DARK DEEDS DISCOVERED
His determination firm, Harry proceeded back to Gryffindor tower. Hermione was in the common room talking to Colin Creevey, but Ron was nowhere in sight. He had just gotten to Hermione when Ginny and her group of fifth-years came through the portrait hole. She made straight for Harry, blazing determination fixed on her face.
"Hello Colin," Ginny said in a cursory greeting, and then she turned her full attention on Harry. "We need to talk," she said in a firm tone.
Hermione took Colin by the elbow and turned to the fireplace. At that instant, Ron came jogging out of the entrance to the boys' dormitories, saw Harry, and pelted straight over.
"Oi, Harry!" shouted Ron over the din of the common room. "I've just about got my stuff back in our room. Could you help with my trunk?"
Hermione turned and gave Ron a daggered look that took the grin from his face.
"What?" asked Ron as he cottoned on to the intent of the look, but lost as to its origin.
Harry noticed that the look on Ginny's face was not only in agreement with Hermione, it carried a measure of peril Harry had come to recognize as an impending "Ginny storm."
"In a minute, Ron," said Harry immediately, "Ginny let's talk," and he led her to a pair of chairs facing a window looking out over the Hogwarts grounds.
Instead of launching into a tirade, Ginny looked out over the grounds silently. Harry thought it best to wait for Ginny's time. He joined her in visual inspection of the grounds. With a thrill of emotion, he saw dark shape fly from Hagrid's cabin and into the forest. Harry stilled his racing heart as he contemplated being back with the winged monster.
Rousing from his reverie, he saw something sparkle in the afternoon sunlight. Only belatedly did he realize that Ginny was crying; her tears falling silently in her lap. Thoughts of Capricio vanished into nothingness.
"What is it Ginny?" he asked with deep concern in his voice.
"You," she said simply.
"What did I do?" asked Harry, but even as he asked the question, he felt this was going to be more about what he hadn't done than what he had done.
"You really don't get it do you?" asked Ginny as she wiped away tears with the back of her hand.
"I really don't," said Harry truthfully. "Help me to understand."
"Can't you see what you mean to me?" asked Ginny.
She broke her gaze from her lap and looked Harry full in the face. For the first time, Harry noticed her red-rimmed eyes and realized that this wasn't the only time she had cried that day.
As Harry saw the distress in Ginny's face, his heart ached. "Talk to me. Tell me straight out what's on your mind," implored Harry.
"For someone so smart, you don't think on a very personal level do you?" Ginny let the question build as she fiddled with something on her finger.
Harry's mind went into overdrive. He tried to sort out all the communications, both direct and subtle, from Ginny in the past few days. The images went by in a blur. Wishing he had the Pensieve, or time for the Gemynd spell to order his thoughts, Harry grasped for answers. None came.
Ginny stood up and started to turn to the girls' dormitory stairs. Harry caught her hand, but her determination to leave pulled him from his chair and to his knees on the floor. Ginny paused, looking down at Harry holding her hand. The moment held, as if painted in a frozen vignette, and Harry marveled at how he felt about Gunny. She broke away, and in tears, fled across the room. Harry, still on his knees, watched in shock as Ginny disappeared up the stairs.
"It's about time mate!" said Ron as he came over to Harry and pulled him to his feet.
"What's about time?" asked Harry, frowning at Ron's words.
The grin faded from Ron's face, but he recovered quickly. "It's about time...you got ready...to help me move my trunk. Yeah, it's about time," he said as if repeating the words reinforced their meaning.
Hermione sidled up, but the smile on her face was erased by a quick shake of Ron's head.
"I was just telling Harry that I needed him to help me share the load of my trunk. Hermione...tell Harry what you've been discussing with Colin." Ron smiled an altogether too-encouraging smile at Hermione.
"Oh! Right!" said Hermione, as if the conversation wasn't at all what she expected. "We...that is to say I...asked Colin about the G2's abilities. He's convinced that they are up to making the Wolfsbane potion." She said everything very quickly as if to hide a stumble.
I wasn't contemplating making Wolfsbane," said Harry as he struggled with the change of the conversation's direction. "I was considering making a potion I saw in Fenrir Greyback's memory."
"Oh I see," said Hermione, taking Ron by the arm. "Would you like the G2 to help?"
"Not so fast, you're trying to change the subject," said Harry. "What's going on with Ginny? You two know something that you're not telling me."
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other. Hermione took the fore. "You see Harry, it's like this...sometimes others get ideas about..." she never finished.
Ginny came bounding down the stairs. Her tears were gone and a smile played across her face. "I'm sorry for acting such a flit," she said. "Honestly, sometimes I just don't know what gets into me. I want to help with the things that need to be done."
Hermione relaxed noticeably. Ron looked relieved.
"But what was that all about?" asked Harry in a perplexed tone.
"Never mind," said Ginny a little too brightly, "consider it past. I believe we were discussing the potion for Professor Lupin?"
"As I see it," said Harry, looking tentatively between Ginny and Hermione, "we have two choices; either brew the potion I saw in Fenrir Greyback's memory or let Professor Lupin face the change on his own."
"Do you think chancing the potion wise?" asked Hermione. "After all, it's untested magic."
"I saw the results of the potion's effect first hand," said Harry flexing his hand as he recalled the broken bones in his arm. "It gave Fenrir Greyback the ability to reason after he had transformed into a werewolf. It could make Lupin's transformation more bearable if he could think his way through instead of being driven by instinct."
"How certain are you of the memory's accuracy?" questioned Hermione, seemingly relieved by a substantive direction for the conversation, as Harry broke his inquiring stare.
"I'm sure of the ingredients and quantities. Greyback's attention was so focused that there is no chance of mistake," explained Harry. "Even so I will review the memory very carefully before we begin the actual brewing."
"Why not have Colin's G2 brew Belby's Wolfsbane potion too?" asked Ron. "You know...sort of a back-up plan."
"It's too late for that," chipped in Ginny. "It has to be taken a full week proceeding the full moon to be effective. We discussed it in Potions class months ago."
Harry smiled at Ginny in appreciation of her knowledge and memory. Ginny smiled back, but Harry thought her smile forced, almost painful.
"Does the memory tell you how long it takes to brew?" asked Ron, interrupting Harry's concentration.
"Yes. Not long," said Harry, his face darkening, as a sudden troubling thought entered his mind.
"What?" questioned Ginny as she saw the change in his countenance.
He reached out and lifted her chin until their eyes met. He held her gaze a long time before he spoke. "Ginny it's not your fault. I've just realized what might be happening to you. Remember in my fifth year. I was angry all the time. You lot bore the brunt of it...well, and Dumbledore too. Voldemort couldn't invade my mind through Hogwarts protections, but his emotions seeped through. I let those emotions run my life. I've learned to shut him out now. We're still connected by the curse, but I can fight him."
