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Chapter 26

99, 98, 97… Planes


On Monday morning, Harry woke up to sunlight streaming through the windows. He reached for his glasses and turned to look at his alarm clock.

“SHIT!” Harry cursed as he bolted from his bed. It was 8:23 am.

He noticed that everybody was already gone except for Ron who was still snoring.

“GET UP, GET UP, GET UP!!!” Harry began screaming as he searched for his shoes.

Ron mumbled and put a pillow over his head. Harry found his trainers and picked up one and sent it flying in Ron’s direction.

“OW! What the bloody hell was that for?” Ron asked sitting up in his bed.

“WE HAVE CHARMS IN 5 MINUTES!!!!” Harry bellowed as he stuffed parchments and his book into his bag. Ron was mad that he had slept through breakfast!

Ron jumped from bed and began to panic when he couldn’t find his robes.

“WHERE ARE MY ROBES?” he screamed in frustration.

“Ron, you idiot. You went to bed again with your clothes on last night!” Harry yelled at him and Ron saw that indeed he had his school uniform still on. Both teens scrambled from their rooms and ran as if a hot coal had been placed in their boxers. They missed the large note posted on the noticed board. Nor did they pay any attention to the fact that the hallways were deserted. Instead, they ran like the wind to the Charms classroom until they reached the door, which was closed. Harry had reached it first.

At the same moment that Harry went for the door to open it, Ron tripped and both teenagers went flying through the doorway.

Harry quickly sprang to his feet, while Ron got up but was bent over with his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. They had begun to mumble apologies.

“Sorry…” huff huff “…Professor…” cough cough “…we are a little…”

Only then did they realize that the classroom was empty.

“Where… is…. everybody?” Ron wheezed.

Harry tried to catch his breath. “I don’t know,” he replied.

The two students began to walk back down the hallway checking other classrooms. These too were empty. They were utterly puzzled. Even the portraits were not in their frames.

“Are we in another dream?” Ron asked.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in the Great Hall?” One of the portraits that had remained asked the two students.

“Uhm, yeah… that’s where we’re headed,” Ron said to it and the two sprinted at a much slower pace towards the dining hall.

When they approached they noticed that it was rather quiet. Only the voice of Professor Dumbledore could be heard behind the doors.

Harry and Ron opened the door a crack, and their eyes widened as they saw what was going on. They both felt a sense of Déjà vu. The hall had been once again decorated in black tapestries. The house tables had been removed and the hall was aligned with chairs on each side of a hallway that ran down the middle towards the front of the hall. It was filled with students towards the back while in the front people that neither Harry nor Ron recognized were sitting. Instead of the head table in its place there was a cream colored casket. Beautiful white roses and other pale flowers were arranged throughout the hall. Professor Dumbledore stood in front of a small podium off to the right. He was in the middle of speaking.

“… behalf of the teaching staff and the student body, I would like to offer my deep condolences to the Perks family.” He nodded towards the front row.

Harry and Ron silently opened the door and squeezed in.

“Harry,” Hermione whispered from the very last row. She had waited for them until the very last moment and had saved them a spot.

Harry and Ron made their way silently towards her and took their seats.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked while Ron asked, “Who died?”

Hermione glared at Ron, and he had the decency to blush.

“It’s Sally-Anne. She was killed Saturday in Hogsmeade,” Hermione said as she sniffed. Ron and Harry could tell that she was crying. They wondered why, since Sally-Anne hadn’t been a close friend of hers. But they noticed that there were a lot of girls with tears in their eyes. They wanted to ask more details but they received some glares from people around them for being disrespectful. They turned their attention towards the front.

A woman in her early thirties made her way up to the podium after Dumbledore had stepped down. She began to speak, her voice constricted with emotion. It was Sally-Anne’s mother. Hermione began to sob as she heard the gut wrenching pain of the young mother as she described how she remembered her only daughter. Ron put an arm around Hermione as she quietly sobbed. Even he felt tears threatening from the heartfelt words of Sally-Anne’s mother. Harry closed his eyes. Seeing the hall like this had brought back the day of Sirius’ recent funeral. But Sirius may not be dead, he thought to himself. If he wasn’t, Harry had to find a way to get him back.

