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Chapter 22

The Ghost of Sirius Black


At the same moment that Joséphine’s hand touched his, Harry’s scar burst with a burning, head-splitting, blinding pain.

“Argh!” Harry cried out and everything whirled about in his vision. Harry also had a sense that Joséphine was within him. In a sort of detached way, Harry wondered if Joséphine had had a Portkey hidden in her hand, but the sensation was not the same as being Portkeyed. Suddenly, he found himself amidst pitch black darkness. His head was killing him, and he began to panic as he tried to feel his way around, but there was nothing; it was as if he was floating in nothingness… was Joséphine with him? He sensed an alien feeling of fear. Harry shuddered involuntarily.

Unexpectedly, a voice cried out in anger. Harry’s blood chilled at the sound of that horrible voice, and his vision became clear again, but instead of being once again in the corridor at Hogwarts, he was in a poorly lit, cavernous room. Peter Pettigrew was bowing in front of him, cowering with fear. Intense hate and anger rose in Harry, and it was this that saved him from being discovered, because these feelings were also in the host. What's more, the instant he entered Voldemort’s mind Harry was aware of the strong effort that Voldemort was making to keep Harry blocked from his mind for the past two months. Harry now was also aware that Voldemort didn’t know of his presence, yet. His mind was preoccupied with something else and Voldemort was confident in his Occlumens abilities to believe that Harry couldn’t somehow infiltrate through.

“… Progress? You call this progress!?” Voldemort shouted as he flung a vial containing a pale blue potion at Pettigrew’s feet. The bottle exploded in a rain of glass and liquid. Peter cowered and flinched… but he dared not move from his spot.

Voldemort continued his ranting, “…it has been two months and I am not rid of this!” Harry felt as if he, himself, was screaming at the bald, writhing man with another’s voice. What a pathetic creature bowed before him.

Peter shook more violently. Harry noticed that Pettigrew had another bottle of that pale bluish potion in his silver hand and some bandages in the other. There were other potions about the floor as well but Harry couldn’t identify them. Harry saw as his host body extended his bare arms and looked down on his chest. To Harry’s surprise, he was covered in lesions, sores and other injuries, but there was evidence of healing.

“B.b..but Master… if you would only tell your servant what caused this, then maybe I could find a better cure… please… I have done all you asked… and you won’t let me get someone train…”

“Silence!” Harry spat and stood up, his body racked with agony, but he would not dare scream, or show weakness. Harry desperately wanted to remain unnoticed by Voldemort.

The room was silent as Voldemort seethed at Peter. Harry could sense he was frustrated beyond reason. Somehow he had been injured, and Harry had the sense to avoid trying to search Voldemort’s mind for the cause. He hadn’t been noticed as of yet, but he desperately was trying to sever connection with this monster before he figured out he was there and tried to pry information from him.

“Was it the boy, Master?” Peter asked with a trembling, squeaky voice.

Voldemort whirled around and Harry saw for a split second the memory of the department of Mysteries, when Voldemort had taken over Harry’s body and had screamed at Albus to kill him; something happened that had pushed Voldemort out of Harry’s being with an unbelievable amount of pain cursing through him as if his blood had been set on fire.

“Why do you ask such a thing?” Voldemort asked with calm, venomous voice, which seemed to have a worse effect on Peter than his screams of anger.

“I…I... I overheard Bellatrix. She said something happened to you that night… and… and you’ve been… you have sent everyone away but me… she said that you took the Potter boy, and he somehow pushed you… she thought that he hurt you, but she didn’t see well when you brought her back… and you went to your chambers…
Master… if you tell me what the boy did… I can help you heal better… I…”

“You stupid fool… you should be honoured I give you my trust. You are the only one who has shown me true loyalty, and you have seen me at my worst… it is why I entrust you with this… which I am certain you have not spoken to anyone about…” Voldemort hissed.

“No… no… Master! I swear…they have asked, but I have not told them anything except what you have told me to say…” Peter voiced as he trembled.

“Only because you fear more of what I would do to you if you disobey…” Voldemort spat.

