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[a/n: Weren’t betting on seeing me within a week, now were you?! Well HAH, here I am! Once again, thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing, you bring a smile to my face every time you click that ‘lil review button at the bottom of the screen! ^_^ And now without further ado, onward to the chapter! *jams a helmet on her head, hops on a horse, draws her blade, and charges forward into the text*] Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, although I do own a Hedwig plushy! *hugs her stuffed Hedwig* Chapter 6: Even Grimmer Defeat For a moment Claire just stood there, staring into the glowing eyes of Padfoot. She didn’t really know what to expect and felt a small wave of sadness sweep over her. Here before her sat a man, disguised as a dog, who had just escaped the worst place imaginable where he’d been held captive for twelve years for a crime he didn’t commit—a man who wanted nothing more than to help the ones he loved and always getting penalized beyond reason for trying to do just that. Little did he know his time on Earth was growing short, and the days ahead of him would only grow darker. If she didn’t know better that Harry would need his guidance more than anything else, Claire would have advised this man on fleeing his fate and never coming back into the wizarding world—but she did know better. “I know who you are, Padfoot,” Claire continued while Crookshanks stared at Sirius in a curious manner. “I know who you are and I want to help you. You can trust me...Sirius Black.” The great dog stood up so suddenly that Claire was taken aback. He mashed his large, sharp teeth together, growling as if he was about to attack. Panicking, Claire tried to take on the Crookshanks approach she had prepared for herself. “I’m friends with this cat!” she said desperately, backing away so that he wouldn’t try to bite her. “See, you can trust me!” But this seemed to have sort of the opposite effect that she was going for. Instead of beginning to trust Claire, Sirius instead turned to growl at Crookshanks, now believing he was untrustworthy in leading a young witch straight to him. But before Claire could try and fix this mistake, there was a crack of lightning that illuminated all the stands. Her first reflex was to spin around and see where the lightning had come from, and in doing so she saw that a certain young Gryffindor Seeker was staring directly at her, Padfoot, and Crookshanks. Her blood seemed to freeze in mid-pump through her veins. “Harry’s seen!” she shouted. “Padfoot get out of here!” Sirius didn’t need telling twice. By the time Claire had grabbed Crookshanks and ducked under the seats in front of her, Padfoot was gone. She counted to five slowly, and then peaked her head out from under the stands just in time to feel the sensation of her blood freezing again, but this time it wasn’t from fear. It was from the dementors. No less then a hundred of the scabby, black floating figurines were swarming underneath the quidditch match, hands outstretched as if they were desperately trying to grab hold of something their hearts greatly desired. The wind wasn’t howling, no one in the stand made a sound. Claire felt as if her heart was being ripped out of her chest, and all of her emotions along with it. Suddenly, she saw Harry falling from the sky as his Nimbus headed in the complete other direction. She had started to take out her wand to help him, not even knowing if she knew how to summon a Patronus or even slow Harry’s crash to the Earth, but the wand was barely out of her pocket before her head began to pound. She could hear voices in her head...her own voice was screaming in alarm. “Please don’t kill Harry! It’s my fault, all my fault! Please, sir, have mercy on him!” “Stand aside, girl, no one believes your foolish tales!” “No! Please, don’t do this...take me! Please you can’t kill him!” “I can and I will! NOW STAND ASIDE!” Suddenly everything grew dark, and Claire knew no more. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ “Madam Pomfrey, she seems to be coming around!” “Who? Woods?” “Yes, she’s stirring, ma’am.” Claire opened her eyes and found that she was in none other than the Hogwarts hospital wing. The room itself seemed to be spinning, she felt so light-headed. It took her a moment to remember what had happened, and then she sat up with a start. The match! Padfoot! The dementors! And those voices...those voices she had heard in her head. What were they? Who were they? She needed to know. “Easy there, Woods, lie back down!” Madam Pomfrey had run over with a large slab of chocolate, and handed all of it to Claire. “Claire! Are you okay?!” It was Bethany and Ginny, standing at the foot of her bed. Ginny wasn’t really paying attention to Claire, however. She was looking at someone in the bed opposite her, along with the entire Gryffindor quidditch team, Ron, and