his voice, and said, “I’ve been doing some thinking over Christmas, Harry. After last match, you know. If the dementors come to the next one…I mean…we can’t afford you to—well—”

“I’m working on it,” said Harry quickly. “Professor Lupin said he’d train me to ward off the dementors. We should be starting this week. He said he’d have time after Christmas.”


“Good book?” someone said.

Claire looked up. Robin was standing next to her, arms folded and a smirk upon her face.

“Very,” Claire answered, shutting it promptly. “I was meaning to ask you—how was your Christmas break? Was it as cold and snowy as mine?”

“Just about,” Robin replied. “Although, it doesn’t really snow much in the Room of Requirement.”

Claire was sure her realization showed all over her face. The Room of Requirement?! Man, Aquinas was right—she was an idiot!

“I had some business to attend to,” Claire said defensively, referring to her time with Buckbeak and conversations with Aquinas. Some business…

“Yeah, well, don’t we all,” Robin said, seating herself in the chair across from Claire. “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to figure out that I was in the story as well. I knew you had the Gift about two seconds after you first tried to talk to me and your attitude had supremely changed.”

“Well, I must admit,” Claire said honestly, “you through me off with that whole story about your parents in the hospital wing. You know, what you told me about the dementors coming to get you from your house when you were younger?”

“I wasn’t lying about that,” Robin said, cocking an eyebrow. “That really is what happened to the Gregorys in the story.”

“Well, I know that,” Claire said in an exasperated voice. “But I meant the fact that you described it all so vividly! I mean—how is it you have all those memories? I know what happened to my fictional parents but I certainly don’t have any memories of it…”

Robin shrugged, “I read about it in the library. There’s a big book of old Daily Prophet clippings from when the Dark Lord was in power and right after his downfall. The entire story of your parents’ murder and my parents’ trial is in there in great detail.”

“Wow, smart of you,” Claire said sincerely.

“If you use the resources around you, Woods, you’ll spend less time running in circles and more time actually doing what you came here to do,” Robin commented, leaning back against the armchair and cracking her neck.

Claire starred at Robin quizzically, another question popping into her mind.

“So…what exactly did you come here to do, then?” she asked.

Robin looked up without blinking.

“To save the life of a certain Snuffles,” she said simply.

Claire nodded and replied, “Me too.”

Robin nodded also, and then chuckled to herself.

“What?” Claire asked curiously. “What did I do now?”

“Nothing!” Robin said. “It’s just that—well, I just realized—you know how we’re not really supposed to change the plot or anything major, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, if we aren’t supposed to screw anything up, and the Bestower of each of our Gifts knew what we were coming here to do…how come they still let us into the story?”

Claire had to hand it to her; that was a good question.

“I don’t know…” Claire said, thinking. “Maybe—maybe Sirius wasn’t supposed to die. Do you think—no—I mean—can it be possible that maybe because someone came into the story, Sirius was killed? And maybe they let us come back here to try and fix it?”

Robin shrugged again, saying, “Your guess is as good as mine, Woods. Although, that does sound like a fairly decent guess.”

“I can check on that,” Claire said, taking out a quill and writing a large ‘A’ on her hand so she would remember to ask Aquinas. “I have connections.”

“Alright,” Robin agreed. “Sounds like a good idea.”

There was a moment’s quiet between them before Robin spoke up again.

“Now, I’m assuming you’ve realized that you really can’t take Patronus lessons with Lupin, right?” she asked, as if Claire should have thought of this long ago.

Claire gulped. As much as she knew that witnessing Harry’s Patronus lessons would be way too personal and could get very complicated, that didn’t dissolve her desire to learn the spell entirely, let alone have private lessons with her favorite Hogwarts professor.

Robin’s eyes narrowed at the expression on Claire’s face.

“Think about it, Woods,” Robin said logically. “Think of all the trouble you would cause. And furthermore, think of all the trouble you’ve already caused.”

“You sound like Aquinas!” Claire said hotly, tired of being lectured every five minutes. “What’s the point of having the Gift if we can’t even experience the story, anyway?!”

Robin shook her head and stood up.

“It’s not a matter of how much you get to witness and involve yourself in the story,” Robin said, “it’s how much you love it not to.”

With that, she left and headed up the girl’s staircase.

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAaaa!!! What did Robin mean by her last statement?! Will Claire actually consider Robin’s advice?! Why was this chapter so boring?! My apologies about that last one—I was going to tell you all about Claire’s decision in this chapter, but it accidentally got a little too long because I had some clues to plant and some things to explain. Hope it wasn’t too dull for you! I’ll be back soon with a new chapter, although exams are in two weeks, so cut me some slack if I don’t update too much before then! Thanks, you guys, you rock!]

This just occured to me--did you guys know that I've been writing this story for an entire YEAR now?! Wow! Hardly seems true! Special thanks to those of you who have been there, reading and reviewing, since the very beginning: Miguel, mandymallason, LunaJ (Love ya, Mags! ^.^), and Contrarian (Love ya, Judgey, thanks for always reviewing on both sites! ^.~) are a few names that come to mind (although I'm sure there's more). You rock, guys, thanks for putting up with my nonsense for so long! ^_^

Chapter 24: Expecto Patronum
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[a/n: Howdy partners! *waves cowboy hat in the air* How’d all ya’ll guys ‘n gals like to feast yer eyes upon a root’n toot’n new chapter from Weasley Freckles?! Round up them doggies and hi-ho Silver, ‘cuz heeeeeeeere we go! *rides off into the sunset*]

(This has been a random moment from Weasley Freckles. You may now read on. Thank you for your cooperation. This message will now self-destruct…boom.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Please stop rubbing it in. Thank you.

(A QUICK NOTE: Those of you who like to figure out what I’m doing before I actually tell you, you might want to have your Prisoner of Azkaban close at hand when you read this. Chapter 12: The Patronus will prove most helpful to you. That’s all I’m going to say…boom…again.)

Chapter 24: Expecto Patronum

It was the early hours of Monday morning, and Claire was staring at the top of her four-poster, tossing her Rememberall from hand to hand and thinking. Once again, the smoke within the glass had turned a brilliant shade of scarlet. Something wasn’t right. But what?

“No…No!...Keep away from my feathers!...I’ll bite ya, I will…Bite your bloody fingers off…Zzzzz…”

Claire narrowed her eyes at Aquinas. The little fellow was asleep on the perch on her nightstand, obviously in the middle of some sort of cleanliness nightmare. She should have purchased him a checker set for Christmas, she thought. He could us another hobby besides obsessive grooming.

She resumed her blank staring as soon as Aquinas resumed his snoring. Mostly her thoughts were on what Robin had last said to her: It’s not a matter of how much you get to witness and involve yourself in the story, it’s a matter of how much you love it not to.

Was Robin accusing her of not really caring about the story? That wasn’t true at all! She loved it with all her heart and soul. No one or nothing had been a better friend to her over the years than her Harry Potter books. Claire remembered how she used to sit in the back of classrooms, her nose stuck in a book because it was a much more appealing alternative than talking to her classmates. She sighed and looked around at her sleeping roommates. That was very different now…Hogwarts had given her real friends…Just like it gave Harry his.

A brick of lead seemed to drop into her stomach. Harry. Harry would be starting Patronus lessons on Thursday. Today was Monday. She relaxed and closed her eyes. She had plenty of time to figure out what she wanted to do…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire yawned widely as she entered the Great Hall a few hours later. She hadn’t slept all that well; she kept dreaming about stags and dementors and a certain shaggy black dog.

“G’morning, everyone,” Claire said, seating herself opposite Ginny and Bethany.

“Hey,” they said in unison, shoveling oatmeal into their mouths.

Claire was just about to take a bite out of her toast and marmalade when she sighed and set the bread back down on her plate. She couldn’t take it! Why was it such a big deal if she went to the Patronus lessons or not?! After all, Harry had been happy to hear she was going too. He said it would make the whole experience easier on him if someone else was there trying to learn as well. Besides—maybe being in the room could give Robin and Claire some more information or ideas on how to save Sirius? It was crazy…just crazy enough to maybe convince Robin to let her go…

She looked up and down the table, and once again saw Robin sitting alone far to her right. Now was the time for action.

“I’ll be right back,” Claire said to her breakfast mates.

“Okay,” Ginny and Bethany said at the same time once again. Jeez, they made Ron’s eating habits look almost humane this morning the way they were inhaling that oatmeal!

Claire walked briskly to the other end of the Gryffindor table and sat down right beside Robin, who didn’t look up from the Daily Prophet that seemed to be mesmerizing her.

“What do you want, Woods?” she asked by means of a greeting.

“Look, Robin,” Claire said, trying to be businesslike about the whole thing, “you know I’m already in the books. Harry knows who I am and he knows I’m taking the lessons on Thursday with him. Don’t you think it would be a little suspicious if I just cut out now? Wouldn’t Harry notice and want to know why I didn’t go?”

Robin was at the point of lifting a glass of pumpkin juice to her lips, but stopped in mid-sigh. Apparently her drink lost its glamour, for she set it back down on the table.

“Woods, I’m not your babysitter,” Robin said, crisply folding the Prophet along its creases and sliding it into her bag. “Do whatever you please. It’s your Gift, after all.”

She stood up quickly, flicking her long blonde hair in Claire’s face. She was walking quickly out of the Hall, but Claire was right on her heels.

“You’re going to give me crap if I go, aren’t you?” Claire shouted at Robin’s retreating back. “You’re going to call me selfish and ignorant if I go to something I already promised I’d go to!”

“If you jump to many more conclusions you’ll be jumping off a cliff,” Robin commented, starting up the marble staircase.

“C’mon, admit it!” Claire continued, fuming. “You think you’re better than I am just because you haven’t messed up! Just because you haven’t been mentioned in the books, you think you’re more clever than I am!”

Robin stopped dead in her tracks, spinning around on her heel to face Claire. Her eyes were menacing black slits.

“I never said I hadn’t been in the books before, Woods,” she muttered darkly.

Claire blinked, confused.

“But—but you said—”

“No, I didn’t,” Robin said coldly. “You assumed.”

And for the second time in less than twelve hours, Robin Gregory left Claire standing there, bewildered by something she had said.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Thursday rolled around a lot quicker than Claire would have preferred, but alas, there was no control over something as powerful as time. Even her classes seemed to fly right on by without so much as a blink of an eye, as if the sun was taunting her by trying to set as early as possible. She just wasn’t cut out to handle all this pressure!

Needing some time alone to think, Claire didn’t go down to dinner with Ginny and Bethany, but instead sat quietly in front of the fire, making a futile attempt at her Potions essay. It wasn’t long though before ‘Proper Potion Thickness and it’s Importance in Brewing’ was interrupted by a tap on her shoulder.

“Hi,” the intruder said, smiling politely.

“Hello, Harry,” Claire replied, her mouth unusually dry. She swallowed. “Something I can do for you?”

“Well, actually,” Harry said, scratching his ear in a distracted manner, “I’m sorry I didn’t catch you earlier, but—er—you know, those dementor lessons Lupin promised us? They start at eight—that is, if you still want to go. Just thought I’d tell you.”

Claire nodded, saying, “Okay, thanks Harry.” She then returned her attention the three-foot essay she was supposed to be composing.

Harry stared at her blankly.

“So…” he asked. “Are you—er—going? To the lessons?”

Claire could have kicked him. She was trying so hard to resist the temptation of learning one of the most complicated spells in the wizarding universe, and here he was, repeatedly asking if she was planning on going. Gah!

“Um…” she started, trying to think of how she should respond. “Well, I don’t really know. You see, I’ve got tons of work to do, and I’m not really sure I’d be all that good at it anyway—”

“Well, of course you’re not now,” Harry said, cutting her off. “I mean, that’s the whole point of Lupin teaching us—so we’ll get better at it.”

She sighed, growing increasingly irritated. Couldn’t he just be quiet?!

“Yeah…but…No, I don’t think so, Harry,” she concluded quickly. “I really need to finish this essay for Snape.”

Harry’s eyes looked a little crestfallen behind his glasses.

“Oh…” he said. “Well, okay then.”

He turned about and exited the portrait hole. Claire sighed, tapping her quill on the table top and wiggling her knee up and down. Well…if she really wanted to go, the excuse she gave Robin Monday at breakfast would suffice, wouldn’t it? Yes, yes. It was a silly question. Of course it would! After all, she was in complete control of her decisions—why was she letting Robin influence her? It was completely ridiculous! She was about to throw away the chance of a lifetime and for what?! Someone who couldn’t even look her in the eye because they believed themselves more superior than she?! Yeah right!

“What am I doing?” she said to no one in particular. She stood up abruptly, bumping her knee on the table she had been sitting cross-legged under. “Ouch! Harry! Harry, wait!”

She ran out the portrait hole and into the corridor. She looked left and right. How did he walk so fast??

Claire began sprinting as fast as she could toward the History of Magic classroom. Hopefully, Lupin wouldn’t start without her…

“W—wait!” she sputtered, coming to a halt in front of a large door on the second floor. “Wait professor!”

She reached out for the door handle only to find it missing, for Professor Lupin had just twisted the knob and opened it, staring at her curiously.

“Good evening, Claire!” he said with a kind smile. “I was wondering where you were! Harry and I were just about to begin!”

“S—sorry, professor,” Claire said, still gasping for air. “I was running a—a little late—”

“No worries,” Lupin said, opening the door wider and gesturing for her to enter the room. “You haven’t missed a thing!”

Harry was standing in the middle of the room, staring at a large packing case on Professor Binns’s desk. He looked up when Claire entered the room and grinned.

“Change your mind?” he asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, not caring to be teased when she would have rather concentrate on breathing properly.

“Now, as I was just explaining to Harry, Claire,” Lupin said, shutting the door behind them and walking over to where they were standing, “we won’t be using a real dementor in here. I’ve managed to get a hold of a boggart for us to use for now, and I think it will do quite nicely. I know you probably haven’t had a lot of experience with these creatures, Claire, but they are really quite simple to understand—”

“You’d be surprised, Professor Lupin,” Claire said, smiling knowingly at her teacher.

“Oh?” he asked.

“I happen to have had some experience with boggarts,” she replied, her eyes twinkling with secrets. “Similar to those I’ve had with pixies.”

“I see,” said Lupin. Harry looked bewildered. “Well, you are truly a young witch ahead of her education, Miss Woods! This makes my evening much simpler…

“So,” he said, taking out his wand and indicating to Claire and Harry to do the same. “The spell I am going to try and teach you is highly advanced magic—well beyond your Ordinary Wizarding Level. It is called the—”

“—Patronus Charm,” Claire finished for him.

Both Lupin and Harry turned to stare at her.

“I’ve read about them,” Claire said, thinking quick on her feet. “Although, I am kind of confused about them.”

“How does it work?” Harry asked, sounding a little apprehensive.

“Well, when it works correctly, it conjures up a Patronus,” said Lupin. “Which is a kind of anti-dementor—a guardian that acts as a shield between you and the dementor.”

“I see,” Claire chimed in, making a resolution to be quiet from then on lest she get herself into trouble.

Professor Lupin went on, “The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon—hope, happiness, the desire to survive—but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the dementors can’t hurt it. But I must warn the two of you, the charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it.”

“What does a Patronus look like?” asked Harry curiously.

“Each one is unique to the wizard, or witch, that conjures it,” Lupin answered.

Claire had a sudden rush of excitement, wondering what her Patronus would resemble should she be able to conjure it.

“And how do you conjure it?” Harry questioned.

“With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.”

“Right,” said Harry, thinking about happy memories. Claire was thinking as well, although her happiest memory wasn’t really a hard one to choose; she almost immediately settled on the moment she had fallen into the Entrance Hall and realized she was at Hogwarts.

“The incantation is—” Lupin said wearily, clearing his throat, “Expecto patronum!

“Expecto patronum,” Harry repeated.

“Expecto patronum…” Claire muttered, concentrating hard on the exact way it felt when her knees buckled and she was staring at the marble staircase for the first time.

“Shall we try it without the boggart first?” Lupin suggested. Claire and Harry nodded, readying their wands.

“On the count of three then. One…two…three!”

“Expecto patronum!” Harry and Claire said clearly.

Two wisps of smoke emerged from the tips of their wands.

“Alright!” said Claire happily.

“Did you see that?” said Harry excitedly. “Something happened!”

“Very good,” Lupin said, clapping his hands together a single time, looking slightly worried but smiling nonetheless. “Alright then—which one of you would like to try first? Remember, this is just practice, there is absolutely no pressure whatsoever.”

Claire stopped being excited for a moment to think about the question. What would change if she went before Harry? Or after Harry for that matter?

“You go ahead,” Harry said to her. “I’m still thinking.”

“Um—well, if you’re sure…” Claire said uncertainly, fiddling with her wand and staring from the case on the desk to Harry.

“I’m sure, go ahead,” Harry replied, trying to give her an encouraging look, but failing miserably in his own nervousness.

“Okay then…” Claire said, taking a step forward. “Ready when you are, professor…”

“Concentrating hard on your memory?” Lupin asked, grasping the lid of the case firmly as Harry moved to stand beside him.

Claire nodded, afraid to speak for fear that she would lose her concentration.

Lupin pulled the lid off the case and a dementor rose slowly, eerily, from it’s depths. Immediately, the room was consumed in darkness as the lamps and candles blew out in a chilling wind. Claire tried to focus.

“Expecto patronum!” she shouted. “Expecto—Ex—Expecto pa…”

The room around her was dissolving. A scabbed and skeletal hand was reaching toward her, consuming all of her confidence and consciousness.

And then…she heard it…the voice she had heard at the Quidditch stadium nearly a month before when the dementors had come to Harry’s match…

“This isn’t Harry’s fault!” She was screaming at someone. “It’s mine—all mine!”

“You speak lies!” a cold voice said fiercely. “You are just a silly girl, and a dead one at that if you do not remove yourself from my path—”

“You don’t understand!” Claire yelled desperately at whoever it was. “Sirius! Sirius! Help me, Sirius!”

“STAND ASIDE! NOW!! AVADA—!”


“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Her eyes snapped open. Her breathing was coming in short, heavy gasps and her robes were drenched in a cold sweat. She was lying spread-eagled on the floor, twitching convulsively.

“Claire! Claire! Are you alright?!”

Someone was shouting at her. But who? Where was she? What was she doing on the floor? It was rather cold on the floor. She didn’t much care for it, but she couldn’t get up. It was as if an invisible hand was pushing her down. She wished it would stop.

