Albus Dumbledore Severus Snape
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 10/14/2004
Updated: 11/05/2004
Words: 419,861
Chapters: 24
Hits: 157,499

Harry Potter and the Veil of Mystery


Story Summary:
Suddenly with a higher profile after being proved right about Voldemort's return, Harry's use of Voldemort's name around Hogwarts gains popularity. It also attracts Voldemort's attention in the form of a series of attacks, and Harry soon finds that he is shouldering a burden even greater than the prophecy--the likelihood that Sirius's fate could come to his friends, who will stop at nothing to protect him.

Chapter 14

Chapter Summary:
Gryffindor plays Slytherin in the year's first Quidditch match. Spoiling for revenge, Malfoy is determined to win any way he can.

Chapter 14

Star of the Match


More and More People Willing To Say the Dreaded Name, V--------

(London) Hugo Brantell, Daily Prophet

Seven weeks after Hogwarts Professor Harry Potter faced down He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (hereafter referred to as V--------) in a series of nighttime mental attacks, more and more people say they are beginning to see-and act on-Professor Potter's simple question: How can we fight him if we're too afraid to even say his name?

An unscientific survey of attitudes in the wizarding world suggests that support for Professor Potter's point of view is growing. People are still afraid, it seems, but more are fighting their fears and saying the name, or sympathize, and hope to reach a point where they can say it in the future. Many still resist the notion, of course, but what support does exist is remarkable considering what attitudes were two months ago.

Unsurprisingly, Hogwarts has become the center of this support. Most Hogwarts students now not only say the name, but do it unselfconsciously, with little or no fear. Typical of students' attitudes is a first year boy who said, "Professor Potter taught us that it's just a name, so there's no reason to be scared. I mean, I'm still scared of V--------, just not his name." A third year girl agreed, saying, "Once you get used to saying his name, it's not so bad. You realize it's just a word. It would be like not saying the word 'fire' because you're afraid of fire."

Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, widely reputed to be the only living wizard feared by V--------, was Professor Potter's inspiration for his crusade, and strongly supports it. "I have been saying his name, and encouraging others to do so, for more than a decade, with very limited results. Professor Potter, however, has managed to do much more in a short time. I am very proud of what he has accomplished, and will continue to do my utmost to support him."

Among those who have become willing to say the name, Professor Potter's struggle with V-------- is widely cited as their inspiration to do so. Readers will recall that in early September, in response to Professor Potter's crusade, V-------- invaded Professor Potter's mind at night, aided by a highly unusual telepathic link created by the curse scar, and subjected Professor Potter to the Cruciatus Curse for four nights in a row, until Professor Potter defeated V--------'s intentions by developing a shield to block the Curse. Professor Potter's willingness to face the Curse, and V--------, undefended for four nights while refusing to stop saying the name was widely considered one of the greatest acts of personal bravery known to have occurred in recent years.

"He did it for us," said Tillie Malten, a middle-aged London witch. "He suffered that so we could say V--------'s name. He led by example. The only way we can honor what he's done is to say the name ourselves."

In agreement was Amos Diggory, whose son Cedric was the first killed by V-------- upon his return from near-death. "Cedric always liked and respected Harry, and I'm sure he would support what Harry is doing. All I know is, V-------- will kill you whether you say his name or not, so why not say it?"

Most people who are not in agreement with Professor Potter do not necessarily oppose what he is doing, but rather, think it to be tempting fate and imprudent. "With respect to Harry, he wasn't around when You-Know-Who was strong before, killing people right and left. He has no personal experience of the terror that caused. Those of us who do, feel we have good reason not to say the name," says Tibor Lowton, a Hogsmeade retiree. What, he was asked, of Professor Potter's argument that one cannot fight V-------- if one cannot say his name? "Honestly, I can't speak to that. I see the point, I understand he has to be fought. I just don't think I can say the name, and don't blame anyone who can't."

The Ministry of Magic is not taking an official position on this matter. "How people wish to refer to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is a matter for people to decide individually, and the Ministry should not attempt to dictate such things, one way or the other," said an unnamed Ministry spokesperson in a statement. Sources inside the Ministry say the Ministry leadership is edging cautiously in Professor Potter's direction, but is unwilling to take a clear stand as yet for fear of possible political backlash. "[The Ministry leadership] have licked their finger and stuck it in the air, and now they're waiting for some wind," said a disgusted Ministry source who supports Professor Potter. The source then shrugged resignedly. "But then, since when were bureaucrats ever known for bravery? Thank goodness we have Harry. Where he leads, people will eventually follow, and the bureaucrats will be dragged along."

* * * * *

The next several weeks were among the most gratifying Harry had ever spent at Hogwarts. He enjoyed his teaching duties; as others had told him would happen, the students' awe had worn off, but he knew he had their complete respect and admiration, and they took everything he said very seriously. Not only did no one skive off again, but he was forced to send two obviously sick students, who had attended his class anyway, to Madam Pomfrey. The students considered their time with him the high point of their week.

As Hermione had predicted, so did Pansy Parkinson. Harry continued to meet with her every week, occasionally twice. She had observed Malfoy's schedule and found times during which her absence would not arouse suspicion, and they usually met during those times. He found his affection for her becoming close to what he felt for his other friends, but her obvious enthusiasm for meeting him and affection for him caused him to remember what Ron and Hermione had said about the possibility of her falling in love with him. He still didn't think it would happen, largely because a part of him still refused to acknowledge that he was worthy of someone falling in love with him, but it concerned him anyway.

Harry's presentation to the Aurors had gone well; they were spellbound by his talk, and they pelted him with questions for two hours after he finished. They were very eager to be able to learn the spell, and he told them as much as he could. With Dumbledore's assistance, Harry showed them all five of the dreams, so they would better understand what had happened, and talked about his thoughts and emotional state between each one. They were gratified that he wanted to become one of them, and expressed confidence that he would manage it. In the weeks since, he had kept in communication with some of them. Even so, the only person so far who had learned the spell was Dumbledore, who learned it quickly enough to demonstrate it to the Aurors along with Harry.

Harry had made an unusual request of Dumbledore; with studying Occlumency now not so urgent, and with Dumbledore confident that his skill was sufficient to deal with any problems, he asked for private lessons of a different sort. He explained that he wanted to learn the sort of spells that Aurors knew, the sort that he had seen Dumbledore use against Voldemort. "I know I'm going to be facing him again," Harry had said, "and I want to be able to deal with him, and his Death Eaters. I think I can learn whatever you can teach me." Dumbledore agreed, and allowed Ron, Ginny, and Hermione to join as well, partly so Harry would have someone to partner with. Only Hermione, however, was able to keep up with Harry learning the new spells. Ginny joked that this group should truly be called 'Dumbledore's Army.'

As Dumbledore had predicted, after Harry's ordeal with Voldemort was over, Fawkes spent less time with Harry, perhaps a third of each day or less. Unlike Dumbledore, who was in his office every day, Harry moved around the school a lot, so it was difficult for Fawkes to be with him too much without constantly staying on Harry's shoulder as he had while the dreams persisted. Fawkes showed up most often as Harry was going to sleep or waking up, studying in the common room, and while Harry taught.