Later that afternoon, Harry, Ron and Hermione were seated under a large tree by the shores of the lake. School had been cancelled for today. The three sat in silence for a long while, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Hermione began to quietly sob.

“Hermione? Why are you so upset?” Harry asked confused. Ron also seemed very confused by her reaction to Sally-Anne’s death.

“It’s just… I don’t know how to explain it. I feel so bad… I mean… for the past five years I’ve lived with this girl, slept in the same room as her, shared a lot of my classes with her, yet I never offered one bit of friendship towards her. And yesterday, I spent the whole day without even thinking what might have happened to her. I didn’t even wonder if they ever found her! And… I feel that maybe if she had been my friend, maybe she would have stayed in the bookstore with us, and gone back out of the store with company… and… and those men wouldn’t have…” She couldn’t continue.

“Hermione, you can’t feel guilty over something like that. Maybe you are right, that if she had been with us those men wouldn’t have assaulted her alone, but on the other hand, no one knows what could have happened. We got lucky in Hogsmeade. It could have been us, we could have been killed too. Please don’t blame yourself for something you didn’t do or didn’t have any control over,” Harry said as he moved closer and placed an arm around her to comfort her.

“I know I am being overly emotional,” she sniffed, “but I also thought that it could have been me… and you read the Prophet… what they did to her…” the three of them shuddered.

They stayed silent for a while and Hermione leaned her head onto Harry. Harry became alert of Joséphine approaching. He turned towards the castle and saw her, accompanied by Fred as they approached the group.

“How are you guys?” Fred asked after greeting the trio.

“We’re doing okay,” Harry replied for them.

“Listen, George and I are going to go to our shop. Lee sent us a message that he needed to see us, and since class has been cancelled for today, well… no one will miss us. Would you cover for us if we are missed, though?” he asked and the trio nodded.

“Do you need anything from our shop or Diagon Alley since we’re going to be there anyway?” Fred asked and Ron quickly asked for some things. Harry and Hermione couldn’t think of anything they needed. Fred left the group and Joséphine stayed behind with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Talk turned to the topic of Mages.

“I was reading that scroll Professor Dumbledore gave you,” Hermione began excitedly as she sat up, “and it gave me an idea to search for information. I did find something about that strange connection that happens when you and Harry touch hands.”

Both Harry and Joséphine perked up and paid attention.

“There isn’t much published on Daiteran Mages, but I found some information on Psionic magic. You said Professor Donovan explained that Daiteran Mages can wield Yellow Magic in its purest form. From what I read, Yellow Magic is mental magic in nature. Legilimency actually has its roots in yellow magic, and what happens between the two of you is a form of Legillimency. My theory is that since you are a Daiteran Mage you can tap into the raw power of yellow magic and you don’t have to actually perform a spell to enter a person’s mind. Direct physical contact with a person will link your mind to the person’s.”

“But Joséphine and I have had other contact since then and it doesn’t happen all the time,” Harry interrupted thinking of the many times they’ve touched, even those time when they purposely shook hands to try and make the connection happen.

“Well, it may be because she doesn’t have real control of her powers yet. It may have been involuntary when it happened. I am sure that as you practice more with Professor Donovan you will learn to control this aspect of your magic too.”

“Oui, I theenk eet will get better with time. Last time eet ‘appen, eet was not painful,” Joséphine agreed. Harry didn’t ask why it only seemed to happen with him.

****

The next day, the DADA class waited with agitated nerves as they were to perform their test today. They had to complete the course without failing once. Donovan was up front giving the instructions.

“I have paired you up on a random order,” he said pulling out a parchment that he pinned on the air. “Find your partner. Miss Frobisher, I am afraid you will have to go alone since we are now an uneven number.”

Vicky nodded.

The students crowded around the note hanging in mid-air. Some groans could be heard as people found out who would be their partner.

“Hey, Hermione, I’m with you,” Harry exclaimed glad that he didn’t get Malfoy.

“We’re dead last!” Hermione exclaimed in horror. She was already frayed with nerves that she would fail to get up that miserable rope, now she would have to wait to the end to go. She wanted to have this over soon.

Donovan levitated himself to a high platform he had created so he could watch each student as they passed and to grade their performance. Using a Sonorus spell, he called from high above. “Frobisher, Go!”