“Master… the Death Eaters… they are getting restless… they have not seen you… and you haven’t summoned them in two months… they are…”

“All useless incompetent fools! Do I have to baby sit them at all times...?” Voldemort paced in anger. “Bring me my cloak. I will summon all Death Eaters… I have a plan…” Harry’s mind seemed to be pulling back. He was severing the connection. Harry’s vision was fading again and he heard a faint voice calling his name. He concentrated on that familiar voice. As he felt a pull on his thoughts and drifted away from Voldemort, Harry heard Voldemort’s voice dimmer. “…it is time to see where his loyalties lie…”


“Harry? Harry?”

Someone was shaking him awake.

“Ron?” Harry asked groggily as he came to see Ron’s face as he opened his eyes.

“What happened?” Harry asked as he was helped to a sitting position. Harry felt the coldness of the stone floor and he rubbed his scar as it still prickled.

“I don’t know. We were walking down the hall doing our prefect rounds when we heard the screams. We found you both unconscious on the floor and holding hands.” Ron said pointing to the girl who was now lying on the floor. Harry noticed he was still clutching her hand. He let go of her hand, but she didn’t stir, she was still not awake.

“What happened? Are you all right?” Hermione asked with concern as Ron helped Harry to sit up.

“I don’t know. All I remember is her taking my hand, and then my scar erupted in pain. The pain was too much and I lost consciousness…” he hesitated to tell them about the dream, the vision… what if it was another of Voldemort’s traps? Then Harry remembered what had happened last time when he didn’t tell anyone about his dreams… “I had a vision about Voldemort,” he said quietly. Ron squirmed at the mention of the name. Hermione was surprised, and immediately worried.

“What was it?” She asked.

Harry retold the events, the emotions and everything that he had seen.
“Do you think it is a trick?” he wondered.

“I don’t know, Harry. It could all be a ploy, but if what you saw was true then we must prepare for an attack. We need to tell Dumbledore,” Hermione reasoned. “Have you had any more dreams about Voldemort this summer?” she asked while she checked on Joséphine. Harry noticed Ron was scanning the map to make sure they were alone, he frowned.

“No, my scar has hurt a couple of times but it’s been really quiet. When I entered his mind today, I could sense the effort that he’s been using to keep me out… I felt him and he was weak… and I don’t think he was aware of me being there… I think he has been trying to keep me from discovering what his condition is.”

“This is weird…” Ron said scratching his head and looking at the map.

“What is it?” Hermione asked.

“It’s Joséphine… she doesn’t show up on the map!” Ron said and showed the map to Harry and Hermione. True enough, all three of them where there, but neither Joséphine’s dot nor name was on the map.

They turned to stare at the girl. Hermione was frowning.

“Could there be something wrong with the map?” Ron asked.

“Remus said that the map never lies,” Harry offered.

“What? She doesn’t exist then?” Ron said confused. He cleared the map and activated it again. Joséphine was still not showing.

“I don’t know; it is possible that there’s a glitch,” Hermione said but doubted it.
“I wonder if the map’s somehow tied with the school? I mean, she wasn’t really born in England and she wasn’t inscribed in the book at her birth, so she didn’t get a Hogwarts letter…” Hermione offered.

The girl fluttered her eyes open, and moaned slightly as she came to.

Hermione helped her to sit up. “Qu’est çe que passé?” she said as she sat up. She then remembered where she was and asked in the correct language. “What ’appen?” she asked as she rubbed her hand. She remembered shaking Harry’s hand and a searing pain engulfed her head. She had heard the voice of someone shouting angrily, and she had seen the glimpse of a dark chamber lit by torches. A balding man was cowering at her feet, and then she had completely blacked out.

“You both screamed in pain when you touched hands and then passed out,” Hermione said eyeing her warily.

“Zhat never ’appen to moi before,” Joséphine said sounding perplexed. She hesitated to say anything about the images she had seen when her hand had touched his. She turned to Harry. “Et, vous feel… strange… feeling when near moi, non?” She asked tentatively. “I never feel zhat before until I see you in train station,” she said frightened. “I feel eet again when I see vous, and when I touch your ‘and I ‘eard a voice, in my head before I faeent,” she added with hesitation.

“Yes, I felt the same, but I don’t know what it is. I’ve never felt that before,” Harry replied even though it had been a bit hard to understand all she said. He asked her if she saw anything, and she said that it had all gone black and she didn’t remember.

“Do you think you should go to see Madam Pomfrey to make sure you’re all right?” Hermione asked.