He spent much of his time with Ron and Hermione, as usual, but they were all busy. Harry had to work hard to keep up with his studies, as he had teaching and Quidditch practice responsibilities. Ron spent hours in the common room and dormitory working out Quidditch strategies, and watched a lot of Omni-view to get ideas. Their first match was against Slytherin, and while Harry had stopped thinking of the whole of Slytherin house as an enemy, he was still highly motivated to beat Malfoy, as was Ron. Hermione was working hard to keep up with ten classes, and she mentioned meeting Ernie a few times, but Harry didn't pay much attention; he assumed they were still working out how to re-take the Astronomy O.W.L. exam.

Harry was relaxing in the staff room on a Thursday afternoon in the last week of October when a familiar golden dog jumped onto his lap and pawed at him. Harry got up and followed it to Dumbledore's office.

"Yes, Harry, thank you for coming," said Dumbledore. "I wished to confirm your plans this weekend. Will you be going into Hogsmeade both days?"

"Yes, sir, I think so. Why?"

"I am concerned about security. It is not inconceivable that Voldemort may order Death Eaters to mount an attack on Hogsmeade. They know they cannot touch the school itself, so Hogsmeade full of students is the next logical target."

"Is that something they're really going to do? What can they accomplish?"

"The point of the attack would be terror, Harry. If the school were less secure they would have attacked it already. Your defeat of Voldemort was as damaging to him as it was uplifting to the wizarding community, and he will want an opportunity to strike back. We have no specific intelligence which points to such an attack; it is all speculation. We considered canceling Hogsmeade weekend, but we realized that there could then be no Hogsmeade weekends at all until Voldemort is defeated, and we are not willing to pay such a price."

"Of course not, sir. We have to be careful, but do what we would otherwise do."

"Does that mean, Harry, that you have changed your mind about the idea of a romantic attachment?"

Harry felt like rolling his eyes, but didn't feel it was right to do that with Dumbledore. "A lot of people have mentioned this to me, but only you and Hermione have made that particular argument. It's annoying, because it's true."

"And?" Dumbledore prompted him.

Harry sighed. "For now, I just avoid the question, because there's nobody I'm especially interested in at the moment. If I fall in love, I'll have to deal with it. It's just hard to see why I should go out of my way to find someone now. And I know there are plenty of girls who'd go out with me, but that just seems like tempting fate."

"I don't mean to intrude, of course, Harry-"

"Of course you're not intruding, sir. There's nothing I wouldn't talk to you about."

"Thank you, Harry, I appreciate that."

Harry thought a moment. "Sir, there's something I've been meaning to mention to you, but never have." He described the situation with Pansy Parkinson, and Hermione's warning from last month. "Is there anything I can do?"

Dumbledore considered. "Do you think it impossible that you might return her affection in the same way, if that turned out to be the case?"

"No, she's very nice, and I feel a strong attachment to her, but in a similar way that I do with Hermione and Ginny. My stomach doesn't do backflips like it did with Cho."

Dumbledore smiled. "Such symptoms are not the only way we know if we are attracted to someone. It can come upon you suddenly. But you would not rule her out as a possibility because of her past association with Mr. Malfoy?"

Harry was surprised that he would ask. "Of course not, sir."

"Then, I would say you could not know how you might feel. But even if you were sure you would not fall in love with her, I would say that you should do nothing differently than what you are doing. You are simply being yourself, and you cannot fault yourself for that. You say she knows this risk, so it is up to her now. She may fall in love with you and find her heart broken. But it would not be your fault; it is a part of life. There is only so much you can do to protect those you care about from pain. They have their own lives to live, their own choices to make. All you can do is be the best person you can be."

"I understand, sir." Harry wasn't happy about it, but he understood. "Anyway, I'll probably go to the Three Broomsticks after the Quidditch is over, then do some errands on Sunday. I'll be with Ron, Hermione, and Neville."

"I see that Neville is being slowly integrated into your group."

Harry nodded. "He's a really nice person, he's just always been so shy. It was just starting last year when he got more... approachable, I guess. Anyway, if something does happen, it'll be good to have him around."

"Speaking of which, Harry... if something does happen, and the village should fall under attack, I trust you and your friends will immediately head back to the castle?"

Harry raised his eyebrows. "Sir, it's not like you to make such an obvious joke."

"But I wish you to be safe and unhurt, Harry. Just as you wish Pansy to be safe and unhurt, emotionally. But you have no choice but to follow the dictates of your heart, to help those who need it. Neither does she. You know the risks; so does she. I could confine you to Hogwarts to ensure your safety. You could deliberately be with Pansy someone other than who you are."

Harry reluctantly nodded. "Of course you're right, sir."

"Again, Harry, we have no particular reason to think that anything will happen, but there will be a higher-than-usual level of security in Hogsmeade."

"Thank you, sir. We'll keep our eyes open." Harry said goodbye and left.

Harry had a meeting with Pansy later that afternoon, and in a fit of openness, decided to relate what he'd talked about with Dumbledore. "Really, I'm not even sure why I'm telling you this," he finished. "I think it just makes me look stupid, or egotistical, like, wow, I'm the great Harry Potter, how could any girl possibly resist-"

Pansy cut him off with a gesture, and with laughter. "I'm sorry, Harry, I'm not laughing at you, like you're stupid... when you use the word 'egotistical,' I couldn't help but think that your ego is very small, especially compared with your accomplishments. You may be the least egotistical person I know. I would never think that."

She paused for a moment before continuing. "It was good of you to tell me that. I care about you and I want to know if something's bothering you, especially if it has to do with me." She looked at him earnestly. "Look, it could happen. Hermione's right, the situation would make it easy. The only part of my world that I really like is you. But Dumbledore's also right. I chose to do this, I accepted whatever risks there were. I wasn't thinking of the risk that I would fall in love with you, but the emotional problem of having no one to talk to but you.

"It's typically sweet of you to be concerned," she continued, smiling. "And I can't say I really know what it's like to be in love, so it's hard for me to say that it could never happen. All I know is that you don't make my heart flutter, or my stomach do backflips, like you said to Dumbledore. You make me happy, probably unnaturally so because of my situation. You make me feel good about myself. Who knows, maybe that's the kind of thing that leads to being in love. How would I know? I know you'd feel horrible if I got my heart broken. You can't do much else."

She thought for another minute; Harry didn't say anything, since he could tell she had more to say. She took a deep breath. "Okay, you're always telling me personal stuff, so I am now. If I've ever thought about being with you, being in love with you, one thing has always squelched the idea. I feel like I wouldn't deserve you, like my past taints me. What I've been, what I've done, is so awful that..." She stopped for a moment to compose herself. "You're not perfect, Harry, but you have a very good heart. You'd never deliberately hurt anyone. Not even Malfoy if you have a choice. I like to think I have a good heart now, but before I didn't. You deserve someone like yourself." Her face reflected this self-image.