"I don't see how that applies to Ginny," stated Hermione.
"Don't you see?" asked Harry. "Ginny has a connection to Voldemort too. When Tom Riddle from the diary started to control her, she lost great chunks of time, she did things she wouldn't have done. The Riddle from the diary bragged that as he became stronger he was able to pour some of his soul back into Ginny. I think that formed some sort of a connection between them."
Hermione's eyes widened and her mouth formed into an "O."
Ginny suppressed a shudder. "I've got some of Tom Riddle's soul inside me?"
"No! I destroyed the bit of his soul from his diary," said Harry forcefully. "But I think a sort of a conduit remains. Voldemort's emotions can travel that conduit." He halted and considered his past. "I remember at times feeling angry or elated; feelings not remotely associated with what was happening to me."
"That's part of what happened to me just now," said Ginny plaintively.
"You can fight this," said Harry still searching Ginny's brown eyes. "Lupin's Occlumency lessons helped and I've read several books that I've put to good use."
"Help me," implored Ginny. "Now that you've explained it, I remember times I've let feelings overtake me; feelings that had no real basis in what I was about. I let small things build until they consume me."
"I think I can help," said Harry. "You all stood by me when I acted the prat. I can teach you from what I've learned. Let's go over here." Harry motioned to the seats by the window.
Hermione summoned two more chairs and the four settled.
The book I want to share with you is still in the Chamber of Secrets. I think Riddle was using it to learn how to block others from his mind. It's old fashioned writing, verse almost, and I don't think the entire book presents a valid portrayal of..."
"Enough with the review," said Ron. "Do we go to the Chamber?"
Harry smiled in spite of himself. "Give me a second," he said with playful scolding. He closed his eyes and recalled the book, Alma Etymos, from his mind's-eye library. "It's written in a mixture of Greek and Latin, so you'll have to bear with me as I translate."
"You're joking!" said Ron incredulously. "You don't know Latin or Greek!"
"Actually I do," said Harry, trying not to sound bigheaded. "I've become acquainted with dozens of languages during the last year."
He proceeded to quote six consecutive pages aloud and then he parsed dozens of additional snippets from within the book. After the recitation, he led them in quiet practice for over an hour. At the conclusion of the practice, Ron looked dumbstruck, Hermione looked impressed, Ginny looked relieved.
"Ginny can't understand what you just showed us," challenged Ron.
"I do understand," retorted Ginny, "I use my own force of will to set sentinel, doubly so before I go to sleep. I sieve my thoughts and emotions to determine their origin each second. I control my mind."
"Yes, and more to the point, now that you see the mind-trap, you can avoid it." Harry took Ginny's hand. "I see none of Tom Riddle in you. We'll practice this until he'll never be able to get into your mind again."
Ginny squeezed his hand. "More practice with me tonight before I go to bed... promise," demanded Ginny.
"I promise," said Harry. "But there are several important things I'd like to do before bedtime."
"We have an hour before we eat," reminded Hermione. "And one more hour after the D.A. meeting," chimed in Ginny.
"Right you are," said Harry. "Let's put those hours to use."
Ron rubbed his stomach and groaned at the prospect of another hour until he could eat.
Harry conjured an apple and tossed it to Ron, then he pulled out the parchment McGonagall had given him. He passed it over to Hermione. At his encouragement, she read it aloud. When she was done, Ron almost dropped his half-eaten apple.
"You get all the luck," he said dejectedly.
"If by all the luck you mean all the chances to get himself killed, I agree," said Ginny.
Ron saw the fire in Ginny's eyes and moved out of reach.
"I'd like to tackle two things yet today," said Harry stepping between Ron and Ginny. "Tomorrow will be hectic if I am...if we are to accomplish all the things necessary," he corrected himself.
Ginny took his hand and squeezed it. "Glad to see you thinking on a more personal level," she said with a mischievous grin.
"First we visit the Head's office. Phineas Nigellus Black made mention of a method of destroying masking magic..."
Harry you said the potion for Lupin was of paramount importance," interrupted Hermione.
"I still feel so, but to brew the potion I need an empty adamant crucible, and to be honest I'm not sure how to accomplish that feat. If the crucible's stores could be directed at the magic in Snape's office, I may be able to siphon off a bit and kill two birds with one stone."
"Sounds dangerous to me," said Ron as he threw his apple core at a bin.
Harry ignored him. "The second thing we could do tonight is look more carefully at the magic behind the mirror on the fourth floor. Depending on what we learn in Snape's office, we may be able to use that information to dispose of a bit more of the stored magic."
"I think we should include the G2 for that process," offered Hermione. "They are the most familiar with what has happened with the mirror."
"Good thought," said Harry. "We can gather them after our final D.A. practice."
"Doesn't look like you'll be needing me," said Ron in a dejected tone.
"Are you balmy?" asked Harry. "As long as you're the king of the unicorn jumpers, I need you with us!"
"To Dumbl...I mean McGonagall's office then!" said Ginny forcefully.
Harry pulled Ginny into an embrace. "Thanks," he said.
"For what?" she asked quizzically.
"For no more and no less than just being you," said Harry and he kissed her.
They left Gryffindor tower under Harry's escort, traveling directly to the Headmistress's office. Harry negotiated the gargoyle and mirr panel and they found themselves standing in front of the portraits of past Headmasters and Headmistresses.
Harry plunged right in. "Headmaster Black, you said that fledged masking magic must be met head-on with significant force in order to destroy it. Would you tell us how to do that?"
"I could," said Nigellus slyly, "but it would be pointless. You do not possess the ability to conjure and control the power necessary. It would be an academic exercise."
"Humor me," said Harry. "If you are correct, I will not be able to use the information you provide. If I am incautious or rash with the information, it falls to my ruin...no fault to you."
Nigellus smiled a wicked smile. "On your own head then Potter!" He smiled again and began to explain the tremendously complicated and delicate balancing process of annihilating masking magic. He closed his instructions with a cautionary tale about several Russian wizards in Tunguska just after the turn of the twentieth century. "...they thought they were in control of the magic. It had been in place over fifty years. When they had separated it, it overwhelmed them. It destroyed miles of surrounding forest, along with the wizards. Don't let arrogance destroy everything around you."
Ron looked white. Hermione clutched his hand. Only Harry and Ginny stood resolute in the face of the story of the horrors of fledged masking magic.
"Thank you Headmaster," said Harry. "I will be careful."
"Never thank your executioner," sneered Nigellus, and he strode from his portrait.
"Be careful Harry..." said Dumbledore, "...wherever you use what you have learned."
Harry nodded and then he retrieved the adamant crucible.
The four friends left the tower office and headed for the dungeons in contemplative silence. When they reached Snape's office door, Hermione was the first to speak.
