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Chapter 27 ~ Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw
Rick and Hermione seated themselves apart from the rest of the Gryffindor supporters who had come to cheer their team on against Ravenclaw. They were in the back corner of the Gryffindor stand, where Rick would not be too conspicuous if he had to act. He was hoping there would be no repeat of the drama which had marked the match against Slytherin. It was another clear, crisp, sunny winter’s day – perfect weather for Quidditch. A loud buzz rose from the stunned spectators when Professor McGonagall flew onto the pitch to referee the game. The news that Madam Hooch had been dismissed had not yet got out. From the severe tone in which she gave the pre-match injunction about fair play and observing the rules, it was obvious to all, that Professor McGonagall was going to be very strict. Nobody – Gryffindors included – would be getting away with any foul play or infringements of the rules today. She blew her whistle shrilly, throwing the Quaffle high in the air, to commence the game. Ginny immediately gained possession of the Quaffle and streaked away towards the Gryffindor goals. She dodged a vicious Bludger before reaching the goals, where she feinted right, brilliantly wrong-footing the Ravenclaw Keeper before slamming the Quaffle through the left-most hoop. Ecstatic cheers rose from the Gryffindor stand. But Ginny wasn’t finished yet. She was in great form, and within three minutes of the start of the match had scored as many goals to put Gryffindor well in the lead. But the Ravenclaw chasers were not going to let Gryffindor have it all their own way. After Ginny’s third goal they got possession of the Quaffle and began peppering their own goal. They were good, and Ron had his work cut out protecting his hoops. So far, he had successfully beaten off their fierce attacks. Rick noticed Harry employing his usual strategy of staying high up above the game. He was darting about on his broom, his eyes constantly scanning for the golden gleam of the Snitch – just like a hawk, searching the ground for prey. Cho Chang, had also adopted her usual strategy, when playing against Harry – she was shadowing him. He had the keenest eyes of any Seeker she had played against, and was odds-on to spot the Snitch first. She was ready to follow him – and maybe ‘get lucky’. The Snitch often behaved erratically and it might just make a move that favoured her. Hermione wasn’t all that interested in Quidditch ... just so long as Gryffindor won. She was quizzing Rick in detail about his encounter with her in the Nightmare Reality. Naturally, she was fascinated to know all about herself. It was probably exactly how she would have been, had she never received her Hogwarts’ letter. She was particularly interested to hear what she had said to Rick about Time Travel and other dimensions. It seemed to her that it might somehow be important. With his photographic memory – courtesy of Rowena Ravenclaw – Rick could repeat back to Hermione, word for word, everything she had told him in the Nightmare Reality. “You said: ... some physicists believe that there are a lot more than four dimensions – time is usually considered to be the fourth. They posit dozens of dimensions which we are unable to perceive. These other dimensions are right here, right now, right where we are. There could be anything in those dimensions – vast energy, mass – or nothing at all – a total void. One of the characteristics of some of these dimensions is thought to be that they don’t have time – it’s as if everything is always happening. In fact, it sounds a bit like your railway carriage corridor.” “Then,” said Rick, “I asked her ... err, I mean, you: Do you think when I travel in time, I actually move into some other dimension without time?” “You replied: Exactly, a dimension without time – which means that it’s connected to every point in time in the four dimensions we are familiar with.” Hermione sat in silence, lost deep in thought for several minutes. The game meanwhile was progressing at a furious pace, high above them. Ravenclaw had finally managed to score a couple of goals against Ron, but then Ginny struck back, adding four quick goals, to put Gryffindor fifty points clear. The Gryffindor supporters were singing enthusiastically:
“Ginny Weasley, Quidditch Queen, Greatest Chaser ever seen, Ravenclaw don’t stand a chance, When she does her Quaffle dance.”