Harry didn’t want to go to the Hospital Wing on the second day of school! And he was feeling fine.

“I theenk I am all right,” Joséphine said and gave Harry a questioning look.

“I feel fine,” Harry said and shrugged.

“Do you think it somehow had to do with your Mageability?” Hermione suddenly asked.

“Professor Donovan didn’t mention anything about something like this,” Harry replied.

“Well, I was reading part of that scroll you lent me and I remember reading something about certain Mages having the ability to connect minds without the use of Legilimency. Maybe that’s something one of you can do,” Hermione offered. “Here, grab my hand.”

“I’m not so sure we should…”

Hermione grabbed his hand. Nothing happened. She shook hands with Joséphine, nothing happened either.

“Maybe it only happens between the two of you,” Ron said looking to Joséphine and Harry. Joséphine and Harry looked at each other. Joséphine nodded, and Harry did as well. They stood up facing each other and reached for each other’s hands. Harry’s tingling sensation was very pronounced and he could feel a wave of almost static quality as their fingers reached for each other’s. They shook hands. Nothing happened.

“Maybe you should ask Professor Donovan and talk to Dumbledore,” Hermione said frowning.

“I think you should do that tomorrow,” Ron said scanning the map.

“Why?”

“Snape’s on his way up from the dungeons,” Ron said and the four of them raced back to Gryffindor for the night. Harry lay in his bed wondering what had happened. He wondered if Voldemort hadn’t invaded his mind and it had all been a trick. But then, why did Joséphine feel pain in her hand and pass out at the same time he did? She had also heard Voldemort’s voice for a brief second. Somehow their minds had been connected. What sort of connection did they posses at that moment? All of these puzzling thoughts swam in Harry’s head before he finally fell asleep.

Harry had a chance to speak with Donovan during their next lesson on Thursday. Donovan believed that it had something to do with Joséphine’s type of Mage, and informed them that Joséphine was a Daiteran Mage, a kind of Mage known for the wielding of Psionic Magic.

“…Yellow Magic is one of the most dangerous and it is very powerful. It is Mental magic for the most part. Most people think that Psionics is the same as Telekinesis because it enables Wizards to move things with their mind (including themselves). But Telekinesis isn’t the only aspect of Psionics. Psionics allow the wielder to mentally cause others pain, control the mind of creatures and bend their will directly, manipulate and freeze portions of time, alter memories and there are also several forms of mind reading. Psionic Magic is completely wandless. I think that what happened was a result of Josephine’s Mageability and something triggered her to connect with your mind, but since both of you weren’t prepared for the connection, it caused you to pass out. I will begin working with Joséphine to learn to control it and with you to learn to resist it…”

Donovan had asked for them to inform him if it ever happened again. Harry didn’t think about it again as school assignments began to pick up, and he was also busy trying to calm Ron down. Quidditch tryouts were approaching and Ron was becoming more and more anxious everyday. Harry wondered how he was going to lead the team if he didn’t get a grip on himself.

A week later, Ron was wringing his hands in nervousness. He appeared a delicate shade of green as he paced nervously around the locker rooms.

“Ron, relax! You’re starting to make me nervous!” Harry said with a grin as he tied the laces on his trainers that had come undone. He could flick his wand and do it, but old Muggle habits were hard to get rid off.

Harry thought that they couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to hold tryouts. The sun was shining brightly, helping to warm the chilly morning air and the wind had died down considerably from they night before. A cool mist hung about the grounds as it began to disappear with the early morning sunshine.

“Hey, are you coming or what? People are starting to arrive,” Ginny poked her head into the locker rooms.

“Right,” Ron said and knocked over his broom as he tried to grab it. Harry clapped a hand on Ron’s shoulder. “Don’t fret so much! Just organise the people by position and sit back and watch,” Harry said as he led the way, his Firebolt casually flung over his shoulder. Ron took a deep breath and followed. His eyes nearly fell from their sockets as he stared at the large crowd gathered around the pitch. There were students from first all the way to seventh year. Most had brooms with them, but a large number of them didn’t. Ron doubted that even the school would have enough for all of them. He tried not to appear nervous as he smiled at the lot that greeted him cheerfully. Suddenly everyone talked to him on a first name basis and was trying to talk to him and Harry, hoping perhaps to make a good impression and improve their chances. The group looked at him expectantly. Ron walked ahead to stand in front of the crowd.

