Content Harry Potter
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Author Notes:

There's a lot going on in this chapter, so you'll have to bear with me as I get the story kicked off properly.  Hopefully, there's not too much Quidditch -- that can be touchy for some people.  ;)

Chapter Three – Rat and Dog

Dumbledore was not seen for the next two weeks and Harry was concerned that he’d had a terrible reaction to the Basilisk fang which had penetrated his face, or that something had gone wrong with the Diary. He was reassured, however, when Hedwig delivered a note during breakfast at the end of the second week from Dumbledore himself.

Harry,
Do not be alarmed at my absence. I have been isolated from the rest of the school by Madame Pomfrey for a resurgence of my childhood Dragon Pox. Unlike my first bout with the Pox, I have not been adversely affected by my illness. However, Madam Pomfrey is concerned that it could transfer to the students, who would not be as lucky as I have been.
We will carry on with our project as soon as she determines I am not a risk to the students.
Ever yours,
Albus Dumbledore

Harry read the letter aloud to Ron, Hermione, and a still distant, but neutral, Ginny.

“How long does Dragon Pox stay contagious?” asked Hermione.

“When I had it,” said Ron, “I was in bed for a month. It was horrible.”

Harry handed the letter over to Hermione for another read, as she always did. “Still, have you ever heard of anyone having a recurrence?” she asked.

Harry shook his head. Even with ten extra years as a wizard, Harry hadn’t heard of anyone getting Dragon Pox, let alone someone having it twice. He was also secretly concerned about this new development because Dumbledore was never sick in his old timeline – that is, until his sixth year and he was forced to drink that awful potion.

“Well, it seems like Madame Pomfrey has things under control,” said Hermione dismissively. She looked up to the Head Table as it was beginning to thin of teachers. “We’d better get to class.”

*

October approached in much the same manner as it had in Harry’s memories, wet and windy. Oliver Wood was as maniacal as ever and got his team together for a crack-of-dawn training session as before. This time, however, the revelation that the Slytherin team was sporting new Nimbus 2001s was blunted by the fact that every team had a set of the gleaming, speedy brooms. Malfoy was maligned by Flint because the only reason he was on the team was the advantage they’d have had from the brooms. Since they didn’t have another Seeker, the blond Slytherin was allowed to remain on the team, but his strutting was kept at bay.

During their second practice at the beginning of October, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny sat in the stands to support Harry and the twins. Hermione had a large tome open on her lap and Ron and Ginny cheered loudly each time Harry circled close to their seats, Scabbers snoozing as he perched on Ron’s shoulder. Harry found that since he already knew the plays they were practicing, and had a firm command of his position as Seeker from many years of experience; his eyes didn’t want to pay attention to anything but the smiling redheaded first-year that screamed his name whenever he came near.

“Oi, Potter!” said Wood, who had just finished working with their Chasers on a variation of the Porskoff Ploy. “Get yer eyes off Weasley’s sister and back on the pitch.”

Harry pressed his lips together and, in a fit of pent up frustration, flew his broom right at Wood, dodging to the left just in time to avoid hitting his captain and zoomed through the middle hoop. He ignored Wood’s indignant yelling as he pulled the quick 2001 straight up and then over into a dive that few players could manage. He was dimly aware of the silent stares from his teammates and friends as he urged his broom on to its top speed, pulling out of his dive in time to brush the toes of his boots along the tips of the foot-long grass that filled the middle of the pitch.

Letting his speed bleed off naturally, Harry sat up and arced around the stadium in a lazy circle. The 2001 was a bit faster than his 2000, but nothing compared with the Firebolt he hoped to still acquire next year.

His musings were interrupted by a loud shout and the rumble of several heated voices. Hermione was red-faced with shock, while Wood and Ron were extolling his brilliant flying.

“That was a perfect Wronski Feint!” said Wood and Ron together. Then Wood, who was closer, went on, “I’ve only seen it done once where the Seeker didn’t plough into the pitch, and that was from a Puddlemere match two years ago. Why have you been holding out on us? I’m going to have to revise our plays now...” He continued to praise Harry, but Harry tuned him out, for up in the stands, Ginny had taken George’s broom and was rocketing across the pitch toward him.

Harry landed on the wet grass and no sooner had he dismounted when he was tackled by a red blur, sending them both sprawling in a tumbled heap across the pitch. When they stopped, Ginny was straddling his middle, pounding on his chest.

“Don’t. You. EVER. Do. That. Again!” Each word was punctuated by a fist. Her eyes and hair were wild, her face red from yelling, and despite the beating she was giving him, he smiled.

