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Chapter Twenty One

Harry, Ron and Hermione were the first ones to reach their defence against the dark arts class. Harry pushed open the door and gasped at the sight that met them.

“We’re in a hedge maze.” Hermione said quietly.

“How very nice of them.” Ron groaned.

“Déjà vu.” Harry scowled as they took a step forwards and the door slammed shut behind them and at the same time a small sign fell down infront of them.

Welcome to Advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts!

Your task for today is to reach us. You are headed due North through this hedge maze and it will take all your ingenuity and skills in defence against the dark arts to reach us at the end. Ten house points for each student to successfully reach us. You have three hours.

Professors Lupin and Moody

P.S. We’ll be watching you… Especially you, Malfoy.

Ron laughed. “Come on then, what are we waiting for?” He took a step forward and instantly the door moved from behind them to somewhere else in the room.

“I suppose they don’t want us all going in at the same place and at the same time.” Hermione said quietly. She walked forwards a step and before Harry could grab her wrist to pull her back she was caught in a net some 10 feet above the floor. Harry sighed and hovered himself up to cut her down. As he did so the walls of the maze got higher so that they couldn’t see the way.

Wingardium Leviosa!” Ron said quickly to stop Hermione breaking her ankle as she fell.

Another sign fell from nowhere. Watch where you walk Miss Granger.

Harry smiled slightly and they went on. Ron staring at the floor constantly.

“We can get through here, I know it.” Hermione said as they walked down a small path. “At least there’s three of us, I bet Malfoy’s on his own.”

“I hope he is and I hope something gets him.” Harry said.

“Speaking of which, what do you think’s in here?” Hermione asked Harry.

“I’m not sure, boggarts maybe?” He replied.

“What if Aragog’s in here?” Ron gasped in horror.

“Ron, they’re not going to have an acromantula in here.” Hermione tried to reason with him.

“Quiet.” Harry said. Something was walking towards them. They could hear a rattling sound and felt cold wash over them.

“Dementors?” Hermione said, panic suddenly engulfing her.

“Boggart.” Harry contradicted. “Dumbledore would never allow a dementor in this castle again after the end of the fourth year.” A dementor came sweeping round the corner and for a moment Harry froze. “Riddikulus!” he managed. The dementor looked at Ron, pointed at him and screamed. Harry and Hermione laughed at it but Ron wasn’t impressed.

“Come on,” Ron muttered and they walked on through the maze, encountering Firenze on the way who had a riddle for them and after some thought Ron solved it, and he was rather pleased with himself for doing so.

“Good luck, Harry Potter.” Firenze said as they walked away, “You have still a long way to go.”

“Why look who it is!” Malfoy drawled from behind them, “Potty and the Weasel and their mudblood friend.”

“Leave them alone Malfoy!” Neville stammered from behind him and Malfoy laughed aloud.

“I’m really scared Neville, what are you going to do? S-S-Stammer at me?” Malfoy laughed. “Anyway, that’s not the way through this maze. This is.” He turned to the hedge infront of them and pointed his wand at it. “Incendio!” Nothing happened. Neville turned to the maze and muttered the same spell and the hedge set on fire, before it was somehow extinguished and the hedge re-grew itself instantly. A new note dropped down infront of them.

Cheating will not be tolerated, Mr Longbottom, back to the beginning you go! Read the notice that dropped down infront of him and Neville was suddenly lifted up and dragged back to the front of the maze.

“Bye Longbottom.” Malfoy grinned, “And on we go!”

“This is by far the best lesson we’ve had today.” Harry said as they walked along, Malfoy trailed sulkily behind them.

Why thank you! Appeared a note on his hand, Harry smiled and got rid of it. They went down a windy, darker area of the maze in which it sounded as if they were in the Forbidden Forest. There was a small part which led off in a separate direction which they turned and followed but it lead only to a gathering of thestrals.

“I wonder what thestrals are doing in here.” Hermione said,

“What are you talking about? There wasn’t anything there.” Malfoy snapped.

“Really? I’m quite surprised by that.” Harry said as they walked on, “Of course if you had paid any attention in Care Of Magical Creatures before instead of only when it can help get Hagrid sacked then you’d know what we were talking about, right Malfoy?”

“Shut it Potter.” Malfoy muttered and marched past them into a large clearing.

“A lake?” Ron said in puzzlement. “And boats.” Malfoy ran forwards and jumped into one, Ron and Hermione tried to do the same but Harry pulled them back.

“Watch.” Harry told them. The boat Malfoy was in started to row itself forwards through the lake until it reached the middle. Hermione gasped when a whirlpool formed in the middle of the lake and the boat, which must have been enchanted she realised, went straight for it. Malfoy’s shouts could be heard for miles as he was sucked into it and presumably back to the start.

“How did you know?” Ron asked Harry who turned and walked back up the path.

“I didn’t,” Harry replied.