“Rick, since you brought Harry back from the future with you,” said Hermione, deep in thought and oblivious to what was happening on the Quidditch pitch, “it means that you can take others with you when you travel in time – just like you do when you Apparate – right?” “Umm, yes, I guess so,” answered Rick. “What did you have in mind? Do you fancy paying Circe a visit, to get some tips on turning men into pigs ... and maybe some roast pork recipes, too?” asked Rick with a cheeky grin. “Don’t be silly!” scolded Hermione. She was onto something, and in far too serious a mood for Rick’s silly jokes. “I don’t want you to take me to the past ... or to the future. But I’d like to see what this dimension without time is like. When I used the Time-Turner in third year, I never experienced anything like that at all. There must be something fundamentally different about the way you travel in time, and what happens with a Time-Turner. Could you take me to this timeless dimension, Rick? Just for a little while ... please?” “Why, sure,” answered Rick. “Anytime you like.” “How about now, then?” asked Hermione, eagerly. “Yeah, I guess it should be alright,” said Rick. “If we return to the exact moment we left, we won’t even appear to have been gone, if anyone’s looking at us,” said Rick. “Just don’t return us to before we left,” said Hermione grinning. “I don’t want to find myself sitting in my own lap!” Rick laughed as he took Hermione’s hand in his, took his wand from his robes and twisted it. Rick didn’t know how long they were out of time or in the timeless dimension, before he brought them back. “Wow!” said Hermione, in wonderment. “That was absolutely amazing – I’ve never experienced anything like it before....” She was silent for a while as she searched for concepts to encapsulate the experience. “It felt like I was nowhere at all – or like nothing existed at all – it was just an empty void. The only thing there, was me – well, not even me, really. I had no sense of my body at all – only my mind. I wasn’t aware of anything else at all, not even you. Were you aware of me, Rick?” “No,” answered Rick, shaking his head. “It’s just like you described it. There was just my mind, and ... nothing else ... just this vast void.” “Yes,” answered Hermione, slowly thinking it over. “But vast isn’t quite the right word, is it? A void has no dimensions at all. A void is not just without Time, it’s also without Space. It’s a very strange contradiction. This place out of time, where you took me, has no Time – yet it’s connected to all Time. It has no dimensions – yet it’s infinite ... it’s sort of everything and nothing – everywhere and nowhere – all time and no time,” she said, shaking her head in wonder. “I certainly never experienced anything remotely like it when I used the Time-Turner. Yet, it seems certain that all Time Travel involves passing through this Timeless Dimension. Probably, I transited it too quickly to notice it – because with a Time-Turner you have no control over the process. Whereas, with your wand, you do – you’re able to linger in the Timeless Dimension if you want – and to observe it.” Hermione’s musings were interrupted by loud cheering. Looking up she saw Harry, streaking high above the Quidditch field chasing the golden Snitch. Cho was struggling to keep up with him, as he pulled away from her with the superior speed of his Firebolt. The Snitch was struggling too – it wasn’t giving Harry an easy time today, as it swerved this way and that, one minute diving, the next soaring. But Harry, with his brilliant flying skills, was staying with it, and closing on it, not letting it out of his sight for a moment. “Go, Harry, go! Go, go, go!” screamed the Gryffindors and many others besides, as Harry reached out his gauntleted hand and plucked the struggling Snitch out of the air. As he watched, Rick was lost in memories of baby Harry, and his father flying him around the lounge room, chasing after his own little Snitch. How proud of him James and Lily would have been, reflected Rick, shaking his head sadly. But Rick’s flashback was cut short by screams. The sky seemed to have exploded around Harry sending out billowing white clouds that were rapidly enveloping the whole Quidditch field. It was impossible to see anything. Rick felt a sense of panic. If Harry had been knocked from his broom, it would be impossible to save him as he had in the match against Slytherin. Without being able to see him, there was no way he could cast a spell to catch him. The scene was one of pandemonium with students screaming; not knowing what to do, as the white clouds spread out, enveloping them, before eventually thinning, and finally dissipating. As the clouds cleared, all eyes looked up, searching for Harry. Nervously, Hermione scanned the sky for him. She spotted Cho and the other Quidditch players flying cautiously back to land – but Harry was nowhere to be seen. Apprehensively, she lowered her eyes to the Quidditch pitch, afraid of what they would find there – she dreaded that it would be his broken body. But, mercifully, there was just a solitary broom – Harry’s Firebolt – lying on the pitch. “Rick, where can he be?” screamed Hermione frantically. “Do you think he’s been abducted to the future by —” But, then she stopped, as she realised that she was talking to empty space – Rick wasn’t there. Looking upwards, she saw a falcon, furiously beating its wings, rising rapidly up into the sky. Hermione felt sick with fear. If Harry had been abducted again, either to the future or to Voldemort, in the present time, how could Rick possibly find him? It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The Headmaster’s magically amplified voice burst in on Hermione’s frantic and fearful thoughts. “All students, including Quidditch players, are requested to return immediately to their respective common rooms and to remain there until advised otherwise, by their Head of House.” Hermione found Ginny, Ron, and Padma, walking sombrely back to the castle. Ron was in the middle, with an arm around each girl. Hermione walked next to Ginny, who was still in her Quidditch uniform, looking tried and worried. Hermione put her arm around her. “Hermione,” cried Ginny, “what do you think can have happened to Harry? I’m so worried.” Ginny was in tears, and clearly distraught. “I don’t know, said Hermione,” fighting back her own tears. “He just disappeared into thin air. I’m just so afraid that ... that Voldemort has got him. Where else can he be?” she managed to blurt out, before bursting into tears. “Where’s Rick?” asked Ron, in a husky voice, thick with emotion. “I don’t know ...” said Hermione, between sobs. “I suppose he’s looking for Harry ... but where would he start?” Ron just shook his head hopelessly, staring at the ground as they walked back to the castle. Hermione was sure she saw a tear fall from his eye.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
After making the Animagus transformation into a Peregrine Falcon, Rick beat his wings furiously to gain altitude as quickly as possible until he gained a commanding view over the Hogwarts grounds. Finding no sign of Harry, apart from his broomstick far below on the Quidditch pitch, he immediately headed out over the Forbidden Forest. Has Voldemort pulled him through another Time Portal? he asked himself. Instinctively, he headed towards where Harry had been pulled the previous morning. He scanned the treetops as he flew, but he couldn’t see Harry anywhere. When he got to the place where the Time Portal had been, he could see nothing – there was no black cloud – there was nothing at all. Rick was lost for what to do next. Was the Snitch a Portkey? he wondered. If it was, then Harry could be hundreds of miles away by now – how am I going to find him? Rick asked himself desperately. Just then, Rick’s falcon instincts cut in, as he saw, out of the corner of his eye, something approaching him fast. Rick dived and swerved, before looking around to identify what had been closing on him. Then he saw it – a Golden Eagle – with distinctive green eyes. In that instant Rick understood how Harry had saved himself from plummeting to his death on the Quidditch pitch in front on the whole school – he had succeeded, just in the nick of time, to master the Animagus transformation. If Rick had been himself, he would have whooped for joy. Instead, he soared high, following Harry. It was soon evident to Rick, that Harry had shrugged off any lingering fear and worry about what had happened on the Quidditch field, and was revelling in the ecstasy of avian flight. In fact, he seemed to be having the time of his life, as he rose on the wind soaring high above the forest with his massive wings stretched wide, before dropping into a vertical dive, then pulling out of it and using his momentum to shoot out horizontally at great speed, banking and turning. Harry was totally lost in the joy and delight of flying. Rick had no trouble keeping up with Harry, because while a Golden Eagle was considerably larger and more powerful than a Peregrine Falcon, it was not quite as fast. Rick was soon caught up in Harry’s delight, and the pair of them played aerobatic games together for at least a quarter of an hour, before Rick remembered that everyone at Hogwarts must be thinking that Harry had been abducted by Voldemort and was probably dead by now. He eventually managed to convince Harry that they should head back to the castle. They came down on the West Tower and transformed. Harry was grinning from ear to ear, like a Cheshire Cat. “That was the most wonderful experience of my life, Rick,” he said, ecstatically. “Even better than the first time I flew on a broom, in my first year.” “Hey, what happened to your hand?” asked Rick with concern, pointing at Harry’s right hand. The gauntlet had been blown away from the palm and Harry’s hand was badly burnt. “Ouch! It hurts like hell, said Harry, wincing and shaking his hand about. Just after I grabbed the Snitch it exploded, sending out all this white smoke – or something. I don’t know what kind of spell it was, but somehow it ripped my broom out from under me. I began falling downwards, into this white cloud. I realised that the only way to save myself was to transform into an eagle. I concentrated with all my might and ... it just happened ... I did it! I spread my wings to stop my fall and then began flapping them to gain altitude. Soon I was high above the white cloud and the Quidditch pitch. It was so amazing, to fly like