"Harry, I've been thinking. Is this really necessary? You explained how you defeated the masking magic in the Chamber. You even defeated Snape's outer masking magic here. What if this goes badly? Is it worth the risk to Hogwarts?" The look on Hermione's face told Harry how dearly the words had cost her.
"Listen mate," said Ron as he stepped to Hermione's side, "I agree with Hermione on this. You're always teaching the D.A. how to look out for each other. I think you might be too close to this magic to make a good call, seeing how you feel about Snape. Honestly, we're just looking out for you."
Harry looked from Ron and Hermione to Ginny. Her face was a study in conflict. Finally Ginny stepped to Ron's side. "I have to agree with Ron."
Astounded, Harry sat down in the chair behind Snape's desk. Then to his friends' amazement, he raised his hand in the air and seemed to go in to a trance. Many minutes later, he lowered his arm and looked at his watch.
"I have considered what going against your advice in the past has cost," said Harry seriously. "The gravity of your concerns has convinced me to abandon this attempt. That, and the fact that we are ten minutes late for the D.A. meeting. Sorry about supper Ron."
Ron groaned again as Harry led them from the dungeons up through the castle. No one was in sight as the approached the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, yet the polished door of the Room of Requirement had already been called into service. Harry reached for the knob and walked cautiously through the door.
Neville met Harry inside in a rush of words. "When you weren't here Harry, I worried that the others would be disappointed. Luna and I signed them all in and started them on defence. I hope we haven't overstepped."
"Brilliant Neville!" said Harry as he looked around at teams already practicing defensive spells. "Carry on! I'll just wander through and observe."
Neville blushed under the praise, but went straightway to work. Harry put his head together with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny before he started his rounds. They listened to Harry and then started similar meanderings, stopping at odd intervals to question individuals. Harry let the practice go almost an hour before he stopped it and took direct control of the instruction. He taught for another hour and then turned the class over to Neville, Luna, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron for completion. He conjured a desk at the side of the practice room and busied himself while he watched the progress of the class.
He finally called an early halt at quarter of eight. "I want you to know that I am very proud of every one of you. If I were grading this group I would say you were all Outstanding."
A cheer went up from all the students and even a few of the teachers.
"This will be the last D.A. practice this year. Tomorrow night is the leaving feast and I don't want to interfere with that." He ignored some groans. "You learned something else here tonight, something that Neville and Luna taught you upon your arrival. You don't have to wait for others to act. Teach what you know to those who need it. Go home and teach your families. Teach your friends and neighbors. You have the power within you to alter the course of the wizarding world, one family at a time!"
A deafening cheer went up from the D.A..
Harry ignored the chanting of his name and quieted them with an appreciative wave. "Thank you. But in reality, if not for you, there would be no D.A. As a token of my appreciation..."
He waved his wand and tables appeared, heaped with an assortment of puddings. "The D.A. finally gets its just desserts! Help your selves!"
The crowd congregated at the tables, eating their fill and talking loudly. After fifteen minutes, they reluctantly broke up, finding escorts back to common rooms. Oddly, some remained as if held by another purpose. Finally the door closed on the last noisy members, leaving almost two-dozen people standing in the large practice hall.
"Thank you for staying," said Harry. "I know I didn't give Ron, Hermione, or Ginny much direction in their instructions to ask you to stay for a few minutes after the practice. Please come over to this table."
Harry led them to the table from which he had watched them practice. He picked up a stack of Chocolate Frog cards. "Hand these 'round," he said as he passed the stack over to Ron.
"Thanks Harry," said Dennis Creevey. "I have a collection of these."
"These are more than just cards. Watch!" said Harry as he pressed the back of his knuckles to his card. Dumbledore appeared and traveled through each card, greeting each person by name.
"Blimey Harry!" said Seamus, "That's some trick!"
"No trick Seamus," responded Harry. "When I had Ron, Ginny, and Hermione pick up your D.A. galleons earlier, I saw the reluctance in some of you. I was glad to see they meant something to you. I have changed them a bit. Please file by the table. As each person passed in front of the table, Harry presented a gold ring. Each ring adjusted to fit its owner perfectly.
"No one can take the ring off your finger except you," explained Harry. "You can contact Dumbledore if you place your ring on the portrait's filigreed border on the Chocolate Frog card. I only had enough for the original D.A. members. You are truly the daring, as noted by your D.A.Ring."
There were a few chuckles at the pun.
"I'm blushing," said Dean. "Does this mean we're engaged?"
Harry ignored the comment, but Ginny shifted uncomfortably where she stood.
"I can make the numbers on the inside of the rings change and the rings get warm if I change the numbers on my ring," explained Harry. "The D.A. now has the ability to communicate almost instantaneously."
"Thanks Harry!" said Colin Creevey.
"Don't thank me," said Harry. "Thank Albus Dumbledore and Francois DePais, better yet, thank each one of the original D.A. when you meet, wherever you meet."
Appreciative murmurs sounded through the room.
"Now it is time for some of us to say goodnight. Those who are with Colin can stay here, while I take the others back to their dormitories."
Excepting Hermione, Ron and Ginny; Harry chivvied the D.A. members who didn't Venn with the G2 back to their dormitories, and then he hurriedly returned to the Room of Requirement. Arriving, he walked into a pitched battle. Before he could ask what was happening, he saw that the spells were of sufficient force that he felt it prudent to conjure his own protective sphere. He noted one other golden sphere and marveled at who could have produced such potent magic. He saw odd parings and combatants. Ron and Hermione were battling each other. Colin and Dennis Creevey were back-to-back having a go against other G2 members. Harry didn't know what to make of the mayhem.
As he was about to force a halt to the chaos, a spell from his right propelled the other golden sphere directly at him. Drawing from his experience, he felt utterly secure in his point-specific magic, but as the two spheres touched, a huge shock wave coursed through the room. All conflict stopped as people were bowled over by the concussive force. Harry was thrown relentlessly about inside his own sphere.
When the dust had settled, Harry righted himself. The commotion ceased and the G2 gravitated to his sphere. Harry dissolved his magic and looked at the gathered group.
"What was all that about?" he asked as he felt after the bumps and bruises he had sustained.
"We were just using our time for a bit of practice," answered Colin. "What happened with you?"
As Colin had spoken, Harry noticed the sphere that had collided with him. It was wedged between the dessert table and the chamber wall. What appeared to be a wad of robes was scattered in the bottom of the sphere.
"Blimey! What happened to Ginny?" keened Euan Abercrombie, a small second-year Gryffindor that Harry had seen but never spoken to.
Harry's attention was immediately directed to the pile of robes at the bottom of the nearby orb. He rushed over to the table and began to clear away debris. A tangle of red hair and one hand were visible in the mass of disarrayed robes.
"Ginny! Can you hear me!" shouted Harry in near panic.
