Harry Potter and
The Tomb of Hogwarts

Chapter 21
The Good, The Bad,
And The Horrific

The celebration at Gryffindor tower was larger than Harry ever remembered it before. The twins had inevitably brought all of their hottest selling treats from their store, including a few new ones, and there were bottles of butterbeer in every hand.

Of course, everyone tried giving credit to Harry, if not for catching the snitch then for bringing the team to new heights, removing both Ravenclaw and Slytherin from the record books for their old records. Ironically, the Hufflepuffs also lost a slot in the record books, but they couldn’t have been happier about it as they were the ones who had been so totally defeated by Slytherin for the old Spread Record.

Around seven Harry was able to squeeze out of the Tower under the guise of getting more treats, but as soon as he was out he headed up to his office, taking the steps two at a time.

He burst through his door and was halfway to his office when an icy voice sent shivers straight through his spine.

“You think you’re so cool, Potter!”

Harry turned around and saw Malfoy standing there with his wand pointed straight at his head. Harry’s shoulders relaxed.

“What are you going to do, Malfoy? Attack me for beating you at a game you’ve been playing since you stole your first broom?”

“You got lucky and you know it. The only reason you beat me…”

“Yeah, yeah. The only reason I beat you is because I have a better broom than you. Right. And that’s why I’ve beaten you five out of the past six years and the one time you’ve beaten me is when I was unconscious. That’s an impressive record.”

“Well let’s just see how much you smile when the Dark Lord comes for you. You won’t be so arrogant then.”

“Right. Because I’ve never gone up against Voldemort and walked away have I. Oh wait, there was that one time last year when your dad got arrested, and the year before that when I duelled him, and two before that in the Chamber, and when he took over Professor Quirrell in my first year, and oh yeah, when I was a one year old baby. But yeah Malfoy, I’m scared something fierce. Now, unless you’ve got something to say regarding your homework, I’d appreciate it if you’d get out of my classroom.”

“Make me, Potter,” called out Malfoy, his wand at the ready.

“That will be quite enough, Mr. Malfoy,” called Professor Snape, who had just come out of his office.

“Professor Snape,” replied Malfoy sheepishly. Then, recovering quickly he said, “Potter was threatening me. He was gloating over his win and threatening to beat me in a duel the same way he cheated to win in Quidditch.”

Harry raised up to reply, but Snape gave him no chance.

“Sometimes people get lucky, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape said, his eyes staying on Harry, “as the Gryffindor team showed us today. But Slytherins will always keep our composure because sooner or later we always prevail. Others may win the occasional battle, but we’ll be the ones who win war, you can count on that. In fact, I believe there are a few things we should discuss before the next game. Hufflepuff, isn’t it?” he added with a dark grin.

“Yes Sir,” replied Malfoy, his eyes never leaving Harry.

“Well then, let’s see if we can’t work on breaking some records of our own,” he drawled on, walking for the door with Malfoy in tow. As Snape opened the door Malfoy eyed Harry one last time, drawing a line across his neck with his wand.

Harry simply smiled back, anxiously waiting until the door finally closed behind them.

Then, the smile on his face growing even bigger he turned around and headed for his office. He opened the door and stopped dead, his eyes moving beyond his desk and falling on the chair behind it. There, looking more beautiful than he ever thought possible, sat Amanda.

She was wearing his Professor’s Robe and had her feet propped up on his desk, reading a DADA book and thoroughly ignoring him. She couldn’t have looked sexier.

No words were exchanged, nor were they needed. They had learned quickly to treasure these short moments together and knew that all they wanted to do was sit there together and be themselves. So he simply stepped forward as her gaze moved from his book to him causing a smile to creep across her face as she dropped her feet down and stood, waiting for him to take her. She didn’t have to wait long.

They spent three hours in each other’s arms, being with each other without the need for conversation and enjoying the simple pleasure of being together until finally, with a parting kiss in the secret passage they separated, Amanda heading downstairs for her dorm and Harry heading up for Gryffindor Tower.

As September withered away and October emerged, Harry began to feel the stress of his schedule begin to ease a bit. Of course this came following the celebration in Gryffindor Tower when Harry announced that he would reward the team for their victory over Slytherin with a two-week break from practice.

Of course the break came at the same time that Charley had asked him to step up his Occlumency practices to four a week and Professor McGonagall announced that they would shortly be doing their Animagus Quest, whatever that was, which meant that their training would be increased as well. But all of his Duelling classes now working on practical lessons at least half of the time so while he was feeling exhausted both physically and mentally.