Harry's heart went out to her. "Pansy, that's ridiculous. You're different now. When I look at you I don't see that."

"I know that, Harry. That's one reason I love being with you. You see me as who I am, or who I want to be. But I'm talking about how I see myself, and that's hard for you to understand. Maybe it's easier for you to be forgiving of me than for me to be forgiving of myself. I don't know. Part of me understands that it's not right, that if I'm a good person now I'm as 'deserving' as anyone else. But the part that sees myself as undeserving is stronger. I'm not even sure I know why, I just know that it does." She saw the sorrow in his eyes, and added, "I know you don't know what to say. I doubt Hermione or Ginny ever had cause to spill their guts to you like this." He shook his head; she nodded. "So you must not know what to think."

"I know that I'd never hold your past against you like that, and I would never think you're not deserving of me. I have so much respect for you, Pansy... it's like you're trying to climb a difficult mountain. I guess then I would be a lifeline, but you have to do the hard part yourself. You have a lot to be proud of, and I'm definitely proud of you."

Her eyes shone. "Thank you, Harry. Maybe I just need to hear that once in a while. I don't think I can change my self-image overnight, but what you said helps... Harry... have you ever felt undeserving?"

That was an easy question for Harry. "Sure, of course. I'm the Boy Who Lived, remember? All my life in the wizarding world, most people have treated me as if I'm part of the royal family or something, were extra nice to me, were honored to meet me, whatever. And what had I done? Survive a curse when I was one year old because of my mother's sacrifice? Did I deserve all that? Of course not. For a long time, I felt undeserving every time someone was nice to me because I was Harry Potter. Like I was a phony or something... 'no, that's not me, you must be thinking of someone else, I'm just a normal person.' And I've told you how my aunt and uncle treated me, so I probably felt undeserving from that, too."

She nodded. "At least you got to feel undeserving despite who you really were. I feel undeserving because of who I really was. But I suppose it feels the same way in the end. Maybe that's why I'm doing this, I have to do something to make myself feel deserving... not just of you, but anyone who's a good person." She sighed. "I'm sorry, a lot of this is like what I've said before. And I knew it was going to take some time. I just hadn't put it in terms like 'I don't deserve Harry Potter' before. It's like you're my counselor."

He shook his head ruefully. "No, it's more like I'm your sympathetic ear. A counselor actually offers insight and helpful advice. I don't do much of that. I just listen."

"Well, you do a very good job of it."

"You know," said Harry, "what I would advise you to do, is go talk to Professor Dumbledore. He listens, and has good advice. I've always felt better after I've talked to him, about anything. I mean, I don't want you not to talk to me... I feel good that you're comfortable doing it. But it's hard for me to know what to say to help you. I'm sure he would."

"But you have a relationship with him," Pansy pointed out. "I barely know him. How can I just go to his office and start telling him stuff like this?"

Harry gave her a serious look. "Because I'm telling you, you can. I wouldn't suggest this unless I was certain that you'd feel better for doing it. It doesn't matter if he doesn't know you that well. He would listen to anyone who needed to talk to him. But he'd be sympathetic to you anyway; he knows you're taking risks to help me, he knows how isolated you are. Trust me, he'd be very helpful."

"Well, then he comes highly recommended. Maybe I will. Thank you. Oh, by the way, there was something I wanted to tell you. Not that important, but it's strange. You play Slytherin on Saturday, right? Well, Malfoy's been acting really strange about that. Talking about how he's going to beat you. Well, he always says stuff like that, never manages it, but it sounds different this time. He has this attitude like he's celebrating in advance, like it's a sure thing. When I ask him how he's so sure, he acts like 'I've got a secret and if you're nice enough to me I might tell you what it is.' Pretty childish for a sixteen-year-old, really. But I thought you ought to know that. Whatever it is, it could even be dangerous to you. Keep an eye on him."

"Problem is, in Quidditch, I have to keep both eyes on the Snitch, or else we're going to lose. Don't worry, he's not going to do anything that could injure me in front of three hundred people. He's not that far gone."

"He would if he thought he could get away with it, I'm sure of that."

"Well, that's true," Harry admitted. "And his opinion of what he could get away with might be different from reality. Well, I have to keep an eye on him anyway, know where he is just in case I have to dive for the Snitch. I'll keep my eyes open for anything unusual." Pansy nodded, but didn't look very reassured.

"Harry!" He heard Hermione's voice from the classroom; he and Pansy walked out to meet her. "Hi, Pansy," said Hermione warmly.

"Is it that obvious?" Pansy asked in dismay. Harry and Hermione exchanged puzzled looks.

"What?" asked Hermione.

Now Pansy looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I thought... something was bothering me and I told Harry about it, and I was all upset. You seemed like you were being nice to me, and I thought maybe you noticed."

"I'm sorry, Pansy... no, I didn't, I just... I know how hard what you're doing is, and I really appreciate that you're doing it. I hadn't thought about it."

Pansy smiled, embarrassed. "Thank you, Hermione. That kind of thing is what I need to hear right now."

Hermione nodded sympathetically and looked around the room. "I have to show you something, let's go back into the office." They followed her back in.

"This is something I did mostly with you in mind, actually," she said, looking at Pansy. "We have the Marauder's Map, and you could really use something like it. So this has been a little project I've been working on."

Pansy was amazed. "How do you find time for projects when you have ten classes?" Harry was impressed as well.

Hermione shrugged, and took out what looked like an advertising flyer. "This is, obviously, a fold-out flyer for cosmetics. I chose it partly because it wouldn't be conspicuous, and it's the kind of thing Malfoy would think nothing of if he found. Also, when you fold it out, it has a decent surface area." She demonstrated. "Now, Harry, please don't say anything until I tell you otherwise. Pansy, after I wave my wand, please say the word 'open,' and tap the map with your wand, okay?" Pansy looked confused, but nodded. Hermione waved her wand, and Pansy said the word.

Immediately the flyer changed into a map of Hogwarts, a very detailed one. Pansy and Harry gasped in appreciation. Pleased at their reactions, Hermione continued. "Obviously it's based on the Marauder's Map; I've made some modifications that should be helpful. One of them, as you see, is to color-code what type of person it is. Red is Gryffindor, green is Slytherin, yellow is Hufflepuff, blue is Ravenclaw, and black is for teachers and staff. So if anybody's out of place from where they should be, it'll be obvious by their color."

Hermione went on to explain more features: one could zoom in on each house's common room and dormitories so the names would be easier to read, any person's name could be changed to bright gold so as to highlight them, and a person's recent movements could be viewed in a speeded-up fashion. She decided to use Harry to demonstrate.

"Pansy, could you say, 'Harry Potter, four hours'?"

Pansy looked uncertain. "Sure, but why not you?"

"When I asked you to say the word that opened the map, I charmed your voice to it. It will respond only to your voice now, so there's no chance that anyone could use it if they found it. If anyone other than you tries to touch their wand to it, nothing will happen."