The robes moved and Ginny stirred, finally sitting up on the curved floor of her sphere. A darkening bruise was blossoming across her right cheek.
"Harry?" she asked in a dazed voice. "How did I get in here?"
"She conjured the magic," explained Euan very quickly. "We were dueling and she formed that thing," he said gesturing to Ginny's orb. "I couldn't touch her through it, but it seemed she couldn't do anything to me either. Then I remembered Harry saying that enemies might attack the ground we stand on. I didn't attack, I just levitated the orb and sent it sailing. I didn't mean for it to put the whack on you Harry. I'm sorry."
Harry took the gist of Euan's prattling, all the while trying to roust Ginny to sensibility.
"Do something Harry!" demanded Ron, as Hermione clutched his arm.
"Ginny," said Harry through the shimmering globe, "your magic is point-specific. We can't remove it from out here. You have to end the spell from in there. Do you understand? You have to cancel your own magic for us to be able to get to you."
Ginny looked at Harry in a bemused sort of way. "Harry you and Ron look funny. You're all wavy and fat." She giggled.
"What do you mean? You can't end this?" demanded Ron.
Ignoring Ron, Harry contained his panic long enough to have Hermione open the door to the Room of Requirement. He immediately sent a jet of golden light from his wand into the corridor and then reset his attention on Ginny. He could see the bruise had enlarged, now extending from Ginny's cheek, across her forehead and up into her hair. She didn't seem able to focus on his instructions, and when he asked her to find her wand, she was unable to comply.
Harry's coaxing was interrupted as Minerva McGonagall rushed into the room. "Potter! What has happened? I'm not accustomed to being summoned by a student!" Her chastisement faded when she saw Ginny. "Potter! Explain if you please!" she commanded.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened Headmistress," said Harry as he attempted to split his attention between Ginny and McGonagall. "We had a collision of two protective spheres. We've never experienced anything like this before."
McGonagall looked intently at Ginny. "I can't say that I've seen this particular magic before, that is if you don't count the time we had our differences in the hallway outside this room. I assume it is the same type." She looked at Harry with a steely eye.
"It's the same magic," affirmed Harry. "It's point-specific. Ginny has to remove it from inside."
"Look out!" shouted Ron frostily.
Harry's attention was drawn to Ron's statue-like pointing. Ginny's globe had glazed over on the inside, as if covered in snow.
"Ginny! Don't do any magic inside the globe!" shouted Harry. "The only magic I want you to attempt is to remove the globe. You have to aim at exactly the same spot and use exactly the same wording and inflection of your original incantation. You can do this. You have to focus!" Harry's words rose in a plea.
Attention was broken from Ginny as Madam Pomfrey hurried through the door. "I came as quickly as I could Headmistress," panted the nurse.
"Poppy, I need you to be prepared to aid Miss Weasley as soon as we extract her from this magic," said McGonagall.
Harry was about to reinforce the futility of trying to remove the magic from without, when the globe disappeared and Ginny crumpled to the floor in a pile of frost-covered robes.
Madam Pomfrey acted immediately. She dispersed the frost and covered Ginny in heated blankets. Acting the general, she ordered immediate actions. Ginny was littered, and swept away toward the hospital wing.
Harry made to follow Madam Pomfrey, when McGonagall stopped him.
"Potter! A word! Now!" she added as she saw Harry glance from the exit door and back to her. "The rest of you, please clean up this mess," she said imperiously. She led Harry aside. "Potter, when I saw you use this magic in the hallway, I assumed you were the master of it."
Harry started to protest, but was silenced by McGonagall's raised palm. "When one sees a person stride to the fencing mat, foil in hand; one surmises the contestant knows what he is doing. One does not shout warnings about how dangerous the rapier may be. Neither does one shout instructions about fencing. I hope I make myself clear."
"Yes Headmistress," said Harry. "I thought I had explored this magic thoroughly. Although now I see that I've never had occasion to have two protective spheres in close proximity to each other. I understand my folly, and I will strive to prevent a similar occurrence in the future."
"And well you should," cut in McGonagall. "I suggest you cancel any plans you might have had for tonight. I would think you would like to see Miss Weasley and offer an apology."
"Yes," said Harry. "That's exactly what I'd like to do. If it's not too large an imposition, would you see these back to their dormitories?" He indicated the G2, just finishing the cleaning of the Room of Requirement.
"I'm inclined to make you do it yourself, but under the circumstances, I'll see to it."
McGonagall turned to leave and then added, "Potter, I am sorry for Miss Weasley's injury. Sometimes teaching carries unintentional outcomes. I'll leave Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley to you."
She gathered the remaining students, and ignoring protests, led them from the room.
Wordlessly, Ron, Hermione, and Harry sped to the hospital wing. When they arrived, the found Madam Pomfrey winding the last bit of a long linen cloth about Ginny's head.
"Cracked skull," tisked Madam Pomfrey. "This kind of injury is usually reserved for the Quidditch pitch. She'll be fit enough by tomorrow, but it was a near thing."
Harry marveled at the Madam Pomfrey's work. An intricate array of linen strips covered Ginny from chin to hairline. The only openings were at her nose, mouth, and at her closed eyes.
"Madam Pomfrey?" questioned Harry, "What did you have to do to help Ginny?"
"I reknitted her skull. That was the easy part. The biggest problem was her brain."
Ron snorted, then recognizing the seriousness of the situation, fell silent.
Madam Pomfrey raked Ron with her eyes before she continued, "Brains are delicate things. Healers have to be very careful because each patient reacts differently to the curative magic. When a brain has been sloshed about in a skull, as Miss Weasley's was, it gets bruised. One cannot simply open a skull and apply Cantwell's Contusion Creame, as it's for external use only."
"When will she be conscious?" asked Hermione in a small voice.
"She will be asleep the entire night. I can't have her thrashing about and possibly injuring herself further," answered Madam Pomfrey.
"Is there anything that we can do?" asked Harry.
"Yes there is!" responded Madam Pomfrey forcefully. "Let Miss Weasley get her rest, and I might add, please be more careful; Miss Granger...you in particular."
Hermione looked puzzled at the admonition, so Madam Pomfrey explained, "You seem to be duty-bent on dangerous pursuits." She turned directly to Hermione. "You are the only one of this unfortunate four who hasn't had need of ministrations in the last week. Keep it that way!"
Hermione smiled a weak smile, squeezed Ginny's limp hand, and turned toward the exit, Ron at her side. Harry kissed Ginny lightly and left with his friends. They walked in silence to Gryffindor tower. Arriving, they found the Gryffindor component of the G2 waiting up for them.
Upon seeing Harry enter the common room, Colin rushed over. "Harry I'm sorry about Ginny. I'm the one to blame. When you left the Room of Requirement, it was my idea to continue practicing. Without someone to oversee and observe, I guess we got a bit out of control." His words gushed out like water from a breached dam.