“Harry, there’s a chocolate bar on the desk. Get it, quickly!”

She heard footsteps hurrying away from her. A moment later, she heard someone kneel beside her and something crisp snapping in half.

“Chew, Claire, c’mon…”

Something sweet was on her tongue, she could taste it. It was warm and good. It tasted like…like happiness.

Suddenly, Claire stopped twitching and snapped back to her senses. Harry and Lupin were leaning over her, Lupin shoving chocolate into her mouth while Harry held her head upright. Shakily, she swallowed the candy in her mouth.

“Wh—what happened?” she asked.

“Here, sit up,” Professor Lupin said. Claire clutched Lupin’s shoulder and Harry gave her a gentle push and took her hand to pull her up. “Easy now…”

“What was that—that voice?” Claire said, trying swallow but finding her mouth rather dry. Her hair was sticking to her face she was sweating so much. “That voice…it was going to…to kill someone…”

“There wasn’t any voice, Claire,” Lupin said, looking solemn. “You must have not been concentrating hard enough on your memory—the dementor got to your bad memory instead.”

“But—but that wasn’t a memory of mine!” Claire insisted, shaking her head. “And—and I was focused, Professor Lupin, I really was—”

“Will you relax?” Harry injected into the conversation. It wasn’t until then that Claire realized she was gripping his hand rather painfully.

“Sorry, Harry,” she said, attempting to let go but having to grab a hold again the moment the room started to sway.

“It’s fine, just calm down,” Harry insisted. “Here, eat another piece of chocolate, it helps…”

“Thanks,” Claire said, her voice cracking a little as she took the candy out of his hand and shoved it into her mouth. The tips of her fingers and toes began to warm up as she chewed the chunk of chocolate, her limbs relaxed slightly and her breathing slowed. Finally, she was able to sit up without Harry’s assistance. “I’m okay…”

“Perhaps it was foolish of me to try and teach you this,” Lupin said, relighting the lamps that hung along the walls. “As I said, it’s very advanced magic and clearly very difficult—”

“No, professor!” Claire said, shaking her head. “I promise, I won’t try it again because clearly I’m just not ready. But you shouldn’t take that away from Harry! Please, let Harry try, professor! He has to win the Quidditch Cup, after all, I was just learning for the heck of it—”

“Relax, Claire, relax,” Lupin said soothingly, helping her slowly to her feet. “It’s fine if you don’t want to continue, I completely understand. However, I must insist that you wait here and eat some more of that chocolate bar so that Harry can walk back to Gryffindor Tower with you. You still look a bit pale and Madam Pomfrey will have my head mounted in the hospital wing if I let you pass out in the corridors by yourself.”

Claire nodded and Lupin helped her into Professor Binns’s desk chair. Resting her head against it’s arched back, she chewed another bit of chocolate very slowly, savoring every bit of it. Her pulse was still rocketing…She didn’t at all understand the voice she had heard, not any more than she had understood it the last time…

“Are you ready, Harry?” Lupin was saying.

Apparently he was, because Claire heard Lupin thrust the crate open once more and the shouting of the Patronus incantation. Claire kept her eyes tightly shut, not wanting to hear the horrible, fierce voice again upon seeing the dementor.

Eventually, Harry’s voice faltered, and Claire heard Lupin calling off of the boggart. Feeling it was safe, Claire opened her eyes and looked on the scene. Lupin was helping Harry to his feet.

“Let me try again, professor, please?” Harry asked through a mouth full of Chocolate Frog. He seemed a bit pale, but alright for the most part. Claire frowned slightly, trying to imagine what hearing your dead mother pleading for your life must sound like. Then again, for all she knew, that could have been what she had just heard too…

“Harry—are you sure? If you don’t want to continue I will more than understand…”

“I do!” said Harry ferociously, stuffing the remainder of the chocolate into his mouth. “I’ve got to! What if the dementors turn up at our next match against Ravenclaw? I can’t afford to fall off again. If we lose this game we’ve lost the Quidditch Cup!”

“All right then…” Lupin said. Claire could tell by the look on Lupin’s face that he must have been thinking about how similar Harry was to his father—willing to give his heart and soul up for a game he loved. She frowned, trying not to concentrate on Harry’s unhappiness too much, her heart rate was only just returning to normal.

“You might want to select another memory, a happy memory, I mean to concentrate on…” Lupin was saying. “That one doesn’t seem strong enough…”

In the short pause that Harry took to think about another happy memory, Claire could have sobbed at saddened look on the face of Remus Lupin, aged beyond his years. He was certainly thinking about how this was the son of one of his best friends, James Potter, and feeling responsible for his safety. She stopped these thoughts immediately, they were too sad to think about and made her head spin strangely.

“Ready?” Lupin asked again. In his worry over his best friend’s son, the professor seemed to have forgotten that Claire was there.

“Ready,” said Harry, looking determined and focusing with all his might.

Claire held her breath. Lupin released the dementor and she shut her eyes once again, clenching the arms of the chair in fear.

“Harry! Harry…wake up…”

She opened her eyes again and saw Harry lying once again upon the floor, Lupin tapping him hard on the face in attempt to wake him up.

“I heard my dad,” Harry mumbled. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard him—he tried to take on Voldemort himself, to give my mum time to run for it…”

Claire controlled her tears as she saw a few trickle out of Harry’s eyes. It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t fair that they had to die! Why—whoa, better stop thinking about this, Claire thought, getting slightly dizzy again.

“You heard James?” Lupin asked, his tone one Claire had never heard before.

“Yeah…” said Harry, having whipped away his emotions for the time being and sitting up. “Why—you didn’t know my dad, did you?”

“I—I did, as a matter of fact,” said Lupin. A single tear escaped Claire’s eyes and slid down her cheek. “We were friends at Hogwarts. Listen, Harry, perhaps we should leave it here for tonight. This charm is ridiculously advanced—I shouldn’t have suggested putting you through this…”

“No!” said Harry, standing up once again. “I’ll have one more go! I’m not thinking happy enough things, that’s what tit is…Hang on…”

“No, Harry,” Lupin said firmly. “I really think we should end it here, for now. Besides, Miss Woods needs to be escorted upstairs as well.”

“It’s alright, professor, I can wait,” Claire said quietly. It felt like too many emotions were getting jumbled up in her head at once.

“No, Claire, I insist,” Lupin said, shaking his head. “You two are completely worn out. This was physically and mentally exhausting for the both of you, I suggest you immediately head up to your dormitories and get some rest. Here—have another couple Chocolate Frogs, both of you…”

Lupin handed them each a large handful of Frogs. Harry merely stared at them, apparently lost in thought.

“Professor Lupin?” Harry asked finally, taking a bite out of one of the Frogs. “If you knew my dad, you must’ve known Sirius Black as well.”

Lupin turned around very abruptly, giving Claire a start.

“What gives you that idea?” he said sharply.

“Nothing—” said Harry, slightly taken aback. “I mean, I just knew they were friends at Hogwarts too….”

Claire turned her attention back to Lupin, who relaxed slightly.

“Yes, I knew him,” he said shortly. “Or I thought I did.”

Claire lost it. Another couple tears trickled down her cheeks and she began to shake again. Badly.

“But—but you do…” she said in a slightly delirious voice. She couldn’t stop the shaking. “You do you do you do…”

“Harry, it’s very late. You and Claire better be off. Here, I’ll help you…”

Together, Harry and Lupin helped Claire to her feet. Harry put one of Claire’s arms around his shoulders and one of his arms around her waste to help her walk. Claire could feel herself slipping in and out of consciousness again.

“You do you do you do…” she was muttering. “Same Snuffles…Same Snuffles…”

“You going to be alright getting her upstairs, Harry?” Lupin asked, although it was clear by his tone that his mind was on other matters.

“I’ll be fine, professor,” Harry said. “Good night.”

They started slowly up the corridor and around the corner. Claire was still muttering.

“You do you do you do…”

“Shh, Claire, it’s alright,” Harry said. “Here, I’m going to put you down here…”

He set her as gently as he could on the ground behind a suit of armor and sat down next to her, unwrapping another Chocolate Frog and handing it to Claire. She shoved it in her mouth quickly as Harry began unwrapping one for himself. As soon as Claire’s head cleared again, she noticed that Harry was clearly far away. She frowned.

“You okay, Harry?” Claire asked, already knowing the answer.

Harry shrugged, shoving another Chocolate Frog in his mouth after the first. Claire looked at him, concerned.

“I imagine that wasn’t easy for you, Harry,” Claire settled on saying, her voice very low. “I’m sorry that you had to hear that.”

“You know, I’m not,” Harry said, looking a cross between depressed and angry with himself. “It was like I wanted to hear them, you know? I wanted to hear their voices…”

Claire paused for a moment, wondering what she should say.

“Well,” she said, swallowing hard, “That’s understandable, Harry—”

“No it isn’t,” Harry snapped. “They’re dead. They’re dead and listening to echoes of them won’t bring them back. I’m never going to help Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup if I can’t get a grip…”

“Harry, listen,” Claire said, placing her hand comfortingly on his arm. “It’s okay to miss them. Really, it is—”

She stopped in mid-sentence, her head starting to spin again.

“Not if it makes the entire team lose the Cup, it’s not,” Harry said, stuffing his last Chocolate Frog into his mouth. “C’mon, we better get upstairs…”

He helped her to her feet, but she wasn’t done talking yet. She had been saying something…what was it? What had she been saying…?

“They loved you, Harry,” she said in her delirious tone once again. “Loved you so much so much so much…”

“Breathe, Claire,” said Harry. Could he heard her, she wondered? “We’re almost there…”

“So much so much so much…”

Claire wasn’t really aware of making it all the way back to the Fat Lady, through the portrait hole, and up the girl’s staircase. All she knew was that she wanted to flop down on her bed and sleep forever…

“So much so much so much…” she continued to murmur.

She was about to drift off to sleep when she heard something land on her nightstand. She tried to look over, but whatever it was had a pair of great big yellow eyes that were inches from hers and a very sharp beak that was pecking away at her skull.

“Ow…” she muttered.

“You IDIOT!!” Aquinas shouted.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaaa!!! Wow, that was really long! Haha, sorry kiddies! So…why is Claire an idiot? Did she change anything important? Is Aquinas going to eat her? Well…you’ll see…Yes, things are about to get veeeeeeeery interesting…]


Chapter 25: Siriusly Screwing Up
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[a/n: *stops flailing a light saber around long enough to say hi to readers*…HI!...*goes back to messing around with light saber* ]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter any more than I own the light saber used in the above author’s note. Where’d I get it from, you ask? *fidgets* Erm—Yoda lent it to me…Don’t stare at me like that! He really did!...Okay okay, fine—but I won’t say I stole it! I—er—borrowed it without permission! And NO, I did NOT steal that line from Jack Sparrow! Tuh! *stalks off, perturbed by readers lack of trust in her* ^.~

Chapter 25: Siriusly Screwing Up

Claire blinked, screwing up her face in a lame attempt to focus her vision. Her feathery companion looked nothing short of livid.

“Ugh…Not now, Aquinas…” she mumbled, letting her head flop down on the pillows once more.

“Not now? NOT NOW?!” Aquinas exploded, grabbing the front of her robes with his talons and shaking her head violently. “YOU BETTER BELIEVE WE’RE GOING TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION NOW!!”

“OW! Aquinas, for the love of—let go of me!!” Claire fired back, trying to grab the little feather ball. “You have no idea how bad a headache I have—”

“Oh, she has a headache,” said Aquinas in mock sympathy as Claire reached over to light her lamp. “Let me just stop explaining how she basically KILLED US ALL so she can rest because she has a headache—I mean—do you have any idea what you’ve just done?! ANY IDEA AT ALL?!”

Claire stared at him, reaching up a hand to steady herself. The world would not stop spinning and she still felt extremely weak. Aquinas lightened up slightly upon seeing the state she was in.

“Here, sit back,” he instructed her, grabbing her robes by the shoulder to steady her as she leaned back against her headboard. “You look terrible.”

“Thanks, Quin,” she said sarcastically, trying to breathe normally again.

Claire sat there for a minute until her head cleared somewhat, and then looked up to see Aquinas flipping through the pages in her Prisoner of Azkaban book.

“What are you doing?” Claire asked, confused.

“What am I doing? What am I doing?” Aquinas muttered to himself. “You are so thick. You don’t even realize what you’ve just done…”

“Quin, I didn’t do anything—”

“Tuh! That’s a good one!”

“Aquinas, the dementors…I can hear things when they get near me,” Claire blurted out suddenly, hoping that Aquinas would be able to explain what the voices meant. “Terrible things, Quin!...Two people, screaming…I think one of them is me—but Aquinas, none of those things the voices are saying have happened! It’s not a memory at all! Do you—do you think it’s possible I could be hearing something that’s going to happen? In the future?”

“I don’t know,” Aquinas said, turning pages. “We have no way of knowing what the future holds any more, so if that is what you’re hearing that might be helpful.”

“No way of knowing…But Aquinas, what about the books?!” Claire said, trying to sit up but having to lean back again quickly. The room was still spinning.

“See for yourself,” Aquinas said, turning the book around and pointing down at the page.

Claire picked it up and brought it to her eyes with trembling hands.

Harry had to admit, though he did fine, he would have felt a lot better about the lesson if he had at least managed to conjure something, anything, when facing the dementor. Even something as simple as a wisp of smoke.

A rock dropped in Claire’s stomach. She tried to swallow, but couldn’t.

“You—you mean that…Lupin didn’t let Harry try again?” Claire croaked through her unusually dry lips.

“That’s precisely what I mean,” Aquinas said through narrowed eyes.

“But—but—” The wheels in Claire’s brain worked out the rest of the problem quickly. “Then Harry never managed his feeble Patronus!”

“My, you’re a bright one, aren’t you?” Aquinas said scathingly.

But Claire wasn’t listening; she was much busier flipping through the pages, looking for something, anything, to prove that she was wrong.

“Where—where are all the other parts where Lupin is teaching Harry?! They go on! Where are the rest of the lessons?!” Claire could feel the blood pounding in her ears. “She wrote them, I’m sure she did—”

“Oh, noticed the missing lessons, have you?” Aquinas went on, faking a casual tone. “It gets worse than that, Claire, much worse…”

“Aquinas, I’m going to check the last chapters,” Claire said, flipping pages so fast that she gave herself a paper cut. “Ouch!” She cradled her thumb in her hand, but quickly stopped caring about the cut and resumed her page flipping. “Aquinas, do me a favor and dig out the fourth and fifth books for me while I check—”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Aquinas said, putting a wing to his ear as if he couldn’t hear properly.

“I said, get the fourth and fifth books out!” Claire repeated. “I need to—…oh my God…”

Claire had just flipped all the way to the end of the book. Only, instead of the chapter title at the top of the page reading “Owl Post Again” it read…

“‘The Dementor’s Kiss’…” Claire read aloud. “But that’s not the last chapter! There’s supposed to be two or three more chapters after that one!”

“Two more,” Aquinas said, folding his wings under his feathers. “There were two more.”

Were?” Claire asked, looking up. “What do you mean ‘were’?”

Aquinas sighed and pointed to the book.

Claire flicked it open to the last page and read aloud:

“But a pair of strong, clammy hands suddenly attached themselves around Harry’s neck. They were forcing his face upward…He could feel its breath…It was going to get rid of him first…He could feel its putrid breath…His mother was screaming in his ears…

She was the last thing he ever heard.”


And that was the end of the book.

Claire stared into the darkness silently before she murmured, “There aren’t any more books after this one, are there?”

“I’m afraid not,” Aquinas answered.

Claire put her head in her hands. Blood from the paper cut on her thumb dripped onto the pages of the now final novel in the Harry Potter series as Claire asked a hallow question to the bedspread.

“What have I done…?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Claire opened her eyes groggily the next morning to find the dormitory completely deserted. Realizing she was late and glad that she had been to upset last night to even bother changing into her pajamas, she grabbed her bag and pulled her hair hastily into a ponytail as she ran full speed down the Great Hall, hoping she wasn’t too late for breakfast.

Only the last minute stragglers were yawning their way through a quick bite of toast in the Hall. Claire threw herself into a seat at the Gryffindors’ table. She threw down her bag in the empty seat next to her and was about to seize a piece of toast when she heard something fall out of her bag and onto the floor.

Leaning down to retrieve the item, Claire saw the cover of The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 2 but wasn’t fooled by its disguise; she knew it was Prisoner of Azkaban, hidden underneath the cover from prying eyes. Not that it really mattered any more, seeing as there was no future to ruin for Harry and his friends any more…

She picked up the book and hugged it tightly to her chest, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Harry…” she murmured, sobbing in spite of herself.

“For what?”

She looked up. Harry was seating himself next to her, reaching for a piece of bacon.

Claire lost it. She threw her bag over her shoulder and ran from the Hall, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Was it something I said?” Harry said, staring after her and biting heartily into his toast.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The weekend approached without Claire noticing much of her surroundings. She was consumed in her misery, though by the time Saturday rolled around and Slytherin was playing Ravenlcaw in Quidditch, Claire’s attitude changed from one of mourning to one of determination. She had brought about this tragedy of early death, surely she could find some way to stop it…

Jumping off of her four-poster and throwing on her cloak, Claire grabbed her third Harry Potter book and ran down the spiral staircase and into the common room. It was completely empty, seeing as everyone was down at the stadium; she had been in such a bad mood before the match that she had refused to go down to the Quidditch pitch with the rest of the girls in her dormitory, preferring instead to sulk about her misfortunes.

The sky was clouded over and Claire’s shoes made a dull crunching noise in inch or so of snow that was leftover from the blizzard of Christmas as she made her way across the grounds alone. She clutched her book tightly, hoping against hope that the match would somehow jolt her mind into thinking of some brilliant scheme to saving Harry and Sirius from a fate worse than death.

Not feeling much like sitting with a bunch of her rowdy peers, Claire chose instead to stand against the stone wall at the entrance of the pitch, watching what she could see of the match from a lower view. Ravenclaw and Slytherin were neck-and-neck, each team scoring a goal to come back on top only to be losing again a second later.

She sighed up at the Ravenclaw keeper as a Slytherin beater sent a bludger his direction to give his chaser a clear shot at the middle goalpost, when Claire suddenly felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see an empty space behind her. No one was there.