His only reprieve was the time he spent alone in his office with Amanda. Of course with his busy schedule any free time he had with her was generally short and spaced too far apart. On his luckiest days he would maybe spend two hours with her before they needed to their respective dorms, and that was usually on Sunday.

But those precious hours brought a simple happiness which Harry found more soothing than any magic he knew. Just to spend ten minutes holding her in his arms felt like the whole world, with it’s training and it’s Voldemort’s and the feuding friends, they all disappeared leaving blue skies, sunny days, and the soft music in his heart, singing to him and telling him that she was someone who just might understand him.

And so time began to pass at a more normal pace allowing Harry falling into a regular schedule and letting him feel comfortable at school with no serious worries for the first time in six years.

But as is the life of Harry Potter, it was not to last. Just two weeks after the now infamous Quidditch game Professor McGonagall announced to Ron, Hermione, and Harry that their Animagus Quest was scheduled for the following Sunday and what’s more, it would take at least six hours, possibly more, and thus monopolising the entire day.

Because of this Harry had reschedule his Occlumency lessons with Charley who suggested they compensate by training every day the for the next week.

The only good news was that McGonagall would be working with Ron and Hermione leaving Charlie to work with Harry. If he was lucky he might be able to avoid the incessant lecturing McGonagall did before their lessons and might still be able to find a few free minutes to spend with Amanda. But when he asked Charley about this his response was anything but good.

“You can’t understand until you’ve gone on your quest,” Charley had said sadly, “but the whole six hours will be needed, for you more than Ron and Hermione since you are going to be pulled in two very different directions at the same time. If anything it’s likely yours will take longer because of this.”

“But what is this quest, really,” Harry asked with a sigh.

“I can’t really explain it to you because I have never done it myself. But from what McGonagall told me of it, every quest is unique to each person. Frankly I can’t say I’m very happy with the idea of it myself but Professor Dumbledore has full confidence that you will endure and that’s more than enough reason for me to do everything I can to help, which is part of the reason why I will be your guide instead of Professor McGonagall.”

“This sounds like a whole lot of doubletalk to me,” replied Harry, shaking his head.

“It probably does, but you will understand once it’s done, I promise you that.”

Of course this brought Harry little comfort. But then he hadn’t really heard very much of what Charley had said because he was too busy wallowing in the fact that it didn’t look like he was going to see much of Amanda over the next week.

These thoughts haunted him for the rest of the day, following him as he was finishing his lunch with Ron and Hermione when she suggested they go to Hagrid’s for tea saying that if this was to be his last day of freedom for a week, they might as well make the most of it.

So after lunch and with Amanda off with the exchange students on some field trip for the day, Harry, Ron, and Hermione headed off to Hagrid’s hut for an afternoon of rest and relaxation.

When they arrived a few minutes later they found Hagrid working out back, fencing off a large area on the side of his hut.

“Harry!” cried Hagrid happily. “How’ve ye been? I saw that wonderful flying up there during the Quidditch match. Well done. Ain’t seen fly’n like that since Charlie.”

“Thanks Hagrid,” Harry said pushing his chest out.

“What’s this for?” Ron asked, looking at the fence nervously.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, Mr. Weasley? Don’t you worry none. Professor Grubbly-Plank has one smart set of lessons coming up next week, you just wait.”

“So how’s Grawp?” asked Hermione, changing the subject.

“Aw, well, he’s doing much better now, I guess. The Centaurs have sort’a rounded him off into a small area ‘bout an hour’s walk from here. Now he’s alone, well, he don’t do much. I’m hopin’ Madam Maxine gets back soon. She’s bringing three other giants with her, and Dumbledore’s working on a place for them to set up for a few months. Great man, that Dumbledore.” Hagrid was looking off towards the hills now, past the forest, and Harry thought for a moment he saw a few trees sway, but it was probably just the wind.

“So, are we going to need to bring our Dragon’s Gloves tomorrow?” Ron asked, unfazed by Hagrid’s show of depression.

“Ronald!” whispered Hermione, kicking him in the shin.

“What?” Ron cried. “Honestly, Hermione, that hurt.”

“Well maybe if you were considerate of others we’d be a bit more considerate of you.”

“What are you going on about?”

“Would you guys just drop it already,” interrupted Harry shaking his head. “Go on, Hagrid.”