Fifth year Gryffindor Victoria Frobisher began to tackle the obstacles. For someone so scrawny like her, she moved with surprising strength and agility. When she was three quarters of the way, Donovan called for the next pair.

Pair after pair of students made their way through the obstacles. So far only two students had failed to complete the first half of the course, but Donovan had said that he would give partial credit and assign points according to time, distance, and obstacles cleared.

“Hermione, relax. You may not get an O, but you’ll at least get an E. You get all the way to end,” Harry tried to comfort her. She could only nod. They were watching Fred and Ron go through. Fred managed to climb the rope without a hitch, while Ron took a bit longer, but he made it. He stood at the top platform and flashed two thumbs up at Harry, before sliding down to the bottom.

Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs were cheering Ginny on who was slowly, but surely, making her way through the obstacles. Agnes Vilsack, Ginny’s partner for the test, had fallen in one of the pit traps halfway through and sent back to the beginning. She glared at the tiny red-head as she made her way passed the point where she had failed. Ginny had made it three quarters of the way up the last rope when she paused.

“COME ON, GINNY!” Dean shouted to encourage her. Fred and George, and Ron also began to cheer her. Her grip failed. She gave a startled cry as she fell; but she disappeared in mid air and then appeared at the front with a soft pop. Ginny was disappointed that she hadn’t finished the entire course, but she was ok with what she did. She wouldn’t earn an O, but at least she would pass the test.

Harry and Hermione watched the last pair before their turn. Hermione jumped startled when Donovan shouted her name and Harry’s. Harry kept his pace with Hermione and watched her as she paced herself. She wanted to save her strength so she could maybe get all the way up that dratted rope.

At last Hermione stood and looked up at the rope keeping her from achieving a perfect score. Harry went to the rope next to hers.

“Ready?” he asked her as she placed her hands on her rope. “You can do it. I know you can,” he said and gave her an encouraging smile.

“Ok. Let’s do this,” Hermione said as she grabbed a hold of the rope, determination written in every feature of her body. She wrapped the rope around her left leg and it went around her inner-thigh between her legs, around her knee and calf on the outside of her left leg and across the top of her left shoe. She clamped her right foot onto the rope on top of her left foot. This acted as a brake and she could actually support herself without using her hands and arms too much.

The technique used so she would not completely burn out her arms/grip was to climb up the rope by bending her legs and sliding the rope across her left foot by loosening the right brake foot. Once she had moved about 1.5'-2’ of rope between her feet, she applied pressure to ‘brake’ and straightened her legs. She continued to do this for several feet. She was about 4/5 of the way when she stopped. Her arms were shaking badly, and she felt that at any moment her grip would fail. She tried to move but she ached all over. She couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t do it.
“Don’t you dare give up now!”

Hermione looked up to see Harry peering over the edge of the platform.

“Harry… I can’t… my arms are going to give out,” Hermione said tears streaming down her cheeks. Her abdominals were screaming bloody murder and her legs and arms felt like someone had put a jelly-jinx on them.

“You can’t get this close and not try to make it up here. I know you can do it Hermione. Look, you’re like 3 feet away!”

“Harry!”

Harry saw that Hermione was ready to give up.

“I didn’t know you were a quitter Hermione. Is that how you want to see yourself as? A Quitter? COME ON! DO IT!!! YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU LET GO!” Harry screamed at her.

“DON’T…” Hermione screamed as she bent her legs one more time she pressed her foot on the rope and straightened up “CALL” she moved her hands higher “ME” she repeated the same procedure “A QUITTER!” she screamed at Harry as her hands grabbed onto the platform.

“THAT’S IT! ONE MORE; COME ON!”

She bent her knees one last time, then straightened her body once more applying her weight onto her feet and pulled her body up.

Harry desperately wanted to give her a hand, but he didn’t want Professor Donovan to not count her climb because he had assisted her. So he cheered her on, “COME ON!!! YOU’RE ALMOST DONE. NOW BRING YOUR LEG UP.”

She laid her weight on the platform, bending at her waist and resting her chest on it, and brought one leg onto it, then the other and then rolled onto her back.

“YOU DID IT!!! YOU DID IT!!!” Harry cheered as he knelt next to her and helped her to sit up.