“Hello?” Claire asked apprehensively.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said a voice, sounding rather irritated, to Claire’s right. “Just when I head up to the dormitory you’ve stopped moping about and decided to take some action. How convenient…”

Robin Gregory’s head appeared in midair, shaking back her long blonde hair and looking rather satisfied with herself. Claire stared at her blankly.

“What are you talking about?” she asked. Robin’s head rolled its eyes.

“You’re such a moron,” the Robin muttered, taking odd her Invisibility Cloak and draping it over her arm. “Here, this might interest you, Woods…”

She thrust a heavy something into Claire’s stomach. Slightly winded, Claire grabbed the object to find that it was a rather thick book…a familiar looking book…

The Goblet of Fire!” Claire gasped. She gawked up at Robin. “But—but how did you—?”

“—save your ass yet again?” Robin finished for her, smirking bemusedly. “Well, it wasn’t easy, Woods, I’ll say that much. Man, when you screw up, you really screw up—for the love of Merlin, don’t start blubbering again! That show at breakfast yesterday was enough to make me puke, honestly…”

Claire choked back her tears.

“So—so everything’s okay?” Claire said, hardly able to believe it. “Harry? Sirius?”

“To some extent, yes,” Robin sad, brushing a non-existent bit of dust off of her shoulder, reminding Claire forcibly of Aquinas when he had proved someone wrong.

“Thank God,” Claire muttered, sinking to her knees against the stone wall, hugging Goblet of Fire as if it was a life preserver and she’d been thrown out to a raging sea.

“Don’t thank anyone just yet, Woods,” Robin said seriously, staring off into the Quidditch pitch where Cho Chang was catching the Snitch just as a Slytherin chaser was scoring a winning goal to narrowly win the match. “There’s still a lot of work to be done…”

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAaaaa!! So! How did Robin “save Claire’s ass yet again?” What work to be done is she referring to? And what is Aquinas up to? Has ANYONE noticed yet?!?! C’mon, guys, take a stab at it! I love it when I get guesses! This fic is nearing its end—there’s only a few more chapters left to make guesses for. So guess away, dear readers, guess away…See you soon with Chapter 26!]


Chapter 26: Explanations and Plans for Reparations
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a/n: Greetings to all! I forgot, I wanted to hand these out in the last chapter but it slipped my mind! *drags in a box overflowing with teddy bears* Every reader gets one! (Reka Mina Kintar was kind enough to remind me, thank you m’dear!) ^_^ Sadly I think you’re going to need these teddys as the story comes to its close, so keep them nearby to hug and squish! ^^;;; Hurry forward and seize one that isn’t pink and fluffy!! ^.~ ]

Also, what excellent guesses you all gave! Some of you showed that you have the mind of an Auror, yet others showed signs of belonging to Professor Trelawney’s fan club. ^.^ Hopefully this chapter will clear a few things up for you…and keep those teddy bears close by, you might need them…

Disclaimer: For the twenty-sixth time, I DO NOT OWN HARRY POTTER. For Merlin’s sake, get that in your head! *stalks off*

Chapter 26: Explanations and Plans for Reparations

Claire stared at Robin as the stands in the stadium beyond erupted with the cheers of the Slytherins.

“What do you mean?” Claire asked, confused. “What ‘work to be done’—?”

“Honestly, Woods, would you hurry up?” Robin said. She had spun around and begun to walk in the direction of the castle. “I’d like to get back to the common room before we get trampled by this lot…”

“But, you didn’t explain yourself at all!” Claire called, running to catch up with Goblet of Fire still clutched tightly in her arms. “How did you manage to fix everything—?”

“Not now, you imbecile!” Robin said, throwing a look over her shoulder to see if anyone had overheard. Claire rolled her eyes; obviously, everyone was still at the Quidditch pitch, seeing as the gloating Slytherin team would no doubt be doing a lap of victory around the field.

“But—” Claire persisted.

Robin spun around and whipped out her wand so quickly that Claire hardly had time to blink before she shouted, “Silencio!

Claire grabbed her throat. It felt as though someone had tied an invisible string around her vocal chords. She mouthed angrily at Robin, who stowed her wand back inside her cloak, smirking.

“I should have done that a long time ago,” Robin chuckled to herself, beginning to walk again. “Would have saved us a lot of trouble—and don’t even think about it, Woods, unless you want to find yourself Stunned.”

Claire had been at the point of bending her knees to spring onto Robin, in order to aggressively demand the return of her voice. Robin, however, was giving the impression that she had eyes in the back of her head, for she had not even slowed down, but merely whipped out her wand again and pointed it over her shoulder threateningly. Grumbling mutely, Claire followed her up the stone steps and into the Great Hall.

They went all the way up to Gryffindor Tower to their dormitory, where Robin folded her Invisibility Cloak neatly into her trunk, seized a book from it’s depths that had the cover 1001 Magical Herbs and Fungi, and then proceeded to lead Claire down the staircase again and out the portrait hole.

Claire poked her sharply between her shoulder blades and gave her a look as if to say, “Where the devil are you taking me?!”

Robin merely laughed at her and continued on her way down the corridor.

“Really, Woods,” she taunted, “if I was worried about being overheard on the empty grounds, do you honestly think I’m going to have this discussion with you in the crowded common room? You’re entirely too dense for your own good…”

Claire could have sworn her blood was boiling in her veins, but she had no choice but to follow Robin if she wanted her questions answered, or, for that matter, if she ever wanted to speak again.

Trudging up staircases, Claire was just beginning to wonder if maybe Robin was trying to lead her up to an Astronomy tower so that she could hurtle her off into the lake, when they passed a foggy window in which a tiny owl was pecking relentlessly, trying to get their attention.

Aquinas!” Claire gasped, though no sound escaped her. She hurried over to the window and unlatched it so that he could come inside.

“Jeez, are you deaf?!” Aquinas snapped at her. “I’ve been banging on every single window since you’ve been in this hallway! And I honestly didn’t believe you could get any more—”

His eyes grew large as saucers as he spotted Robin, who was observing him yakking away with a mildly amused expression her face. She turned to Claire, her old smirk leaping back into place.

“I knew you were in trouble, Woods, but I didn’t know you had caused enough problems to have an Observer tailing you,” Robin said. Claire just stared at her with a quizzical expression, but Aquinas cocked an eyebrow curiously, as if wondering whether or not he should trust her.

Upon seeing the look on his face, Robin added, “It’s okay, Birdo. I have the Gift, too.”

“You’d do well not to call me names, twerp,” Aquinas snapped back. On the contrary, his eyes had returned to their normal size again and he seemed more relaxed.

Claire was completely lost at this point. She merely stared between the two of them, trying to ask what was going on, but to no avail; she still had no voice.

Robin nodded her head toward Claire and asked Aquinas, “Does she understand half of what I just said?”

Aquinas shrugged and replied, “I doubt it. She’s a bit of a slow one.”

“You don’t have to tell me that,” Robin said, glaring at Claire, who returned the leer in full measure.

“Why aren’t you asking you’re usual five thousand questions, oh ray of sunshine?” Aquinas asked her. “Not that I’m complaining, the noise level has dropped immensely…”

“I put a Silencing Charm on her,” Robin answered for him.

Aquinas positively beamed at her before turning to Claire and saying, “You know, I’m not one to pick favorites” –Claire narrowed her eyes a bit further, so that they were reduced to mere slits— “but I have to admit, I like her better than you.”

Claire stomped her foot in anger. Acting like a three-year-old was the only thing she could do without being able to use a few choice words at her two present companions. Why didn’t anyone ever bother to explain themselves?!

Robin walked to the nearest door, opened it slightly, and peered inside, saying to Claire and Aquinas, “Let’s go in here, shall we? We have a lot to discuss and I don’t want to be interrupted.”

Aquinas turned to Claire, who stared right back.

“Well?” Aquinas asked her as if she was being stupid. “What are you just standing for? Use your nice long human legs and walk into the room!”

Claire rolled her eyes and did as she was instructed. It appeared that Robin had lead them into an empty classroom. Claire never did understand how whenever Harry and his friend needed one, an empty room always seemed to just appear right there. Apparently, Hogwarts was holding out for more students with the empty rooms Claire had come across so far.

“All right, I’ll give you your voice back,” Robin said, sighing as though this was a great disappointment, “but the moment you interrupt me, it’s gone.”

She drew her wand, pointed it at Claire, and shouted, “Voco!”

The invisible string around her vocal chords untied itself and Claire burst out, “Somebody had better explain to me what’s going on or else—”

“—I’ll curse you into the great beyond?” Robin finished for her, brandishing her wand under Claire’s nose. But Claire whipped hers out just as quickly, jabbing Robin sharply between the ribs to get her out of her face.

“Yeah, I have a wand too, see,” Claire said menacingly a Robin recoiled, rubbing the spot where Claire had poked her. “I’m not half bad with it either, so just watch your—”

“I do hate to break up this little fun fest here,” Aquinas interrupted stoutly from his perch on Claire’s shoulder, “but when we came in this—er—classroom, I think it is—anyway, when we came in here, we had an actual point…

Robin stood up straight again and said, “He’s right, we have some business to attend to…”

“But I don’t understand why you can’t just—OW! Aquinas, stop it!”

He was digging his talons sharply into her shoulder, saying, “She’s trying to explain, my dear, but, you see, it’s hard to talk over you when you’re whining so obnoxiously. So just sit down like a good little girl and shut your pie hole.”

Glaring at him and wincing at the stinging sensation in her shoulder, Claire lowered herself into a desk and turned her gaze on Robin instead.

“I’m sorry,” Claire said, hardly meaning it.

“That’s quite alright, Woods,” Robin replied, flipping through pages in the book she had brought with her. “If I knew as little as you appear to know, I’d be a wee bit angry as well…

“Now,” Robin said, “I’m assuming you want to know why Harry is alive and well, no thanks to you, am I correct?”

“Yes, I w—”

“Peachy,” Robin said, slamming the book down on the desk in front of Claire to silence her. “We’ll start there.”

Claire peered down at the book across from her and saw that it was, contrary to the cover Robin had placed on it, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

“As you might remember, I don’t know how much brain capacity you possess, but when you asked Professor Lupin to train you to ward off dementors several months ago during one of your detentions, he offered them to me as well,” Robin began, hands behind clenched behind her back. Claire was almost certain she was clutching her wand, and not wanting to end up with arms sprouting out of her head, she merely nodded and let her continue. “Naturally, I declined his offer. I knew that if intruded upon such an important part in the novel, there would undoubtedly be serious consequences, as you demonstrated.”

“I was just—” Claire began defensively.

But Robin held up a hand to silence her.

“I’m not the least bit interested in your excuses, Woods,” she said coldly, “I merely wish to explain my own.”

“Yes, please shut up,” Aquinas said in agreement, tightening his grip on her shoulder once again. Wincing, Claire fell silent.

“Anyway,” Robin continued, beginning to pace slowly between the desks, “I knew from observing you for nearly a month that you would not be able to resist the urge to learn this complicated, and clearly too difficult, branch of magic. I assumed you were going to take the lessons.

“Afraid that you were going to do this, I decided to somewhat indirectly inform you that I, too, am a fan of Harry Potter and a part of the story due to a Gift bestowed upon me several months ago. I carefully deduced a plan, assuming that you were going to somehow follow Harry into Hogsmeade in order to overhear him find out that Sirius Black is his godfather—”

“How could you have possibly known I was going to do that?!” Claire said, torn between annoyance and astonishment.

Robin smirked as she replied, “As I’ve told you several times, Woods, you are entirely too predictable…So, while you were sneaking up into Harry’s dormitory to ‘borrow’ his Invisibility Cloak, I nipped up to our dormitory to grab my own Cloak and follow you—”

“I’ve been wondering,” Claire interrupted, receiving another glare and sharp twinge in the shoulder from Aquinas, “how is it that you have an Invisibility Cloak? I don’t understand where you got it from.”

Robin sighed, as if unable to understand how anyone could be so slow, but nonetheless explained, “When someone receives a Gift and is sent into the story, they also receive a crate of items to help them—er—more appreciate their stay at Hogwarts. I believe you received such a trunk a day or so after you arrived here? That is how you obtained your Rememberall, ominoculars, and Sneakoscope, correct?”

Surprised that Robin knew all of the items she’d received by heart, Claire nodded.

“Well, I too got a trunk full of useful things, including the Invisibility Cloak,” Robin continued. “Needless to say, I did not get as many items as you did. An Invisibility Cloak is a rather rare treat, you see…Anyway, where was I? Oh yes—the Hogsmeade trip. Well, as you’ll no doubt remember, you ‘ran into me’ in the village, if you’ll pardon the pun. I allowed you to glimpse my head, feigned anger when you figured out that I had the Gift, and boda bing boda boom, here we are.

“So, now that you knew that I was also in the story, I could discuss the Patronus lessons with you more openly. However” –Her eye twitched.— “you took on the angle that I was trying to spoil your fun, and went to the lessons anyway. I sat in the common room the entire time, watching the words change themselves in the book as you foolishly went about trying to tackle the Boggart-Dementor. So naturally, I knew immediately the effect you had had on the books. Harry and Sirius were both dead. I knew that something had to be done—so the next day I went straight to Professor Lupin’s office—”

“I knew it!” Claire explained triumphantly, glad that at last she solved some part of this mystery for herself. “You convinced Lupin to give Harry the lessons again, didn’t you?!”

Robin and Aquinas actually snorted with laughter at her suggestion. Slightly put out, Claire fell silent and waited for them to explain.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Woods!” Robin replied as Aquinas steadily regained his composure. “I may have the Gift, but I can’t just go parading up to my professors and demand that they give people private lessons just because I think it’s a wise move. C’mon, how was I supposed to get Lupin to give Harry the lessons with out explaining that I knew the future, and Harry was going to be attacked by nearly a hundred dementors at the end of term and needed to know how to fight them? I mean, really…

“Yes, c’mon, Claire!” Aquinas chimed in. “Use your head!”

Now that Robin put it that way, Claire had to admit it wasn’t the best thought-out hypothesis she could have made. But still, wasn’t it the obvious thing for her to have assumed?

“Okay then, sorry,” Claire muttered. “But then—how did you manage to fix all of this?”

“I’m getting there,” Robin said, resuming her pacing. “As I was saying, I went to Professor Lupin’s office the following day. I told him that I knew that the lessons for you and Harry didn’t go well because you told me all about it—Yes, I know you didn’t actually tell me, but I wasn’t about to show him that I had a book that told me everything about Harry’s life, now was I?—Anyway, I told him that, even though he didn’t want to put you or Harry through any more agony, he did give me his word that, if I were to change my mind, he would of course teach me how to ward off a dementor. Bound by his word, he had no choice but to give me a lesson in Patronus-conjuring.”

“But I still don’t get it!” Claire said, head in her hands, rubbing her temples in attempt to get the wheels turning in her brain. “How would you knowing how to conjure a Patronus save Harry? I mean, it’s him that goes back with the Time Turner, not you—”

“That,” Robin said, smiling in victory, “is where you’d be wrong, Woods.”

Claire looked up in astonishment, her hair disheveled from running her hands through it so many times.

“Wha—?”

“I do go back in time with Harry and Hermione at the end of term, I do use the Time Turner, and I do help them save Buckbeak and Sirius,” Robin said, spinning the book in front of her around so that Claire could read it properly. “And I’m not the only one, either…”

Claire took the book in her hands and read a couple of lines. She spotted her name on the page.

Me?” she gasped. “I go back, too?”

Robin nodded, smiling cleverly.

“Apparently, you’re very good with Hippogriffs, Woods.”

“Well—I guess that is true!” Claire said, smiling too. “When Aquinas and I were hiding out over Christmas I spent a lot of time with Buckbeak, so he knows me well and knows I’m trustworthy…But wait a minute, Robin. I’m still confused about something.”

“I’m listening.”

“Well, I’m assuming that you’re the one that wards off all the dementors at the lake, right? Since Harry never learned how to produce a Patronus?”

“Yes?”

“But…What about the stag?” Claire continued, her brow furrowed in thought. “Harry sees the stag and he sees himself, he thinks he’s James! How are we going to make sure that he still thinks its Prongs out there on the lake and not me and you?”

Robin sighed, shaking her head.

“In order to save his life and the plot of the next books, that minor detail had to be lost,” she answered.

Claire gaped at her.

“Well, it’s either I save him or no one saves him, Woods,” Robin continued. “But that wasn’t the point of me bringing you in here to explain this to you. As I said, we still have a lot of work to do.”

“Yes?” Claire asked, wondering if she really wanted to here this.

“Well, I’ve only just had my first Patronus lesson,” Robin explained. “I haven’t perfected the art of it yet. In order to make sure I’ll be able to do it properly by the end of this year, I’ll need a lot of extra practice—way more than just lessons once a week with Professor Lupin.”

“But the book says that you manage to do it just fine—” Claire started. But Robin was already shaking her head.

“As a result of me agreeing to take the lessons, I eventually learn how to do it properly, yes,” Robin said, “but we must make absolutely sure that I can do it without fault. Otherwise it’ll be Harry and Sirius that suffer because of it. Therefore, you’re going to have to help me practice extra hard so I can do this. Agreed?”

Claire looked into her eyes. They were full of a fiery determination she had never seen before. She swallowed hard and said, “Sure, that’s no problem. Is there anything else we have to do?”

Robin sighed again and straightened up.

“There is one more thing…it’s pretty much solely up to you, though,” she answered. “You have to make sure that you obtain your friendship with Harry. He trusts you, and you have to make sure that you give him no reason to stop trusting you, do you understand?”

Claire blinked. “No. I thought I was supposed to stay out of the books as much as humanly possible?”

“Well, things have changed, Woods,” Robin said, withdrawing a very thin book from the inside her robes. “If Harry doesn’t trust you, then you won’t be able to convince him to trust me, we won’t be able to accompany them to save Buckbeak and Sirius on the Time Turner journey, and I won’t be able to teach Harry how to conjure a Patronus.”

Claire was nodding along until the last part.

“Wait—why do you have to teach Harry—?”

“Because if I don’t,” Robin said, thrusting the thin book she had taken out of her robes at Claire, “this will happen.”

Claire stared at it, recognizing the cover almost at once. It was Order of the Phoenix, except now it was thinner than a Curious George book. Wondering why this was, it suddenly dawned on her.