Ginny growled and leapt off of him, stomping back to her stolen broom. “You’re impossible, Harry Potter!” she screeched.

Harry got to his feet and in three long strides, pulled her around by her shoulder. “Ginny,” he said softly. She was still glaring at him, her chest heaving as she caught her breath. “I’m sorry.” She didn’t look like she believed him, so he pressed his case. “Really, I am. I didn’t mean to scare you and I certainly didn’t think I was doing something dangerous.”

Her mouth opened to protest, but he held his hand to her lips. “I know you thought it was dangerous, and that’s why I promise to never do it again if you don’t want me to.” Over her head, Harry saw the rest of the team plus Ron and Hermione waiting a respectful distance from them.

Ginny’s face changed from hot anger to tender remorse in a second. “Oh, Harry,” she said gently. “That’s not what I meant.” She rubbed her arms with her hands and searched his eyes. “I wouldn’t keep you from doing what you love. Just promise me you’ll be safe.”

Harry nodded. “As much as I can control it, I’ll stay safe for you.”

Ginny took a step forward and tentatively reached out a hand, letting it rest on his elbow. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said that night.”

Harry glanced at the team again and nodded.

“I think that what you said is a lot for a girl to handle, but if you’re willing to wait for me...,” she swallowed and pinned him with her bright, warm eyes. “If you’ll wait for me, I think we could have something together.”

His heart swelling with joy, Harry’s face split with the biggest smile. “I can wait as long as it takes.”

She squeezed his elbow. “Until then, I think we can at least be friends.”

He took her hand. “Friends,” he repeated and they bent to pick up their brooms before rejoining the onlookers and heading back to the castle.

As they walked through the school’s oak front doors, Harry noticed Hermione giving Scabbers long searching, sidelong glances as he clung to Ron’s shoulders. Finally, when they were about to climb the stairs to Gryffindor tower, Hermione stopped. “Ron,” she said in a way that told Harry she’d figured something out. He pulled his wand from his pocket just in case. Ginny stood on his left side, surveying their friends.

“Ron, can I see your rat for a second?” she said with what Harry could tell was a forced calm.

“Why d’you want Scabbers?” Ron asked, but had plucked the rat from his shoulder and held him in his hands.

Hermione flipped her hair nonchalantly with her free hand. “I wanted to try a spell I learned in this book.” She placed it on the bottom step and produced her wand. Holding out her hand, she repeated her request. “It won’t hurt him.” Harry glanced down for a second and caught the title of the book, The Animagus Compendium.

Ron eyed her suspiciously for a second and then shrugged. “Yeah, all right,” he said and handed him to Hermione.

Scabbers shifted in her hand, squirming uncomfortably as if he knew what spell Hermione was about to cast. Hermione pointed her wand at him and Harry realized what would happen if Scabbers turned into Peter while he was in Hermione’s hand – she would be crushed.

“Hermione, wait!” said Harry at the same time Hermione said the spell and a dim white light connected with Scabbers.

It happened before Harry could react. Scabbers turned into Peter and his new weight pushed Hermione onto the marble floor with a crunch.

“What the—?” said Ron in shock, while Ginny jumped back in fright. Harry didn’t waste another second. A nonverbal Stunner hit Peter before he’d even jumped to his feet and he slumped back onto Hermione, who was moaning in pain.

Harry Levitated Peter off Hermione and knelt at her side. “Ginny, go get Pomfrey!” yelled Harry as he looked over their friend.

Ginny’s retreating foot steps told him she had left as he worked to stabilize Hermione. “Where are you hurt?” he asked and she answered with another moan. Harry ran a diagnostic spell that revealed several broken ribs and a cracked wrist. He flicked his wand again and cast a mild pain-killing charm. Then, he conjured a stretcher and Levitated her onto it.

When he was satisfied that she was as stable as he could make her, Harry turned to Ron. “Find McGonagall, Ron.”

When he didn’t get an answer, Harry looked up at his friend. “Ron?” But Ron wasn’t paying attention to Harry. He was staring at Peter, who was turned over on his side, his pointed face pressed flat into the cold stone floor. “Ron!” yelled Harry and his friend snapped his head up. “Go get McGonagall. We’ll explain everything when you get back.”

Ron nodded numbly and turned to run down the hall.