“Oh, tha’s about it. I visit with him twice a week, you know, to keep ’m company.”

“Well if you ever want us to come along, I’m sure we’d all be more than willing to come with you.”

“Yeah Hagrid,” said Hermione softly, but with a hint of conviction.

“Oh yeah. We’d love to come,” said Ron sarcastically, though Hagrid didn’t seem to notice.

“Aw, tha’d be great of ya. I’m sure Grawp would love to see you again. You know he asks about you sometimes, especially you Hermione.”

Hermione blushed softly, not out of shyness but from the embarrassment of knowing that Grawp was probably asking for ‘Hermie.’

“Right then,” said Harry before anyone else could object. “Well then, how’s everything…” Harry did not finish his sentence but was caught suddenly aware that someone very tall was behind him. He turned, momentarily startled by looking up at a large, angry looking Centaur.

“Hello Mr. Potter,” said Firenze with a soft smile.

“Oh, hello Professor Firenze,” replied Harry, now abashed at his previous reaction. “How goes things in Divination?”

“Fare as always, Mr. Potter. Many of the students are beginning to show promise. And how are things in the Wizards Duelling class?”

“Can’t complain. As you say, many of the students are showing progress. Especially Neville. He keeps amazing me with how quickly he’s grasping it. I’m a bit embarrassed to say, but aside from Herbology I think mine might be his favourite class.”

“Well you’re a very formidable wizard and strong in the ways of magic. Even your Aura is stronger than most.”

Something in the centaur’s words triggered something in Harry’s memory.

“Firenze, excuse my bluntness, but do you know anything about the Tomb of Hogwarts?” Harry knew the minute he finished his question what the answer should be by the look in the centaur’s eyes.

“What do you know of the Tomb?” he asked ominously.

Harry pulled out the Gold Medallion and Firenze immediately took two steps back.

“You’ll have to excuse me, Harry, but I’m afraid I cannot speak of that place to anyone outside of my clan.”

“But you’re clan kicked you out. Surely you can’t still feel loyal to them after that.”

“You do not understand our ways, Harry, and you don’t need to. Still, I am bound by blood to speak of that to no human, be he wizard or not.” A sudden glow took shone from Firenze’s eyes, a knowing look that told Harry that there was indeed a great deal he knew about the Tomb but wouldn’t say any more without prodding, but he wouldn’t get the chance.
“I’m sorry, Harry, but I must go. Good day to you all,” he added, then turned and galloped at full speed back to the castle before anyone could even say goodbye.

“What was that all about?” asked Ron.

“I don’t know, but he knows something, and whatever it is, it’s big. We’ve got to get more information about the other two medallions.”

“Well, we should probably start looking around the library for any books on the Gryffindor Medallion, since it’s obviously going to be the one easiest to find,” Hermione said assertively.

“True, but that’s for tomorrow. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper cup of tea and Hagrid looks thirsty.”

“Well, now you mention, yeah, I could go fer a little tea and biscuits.”

“Tell you what,” Harry suggested quickly. “Why don’t you finish in here and we can go inside and get the tea going for you.

“Aw, tha’d be great,” Hagrid replied with a big smile.

So Harry, Ron, and Hermione went inside and made a quick snack with tea and spent the rest of the day with Hagrid.

That night after dinner brought another romantic date with Amanda, one which seemed to be more intense since they both knew that Harry would not likely be available for another night like this for at least two weeks.

And so for next two hours they sat there, peaceful and quiet except for the occasional kiss or deep sighs they shared in enjoying the simple pleasured of each other’s company.

Finally, with only thirty minutes to go, Amanda asked softly, “Are you really going to go searching around for those Medallions?”

“Sure,” Harry replied as though he were expecting the question but was not at all upset by it. “I mean, they’re part of my destiny, or something like that.”

“But we make our own destiny, don’t we?” she enquired further.

“Sure, I guess. But I’ve come to find that there are some things that cannot be avoided no matter how hard you try. So, the best thing you can do is head straight for them and hope everything works out for the best.”

“Sounds to me like you’re not sure of anything. I mean, why do you even stick around here? You could go off some place where Voldemort would never find you. In fact, I’ll bet if I asked Mom and Dad they’d let you come and live with us in the States. And I’ll bet if you did Voldemort’d stop looking for you. I mean, if you’re out of the country, why would he care anymore?”