“And where are we going now?” Hermione asked him

“To get the thestrals of course!” Harry said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Ron and Hermione uttered a soft ‘Oh’ and followed him.

A moment later they returned to the lake with a thestral each. They mounted them quickly and Harry flew off over the lake, quickly followed by Ron and Hermione. They got off at the other side, left the thestrals there and walked into the next part of the maze.

“Those three are doing very well.” Tonks observed.

“No surprises there.” Professor McGonagall muttered from behind them. Originally it had been just Mad Eye, Remus and Tonks watching but after all the staff had finished their lessons they too decided to come and watch the sixth years in action. Most of the lessons were only an hour long, but the sixth years had already been in the maze for an hour and a half. They had already had half their time. The professors so far consisted of Remus, Mad Eye, Tonks, McGonagall, Flitwick, Snape, Hagrid and Professor Sprout. They were all in a small section of the maze which was under the top layer. On one of the large walls it was like a TV but with many sections, one for each student as they made their way through the maze.

“So what happens when you go into the whirlpool?” Sprout asked Mad Eye as Lavender and Parvati got sucked into it, screaming all the way. “Do they go back to the beginning?”

“No. That would be too mean since half of them wouldn’t be able to find another way across it.” Mad Eye replied, “There’s another layer to the maze, but underneath which we are currently in.” It was ingenious really, that they had managed to make a whole new layer to the maze but to get to them (the staff) and finish then they had to go down a slide on the top layer to their section below which was cut off from the rest of the underground part of the maze; it was all very intricately designed.

“So what do we do?” Hermione asked Harry, “Should we split up?” Harry bit his lip and stared at the three different passageways infront of them. He didn’t want to split up, they didn’t seem to have as much chance if they did and yet if they did this then at least they would have a better chance of one of them finishing it.

“Yes.” Harry said. “You take the right, Ron – take the left and I’ll go down the middle.” They glanced at each other before they walked into their separate passageways. As Harry entered his all the lights suddenly went out but when he looked behind him he could see that it was still light behind him. He wondered briefly whether or not to go back and he decided to go on, despite the darkness. “Lumos Totalus” He muttered and his whole passageway filled with light. Infront of him was a dark hole which he decided he didn’t want to fall into. It was only a couple of metres wide but he didn’t think he could jump it, and besides it could easily be a trick of the light. He put his foot forwards into the hole and realised that it was solid. He bent down to touch it and realised it was glass over a hole. Harry smiled and walked forwards over it, never taking his eyes from it and it was just as well, halfway across there was an actual hole in the glass. Glancing to the sides of the passageway there were two branches there, he reached out to both of them and tested his weight and decided it would hold, he took a step back before swinging on them across the hole in the glass and onto more glass on the other side. It cracked beneath him and Harry raced across it, leaping onto the grass just in time as the glass behind him fell into the hole. Harry walked forwards and realised happily that he was out of the tunnel, looking to the sides of the tunnel he had just exited there were not the other two to be seen. He bit his lip slightly and went on alone.

Ron had not been so lucky in getting through his tunnel. Halfway through he had fought a boggart successfully before walking straight down a hole like Harry had almost done. He fell without a sound and landed on the floor below.

Hermione had similarly bad luck. She went through her tunnel quickly but met Dobby on the way who greeted her with a friendly manner before pushing her down a slide which led to the underground section of the maze. She screamed all the way down and came to a halt when she landed on Ron.

“Thanks for the soft landing.” She grinned and helped Ron up. “We’ve got to get back up there.”

“There’s some light coming from there.” Ron pointed out the hole through which Harry had almost fallen but there was no sign of Harry anywhere. “I see Harry got through that alright then!”

Wingardium Leviosa!” Hermione said, waving her wand over her and Ron and they both rose up in the air high enough so that they could climb through the hole in Ron’s tunnel after deciding not to go after Harry.

Harry walked through the maze quicker than he had done before. He didn’t like it so much now that he was on his own. He easily beat a boggart which challenged him and then met Firenze again.

“What are you doing here?” Harry asked him, “I thought you were miles back!”

“I can move.” Firenze pointed out and Harry smiled. “Now for your riddle…” Harry managed to answer the riddle correctly and moved on through the maze until he reached a clearing. The clearing which Harry entered was circular, with another entrance to it to the left of him. In the middle was a trophy on a stand.

“There’s no way I’m touching that!” Harry spat and walked past it to the hedge wall. There was a part of it that changed colour slightly and when Harry reached out to touch it he realised it was an optical illusion and it was really a passageway onwards. He grinned and walked a few paces.

“He’s excellent at this.” Professor Sprout said of Harry.

“He most certainly is.” Remus smiled.

“No shock that he didn’t go anywhere near that cup.” McGonagall said, “Not after the Triwizard tournament.”

“I suppose not.” Remus said, “Do you think it awful that we’re using a hedge maze filled with obstacles with a golden cup in which will cause whoever touches it to fall down to the next level?”