a bird ... at last, I just forgot about everything.... But now I’ve changed back, my hand is hurting really badly – is there anything you can do, Rick?” he asked, grimacing with pain. Rick didn’t need to bother hiding his magical powers from Harry anymore – now that Voldemort had let the cat out of the bag. He didn’t even bother pretending to use his wand. He pointed a finger at the gauntlet and it was gone. Rick took hold of Harry’s wrist and carefully examined his hand. The palm was very badly burnt. He concentrated on Harry’s hand for a moment and it was healed. “Thanks,” said Harry gratefully, holding his hand up in front of his face and examining it appreciatively. “How am I going to explain my miraculous survival without giving away my Animagus ability? Have you got any ideas?” “Well,” said Rick, after thinking it over for a few moments. “How about you claim that you’ve just mastered an advanced Hover Charm? You can say it’s really hard to control your motion, and you ended up coming down somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, and you only just got back to the castle. Err ... it’s sort of true in a way – I mean you were hovering over the Forbidden Forest ... after all. We better go to Dumbledore right away to let him know you’re OK.” Rick closed his eyes for a minute, to check the Headmaster’s office. “Unfortunately, he’s not alone. So just tell him the story for now – he’ll figure it out anyway.” “How do you know he’s not alone, Rick?” asked Harry, mystified. “Well, you know your Marauders’ Map?” answered Rick. “I can sort of ... err ... project one, in my mind.” “Wow!” said Harry. “That’s amazing – can you do it in other places too?” “Err, yeah,” said Rick, “anywhere, I guess. While I was checking the map, I spotted a secret passage which should get us to Dumbledore’s office without being spotted; come on, let’s go.” They went through a doorway and then down a tightly spiralling stone staircase. At the bottom they set out along a deserted corridor. When they came to a heavy tapestry, Rick grabbed Harry by the arm and pulled him behind it and into a dark narrow passageway, which they illuminated with their wands. Rick led the way, taking various connecting passages until they came out through a hidden doorway into the corridor that led to the Headmaster’s office. “Fickle Fudge,” said Rick, when they reached the entrance. The stone gargoyle jumped aside, and Harry and Rick stepped onto the moving stone staircase. Harry knocked on the door to the Headmaster’s office. They heard footsteps approaching the door. It swung open to reveal a very surprised Severus Snape. “Potter!” he exclaimed. Then spotting Rick standing behind Harry, he added in a suspicious tone, “Now why am I not surprised to see you, Godfry? Whenever the unexpected occurs ... you can always be expected to turn up ... how very, very, predictable.” “Please show them, Severus,” came the delighted voice of the Headmaster. Snape reluctantly stepped aside to allow Harry and Rick to enter the office. “Harry!” exclaimed Dumbledore with unconcealed joy. He had risen from his chair, and came around his desk to stand in front of Harry. His blue eyes were twinkling with happiness. Apart from Snape, the other three Heads of House were also present. Professor McGonagall jumped from her chair, wiping her swollen red eyes with a tartan handkerchief, before pocketing it. She placed an affectionate hand on Harry’s shoulder and smiled at him warmly. “My goodness, Potter, you gave us all a dreadful fright,” she said, sounding extremely relieved. “Are you hurt? What on earth happened out there on the Quidditch pitch?” All five professors were now staring at Harry, expectantly. “Err ... it was the Snitch,” said Harry. “It exploded in my hand, and my broom was ripped out from under me and I started falling....” Snape, who had remained standing, now moved closer to Harry. “And how, exactly did you manage to come back to earth in one piece from several hundred feet up in the air – without a broom, Potter?” asked Snape, staring hard at Harry before allowing his eyes to drift to the left and rest suspiciously upon Rick. “Err ... I used a Hover Charm, sir,” answered Harry. “A Hover Charm?” repeated Snape, with obvious disbelief. “I have never heard of a Hover Charm that one could cast upon oneself – nor, for that matter, of any that do more than levitate an object a few feet. Have you, Filius?” he asked, turning for confirmation to the diminutive Charms Master. “Well ...” answered Professor Flitwick, pausing a moment to consider the question. “There are certain very advanced charms that can be employed in duelling, which allow the caster to fly up in the air a short distance, to dodge a curse. But there is nothing I know of, that would save someone falling from a broom several hundred feet up in the air.” Snape, rounded on Harry again, with a satisfied smile on his face. “I think you are going to have to do a little better than that, Potter, if you —” “Now, Severus,” interjected the Headmaster, “there are more things under the sun than either you or I – or any of us in this room – know about. Just because no-one has heard of this charm, does not mean, that it does not exist. I, for one, am more than happy to accept