*

The revelation that Peter Pettigrew was alive sent shockwaves throughout the Wizarding world. Sirius Black’s legally dubious imprisonment was now called into further question. Hermione recovered quickly from her injuries and was back to classes the next day. Ron, however, was haunted by the knowledge that he had kept a grown man in his room for the past year and a half.

“I can’t believe I used to pet him,” Ron said as they made their way from Charms to the Great Hall for the Halloween feast. “He slept in my bed and everything.” He gave an involuntary shudder and turned to Harry. “Did you know who Scabbers was?”

Reluctantly, Harry nodded. “We found out in our third year, when Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban and came here to find him.”

Ginny, who had been listening silently from her place next to Harry, shivered.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” asked Ron hotly as they sat in their usual places.

“Honestly, I was a little worried about what would happen if he was discovered earlier than he should have.”

Ron didn’t seem to like that answer. “But he’s a murderer,” said Ron, drawing stares from the nearby Gryffindors.

“He is,” confirmed Harry. “I couldn’t let Sirius rot in jail either, so I compromised.” Harry looked at Hermione pointedly.

She nodded. “You planted that Animagus stuff on us, knowing that I’d research it and come out with the answer.”

Harry smiled.

“Really tricky, Harry, but what if something worse had happened?” Hermione asked. Ron still seemed put out by Harry not acting sooner.

“Look,” Harry began, “just because I know what happens in my old life, doesn’t mean I can control what happens in this one...” He was about to explain what Peter’s role in Voldemort’s rebirth was when he decided against it. “I decided to be open with my friends and Dumbledore about this whole time-travel thing, but if the public or Voldemort learns about it...” He trailed off. “It’s better if they believe that Hermione’s just a really smart and observant witch who put two and two together. It’s called ‘plausible deniability’.”

Hermione’s cheeks were pink and she looked like she wanted to respond when an owl dropped onto the table. She pulled the Daily Prophet from its leg but there was no pouch for her to pay the required Knut. It flew off, leaving Hermione to shrug at Harry. “The Prophet doesn’t usually get delivered until morning and I’ve already had one today.”

She didn’t get a chance to so much as glance at the front page before a disturbance at the Head Table attracted their attention. Gliding in as graceful as ever, a man with half-moon spectacles and flowing silver robes took his place behind the middle chair. Dumbledore was back.

Applause broke out across the Hall and he waved merrily to everyone before motioning for everyone to be still.

“Thank you,” he said in a strong voice, despite the fact that his face was pale and his eyes twinkled less than they were accustomed to. “I thank everyone who has sent cards and chocolates while I was quarantined. I’m certain that they contributed to my speedy recovery.” There were a few chuckles from the students. “And now we all have more important things to attend to.”

As with the opening and closing feasts, food appeared on the golden platters along every table and students dug in with their usual gusto.

“I’m glad he’s back,” Hermione said, still holding her unopened Daily Prophet while Ron loaded his plate full. “It was really nice of people to send him cards. I wish I’d thought of it.”

Harry was glad the Headmaster was back as well. Things weren’t right with him out of the castle. Harry was also glad that he was eating real food instead of watching ghosts float through moldy and rotting plates in an attempt to taste it. This time around was definitely much better than his last run through second year.

As Harry selected some Beef Wellington, Hermione opened the paper and a note fell out. She let out a gasp and, with trembling fingers, handed the paper over to Harry. “You’d better read this.”

Harry scanned the headline as Hermione inspected the note. Ginny leaned over his shoulder and read along. Harry’s frown had deepened to a scowl by the time he reached the end of the article. “Bloody, Bollixing...”

“Harry!” said Hermione sharply. “Language.”

It was difficult to remember that he wasn’t a twelve-year-old but that he was supposed to act like one. “Sorry,” he said sincerely and handed the paper to Ron.

“Blimey,” said Ron after a moment. “Pettigrew escaped! How’d that happen? It only says that he was being moved to Azkaban following his trial.”

Hermione offered the note to Harry. “This might explain things,” she said. “It’s addressed to you.”

Harry opened the wax-sealed parchment and quickly read the letter. It was from Sirius.

Dear Harry,
You don’t know me, but I am your godfather. Your parents asked me to look after you if anything happened to them, but as you know, I’ve been in prison for the past eleven years. Now that I’m free, I would very much like to meet you. Dumbledore has offered that with your permission, I would be able to see your next Quidditch match. If you would like, we can talk after the game.
I’ve sent along a copy of tomorrow’s Daily Prophet so you would know before anyone else that Peter has escaped. Dumbledore found out that he was able to use a split-second gap in the Anti-Animagus field between his holding cell and the transport cage that was going to take him to Azkaban. They are looking for him everywhere, but as you know, he can hide very well in plain sight.
I look forward to seeing you again, Harry.
Sincerely yours,
Sirius Black

Harry pocketed the letter, feeling a lump of emotion clog his throat. Peter had escaped again, and while Harry didn’t know what that meant for Voldemort’s return, he certainly hoped things would align better this time around.