“Of course!” she exclaimed, her eyes widening in comprehension. “Harry and Dudley are attacked by dementors at the beginning of book five! If we don’t teach him how to fend them off—”

“—then he might as well just leap out of a window now for all the good he’ll be able to do when the time comes,” Robin finished for her. She sighed. “I may have saved his life for now, Claire, but I only bought him an extra year. You understand now why we have so much extra work to do?”

Claire nodded, standing up and saying, “I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Good, I was hoping you would say that,” Robin said. She then turned her attention to Aquinas, who was still perched on Claire’s shoulder, looking stony and determined. “You’re name’s Aquinas, right?” she asked him.

“It is indeed, Miss,” Aquinas said with a small bow. Claire stared at him. She didn’t know he was capable of being polite.

“Aquinas, can I trust you to make sure that Claire stays close to Harry, but not so close as to mess things up for us? I’m not saying this because I don’t think you can handle it, Woods,” she added upon seeing Claire’s face, “I’m just saying this because I know it’s going to be hard. Harry is already very fond of you, we have to be careful.”

“I agree,” Aquinas said with a nod. “I’ll be happy to assist you two in any way that I can. That is my job, after all.”

“Excellent,” Robin said, clapping her hands together once. “Well, then we better get going back to Gryffindor Tower. Maybe we can start practicing some before we turn in for the night…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

January changed into February at an almost alarming speed. Claire was so busy helping Robin learn how to conjure a Patronus that her evenings were fit to burst, not to mention every time they were down in the common room she had to deal with Robin urging her to go over and chat with Harry and Ron (Hermione was buried under a pile of homework and still not talking to the boys after the Firebolt incident), which usually ended in her talking to them for the rest of the evening or playing one of the boys in chess. Despite all of this, Robin was urging Claire to pay extra close attention in classes and get all her homework done quickly, saying that no doubt one of their teachers might mention something that might prove useful to them later on in the year when things began to get tricky for them in the Time Turner sequence.

“Besides, it can’t hurt you to get on their good side and stay out of detention, Woods, especially after all the commotion you caused in your first weeks here,” Robin was saying, shooting wisps of silvery smoke out of the end of her wand up in their dormitory while Claire scribbled down an essay for Snape.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” she replied icily, scratching out something on her parchment in an irritated manner.

A couple weeks later, Claire was enjoying a rare peaceful evening in the common room, petting a purring Crookshanks near the fire when suddenly there was a great commotion over by the portrait hole. Craning her neck around in her chair, Claire saw Harry and Ron standing in the midst of a crowd, holding the most beautiful broomstick Claire had ever seen in her life. Then Claire remembered—Harry had obviously just gotten back his Firebolt from Professor McGonagall after it had been run though the mill in a series of anti-jinx tests.

“Where did you get it, Harry?”

“Will you let me have a go?”

“Have you ridden it yet, Harry?”

“Ravenclaw won’t stand a chance, they’re all on Cleansweep Sevens!”

“Can I just hold it, Harry?”

Claire was happily watching the Firebolt get passed around the room when suddenly she saw Robin sidling her way over to her.

“Drop the cat,” she hissed, looking over at the boy’s staircase anxiously.

Claire cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Why? He’s not doing anything—”

Drop it!” Robin insisted through gritted teeth.

Totally bewildered, Claire dropped Crookshanks down on the hearth rug, in which case he hissed angrily and trotted away over to Hermione’s corner. Robin seated herself in an armchair beside Claire’s, fingers clenched in her lap, still staring around as if waiting for something to happen. Taking the hint, Claire learned forward to ask what her peculiar attitude was all about, but Robin merely shook her head, staring even more determinedly at the boy’s staircase.

A moment later, Claire’s question was answered for her. There was a loud screaming coming from the boy’s dormitories, and the common room fell silent, all staring, like Robin, at the staircase, wondering what was going on.

Ron came bounding into the common room, looking livid and dragging a bloodied sheet behind him. Suddenly, the reason why Robin wanted her to drop Crookshanks became clear.

“SCABBERS! LOOK! SCABBERS!” Ron was positively roaring at Hermione.

Claire suddenly had an idea.

“Robin!” she whispered, though it was hardly necessary, no one could hear her over Ron’s yells. “Scabbers! Wormtail is probably out on the grounds somewhere right now! What if we used you’re Invisibility Cloak and my Sneakoscope and tried to find—”

“Are you insane?!” Robin injected, looking angry. “Have you learned nothing at all about changing the events in the story?! No, we’re not going to go chasing after Pettigrew. We are repairing the damage you’ve caused and then getting out of the story for good before you have a chance to screw up anything else.”

Claire didn’t press the matter further as she leaned back against her chair. Something else was now on her mind; for as long as she had been in the story, she had never once contemplated going home, back to the real world. Was the adventure really going to end?

Robin eventually got up and retreated to their dormitory, leaving Claire there to stare into the fire, oblivious to the argument going on behind her and lost in her own thoughts.

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAaaa!!! Was that long enough for ya? It was actually going to be a bit longer—but I decided to cut one part and put it in the next chapter instead. So…Are Robin’s plans fool-proof? Is Claire going to be able to maintain her friendship with Harry but still keep a safe distance so not to ruin anything else? What do you think?! Let’s keep those guesses coming…]


Chapter 27: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
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a/n: Don’t really have much to say in this here author’s note except you might need your teddy bears in this chapter. *hugs her large stuffed duck, because she likes ducks better than bears* Don’t say I didn’t warn you…*squeezes duck until the stuffing starts to pop out*

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, or Ron Weasley, or Hermione Granger, or Nearly-Headless Nick, or Professor Flitwick, or Justin Finch-Fletchley, or Cho Chang (if I did own her, I would quickly disown her…probably by means of throwing her off a cliff or something…hehehe…), or Cornelius Fudge, or Hagrid, or Albus Dumbledore, or Rita Skeeter, or Dudley Dursley, or Angelina Johnson, or…*voice fades out*

Chapter 27: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

A few nights later, Claire found herself yet again on the way to the Quidditch pitch to watch the Gryffindor practice. If she had had it her way, she would be shut up in her dormitory with her head safely under the covers of her four-poster right now…but alas, she wasn’t running the show any more. She sighed as she remembered the events of the previous evening…

She had been sitting in a corner of the common room with Robin, practicing changing mice into mittens for Transfiguration while having a hushed conversation about their plans to repair the nearly destroyed Harry Potter books, when Harry Potter himself approached them in their corner.

“Hey,” he said, smiling a little nervously.

“Er—Hi, Harry,” Claire said, trying to smile but not sure her face muscles were working properly. She was always very nervous talking to him these days; you never knew if the person sitting next to you was going to drop dead just because you said hello to Harry. “What’s up?”

“Well, I was—erm—just wondering,” he began, “if you were—if you were busy tomorrow?”

Claire swallowed hard. She could see out of the corner of her eye that Robin was determinedly not looking at her, but instead seemed to grow very interested in examining Claire’s half-transfigured mouse, which had a tail where the thumb of the mitten should have been and squeaked when you tried to put it on.

“B—busy, Harry?” she managed to get out.

“Yeah,” Harry continued, the color rising in his cheeks. “See, we’ve got Quidditch practice, and Ron is coming along—I told him he could try out my new broom if he wanted and I was—er—well, I wanted to know if you wanted to—to come and try it out too? I mean, you don’t have to if you’re too busy,” he added, his face furiously red now. “Just—just thought I’d ask.”

“Um—”

Claire chanced a glance over at Robin and saw that she was writing something down on her Transfiguration essay. Upon further inspection, Claire noticed that she was in fact drawing a skull and crossbones in the margin, with the word “GO” written largely above it. She narrowed her eyes at Robin, and turned back to Harry, smiling.

“Sure, Harry! I’d love to!” she said truthfully. She was going to get the chance to ride a Firebolt!

“Really?” Harry said happily. “Great! Um, do you want to meet us down at the pitch around seven…?”

The hard wind hitting her face brought her out of her thoughts. She sighed, hoping against hope that nothing was going to go wrong, that she would just get to ride the best broomstick in the world (her heart skipped a beat at the thought), thank Harry, and then go back to the common room before anyone else accidentally snuffed it…

She stopped suddenly and spun around. She had the curious feeling that she was being followed…but decided that she was just being stupid, and proceeded onto the Quidditch pitch, looking up to watch seven scarlet blurs soar in and out of the goal posts, passing the quaffle and shouting to each other.

“Harry, I’m letting the Snitch out!” Oliver Wood called from the ground, where a tiny golden ball soared out of a wooden trunk and off into the evening air.

Claire spotted Madam Hooch and Ron sitting on the other side of the stadium, watching the practice happily from afar. Not really feeling like socializing, Claire chose to sit alone in a row right next to the entrance of the pitch. She drew her cloak around her tightly, watching the Gryffindor team with interest. She clapped and cheered along with the them as Harry caught the Snitch a few seconds later. As soon as he released it again, he looked down at Claire and waved, who smiled and returned the greeting.

“Alright there, Claire?” George Weasley said as he soared above her, smacking a bludger with all his might towards his twin.

“Hi, George!” Claire called.

“What about me?!” someone shouted from across the field. In this moment’s lapse in attention, a bludger seemed to hit them. “OW!”

“Hello to you too, Fred!” Claire laughed.

Claire really enjoyed watching them practice, and even cheered up enough halfway through to join Ron and Madam Hooch. Ron greeted her happily and they spent the remainder of their time on the bleachers discussing all of Gryffindor’s excellent moves and the beauty of the Firebolt.

Eventually practice ended, and as the rest of the team happily trooped back into the locker rooms Harry landed on the soft earth. Ron and Claire had already leapt over the stands and onto the field, each eager to have their turn on the magnificent broomstick.

“Well, Ron seeing as I promised you first…” Harry said, grinning. “Here you go!”

Ron whooped with delight, mounted the broom, and shot off into the sky. Claire laughed, watching him zoom around the goal posts. She caught herself right before she started singing “Weasley is Our King” and contented herself in humming it instead. Harry looked at her and chuckled.

“You’re a funny kid, Claire,” he said quietly, kicking at a bit of grass.

“Well, I aim to please,” Claire replied, smiling up at Ron as he rolled over in midair on the broom. “You guys did a good job! I think you’re going to do really well on Saturday.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, smiling happily.

“You can really tell how much you love it, you know,” Claire felt the need to add. “Just from watching you fly.”

Claire turned to look at him, and saw that he was staring off into space, the grin slipping slightly off his face.

“I guess I get that from my dad,” he said thoughtfully. “The love for the game, I mean. He played Quidditch when he was at school, you know.”

“You don’t say?” Claire said, pretending like this was news to her and trying not to smile at the image that had popped into her head of a boy very much like the one standing next to her rumpling his hair underneath a beech tree, gazing at a group of girls across a lake in hopeful interest.

“Yeah,” Harry replied, still lost in thought. “Apparently he was pretty good.”

“Well, so are you!” Claire said with a laugh. “I guess that’s where you get it from! He’d be proud of you!”

Harry shrugged. “Well, I’ll never know that for sure, will I? Seeing as I’ve never spoken to the man before…”

Claire frowned at his icy tone and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

But Harry let the comment pass with a wave of his hand.

“It’s not your fault,” he said, continuing to watch Ron. “It’s just—I don’t know, I can’t explain it. But you understand, right?”

Claire puzzled over this before she remembered that she, too, was an orphan in this world.

“Oh!—Oh, yeah, I understand,” she said quickly. “But, I was a bit older than you were when my parents died, wasn’t I? So…I don’t know. I guess it’s different for everyone.”

It was quiet for a minute before Harry broke the silence.

“How do you do it?” he asked, sounding slightly exasperated.

“Do what?” Claire said, taken aback once again by his change of tone.

“Deal with it!” Harry replied, as if it were obvious. “I mean, I can hear them dying when the dementors get close to me! I can hear it as clear as if they were standing right next to me. And you—you’ve been there before, too right? And not only do you live life as though you’ve had as normal a past as the next kid, you’ve actually become mates with the girl whose parents did it!”

Claire didn’t know what to say. Now she understood why Harry hadn’t been so pleasant when they had talked about Robin before; he knew what her parents had been and what they had done to assist Voldemort’s cause.

So that was what Robin had meant about being in the books! She had triggered Harry’s extreme hate for Death Eaters and Voldemort supporters a year earlier than J.K. Rowling had intended it; Harry was supposed to go into the Pensieve and learn about what had happened to the Longbottoms and then his extreme hate for the Dark Arts was supposed to develop even more. But, Harry had become friends with Claire and as soon as he learned about her character’s tragic past, he had begun to hate the people that had ruined her chance of a normal life, just like he was supposed to start hating the Lestranges for destroying Neville’s family. It was something so simple, yet it had really altered Harry’s personality.

Once again, it all came back to the fact that Claire should never have tried to befriend Harry in the first place. Once again, it was all her fault…

“You know, Harry,” Claire said, her voice as hollow as her insides, “Robin isn’t a bad person. I know her parents supported Voldemort but that doesn’t mean that she—What? What’s the problem?”

Harry was giving her a strange look.

“You—you just said Voldemort’s name,” Harry said.

“As did you,” Claire stated obviously. “It’s just a name, Harry. It’s not a big deal.”

“I still don’t get how you deal with it,” Harry went on, sounding amazed. “I can’t even remember them and I still can’t move on.”

He was staring determinedly at the opposite goalpost. Claire patted him on the shoulder somewhat awkwardly.

“Harry, no one ever said you had to forget them completely,” Claire said, trying to be soothing (her guilt seemed to be coming into her voice without her meaning it to). “That would be a very hard thing to do. They’re still alive in you, Harry. They’re alive in your love for Quidditch and your love for your friends and—well, they’re alive in all the people that knew them during their lives, too.”

She had teetered on saying “Sirius” for a moment, but then remembered that this wouldn’t be a very comforting thought to Harry at the moment.

“Look,” she said, trying to think of something else she could say, “I know this all sounds horridly cheesy, but it’s true, you have to believe me. They’re still watching out for you, I know they are.”

“How do you know that?” Harry said skeptically.

“Well, I—I know that they…” Her thoughts strayed back to a man hiding out in a mountain in Hogsmeade. A man who would do anything to avenge the two best friends who had died at the hands of a traitor, including commit the crime he had been wrongfully accused of thirteen years ago. A man who would be content with the world if he could just walk down the street in the sunshine and talk to his godson…A man she might have been able to save if she hadn’t dawdled about in other matters, screwing up the lives of the characters she loved.

“Well, I just know,” Claire finished lamely, a lump growing in her throat. “Sorry I can’t be more of a help. I tried.”

He had no idea how sincere that apology really was. She turned away, angry at herself beyond belief.

But no sooner had she spun around did she feel a pair of hands grab her shoulders and spin her back. Harry was staring at her, as if sitting on the fencepost about a decision…

“Harry, wha—”

She didn’t have time to finish her sentence, because Harry had leaned down and kissed her.

A horrible silence hung in the air. Harry was looking at her, red as a strawberry. The sounds of Ron flying overhead had ceased. And, maybe Claire was imagining it or she had done it herself, but someone had gasped.

“What was that for?!” she said, heart thumping like mad. What had just happened? Where did that come from? And since when was it in Harry’s personality to just kiss a girl for apparently no reason?!

Harry had opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by a kind of a muffled scream and the sounds of someone darting away from the Quidditch pitch. Claire spun around in time to see a mane of flaming red hair whip out of sight. The mystery of who had been following her was solved.

“Ginny!” she said, sprinting after her. “Ginny, no! Wait! You don’t understand! I can explain! Ginny—!”

Her feet were flying underneath her as she ran across the grounds. There was only a single thought on her mind as she tried desperately to catch up to the girl running away from her:

I should never have come to Hogwarts.

“Ginny, stop—ARRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!”

Her feet were still flying underneath her, but in quite a different manner—as her legs continued to pump forward, she was floating higher and higher into the dusk of a sky, literally running on air.

“NO! HELP! HELP!” she screamed, panicking. Her arms and legs were flailing all about her as she spun in all directions into the great beyond. She was higher than the tallest trees of the Forbidden Forest...higher than the tallest turrets of the castle...the lake looked like a miniscule speck in the distance. She closed her eyes, yelling fit to burst, wishing it would stop…

THUMP.

She had stopped falling—but how? And where? Somewhere soft…somewhere that smelled and felt awfully familiar…

“I was beginning to wonder where you had got to…”

Claire opened her eyes and gasped in surprise. She was sitting on her bed—not the bed in the Hogwarts dormitory she had called home these past few months, but her real bed, in her own room, in the real world.

“Surprised?” said a voice from the doorway.

Claire looked up to see her great-grandmother hobbling into her room, leaning heavily on her walking stick and wearing a light pink bathrobe over her nightdress.

“Grandma!” she exclaimed, her pulse rocketing in her moment of realization. She had left Hogwarts! How was she going to fix everything? How was she going to save Harry now?

As the old woman lowered herself down to sit on the edge of Claire’s bed, someone else came bounding into Claire’s room, looking worried.

“Claire!” her father said, sticking his head in the doorway. “Are you alright? Your mom and I heard yelling—”

All she could do was stare at him. How was she supposed to explain to him what was wrong? And…why didn’t he looked surprised to see her there? Had she not been gone for the past several months…?

She opened her mouth to voice this very question when her grandmother cut her off.

“She’s fine, David, she’s fine,” the old woman said with a wave of her hand. “She’s just excited about the birthday present her great-grandma just gave her!”

“Grandma—” Claire started to say.

“Wow, Claire!” Mr. Woods said, smiling at her and looking down at her clothes. “Aren’t those from those one books you’re always reading?”

For the first time, Claire looked down to see what she was wearing and gasped once again. She was still wearing her Hogwarts robes.

“Well, I just wanted to make sure everything was alright,” Mr. Woods said. “Good night, then!”

“Yeah…yeah, ‘night Dad…”

He shut the door behind him. Claire stared at the old woman sitting on the edge of her bed, who was staring back at her, though with a more curious expression than the disbelieving one Claire was wearing.

What is going on? ” Claire burst out before she could stop herself. “Why did I leave Hogwarts?! I can’t leave yet! It’s not my time to go! And—and how come you’re still here?! I’ve been gone for months!”

“The world of Hogwarts is a fictional place, my dear, therefore the amount of time you spend there does not effect the time of the real world. To everyone here, it was as if you never left.” The old woman sighed, clutching her walking stick tightly between two wrinkled hands and said, “To answer your other question, Claire, if you got my note the first day you arrived—I sent it with Aquinas—you remember I told you that you would be sent home, when and only when, you knew it was time for you to go…”

“BUT IT’S NOT MY TIME!” Claire exclaimed. This lunatic didn’t get it! If she wasn’t there at the end of the book to help Robin save Harry from the dementors….