Harry was about to respond when Hermione set in, "It's not entirely Colin's fault. We all joined in, a bit too enthusiastically if the truth be told. None of us thought to set a proctor to keep us from running away with ourselves." She put her head on Ron's shoulder and shuddered.
"She's right," broke in Euan Abercrombie, "we all were so keen on continuing the practice that we didn't consider a structure, or the danger of what we were doing. I feel like giving it all up. What if Ginny, or any one of us for that matter, had been killed?"
Harry watched as Euan's words sunk in. Faces drooped, more than a few tears fell silently, the group looked utterly defeated.
"Here now! Ginny will be all right!" said Harry bracingly, as he slapped Euan on the shoulder. "She'd have none of that. Did you think that a battle against Voldemort and his followers would be painless?" Ginny knows what it's like to be controlled by someone else, and although I hate to put words in her mouth; I think she'd say "Buck Up! Move On!"
A few smiles flitted across faces as people recalled Ginny saying something very like what Harry had proposed.
"Regardless," said Harry, "as hard as it is, we have to prepare ourselves for losses. It will be hard to see friends injured, or worse... but if we're serious about putting what we know into action, it's bound to happen."
"It's not just fun and games, is it then?" said Dennis soberly.
"No it's not," responded Harry. "When we leave here Saturday morning it's no longer academic, it's real. That's why I encouraged you to teach your families. It's a struggle... an actual war. We have to be tough mentally as well as magically. We can win, but it will take an effort from all of us."
Harry watched as his words registered. "This is an opportunity to advance. Strengthen your resolve. Commit to the cause. Those decisions come from inside, they cannot be imposed upon you. I believe in you!"
There were nods of understanding as, one-by-one, Gryffindors headed for bed in stoic silence. Harry left Ron and Hermione in the common room and made his way to his room. As he pulled off his robes and prepared for bed his hands trembled. Despite his encouraging words to the contrary, he was shaken. He drifted off to an uncomfortable sleep, tormented by a single thought, "I could have lost Ginny!"
When Harry awoke, it was still hours before sunrise. Seeing that he would gain no further rest, Harry dressed quietly and went to the common room. Nothing moved, nothing at all. He sat in an armchair and watched as the last embers in the fireplace crumbled into white ash. Stirring from his malaise, he went to the window and looked out over the grounds. A light in Hagrid's cabin roused his spirit.
"I've got time," he said to the empty room. "Why not!"
He returned to his room and grabbed his worn pack, his Firebolt and his invisibility cloaks. Not wanting to face the debilitating effects of elf-spectra magic to exit the castle, he stealthily made his way to Myrtle's bathroom. When he arrived, he found himself a bit disappointed that Myrtle was away from her stall. He opened the secret egress with a word and installed the Bubble Body charm as he descended the pipe. In minutes he burst the surface of the lake like some invisible, breaching whale.
He flew directly to Hagrid's cabin in the dark cool of the morning. He removed his charm and his cloaks before he knocked. He smiled at a hurried scurrying inside before he said, "Hagrid, it's me, Harry."
The door opened a crack, buttering the garden with a slice of warm yellow light. A huge jet-black eye framed in a tangle of hair appeared at the crack.
"'arry!" exclaimed Hagrid in acknowledgment. "Can't be too careful now-a-days. Come in, come in."
Harry entered and felt immediately at home. A fire crackled on the grate and a faint smell of pine smoke perfumed the air. "Hi Hagrid," he said through a broad grin.
"Blimey it's good ter see yeh 'arry," exclaimed Hagrid. "Fancy a cuppa?"
"Yes thanks," said Harry. He looked around the cabin as Hagrid busied himself with mugs and hot water. Noting an absence, he asked, "Where's Capricio?"
"Yer dragon prefers goin' out at night. In fact 'e seems ter prefer the dark."
"Makes sense," said Harry, "he lived alone and in the dark for nearly ten centuries. It's probably a hard habit to break."
"Aye! We get summat tied ter our schedules," replied Hagrid. "But 'e's usually back about now. 'e'll be excited ter see yeh."
Harry took the steaming mug that Hagrid offered and added milk and sugar. "Hagrid, thanks for looking after Capricio. I know it's hard. It means a lot to me."
"Don' know what yer on about," said Hagrid. "'e's been nothin' but a joy. In fact, when I compare 'im an Norbert, I see why yeh were a bit put out."
Harry smiled into his mug at the thought of being "a bit put out." "Really Hagrid, I understand more about how you felt about Norbert than I ever thought I could. Having Capricio around has taught me what it means to grow fond of something others consider dangerous."
Harry looked quickly back into his mug as he noticed a tear slip from the corner of Hagrid's eye and into his tangled beard. He gave Hagrid a moment to compose himself before looking up from his drink.
"Hagrid, when Capricio gets back, I like to fly with him a bit before it gets too light. Headmistress McGonagall warned me about being seen with him, so I'd be back before dawn."
Before Hagrid could reply, there was a tremendous clatter in the chimney. Harry drew his wand and dropped into a defensive stance. Soot and ash cascaded into the crackling fire sending up a wall of sparks. Harry lowered his wand as he saw Capricio land amid the flames, shake himself off, and launch into the room. When the wyvern saw Harry, it flew directly at him, growing larger as it approached. By the time Capricio had crossed the small room, he was able to wrap Harry in black leathery wings and knock him to the floor. Harry emerged smiling from the "dragon hug" as Capricio resumed his smaller manifestation.
"Off with yeh!" said Hagrid waving a huge hand dismissively. "Jus' keep yer eyes skinned."
Harry grabbed his Firebolt and headed for the door with Capricio close behind. As soon as they were outside, they were airborne. Harry soon discovered that Capricio's night vision far outstripped his own.
Presently, Harry landed and when Capricio had joined him, he explained his intent. "...so you see," he finished up, "We would have to fly in the forest again. Are you game?"
Capricio chittered the dragon sound that Harry had come to recognize as affirmation. Accordingly, Harry conjured several small tools and placed them in his backpack, pulled the golden Time-Turner chain from beneath his robes, surrounded himself and Capricio with the chain, and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Only minutes later, they reappeared. Harry sat his bulging haversack heavily on the paving stones of Hagrid's front porch. He staggered to the door and knocked.
The door opened almost immediately. Hagrid took in Harry's state and dragged him to a seat by the fire. Capricio settled next to the embers, furled his wings and went to sleep.
"Blimey 'arry, yeh 'aven't been gone long! What's 'appened ter yeh?" asked Hagrid with concern.
"Just a bit tired and hungry," conceded Harry. "Do you mind if I make a meal?"
"'elp yerself ter anythin' I got," said Hagrid.