With one lingering look at Ginny, Harry finished his food and went to bed.

*

Double Potions fell on Wednesday of the following week. Harry had been reluctant about his approach to Snape given what he knew about the Potion master’s past, but he found that this time around, his hatred was much improved and he was able to keep his temper in check. This, combined with Harry’s startling new aptitude for Potions, and the news of Sirius’ release, seemed to drive Snape to attack Harry with greater fervor.

“I’ve shuffled the syllabus to accommodate the advanced nature of the students in this class,” said Snape with a gleam in his eye. “Since you all seem so able to keep up with the curriculum, we can skip some of the less-advanced potions and take on the highly tricky Strengthening Solution.”

There were murmured groans throughout the class, mostly from the Gryffindor side because the Slytherins could always count on a good grade regardless of their performance.

Snape flicked his wand at the board and the instructions appeared. Harry remembered that this was the potion he’d blown up to allow Hermione to sneak ingredients for the Polyjuice Potion. He’d mis-stirred halfway through in nervousness and his potion turned out to be too runny. Having all but memorized Snape’s own recipes from Advanced Potion-Making, Harry knew exactly what needed to be done with this potion.

They began chopping puffer-fish eyes, grinding Runespoor scales, and slicing tubeworms, the latter of which made huge slimy messes of the tables.

The only problem arose because Snape had taken to hovering over his desk for the majority of class.

“Why did you add an anti-clockwise stir, Mister Potter?” Snape asked, his large nose looming over the lip of Harry’s bubbling cauldron. “Are you so stupid that you can’t read simple instructions, or merely arrogant enough to believe that you know better than your teacher?”

Harry bit his cheek and continued to stir. “Adding an anti-clockwise stir on every seventh allows the puffer-fish eyes to more fully dissolve and, therefore, to not react as harshly with the tubeworms.”

Out of the corner of Harry’s eye, he could see that Snape knew he was right, but that only caused the man to become more irate.

“Who taught you to do that?” he asked. “The Muggle-born you associate with has no doubt been tutoring you outside of class.”

From behind Harry, he heard Hermione suck in her breath.

“No, sir,” said Harry as meekly as he could. It was terribly difficult to be so pliable, especially when Snape’d just insulted Hermione and because Ron was gaping at him as if he’d grown two heads.

“Then how do you explain your advanced knowledge of potions? You were clearly a dunderhead in this subject last year and yet you display...” Snape stopped speaking suddenly, as if admitting that Harry knew so much about potions would burn his tongue.

Unable to fight back the counter-attack that he’d been practicing in his mind, Harry let it loose. “How about you explain why you’re holding back on us, sir? If you know there’s a better, safer way to brew these potions, why don’t you teach us how it’s done? You should be instructing us instead of picking out every single tiny problem with potions that could never measure up in the first place.”

A deadly silence filled the class. Malfoy’s eyes shone in triumph as he was surely certain that Harry would be given a very harsh set of punishments. Hermione was wringing her hands in worry, while Ron’s smile creased from ear to ear.

The bell rang, snapping everyone out of their trance. “Sample flasks should be turned in to me before you leave. Be sure to label them,” Snape said loudly and slowly. There was a noisy shuffle and amid the clanking of glass and din of chattering, Snape lowered his head to Harry, his eyes burning embers of hatred. “Stay. Put.”

The vein in Snape’s head was pounding ominously by the time the last student left the room.

“Tell me, Potter,” said Snape slowly, clearly having a hard time keeping his composure. “Why do you insist on being either as an insufferable know-it-all as Miss Granger or as arrogant as your father ever was?”

Harry frowned from behind his table. “I really wish you could look at me for who I am, and not for who my father was. I am not James Potter.”

“No,” said Snape frostily. “You’re not; which is why I take great pain to make sure you earn your grades in my class.”