“Erm… right…” Ron began as he cleared his throat.

“Ron!” Hermione was walking towards him with a megaphone. Ron smiled gratefully at her, and she smiled back. Hermione waved at Harry and the others and headed towards the stand. Ron now wished he hadn’t turned in this direction. It seemed that every remaining Gryffindor that wasn’t down for try-outs was up in the stands to watch. He noticed Professor McGonagall and other members of the staff were there. To make matters worse, some people from the other houses were there as well.

Ron placed the megaphone to his lips and began, “hello,” he said a bit too loudly. The megaphone was charmed to amplify his voice. People jumped startled. Ron blushed. “Sorry,” he said in a normal voice.

“Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming to the Gryffindor Quidditch Team try outs. As most of you should know,” Ron began nervously but his trembling voice calmed as he progressed, “we are trying out for new positions and for the reserve team as well,” he paused wondering what he should say next. “I want everyone to split up into groups. Chaser tryouts over here…” He pointed and saw a large group move towards the left. “Beaters, Keepers, and Seekers…” and several people, including Joséphine, moved to form a group of Seekers. Ron frowned as he saw that the majority of the Seekers were female, and they were looking at Harry with too much interest, much to Harry’s chagrin. Ron also thought that there was an unnecessary and excessive amount of giggling from the girls as he spoke. These were Quidditch tryouts and very important. He noticed Lavender waving at him from the stands, he waved back, and quickly pulled back his hand when another 10 girls waved enthusiastically back at him. He noticed Hermione roll her eyes. What the hell was wrong with all of them?

“All right, now that everyone is separated…” Ron began trying to block out girls and their weird behaviour. A fifth year raised his hand.

“Yes?”

“Can I only try out for one position?”

“Erm, no… I guess not,” Ron said a bit hesitantly. “Just come forwards when I call each position,” he said and looked at the clipboard in his hands. Hermione had been gracious enough to help him put into words what he wanted to do to remind him, because he knew he would be beyond nervous.

“All right, we’ll start with the smallest group… Seekers, and we’ll start for those trying for the starting position,” Ron grinned when he saw Harry was the only one to move. It seemed that no one came to challenge his position; that is until Joséphine walked next to him. Everyone looked surprised, then they all held knowing smirks. Of course, Joséphine didn’t know about Harry’s Seeker abilities.

Harry’s eyes opened in surprise when he noticed Joséphine was clutching a Firebolt in her hands. Harry and Joséphine stepped towards the middle of the pitch, and mounted their identical brooms. Ron then noticed Joséphine’s Firebolt, and raised an eyebrow. He nodded to Katie, who released the Golden Snitch from its restraints in the crate. He waited a few seconds to let it disappear.

“Ok, we’ll do best two catches out of three,” Ron said and then blew his whistle.

Harry and Joséphine both kicked off with force, and they moved to opposite directions across the pitch, and they both flew very high to scan the ground. Harry turned to watch Joséphine who was scanning the grounds intently. He resumed his search for the golden ball, and out of the corner of his eye, he caught Joséphine speeding up towards a spot behind him. He heard the collective gasp of the crowd; with incredible skill, he whirled his Firebolt 180 degrees and sped towards her.

Harry now spotted the glint of gold racing ahead, with Joséphine closing on it at an alarming speed. Harry flattened himself against his broom and flew faster than ever. The fluttering ball as if sensing it was being chased, suddenly zoomed to the right. Joséphine changed course with ease, and Harry was after her a split second later. The Snitch went into a dive and both Harry and Joséphine followed. Harry was now flying next to Joséphine, both their hands outstretched, their fingers almost touching the ball and each other’s. They were doing an almost vertical dive, and the crowd gasped in horror. They were going to crash! Just as the Snitch seemed to be ready to hit the ground, Harry saw to his dismay as Joséphine jerked forward, her hands clasped around the Snitch, tiny wings fluttering through her fingers. Joséphine pulled on her broomstick hard, and pulled from the dive, barely missing the stands. Harry’s mind had stopped with disbelief, but he snapped and tried to pull his Firebolt at the last second, but it was too late. He managed to pull the broom up, but he was so low, and so close to the stands that he crashed straight through into them. There was an outcry from the crowd, both from shock of Joséphine’s catch, and fear at seeing Harry crash.

