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Chapter 23 Where the Shadows lie… Hermione brushed away the poking sensation on her nose. It went away for a while, but it started again. She opened her eyes and saw a parchment aeroplane that was flying above her; it dived towards her and poked her gently on the nose. “What…?” Hermione sat up sleepily, and snatched the paper aeroplane out of the air. She blinked a couple of times and rubbed her eyes, then reached for her wand. “Lumos,” she called bringing some light to the tip of her wand, illuminating the dark dormitory. She took a peek at her alarm clock and noticed that it said 11:58 pm. Barely awake, Hermione unfolded the paper plane and tried to read it; it looked like Ron’s writing but it seemed to have been scribbled in a hurry. HERMIONE, HELP! IT’S HARRY! Hermione’s heart beat fast and jolted her awake. She didn’t waste a second and jumped from her bed. She forgot to put a dressing gown on, and tore out of the bedroom in her flannel, pink and lavender pyjama pants, and light pink tank top; she even forgot her slippers. She ran with her wand in her hand, hair flying in all directions. Hermione raced down the steps and came out into the common room. “HERMIONE!” Ron called and Hermione saw Harry sprawled on the floor. There was a pool of blood under his face and Ron was hovering over him looking helpless. “Harry! What happened?” Hermione asked as she knelt next to Harry. “He said he had to go somewhere, and when he didn’t return I came down to look for him and found him like this…” Hermione was turning Harry over. “Why didn’t you call Professor McGonag…” She stopped as she saw Harry grinning at her, his nose bleeding profusely. Suddenly the lights in the room brightened and there was a chorus of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!” that made Hermione jump. Harry inserted a piece of something purple into his mouth and the nose bleed stopped, and he was grinning at her. He cleaned his blood off both him and the floor with a wave of his wand. Hermione looked shocked, and then glared at Harry. He had taken one of those dratted nose-bleeding nougats from Fred and George. She punched him hard on the arm. “Ow!” “THAT’S FOR SCARING ME!” she screamed, but then she smiled. “But thanks for the surprise!” She was delighted now that she knew it was only a joke. She saw Fred and George levitating a large pile of presents, while Ginny was levitating a large cake that she had asked her mum to make for her. Ginny had asked a favour from Professor Lupin, and Remus picked it up and gave the cake to Ginny last night. Hermione noticed that the common room was decorated and a large banner hung from above the fireplace. It would flash between ‘Happy Birthday, Hermione’ and ‘Congrats on Becoming of Age!’ Hermione had turned 17 today. Lavender came up behind Hermione and placed a silly pointed hat on her head that said ‘Birthday Girl’. Parvati dropped Hermione’s slippers for her. “Thanks,” Hermione said noticing now the cold of the stone flooring under her feet. Everyone was in their pyjamas. “Come on! Open presents…” Ginny called and Hermione sat in her favourite place in front of the fire; Harry and Ron sat on either side of her. She looked around and saw Harry, Ron, Fred, George, Lavender, Parvati, Neville, Dean, Seamus and Colin Creevey (Ginny had asked him if he could take pictures). They were all seated around her. Colin was snapping pictures every few seconds. “Here, this is from Mum,” Ginny said as she yawned and handed a package to Hermione. Hermione tore it open and it contained a multitude of homemade baked goods and sweets. There was a new red and gold knit scarf, with the Gryffindor crest embroidered on it, a pair of knitted gloves, and a note saying that these items were charmed to keep her temperature constant when outside in the cold. (The Charms were her gift from Remus). The gloves were also waterproofed. Fred and George gave Hermione a box of items from Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes and the latest LP from The Weird Sisters. Ginny gave Hermione a new quill made from the feather of a Griffin, and a bottle of messaging ink. She could write a message on any surface and think of a person to whom she wanted to send the message, and the message would appear written in the palm of the person’s hand. The person had to be within a short distance for the charm to work. Neville gave Hermione a pot with a single-stem Weather Forecasting Rose. The rose would tell its owner the forecast for the day every morning when they woke up, and up to three days ahead. Hermione loved it since it was a yellow rose, her favourite. “I love yellow roses!” She beamed at Neville and he blushed, feeling pleased that she liked it. The rose even reminded the owner when water was needed, or if a pest or anything else was afflicting it. Lavender gave her a box of chocolates and a couple of bottles of Long Lasting Sleekeaze shampoo and conditioner. Hermione had tried hers and liked it. Because of the DA, the three sixth year Gryffindor girls had grown closer, and also Lavender had flying classes with Hermione. Parvati of course, came with Lavender. Parvati gave Hermione a Magic Instant Manicure Set. All Hermione had to do was pick a colour, press the button on the little