Pansy shook her head in wonder. "Harry Potter, four hours," she said. Suddenly the map was clear, except for Harry's dot and name. Hermione said, "Okay, he was in the staff room four hours ago, then he talked to Dumbledore, then went to the bathroom... sorry, Harry..." Harry rolled his eyes as Pansy giggled. "Then to our Care of Magical Creatures class, then to Gryffindor Tower, then here. You can adjust the speed at which it plays back, but this is a pretty good one.

"Now, here's the best feature, the one that was hardest to do. The map will make a person's name blink if they've been anywhere unusual in the past twenty-four hours. This doesn't work now; the map has to accumulate enough information to know where people usually go. After a week, it should have enough information to start doing that. This could obviously be very useful. Oh, and I made Malfoy's color purple, since I assume he's the one you'll be looking out for, mostly. That's pretty much everything. Obviously you should only use it someplace really private, like a bathroom stall, or your bed."

Pansy looked at Hermione in gratitude and confusion. "You did all this just for me?"

"Well, I've made copies for each of us, too; once you've made one, the others are much easier. Also, it wasn't only me; Ernie helped me with a few things. And no, Harry, he doesn't know who it's for. I told him it was because we were concerned about another Death Eater, which is true, if a bit indirect. But yes, Pansy, it was mainly for you."

"Why?" asked Pansy. "This must have taken hours of effort."

"Pansy, you're risking your life to help keep Harry safe. As far as I'm concerned, that's a very worthwhile cause. Of course, I'm going to do everything I can to help you. I don't want anything to happen to you."

Pansy still looked stunned. "I don't know what to say, Hermione. Thank you. This will be extremely helpful." Now Harry thought that she might be about to cry. "I'm sorry, it's just... I'm not used to people doing nice things for me like that."

"It's all right, Pansy. You deserve it," Hermione assured her.

Pansy chuckled. "Funny that you should say that, considering what we were just talking about." To Harry's surprise, Pansy related the main points of their conversation. "And it's nice of you to worry that I'd fall in love with him," she added, now smiling at Hermione's obvious embarrassment.

"Well, I can just see how it could happen. He is pretty lovable." From Hermione's grin, Harry could tell that she meant what she said, but also enjoyed the embarrassment she knew it would cause Harry.

"Can I ask you something kind of personal, Hermione?" Pansy asked. Hermione nodded. "How is it that you've never fallen in love with him? I mean, you're always around each other, and half the school thinks you're an item anyway, or has thought so."

"Excuse me, I'm just going to sit under the Invisibility Cloak and pretend I'm not here," said Harry, visibly blushing.

"Oh, be quiet, Harry," said Hermione, smiling. She turned back to Pansy. "He is cute when he's embarrassed, isn't he?" They both chuckled. "It's a good question. I have thought about it, of course, but I'm not sure why. The obvious answer is that I cherish him too much as a friend to risk that with the complications of a relationship. But that probably wouldn't stop me if I were in love with him. Maybe I just got so used to him as a friend, from a young age, that I put him in this category of being a friend. So, I could speculate for hours, and I'm sure Harry would love that. But in the end, I'm not sure that I know. Sorry I can't answer any better than that." The thought occurred to Harry that from his side of the situation, he wouldn't have wanted to be in love with or married to someone with Hermione's exact personality, given how she so often tried to tell he and Ron what to do. He could overlook it in a friend, but he wasn't sure he wanted to find out what it would be like to have a girlfriend like that. He wasn't sure, but he assumed that was part of the reason he had never thought of her in a romantic way.

"No, I can understand that," Pansy said. "It makes sense. I'm not sure anybody really understands how that works. I wish there was some control I could set on the setting of 'he's just a friend,' but I guess I'll just have to take my chances." She smiled at Harry.

He shook his head and said, "Well, I guess I'm happy enough that you're comfortable teasing me to not get annoyed. But I don't know how much more of this I can take. Ron would have run screaming from the room by now."

Pansy chuckled; Hermione laughed out loud. "Yes, he would've," Hermione agreed. "Not very expressive, our Ron. But we love him anyway."

"Well, I should go," said Pansy. "Thank you again, Hermione. This was really nice. See you later." She put the new map into her robes and left the office.

Harry looked at Hermione. "Bet you really enjoyed that," he said grumpily.

"Well, of course. But it's also nice for Pansy and I to have a laugh together at your expense. It helps us get closer."

"Glad I could help. By the way, I really am impressed with what you did with that map. It's great. I can see why she was so happy."

"Thank you, Harry. I must admit, I am proud of it. But like I said, Ernie helped, and also I had lots of help getting started from Remus." To Harry's raised eyebrows, she continued, "I had the idea way back near the beginning of the year. You told me that Pansy said she wished the Marauder's Map could tell where a person had been, and that gave me an idea. So I spent a while talking to Remus the night of your shield's demonstration, and he told me about the basics of how it worked, and how to get started. He saved me hours of work. The hardest thing was the modifications I made. The Marauder's Map was only made with rule-breaking in mind, not spycraft. But I'm happy with how it came out."

"You should be, it's really good," said Harry. "Hmmm... I was going to say, let's get back to Gryffindor Tower, but it's not too far from dinnertime. We might as well wait and go straight there. I want to finish eating quickly, since tonight's our last Quidditch practice before the match."

She nodded. "So, have the first years been able to do anything to help Pansy much?"

"Apparently not. She thinks there's just been nothing to see. But she said she's getting to know them better. Sometimes she talks to them in their common rooms, and they're comfortable with her now. So, that's good."

"Harry... don't you think Ron is getting too intense about the Quidditch? I'm getting kind of concerned about him."

"This happens with every Quidditch captain," Harry assured her. "Especially at first, they're really intense like this. Wood was always that way, of course, but I think Ron'll be okay. I think he'll relax a bit after we beat Slytherin. And we will, we've never lost to them; they don't pick players for their skill." He decided not to relate what Pansy had said, because he feared Hermione would worry and continually badger him to be careful.

"Harry! You in here?" Ron shouted from the classroom. Harry shouted back, and Ron joined them. "What's up?" asked Ron.

"It seems that your focus on Quidditch is a bit much, Ron," said Harry. Hermione gave him a dirty look.

"Yes, she's mentioned that to me too," Ron answered, as if Hermione weren't there. "I just try to ignore her."

Before Hermione could respond, Harry countered, "Yeah, but are you sure you aren't ignoring her because you're too focused on Quidditch?"

Rolling her eyes, Hermione said, "All right, that's enough. I'm not going to give you your presents if you're not nice to me."

Ron blinked. "What presents?"

"These are good, Ron. You're going to want to be nice to her," Harry advised.

"Absolutely right, Harry," agreed Hermione. She proceeded to take out Harry and Ron's maps and demonstrate them. Ron was suitably impressed. "Wow, you did this all yourself?"

"Like I told Harry, Remus helped at the beginning, and Ernie at the end."

"How did Ernie get involved?" wondered Ron.