“He doesn’t work that way. He’d search for me forever because he’s too afraid that I’ll kill him, which I will, someday.”

“Excuse me?” she cried.

“It’s part of the prophecy. It’s long and complicated and I don’t want to go into it, but let’s just say that he’ll never quit until one of us is dead. That’s why I have to look for the Medallions. They’re my link to the Tomb, and that’s where I’m supposed to find the answer to defeating him.”

“Sounds like some child’s game of cat and mouse. Do you know which one you are?”

“Yea. The cheese.”

She laughed, and Harry again thought of how much he liked her. Even the sound of her laughter sent shivers of euphoria through him. He wondered if she felt the same for him.

“You know,” she answered as though hearing his thoughts, “I’m serious about you coming to live with me. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind. After all, I’m sure you’ll have met them by then and we’ll have been dating for eight months and two weeks, and if they love you half as much as I do then they’ll invite you to move right on in, no questions asked.”

Harry’s mind went blank, his heart suddenly beating very fast. As though recognising that she may have said something wrong, Amanda paused for a second, and then her face went beet red. She had obviously played the words she had just said back in her head.

“You… You love me?” he gulped loudly.

The next ten seconds of silence seemed to last an eternity. The air between them seemed to become charged with energy just waiting to pull them together or blow them apart.

Meanwhile, Harry’s heart ached as he awaited her answer, not sure which answer he was more anxious to hear. If she said no, it was just a verbal slip-up, then they could go back to things as they were, no pressure. But if she said yes they’d be going off to a whole new place in relationships, at least for Harry, and that idea both excited and terrified him. Still, the only thing that seemed to really cause a problem was waiting for an answer. But of course, things were not going to be that easy.

“Well, I’m not sure,” she replied cautiously, “How do you feel about me?”

Bloody hell! thought Harry. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy. And why would it be. No other girl he’d know could give a straight answer when it came to dating. Why would Amanda be any different? Hermione had done the same thing to Ron back in fourth year. And it wasn’t like he had brought up the subject. She was the one who’d brought it up, so why was he now being put on the spot.

His palms began getting sweaty as he tried to think about it, unconsciously rubbing his medallion with his thumb and forefinger, trying to figure out the correct answer.

The truth was he had no idea if he loved her or not. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her; of course he liked her. But love? After only a few weeks together? How would he know? Finally, when he could think of nothing else to say, he replied with the truth.

“Well, I hope you don’t get hot at me, but honestly I don’t know. I do care about you loads, but I’ve never really been in love, so I don’t know if this is it or not. It’s not like I’ve gotten a lot of experience with it from the Dursleys, and Cho and I never got to the same levels you and I have. I just don’t know.”

“Oh. Well that’s all right, I guess. I mean, if you’ve only had one other girlfriend, and that was Cho no less,”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Harry asked defensively.

“Oh, it’s nothing against you, Harry. I mean, she’s a nice girl and all, and I guess some guys might think she’s pretty, but the girls talk and there’s always been two words that are used when describing Cho. ‘Basket Case.’”

“Well that’s not very nice,” Harry replied softly, though it wasn’t anything he himself hadn’t thought in the corner of his mind. “She’s not all bad. She’s just has a bit of bad luck.”

“Yeah. I heard about her first boyfriend. You were there with him, right?”

“Yes, I was.” Harry felt the shivers roll through his body as he though about that day two years ago, yet a lifetime of memories away. “I watched as Voldemort murdered him like he was just a fly to swat,” he added, his fists balled up.

“Well nobody’s going to hurt you as long as I’m around,” she said, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek. “And you know what? Now that I think of it, yeah, I do love you. But I don’t want you to say the same until you’re ready. I’m patient. I can wait.”

Staring at her just then, her blue eyes sparkling, he so wanted to say it, if for no other than to make her happy. But he couldn’t. He wouldn’t do that to her. When he was ready, when he really knew it, he’d tell her then.

Harry watched as Amanda walked off to her own dorm continued to watch for several moments after she left, just basking in the thought of being with her.

He was abruptly snapped out of it when he heard footsteps running behind him. He looked up and caught just a quick glimpse of the face before he rounded the stairs, but it was more than enough.

What Dudley was doing running up the stairs this late was beyond Harry, but he quickly decided he didn’t care to know. He’d had enough of Dudley to last him a dozen lifetimes and all he wanted to do was head upstairs to Gryffindor Tower and get to sleep.