box, and stick each finger in the hole, and her nails would be done. Hermione thanked Parvati for it, although inwardly she was rolling her eyes. Parvati had been on her case to do manicures and pedicures together, but Hermione wasn’t really interested. Dean gave Hermione some Muggle sweets and a book on Ancient Runes written by a Muggle, while Seamus gave Hermione a supply of Sugar Quills. Colin handed Hermione a framed picture he had taken of Ron, Harry and her at the Halloween feast a few years ago. The picture frame was lined with little books that actually opened. Inside each little book were tiny pictures of her, Ron, or Harry, or the three of them. Hermione loved it. Harry handed Hermione a little black velvet covered box. Lavender’s and Parvati’s eyes widened in excitement, and Ginny’s smile seemed to falter a little. Ron frowned somewhat, and Fred and George exchanged a curious glance. Hermione looked surprised. She opened the box and smiled. It was a Muggle ‘charm’ bracelet. “Harry, it’s beautiful!” “What is it?” Lavender asked unable to conceal her curiosity. Hermione pulled out the bracelet. “It’s a ‘Charm’ bracelet.” “Oooh, what kind of charms does it do?” Parvati asked excitedly. Hermione, Harry, Colin, Seamus and Dean laughed. “It doesn’t do anything.” The others looked perplexed. “It’s what Muggles call ‘charm’ bracelets. See these little items? Muggles call them ‘charms’, but they don’t do anything.” “Yeah, I saw it at a store when I was buying a new pair of jeans over the summer, and found them amusing,” Harry explained, “and this one had four charms in the shape of a book, a dictionary, an encyclopaedia, and a diary so I thought of you. I also thought you’d get the joke, so it would be a perfect birthday present.” Harry grinned. “How did you get a charm of the crest of Gryffindor and one of Hogwarts?” Hermione asked looking at the little charms on the bracelet. “Oh, I asked Professor McGonagall for a favour the other day. She transfigured some of them for me,” he answered. Parvati, Lavender and Ginny pushed Ron and Harry out of the way so they could look at the bracelet with Hermione. “Oh look! There’s a parchment roll!” Ginny said pointing. “And a quill!” Lavender squealed. “Oh Harry, you have Crookshanks here!” Hermione said looking at an orange ginger cat. “And look at this little black owl,” Parvati pointed. “Yeah, that’s Devieta,” Harry said happy that Hermione really liked it. “There’s some extra ones in the box, too, that came with it,” Harry added and George snatched the box to look at them “There’s a wand!” Ginny pointed. “Look, there’s one that looks like Professor Snape!” Fred said looking through the extra ones that came in the box and picking one out. They all looked at him, and Harry wondered if it had been Professor McGonagall’s idea of a joke. “Oh, never mind… it’s just a crooked jalapeño pepper, I thought it was his nose.” They all burst out laughing. “Thanks, Harry. It’s lovely,” Hermione said putting it on her wrist, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She shook it to hear the jingle of the charms. Ron now approached Hermione, but he felt that his gift wasn’t as pretty as Harry’s. He also handed her a little box, but it wasn’t a jewellery box. Hermione opened the box. There was a pair of what looked like angel wings attached to a little box clip. “What are these?” she asked, sounding intrigued. Ron pulled out a book and took the wings from her. He clipped the wings to the spine of the book and dropped it. The wings began to flutter and the book hovered in the air. “It’s a Book Angel, it’s to help you read and hold the book when you can’t. It’ll turn the page too, and bookmark it. Watch… Page 39,” Ron said and two tiny hands emerged from the clip box, opened the book and flipped the pages to page 39. Ron closed the book and one of the hands remained inside to keep the page. “You can also set it to hover at the same distance from your face, and…” Ron touched the little wings on the top with his wand. A little glass ball extended attached with a thin arm, and it glowed… “It’s got a reading light.” “Oh Ron! That is really thoughtful of you. Thanks! I really love it,” she grinned at him and planted a kiss on his cheek too and hugged him. Ron blushed furiously, and mumbled. “You’re welcome,” he said, pleased. He had sold some of his most rare chocolate frog cards to be able to afford the gift. He had also helped the twins in the shop during the summer earning a few Galleons, but he would buy Christmas presents with those. At that moment, the fireplace burst with green flames and a head appeared wearing a night cap. “Professor Dumbledore!” The group stood up alarmed. “Oh, sorry to startle you, but I heard the rumour that there was a birthday party going on and that Mrs Weasley’s famous cake was being served,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes. The students relaxed, except for Colin who was awed that the headmaster had shown up for Hermione’s birthday bash. Ginny fitted the cake with 17 candles and lit them. The group sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Hermione, with the headmaster’s head floating in the fire and singing along. George had made up his own words and made some of them burst out laughing. Hermione knelt in front of the table and leaned over