“Harry!” Ron, who had mounted his broom to get a better view of the two Seekers, flew straight towards Harry. Fred was running on the ground with several people behind him. Joséphine touched down gently onto the grass right in front of where Harry crashed and stepped in through the broken strands. She helped him to his feet.

“Are you all right?” she asked seeing him scratched and his glasses broken, lying askew across his face.

“Erm, yeah…” Harry replied with surprise. He hadn’t received anything worse than a few scratches.

“Mate! Are you okay?” Ron asked as he arrived.

“Yeah, I’m fine…” Harry said with disbelief and patted himself to re-assure himself that he hadn’t broken anything. Harry turned to Joséphine with something akin of awe.

“That was an excellent catch,” he said defeated.

“Zhank you, you fly well too,” Joséphine said impressed, and Harry thought with a hint of pride. “But we still ‘ave two more tries,” she said and grinned.

Ron was looking at Joséphine with disbelief. She flew just as well, or even better, than Harry. She had spotted the Snitch within five minutes of taking off, and had caught it. He had never seen anyone do anything like that besides Harry.

Professor McGonagall insisted on checking on Harry before letting him resume with the tryouts.

At Ron’s whistle, Harry and Joséphine kicked off from the ground again and circled the pitch. This time it was Harry who spotted the Snitch first, but to his dismay Joséphine was neck and neck with him within seconds. Harry pushed harder to gain the lead, and the Snitch, once again, sped off towards a different direction, both Seekers hot on its wake.

Harry felt the wings flutter against his outstretched fingers and, to his astonishment, the Snitch seemed to pause mid-air and shoot back in the direction it had come. Both Harry and Joséphine applied their brakes, flipped in mid air almost simultaneously and seemed to be mimicking each other moving in mirror-like ways, and sped back the way they came. Hermione and everyone else could not believe their eyes. Joséphine was like a shadow of Harry. They zoomed up and down the field, the Golden Snitch just barely in front of them, but always far enough to avoid capture.

It dived for the ground once more, both Seekers behind it. Harry’s hands clasped around the fluttering ball, and he tried to level out from the dive, and managed it almost falling off his broom. The crowd cheered loudly. Harry landed on the grass, and smiled at Joséphine as she was clapping enthusiastically, obviously impressed. Harry handed the Snitch to Ron, who released it.

The tension was palpable as now they were both tied, and they were both equally matched in skill. Ron knew that whoever didn’t get starting position was definitely going to be in the reserve team. He inwardly crossed his fingers that Harry would make the second catch. Harry and Joséphine stared at each other determined to make that catch. Ron blew his whistle, and both of them kicked off hard from the ground.

After a few tense minutes of watching Harry and Joséphine circle around the pitch, the crowd began to murmur excitedly when Joséphine spotted the Snitch at the same time Harry had. They rounded their brooms and raced after the fluttering of glinting light, and once again they were neck and neck flying as fast as their broom’s matched capacity would allow. Both had their hands outstretched, and Harry’s was almost on top of the Snitch, he could feel the wings tickling his fingertips. Just a bit more! They both heard a faint cry of warning, when out of nowhere a Bludger plunged into Harry’s right shoulder, completely unsettling him from his broom, and almost crashing into Joséphine as he was lifted off his broom. “AAaaargh!” Harry cried in surprise as he fell off his broom. His Firebolt, without a rider, spun off away as it sped towards the ground. Harry felt himself fall.

Time seemed to slow down for Joséphine as she watched Harry’s body separate itself from the broom and immediately begin to fall downward. Joséphine reacted on instinct. She crossed her ankles tightly under the broom handle, clutching it tight with her legs and let go of her hands as she spun herself to hang upside down, rotating with the broom. As she revolved in mid air, she swung her right arm, and she managed to wrap her hand on Harry’s left forearm as he passed. Harry instinctively clutched to her arm; her other hand, she wrapped around his left forearm as well, holding Harry by his arm. The weight of his body jerked Joséphine and her broom, pulling her down a few feet, but she retained her balance, and kept the broom from going into a dive with both of them. Harry swung freely under her.