"That won't be necessary," said Harry. He took out his wand and conjured a plate of steaming cottage fries, sizzling sausages, and rich brown gravy. Capricio stirred at the smell of the food and Harry handed over a dozen brown sausages, which the dragon attacked with gusto. Harry wolfed his food with equal abandon.
"'arry, I've got ter tell yeh," said Hagrid, "I've always wished I could o' finished my schoolin'. 'specially when I see a slick bit o' magic like that."
Harry blushed at the compliment. "Why don't you go back and finish?" asked Harry as he considered the idea. "You only have three years left..."
"Nah, 'arry. Remember, I was expelled," said Hagrid forlornly.
"I know that, but I also know that the Ministry knows that you didn't open the Chamber of Secrets, they know Aragog didn't kill Myrtle. That's why you were expelled. They made the mistake, not you. So why not go back, become a proper wizard, get your wand back!" Harry's voice rose with encouragement as he sold himself on the concept.
"I don' think the Ministry would be too chuffed about a 'alf-giant becomin' a full wizard..."
"It's not Fudge anymore," said Harry, cutting Hagrid off. "Scrimgeour may not hold the same prejudices. He doesn't listen to Umbridge like Fudge did, and I'd wager that Headmistress McGonagall would be on your side!"
"I...I've thought about it... dreamed about it really, but I never took the thought seriously." Hagrid ran his huge fingers through his mass of hair. "Do yeh really think it's possible?"
"I do," said Harry animatedly. "I'll even go you one better; I'll do everything in my power to see that you get your chance."
"Jus' the thought o' goin' ter classes with yeh..." Hagrid looked at his boots.
Harry was struck with the sudden realization that he hadn't told Hagrid his decision not to come back to Hogwarts for his final year. When Hagrid looked up from the floor, his face shining with new possibilities; Harry didn't have the heart to correct him.
"I'm glad that Professor Dumbledore sent me ter fetch yeh when yeh was just a baby. I never thought that doin' that would bring such a good friend."
"Hagrid," said Harry, his tone suddenly serious, "I've never been told about that day. Would you be willing to tell me what happened?"
Hagrid fidgeted with his bucket-sized mug, finally succeeding in breaking off the handle. "Yeh see 'arry, only it's 'ard ter talk about them times. I knew yer mum and dad. Liked 'em a lot. I knew Sirius and Peter too. I actually felt sorry fer Peter. 'e kind'er reminded me of me when I was young. 'e wasn't great shakes at magic. Oh 'e was all right, but runnin' 'round with yer father and Sirius, 'e got sort o' looked over."
Hagrid paused and took a drink from his wounded mug. Harry wasn't absolutely sure he wanted to hear the story, even now that he had convinced Hagrid to talk.
Oblivious to Harry's hesitation, Hagrid plunged on. "Yeh 'ave ter understand what it was like, 'arry. The Order of the Phoenix was our only protection. We trusted each other, then things started ter 'appen, things that pointed ter a traitor. Order members was trapped and killed. Everyone became uneasy about rabbitin' out too much information. Dumbledore told the Order that yer parents an' the Longbottoms was in danger. 'e arranged ter protect yer family and Neville's too. The night yer parents were... the night you was... that night... Dumbledore was with the Longbottoms. When 'e got the Phoenix feather from yer father, 'e 'ad a decision ter make... stay with the Longbottoms or go ter yer parents. 'e told me later that it was one of the 'ardest decisions 'e ever made. Mind you, 'e 'ad ter make up 'is mind in about ten seconds. 'e told me 'e thought the attack on yer parents was a decoy, so 'e stayed with the Longbottoms. 'e Order-feathered me ter go 'elp yer folks." Hagrid broke his narrative and looked at his hands.
Harry sighed. "I don't want to hear this any more than you want to tell it, but I need to know. Please... go on."
"Well Dumbledore 'ad his reasons fer thinkin' the Longbottoms were You-Know-Who's target," continued Hagrid. "'e sent me ter check on yer parents. When I got there, and it took me some time mind yeh, 'cause I'm not allowed ter do magic. I found Peter Pettigrew searchin' the wreckage of yer 'ome. Pettigrew told me 'e 'ad come ter see yer father and found it that way. I believed 'im. I 'elped 'im ter search the rubble. I found... yer dad. Pettigrew left then in a mighty 'urry. I'd taken care of yer parents and just got yeh clear of the wreckage when Sirius showed up on 'is motorcycle. Sirius was of a frenzy when I told 'im 'bout yer parents. Asked what happened. I told 'im what I knew; 'e was in the Order after all. When I told 'im 'bout Pettigrew, 'e got real quiet-like. 'e offered ter take yeh, but I said no. Then 'e up an' gives me 'is motorbike, calm as you please, sniffs about the place fer a minute and disapparates. I never clapped eyes on 'im again until Dumbledore reintroduced 'im in ter the Order. When I Order-feathered Dumbledore 'bout what I found, 'is orders was ter bring yeh straight ter Little Whinging. It took all day on the motorbike 'cause I didn't dare fly it 'till after dark. I gave yeh over ter McGonagall and Dumbledore. We left yeh with them muggles. Yer parents was buried in Godric 'ollow Cemetery. The muggles never knew there was anyone in the 'ouse. Gas explosion they called it. Sirius caught Pettigrew the next day and it was straight ter Azkaban fer 'im. I'm sorry. I wisht I coulda' done more."
Hagrid and Harry sat in contemplation as Capricio teased Fang. The untouched tea was long-cold when Harry stood to leave. "Thanks Hagrid. I know it was hard." He patted Hagrid's immense forearm. You've given me a lot to think about. I want to talk to Ron and Hermione and we'll probably be back after Capricio."
"Right," said Hagrid absently.
Harry said goodbye to Capricio, admonishing him to leave off tormenting Fang and then let himself from the cabin.
Morning had arrived, the sun bathing the grounds in pale silver light. Harry flew back to the castle doors and was pleasantly surprised to find them unlocked. He made his way back to the dormitories and found Ron just dressing.
"Where've you been mate?" asked Ron as Harry entered.
"Down to visit Hagrid," explained Harry, "I couldn't sleep, and it didn't seem right to wake you too," he said as he stowed his heavy haversack under his bed.
"Thanks for the lie in. Should we have breakfast or go see Ginny?" asked Ron as he laced his trainers.
"Let's find Hermione and go see Ginny, then breakfast, after that... dangerous magic," said Harry.
"Well as long as we face danger on a full stomach..." taunted Ron.
Harry followed Ron from the room, smiling at the back of Ron's head as they descended toward the common room.
Ron stopped abruptly, as if in deep thought, and turned to Harry. "Wait here a mo'," and he pushed past Harry, back up the stairs. He returned a minute later, huffing loudly, a package under his arm.