Hermione. “Harry...” Claire whispered. “Don’t worry about him, dear,” Madam Pomfrey said, shoving a rather large chunk of the chocolate into Claire’s mouth, causing her to choke. “Honestly, I’ve never had this many students in here just because of dementors! The headmaster is quite right, it is simply ridiculous to have them here! Making students pass out every few feet! I mean, honestly—” “Harry!” Fred Weasley shouted suddenly in a relieved voice. “How are you feeling?” “What happened?” Claire heard Harry say. Everyone gasped as he sat up suddenly. “You fell off,” said Fred. “Must’ve been—what—fifty feet?” “We thought you’d died,” said Alicia in a shaky tone. Hermione let out a sob, as Harry looked around at all of them. Claire remembered this part. He was about to ask about the match and who had caught the Snitch. But that wasn’t at all what Harry Potter asked the group around his bedside. “That girl...” he muttered. “There was a girl in the top box. She was with a dog. Did anyone see her?” Claire felt suddenly dizzy again and flopped back on her pillows once again. This sudden movement was enough to draw Harry’s attention. “That’s her!” said Harry excitedly, pointing across the way at her. “She was up top with a great shaggy dog! I saw her just before I—wait a minute, what happened in the match?” Claire felt herself relax slightly as the conversation from the book resumed. Harry discovered that he’d lost the match, nearly died, and that Wood was trying to commit suicide in the showers over the lot of it. Eventually, Madam Pomfrey shooed the team out (along with Ginny and Bethany), and only Ron and Hermione remained. It wasn’t until then that Claire noticed Hermione was holding a rather weather-beaten Crookshanks. As soon as Madam Pomfrey was out of earshot, Ron asked Harry in a tone similar to that of Alicia’s, “What were you saying about a dog Harry?” “That girl,” Harry nodded towards Claire, “was in the top box with a dog that looked exactly like the one I saw on Magnolia Crescent when I left the Dursley’s last summer. It looked like—like the grim...” “What’s your name, honey?” Hermione asked Claire in a sweet voice. “Huh?” Claire asked in a dazed sort of way. “Er—Claire. Claire Woods.” “Claire,” Hermione repeated. “Are you feeling alright? It was very lucky Crookshanks found you. You were lying flat on your back in the stands where no one could see you. He led Ginny over to you—I was down trying to find out about Harry—and she brought you here. I don’t really know what Crookshanks was doing at the game, but it was rather fortunate that he was.” “Fortunate?!” Harry burst out suddenly. “He was there! Sitting right next to the dog! I saw him!” “Well, why doesn’t it surprise me that your maniac cat is associating with a grim?” Ron said in a sarcastic tone. Claire couldn’t help but grin slightly at this, despite the utter confusion she felt. Ron and Hermione’s arguing would make her grin no matter what the circumstances. “Honestly, Ron, this is not the time to discuss Crookshanks behavior!” Hermione said in her voice of authority. “Why were you with that dog?” Harry asked Claire, glaring at her as if she herself had just escaped the Azkaban walls. “I don’t understand.” Claire felt her throat grow suddenly dry. Luckily the piece of chocolate she had just shoved in her mouth stalled for time, but as she swallowed she could think of nothing else. She had to lie. “I just saw him there,” she replied in a small voice. “I went over to check on him. He was just sitting there in the rain, after all—” “And Crookshanks?” Ron added, sounding hopeful. “Er—Crookshanks followed me to the match to begin with,” Claire heard herself say. “I couldn’t get him to go back inside, so I figured it was alright if he tagged along.” “Crookshanks hates to get his fur wet,” Hermione chimed in suspiciously. “He would never follow you outside into the pouring rain.” Claire felt she was done for, but luckily Professor Flitwick saved her. He walked in, carrying a bag that contained Harry’s broomstick “crumbs.” Learning that his broomstick had been smashed seemed to distract the trio, giving Claire enough time to pretend to fall asleep. While she lied there feinting a quiet slumber, she couldn’t help but feel worried. As Ron and Hermione were finally ushered out of the room, one quote from Hermione particularly stuck out in her mind as sleep finally claimed her: “...Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn’t a good sign...” [a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAaaaa!! What exactly were the voices Claire heard while in the presence of the dementors? Will the trio ever by her story about the dog and Crookshanks? Will Claire ever get the chance to see Sirius again? Well if I told you all that, there’d be no point in writing the next chapter, silly! ^_^ Thanks for reading, please take a moment and leave me a review!]

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