“I ‘ave you,” Joséphine said and Harry looked up and locked his eyes with her bright blue eyes. She smiled reassuringly at him, and he smiled back. He didn’t know why, but he didn’t feel any fear, and felt perfectly safe within her grasp. Without her hands to guide the broom, the broom flew in a straight line. Fred, George, and Ginny had jumped on their brooms the moment the Bludger had somehow escaped its restraints and followed after it. Fred and George went to the Bludger, bats at the ready, as it made a circle after hitting Harry aiming for the next moving target. Ron and Ginny flew under Harry, and Ginny slowly rose allowing her broom to slip between Harry’s legs until he sat behind Ginny on her broom. Harry looked up to Joséphine as she let go of his arm once he was safely behind Ginny. Joséphine clasped her broom handle, righted herself up right, and then flew down towards the ground.

Hermione was advancing towards the group as they landed.
“Harry! Are you all right?” she asked as he dismounted.

“Yeah,” he said clutching his right shoulder where the Bludger hit him. McGonagall was inspecting the crate, trying to find out how the Bludger had got away. Fred and George were wrestling the Bludger, restraining it.

Ron was praising Joséphine, and Harry turned to her. “Thanks, you saved me from plummeting to the ground,” he said as he watched her with gratitude.

“You are welcome. Eet was nozhing,” she said and smiled at him.

“Whew, Harry… that was a close one,” Ron said with relief. “I was thinking for a second there that Joséphine was going to take your place,” he said and turned to her, “although I am not sure the team would have suffered one bit. Joséphine, I want you to be my reserve seeker!”

“I would like to try for Chaser first, before accepteen zhe reserve,” she said and Ron agreed.

“But we didn’t manage to catch the Snitch!” Harry voiced and the group laughed. He turned pink when he finally realized that the fluttering of wings amidst his fingers in his right hand was the Snitch; he hadn’t noticed he had caught it.

McGonagall explained to Ron that a Perkitrat had chewed through one of the leather straps that held the Bludger and it had snapped. He advised them to check the others to make sure there wasn’t a Perkitrat infestation in the locker room. She was also going to speak with Madam Hooch to check the crate with the Quidditch equipment used during the actual games. She also said there was no foul play involved and that they should resume with the tryouts.

Ron made notes on his chart as he watched the other reserve Seeker-wannabes. Then he called for people wanting to try for the Chasers position. Ginny did superbly, as well as Katie. Then there was a string of first and second years that barely managed to stay on their brooms when the Quaffle was passed to them. Berty Dunstan, Josephine and Logan Zavier from 7th year did pretty well, as well as Erika Basset from 5th year; Dean Thomas had also done really well. Ron narrowed the large group of Chasers to ten players. Ginny, Katie, and Joséphine were finally picked for the starting line-up, while Berty, Logan and Erika comprised the reserve.

The Beater tryouts didn’t take as long as the Chaser tryouts. The Beaters were sent up in groups of four and they were to send the Bludgers at each other, intercept the Bludgers aimed at them, and send them to others. As soon as one failed to intercept a Bludger twice, or if they were hit by a Bludger, they were eliminated and a new Beater would go up to join the remaining three.

The first four to go up were second year Euan Abercrombie, Colin and Dennis Creevey, and Jessica King from fourth year. Dennis was knocked out when he was unable to stop the Bludger from hitting him, although he had swung at it with all his might (which wasn’t much from the tiny kid). Seamus flew up to take his place and he knocked out Colin next. After the younger years were knocked out easily, the last four remaining were Fred, George, Seamus and Alice Longton from 7th year. It was obvious that Fred and George had teamed up against Seamus and Alice. Alice failed to deflect a Bludger and it hit her on the nose, spurting blood everywhere. Seamus wasn’t able to keep up against Fred and George for much longer after that. After receiving two Bludgers to the head, he was levitated to the Hospital Wing, and Fred and George were announced at the official Beaters. Seamus and Alice would be part of the reserve.

“Now, those of you trying out for Keepers for the starting line-up…” people burst out laughing at him and Ron blushed. He smiled embarrassed, “erm sorry, I mean, reserve Keepers, please come forward.”