Hermione was waiting for them, arms crossed, impatiently tapping her foot on the floor. "It's about time you slug-a-beds," she groused. "Considering all you wanted to accomplish today, I thought you'd be up much earlier."
Ron and Harry exchanged a knowing smile.
"To see Ginny then?" asked Ron, yawning widely.
"I should say so," responded Hermione sharply. "Who knows what she's had to endure during the night."
They left Gryffindor tower and upon arriving in hospital, they found Madam Pomfrey tending to Ginny. "A visit, not a stay?" asked Madam Pomfrey sardonically.
"Just a visit," responded Hermione in a subdued voice. "How is she doing?"
"Not as well as I had hoped," said Madam Pomfrey. "Despite a considerable dose of Immobilizing Elixir, Miss Weasley had a fitful night. She may be well into the evening before she has recovered enough to leave. You may visit two minutes, then be on your way."
The trio nodded as one in understanding. Madam Pomfrey bustled to the opposite end of the ward to check on Professor Flitwick. Ron, Hermione, and Harry stood silently over Ginny until the matron returned. Each gave her still form a gentle touch, then they left reluctantly. Nothing was said until they were seated in the Great Hall. Ron attacked bacon, kippers and mush with wanton abandon.
"You are such an insensitive wart," said Hermione as she struck Ron on the shoulder.
Before Ron could retaliate, a pair of owls landed on the table in front of Hermione and Harry. Ron looked at the owls and snorted in laughter.
"What?" asked Hermione. "I think they're cute."
Each owl had a lace collar around its neck and carried a monogrammed linen envelope.
"They're formal owls," explained Hermione blushing. "Ginny and I ... we've seen them in the post office in Hogsmeade."
"Right," said Harry as he resisted the urge to ask Hermione about her knowledge of formal owls. One of the owls hopped to him and held out its leg very stiffly. He untied the envelope as he watched Hermione do the same to her owl.
"It's an invitation to Bill and Fleur's wedding," said Hermione as she scanned down the engraved bond paper.
"Why didn't I get one?" groused Ron as he attempted to shoo Hermione's owl away from his plate. "And what's wrong with this owl?" The owl pointedly ignored Ron's shooing motions, standing as resolutely as a Beefeater.
"They're waiting for our answers," explained Hermione as she showed Ron the final line of the invitation.
Ron mouthed the words "repondez s'il vou plait." "That's French, that is," he complained. "How are you supposed to know what that means?"
"It's usually abbreviated "rsvp," explained Hermione. "It just means, "please respond." They want to know if we'll be at the wedding. As to why you didn't receive an invitation; I think Bill assumed you, as his brother, would be there."
"Either that, or you're not invited," jibed Harry.
Ron ignored him. "RSVP huh?" he said taking the invitation from Hermione. "I thought it was code for old wizards at parties. You know... Robe Strains Veiling Potbelly."
Hermione smiled in spite of herself and then leaned into Ron.
Hermione had just finished her answer when Harry's owl nipped his finger.
"I think it wants your answer," said Colin Creevey as he slid into the seat next to Harry.
Harry quickly drafted a "Yes, Thank you" and signed it. His owl hooted in thanks, and flew off after Hermione's owl.
Harry turned his attention from Ron and Hermione; now engaged in a low, whispered conversation, to Colin. "I wanted to talk to you about the G2," he said conspiratorially.
"That's exactly why I came over," said Colin excitedly. "We missed our chance last night. I've spoken to some of the G2 and they are as eager to practice with you as I am. There's nearly an hour before classes begin. How about now?"
"I agree with your enthusiasm, but I have a couple of urgent tasks this morning. How about during Professor Flitwick's canceled class period?" offered Harry.
"I'm not sure Headmistress McGonagall will agree to that," observed Colin.
"Let me see what I can do. I'll contact you through your Chocolate Frog card with an answer," responded Harry.
"Can't wait," said Colin as he got up from the table. "After all, I owe you one." He waved a bandaged hand and returned to his G2 group.
"Sorry, I was listening in," said Hermione as Colin departed. "What are your urgent tasks?"
"You didn't tell me urgent tasks," chimed in Ron. "You said dangerous magic."
Harry looked from Ron to Hermione. "It's not a secret," said Hermione with a very knowing air. "We've been around you long enough to know you could be a fatal friend."
Harry paled at the thoughts that ran through his mind... thoughts of dangers in which he had placed his friends.
"In that vein," said Ron, as he pulled a package from the bench beside him. "I want you to have these!" With the flair of a matador's veronica, he shook out two knit sweaters.
"That's not much of a gift, as they already belong to us," said Hermione as she took a red jumper from Ron.
As soon as Hermione pointed it out, it became clear to Harry that Ron was offering him the sweater Mrs. Weasley had knitted for him years before.
"They may be yours, but I've made some improvements," said Ron with a bit of pride.
Harry took the sweater and turned the cuff. Glinting bright white was an array of woven unicorn hair.
"Unicorn jumper," said Harry in awe. "When did you find time to do this? I've been with you almost every waking hour the last two days."
Ron mumbled something in which the words "Time Turner" could be made out. Hermione scowled but held her peace.
Noticing the reprieve, Ron brightened and spoke more forcefully, "I figured you'd need all the help you could get after I saw that nutter Winky almost do you in."
"Ron, don't call her that," said Hermione defensively. "She's not in her right mind."
It was Ron's turn to bite off his response.
Harry jumped into the awkward silence. "Thanks mate," he said as he pulled off his robe and donned the sweater. "I have been nervous about facing Dobby. He nearly killed me once before... and that was when he was trying to save my life! I can only imagine what it will be like when he means to attack me."
Harry replaced his robe over his jumper and rose to leave.
"We're coming with you," said Hermione quickly, springing to her feet.
"Thanks," said Harry in a relieved voice. "I appreciate your help."
In an almost embarrassed silence, the trio headed to the Room of Requirement. At the last turning, Ron stopped and blocked Hermione. "Hermione, I don't want to start a row," he began, "but I've given it a lot of thought. If we are going to help Harry, we need to seriously consider using the Time-Turner."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "I don't see the immediacy. And since when do you say seriously consider?"
"You're not going to put me off course," answered Ron. "I really have spent a lot of time thinking about this. If Harry is going against elf magic, he needs more than just a few minutes preparation. It takes time to learn how the jumper flows magic. My suggestion is to go back several hours; let Harry spend the time becoming familiar with unicorn hair abilities."
A moment of silent understanding passed between Ron and Hermione. Harry saw Hermione's expression soften. She took Ron's hand and smiled. Harry knew he had missed something once again, but he didn't intrude.
"All right," conceded Hermione as she squeezed Ron's hand. "Two hours. Show us what you've done on your own." A note of pride tinged her voice.
Ron nodded and turned the corner into the seventh floor corridor containing the Room of Requirement.