Harry snorted. He’d had enough. It was time to set Snape straight. “I know what’s really bothering you, Professor. I’ve seen it all in your memories. You were in love with my mum and she didn’t love you back. When she married my father and they had me, you couldn’t handle it. You became unhinged and joined Voldemort. Only... Voldemort went after me and my parents, driving you back to the light.” Harry paused, seeing that his words had had the desired effect. He couldn’t help but wonder if the pain he saw reflected in Snape’s eyes was worth it. “You have one thing going for you, Professor, and that’s loyalty. You’ve been loyal to my mum and loyal to Dumbledore – for that, I thank you, but you have to see me as my own person, and not as an incarnation of your spurned love for Lily Evans.”

Snape rocked back onto his desk as if physically struck. He stared back at Harry in wonder and fear. It was a full minute before the silence was broken. “Scrub every desk. I don’t want there to be a single tubeworm left before you leave for lunch.”

With that, Snape swept into his office and slammed the door.

*

Late Saturday morning, Harry found himself eating breakfast with the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, huddled around the end of one of the long, empty house tables. Wood stoically ate his porridge while Fred and George were quietly showing each other variations on their new Beater maneuvers. Katie, Angelina, and Alicia were spelling their nails different colors and giggled when Fred or George noticed. Things were much less uptight then they been in Harry’s memory of this day. Having an even playing field tended to make the match seem winnable, Harry decided.

As the hour of the game approached, they joined the rest of the students thronging to the pitch. The air was steamy for a November day in Scotland, and a row of low, dark clouds on the horizon spoke of thunder and wind. Harry breathed deep, relishing the thought of being back on a broom in a real game. It had been too long. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder if there was something he was forgetting.

Wood did give him a speech, but the words, ‘or die trying’ didn’t feature in it and Harry was very happy to notice the omission. He spelled his glasses to repel water and as a bonus, did his uniform as well before tucking his wand into a special pocket in the left side of his trousers.

Sirius was in the stands, waving a huge red and gold banner that said, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” With a smile, Harry waved and smirked when he saw that the only two students within a ten-foot radius of the recently freed prisoner were Hermione and Ron – the former of which was attempting to spell the banner to a less vulgar variation.

As soon as the whistle blew, Harry sped upward at top speed to search for the Snitch. Malfoy approached him from behind. “How many of Dumbledore’s boots did you have to lick to get those brooms, Scarhead?”

Harry ignored him and shot off for Wood’s end of the pitch. He hadn’t made it ten yards when he was nearly unseated by a Bludger.

“Got it,” said George, who batted it away toward Malfoy, but it arced wide and flew back at Harry at top speed. “What the..?”

That’s when Harry remembered what it was that he’d been forgetting. In all the time and effort he’d spent on changing important things about this time line, he’d completely ignored Dobby, who didn’t know the Basilisk was dead and the Diary ruined.

Executing a perfect Sloth-Grip-Roll, Harry dodged the Bludger, letting it zoom out over the hoops before it turned back for another attack. Knut-sized raindrops began to fall, restricting vision to the pitch, but not much beyond. His hair, the only part of him that wasn’t protected by the Impervious Charm, was soaked in a second.

“Forget me,” he yelled at George. “Keep the other Bludger off our Chasers!”

Harry gritted his teeth and dove for the grassy bottom of the stadium.

The whistling of the Bludger told Harry it was right behind him and he pushed his broom harder, flattening his body to the Nimbus for maximum speed. He aimed for the base of the center goal post and pulled up and around at the last second. He smiled when the Bludger crunched hard into the thick wood of the hoop’s base and he shot off into the sky.

“That’s another score for Angelina!” yelled Lee Jordan. “It’s now tied at thirty all as Pucey takes the Quaffle.”

The Bludger was still embedded in the goal post, but Harry knew it wouldn’t be long before it was free and pursuing him once more. Harry used the time to fly directly after Malfoy, who was making slow circles around the Slytherin goals. Fred and George were going toe to toe with the Slytherin Beaters with the untampered Bludger, leaving the Chasers free to attack the opposing Keepers. It was a real match and Harry smirked at the havoc he was about to cause.

As Harry caught up with Malfoy, he zoomed directly at the boy’s head, missing his face by an inch as the Slytherin careened wildly to his left to avoid contact.

“You’re mental, Potter!” Draco yelled.

“You have no idea,” said Harry, who flew after him again. This time, Draco sped off, Harry following in close pursuit.

A movement in Harry’s peripheral vision informed him that the rouge Bludger was free again, curving up to meet Harry’s speeding broom. Malfoy dove and turned jerkily to his right. Harry smiled at his poor flying and moved to close the corner; his timing would have to be just right.