He was just coming around the sixth staircase when a powerfully loud shriek flowed down the hallways and stopped Harry dead in his tracks. He knew that voice. Ginny!

Harry ran off, his robe billowing behind him as he chased down the loud shrieking of Ron’s little sister, slowly getting louder, and after half a minute of running he was able to guess where the screaming was coming from.

He reached the small staircase that wound up and ran up, two at a time, and nearly knocked down Mr. Filch as he approached the opening to the Owlery. What he saw next brought tears to his eyes.

Covering the floor were dozens of owls, some mutilated in half transformations of cups and plates and other small items while others lay there obviously dead, some looking like they’d been that way for many days. But that was not nearly as horrific as the owls that were still moving, flocked of their feathers and flinching and twitching this way and that, their wing and legs bending in ways no natural creature was ever meant to move. It looked as if they had all been tortured for hours on end. It made Harry want to throw up.

And standing in front of it all stood Dudley, a stone cold petrified look on his face and his wand held loosely in his right hand.

In all his days Harry could not have guessed Dudley would ever go this far with any animal or person, not even himself, and he’d never have believed it if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.

Then he turned his gaze to Ginny and felt his heart break. Ginny was just sitting there on the ground, trying to be brave while holding a large brown owl, patting it softly on it’s head an brushing it’s feathers back even as it continued to twitch in her lap.

“It’s going to be fine,” she kept saying, continuing to pet her family owl and trying to soothe it with her voice, but Harry knew it wasn’t going to do much good. One of its wings was bent backwards and its head was twitching violently to the side.

“Mr. Potter, would you please,” said Mr. Filch softly, looking at the owl with a softness in his eyes Harry had not seen Mr. Filch since his cat was petrified nearly four years ago.

Harry had never given much thought to Filch having feelings above himself, but if anything could soften a stone heart, this was be it.

Harry asked for no explanation but pulled out his wand and with a quick wave had petrified Errol. He did the same to each of the other wounded owls which still moved which, unfortunately, was not very many.

As soon as he picked up the last one he turned and nodded to Filch. The floor looked practically untouched. And then, As though a switch had been flipped in his head Mr. Filch turned from angst to anger, the same which was directed at Harry four years ago.

Filch grabbed Dudley hard by the arm and began yelling, telling him that he'd be lucky if he was merely expelled from school and that he would probably end up going before the Ministry of Magic on the charge of Abuse of a Protected Animal.

"Let him go, Argus." came a commanding voice behind him.

"Professor Dumbledore," said Filch quickly, startled by Dumbledore's unannounced presence. "This student has been caught red-handed. You can see for yourself the kind of delinquency this child has had in the past, but this goes far beyond anything since the Chamber. God only knows what going through his…"

"That is quite enough, Argus. Please, let him be," he added in his cool voice.

Harry stepped forward, about to step in and add his own thoughts on the subject when Dumbledore put up his hand, telling Harry to stop before he got started.

"I can see what’s happened here Argus, but before we blame the first person we see we should be sure we have the right person. Mr. Dursley, if you please, your wand?”

Dudley handed Dumbledore his wand, his hands shaking violently. Harry wasn’t sure if he was scared of what Dumbledore might do or just in shock at what he’d done.

Dumbledore held Dudley’s wand in one hand while he pulled out his own in the other. “Prior Incantato,” Dumbledore said softly.

The wand git up like a small torch, though the light itself seemed transparent.

“Porro,” Dumbledore said a moment later and the lit wand flashed once, then came back to the same soft glow. “Porro,” Dumbledore repeated, and this time a small lock appeared and unlocked.

“Deletrius,” Dumbledore said in a decisive tone. “There is no doubt. This wand is not responsible for this unfortunate disregard for life.

At this point a pair of woman’s shoes announced Professor McGonagall’s arrival, but before she made it all the way up Dumbledore turned and called down to her, “Professor, I need to you gather the Prefects and have them cover this floor and the one below it. There may be a Death Eater about, or at least a very disturbed student.”

“Of course, Headmaster. May I…”

“Please, Minerva. Time is of the essence if we are to catch the culprit.” McGonagall said no more but could be heard a traversing back down the stairs.

“Headmaster, surely you don’t believe that this boy is innocent. He was caught at the scene of the crime with his wand withdrawn,” Filch drawled on.