"Well, he's pretty good at Charms, and somehow it just came up in conversation at the library. He thinks it was just for us, and I made sure he knew not to tell anyone. Ron, here's yours. As you're so focused on Quidditch these days, yours was made from an order form from Quality Quidditch Supplies. Harry, I made yours from Fred and George's catalog. Not that we're going to get into much trouble if we get caught, but best just to keep it low profile. I'll give Ginny hers later."

"Thanks, Hermione. It'll be really good for us to each have our own copy of this. Kind of makes the Marauder's Map obsolete, though, doesn't it?"

"Remus mentioned that himself. He didn't mind, though. I'm sure we could find someone who could use it."

"I was going to say, give it to Ernie, as a thank-you for helping you, but then I realized that he'd never be the type to use it anyway," Harry said.

"No, he'd be the type to confiscate it," Ron agreed. "Perfect Head Boy material. You two'll get along great next year, Hermione."

"What do you mean?" demanded Hermione, looking like she did in fact know what he meant.

"Well, Hermione," said Harry, trying to divert her attention from Ron, "I think most people assume that you and he will be Head Boy and Girl next year. It does seem pretty likely, if you think about it."

"You know, good grades, responsible, orderly," Ron agreed.

"It doesn't bother you to think you might not get it?" asked Hermione.

Ron shook his head. "I'm not even the prefect type, really. I only got it because they didn't want to give it to Harry because of all the other stuff he had going on, with Voldemort having come back and everything."

Harry wondered why Ron thought that. It was true, but he had never said it to Ron. "Well, if you think about it, I'm not the prefect type either. I'm not a great student, and I don't care much about people breaking the rules."

"Harry, it's not just about that," pointed out Hermione. "It's about having leadership qualities, and you can't possibly deny that you have that. You've taken a leadership role in the whole wizarding community, for heaven's sake. I'm sure they'd make you Head Boy next year if it weren't for the fact that you'll be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. They still may, for all I know."

"Wait a minute, who says I'm going to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher next year? I wasn't aware that that was set in stone or anything."

Ron and Hermione exchanged a look, annoyed at Harry's obtuseness. "Harry, you have the job," Ron pointed out. "What do you think they're going to do, fire you?"

Harry tilted his head. "I hadn't thought of it like that. I'm so used to the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher lasting only one year, I hadn't even thought beyond this year. I guess I see what you mean, though. If I survive the year. I could still end up on your Hall of Misfortune, Ron."

Ron sighed. "I knew that was going to come up sooner or later. Harry, the job is yours for as long as you want it. They don't fire teachers, certainly not ones that have your status. Just based on what you've done this year, you could keep the job for life. I know you want to be an Auror, so you'll probably give up this job after next year. We're just saying, this is your job if you want to keep it, just like Charms is Flitwick's job. Dumbledore or the school won't see you two any differently. But, yes, they probably won't make you Head Boy while you're a teacher. It would be too weird."

"Ron... remember when we looked into the Mirror of Erised?"

Ron nodded. "I know what you're going to say. I saw myself as Quidditch captain with the Quidditch Cup, and as Head Boy. I've done two of those now. But that was when I was eleven. I've done stuff now. Okay, more properly, I've helped you do stuff. But that's not important to me anymore. I don't feel like I need to outshine my brothers. I mean, Bill and Charlie are so much older that they seem more like uncles than brothers, Fred and George aren't the types I'd feel competitive with, and Percy showed that being Head Boy is no guarantee you won't be an overambitious, arrogant, unprincipled jerk. I don't feel like I have anything to prove to my brothers."

"That's good, Ron," said Hermione. "That's a good attitude. By the way, what's the latest with Percy? I never did ask during the summer."

"I try not to think about it too much," said Ron. "Doesn't involve me, really. But it's not much better. He's showing signs of moving back in our direction, but with the exception of Mum, none of us are sure we really want him back. After all, he turned his back on his family because he thought it would be good for his career advancement. That says what kind of person he is. If he comes back now, it'll really look like it's because the Ministry is cooperating with Dumbledore now, and not because he regrets what he did. I'd have to hear a pretty serious apology before I'd really think about considering him a family member."

Nobody answered for a moment. Then Harry said, "That sounds harsh and unforgiving, but I really see what you mean. What he did was a deliberate betrayal. I didn't even want to forgive Marietta Edgecombe, and Percy is your brother."

"Not to mention what he said about you in that letter. I haven't forgotten that, either." Harry nodded to let Ron know that he appreciated Ron's indignation on his behalf.

"Are your parents having arguments about it, Ron?" asked Hermione.

"If they are, they're keeping them quiet. I think my Dad feels strongly enough about it to really argue with her. Normally she's the one who feels strongly, and he lets her have her way because it's easier than fighting. But I suspect that Mum knows now isn't a good time to really press Dad about it. Probably she's hoping for a different situation, but I'm not sure what that would be."

"It's so sad," Hermione said. "I know Percy did something terrible, but it's really bad when families are split up." Neither Harry nor Ron had anything to say to that.

"Let's go get some dinner," Harry suggested. "It's time now, and we want to get to that practice. I'm starting to feel real focused on Quidditch."

Ron grinned and Hermione shook her head as they headed out of the classroom and to the Great Hall.

Saturday morning, the day before Halloween, was a sunny and surprisingly warm day, no doubt one of the last mild days of the year. Perfect for Quidditch, Harry thought as he looked out the windows of the Great Hall at the blue sky.

As Harry glanced over at Malfoy and the rest of the Slytherin team, he couldn't help but think that normally, Malfoy would have come over and tried to taunt them. The reason he hadn't had to be that Harry was a teacher now. Malfoy, having already served twenty hours of detention at Harry's orders, was obviously in no mood to give Harry any further opportunities, and he had to wonder whether harassing any of Harry's teammates would be such an opportunity. Harry focused on bucking up Dennis Creevey, who was very nervous. Harry told Dennis how nervous he was before his first match, and assured him it was normal.

"After the match, we're staying to watch the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff match, right?" asked Dennis.

"Yes, Dennis. There are seats reserved for us to watch after we play."

"Why are both games being played on the same day, anyway?" asked Hermione, who was sitting near the team.

"It's for security reasons," explained Harry. "The stands might make for a good target, so they have extra security, and they want to play both matches at once because it's more efficient, they don't have to arrange all the extra security twice."

"But nobody's really going to attack, are they?" asked a slightly alarmed Dennis.

"No, almost certainly not, Dennis," Harry assured him. "This is just to be really careful. Now, you should have more breakfast."

Dennis halfheartedly took another bite of his food, but Harry recognized this form of pre-match jitters, and decided to leave Dennis alone. He looked around the Hall again and saw a familiar figure approach.

"Tonks!" He got to his feet and greeted her. "What are you doing here?"

She put a hand on his shoulder. "Well, I heard the post of girlfriend was still open. Thought I'd see how you felt about older women." Everyone nearby laughed, and she smiled at Harry's embarrassment.

"Not you, too," he said, reluctantly smiling. "Everyone, this is... Tonks, she only goes by the one name. She's an Auror. And I doubt she's that much older than me."

Her eyes lit up playfully. "Ooh, thank you, Harry. Sounds like I might have a shot."