"We'd better use the Time-Turner out here. If we wait until we're inside, we run the risk of seeing ourselves," reasoned Hermione sagely.
"That makes sense," said Ron as he pulled a long gold chain from beneath his robes. He stopped and looked to Harry for approval.
Harry pulled an odd pocket watch from his robe, examined it for a moment and smiled at Ron. "Lead on," he said in an encouraging voice.
Ron deftly flipped his golden chain around Harry and Hermione; and then, tongue between teeth, set his Time-Turner and spun the hourglass.
When the debilitating sense of time travel subsided, the trio found themselves in a dark corridor, it being several hours before dawn. Harry recovered first, lit his wand tip, and while the others righted themselves, called the Room of Requirement into service.
"I distinctly dislike this feeling," said Hermione as she clutched at her stomach.
"I don't rightly care for it either," stated Ron flatly.
"Neither do I," said Harry. "But I've made a commitment to do what it takes to defeat Voldemort."
Ron flinched but rallied. "Let's get to it," he said as he led the way into the magical room.
Harry put his cumbersome backpack on a convenient shelf while Hermione donned her red jumper.
"First off," said Ron, "I've got to tell you that the fight with Winky was the maiden test of my magic-warding design."
"What?" blurted Harry. "You mean to tell me that you stepped into Winky's magic stream not knowing if your jumper would protect you!"
Ron looked sheepishly at the floor until Hermione lifted his chin. As he looked up, she kissed him.
"That was a very brave thing to do," she said with a quaver in her voice.
"More mental than brave," responded Ron. "I could have gotten us all killed if the unicorn hair had reacted badly to elf magic. I still get the collywobbles when I think about the risk to us all."
"Great advances only come when someone is willing to face great risks," said Harry as one of Dumbledore's "friendship" memories stirred inside.
"I don't know about great advances," said Ron, "All I could think to do was put my altered jumper on a mannequin. It was a long slog, and it was the mannequins that paid most dearly. It wasn't until I had worked out the basics, that I wore it and attempted to charm my arm or chest. That got a bit dicey."
Hermione, admiration evident in her expression; first smiled and then hugged Ron tightly. Ron blushed as crimson as his sweater.
"Shall we begin?" asked Ron moving away from the praise.
Harry smiled inwardly with satisfaction as he recalled Ron's declaration about not wanting the responsibility of teaching.
Ron, it turned out, was an enthusiastic instructor when it came to a subject of which he was master. He patiently led Harry and Hermione through the mechanics of moving magical energy. After fitful practice, both Harry and Hermione could shunt any spell Ron cast at them down their jumpers and through their wands; dissipating the magic harmlessly into the surroundings. Hermione then teamed with Ron, and as a pair, they harried Harry. Another hour found the trio exhausted. Harry was the first to spot the need and proposed a meal and a rest.
"You'll be facing Dobby any minute," said Hermione anxiously. "I don't think eating right now is a good idea."
"Actually," said Ron sheepishly, "we have quite a bit of time before Harry has his go with Dobby."
Hermione's eyes narrowed, "Ronald what have you done?" she demanded.
Ron squirmed a moment, and then, not looking at Hermione, he explained, "I took us back to the first day of this school year. I didn't want us running into ourselves. I knew Harry and I would be in the common room. Hermione, you are in Ancient Runes. Besides, I found that the when in time wasn't as important as the amount of time spent then."
"Ron's right," echoed Harry. "The number of trips you engage simultaneously, the duration of those trips, and the attention you pay to meals and rest, are far more important than the time-distance."
The boys looked at Hermione. Finally, her expression moderated, and she turned to Harry, releasing Ron from her eye-grasp. "Fine!" she said preemptively. "But while we have time, you must show us the other things you have learned. If I'm going to suffer this detestable feeling again, I want to learn something to my benefit."
Ron looked stung at Hermione's words. She took his hand and with a slightly modified attitude, she explained, "Ronald, I didn't mean that the way it must have sounded. I feel that the magic you just taught us is very important. Your jumpers are amazing. I just need you to know what time travel does to me. I feel queasy. It's as if I am in a shadow world. I feel things around me that I can't see, not good things. It gets worse the longer I use a Time-Turner."
"That's news to me," said Harry. "The major effects that I've noticed are lethargy, rapacity, and perplexity."
Ron shot a sidelong glance at Harry.
"Sorry," said Harry quickly. "I get tired, hungry, and loopy."
"I've noticed those same things," said Ron. "Is it possible that people react differently to Time-Turner use?"
"Professor McGonagall warned me about the side-effects of the Time-Turner before she gave over the one the Ministry approved for my use," said Hermione. "She didn't make mention of differential effects between individuals. But then, she didn't expect anyone but me to use the wretched device." She paused as if in serious consideration and then went on, "Now that I think on it Harry; your magic under the influence of the Time-Turner is still quite potent. Remember the Dementors at the side of the lake... you were a second iteration in that timeline and you conjured a tremendous Patronus, and that's not to mention some of the things you've just hinted you've done."
"We only used the Time-Turner for several hours that time," said Harry thoughtfully. "By the time I got to the hospital wing that night, I remember I was pretty well wrung out. I ascribed the way I felt to what we had been through, not to Time-Turner use," he said, avoiding Hermione's unasked question.
"Does it matter?" asked Ron. "I mean really? Does it matter? We'll only be here at Hogwarts for another day. How much trouble can we get into in such a short a go?"
Hermione and Harry laughed. "I'd say there's a good chance to get into more trouble than we can even imagine," responded Harry. "Time-Turners give you a lifetime at your moment's whim."
"We will not be using them extensively," said Hermione forcefully.
Harry wasn't sure if he heard promise or threat in Hermione's voice. "Let's eat, and then I'll show you the Gemynd spell," he said attempting to salve the situation.
Hermione seemed placated at the prospect of learning the spell, Ron at the thought of a meal.
Harry shared some of the things he had learned about magical meal preparation, and after they had eaten, Hermione insisted on attempting to conjure a pastry. It looked appetizing and she handed it proudly to Ron. Though he fought it valiantly, his face proclaimed that it didn't taste very good.
"I'll get better at it," she said quickly. And then she blushed so red that Harry thought he could feel the heat coming off her face.
"What's up?" asked Harry lamely.
"Nothing!" responded Ron and Hermione in unison.
As Harry considered them closely, Hermione jumped in, "Let's get on with the spell, shall we?"
Harry let his concern pass. He taught them Gemynd, agreeing to stand their guard while they were under its influence. Ron was actually more relaxed than Hermione as they raised their arms into the air and entered the trance-like state.
Harry resisted the urge to pry into what Ron and Hermione were considering as they ordered their thoughts. Instead, he busied himself in an inventory of his backpack. By the time both of his friends had ended the spell, he knew what he had to do.