“Indeed he was, but then any wizard would withdraw his wand if he happened upon such a scene. Perhaps that was Mr. Dursley’s intent, perhaps it was something else, but I am fairly certain he did not commit these crimes and it was definitely not done by this wand, so right now our priorities should be finding the witch or wizard responsible. If you would go down and assist Professor McGonagall and, when Mr. Weasley arrives, if you could send him up here I would appreciate it.”

“Yes, of course Headmaster,” Filch replied, then with a final look of disgust at Dudley he turned and headed downstairs.

Without a word to either Harry or Dudley, Dumbledore looked around and for the first time showed the full weight of his sorrow over the total carnage which flowed over the floor. Pulling what looked like a small dog whistle from his pocket and blowing into it, a sudden series of pops filled the room.

Suddenly the room was filled with at least three dozen House-elves. A moment later there was a collective gasp as they came to realize what they had popped into.

“I need to find out who these owls belonged to as quickly as possible. However, my first priority is to get this room cleared as soon as possible so I will need your help in exchanging the Owlery with the southeast tower. Very quickly now,” he said assertively.

As one the House-elves circled the room and held hands, bowed their heads, and closed their eyes as Dumbledore moved to the centre of the room.

What happened next was beyond Harry’s understanding. The entire room began to blink in and out, windows disappearing and reappearing, and then it fixed and the room was completely different. All but two of the windows were gone, all the perches and owls were gone, and there was a coldness that suddenly overtook the room.

But soon Dumbledore had his wand out and was pointing it everywhere and Harry watched in amazement as Dumbledore re-created the room back into the Owlery in less than thirty seconds. He was just putting on the finishing touches when Ron came barrelling up the stairs.

He stopped abruptly when he saw Dumbledore with his wand out and Harry took the opportunity to step between him and his little sister. But a whimper from Ginny caught Ron’s attention just before Harry was able to block his view.

“Ginny!” Ron cried out. “What’s happened?”

Ginny just sat there, petting the petrified Errol and rocking back and forth, obviously stunned beyond words.

“Ron, I’ll explain it all on the way to the Hospital wing. Professor, do you need the House-elves any more?

“Of course, you’re right Harry. I shall send them on their way.”

“Actually, if I could I’d like to send Dobby to fetch Hagrid and Professor Grubbly-Plank. Maybe there’s something they can do for him.”

“Indeed. Dobby, do you think you could ask Professor Grubbly-Plank and Hagrid to come to the Hospital wing?”

“Oh yes Sir. Dobby is Happy to help, sir,” replied Dobby, then popped off. A moment later the rest of the House-elves popped away as well.

“Harry, I’ll be escorting Mr. Dursley to my office. When you are finished at the Hospital wing I would like you to meet me there.”

“Of course, Professor,” replied Harry, then turned to Ron and nodded his head. Ron, a big brother, needed no further prompting.

He walked over to Ginny and bent down to whisper to her, “Ginny, we’ve got to go now. Come on, we’ve got to get Errol to the Hospital wing.”

Ginny didn’t say anything but stood straight up, whispering in Errol’s ear and continued petting him as though it would break him out of his stupor. It was a very disheartening thing to watch.

It took half an hour to get Ginny down to the Hospital wing and by the time they arrived both Hagrid and Professor Grubbly-Plank were already there with a dozen different bottles at the ready. They both promised to do their best, but as they were working on Errol Harry asked Madam Pomfrey what his chances were. She gave Errol less than a twenty percent chance of survival and even then Harry got the idea she was padding his chances.

So his trip to Dumbledore’s office seemed to take forever as he thought about Ron, Ginny, and little Errol.

When he finally arrived he had re-convinced himself that Dudley had done it and was therefore quite surprised by Dumbledore’s request when Harry asked what he could do.

“Harry, I am as sure as I can be that Dudley is innocent of any of the wrongdoings that may have occurred in the Owlery. However, I have a strong feeling that the school at large is not likely to believe it. I need you to help in this area.”

“But what makes you think he didn’t do it? I mean, I’ve grown up with Dudley and trust me, I know first hand that he’s capable of causing any amount of pain and suffering he wants which is usually quite a bit.”

“Harry, many young men and women lash out for a number of reasons, but that does not mean that they are necessarily capable of the kind of acts we saw this evening. That requires a very unusually type of personality which I do not believe Mr. Dursley possesses. I believe him when he tells me he did not do it, but I believe someone has tried to place him in a possession to be accused.”

Harry tried to listen, but nothing he heard made Dudley sound any less guilty, and that that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Still, he tried to listen.