Mr. Potter’s explanation.” He turned and resumed his seat behind his desk, noting Rick’s wink as he sank into his chair. He nodded slightly back, indicating that he understood perfectly, how Harry had saved himself. “Perhaps Potter would care to explain where he has been for the past half-hour while the whole school has been in a panic – and in mourning for him?” demanded Snape, choosing a different avenue of attack, since he could not openly contradict the Headmaster. “Err, it’s very difficult to control yourself with this Hover Charm, sir,” answered Harry, trying to keep his voice steady. “I, err, ended up floating above the Forbidden Forest, where I finally managed to come down. It took me a while to find my way out and, err ... get back to the castle.” Snape was an expert at reading body language. He was certain Potter was lying. “Hold out the hand with which you caught the Snitch, Potter.” he demanded. Harry held out his right hand. “Where is the gauntlet?” demanded Snape, suspiciously. “I – I don’t know, sir, said Harry. I guess it was blown off when the Snitch exploded.” “And yet there is not a single scratch, burn, or mark of any kind on your hand – extraordinary! How would you explain that, Mr. Potter?” asked Snape, his eyes narrowing into a hard cold glare. But before Harry could answer, Professor McGonagall stepped defensively in front of Harry, glaring at Snape. “That’s quite enough, Severus! You are behaving as if Potter here was responsible for what happened today during the Quidditch match. It is obvious to any fair-minded person, that he was the victim – not the perpetrator. It was clearly not some silly schoolboy prank – but rather, an attempt upon his life. I think Mr. Potter has suffered enough trauma for one day, without being subjected to your adversarial style of cross-examination. Please leave him alone, Severus,” said McGonagall, in a voice that brooked no argument. She stood her ground, glaring at Snape until he backed off and angrily resumed his seat. Dumbledore sat calmly behind his desk, his blue eyes twinkling with amusement, and the start of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He was obviously enjoying the sight of Minerva McGonagall in mother-hen mode putting Severus Snape in his place. “I think we can all agree on one thing,” said the Headmaster, gaining everyone’s attention. “This was undoubtedly another – thankfully unsuccessful – attempt by Voldemort on the life of Harry Potter.” “As you know,” he continued, “Madam Hooch, whom I dismissed yesterday, has been spying for Voldemort for many years. After interrogating her, I concluded that she had done no more than spy – that she had not been involved in any ... overt activities. This explains how she succeeded in remaining undetected at Hogwarts for so long. But, due to a series of setbacks and failures, Voldemort has become desperate of late. Consequently, it seems he pressed Madam Hooch into active service, and had her substitute the tampered Snitch for the one which was to be used in today’s match. It was, after all, almost a forgone conclusion that Mr. Potter would catch it,” he said smiling at Harry. Snape could be heard muttering a disgusted humph, under his breath. “Minerva and Filius,” he continued, “I would like you to check over all of the school’s Quidditch equipment, including the school brooms. Please check everything that Madam Hooch has had access to. All Quidditch matches, practices, and flying lessons are postponed until the task is complete.” “But, Professor,” exclaimed Harry, “There’s the Slytherin-Ravenclaw match in three weeks and then Gryffindor-Hufflepuff a couple of weeks after that.” “Don’t worry, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall reassuringly, “it shouldn’t take us more than a week or two. I’m sure that the Quidditch program will not be seriously disrupted. Oh, and by the way – congratulations on your win today.” “What?” asked Harry in surprise. “Well, you caught the Snitch ... even if it did subsequently explode. According to the rules of Quidditch, the match ends at the moment the Seeker catches the Snitch – so the result stands. The final score, I believe, was two hundred and fifty to thirty – in Gryffindor’s favour – which puts Gryffindor in the lead for the House Cup,” she added, grinning smugly at Snape. “Congratulations, Mr. Potter,” said Dumbledore, beaming at Harry. “May I suggest that you and Mr. Godfry return to your common room, and let your friends and housemates know you are alive and well. They will, no doubt, have all been very worried since your disappearance. I am certain they will want to celebrate your safe return – along with Gryffindor’s victory today. I am sure your Head of House will permit you and your housemates a celebratory party,” he added with a smile, glancing towards Professor McGonagall, who nodded her agreement. “Err ... thank you, Professor Dumbledore,” said Harry, feeling relieved to escape any further interrogation by Snape.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