The whistling of the Bludger was different as if its contact with the goal post had damaged it somehow. Harry didn’t pay too much attention to it, except to time his strike. As Malfoy pulled out of his turning dive, Harry was directly in front of him. Malfoy screeched like a girl and pulled his broom up to stop it. Harry sped around him, putting Malfoy in the direct line of the Bludger. Malfoy probably didn’t even see it coming.

The crunch and sounds of shocked surprise from the stands told Harry that he’d been successful. It wasn’t the nicest thing Harry’d ever done, but it wasn’t against the rules, and Malfoy certainly would have done the same to him. Still, the Bludger sailed after Harry.

Unable to assist Malfoy, Harry resumed his search for the Snitch.

Finally, after two more revolutions of the pitch, Harry spotted it hovering in the hole left by the Bludger in the middle goal post on the Gryffindor end. Flying swiftly, Harry tipped his broom over in a steep dive, sending the Bludger lurching around to try to catch up with him again. Five seconds later, Harry had the Snitch in his left hand and his wand in the other.

There was an uproar of applause as Harry held the Snitch aloft.

The Bludger caught up with him and with a swish, Harry Banished it. It came around for another attack and Harry knocked it away with a swift movement of his wand. Finally, Madame Hooch captured it herself and wrestled it back into the box.

“Brilliant flying, Harry!” said Wood. “I knew you’d do it.”

Fred, George, and the Chasers were there, too, each alight with happiness at their win, but there was someone else Harry had been waiting to see.

He stood on his tiptoe and there, through the swirling rain, a man was parting the crowd as if he were a locomotive. Sirius’ beaming smile met Harry’s.

“Well done, Harry. I’m Sirius Black, your godfather.”

Harry took his offered hand. “I know,” he said strongly and was pulled into a manly, back-slapping hug.

“I can’t stay, but I wanted to meet you face to face.”

“Thanks, Sirius,” said Harry. “Can we write? Do you have an owl?”

The older man smiled. “I’ll get one; now get inside before you catch a cold.”

The rain was making it unpleasant to stay outside, and soon, the Gryffindors were singing and drinking butterbeer in the warm common room.

Harry smiled as Ron and Hermione flanked him on one of the sofas across from a grinning Ginny. “Great Match,” said Ron. “I can’t believe that Bludger, though. A bit dodgy, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” said Harry as he took a swig of his drink. “I reckon someone’s jinxed it.”

“But they can’t have,” said Hermione, who was flushed red. Beads of perspiration were gathered on the tip of her nose and cheeks and she was fanning herself with a folded piece of parchment. “The balls are always locked up before a match.”

“She’s right,” said Ron, who looked a bit red himself. “No one but Hooch has access to the crate between matches.”

“Could someone have hexed it during the game?” asked Harry, noticing that Hermione’s fanning was growing slower and her eyes were drooping.

“That’s possible,” said Ron, who stifled a huge yawn. “Are you hot?” he asked sleepily.

Hermione tipped over and fell flat on her face; her limbs sprawled uncomfortably on the floor.

“Hermione!” yelled Harry. She groaned and Ginny knelt with him at Hermione’s side.

“Here,” Ginny said. “Let me help.”

Ron teetered uncertainly on the sofa as Harry and Ginny hoisted Hermione to her feet. Hermione’s skin was on fire everywhere Harry touched her.

“Hospital wing,” said Harry. Together, they half-drug, half-carried their friend out of the portrait hole with Ron shuffling slowly behind them.

“So hot,” said Ron, who, despite the cool castle air, was stripping off his jumper.

It was a long walk, but they eventually made it.

“Madam Pomfrey,” called Harry as they deposited Hermione onto the nearest bed. Ron was swaying dangerously, so they helped him into the next one.

The matron emerged from behind a screen that enclosed one of the other beds. “Ah,” she said knowingly. “Two more?”

“Two more?” Harry repeated, his confusion mounting, and then he saw them. There were six other beds occupied and all of them were sweating profusely, a half-dozen wet cloths magically turning themselves on their foreheads before dipping and wringing themselves in nearby bowls of cool water.

“Er, yes,” he said. “What..?”

“Dragon Pox,” Pomfrey replied. “At least I think so.” She frowned. “I’ve never seen it spread so fast or to this many people.”

Ginny glanced nervously at Harry. It was clear that she wanted to be as far away from the hospital wing as possible, but Harry had a bigger concern. There was never a Dragon Pox outbreak at Hogwarts in his memory. That meant this was something he had caused and from the look in the matron’s eyes, it looked like it would be a bigger impact on the Wizarding world than the Chamber ever was.


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