“I don’t know who is doing this yet or why, but I need you to be there for him until we find out. Life for him is likely to become much more difficult him and I know you’ve had your experience with this kind of thing. Any help you can be will be greatly appreciated.”

“Yes sir,” Harry replied automatically.

“Good. I have received the list of students who have lost owls and they are spread throughout all houses, but no house lost more than Hufflepuff and there will be many who will ostracize him; some may even seek revenge. You’re words of trust will hold more weight than any other in this school, especially with your past with your cousin.”

“But they’ll just say I’m protecting him because he’s my cousin,” Harry replied in protest. Maybe he could still avoid being put on the rack for Dudley.

“That may be true. However, it should at the very least give people second thoughts about unjustly attacking him, and right now he’ll need that.”

“But what makes you so sure he didn’t do it. Dudley wouldn’t need a wand to something like that. He didn’t need a wand when he was torturing me before I came to Hogwarts and he doesn’t need one now.”

“I’d never do something like that,” came a soft cry from the corner of the office.

Harry turned to see Dudley standing there, more sheepish than Harry ever believed possible and looking totally horrified by what he’d seen. He definitely had an air of truth about him, but then he always came off well to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Dursley.

“Harry, if you do not wish to believe you cousin I can understand that,” Dumbledore replied to Harry’s frustrated look, "But you need to believe me when I tell you that Dudley is not responsible for what happened in the Owlery and I need your support. Can I count on you?”

“Of course, sir,” Harry replied sincerely. “But I’m going to need to know what really happened if I’m going to be of any help.”

“Indeed. Mr. Dursley?” Dumbledore said nodding to Dudley.

Dudley stood there silent for half a minute before, in a soft voice he began, “I was going to ask Ginny for some help with one of my classes but I didn’t know how to ask her, so I started following her on her routes. I was trying to get up the nerve to ask her when she suddenly stopped. I panicked and ducked into the closest doorway.”

Dudley began flipping his wand around in his hands and he continued his story and Harry couldn’t help but notice a sort of genuine sadness in his posture. Whether he was telling the truth or not, he was playing it for all it’s worth, that was for sure.

“Then I heard that she coming back towards me,” he continued “so I turned around started climbing the stairs, but it was really dark, so I lit my wand. But that was so bright I figured she’s see it so I turned it back off and tried walking the rest of the way up as quietly as possible. But when I reached the top I tripped over something and fell down. That’s when I heard the flapping. I didn’t know what it was, so I took the chance to light my wand again, and that’s when I saw them.”

Dudley got very silent and stiff, and Harry didn’t need any further explanation. He knew enough.

“It's okay, Mr. Dursley,” Dumbledore said, stopping him. “That will be enough. Harry, do you think you could arrange for somewhere for your cousin to stay for the night? I will explain things to the school tomorrow, but for tonight I think he might feel better away from his fellow students.”

“Right. I’ll set him up my office for the night.”

“Very good. I’ll send one of the House-elves over with a pillow and blankets.”

“That won’t…” Harry started, then thought better of it. He didn’t Dumbledore thinking about why he might have a pillow and blanket in his office, so he quickly switched gears, “Yeah, and I’ll see if I can get one of the Hufflepuff Prefects to bring a change of clothes for him.”

“Very well.” Dumbledore nodded and turned his attention back to Dudley. “Mr. Dursley, if you will accompany your cousin, he will provide you with a place to sleep for the night. Tomorrow you can return to your dorm.”

Dudley didn’t respond at first. Then slowly he turned, head still bent down, and came up next to him. Without nothing left to be said, Harry escorted Dudley out of the office and out to his office.

An hour later he was back in his room, Ron’s bed still empty since he would be staying with Ginny in the Hospital wing.

As he lay in his bed he debated with himself whether or not Dudley had really done those terrible things. Dudley was surely full of enough ill intent to do a lot of things, but where the line was drawn, Harry wasn’t sure. But something inside him hoped that line fell short of that massacre in the Owlery and that Dudley was innocent. Another side of his thought it would be hopeless to expect that much from Dudley and that he had gone over the edge.

Whatever had really happed to those owls, Harry wanted nothing more to do with it. Tomorrow he’d get Dudley from his office, send him to his dorm, and that would be that. And with that final thought Harry fell to sleep, tossing and turning the rest of the night.

Coming Soon

Chapter 22
The Animagus Quest

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