“OH MY GOD! I DID IT!!!” she screamed and without thinking she pulled Harry to her and pressed her lips with his. Harry had not expected that reaction and it caught him completely by surprise. Hermione hugged him and cried. “Thank you Harry… I couldn’t have done it without you,” she said amidst her tears. Harry could not see the colour that had rushed to her cheeks once she realized what she had done.

“Erm…” His head was still spinning from that kiss. “You did it all yourself. I just encouraged you the same way you would have done for me,” he managed to say after a while. He helped her to stand up. Her cheeks were tinged with a rosy glow and Harry didn’t know if she was blushing from the kiss or if it was from the physical exertion. He did know that he felt awkward now after that kiss. Only then did they notice the noise coming down from the bottom of the slide.

They turned to see everyone—except the Slytherins—was jumping, and screaming, and hollering for Hermione. Hermione grinned as she let go of Harry and took the slide down to the bottom. The moment she landed, Ginny tackled her.

“You did it! You did it!” she was screaming. Parvati and Lavender too were there congratulating her. Hermione didn’t know why they seemed so excited about her success, but she didn’t care. She didn’t know that a feud had started after taunting from the Slytherins saying that the ‘Mudblood’ would not finish the course at all.

Professor Donovan congratulated everyone on their efforts. Their grades would be posted outside his door later that day. He dismissed the group. Harry was relieved to see that his encouraging of Hermione hadn’t cost him or her anything. At least he hoped.

Harry turned to a movement on the stands of the Quidditch pitch and was surprised to see that almost all of the other Professors had come to watch the students. Professor Sprout was walking along with Professor McGonagall leaving the stands, while Hagrid seemed to be in conversation with Madam Hooch. Remus waved at him and Harry waved back. Even from here Harry could see Professor Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes. The only one missing was Professor Snape. But then again, why would Snape bother coming to see the class that Harry well knew he had been dying to teach for the last decade.

“Harry, you coming?” Fred nudged him.
“Yeah,” Harry breathed and turned to head back to Gryffindor tower for a quick shower then headed back down for proper breakfast.

After breakfast while Hermione was in Arithmancy class, Harry, Ron, Neville, Dean and Seamus were in the library searching for information on planes of magic and magic portals. After a while Dean had to leave during break. Hermione joined them then.

“I hate Malfoy,” she huffed as she sat down at the table.

“What did he do now?” Ron asked with worry.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle. Stupid git. I was this close to punching him again. He accused Harry of helping me up that rope this morning. He said that if Harry hadn’t pulled me up, I would have not made it,” she said fuming.

“WHAT?”

“Ignore him Hermione. Professor Donovan saw the whole thing and if he didn’t accuse us of cheating I could care less of what Malfoy thinks,” Harry interjected.

“I’ve got more important things to worry about than him,” he added. Harry didn’t want to waste anymore time than possible. Since Sunday morning they had not made any more progress on what they could find about the portal in the Ministry Department. Hermione had read many more pages of that scroll but so far it only talked about each plane of magic, the dangers, the barriers, the effects it had on magic, how to survive in each plane, what to avoid, etc. With 99 supposed Planes of Magic, there was no way of being completely sure where Sirius had ended up.

“We have to eliminate all options of what that sixth plane is. We know that 5 of the portals on Earth led to each one of the elemental planes. That would be the Planes of Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Light…” she said as she ticked those on the list. Now, the sixth portal leads to one of these 94 Planes of Magic…” she indicated to the ones left over in the list. “It says here that it was an ethereal plane… so we can cross out the Para-Elemental Planes of Dust, Mud, Magma…” Hermione began to cross out names on the list.

“Para-elemental?”

“Yeah, these are Planes that exist between two elemental Planes. Like the Plane of Smoke is between the Planes of Fire and Earth. We can also cross out others…” Hermione explained about some of the types of planes that were non-ethereal. She surveyed the list after a while. “That leaves us with 75 Planes of magic…”

“That’s too many to take a guess!” Harry said frustrated.

“Even if we were down to two I wouldn’t guess, one mistake and you’ll die instantly the moment you enter the plane if you’re wrong,” Hermione said.
“But Sirius didn’t…” Neville pointed out. Hermione’s face brightened.

“Neville! That’s right! You’re a genius…” Hermione said as she began to unroll more parchments and handed some to each.