When Harry entered the Gryffindor common room, all hell broke loose. The students had been sitting around in small subdued groups, speculating on Harry’s fate. The consensus was that this must surely be the end of the road for the Boy Who Lived. No other conclusion seemed possible. The mood was one of gloom and despair. Without Harry Potter, the future looked bleak indeed. It felt as if the battle was already over – and the Dark Lord had won. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were sitting together. None of them could think of anything positive to say, so they just sat in silence. Hermione and Ginny were both red-eyed and tearful. This was a moment they had all dreaded, but hoped, somehow, would never arrive. When the portrait hole swung open and Harry walked in, there was a moment of stunned silence. Then everyone was talking excitedly at once. Hermione and Ginny both rushed at Harry and embraced him so hard, he could barely breathe. When he smiled at Ginny, she lost all control and kissed him soundly on the lips – much to the delight of the onlookers. Even Ron, who had rushed over to his best friend, wasn’t annoyed, or trying to drag her away from him. “What the hell happened to you, mate?” he asked in a relieved voice. It was the question on everyone’s lips. Rick jumped up onto a table, and, remembering to use his wand, performed the Sonorous Charm. He knew Harry didn’t want to have to lie to the whole house and would be embarrassed having to address them all, so he decided to spare him. “Everyone, Harry’s just been through a pretty rough time, so please give him a break and let him relax a bit. I know you’re all curious to know what happened out there, on the Quidditch pitch. He’s just had to go over the whole story in the Headmaster’s office. I was there, so I’ll repeat what he said – OK?” Everyone yelled out their agreement, prompting Rick to continue. “I think we all saw Harry catch the Snitch,” said Rick. “A few seconds later, it exploded in his hand. White stuff came out of it, making that huge white cloud, which spread out to cover the Quidditch field and the spectator stands. When the Snitch exploded, Harry’s broom was ripped out from under him —” Rick was cut off by a collective gasp from his listeners. “I guess you all saw his broom on the Quidditch pitch, and are wondering how Harry managed to escape falling to his death – which, by the way, was the plan. The tampered Snitch came courtesy of Voldemort.” There was a collective gasp when Rick said the dreaded name. “So how the hell did Harry manage to save himself from falling?” asked Dean Thomas. “He used a very advanced Hover Charm, to float back down,” answered Rick. His words were greeted by cries of surprise, disbelief, and admiration. “Err ... Harry has been working on this charm for quite a while,” continued Rick, raising his voice above the hubbub. “It’s very hard to control your direction, apparently, and Harry ended up floating out over the Forbidden Forest, where he finally landed. It took him quite a while to find his way out, and walk back to the castle.” Everyone began talking at once about the amazing turn of events and how Harry, against all the odds, had cheated death – and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – once again. “There’s one more thing,” yelled Rick, ramping up his Sonorous Charm. “Professor McGonagall has given us permission to have a party – to celebrate Harry’s safe return – and also Gryffindor’s Quidditch victory today. Since Harry caught the Snitch, and the game was over before it exploded, Professor McGonagall has declared Gryffindor the winner – two hundred and fifty points to Ravenclaw thirty – which puts us in the lead for the House Cup!” The common room erupted into cheering and rejoicing – the mood was in total contrast to that of five minutes earlier. Dean and Seamus approached Harry. “Well done, mate – it’s good to see you in one piece ... err, we were wondering if we could borrow your invisibility cloak – so we can shoot off to the Three Broomsticks and get a couple of cases of butterbeer – to celebrate.” “Yeah, sure,” said Harry, “it’s in my trunk – just be careful with it. Do you need some money?” “Here,” said Rick, pulling a handful of Galleons out of his pocket and handing them to Dean, “take this; we’ll sort it out later.” “Harry?” asked Ginny, shyly. “Do you want to come down to the kitchen with me and see if you we can talk Dobby into giving us some party food?” “Sure, good idea,” said Harry, glad of the excuse to get out of the common room for a while and escape all the attention and well-meant congratulations of his housemates. Everyone was very curious about the Hover Charm, and he was finding it awkward trying to answer questions about it. Music began blaring out, as someone turned on a wizard's wireless. Tables and chairs were quickly cleared away from the centre of the room to make a space for dancing. It was soon crowded with couples moving energetically to the music. Hermione grabbed Rick’s arm and dragged him over to an empty corner of the common room. “You are such a convincing liar, Rick,” said Hermione, with a smirk. “So Harry finally got his wings, I take it?” “Err ... yeah,” answered Rick, casting an Imperturbable Charm around them, so they couldn’t be overheard – although it was hardly necessary with all the noise. “But the rest of the story was pretty much the way it happened – about the Snitch and Harry’s broom being pulled out from under him. He sure