Her grandmother sighed again, looking weary.

“I’m afraid you rather missed the point of your trip to Hogwarts, my dear,” she said with a shake of her head. “Rather missed the point, indeed…”

“Well, what WAS the point then?!” Claire said angrily. It felt nice to be able to blame someone else for all the problems she had caused. After all, her great-grandmother had sent her into the story in the first place—shouldn’t she have known that Claire wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of meeting Harry and his friends and getting involved in the story?!

“The point!” said the old woman, looking at Claire as though she had never seen her properly before. “My dear child, the point was to teach you a valuable lesson! The point was to give you the treat of a lifetime, a chance to be a part of the world you love and have your own adventure, but all the while to teach you that some parts of a story, whether we like them or not, have to happen for the good of the plot! Like the death of Sirius Black, my dear, like the death of Sirius Black…”

Claire gaped at her, not willing to let her off the hook so easily. After all, it had felt so good to be able to put the blame on someone else for a change.

“Well, what adventure was I supposed to have if I wasn’t supposed to get involved in the story, huh?!” Claire shot at her, certain she had her cornered. “Explain that one!”

But the old woman merely shook her head, looking wearier than ever.

“My dear, have you forgotten the secret rooms you found in the dungeons of Hogwarts?” she asked. “Have you forgotten the keys that you had to unlock them and explore what was inside?”

Claire said nothing. If she was being truthful, in the excitement of the trying to save Sirius and Harry she had completely forgotten about the secret chambers she had found during her detention. But she wasn’t about to admit to this apparently foolish lapse of memory.

“My dear child, the point of giving someone the Gift and letting them experience the story they love is not so that they can meddle in the affairs of the characters and change the plot,” her grandmother explained. “The point is so that you can have your own adventure, and appreciate the story for precisely what it is: a well-written tale and nothing more. You were supposed to realize that, almost all of them do before they run off doing anything foolish…”

“But I don’t understand how finding a whole bunch of dusty old founders’ rooms was supposed to change my mind about saving Sirius!” Claire said stubbornly.

“Don’t you see?” her grandmother went on. “Don’t you see that you would have had your own little secret about Harry’s world? You and you alone, would have been able to experience this amazing detail in the story. You had friends and a life of your own in the world of Hogwarts, and were given the necessary tools and put in the necessary circumstances to make your own story, known and special only to you, the Bestowed. That, my child, is the point of the Gift.”

Claire blinked at the old woman, trying to take in what she had just said. None of this was adding up.

“But if the point of the Gift is to get me to realize all this and have my own jolly good time,” Claire said, “then why did you send me into the story knowing full-well that I meant to save Sirius and get involved with the plot? Why did you send Aquinas—HEY, that’s another thing!—Aquinas showed up after a week or two and told me that you said I needed to get more serious about my task! That I need to grab the bull by the horns and start thinking about the bigger picture, so that I could change the story! What did you do that for if that wasn’t the ‘point of the Gift’ or whatever? Why did you send Aquinas to help me if I wasn’t supposed to get involved in the story at all?!”

The old woman sighed once again, staring at the wall with a forboding expression on her face.

“Some of that was an old woman’s foolishness,” she began. “Yes, when I sent Aquinas into the story, I told him to tell you to get more serious—but I didn’t mean more Sirius, as in the character, Claire, I meant more practical about the decisions you were making. I sent Aquinas to keep an eye on you because you were getting far too close to the Weasley twins, and I could tell you were going to end up far too close to Harry. But I can see now that Aquinas…well, he doesn’t always make the best decisions, that boy...got a bit of a bumpy history with these things, if truth be told…However…”

She cleared her throat. Claire cocked an eyebrow at her. She would have wondered more about what her grandmother had just been mumbling if she did not have her own problems to worry about at the moment.

“Anyway, dear child,” she went on, “Aquinas was supposed to help you stay out of the story as much as possible, and help you to find your way to your own adventure that had been set up and was merely waiting for you to stumble across it. But obviously, once you had had a taste for what being a part of the lime light was like, you weren’t willing to go digging around in dungeons and hang about with Ginny Weasley and her friends…”

“You still aren’t answering my question!” Claire interrupted, growing more and more aggravated. “Why did you send me in there knowing what I wanted to do?! If you hadn’t then things—”

“I, no doubt, claim some of the responsibility for myself, my dear, no doubt I do,” she said. She looked older than Claire had ever seen her and she immediately decided to stop her shouting. “It was a team effort, what we’ve done…a team effort to destroy the Harry Potter books…”

“Destroy the—what?!” Claire said, astounded by this new news.

“Clearly you are not familiar with how things like this work, my love,” the old woman said with yet another heavy sigh. “Did you not notice when your father came in here that he did not know who or what Harry Potter was? He referred to robes as part of those ‘books you read.’ Did you notice this, dear?”

Claire’s mind began to spin. It had been her father who had comforted her when she had been crying about the death of Sirius, the first time she had read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It had been her mother who had bought her the newest book for her birthday what seemed like a lifetime ago. Both of her parents knew that their daughter’s life as good as revolved around Harry Potter—why all of a sudden was her father acting like he had never heard of it before?

“Yeah…yeah why is that?” Claire asked, worried.

“Because, my dear, Harry Potter is not as popular as it once was,” sighed the old woman. “You see, dear, when a Gift is bestowed upon a child, only the child, the Bestower, and administration that carefully follows all of these such Gifts has any recollection of what was changed. All other readers of the book will only have a vague gist of what was there before—sort of like de ja vu. They’ll read the book, and think things like, ‘Didn’t it say this here before? I guess not…” or “I could have sworn this happened here, but maybe I’m wrong’…”

“Yeah!” Claire said, thinking hard. “Yeah, I’ve done that before when I was reading the books! But it was never anything major, just little humorous sentences or comments just sort of—I don’t know—sort of weren’t there any more. So you’re saying the only reason for those feelings is because someone with the Gift altered the story?”

“Yes,” she answered. Claire felt the color drain out of her cheeks. If those people had changed minor things like that…then what had she done?

“So…so, what does that mean? For me?”

“Well,” her grandmother continued. “The books aren’t as highly praised as the once were, my dear.”

“What do you mean?” Claire asked, confused.

The old woman went on, “The critics loved the first and second books, but by the third…well, in a nutshell, they felt that your character was too abrupt. You have to admit, you did sort of jump out of nowhere and took away from the main point of the novel…”

“But—”

“Claire dear, don’t you understand?” she said. “Harry was distracted from being worried about Sirius attacking him because you were in the story. Harry was very intrigued by your character. You were unlike anyone he had ever met, had horrors in your past similar to that of his own, and seemed to love life in a way he had never been capable of before. You were like a hero to him; he didn’t understand how you could live with your past. Obviously, he didn’t know that your secret to dealing with these horrors was that you had not lived that life at all.”

“Yeah…” Claire said, her thoughts straying back to the events at the Quidditch field. “Yeah, he had just been telling me that…”

It was hard to believe that less than half an hour ago, Harry was spinning her around and kissing her on the Quidditch field. She hadn’t meant for him to like her, hadn’t meant to hurt Ginny…No, she hadn’t meant for any of this to happen. How could she have let it get so out of hand?

“He grew to respect you and care about you a great deal,” she said. “All the awkward times when you were upset about changing the books, he thought that you were upset about the dementors, or worried that something had upset him, or—oh, I don’t remember all the excuses he came up with but you can see them all for yourself.” She pointed to the Prisoner of Azkaban book, left open on her bed from when she had been sucked into the story what seemed like so long ago.

“But, Grandma,” Claire began, “Harry survives, right? Harry and Sirius survive the dementors? Right?

The old woman merely replied, “To some extent. Many things changed, Claire. Many, many things…”

Claire was standing up, shaking her head, refusing to accept it.

“I have to go back!” she cried. “I have to go back right now! I have to fix this, I’ve ruined everything! Please, Grandma isn’t there some way—could I go back and try and fix things?! Please, we had a plan! We were going to try it, please!”

Her great-grandmother looked as if she had been about to deny her request, but she saw the desperate look on her face, the need to repair her mistakes, the desire to make wrong right again.

She sighed heavily for what seemed the thousandth time.

“The Gift is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, my child,” she said sadly. “I’m afraid I’d be quite out of line to send you back into the story.”

“But, Grandma!” Claire exclaimed, clutching her shoulders in desperation. “You loved the books too! Surely you don’t want to see them change like this? We had a plan, Grandma, a good plan! We were going to fix it! Please, just let me try!”

Her grandma stared at her thoughtfully, looking as one often looks when trying to make a difficult choice.

She stopped thinking suddenly, looked at the floor, closed her eyes and mumbled to herself, “May this burden rest solely with me and me alone…”

Then she looked up at her great-granddaughter and said, “All right, Claire. Come here.”

She knelt down in front of the old woman, who for the second time placed a wrinkled hand atop her great-granddaughter’s head, concentrating…

“There,” she said after a moment. “It is done.”

She stood to leave the room and Claire seized the Prisoner of Azkaban book lying on her covers.

“Grandma?”

The old woman turned around. She looked so weak and tired.

“I won’t let you down,” Claire said. “I promise.”

Her great-grandmother managed a feeble smile and said, “We are bound by our promises in this lifetime, my dear child. Be careful what you wish for…”

With that she turned about and hobbled out of the room, leaning, if possible, even more heavily on her walking stick.

Claire turned her attention back to the book in her hands, riffling through its pages until she came to a chapter near the end. She sat down neatly on her bed, flicking some dust off of her robes and read the following lines:

“THE DARK LORD LIES ALONE AND FRIENDLESS, ABANDONED BY HIS FOLLOWERS. HIS SERVANT HAS BEEN CHAINED THESE TWELVE YEARS. TONIGHT, BEFORE MIDNIGHT…THE SERVANT WILL BREAK FREE AND SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS MASTER. THE DARK LORD WILL RISE AGAIN WITH HIS SERVANT’S AID, GREATER AND MORE TERRIBLE THAN EVER HE WAS. TONIGHT…BEFORE MIDNIGHT…THE SERVANT…WILL SET OUT…TO REJOIN…HIS MASTER…”

She began to fell very sleepy, leaning back on her pillows, the book resting in her hands. Before she could count to ten, she was falling, flying through time and space into a fictional world she had nearly destroyed…

She was going back.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaa! *whew* That was a really hard chapter to write—too many loose ends that needed tying! @_@ Anyway, questions! What is Claire going to do now that she has a second chance to repair her mistakes? Is the fact that Claire isn’t supposed to be in the story any more going to cause her some additional problems? Will Aquinas still be there to help her? Will Robin still have the plan ready to go in time? Well, just hug those teddy bears, my dear readers, and you’ll have to wait and see…]


Chapter 28: Alone
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a/n: I thought I’d change things up a bit—this chapter is from Robin’s point of view. I figured it would be easier to tell you what you needed to know through Robin’s eyes, and who knows, maybe some of you will feel warmer toward her after you hear what she has to say? I hope so! ^.^ Please enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter. Nope, I don’t! Indeed not…NO! I only own the plot of this fic, I say! I DON’T OWN HARRY! *runs off*

Chapter 28: Alone

“NO! HELP! HELP! IT’S NOT MY TIME!”

Robin sat bolt upright in her bed, shaking and sweating. She had been having a very strange dream, although she couldn’t really remember it. What had it been about…?

She drew back the curtains of her four-poster and swung her feet onto the floor, heading over to the window sill for a cool drink of water before she went back to bed. She couldn’t help but be angry with herself for waking up so suddenly; ever since she had told Claire her plans about saving Harry and Sirius it had been harder and harder to find sleep at night. There was always something to think over or worry about these days…

There was a cool breeze blowing in from the open window onto her tired face. It wasn’t like she wasn’t used to being up at this time. No, sleep didn’t come easily to her at home either. Life had been unkind to Robin Gregory. The Gift she had received from an old man in the bookstore she usually took refuge in had been one of the best things that had ever happened to her. Anything was better than home, where it was more common to hear shouting and breaking glass than “I love you,” or a warm embrace. Ever since her brother had died in a tragic accident, she didn’t really consider life a happy course of events.

She sighed. Of course, her Gift hadn’t been all fun and games either, but after the life she had lead thus far she was used to disappointment. She had certainly been given the raw end of the deal, having to portray a character in Gryffindor, whose parents, ironically, had been Death Eaters, and who was hated by everyone in her year for something that was out of her control. Then again, it was very easy to slip into her role, seeing as she was used to brooding, being moody, and not talking to many people. And the lack of people wanting to talk to her certainly lowered the risk of her being tempted to interfere with anything that would mess up things for Harry.

Robin glared through the darkness at the curtains closed around Claire’s bed. How could she have been so careless, or so obvious for that matter? Robin had figured out the very first day that Claire had received the Gift exactly who she was and where she was from. The character of Claire Woods, whom she had shared a dormitory with for a month before the real Claire had received her Gift and taken her character’s place, absolutely despised Robin—and with good reason, too, Robin thought. After all, her character’s parents were the reason Claire’s character was an orphan and the reason she lacked self-confidence. The day that Claire Woods clapped for Robin when she had preformed her Transfiguration spell properly was the day that Robin knew something odd was going on. Claire never would have applauded someone loudly when no one else in the room was clapping, least of all for Robin.

Then there was the first change in the plot—when McGonagall wouldn’t let Harry practice Quidditch in the evenings for fear that Sirius would be lurking around the grounds. Robin remembered, she had been sitting in the corner of the common room, watching Oliver and Harry argue over what had just happened, when she saw Claire Woods come in through the portrait hole. The look on her face was enough to give away fathoms of information, but no, Claire had to be as obvious as to take Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban out of her school bag and gasp out loud when she saw the words changing on the page. Robin could have beaten her upside the head with her own Prisoner of Azkaban book, which was disguised as 1001 Magical Herbs and Fungi and in her hand, for she was wondering what had happened to change this minor detail in the story, but alas, she did not want to be as unprofessional as Claire was being. It was apparent that the girl had done something foolish, and Robin began to grow wary of what she was capable of.

Then came the Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff Quidditch match. Robin watched from afar as Claire foolishly tried to talk to Sirius, and was contemplating stopping her when the dementors came…

She shuddered in the dark dormitory, staring down at the scarlet carpeting. Robin had heard terrible voices, her own voice, when the dementors got near her:

“Stand aside, girl, stand aside!”
“No! You can’t do this, it’s my fault! Please!”
“She’s telling the truth! I swear, please don’t kill him—”
“I CAN, AND I WILL! NOW STAND ASIDE!”


The cool breeze blowing through the open window brought her out of her thoughts. She sighed again. To this day, though she’d thought and thought about it, she could not figure out what the voices meant. She had expected to see her brother dying, or her parents screaming at each other, or even see a vision of herself going back home, but to hear voices she had never heard or thought about before…

Once again she turned to stare at Claire’s four-poster. True, Robin couldn’t actually say that she was upset when she found out that Claire had passed out at the match as well; in fact, at first, she had been very relieved that she was not the only one hearing strange things. But at the same time, she couldn’t ignore the strange feeling she was having that the voices they were hearing were connected, maybe even exactly the same. And if these strange things they were hearing were premonitions…then she knew she was undoubtedly going to be seeing a lot of Claire Woods.

Chuckling, she remembered how Claire had come over to talk to her that night in the Hospital Wing, and how she had dropped the Prisoner of Azkaban cover right in her lap. Trying to teach the girl to be more careful with where she kept things like this, Robin had let her sweat for a while, allowing her to think that Robin would let slip her secret if Claire should annoy her in any way. Unfortunately, this taught Robin two things about this strange girl: she was careless and overacted very often.

Robin wouldn’t have been very truthful to herself if she couldn’t admit that Claire was getting smarter about the decisions she was making—but it just so happened that every time she got smarter her mistakes seemed to multiply by ten in their level of seriousness.

All this reflecting wasn’t doing Robin any good as she sat upon the windowsill, staring down at the dark grounds. Both she and Claire were working very hard to ensure that nothing would go wrong when the end of term rolled around and the time came when they would need to step up and save Harry. Robin was getting nearer every day to mastering the Patronus Charm, even though it was slow work, and Claire was maintaining her friendship with Harry while managing to keep her distance. When Harry asked Claire to go the Quidditch pitch that evening to try out his new Firebolt, Robin saw it as the perfect opportunity to test her. If she was truly serious about their cause and was ready to put honor before fun, it was time for her to prove it. At the time, Robin had no doubt that Claire would do fine—after all, look at all the improvement she had made in the past month!—but still, her pessimistic nature had her always prepared for the worst thing possible to happen…

And that’s when it hit her, so hard that she almost fell off the windowsill.

No wonder she was having strange nightmares and was too worried to sleep! She had gone to bed before Claire had returned from the Quidditch pitch; Claire didn’t get a chance to tell her what had happened and if everything had gone accordingly.

Robin hesitated for a minute, staring at Claire’s bed and wondering. What time was it anyway? She jumped off the windowsill and snatched her watch off her bedside table. 12:56 am. Well, if Claire was asleep, she probably hadn’t been for long…

Making her decision, Robin slapped the watch down on her nightstand and made her way over to Claire’s bed. She’d never be able to sleep if she sat here wondering all night and she knew Claire wouldn’t mind telling her about her evening now. Robin certainly wouldn’t have minded if Claire had woken her up needing to talk about their mission, no matter what kind of air she put off about it. She was starting to think along the lines that Claire was just a careless, overexcited fan who really did mean well.

“Claire?” she whispered. “Claire, are you awake?”

There was no answer. Robin gave it one more go.

“Claire?”

Nothing. She reached out a hand and drew back the hangings.

There was no one there.

Robin sat down on her own bed, thinking. Where was she? There was no way she could still be at the Quidditch pitch…unless…no. Had Harry possibly asked her to stay longer? She craned her neck around to stare at the book disguised as 1001 Magical Herbs and Fungi on her nightstand. Maybe she should check and see that things were still as they should be…

Suddenly, the door to the dormitory burst open. Robin’s other two roommates, Bethany Anderson and Ginny Weasley, came bustling into the room. Was everyone just playing a joke on her by drawing the hangings and pretending to be asleep? She had thought the dormitory was full! Maybe her watch was broken and it was really much earlier than she had thought…

The two girls ignored Robin completely, as usual, but it looked as though they actually had something on their minds this time rather than just ignoring her for the hell of it. Robin watched curiously as Ginny flung herself down on her bed, head in her arms, sobbing like there was no tomorrow. Bethany shut the door of the dormitory and then rushed to Ginny’s side.