Out of the 10 people trying out for Keepers, Natalie McDonald from third year was tied with Colin Creevey, and Margery Harper from 7th year at 4 goals saved out of five. Ron had them go a second time and Colin Creevey managed to save 3 out of 5, Natalie and Margery each saved 4 out of five. Ron tried one more time, with both Natalie and Margery tied again.

“All right, I have to pick one of you, and sorry Margery, but Natalie flew just a little bit better. Natalie, welcome to the reserve,” Ron said and felt his ears get hot as Margery shot him a disappointed glare. Natalie whooped and went to her friends who were cheering for her. All in all, Ron felt that he had done very well, and that this year they would have an excellent team. He just hoped that he himself wasn’t going to be the one below them.

As the crowd began to disperse and head back to the castle, Ron congregated his team and the reserve.

“Well done, everyone!” he said with a bit of an important, yet nervous voice. “We’ll start out with practice next Tuesday after the last class. We’ll see you then!” he said and everyone headed back to the common room. Harry and Hermione stayed behind to help Ron put away the school broomsticks they had borrowed to use for tryouts then headed to the Great Hall for lunch. It had been a long morning.

****
Three days later, Harry dragged himself into the bathroom very early in the morning. He splashed water on his face. He was so tired. He yawned and leaned against the sink. I should have gone to bed earlier last night, Harry thought. If it hadn’t been for that Potions essay he would have. It should be a crime to have to get up so early, he grumbled to himself as he stifled another yawn. As Harry lifted his face from the basin and looked up into the mirror, he jumped when he saw a man standing behind his reflection.

Harry.

“SIRIUS!” Harry whirled around to face his godfather, but the bathroom was empty. He turned around to look back into the mirror but there was nobody there. He breathed hard to try to calm himself down. That vision of his godfather had really scared him.

“I’m just tired,” he reassured himself and rubbed his eyes. He had had another nightmare about him last night anyway. As he went out of the bathroom, Ron, Neville and Seamus were dragging themselves in, grumbling.

“AAAARRGGH!!!” Someone screamed from the bathroom and Harry ran back to see what had happened.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with you!?” Ron was yelling at Seamus when Harry went in. “Are you trying to kill me!!!?” He shouted clutching his chest.

Neville looked pretty startled and freaked out too.

“THERE WAS A MAN IN THE SHOWER! I SWEAR!” Seamus said in self-defence.

“It… it… it…” Neville stammered.

“What? Who was it?” Harry asked.

Neville turned to look at Harry. “It was Sirius,” Neville said with disbelief.

“Are you bonkers? There was nobody in there,” Ron retorted and pointed to the shower for them to look.

Harry’s heart pace quickened. There was something going on here, it couldn’t be just a simple nightmare. “Are you sure, Neville?”

“I saw him,” Neville said with conviction.

“How can it be Sirius?” Ron tried to reason. He didn’t like being spooked and these guys all looked like they had seen a ghost, which wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary there at Hogwarts.

“Look, I don’t mean to be insensitive,” Ron began as he walked over to the shower… “but I was here and I didn’t see anyone there, look…” he said as he pulled back the curtain.

Harry.

“AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!” All four of them screamed and Ron jumped back into the three others, letting go of the curtain. The outline of a man was clearly visible behind it now.

Harry walked cautiously over to it. “Sirius?” He called as his trembling hand reached for the curtain and yanked it to the side, but the shower was again empty.

“What is going on here?” Dean asked running in.

Ron was shaking so hard, the others were stuttering too. Harry was staring at the shower with disbelief, and nobody paid attention to Dean.

“What are you all spooked about?” Dean asked again.

“We just saw the ghost of Sirius Black,” Neville said.

“Erm, ghosts are not that creepy,” Dean objected.

“He wasn’t a ghost, he looked worse than a ghost…” Ron began.

“Guys, look!” Seamus exclaimed, he had gone over to Harry’s side and had seen something on the floor of the shower.

There were two wet shoeprints in the spot where Sirius had been.

“Do you reckon he is trying to contact you from the dead?” Seamus said now that he was a bit calmer.

“The dead can’t come back and we all know he didn’t become a ghost,” Dean objected again and rolled his eyes.

Ron began to berate him for being insensitive, and Dean and Seamus began to argue about messages from the beyond. Harry was ignoring them and simply stared at the boot imprints on the floor. Slowly they began to disappear and then the trace was gone.