picked the right moment to master the Animagus transformation ... it was then – or never.” Hermione shook her head. “Harry sure was born under a lucky star – well, not for some things – but when it comes to cheating death, he sure was – I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s cheated death at Voldemort’s hand. But this time, I really thought his luck had run out – and Voldemort had finally taken him – either back into the future, or in the present time. Ginny and I have been crying our eyes out for the past hour; we were so worried and afraid. But, where has Harry been all this time? And you too, for that matter?” “Err, well, I found Harry – or should I say, a rather magnificent Golden Eagle – with very distinctive green eyes, flying over the Forbidden Forest. Actually, it was Harry who found me – he nearly knocked me out of the air! He was in a rather exuberant mood – enjoying the experience of flying like a bird! Err ... he wanted to play ... it took me a while to convince him we needed to get back to the castle. Then, we had to tell Dumbledore that he was OK. Unfortunately, all the Heads of House were in his office; and Snape, of course, saw right through the Hover Charm story and was giving poor Harry the third degree. Fortunately, Professor McGonagall rose to his defence. You should have seen her put Snape in his place – it was a pleasure to watch – I almost felt sorry for the greasy git!” “Gosh, I wish I’d been there,” said Hermione enviously, “I’d loved to have seen that.” Hermione sat deep in thought for a minute or two, before speaking again. “Rick, I have an idea on how we might possibly get rid of the Dementors – I’m not really sure if it will work – but I think we should consider it.” “Really?” asked Rick in surprise. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to deal with them, but so far I’ve got nowhere. I keep remembering what Voldemort said, there is no power that can destroy Dementors. Was he wrong? Have you thought of a way to destroy them?” “No, not to destroy them,” answered Hermione. “It’s true, Dementors cannot be killed, destroyed, or transformed into anything else ... at least not according to all the books about them in the library.” “So what’s your idea then?” asked Rick, growing more curious. “We take them out of time to the timeless dimension – and leave them there – forever.” Rick sat stunned, for a moment, as doubts and questions appeared in his mind. But before he could verbalise them, Hermione did – and provided answers. She was miles ahead of him; she had obviously been thinking about this a great deal. “As soon as you mentioned what I – well, the other Hermione, in the Nightmare Reality – said about you passing through this timeless dimension when you travel through time, I began to wonder if this might be the solution to the Dementor problem. But I couldn’t figure out how we could get them there – I mean, you can’t just hold their hands, like you did with me.” Rick shuddered at the thought. “Voldemort helped us there again,” said Hermione smiling. “He created that black cloud – the Time Portal, which he pulled you and Harry through yesterday. We need to learn how to create one – except ours will be slightly different. His had two sides: one side in 1997 and the other in 2000. The timeless dimension must have been sandwiched between them, because, as you discovered, you pass through it when you travel through Time. Our portal will have only one side – the present time, attached to the timeless dimension. When the Dementors go through it, they won’t come out in any other time – in fact, they won’t come out at all. They’ll stay in the timeless dimension – forever.” “But, umm, doesn’t that mean whenever anyone travels through time, they’ll have to run the gauntlet of several hundred soul-starved Dementors, just hanging about waiting for someone to enter their dimension?” “No, not at all,” replied Hermione, confidently. “This timeless dimension has neither Time, nor Space. That means, whenever someone travels through time, and passes through the timeless dimension, they can never be in the same place or in the same time as anyone else. It’s impossible to encounter anyone or anything there!” “That’s brilliant, it might just work,” said Rick with admiration, taking Hermione’s hand and giving it an affectionate squeeze. “Oh, by the way, I already know how to create a Time Portal,” added Rick. “Really?” asked Hermione, in surprise. “How did you find out?” “From Voldemort – he’s really been working overtime at being helpful of late.” said Rick with a grin. “I read his mind while he was gloating about it – I memorized the spell. But we still have a couple of problems,” said Rick, hesitantly. “We need to figure out how to adapt Voldemort’s Time Portal, so that it just has a single side in the present time. We’ll probably need to modify the incantation.” “What incantation did Voldemort use?” asked Hermione. It was, “Tempus iunctus nunc ad.... and then what sounded like a time – probably the time in this year that he connected it to,” said Rick. “Perhaps if you put nihilum vaccus on the end instead of a time,” said Hermione thoughtfully. “That means: nothing – a void.” “OK, I can try experimenting with that,” said Rick. “But there’s