“Ginny, it’s okay…” Bethany said in a soothing voice, reaching out to touch the distressed girl’s shoulder.

“No it’s not!” Ginny sniffed in reply, sounding angry that Bethany had said such a thing. She quickly withdrew her hand.

“Well, I still don’t understand, Gin,” Bethany said. Robin continued to survey the scene silently from her bed. “Explain what happened again.”

“I already t-told you!” Ginny sobbed pitifully. “I s-saw her leave to go down the Qu-Quidditch pitch so I f-followed her, a-and after practice was o-o-o-over he came down and they were j-just t-t-t-alking and then—and th-then…”

She ended her tale there in a chorus of anguished sobbing.

Robin showed no signs of panic but her heart was thumping like mad. She threw a glance over to the book on her dresser, wondering if…

No…Claire couldn’t have…Could she?

“I-I can’t believe it!” Ginny was sobbing while Bethany patted her arm sympathetically. “She kn-knew I f-f-fancied H-Harry. She was m-my fr-friend…”

“Claire can be horrible sometimes, Ginny,” Bethany replied in a cold voice that didn’t at all suit her. “She probably didn’t even realize what she was doing. Figured you weren’t there and what you didn’t know wouldn’t hurt you—”

“But st-still! How c-c-could she?!”

Robin was no longer listening to this nonsense. She had rolled across her bed and seized the book on her nightstand with such gusto that a bottle of ink sitting next to it flew off onto the floor and crashed, sending shards of glass and flecks of ink all over the place.

“Do you mind, Robin?” Bethany said in the same icy tone, but Robin wasn’t paying attention, she was flipping the book open to the proper page, hoping against hope that what she suspected wouldn’t be there…

“How do you know that?” said Harry, almost angry at her sureness that someone was still looking out for him. Really, how could someone know such a thing?

He supposed his anger had showed in his tone, because Claire turned away from him, looking rather upset. He felt sorry for it almost immediately.

“Well I—I know that they…” she started.

She broke off, staring off into the distant trees of the Forbidden Forest, looking as though she had lost something dear to her. Of course, Harry thought, she must have been thinking about her parents…

“Well, I just know,” she finished somewhat lamely, sounding like she was close to tears. “Sorry I can’t be of more help. I tried.”

Something was coming over him—it was like he had lost control of his actions. Before he could process a single thought he had turned her around to face him. This was so unlike him, but all he wanted to do was let her know that he understood what she was feeling—that was what he had always hoped for when he felt alone like that. He just wanted her pain to go away…

“Harry, wha—?”

Before another thought ran through his head, before he even knew what he was doing, he was leaning in to kiss her…


“NO!”

Robin clamped a hand over her mouth. How could she have let this happen? She should have known better! She knew that Harry liked Claire, she could have seen this coming a mile away! How could she have pushed Claire to go?! This was all her doing…Well, not all of it, but at least part of the responsibility lay with Robin Gregory, and she knew it.

Bethany was staring at her.

“I know that you don’t care, Robin, but Ginny is upset!” Bethany half-shouted, eyes narrowed. “You’re not helping by adding your peanut gallery comments, so please, do us a favor and just shut your mouth.”

In shock though she was, Robin couldn’t help but look up at these words. Bethany had always been fairly nice to Robin, even before Claire had come into the story. She may have ignored her like the rest, but she always smiled at her in the Great Hall and said hello. Why was she acting so strangely…?

“My apologies,” Robin said, regaining her composure quickly. “I’m just very surprised. I didn’t think Claire would do something like that either.”

Robin found it was very easy to lie them, especially since she was telling the truth.

“I’m sorry, Ginny,” Robin said, looking over at her tear-stained face. “Really, I am.”

“It’s okay,” Ginny said, drying her eyes on her four-poster’s hangings. “I’m being stu-stupid. Sorry, you guys…”

Ginny then seemed to noticed Claire’s bed with the curtain’s drawn and gasped.

“She’s not in here is she?” Ginny asked worriedly, her freckled cheeks paling. “I would feel awful if she heard me crying like this…”

“No, she’s not,” Bethany answered.

Robin looked at her, surprised.

“D’you know where she is, Bethany?” Robin asked.

It was impossible to deny that Bethany was not herself. Her eyes said it all; they were usually very happy and welcoming, but tonight they were merely cold.

“Hospital Wing,” Bethany replied with a smirk. “Serves her right too, for what she did.”

“Oh, it’s not that big a deal, Bethany,” Ginny said, sounding much more like herself. “I’m being dumb. I’ll apologize to Claire tomorrow, I shouldn’t have followed her anyway, and it was her business…”

Robin stared at Claire’s empty bed, wondering. Why was she in the Hospital Wing? Something was not adding up…

She knew it was far too late for her to get the answers to these questions tonight. So she bade the other two good night and shut the bed hangings around her, pretending to be asleep until the sounds of two girls breathing heavily could be heard. As soon as they were resting peacefully, she slid out of bed back to her place on the windowsill, where she sat all night until the sun rose, wondering…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Robin dressed and ate very quickly that morning. She was eager to get to the Hospital Wing. The rest of the school was heading out onto the grounds to watch the Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw Quidditch match as she made her way quickly up the staircases, her bag swinging madly over her shoulder.

She knocked on the door of the Hospital Wing, standing statue-still even though the anxiety was beginning to rise in her chest. Madam Pomfrey’s face appeared in a crack in the doorway a moment later.

“For Merlin’s sake, there are patients sleeping in here, Gregory!” Madam Pomfrey huffed. Robin dearly would have loved to point out that this was a very obvious statement, but her chat with Claire wasn’t worth postponing to make a snide comment. “It’s not even nine o’clock!”

“I’m sorry, Madam Pomfrey,” Robin said. “But I really need to speak with Claire Woods. I was just wondering if she was alright, she never came back to the dormitory last night…”

“Oh, Woods, of course, of course,” Madam Pomfrey said, swinging the door open wider for her to enter. Robin stepped inside as Madam Pomfrey added, “Not sure what happened to the girl, if truth be told. Seems awfully confused—you wouldn’t know why, would you?”

“No,” Robin answered truthfully.

“Well, she’s right over there,” Madam Pomfrey said, pointing to a bed with the hangings drawn. “Don’t stay too long, Miss Gregory. Miss Woods needs her rest.”

“I understand, Madam Pomfrey,” Robin replied.

With that, the nurse headed off back into her office. Robin didn’t move until she heard the door of the study shut with a snap.

She walked slowly over to the bed Madam Pomfrey had indicated, her shoes making a loud tapping noise as she moved across the floor. Without further ado, she snatched the hangings and ripped them back.

Claire was there, of course, but Robin knew right away something wasn’t right with her. Something wasn’t normal…

“EEP!” Claire exclaimed oddly, spilling a container of Bertie Bott’s Beans she had been trying to open all over her covers. “Robin! Wh-what are you doing here?! Go away!”

Robin cocked an eyebrow at her.

“We need to have a talk, Woods,” Robin said coolly. “You’ve made a huge mistake. Do you realize what you’ve done? I thought—”

“I didn’t do anything to you!” Claire said in the same sort of odd squeak. “Never! I swear! Please just leave me alone!”

Robin couldn’t do anything but stare. No, something definitely wasn’t right…

“Woods, what are you on about?” Robin asked her.

Suddenly Claire’s eyes grew wide as Snitches. It was if two and two were being put together in her brain.

“Y-you did this to me!!” she said wildly, jumping up on her bed and pointing an accusing finger at Robin.

Robin was completely taken aback.

“Woods, I—”

“I knew you were just like your mum and dad!” Claire continued to say in an insane whisper, her eyes popping. “I knew it! I told Dumbledore I didn’t want to share a dormitory with you—I told him I didn’t feel safe but he told me you were fine! And now look! You’ve—you’ve put some sort of—of Memory Charm on me!!!”

“Why would I—?” Robin started.

But Madam Pomfrey had overheard their conversation.

“What is going on?!” she said briskly, walking over and giving the back of Claire’s nightgown a great tug so that she fell back on the seats. “This is outrageous! Woods, you’re supposed to be resting! Gregory, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave! Out!”

Robin stared at Claire’s large, menacing eyes. They were full of fear and hate and misunderstanding. Those weren’t Claire’s eyes…

“Yes…yes, I was just leaving, Madam Pomfrey…”

She stepped out of the Hospital Wing and Madam Pomfrey slammed the door shut behind her. Robin leaned against the wall, listening to Claire’s shouts and Madam Pomfrey’s vain attempts to quiet her.

That wasn’t the Claire Woods that had been here since Halloween and Robin knew it. That was the Claire Woods who had been here before that, the one who had been afraid of Robin, the one who skirted around her in the corridors and nervously avoided her in the common room…

Claire was gone.

Robin opened her bag and took out her Prisoner of Azkaban book once again. She had been so surprised by the kiss she had read about last night that she didn’t pursue the chapter further. She opened it and read about how Harry had come back to the common room with Ron to find Claire sitting in an arm chair by the fire. He walked up to speak to her but she seemed surprised that he was talking to her…Harry asked her why she had run away and she didn’t understand…He continued to ask her questions until he grew angry and she grew scared, not remembering anything he had been telling her…She had left to use the library, but Robin knew she was heading for the Hospital Wing, worried about her memory and possibly her sanity…

She slammed the book shut and slid down the wall into a sitting position, staring at the floor in disbelief.

How could Claire leave her here like this? How could she leave to let Robin clean up the mess she had made? How could she do that?

Something else occurred to Robin. Claire might be gone, but her owl…she knew Claire’s owl had been no ordinary bird. Aquinas was his name, he said. He was small with brown and white feathers. Maybe…just maybe…

She was flying down the corridor towards the other end of the castle. She knew it was a slim chance, but if there was even a slither of hope that that owl might be in the Owlery…then at least she wouldn’t have to face the dementors on her own.

Robin came to a halt at the stairs leading up into the Owlery tower. She took them three at a time, hoping, wishing, praying…

She flung herself inside, stepping on droppings and small animal bones as she looked around on all the perches. She scanned them several times, he would be easy to miss…

But the third time around, she knew it was no good. Her bag slipped off her shoulder and onto the dirty, straw-strewn floor.

Claire was gone, and so, apparently, was Aquinas.

She was on her own. Alone.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Robin could have left Hogwarts behind just as easily as Claire had, but she knew she would never be able to forgive herself if she did. She loved the Harry Potter books too much to see them mutilated into an unrecognizable story. The books had been her best friend and saving grace when no one was there for her, and she was not about to turn her back on them now that Harry needed her help.

The days grew warmer. Her roommates were back to pleasantly ignoring her (some more pleasantly than others) and Ginny and Claire seemed to have made peace, quite possibly because Claire kept insisting she had no idea what Ginny was talking about or why she was apologizing. Gryffindor managed to scrape the Quidditch Cup, despite Harry’s obvious distraction and confusion about things and, as far as she knew, things were still in place for Buckbeak’s trial and Sirius showing up on the grounds. She practiced her Patronus charm by night and went over what seemed like thousands of plans to be by the lakeside that night when Harry would need her, because now that Claire had left and Harry and her character were no longer speaking, Robin and Claire were no longer shown in the book going back in the Time-Turner sequence, but that did not mean she wouldn’t be at the lake that night. Even though she was alone, that didn’t mean she was going to give up. She was going to be there if she had to fight tooth and nail. She refused to see Harry and Sirius go down before they were meant to, not like this.

All the while she wondered and wondered about why people couldn’t be reliable. She knew that Claire would disappoint her, just like everyone else back home. Just when she needed someone, they were gone. That’s how it always seemed to work.

Exams came. Robin never really remembered how she got through them, they were just as rigorous and tiring as J.K. Rowling had always described. She allowed herself a laugh. At least some things had remained the way they were originally meant to be.

The last day of testing came entirely too fast for Robin’s liking. While everyone else was cheering and shouting excitedly as they rolled up their History of Magic exams, happy to be free, Robin was starting to feel queasy and strapped inside her own mind. She knew this exam had gone wretchedly but it couldn’t be helped. Her thoughts were off in the North Tower with Harry, where Professor Trelawney was making her second prediction and the events of a wild night were about to begin…

She knew she couldn’t stay in the common room until it was time for her to get into place, she was far too antsy. So she decided to meander her way out onto the grounds, thinking of a nice walk around the lake to clear her mind. As she was heading down the marble staircase, she heard a rather strange noise:

THUMP.

Robin remembered that sound all too well—but had she imagined it? Running so fast she missed the last step, she stumbled across the Entrance Hall, hoping, wishing, praying…

There, disentangling herself from a broomstick as she fell out of a closet, was someone Robin had never been happier to see in her life.

“Claire!”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaa!!! Wow, that was really fun! ^.^ I like to change things up! I hope you guys didn’t mind this chapter being from a different perspective—I started to write it from Claire’s point of view but it was too hard to explain everything that had happened while she was gone and…yeah, Robin was definitely a fun change of pace. I hope that those of you who thought she was “evil” or “mean” understand why now. It’s not nice to judge people before you know their story, fictional or not, you know? ^.~ Anywho, questions! *rubs hands together* The fun is about to begin, the action we’ve all been waiting for starts in the next chapter—will things go as planned? Or will things get so horribly mangled that you are all going to scream like little girls and run to hide safely under the covers of your bed?...*cackles* Fasten your seatbelts, kids, it’s going to be a bumpy ride…]


Chapter 29: Jumping to Conclusions
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[a/n: Teddy bears…Teddy bears are good things…Take the hint, kids…^.~ Also, if you want to have your Prisoner of Azkaban books handy, you might be able to figure out what the characters are doing before they do it…I mentioned the teddy bears, right? Yes, yes I did…*cough* Okay, go read! *bustles everyone along into the chapter*]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own......this! *holds up pocket lint* I know, I bet you're jealous...^_^

Chapter 29: Jumping to Conclusions

THUMP.

“Ouch…”

Claire opened her eyes and looked around. Where was she? It looked like a dusty old cupboard from what she could see through the darkness. She groped around for the doorknob and shoved the door open, falling out onto the cold stone floor of the Entrance Hall.

“Claire!”

She looked up to see Robin running towards her, tossing the books she was carrying aside as she went. Robin grabbed the brooms and mops that had fallen on top of Claire and pulled her to her feet, hugging her as though she was a life vest in the middle of a stormy ocean.

“Um…Hi, Robin?” Claire said, confused. Robin had never so much as smiled at her warmly, so as to why she was being hugged by this girl she had no clue.

“I’m so glad you’re here!” Robin said. Then, as if coming to her senses, she let go of Claire and said, “What the hell were you thinking, leaving me here like that?! I didn’t think you were coming back—!”

“What are you talking about?” Claire said, smacking her robes as the dust on them went flying. Apparently those mops and brooms had not been used in a while.

“You left!” Robin said. “You’ve been gone for months!”

“What do you—ooooh,” Claire said, eyes widening as it dawned of her. “Of course! I left before the Ravenclaw match and now its—oh…”

“Yeah,” Robin said, hands on her hips as she glared at Claire. “Oh.”

Claire twisted her fingers nervously.

“Robin, I’m sure you already know this,” Claire began awkwardly, “but…Ginny…?”

“Perfectly fine,” Robin answered her. “She apologized to you for getting so upset, but seeing as you couldn’t remember anything that had happened…”

“Huh?” Claire said.

Robin sighed before delving into an explanation on how the character of Claire Woods had taken her place when she had gone, and what happened with Harry and Ginny as well.

“So…so everything’s all right?” Claire asked tentatively.

“Well, Claire, I don’t know if you realized this at the time, but it was pretty stupid of you to jump to the conclusion like this,” Robin said, gathering the books she had dropped on the floor when Claire had arrived. “The Time-Turner sequence is starting, probably as we speak.”

“I know,” Claire said, staring at the floor in shame. “I just…I just wanted to fix it. I—I promised I would.”

“What do you mean, ‘you promised?’ ” Robin asked her. “Where did you go anyway?”

Claire told her everything about how she had come to leave the books and the conversation she had had with her great-grandmother before she sent her back.

“Man, you caught a lucky break there,” Robin said, sounding relieved. “You’re lucky you’re related to a Bestower. Otherwise—well, let’s not think about that.”

She turned her head away and looked into the Great Hall, where a few students were milling around before dinner. It was a harmless glance, but a moment later Robin’s eyes grew wide.

“What the—?”

“What?” Claire said, looking into the Great Hall as well. “What is it?”

“Well,” Robin started slowly. “It’s…it’s you. There, sitting with Bethany!” She pointed. “Can you see?”

“Yeah…” Claire said, looking at herself at the Gryffindor table. “But—but I’m out here! You don’t think…the Time-Turner…?”

“No, no it can’t be that yet,” Robin answered, shaking her head and staring quizzically at the other Claire. “Besides, we don’t go back with the Time-Turner any more. Seeing as you, in the books, aren’t really keen on talking to Harry any more—”

“—they don’t trust me, of course,” Claire finished with a nod. “But still, that doesn’t explain why I’m in there and out here.”

“Wait…maybe it does!” Robin said, thinking hard. “Didn’t your grandmother say that the Gift was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience? That you’re only allowed to go into the books once?”

“Yeah, something along those lines,” Claire said, spotting where Robin was going with this theory. “So you’re saying that, since I’ve already been here once, I can’t fill my character’s shoes any more? I’m just—like an extra person or something?”

“I guess so,” Robin said with a sigh. “Man, you owe your grandma one, kid. She must have broken a dozen rules to get you back here.”

“She’s a fan too,” Claire told her. “Of Harry Potter I mean. She was a mess when she saw what we—I mean, I—had done. I guess she wanted it fixed.”

Robin was staring at her curiously, and then she shook her head sadly at the floor.

“It wasn’t just your fault, Claire,” Robin said quietly. “I helped. Aquinas helped. It was a team effort, like your grandmother said.”

Something sprung into Claire’s head at that moment.

“Aquinas!” she said, looking around as if expecting him to be lurking about. “Is he—?”

But Robin merely shook her head again.