He decided to tease her back. "Well, you are quite attractive... most of the time." He could tell that his teammates were surprised that he would say that. She knew what he was referring to, and played along. "What, you mean you don't like this one?" she pouted, changing her nose to look more like a pig snout. The Gryffindors who had never met her gasped; Tonks explained her unusual ability as she ran through a few hair and nose changes. "I could actually make myself more attractive, but I'm afraid to. People would like it, and then be disappointed when I went back to my real face."

"So what are you doing here, really, Tonks?" Harry asked.

"Harry, haven't these girls been teaching you anything? When a woman puts down her appearance, you're supposed to compliment her. You should have said, 'Tonks, you couldn't make yourself any more attractive than you already are.'"

"Tonks, you couldn't make yourself any more attractive than you already are," Harry said obligingly.

"Okay, that's a start, next time you just have to say it like you mean it," she grinned. "To answer your question, I'm part of the security today. A few other Aurors and I will be patrolling the edges of the pitch on our brooms. I'm sure we'll also sneak a look at the game from time to time, so do well, Harry."

"I always try," he assured her.

"Okay, everyone, time to go," announced Ron. The Gryffindor team got up, to applause from the rest of the table, and headed out toward the changing rooms near the pitch. Harry gave Hermione and Tonks a last wave.

After they changed, Harry wondered if Ron was going to give a speech. Wood usually had, but Ron hadn't been on the team then. Angelina hadn't been much for speeches. Ron simply said, "Okay, everyone, we can do this. Dennis, you'll be fine, just focus on what you're doing. Harry, the sooner you catch the Snitch, the sooner we get into Hogsmeade. Let's go."

They headed out. "Very inspirational, Ron," teased Ginny.

"I liked it better than Wood's," Harry countered. "He always wanted to make it sound like the history of the universe would be affected by the match. I think keeping it low-key is better."

"Thank you," Ron said, raising his eyebrows at Ginny.

The crowd were already in their seats, the atmosphere one of excitement, as usual. They walked onto the pitch. Dumbledore was there talking to Madam Hooch, which surprised Harry. He assumed it had to do with security, that Dumbledore wanted to be on hand in case anything happened. He felt better; Dumbledore's presence was always reassuring.

Dumbledore spoke, his voice magically amplified. "Ladies and gentlemen, a few announcements before the matches begin. Firstly, I am pleased to introduce our new commentator, Mr. Colin Creevey." He got loud applause from Gryffindors, polite applause for Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, and less from the Slytherins. He cheerfully waved at the Gryffindor team.

"Circling the stadium," Dumbledore continued, "are three Aurors from the Ministry of Magic. They are here as an extra security precaution, and I thank them for coming here today." Dumbledore applauded, as did most of the crowd, following his example.

"Lastly, as an additional security precaution, I have arranged for the pitch, and the area directly above it, to be monitored by magic-detection instruments. If any magic is used in the airspace within the field of play, alarms will sound and play will be stopped. If that should occur, all players should descend to the ground immediately and await further instructions. Madam Hooch?"

"Thank you, Headmaster. Captains, shake hands." Montague, the seventh-year Slytherin captain, stepped forward to meet Ron. Ron knew that Montague would try to crush his hand, so Ron made no bones about doing the same. The handshake looked like a draw; both were probably in pain, Harry thought, but neither would give the appearance of it. The players mounted their brooms.

Madam Hooch blew the whistle, and the players kicked off and shot into the air. Harry flew a standard search pattern, designed to maximize any possibility of seeing the Snitch. A glance behind told him that Malfoy was following him. Why can't he look for it on his own? thought Harry, annoyed. He remembered what Pansy had said, but it was hard for him to keep an eye open for someone right behind him. He was glad that any magic would be detected; there wasn't that much that was non-magical that Malfoy could do to hurt him. Harry returned his mental focus to finding the Snitch, and with half an ear listened to Colin's commentary, which to him sounded surprisingly practiced. Colin's the type who would practice this, Harry thought.

"...and it's Gryffindor in possession, Ginny Weasley with the Quaffle, dodges a Bludger hit by Crabbe, nice bit of flying there... passes to Bell, who immediately drops it to a low-flying Creevey who's past all defenders, he shoots... saved by Bletchley, looked like it was just wide anyway. Bletchley passes to Warrington, who looks to have caught Gryffindor out of position, he's all alone, advancing on Ron Weasley, he's in position, he shoots... right down the middle, saved by Ron Weasley. Bletchley feinted left, Ron started to go for it but was able to lunge back to the center in time to save it, score still zero-zero. Bell with the Quaffle, almost collides with Goyle, Sloper and Kirke on either side, each just knocked a Bludger away..."

Harry stayed in his search pattern, Malfoy still behind him. When he checked on Malfoy, Malfoy had a very smug look, as though he was looking forward to something happening. Harry couldn't help but wonder what it was, but again made himself forget about it and concentrate on the game. Who knows, he thought, maybe this whole attitude is an attempt to distract me, make me lose focus. He again focused his attention on looking for the Snitch. Just to see what Malfoy would do, he went into a dive; Malfoy naturally followed. Trusting his instincts, Harry dodged and weaved through the players on the way down. Malfoy, trying to follow, collided with Crabbe and was lucky to stay on his broom. Colin Creevey couldn't keep a chuckle out of his voice.

"...that's the problem with following, you don't have as much control as the one leading has. Malfoy rights himself and sets off after Potter, who's opened quite a distance between them. Meanwhile, Bell passes to Creevey, who has a shot, takes it... blocked. Slytherin in possession, Pucey, passes up to Warrington, intercepted by Ginny Weasley! She passes it to Creevey, who just has to get past Pucey... Creevey shoots and he's fouled! Bletchley dives and misses, it's in for the goal! Creevey's shaken up, took quite a low blow from Pucey there. Well, it's true, Professor," said Colin, as McGonagall shot him a warning look.

Madam Hooch blew the whistle and signaled the foul, which meant that Gryffindor would be given possession again. "Bell with the Quaffle, passes to Ginny Weasley, back to Bell, back to Ginny Weasley again, Creevey trying to get free... Potter and Malfoy still circling, Malfoy still following Potter... Creevey flies straight up, gets more or less a handoff from Ginny Weasley... they head toward the goal passing back and forth to each other... Warrington tries to intercept, fails... Creevey shoots, no, feints left, shoots right, scores! Twenty-zero Gryffindor! Well done, Dennis! Bletchley went for the feint completely, leaving the right goal wide open. Slytherin in possession..."

Harry found himself surprised that Slytherin had not yet committed many egregious fouls; he supposed they would increase as Slytherin fell behind. Over the next fifteen minutes, Slytherin managed one goal against Ron, but Gryffindor scored two more, both by Dennis, for a forty-ten lead. No Gryffindor but Dennis had taken a shot on goal; Ginny had told Harry that she and Katie would try to make sure Dennis took as many shots early as possible, to help him build his confidence. It seems to be working, Harry thought. He continued his search for the Snitch.