“Well I’m sure Harry didn’t need the reminder of his past but it is an excellent obstacle course for them.” Flitwick told him. “Oh no! Don’t touch it Miss Granger!”

Hermione reached out to touch the golden trophy and Ron moved to pull her back.

“Hermione! No!” He shouted. Harry was but a few paces down the passageway leading from the trophy area and he turned and ran back to see Hermione in a hole, the trophy had vanished and Ron was gripping her wrist tightly, trying to stop her from falling. He ran forwards and grabbed her other arm and both of them tried to pull her up.

“It’s got me!” Hermione shrieked, “Something’s got my ankle!”

“What are we doing?” Harry suddenly asked Ron and pointed his wand at Hermione. “Wingardium Leviosa.” Hermione floated up to them and landed on the floor. Looking back down into the hole they could see Malfoy below them grinning. Harry scowled and stood up. “Let’s go, we can’t be far now!”

They walked down the hidden passageway that Harry had been part way down before until there was a slide before them. Unfortunately there was no choice as to where they went – it was the slide or going back to the trophy.

“What do we do?” Hermione asked Harry, who was getting sick of being asked their course of action.

“this!” He said and pushed her down the slide.

“I’ll get you for this Harry!” She screamed. Harry and Ron jumped down after a second later.

Petrificus Totalus!” Mad Eye cried as Hermione fell into their midst. Harry and Ron came down a moment later to see him standing over Hermione.

Gelotrium!” Remus cried and sent the freezing spell straight at Harry who leapt out of it’s way and then pointed his own wand at him and performed the spell Professor Flitwick had taught him earlier.

Gelotrium Totalus!” Remus was frozen in a block of ice, surprise apparent on his face and Mad Eye laughed.

“Excellent Potter!” He said. “50 points for Gryffindor! Ten for Miss Granger and 30 for you Mr Weasley.”

Harry quickly defrosted Remus who pulled a face at being frozen but smiled all the same.

“A shame to get so far and then to be hexed Miss Granger.” Professor McGonagall said to Hermione as she removed the spell Mad Eye had put on her and helped her to her feet.

“Fantastic use of the total freezing charm!” Professor Flitwick said to Harry.

“The only thing I would say to you three is that splitting up was your one mistake.” Remus said to them. “Other than that you were superb. Harry is the only one who didn’t fall down onto the other level of the maze.”

“What was that part like?” He asked Ron.

“Dark.” Ron replied.

“Well naturally I would stay just for the amusement of seeing Longbottom try to answer that riddle,” Snape said coolly, “10 points from Gryffindor, Potter, for allowing Malfoy to go over that lake whilst you just stood and watched. Good day to you all.”

“Fifteen points to Gryffindor because Harry waited to see what the lake would do to Malfoy.” Professor McGonagall said and actually smiled at Harry. “Excellent work Mr Potter.”

Harry smiled and sat down on the sofa which Professor McGonagall conjured for him. He was joined by Ron and Hermione and then after Remus stretched it out to make it longer they were joined by Remus, Professor Sprout, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick. They all watched everyone in the maze try desperately to find their way out. After touching the trophy three times, Malfoy managed to find his way down to them and earn 10 points for Slytherin. Hannah Abbot found her way down a few minutes after him and then came Ernie MacMillan, Neville and Dean who had to drag Neville down the slide because he was so reluctant to go down it. They were the only one’s who finished within the three hour time limit. Harry, Ron and Hermione had finished with over half an hour to spare and after being congratulated by the staff once more, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Dean all left for the common room.

“I can’t believe it…” Ron was saying, “That was the coolest lesson we’ve ever had!”

“I know!” Hermione said enthusiastically, “I bet the rest won’t be as good thought.”

“Well obviously.” Harry said, “They can’t have us running round a maze each lesson.”

“Anyway, I’m sure you’ve set a record for house points today, Harry.” Ron said, “You got 75 in charms and transfiguration, and 55 from defence against the dark arts. That’s 135 in one day!”

“As well as that Ron got 30 points and we all got ten.” Hermione said, “So that’s 195 points between the lot of us.”

“I bet Snape’s down in the dungeons giving out points for breathing.” Harry said before adding in his best Snape impression, “100 points to Slytherin for existing, Draco!”

The five of them walked into the common room and started work on their transfiguration homework which was to get their ornaments completely animated by the next day. Harry sat watching them and smiled at Hermione’s frustration with her kitten. He watched the little phoenix walk over his hand and occasionally fly about. The little bird sung happily every now and again and from what McGonagall had said about animated objects having the thoughts, feelings, personality and emotions of their animator then he knew Remus must be in a good mood. He smiled down at the little bird and watched it soar over Hermione’s notes and start to shred them innocently.

“Harry! Keep that damned little thing away from me!” She shrieked before taking numerous swipes and the phoenix which flew back to him and somehow managed to look smug. Harry rolled his eyes at the bird and in Remus Lupin’s office the little dragon stuck out its tongue and grinned at the man who watched it.

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