“I haven’t seen him at all since you left,” Robin answered. “It makes sense—an Observer can’t be in the story without anyone to observe, now can they?”

“I—wait, I never did get that. What do you mean? What’s an Observer?”

“Well, there’s not time to explain that now,” Robin said, looking cautiously into the Great Hall again. “Look, you’re going to be finishing dinner in a little while and if there’s two of you here and your character sees you—that’s bound to cause some problems. Let’s get up to the dormitory, I’ll grab my Invisibility Cloak and the book, and we’ll get out on the grounds so we can see what’s going on.”

“Okay, sounds like a plan.”

With that, the two girls sprinted as fast as the could up the marble staircase to Gryffindor Tower.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A few minutes later, Claire and Robin were sitting on the steps leading up to the girl’s dormitories, hidden under the Invisibility Cloak and listening to an ongoing conversation out in the common room.

“Sunset though,” Ron was saying. “We’d never be allowed…’specially you, Harry….”

They heard Harry sigh, “If only we had the Invisibility Cloak…”

“Where is it?” Hermione asked.

“Listen!” Robin hissed in Claire’s ear as Harry proceeded to explain about the One-Eyed Witch statue to Hermione. “When Hermione opens the portrait hole, follow her. It’s our only chance to get out unnoticed and early, before everyone gets done with dinner.”

“Gotcha,” Claire whispered back.

“How do you open the witch’s hump again?” Hermione was asking.

“Go!”

Robin and Claire crept silently out of their hiding place and waited in the corner for Hermione to stride in front of them and out into the corridor. They crept out right behind her, Claire nearly tripping on the hem of the cloak.

“Watch it!” Robin mouthed as Claire righted herself again. “Okay, this way, follow me…”

They made their way down staircases and corridors until they reached the Entrance Hall, where Claire suggested they wait in the broom closet she had fallen out of half an hour before—at least until they came up with a more thorough plan of action.

“Okay,” Robin said, listening against the door of the cupboard once they were safely hidden inside. It was hardly necessary, the sounds of dozens of people thudding down the marble staircase and into the Great Hall were easy enough to hear without pressing your ear against the wood. “Okay…we need to figure out what we’re going to do.”

“Yes,” Claire said, sitting down on an upturned bucket. “Let’s have a look at the book, shall we? And Robin—how’s your Patronus? Are you going to be able to drive the dementors away from Harry and Sirius?”

“My Patronus is acceptable,” Robin answered, also sitting down on a bucket and flipping through page after page in her Prisoner of Azkaban book. “I think Harry and Sirius should survive the evening basically unscathed.”

“Good,” Claire said. She leaned forward so that she could see the book as well. “So—how should we go about doing this?”

“Okay, well, in my opinion, we should just let the evening’s events go as they’re written.” She gave the book a little poke with her finger and Claire nodded in agreement. “We only need to be involved once and we should keep it that way.”

“I agree,” Claire said. “So should we just wait down by the lake, then?”

“Well, we could—but we have a couple other things to take into consideration, Woods,” Robin replied.

“Like…?”

“Well, we have to remember that Harry and Hermione are going to be out on the grounds most of tonight, too,” Robin said, her brow furrowed in thought. “When they use the Time-Turner to go back and save Buckbeak—”

“—they’ll be outside almost the entire time, of course,” Claire said, nodding as her brain processed this new information. “So, we need to make sure that we’re either a) under the Invisibility Cloak at all times or b) hidden somewhere where Harry and Hermione won’t see us.”

Robin nodded and said, “And another thing—Lupin.”

“Lupin!” Claire said aloud as she remembered. “Of course, a werewolf will be loose on the grounds! God, Robin I don’ know if we can do this—”

“We have to, Claire,” Robin said firmly. “We have to. Think of all of the fans all over the world. Harry Potter has helped some people get by—I know it’s helped me. And if they don’t have their Harry Potter books, real lives are going to change too, Claire, not just fictional ones—”

“I know, Robin, I know!” Claire said, screwing up her face in frustration. “I’m just nervous, that’s all—”

“Shh!” Robin said suddenly, holding up a hand to silence her. “Do you hear something?”

In the time they had been discussing things in the broom closet the number of students in the Great Hall seemed to have dwindled significantly; they could no longer hear a rumble of voices or the clattering of knives and forks. On top of that, they could hear voices in the Entrance Hall…two voices to be exact…

“Hermione, what—?” they heard Harry say in confusion.

“Shit!” Robin hissed, slamming the book shut.

“They’re coming in here!” Claire said at the same time, reaching wildly for the Invisibility Cloak.

She had just thrown the cloak over their chalk-white faces when the door was flung open. Claire grabbed Robin under the elbow and dove into the Entrance Hall right before Hermione pushed Harry inside and slammed the door shut.

Claire sighed with relief and mouthed, “That was close!”

“Claire!” Robin whispered as quietly as humanly possible. “Claire, the cloak…!”

“What?” Claire mouthed and looked around Robin to see what she was looking at. Her jaw dropped as she saw what the trouble was. The corner of the cloak had been caught in the door when Hermione had slammed it behind them.

“What should we do?” Claire mouthed.

But Robin merely put a finger to her lips and pointed to the door of the Great Hall. Turned her head, Claire pursed her lips and watched as Harry, Ron, and Hermione peaked their heads around the door and into the deserted Entrance Hall.

“Okay,” Hermione whispered, “no one there—cloak on…”

The trio disappeared underneath Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and very slowly made their way across the Hall and out the oak front doors.

Claire looked to Robin for directions. The latter held up a single finger and pointed to the door her cloak was trapped in. They head Hermione’s voice coming from inside.

“We’ve gone down the front steps….”

“Where did you get that hourglass thing?”

If Claire’s heart wasn’t pounding painfully in her throat, she’d have thought this was terribly cool. It was like reading two parts of the story at the exact same time.

“I’ve been turning it back all year so I could do hours over again, that’s how I’ve been doing several lessons at once, see? But…Harry, I don’t understand what Dumbledore wants us to do…

Claire felt a sharp poke in the ribs and saw Robin was pointing to the book. Claire leaned over and read a bit of the page. She sighed with relief; Harry was going to open the door in a minute to check and see if anyone was in the Hall. It would be easy for the two of them to follow Harry and Hermione outside after that.

Though the conversation lasted only a page, it seemed to Claire and Robin it lasted days. Finally, though, the crack in the door widened.

“Move! Quietly!” Robin mouthed, and the two girls crept slowly into the shadows beside the oak front doors.

“Let’s go!” said Harry.

Harry and Hermione opened the oak front doors and Claire and Robin were right behind them as they sprinted down the stone steps.

“Stop for a minute,” Robin said, letting Harry and Hermione get far ahead of them as they headed off into the Forbidden Forest.

“Where do we go from here?” Claire asked, looking wildly around them. “We can’t go into the Forest, Hermione and Harry and going to be all over the place in there! They’d definitely see us…”

“No, no we can’t do that,” Robin agreed. “Let’s go over by the lake where we can still see the Whomping Willow. As soon as they all go in the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, and I mean all of them, we can head around the lake so we’ll be ready when they come out.”

“Will we be safe from the werewolf over there?” Claire asked, trying to keep the worry out of her voice.

“Should be,” Robin replied, looking over her shoulder at the castle. “We’d better stay under the cloak. Gryffindor Tower is right there and if your character happens to look out the window…”

“Yeah, good idea.”

The two of them made their way over to the lake, crouching down behind a large bush where they could watch the Whomping Willow safely.

“Okay, it should be okay to take the cloak off now,” Robin said, whipping it off herself and shaking her long blonde hair out of her face. “If we have to make a run for it because of Lupin or whatever, we’re not going to be able to get away very fast under that.”

“But what if someone sees—?” Claire began, also coming out from under the cloak.

“No one is coming for a while, we’re fine,” Robin answered, opening the book in her lap again. Claire hid the cloak in the bush they were hiding behind and sat quietly watching the Whomping Willow sway in the breeze. A moment later, she heard someone coming from the castle.

“Who—?” Claire started to ask, crouching down lower in the brush.

“It’s the Ministry of Magic representatives,” Robin answered her, her eyes narrowed as Dumbledore, Cornelius Fudge, Macnair, and the old committee member headed down the stone steps and onto the sloping lawn. “They’re headed down to Hagrid’s for the execution.”

A moment later, they heard a stifled shriek from the direction of Hagrid’s hut.

“Hermione’s found Scabbers,” Robin said, her face extremely pale. “The committee members should be reaching his house any minute…”

They heard a sharp rap on wood—Fudge was knocking on Hagrid’s door. Claire felt her heart pounding painfully in her throat.

“Robin, Harry and Ron and Hermione—aren’t they going to be coming this way?” Claire croaked. Her throat was unusually dry. “Pettigrew—he’s going to run this way, isn’t he?”

“Yes, but not for a minute,” Robin said in the same dried-out tone.

They heard a squealing noise coming twenty yards away up the hill.

“Scabbers, it’s me, you idiot, it’s Ron!” they heard an aggravated voice say.

“They’re coming—we’ve got to move!” Claire whispered, making to stand up.

“No!” Robin said, pulling her down to the ground again. “Stay put!”

Swish—thud.

All three parties—the trio under their cloak, Harry and Hermione in the forest with the escaped Buckbeak, and Claire and Robin hidden in the bush—fell silent.

Hermione broke the silence in a barely audible whisper, “They did it! I d—don’t believe it—they did it!”

“Robin, Wormtail is going to run for it—he’s going to come down here, we’ve got to get out of the way!” Claire said, starting to get angry and Robin’s idiocy.

“No! Not yet!” Robin insisted through gritted teeth.

A howl of happiness—or, as the trio thought it was, a howl of misery—was heard across the grounds, made by none other than Hagrid. The duo hidden down by the lake heard Ron tell the others they needed to get back to the castle, and they were just starting to move along when—

“OUCH! He bit me!”

“Ron, be quiet! Fudge’ll be out here in a minute—”

“He won’t—stay—put—”

Robin—!” Claire said, trying to pull the girl somewhere other than where they were currently positioned.

“Wait…Claire, where’s Crookshanks?!” Robin said, looking scared as she searched around them wildly. “Crookshanks is supposed to be here! He’s not here! Where is he?!”

Claire didn’t really care that the cat was missing—she had just seen a rat fly out of thin air and onto the lawn, running as fast as its little paws would allow it.

“I don’t know—Robin we need to move, now!—

“Ron, no!”

Ron appeared out of nowhere as well as he threw the cloak off and pelted after his rat. A moment later, Harry and Hermione appeared as well, running after Ron.

“Scabbers—!”

Claire had no time to think; she thrust into the bush, grabbed Robin’s Invisibility Cloak, and tossed it over the both of them. She stayed as still as she could, desperately hoping that none of the trio had spotted them…

“Sirius!” she heard Robin whisper.

A great, black dog appeared on the lawn. It dove clear into Harry, knocked him to the ground, and seized Ron by the arm, sinking its inch-long teeth into his flesh.

“See?” Robin said to Claire in an exasperated voice. “If we had moved we’d have been right in the middle of that! You don’t think, Woods—”

“They were headed right this way!” Claire said defensively, feeling foolish.

“Lumos!”

A bright light illuminated the scene up on the lawn. Harry’s arm was outstretched, holding out the wand light to see what was going on. Hermione was on the ground, bleeding freely from the shoulder, trying to stand. Ron was being dragged into the giant tree’s roots by Sirius. And, Claire could see just barely through the bit of light Harry’s wand was giving off, Harry, Hermione, and Buckbeak were specs amongst the trees of the Forbidden Forest, watching the scene carefully…

Snap. Ron’s leg was broken.

“Harry—we’ve got to go for help—”

“No! That thing is big enough to eat him; we haven’t got time—”

The two of them began dodging the branches, trying to get into the gap in the roots. Hermione was dancing nervously on the spot, and so was Robin.

“Where is Crookshanks, Claire?!” she said in a worried voice. “He’s supposed to be here! He’s not here, where is he?!”

“I don’t know…” Claire said nervously.

“Claire, they’re not going to be able to get in!” Robin half-shouted over the noise of Hermione’s screams and the tree’s violent movements. “Crookshanks pushes the knot for them and he’s not here!”

“Leave it to me, I’ll do it…” Claire said.

She seized the Invisibility Cloak so she could run and sprinted up the lawn toward the scene. It was horrible—Harry and Hermione were getting pummeled and neither one had any idea how to get into the tunnel. Claire squinted through the flailing tree limbs; she could just barely make out the knot on the trunk. It would be a challenge…

She took a deep breath.

“Here goes nothing…”

“Claire—!” she heard Robin half-shout.

She ran into the chaos. Dodged a branch to her right, flung herself onto the ground to avoid another, rolled to the left barely missing a third. She’d have to crawl. She felt the cloak snagging on roots and brambles as she army-crawled her way to the trunk. Almost there…her fingers were outstretched…she could almost reach it…

Snap.

“AHHHHHH!”

Even though she was invisible, the tree seemed to sense her. Like a mother smacking the hand of a naughty child it had rapped a branch sharply against the back of hand. It felt as though every bone in her wrist and fingers were broken. She looked wildly around her—Harry had just gotten hit sharply across the shoulder blades, Hermione had narrowly avoided a branch in the face.

“Now!”

She pushed with all her might and reached the knot, pushing it just as a branch hit her squarely across the back. Suppressing her scream, she rolled over out of the way so Harry and Hermione could get passed.

“What happened?” Hermione asked, clutching her shoulder painfully.

“I don’t know—it just stopped!” Harry said, looking around. “There’s no time, we’ve got to get to Ron—here, this looks like—yes, it’s a way in! C’mon!”

The two of them slid down the tunnel. Claire lay where she was, panting heavily, cradling her bleeding hand.

“Claire!” someone hissed. “Claire where are you?”

“Robin…?” she said vaguely.

She appeared a moment later under the cloak.

“That was cl—” Claire started to say.

“Shh!” Robin said, throwing a hand over Claire’s mouth.

They heard voices passing by—the committee members going back up to the castle. The tree began to rustle angrily again.

“Move! Go!” Claire shouted, jumping up and grabbing Robin.

They dodged a few branches, but another hit the pair right across the stomach. They flew onto the lawn, the Cloak slipping off of their heads. Someone gasped, Claire wasn’t sure who, but Robin quickly pulled the cloak back over the two of them just as someone was rushing passed them—Lupin. He seized a broken branch off the ground, prodded the knot, and slipped inside the tunnel. Claire was about to breathe freely again when—

“He’s free! He’s free! Beaky’s free! La la la la laaaaa!”

Hagrid nearly stepped on them as he made his way up to the castle—Robin pulled her arm out of his way just in time.

“Claire!” someone shouted across the lawn. It was Harry—he had seen their heads from across the grounds!

“Robin, we’ve got to get out of here!” Claire said desperately, making to stand.

“I know, I know!” Claire saw Robin was nearly in tears. “What are we going to do—?”

“You’re going to come with me,” said a cold voice from behind them. “Both of you.”

The Invisibility Cloak whipped off of them in a single movement as the pair of girls spun around to face none other than Severus Snape. They gasped.

“Come now, step lively,” he said, smirking evilly. Claire saw he was already holding Harry’s Invisibility Cloak in his greasy hands. “And bring that cloak along too, if you would. There is much I would like to do before the night is through, and you, Gregory and Woods, are slowing me down…”


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaa! Oh, the horror! They were seen! They’re going to be seen some more! It’s amazing how important the presence of a single cat was in this sequence. So…where WAS Crookshanks?! How come he wasn’t there?! Is it still possible for Claire and Robin to still save Harry and Sirius?! Tune in next chapter to find out, it’ll be the final one of this story! ^_^ Teddy bears! Bring the teddy bears!

The last chapter will be posted AFTER the release of Half-Blood Prince. I wish you all happy reading! ^.~v *skuttles off to put on her costume for the midnight release party* ]


Chapter 30: All Hope is Lost
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

[a/n: Sorry I’ve been gone for a while. I’ve been a little too sad to work on anything Harry Potter-related. I’ll tell my tale to you here so I don’t have to answer your questions in reviews:

I absolutely loved Half-Blood Prince. It was just…awesome! It’s definitely right up there with books 3 and 4 as far as Weasley Freckles’s favorites go. It took me 11 hours to finish it (Don’t give me grief if you finished it in 2—I fell asleep for a couple hours and I had to work!) and after I shut the book I found myself thoroughly depressed. I cried myself to sleep with the book in my arms…lol! Don’t make fun of me! Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the book as much as I did. And all my ’ships got together, so I enjoyed it very, very much…*wink*

Now, before I send you off into the chapter, I have a final plea to make to you:

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT REVIEW THIS STORY EVERY DAY TO ASK WHEN THE SEQUEL IS COMING OR TO SAY HELLO. I’ll write slower just to spite you if you do and the staff will NOT be happy with me—which could also slow me down immensely, because they can suspend an author’s account for such things as frivolous reviews. Consider yourselves warned.

I hope you enjoy the last segment of Reading Between the Lines. *bows everyone into the chapter*]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, but I do own this handkerchief I keep having to blow my nose on because…b-b-because…*starts sobbing again*

Chapter 30: All Hope is Lost

Claire could do nothing but gape open-mouthed at Professor Snape, like a fish out of water. Robin was breathing very loud and very fast beside her.

“C’mon now, get up! Up!” Snape grabbed each of them by the scruff of their robes and pulled them to their feet. “Accio Wands!”

Claire’s and Robin’s wands zoomed out of their hands or pockets straight into their professor’s greasy hand.

“Move along! Go!” Snape ordered, jabbing the three wands into the lash Claire had received from the Whomping Willow. She winced in pain as he began marching them towards the deadly tree.

Claire found her voice first.

“Professor, you don’t understand—we don’t have anything to do with this—please—” she begged him.

“Enough of your foolishness,” the professor said menacingly. “Don’t think I don’t know precisely what’s been going on here—oh yes, I know, Woods. And you, Gregory! I should’ve thought you’d know better than to meddle with affairs such as this. But no matter, justice will be served tonight, at long last…”

Robin looked petrified. Claire felt sick. Was it even possible that Snape could know the girls’ reasons for being on the grounds so late at night? Claire didn’t think so, but the triumph in his eyes was enough to make her knees knock together in fear.

A tree branch was trying desperately to pound the girls and teacher into the ground, but they were just barely out of its reach. Snape smirked.