to blow out the candles. The moment the candles were out, they sprayed Hermione’s face with sugar frosting. Everyone laughed, including Hermione. “Fred!” Ginny scolded, doing such a perfect imitation of Mrs Weasley that Fred looked around to see if she had appeared. “Brand new at our joke shop,” George said with a bow. Ginny sliced the cake, while Hermione cleaned her face, and served a piece to Hermione, then the rest. Ginny handed a piece of cake over the fire to Professor Dumbledore. “What is going on here?” Professor McGonagall entered the common room wearing her dressing gown and night cap. “Ah, Minerva! Just in time for some of Molly’s fabulous cake,” Professor Dumbledore said, startling the old witch. “Albus?” “I heard the rumour that there was a surprise party for Miss Granger, and that Molly had baked a cake. Why don’t you grab a piece and come to my office, there’s something I’d like to ask you,” Dumbledore said and smiled, his eyes twinkling, and he winked at the group. There was a sound like the knock on a door coming from Dumbledore’s office. He turned and said a few words to someone who had arrived. “Oh, all right…” McGonagall said, feeling a bit thrown off balance; she turned to the group, “but once you are all done with your cake, you will head to bed. You have class at 6am,” she reminded them as she took a piece of cake handed over by Ginny. “Yes, Professor.” “Goodnight everyone, and thank you for the cake… oh, Hermione… would you mind sharing some of your birthday cake with Professors Lupin, Hagrid, and Snape?” Dumbledore asked and looked once again back into his office. Someone had said something. “A little sugar will not hurt you, Severus.” Dumbledore turned back to face the Gryffindors. Fred and George were sniggering. “Not at all, Professor,” Hermione said to him and wondered what they were all doing in his office. He was probably conducting Order business. “Thank you,” Professor Dumbledore said and took the three extra pieces that Ginny gave him. He complemented her excellent skills with the carving spells. (“Thanks, Mum’s really good at them.”) Dumbledore’s head disappeared from the fire, and then Professor McGonagall stepped through the fire after him. Before the flames died out, Dumbledore’s head re-appeared. “I almost forgot, this is for you,” he said and a letter flew out of the fire into Hermione’s hand. “Thank you, Professor,” Dumbledore nodded and his head disappeared then the green flames died down. “What is it?” Hermione read the letter. “It’s just my letter granting me permission to leave Hogwarts for Apparition Lessons during the weekends. The first round of lessons starts this weekend! It says that this year the lessons will be offered at the Ministry of Magic,” she said excitedly. “I can’t wait to turn seventeen and take that test,” Parvati said excitedly. Her birthday wasn’t until December, so she had to wait for Apparating lessons that started after the Christmas holidays. “Easy for you to say!” Lavender exclaimed, annoyed. She, like Hermione, hadn’t achieved an OWL in flying and was stuck taking flying lessons until she obtained an Acceptable in that particular subject. Also, Lavender’s birthday wasn’t until April. “Well, we better get back to bed. Defence Against the Dark Arts is going to be torture on three hours of sleep,” Hermione said standing up. “Good night everyone, and thank you for the surprise.” “Good night Hermione, and happy birthday!” **** A week and three days had passed since they had first gone through the obstacle course, and Hermione was hysterical. The Defence Against the Dark Arts obstacle course test was the next Tuesday, and very few had finished the course, including Hermione. The last rope still gave her problem, and though she managed to get halfway up, she never was able to hold long enough to make it to the top. “What am I going to do?” She was nervously biting her nails in her room. Parvati and Lavender were trying to console her. “You’ll do just fine,” Parvati encouraged. “You manage to make it a lot farther than either of us!” “We better head over to Divination,” Lavender said looking at the clock. “You’re sure you’re ok?” “Yes,” Hermione replied. “I’m fine; it’s just been a bad week. I will see you later. Go, don’t be late on my account,” she encouraged them and sat back on her bed. “All right. I’ll see you in Flying,” Lavender said to Hermione, and she nodded. Hermione had that period free before she would have to go to Flying. She was dreading the next week already, and it was a Hogsmeade weekend too! She remained quiet in her bed, just thinking all sorts of things. Hermione had thought that she was alone in the room and was startled when Johana Moon crawled from under her bed and got up. It always made Hermione feel uncomfortable when she did that. Johana never used her bed; instead, she always was crawling under it to go to sleep. Her bed was piled high with rubbish, clothes, books, and all sorts of stuff. Anything that should have been stored in her cabinets and trunk was all over her side of the bed, and none of it put away. For five years Hermione had ignored this girl who seemed to be everything Hermione wasn’t. But today, Hermione couldn’t help but stare at the girl. She had shaved her hair off, and was completely bald! It was apparent to Hermione that