"...and Montague shoots, saved by Ron Weasley, who rushed toward Montague at the last moment, cutting off his angles to shoot, nicely done, Ron... Ron passes to his sister, who flies down the field, weaving in and out, avoiding a Bludger from Crabbe... Goyle swings at the other Bludger and misses, nearly falls off his broom... here they come, Ginny Weasley still in possession, Creevey double-teamed by Pucey and Warrington, they must be tired of him scoring... Ginny Weasley to Bell, to Creevey as he shakes off one of his defenders using Kirke as a shield... Creevey going for the goal area, FOULED BY PUCEY!" Colin practically screamed. "Madam Hooch blows the whistle, that was a particularly bad foul, hope Dennis is okay, Katie and Ginny flying over to him to make sure. Yes, he's all right, that's good. He sets up for the penalty shot, he shoots... good! The shot is good, and the score is fifty-ten Gryffindor!"

Harry was still very focused on looking for the Snitch, but checked Malfoy every once in a while. He could never figure out why Malfoy followed him so closely; Harry had the faster broom, Malfoy could never hope to pass him.

"Warrington flies down the field, passes to Pucey, back to Warrington just as a Sloper Bludger nails Pucey, he's rubbing his arm... Warrington flies past a steal attempt by Ginny Weasley, coming up on Ron Weasley, he shoots, deflected! Ron Weasley gets his fingertips on a certain goal, and the Quaffle flies just outside the right goal. Really nice save there, that's seven saves in eight tries for Ron Weasley, an excellent match for him... Gryffindor in possession, and- Potter dives! I think he's seen it!"

Harry fleetingly wondered how Colin knew he wasn't feinting. He wasn't, however; he saw the Snitch near the ground in roughly the middle of the field. He pushed the Firebolt as fast as it would go, heard Malfoy behind him but knew Malfoy couldn't reach him... he had to keep focused on the Snitch...

Suddenly Harry felt disoriented, as though he was doing something but couldn't remember what it was. He looked around, but couldn't place his surroundings, or why he was there. His broom started to drift.

Then there was a loud noise, like an alarm, filling the stadium and further disorienting Harry. He felt as if he had been dropped into some strange dream and had no idea what to do, or how to go about figuring out what to do. Then he heard Dumbledore's voice, magnified. "All players, please land immediately and do not move once you are on the ground." Feeling as if he barely had wits enough to follow such a simple instruction, Harry slowly headed toward the ground.

"...apparently some magic has been detected on the field of play, the players are setting down, Potter looking none too steady on his broom, as if he had suddenly forgotten how to fly... sorry, Harry... two Aurors are taking up positions at each end of the field, one seems to be escorting Malfoy down to the ground, it'll be interesting to see what this is all about... the score again, fifty-ten Gryffindor when play was stopped-"

McGonagall motioned to Colin to stop talking, which he did. Dumbledore approached Harry as he landed. "Harry, are you all right?" Harry looked dazed, and couldn't think of how to answer the question. Dumbledore took out his wand and waved it at Harry, who felt as if he'd woken up out of a disorienting dream. "Harry, what happened?" asked Dumbledore.

Harry shook his head. "I don't know, I was going for the Snitch, and I suddenly felt like I forgot everything I ever knew, I didn't even know what was going on... I don't know how..." Understanding dawned. "Malfoy," he said, furiously.

"I will take care of it, Harry," Dumbledore assured him. "Stay here, and do nothing." Dumbledore must be thinking that I'll go after Malfoy like I did last year, Harry thought. While the idea was appealing, he wasn't about to do it.

Harry watched Dumbledore walk over to Tonks, who had escorted Malfoy down. Dumbledore talked with Tonks for a moment, then Malfoy. Malfoy looked defiant, as if he were refusing a request. Harry then saw Snape and McGonagall join the group. There was more discussion, then Harry thought he saw a small object fly out of Malfoy's robes and into Dumbledore's hand. Malfoy had a look of outrage and guilt. Not guilt in the sense of feeling bad, Harry knew, but in the sense of having been caught. Dumbledore talked with Snape, McGonagall, Tonks, and Madam Hooch for another two minutes, then addressed the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. As you saw, the magic detection devices were activated by the presence of magic on the playing field. The sensors determined that the source of the magic was the Slytherin Seeker, Draco Malfoy, and it was directed at the Gryffindor Seeker, Harry Potter." Out of respect for Dumbledore, the crowd did not boo, but it seemed to Harry that they wanted to. Harry could see Ron and Ginny, staying where they were instructed, looking very angry.

Dumbledore continued, "Mr. Potter, upon landing, was not able to answer any questions until I performed a countercurse. He then reported experiencing sudden and severe disorientation and memory loss. Upon investigation, Mr. Malfoy was discovered to be concealing a device known as a Confundus Beam, which emits a magic similar to the Confundus Curse, but more powerful, causing disorientation and memory loss in its target."

Now, the crowd did boo, though still not as lustily as they might otherwise have. Dumbledore went on, "The disposition of the match is in the hands of Madam Hooch, from whom you will be hearing shortly. Mr. Malfoy, however, will not play Quidditch until further notice, and will be escorted by his Head of House and myself to a meeting to determine further action. I now give you Madam Hooch."

The crowd cheered, partly for Dumbledore and partly for the idea that Malfoy would be disciplined. Madam Hooch stepped forward.

"Such action as we just saw is deeply distressing to those who hope for and expect fair play in sports," she announced. "Professor Dumbledore has informed me that Mr. Potter could easily have fallen off his broom, and that lengthy exposure to the device can cause long-term effects. Therefore, I must discourage this sort of thing in the strongest possible terms.

"Separate from any other sanctions that may or may not be imposed, Mr. Malfoy will not play Quidditch again until such time as I deem fit. An investigation will be conducted to determine who else knew about or assisted this, and they will be penalized as well.

"As for the disposition of this match... Mr. Potter had the Snitch in his sights when he was attacked. In his time at Hogwarts, there has never been a case in which he had the Snitch in his sights but did not end up with it, and he had a clear lead over Mr. Malfoy. I find that had he not been attacked, Mr. Potter would have caught the Snitch, and I adjudge the result accordingly. The match is declared over, the final score Gryffindor two hundred, Slytherin ten. Thank you."

A loud cheer went up, though probably not nearly as big as it would have been in the case of a normal victory, Harry thought. Still, it would do. He walked toward Ron, then Ginny, putting an arm around their shoulders in congratulations. Both returned the gesture.

"Are you okay?" asked both at the same time.

He nodded. "As far as I can tell... at least I can talk and I know what's going on, so that's something."

"I can't believe he did that," said Ginny furiously.

"I can," said Ron. "Hugo said he wouldn't mind killing Harry, remember?"

The other team members reached them, offering congratulations and making sure he was all right. Hermione had run down to the field as well; Harry assured all of them that he was fine. "Hey, great match, Dennis," he said. Dennis smiled as the others congratulated him as well.

Suddenly Colin spoke over his loudspeaker again. "Dennis Creevey, Harry Potter, would you come up here for a minute, please?" Dennis and Harry shrugged and headed off.