“Grab that branch the werewolf used, Gregory, before I lose patience with you two all together…”

Robin, not daring to disobey him, bent down and picked up the long tree branch that was laying a little ways to her left. As she turned to hand it to the formidable potions master, she caught Claire’s eye. She automatically read Robin’s thoughts: Keep quiet until we figure out what to do.

“After you,” Snape said after prodding the knot, pointing his wand threateningly at Claire and Robin. Their wands resided in his other hand along with Harry’s Invisibility Cloak.

The girls exchanged a frightened glance before Claire slid down into the darkened tunnel, Robin following directly behind.

The minutes crept on as the tunnel started to slope slowly upward. Claire was fighting the impulse to turn around and attack Snape, all wands forgotten. On the one hand, she and Robin needed to get away before they were present in a very critical scene, but on the other, Snape needed to be there in order for the events to play out properly. Claire didn’t know what to do…

Before Claire could think of anything and before the silence was broken, she spotted it; the light at the end of the tunnel leading into the Shrieking Shack. Robin was shaking slightly next to her; apparently, she had not had a life-saving brainwave either.

“Move faster!” Snape said fiercely from behind them. Claire chanced a glance over her shoulder to see that he was still holding his wand at the ready, a sinister smile spreading across his lips. She felt determination rising in her chest—she could not, under any circumstance, let Sirius be taken back to the castle in the hands of his boyhood enemy. She had to do whatever she could to prevent that from happening.

Claire and Robin, after feeling a sharp poke from their professor’s wand, hoisted themselves up into the dusty room above them. The furniture all around them was broken and gnawed upon. As Snape appeared beside them, they heard voices coming from the room above them.

“At long last, I will have my revenge…” Snape muttered almost inaudibly. “Upstairs, you two, I’m not yet finished with you…”

They followed the sound of the voices up the stairs and down a long hallway. There, at the end of the corridor, a door was standing slightly ajar, a thin strip of light playing against the dust-ridden floorboards. Snape urged them forward until they were standing just outside it. Claire felt her spine prickle in foreboding as a hoarse voice suddenly spoke from within the room.

“Snape?” said the hoarse voice sharply. “What’s Snape got to do with it?”

“He’s here, Sirius,” Lupin answered him. “He’s teaching here as well.” He paused for a moment before going on, “Professor Snape was at school with us. He fought very hard against my appointment to the Defense Against the Dark Arts job. He has been telling Dumbledore all year that I am not to be trusted. He has his reasons…you see, Sirius here played a trick on him which nearly killed him, a trick which involved me—”

Sirius made a noise that sounded close to a snort.

“It served him right,” Sirius sneered. “Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to…hoping to get us expelled…”

Beside Claire and Robin, Snape was slipping on the Invisibility Cloak. He pulled the two girls underneath it with him and slipped in through the slightly open door. No one in the room was paying the entrance any attention with the exception of Wormtail, whose mouse eyes were darting around in search of an escape route. Everyone was too immersed in Lupin’s explanation to care about the door inching open.

“Snape glimpsed me though,” Lupin was saying to a rapt Harry, Ron, and Hermione, “at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden by Dumbledore to tell anybody, but from that time on he knew what I was…”

“So that’s why Snape doesn’t like you,” Harry said, sounding as if he was working on putting two and two together, “because he thought you were in on the joke?”

Claire knew what was about to happen a moment before it did. Robin grabbed her arm, as if frightened Claire was going to run away.

“That’s right,” Snape said coldly, throwing off the Invisibility Cloak.

Hermione let out a scream as Sirius jumped to his feet. Harry was staring from Claire, to Robin, to Snape, looking a cross between confused and shocked.

“Claire?” he asked. “What are you—with him?—Did you—”

“Enough of your chattiness, Potter,” Snape cut him off. He was gripping Robin’s and Claire’s shoulders very tightly, preventing the girls from moving. He looked up at a stunned Remus Lupin and said, “You’re wondering perhaps, how I knew you were here? Well, you were never very good at keeping secrets, Lupin, you’re lovely little friends made sure of that…”

“Severus—” Lupin began, shaking his head.

“I’ve told the headmaster again and again that you’re helping you old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here’s the proof.”

He clapped a hand on Claire’s bruised and cut shoulder, thrusting her forward as though she was a murder weapon in a case that Snape had been dying to solve. She winced, wondering what in the world Snape was on about.

“Severus, think of what you’re saying!” Lupin said in surprise. “Claire? How could she possibly be involved in—?”

Snivillus! ” Snape shouted triumphantly. Claire actually turned to stare at him. Had he completely lost it?

“Severus, what are you—?”

“This girl destroyed my classroom and wrote the name across my face, Lupin!” Snape spat out. The corners of Sirius’s mouth twitched even though his expression was one of bewilderment and resentment. “Who else could have told her that was what you’re charming little friends used to call me? Admit it! You’ve been using Woods and Gregory to keep tabs on your old friend, and help him get into the castle!”

Lupin’s mouth actually fell open in surprise. Harry was staring between Claire and Snape, looking flabbergasted.

“How could you possibly think that?” Lupin said, stunned.

“I’ve seen this girl’s owl, flying off to Hogsmeade at least twice a day!” Snape clapped Claire painfully on the shoulder. “Explain to me what that owl was doing there so often, if not to keep tabs on your filthy, escapee friend…”

Claire gasped. So that was why Crookshanks wasn’t there! It was Aquinas who had been helping Sirius, not the cat! Therefore, Crookshanks had never had a chance to so much as meet Sirius properly, because Sirius didn’t have to sneak out to get food, Aquinas had been bringing it to him! So how could Crookshanks have ever met him, let alone gained his trust enough to assist him in sneaking into the castle? It was a mistake made by Claire and Aquinas together after the Hufflepuff vs. Gryffindor Quidditch match…

At last the astonished silence was broken by Lupin, who said in a raspy voice, “Severus, these girls have no idea what is going on here tonight. They’re not involved in the slightest. Let them go, we can explain, if you’d just—”

“Dumbledore may buy your fickle excuses but if you think I’m about to then you are sadly mistaken, werewolf!” Snape snarled.

“Severus, you must listen to me,” Lupin was saying in a voice of forced-calm. “Sirius is not here to kill Harry. Robin and Claire have not been assisting Sirius into the castle and neither have I—you have to hear the whole story—”

“I am no fool!” Snape exclaimed, spraying spit down on Claire and Robin as a vein pulsed in his temple.

“Could have fooled me…” Sirius muttered darkly.

There was a blast of light and a dozen chords sprang out of nowhere, bounding and gagging Sirius.

“NO!” Harry shouted, raising his wand at Snape.

But Snape was too quick for him. His wand was already level with Harry’s eyes.

“Give me a reason,” he whispered. “Give me a reason to do it and I swear I will.”

Claire felt her heart pounding against her bruised rib cage. This scene had become seriously mangled. It was Lupin who should have been bound and gagged, not Sirius, and it was Sirius who should have been threatened by Snape, not Harry. Hermione put a trembling hand over her mouth in the corner. Ron’s face was chalk-white from where he sat on the bed and if looks could kill, Snape would be dead on the spot from the way Harry was glaring at him.

“Professor Snape—please—” Hermione began, taking a brave step forward. “Please don’t—let them explain—”

“For once in your life, Miss Granger, hold your tongue,” Snape spat.

“But you’re making a mistake—”

“KEEP QUIET, YOU STUPID GIRL!” Snape exploded. “DON’T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND—”

“Harry,” Robin said over Snape’s continued shouting. “Harry, you can do it. You can do it. Just think happy thoughts.”

Harry blinked at her, trying to watch Snape and her at the same time.

“What’re you talking—?” he began.

“Just remember that, Harry.” Robin’s eyes were fierce with determination. “Just think happy thoughts and you can do it.”

“QUIET!” Snape bellowed over at them.

He walked slowly over to where Sirius lay, bound and gagged, staring up at Snape with the utmost loathing.

The potion’s master raised his wand.

“Vengeance is very sweet,” Snape breathed. “How I hoped I would be the one to catch you, to give you back to the dementors. Your life grows short, Sirius Black, very short—”

“YOU’RE PATHETIC!” Harry shouted, unable to contain himself a moment longer. “JUST BECAUSE THEY MADE A FOOL OF YOU AT SCHOOL, YOU WON’T EVEN LISTEN!”

“ENOUGH!” Snape bellowed.

There was another great flash of light and Remus Lupin fell limply to the floor, his wand clattering to the ground beside him. Apparently he had been trying to hex Snape when he was preoccupied with his vengeance speech to Sirius.

“NO!” Claire said, rushing to Lupin’s side.

“STEP ASIDE YOU FOOLISH GIRL!” Snape bellowed, his wand directed at Claire’s heart.

She froze in mid-step, but not because of the threat. She had heard that somewhere before…

Snape turned back to face Harry.

“You are too much like your father for your own good, Potter,” Snape snarled, “and your pitiful godfather as well. I was going to take him back to the dementors, but this opportunity is too great to miss…”

He turned and pointed his wand at Sirius, who lay helplessly at his feet.

“Good riddance…” Snape said, raising his wand.

“NO!”

Harry had physically shoved Snape out of the way, whereas Claire and Robin had stepped between him and Sirius. Ron and Hermione had both raised their wands.

“Potter, you too have been a sore in my neck for—EXPELLIARMUS!”

Harry flew against the back wall, dust falling all around him.

“HARRY!”

“The Dark Lord should have defeated you long ago, Potter,” Snape was muttering as he advanced upon Harry, who was struggling to stand. “I shall do the job for him tonight…”

“No!” Claire exclaimed rushing forward. “No, please! You can’t kill Harry! This is my fault, all mine! Please!”

“She’s telling the truth! You can’t do this!” Robin chimed in, running after her.

Suddenly, the two girls froze and stared at each other. The voices they heard when they were near the dementors…it had been this.

“STAND ASIDE!” Snape said, raising his wand.

“CLAIRE, RUN!”

Robin grabbed Claire by the arm and pulled her to the floor just as the room became alight with curses. Ron and Hermione were hurling every spell they knew at Snape, who seemed to be using all three wands at once. Harry had flung his arms around Snape’s neck as Robin pulled Claire out the door. The last thing she saw before running down the hallway was Sirius and Lupin’s limp forms, lying completely motionless on the floor.

“SIRIUS!” Claire yelled. “HELP! SIRIUS!”

“Claire, keep moving!”

“Robin, we can’t just leave them here like this!” Claire screeched as she ran down the stairs.

“Claire, we have to get out of her NOW!” Robin yelled, over the curses being shouted upstairs. “We have to get out now why there’s still the slimmest of chances—”

“THERE’S NO CHANCE TO SAVE ANY OF THEM IF WE LEAVE NOW!” Claire exclaimed as Robin shoved her into the trapdoor in the floor. “THEY’LL KILL EACH OTHER! THE BOOKS WILL BE DESTROYED!”

“TRUST ME!” Robin screamed, grabbing Claire’s hand and sprinting as fast as she could up the tunnel.

“NO! SIRIUS! ”

“COME BACK HERE, WOODS!” Snape was on their tail. Had he managed to kill the trio before he had been able to come after them?

“Claire! Run faster!” Robin was yelling.

She reached the end of the tunnel first, jumping out in a single bound and throwing her hand back in to help Claire.

“Run! Grab my hand!”

“WOODS!!!”

A jet of red light whizzed past Claire’s ear as she ran.

“ROBIN! HELP!”

“GRAB MY HAND!”

Claire leapt up and grabbed Robin’s hand, which pulled her up just as a hex grazed Claire’s feet.

“This way!” Robin said, jumping to the side of the tree.

Claire followed her lead, hoping the Whomping Willow would slow Snape down.

“Quick, tell me how you sent yourself home!” Robin said, continuing to run, stumbling on tree branches as she went.

“HOME?!” Claire said in disbelief. “Robin, we can’t go home now! Lupin and Sirius might be dead!”

“Claire, listen to me!” Robin said, pulling her into the forest and shaking her shoulders. “It’s our only chance, we’ve got to get home now. Tell me quickly how you do it and give me your address!”

“My address?!” Claire hissed. “Are you insane?! Now is no time to go home and write letters! Harry could be DEAD!”

“CLAIRE JUST GIVE IT TO ME!” Robin yelled, growing frustrated. “You’ve got to trust me!”

“Oh, no need to listen to her, Claire Woods,” said a voice from behind the nearest tree. “No need…”

Both girls turned sharply to see a cloaked figure step out into the moonlight. The intruder had an evil smirk on her face. It was—

“Bethany?” Robin and Claire asked together.

“What are you—?” Claire began.

“—doing here?” Bethany finished for her, fingering her wand. “I could ask you the same question.”

Claire and Robin glanced at each other. They could still hear Snape’s angry cries from the grounds. He was mere moments away from finding them—

“Bethany, listen to me!” Claire hissed at her. “Go back to the castle! Skirt around the trees to avoid Snape, it’s far too dangerous to be out here…”

“Go back to the castle?” Bethany said, her grin spreading wider across her face as she raised her wand. “I don’t think so.”

Robin and Claire moved automatically closer together. Snape still had their wands.

“Bethany what’re you DOING?” Robin whispered urgently, as if this was some sort of joke. “What the hell do you think you are doing?

“Bringing justice,” Bethany said, inching towards them (Claire and Robin automatically took a giant step backwards), “to the two people who single-handedly destroyed the Harry Potter books.”

Claire hadn’t thought it was possible for her heart to beat any faster. Then those words reached her ears, and she was certain her heart was going to burst from her chest.

“You have the Gift,” Robin said, glaring at the girl who was advancing upon them.

Bethany merely nodded.

“Never miss a trick, do you, Gregory?” she said. “I swore that I would bring justice to the girls who killed Harry Potter, to the girls who ruined the adventure for all of us. I’ve been planning it for ages, and now that I’ve finally got you cornered, your days of ruining our books are over.”

She raised her wand higher, triumph in her eyes.

“Bethany—please—”

“THERE!” Snape shouted, pointing the three wands in his hand at Claire and Robin. He had brought a whole battalion of people with him, Claire couldn’t see who they were.

It was then she realized Robin was right—they had to leave. Now.

“I WISH I HAD NEVER COME TO HOGWARTS!” Claire screamed into the night, grabbing Robin’s arm.

The familiar sensation of flying into the sky followed. They were flailing about, soaring higher and father into the night, the full moon illuminated behind them…

THUMP.

It was the final sound Claire heard before she lost her fight with consciousness.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A bird was singing. Claire rolled over and groaned, pounding her pillow with her fist. The sun was shining so brightly through her window that it was impossible for her to fall back asleep. Her eyes snapped open, staring around her room.

She sat up slowly, swinging her legs over the side of her bed and rubbing her eyes. Had it all just been a horrendously long nightmare?

Claire looked down and felt her heart drop into her stomach like a brick of lead. She was wearing her Hogwarts robes, torn and tattered from her fight with the Whomping Willow. Her pulse rocketed.

It had been real.

She stood up so fast she knocked the lamp off her bedside table. She ran over to her bookshelf where Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had been replaced so neatly. How or why it was back on the shelf she didn’t care, she just wanted to see what had happened. Was Harry dead? Was Lupin? Was Sirius? What had become of Ron and Hermione? She had to know…

She was riffling through the pages when the door to her bedroom swung open without invitation. Her mother was standing in the doorway, her eyes red and puffy and face stained with tears.

“Not now, Mom,” Claire said. She hadn’t bothered to look up as she flicked through page after page of her book, trying to find out what had happened.

“Claire, we need to talk,” Mrs. Woods said in a tearful voice. Claire looked up in surprise and saw the state her mother was in.

“Mom, what—?”

Mrs. Woods crossed the room briskly and took the book from her daughter’s hands. Claire stood up, feeling the panic rise in her chest. She needed the book now! If Harry was dead it was all her fault! She was already starting to formulate an argument to get her great-grandmother to send her back into the books, to repair her mistakes…

“Claire…” Mrs. Woods started, taking Claire’s hand and sitting down on the edge of her bed.

“Mom, can’t this—”

Claire was about to say “wait” when her mother sobbed dryly. Claire began to feel an entirely different kind of panic rise in her chest.

“Mom, what is it?” she asked, sitting down beside her. “What happened?”

Her mother regained her composure and turned to her daughter.

“Sweetie, it’s Grandma,” Mrs. Woods said, taking her daughter’s hands in hers.

Claire wasn’t aware she was holding her breath, nor was she aware how tightly she was squeezing her mother’s fingers.

“She’s all right…right?” Claire said slowly. She was amazed how different the voice coming out of her mouth was from the voice she remembered. It sounded hollow and panicky.

Mrs. Woods shook her head sadly.

“Your dad and I went in to wake her up this morning,” she said, “and we found…sweetie, I’m sorry, but she was very old, you know…”

“What happened to her?!” Claire exclaimed, jumping to her feet.

Her mother sighed.

“Sweetie, she passed away last night.”

All emotion, all feeling, everything left Claire at that moment. Dead? How could her great-grandmother be dead? She had just seen her not but a couple hours ago! It wasn’t possible…

“No,” Claire said, shaking her head. “Grandma Paulette is fine, I just saw her—”

“Claire, she was a very old woman,” Mrs. Woods said, trying to take her daughter’s hand again—but Claire retreated, shaking her head harder as if it would fix things.

“But she was FINE!” Claire shouted. “She was perfectly well when she got here yesterday! She’s FINE!”

Mr. Woods came into the room, holding Claire’s little brother, Dylan, by the hand.

“The doctors said she was under a lot of stress, Claire,” Mr. Woods said, sitting down next to his wife on Claire’s bed and pulling Dylan into his lap. “The ambulance arrived just a few minutes ago—”

But Claire wasn’t listening. So it was her fault…her fault her great-grandmother had died. She had warned Claire that she wasn’t supposed to go into the story twice, told her it wasn’t allowed and was very complicated, but Claire had pushed her to send her back anyway. And now she was dead—all because of Claire.

Not only was this weight bearing down on Claire, but she also realized that her last chance to save Harry was gone as well. In a single day, she had single-handedly destroyed the world and woman she had loved more than anything.

“I’m sorry, Claire,” Mrs. Woods said, pulling her daughter into a warm embrace.

But Claire felt no warmth. She felt cold and alone. Nothing could possibly fix things now…

All hope was lost.



THE END.



[a/n: The sequel, To Judge a Book By Its Cover, will be coming soon, along with all the answers to the unfinished mysteries in this story…until then…*Disapparates*]


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