another problem: How the hell are we going to get all the Dementors to go through the Time Portal? That’s going to be very tricky.” “And dangerous,” added Hermione, sounding worried. “We’d need to set up the Time Portal somewhere, and when the Dementors attack, and use Patronuses to drive them through it.” “Yeah,” sighed Rick. “It sounds risky, but it may be the only way. Hey, let’s stop talking and thinking about Dementors. Look! The butterbeer’s arrived, it’s time to celebrate. How about a dance? Since it’s not a Witches’ Prerogative, I guess I’m allowed to ask you today – right?” “I noticed you waited for a nice slow number, before asking,” said Hermione teasingly, as she allowed Rick to lead her towards the space that had been cleared for dancing. “Hmm, so you noticed,” said Rick contentedly as he wrapped his arms around Hermione’s waist and drew her close. Hermione placed her arms around Rick’s neck and rested her head dreamily on his shoulder, just enjoying being close to him. After several dances, Ron interrupted them. “Err ... Rick, Hermione, have you got any idea what’s happened to Harry and Ginny? They went to the kitchens to get food, but they’ve been gone an awfully long time.” Rick closed his eyes for a few moments, before replying. “I’m sure they’re OK ... don’t worry, mate, they’ll be back soon. You know what Dobby’s like when Harry’s around – they’re probably just having trouble getting away from him – the food will be here soon – don’t worry.” Ron nodded and moved on. “I don’t think it was the food that Ron was worried about,” whispered Hermione, giggling, as she continued dancing with Rick. “I think he was more worried about what was really detaining Harry – and I don’t mean Dobby, the house elf – I mean Ginny, the witch. I imagine you scanned your Marauders Map, to check they were OK. So where are they really?” asked Hermione with a sly grin. “The Room of Requirement,” answered Rick, laughing. “Oh my!” exclaimed Hermione, “It seems like Ginny has finally got her way with Harry. I wonder why he changed his mind, though. I mean, it’s been obvious for ages, that he likes Ginny, but he always keeps her at a distance. I’m sure it’s because he’s afraid she’d be targeted by Voldemort, if the two of them got too close. I wonder what changed.” “Maybe it was the discussion we had in Dumbledore’s office yesterday,” suggested Rick. “Harry’s been wearing that Prophecy like a millstone around his neck, all year. It’s really been oppressing him. But that mark Voldemort put on his forehead tends to destroy the Prophecy’s credibility. I mean, the Prophecy says that Harry can’t live while Voldemort’s alive, and that he’s the one that has to kill him. But now he knows that he can’t live if he kills Voldemort – so the Prophecy can’t be right. That’s what you and Dumbledore were saying yesterday, isn’t it? – maybe you got through to him.” “Yes, maybe,” said Hermione. A faster number blared out on the wizard's wireless and she took Rick’s hand and led him back to the corner where they had been sitting before. “You know, Rick,” said Hermione, as they sat down together, “it might also be that Harry’s feeling more confident, especially now that he’s mastered the Animagus transformation.” “Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Harry looking as happy as he did after we’d been flying together. He was in raptures. Mind you, I don’t think we should discount Ginny’s charms. She’s had her heart set on Harry for so long now, and as time goes by, she’s becoming more and more bold, and determined. Still, it could just be another case of Quidditch victory – and evading Voldemort – euphoria; and tomorrow it will be business as usual and Harry pushing Ginny away.” “I hope not,” said Hermione earnestly. “She really loves him, you know. Ginny was heartbroken today when it seemed that Voldemort had finally got him. Harry has so much of the weight of the world on his shoulders, it would really do him good to be able to share it with Ginny and open up his heart to her. He’s so alone....” “Yeah, I couldn’t agree more,” said Rick. “There is nothing quite as wonderful as love,” he said, smiling fondly at Hermione. Just at that moment, the portrait hole swung open and Ginny and Harry staggered in, laden with baskets of food from the house elves. “Hey, look, here they are now – and boy, is Ginny blushing. She’s going to have to learn not to do that, if she wants to keep what’s going on between her and Harry a secret.” “That’s for sure,” laughed Hermione. “You can see how happy they both are. Rick, I don’t think we should let on to anyone that we know something’s going on between them – that includes Ron – and Harry!” “Harry?” asked Rick, puzzled. “But he already knows – obviously.” “Yes, but if this isn’t just Quidditch euphoria – and I hope it’s more than that – then he’ll want to keep it secret – for Ginny’s sake, for her safety. I want to encourage them, Rick – this will be good for them both. And the best way to encourage them is to pretend not to notice. It’s obvious, isn’t it?” asked Hermione.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Please leave a review ... it only takes a moment Coming up: Chapter 28 ~ Birds of a Feather

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