“Hermione? What…?”

“Look through these! We can narrow down that sixth plane by figuring out which ones are hospitable to humans! There are a lot of Planes of Magic that you have to prepare before you enter the Plane in order to survive. There are very, very few that are hospitable to humans upon entering the plane without protection…” she explained. “For example, The Plane of Earth is a universe of solid rock and firm soil, there are a few air pockets, water pockets, etc., but you have to use an ‘Earth plane protection’ spell or something like that or you will be crushed flat at once the moment you cross through the Plane barrier. You also have to do something in order to breathe and move, and in the Plane of Earth you cannot see a thing. There’s supposed to be a ‘We're just passing through’ ward that can allow travel, but I didn’t understand much about that… but never mind all that. What we need to do is to find all of the Planes that would allow a human to live without having to do anything for protection, at least not instantly…” Hermione said and the others had a gist of what she was referring to.

“If Sirius is still alive, then it means that when he crossed the veil and came… wherever… he would have to be in one of the Planes where he wouldn’t die immediately the moment he entered,” Hermione said looking over the list. “We’ll have to start over with the list, and I think we can be sure that out of the five elemental Planes, only The Plane of Air can be a choice, all the other ones you die instantly upon crossing into those Planes if you’re not prepared before hand. Let’s make two lists: Planes where a human can survive and Planes where a human can’t.” Hermione said and wrote ‘Plane of Air’ under the column heading for Planes hospitable to humans. Hermione distributed several parchments among them and each began to read about the properties of each Plane of Magic, and more specifically if it would kill a human who entered the Plane unprepared.

Harry wanted to know where the veil lead and figure out a way back as soon as possible. He also wanted to learn if there was any way that he could contact Sirius. But the task seemed to be daunting. They hadn’t even figured out where Sirius was.

“Break is almost over,” Hermione announced much to Harry’s displeasure. “We better hurry. We don’t want to be late for Potions. We’ll see you at lunch,” Hermione said to Seamus. Neither he nor Dean had received a high enough mark to make it to Potions. Harry, Ron, Hermione and, to everyone’s surprise (and Snape’s horror!), Neville had made it through. It seemed that Harry, Ron and even Neville were capable of reading Potions instructions without the intimidating presence of Snape. Not to mention that their OWL examiners had been quite friendly. They were the only sixth year Gryffindors in the class.

“I’ll stay here and look for a bit longer,” Seamus offered, and he ticked off one more name from the 83 Planes left over. The list for possible Planes where Sirius could be had two names, the other 14 Planes they had managed to read about were quite hostile to a human, and practically all meant instant death to a human entering unaware.

“Thanks Seamus, see you later,” Harry said and the group dashed out of the Library and hurried down to the dungeons to get to class. They passed Dean on his way back to the Library.

Professor Snape had not arrived when they entered the classroom. Hermione ignored Malfoy as she had to take her seat next to him. Harry groaned at the fact that he had to sit with Pansy Parkinson again. At least Crabbe and Goyle had not made it pass the fifth year Potions. Even Professor Snape couldn’t do anything about helping the Slytherins since their O.W.L. was administered by third party examiners. The sixth year Potions class of each house was small, so all of the houses were in one class. There were four Gryffindors, five Slytherins, three Hufflepuffs and eight Ravenclaws in the sixth year class. After class, the four Gryffindors left the dungeons and headed to the dining hall. They were joined by Parvati, Dean and Seamus on their way to Charms, then it was only the trio, plus Neville, who were taking Care of Magical Creatures. Hermione realized that there was someone missing and it hit her that the missing student was Sally-Ann. She still felt bad that she had rarely noticed the shy Gryffindor, and felt even worse when the class continued and no one seemed to notice that she was gone until Hagrid had called for a moment of silence in remembrance of the student. Hagrid’s sixth year class was really small. Besides the four Gryffindors, there was only Lance Cruise, and Susan Bones from Hufflepuff, Sara Fawcett from Ravenclaw, and Daphne Greengrass from Slytherin.

After class, Harry worked on his homework during the rest of the afternoon since he would spend his time after dinner with Professor Donovan doing his ‘detention’. He accompanied Ron and Hermione to dinner then made his way to the DADA classroom.

******
A/N: Happy New Year Everyone. Thanks for reading!

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