“Guys? GUYS?” Neville yelled to get their attention

The three bickering guys silenced immediately and turned to him.

“What if he’s not dead?”

Harry’s head snapped towards Neville. “What do you mean?” he asked walking over to Neville.

“I, well… nothing really, it’s just that after what happened last year I asked my Gran about that veil and she said that no one knew much about it, except that whoever passed through never comes back so they all assume it leads to death. So, I mean, if they don’t really know what happens, maybe the people that cross over aren’t dead, maybe they are just sent away somewhere else, to a different place…”

“Oh crap!” Dean interrupted.

“What?” Ron asked.

“We have 10 minutes to make it to class!” Dean exclaimed and the five of them scrambled to get out of there.

Harry couldn’t stop thinking about Neville’s words. He had never thought to question the veil, and what everyone knew about it. They all were convinced that people died when they went through but Harry had heard the voices. What if it was true, that it didn’t send people to their death but instead they were trapped somewhere. He needed to find out, and if that was the case, he needed to get Sirius out of there; especially since he was trying to contact him.

The five students ran to the Quidditch pitch and found their places, just as Donovan appeared at the front. They had barely made it.

“We have some fun things for you to do today,” he began after the register. “We will start as usual: ten laps to the pitch, then you will do your warm up routine, but today we have an obstacle course to tackle,” he motioned his wand and an assortment of things sprung unto the empty field. To those Muggle related it looked like a military boot camp obstacle course.

“Get started on those laps,” Donovan yelled and the group as one began to jog around.

Once they were finished, they had to perform crunches, push ups, jumping jacks, squats, and a few others things.

“Gather around to watch,” Donovan called them, and Professor De Valerio stood at the beginning of the course.

The guys stared at the professor as she took off her cloak, but this time the boys were disappointed to see her; she was not in her customary leather tight suit, instead she wore an outfit similar to theirs, except it was all black and it was skin tight. It hugged the curves of her body, so they were not as disappointed. The girls just glared at the professor, unobtrusively of course.

Donovan nodded and Professor De Valerio crouched to the ground. She lay flat onto her stomach, and began to crawl to make it under the first obstacle. The next obstacle was to jump and hold the edge of a wall and to shimmy to the other side, avoiding falling into a deep back hole at the bottom. She let go and fell in, and with a pop appeared at the beginning.

“If you fail to finish an obstacle, you will have to do it all over again,” Donovan explained.

Professor de Valerio walked to the third obstacle, climbed the ladder up a tall pole, with a little landing at the top, and jumped to grab hold of a rope, crossing her legs onto it. She travelled the rope to the other side and had to jump from the landing onto another platform. From there, she had to climb a rock wall then from the top, she had to dive onto a pool of water, swim under the water to the other side. She stepped out of the pool, ran to a wall, and jumped to scale it and get to the other side. There were a few more obstacles to do, and the last obstacle was to climb up a rope, then slide down a toboggan to the end.

They were sent in pairs, one after the other. Needless to say, the first day of the obstacle was a fiasco. Not a single student was able to finish the course, many paralyzed for fear of heights, lack of strength to hold on, stamina to endure, and many other things. To top it all, Donovan had announced that on October 1st, two weeks from now, they would be taking a test, perfect score only for those who finished the course successfully in one shot. Hermione had done fairly well out of all the girls, managing to make every obstacle until she got out of the pool and was unable to scale the wall. Most boys made it past this point.

On their way back to Gryffindor, Ginny spotted Professor Lupin. “Hey, Harry… listen… I’m going to ask Professor Lupin for, you know… the favour,” she said then leaned closed to Harry, “meet me before dinner without Hermione…” Ginny whispered to him in his ear. Harry smiled at her and nodded. She smiled, gave Dean a quick kiss and hurried along.

“What was that all about?” Dean asked Harry narrowing his eyes at him.

Harry gave Dean a pained look.

“Oh, that! All right.” Dean said and smiled relieved. Hermione glanced between the two, but Harry simply smiled and raced ahead. He said he had something to do. Hermione had the feeling that there was something going on between Ginny and Harry, and she frowned. Was it just her, or were her classmates acting weirdly today? Neville grinned at Hermione, and Parvati and Lavender were whispering.

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