Johana thought she was alone, as she began to strip of her clothes to change. Hermione couldn’t help but watch her. Almost everyone by now changed with the flick of their wand, but Johana opted instead to remove the clothing herself. She was giving her back to Hermione and Hermione’s eyes widened as she saw the tattoo covering the back of the girl. It was a magnificent rendition of a Hungarian Horntail, complete in every detail. The head resting on her right shoulder blade, with the body curving around her back with the end finishing on her buttocks as the tail ran down around the side of her right hip, wrapping around her leg to mid-thigh. The dragon moved its head to look at Hermione, and blew out a plume of fire; not real fire but swirl shapes that gave the impression of fire. Hermione thought she better let her know she was not alone, and cleared her throat as she reached to her bedside cabinet to get a book. Johana simply turned her head to take a look at Hermione, but continued to pull down her panties. She tossed them to a laundry pile, and pulled a pair of clean ones from the pile on the bed. Ok, so she knew I was here. Hermione tried ignoring her. Johana pulled a pair of jeans on, and a white tank top, then put her school robe over them. She turned, and left the bedroom. Harry was at the bottom of the steps to the girls’ dormitory folding a parchment into a paper aeroplane when Johana came down the steps. Harry looked at her for a moment and didn’t recognize her. “Wow, Johana… what did you do to your hair?” Harry asked and the girl looked at him. “Are you blind?” she replied, annoyed. “No. Just making sure you didn’t confuse your shaving potion with your shampoo,” he retorted as he tapped his wand to the parchment to send to Hermione. He needed to speak with her. “Like I give a f***, Potter,” she replied sourly. Harry didn’t seem fazed by her attitude. She was his partner for DADA training in the mornings and had been so for three weeks now. He had thought initially that she was a complete bitch, but now he found he was impervious to it. After the initial shock of her foul mouth and bad temper, he had become accustomed. She was really odd, didn’t care what anybody thought, and believed she didn’t need to She walked away and then out of the hole behind the portrait, ignoring the aghast looks she received from girls, and the stares from the boys. Harry watched her go, wondering where the hell she disappeared to all the time, shaking his head. Just then Hermione came down the steps and greeted Harry. “Did you have a chance to find out about the veil?” Harry asked as she made it to the bottom step. “I’m not sure, I think… let’s go get your book. I’ll need that,” she said and the two of them raced up the steps to the boys’ room. They hopped onto Harry’s bed and closed the curtains. Hermione cast a silencing charm on them, then flipped open Harry’s book. “I’ve looked everywhere for information on the veil, but there is nothing! Everything has been classified by the Department of Mysteries and not even this book can access it. I did find this though,” she pulled out a picture from her robes of an old edition of the Prophet. “I found it in the archives. It was taken when the Death Eaters that killed the Fontaine sisters were sentenced to death by the veil, and the last time it was used. I thought I could see symbols inscribed on the arc, but they look like scratches on the stone. I can only make out a few, not all of them. I thought I’d try and copy them onto the book and see what happens. They don’t match any known writing either Muggle or magical that I could find in books, but I am sure I have seen it before,” she said as she began to write on the empty page, drawing the scrawling from the archway. They waited for a while as the book displayed that it was searching. After a moment, one entry returned. It seemed very familiar to both Harry and Hermione. “I’ve seen that somewhere,” Hermione said as she tapped it. ‘…One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them… in Mordor where the shadows lie.’ Hermione read the inscription and her eyes opened wide. “That’s from Lord of the Rings!” she said as she began to read what turned out to be an article criticizing the madness of the claims made by J.R.R. Tolkien about the tale of the history of the world, before Muggles and magic were separated. “What does that have to do with the veil?” Harry asked. He had so far read the first book and the Hobbit, and he had found it fascinating, but why would the reference book pull anything to do with this tale in relation to that veil. Hermione backed out of the article so now they could see the entry returned by the book. “I knew I recognised these inscriptions. That’s what is written on The One Ring of Power from Tolkien’s stories. It’s written with Tengwar, the Elven alphabet, although I think the original inscription was written in the language of Mordor… look at these symbols here on this picture, they are the only ones the veil inscription and this one have in common in that same order,” she said as she copied down on a piece of parchment the words of the ring. She spent a few minutes researching anything she could on the script based on Tolkien’s books. Harry watched with interest. “Shadows!” she exclaimed. “What?” “Shadows, that’s the word they both have in common. I have to go to Flying now, but I’ll continue this afterwards. I am sure now that this is Elven script according to Tolkien, which is not recognised as a true language by Wizards. I’ll have to owl Mum to send me all I have about Tolkien and the languages he translated and see if I can come up with anything else.” “All right, I’ll see you at dinner then,” he said and Hermione left to get her stuff. Harry began to put away his book and the ink and quill, when he accidentally dropped the ink bottle and it stained his robes. He was supposed to be meeting Ron now and he didn’t have time to clean the robes. He switched to clean robes and went down to Room of Requirement to meet Ron. “I thought you forgot,” Ron said worried as he saw Harry enter the room. “I was with Hermione looking for information about the veil. I didn’t forget,” Harry reassured him, and closed the door. The room had changed to include a life-size Quidditch pitch. Ron wanted to practice guarding the goal posts, but didn’t want to do it in public and they had wondered if the Room of Requirement would accommodate them for this purpose. It did, and it was perfect. Ron could practice without anyone seeing him and making him nervous. Harry returned from practice utterly exhausted. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was starving, Harry would have skipped dinner and gone straight to bed. He took a shower, dressed, and was about to put on his robes when he noticed the ink stain on them. He didn’t want to clean them yet, so instead he dug in his trunk for another spare. He put on the robes and frowned when he felt his pocket. He stuck his hand inside the pocket, and he remembered then the diary he had found in his grandmother’s vault. He gently pulled out the diary he had in his robe pocket and placed it in his trunk. He was going to read it tonight. “Ready, mate?” Ron asked and the pair went to join Hermione to go down to dinner. As they sat at the table, Ginny came in to join them. “Have any of you seen Bianca?” she asked the group. “No, we haven’t. Why?” Hermione asked. “Well, I had promised to help her with a Potions assignment. She was supposed to meet me after lunch, but I haven’t been able to find her all afternoon. No one else has seen her,” she replied as she sat down. “Have you checked Slytherin? Maybe she was finally moved where she belongs?” Ron replied. Ginny ignored him after glaring at him. “I saw her just before lunch. She was leaving the Charms classroom back to Gryffindor. There were some second years from Gryffindor teasing her,” Fred replied as he began to fill his plate. “And you didn’t do anything about it?!” Ginny demanded. “Hey, I’m not a Prefect. That ain’t my job,” Fred replied annoyed. “Only because she’s a Malfoy! I’ve seen you defend other Gryffindors!” Ginny exclaimed, irritated. “Why are you so defensive of her?” Ron demanded. “After all the insults her brother, and not to mention her parents, hurl at us? She’s just going to grow up to be a little Death Eater like the rest of her family anyway,” Ron argued vehemently. “How would you know? I’ve spent some time with her and she is actually a very nice girl. A bit timid and a pushover maybe, but she’s not like her brother.” Ginny was getting worked up. Ron could be a real prat sometimes. He was as stubborn as a Muggle mule too. “I’ve lost my appetite. I’m going to look for her,” Ginny said and stood up, leaving the table. Hermione and Ron began to fight about Ron’s insensitiveness, and Harry groaned. He ate what was on his plate as quick as possible, and left; his mind was on that diary. He hurried up to his room and pulled out the diary from his trunk. He made himself comfortable in his bed and he opened the diary to the first page. He wondered what had happened to it since it was burned and very tattered. He turned the page and the first entry read: 12th October 1962 Alex, I have searched for you and I returned empty-handed in my quest to find you, until today when I found out that you are dead. I have no way of telling you now, but the truth that I have kept hidden in my heart can not accompany me to the grave, and I wish that there was an owl capable of finding you in death. I will never know why you decided to leave me, why you chose to never return to me, but you need to know that you left a part of you with me. Soon after that night after you disappeared, I found myself pregnant with your child, but now you will never know... I named her after the beautiful flowers you always gave me... …I don’t know if you came back looking for me, and found me again with Rick, and because of it you chose to never let me know where you were. I need you to understand that I had nowhere to go, and Rick was there for me. He has been a father to Lily, although he doesn’t know yet, but I think deep inside he must suspect. He can always see in me the way I look at Lily longingly, and I know that his heart is able to feel what he can not see. I see a part of you in her vividly green eyes that are so like yours. I don’t know why I am writing this, but the news of your death has compelled me to confess my secret, even if only in a letter, and only to you. I’ve never stopped loving you. I will forever... Ell…

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