"We'll be waiting for you to join us to watch the other match," said Ron, as he and the others headed off to the seats reserved for the teams.

Harry and Dennis walked up to where Colin was sitting. Colin gestured for them to sit down. "Ladies and gentlemen, Professor McGonagall has given me permission to end each match with a short interview with the 'Star of the Match,' the person most instrumental to the winning team's success. For this match, that person is new Gryffindor Chaser Dennis Creevey, who scored all five of Gryffindor's goals." A big cheer went up from the Gryffindor supporters, and there was polite applause from others.

"But first, I'd like a quick word with the Gryffindor Seeker, Professor Harry Potter, who I'm sure many in the crowd are concerned about. Professor Potter, how do you feel right now?"

"First of all, Colin, on the Quidditch pitch, it's Harry. You can call me 'Professor' in class." This got a chuckle from the crowd. "To answer your question, I feel fine now."

"I understand, Harry, but it sounded like that was a strong Confundus Curse. If you were still a bit confunded, would you be able to tell the difference?"

Harry laughed. "Well, if that's true, Colin, then I'm not the one you should ask, am I? All I can say is I feel like I usually do." Harry turned toward the field, took out his wand, and a silver stag erupted from his wand and ran the length of the pitch. "Yeah, I think I'm okay," he added, as the impressed crowd applauded.

"Looks that way, Harry. I'm looking forward to working on that one in your classes. Now, were you surprised by what Malfoy did?"

"I'm not surprised that he would use underhanded tactics. He's done it before. I am surprised that he would go this far."

"Is Madam Hooch right, would you have gotten the Snitch?"

"Absolutely. It was in my sights. I had it, no doubt. Malfoy obviously thought so, too."

"Harry, what do you think his punishment ought to be?"

Harry knew he had to swallow his true opinion. "I'm confident that Professor Dumbledore will handle the situation appropriately, Colin. It's not for me to tell him what he should do."

"Any other comments on the match, Harry?"

"Well, as a Seeker, I don't always see that much of the match, as you know. But obviously Ron had a great match, I saw some of his saves... Ginny and Katie flew and passed very well, but moving on to the Star of the Match," Harry continued as Dennis turned red, "Dennis did a great job in his first match, and the rest of us are very proud of him." He patted Dennis on the back; Dennis looked ecstatic at the compliment.

"Thank you, Harry," said Colin. "Now, let's have a few words with Dennis..."

Harry rejoined the rest of the team, half-listening to Colin interview his brother. "You really must be okay, Harry," Katie said, smiling. "That was a nice Patronus. I've seen you do it before, of course, but it's still really good."

Ron leaned in to Harry, so only he and Ginny could hear. "Kind of showing off a bit though, wasn't it?"

Harry shrugged. "Well, you know what a show-off I am," he joked. "I don't know, I guess I felt entitled, after what happened. If I can do a Patronus, I'm probably not too confunded."

"Yeah, leave him alone," protested Ginny. Ron gave her a 'what's with you?' look, then just looked ahead and continued listening to Dennis, who was saying, "...and Ginny and Katie kept passing it to me, and really well. They kept giving me the shots, so of course I was bound to score a lot..."

"At least he noticed," commented Katie.

"Yes, some people would have decided they did it all by themselves," agreed Ginny.

"And, Dennis, what were your feelings about what happened at the end of the match?" asked Colin.

"Of course, I was disgusted and angry, we all were. I think that if Malfoy thinks this is the only way he can beat Harry, then Slytherin should really start looking for a new Seeker." This comment got loud applause. "He's right about that!" agreed Ron loudly.

"Thank you very much. The Star of the Match, Dennis Creevey," Colin finished, to more applause from the crowd. Looking proud and embarrassed, Dennis headed down toward where the rest of the Gryffindor team was sitting, preparing to watch the next match.

"So, what d'you think Malfoy's going to get, Harry?" asked Ron.

"Good question," Harry mused. "Thrown off the team, for sure. Detention, probably, but it seems like Malfoy doesn't think of detention as a deterrent when it comes to me. I don't see what Professor Dumbledore can do, short of expulsion, that would affect Malfoy."

"Expulsion sounds good to me," Ron said emphatically.

Harry shook his head. "Never happen. Professor Dumbledore won't do it, not for something like this. I wouldn't mind either, of course, but no. Probably just loads of detention. Poor Professor McGonagall..."

"Are you aware, Harry, that I am within range of the sound of your voice?" asked a straight-faced but obviously amused McGonagall, who was sitting two rows above them.

"Well, now I am," smiled Harry, to chuckles from the rest of the team. "Besides, I was just expressing sympathy for you."

"It sounded more like pity. I thank you for the thought, but I believe I will do just fine. I plan to have a word with Mr. Filch later, just in case." The whole team laughed heartily, as McGonagall had obviously intended.

"What I can't figure out," said Harry to everyone, "is why Malfoy did it. I can see why he expected not to get caught when we came out onto the pitch, but when Professor Dumbledore made that announcement about the magic detectors, he might as well have been saying the words, 'Malfoy, if you use that thing you'll be caught, so don't do it.' So Malfoy goes ahead and does it anyway. Now, say what you want about Malfoy, he's not an idiot. So, why?"

Ginny shrugged. "The thing we do know is that he's got a real thing for you. Maybe he wanted to get you so badly that he decided not to let the idea of getting caught get in his way. He did the Snackboxes thing even though you warned him."

Ron nodded. "He may not be an idiot, but people can have blind spots, specific areas where they act like idiots."

"Like Harry when it comes to being modest," Ginny suggested.

"Exactly," Ron agreed, smiling at Harry.

"Or like you when it comes to anything to do with emotions," Ginny continued.

"Exactly," Harry couldn't resist saying. Ron looked annoyed as the team laughed. "Actually, I shouldn't talk," Harry admitted. "I only got like I am now because I had to use love to fight off Voldemort. Before that, I was just as repressed as Ron." The team chuckled at that as well.

"I prefer the word 'reserved,' if you don't mind," replied Ron with exaggerated dignity.

"Well, if Voldemort starts invading your mind, I think you'll get un-reserved in a big hurry," Harry said wryly.

"Harry, how do you think you're different, exactly?" asked Dennis. "I mean, what's changed?"

Harry felt like being a bit silly, so he said, "Well, I'll show you, Dennis. Come here and give me a hug."

The team broke up laughing, but to Harry's surprise, Dennis actually got up and walked over for his hug. Harry gave it to him, prompting more laughter, after which a pleased and somewhat embarrassed Dennis sat back down.

"See, Dennis," Harry continued, "last year, I wouldn't have even made that joke, never mind actually hugging you. That's a pretty big difference."

Dennis smiled. "Oh, now you tell me you were just joking," he said, to more laughter. "Don't I feel stupid."

"So are they pretty affectionate in your family, Dennis?" asked Ginny.

Dennis nodded. "Both my parents are always hugging and kissing us, and each other. It just doesn't seem like a big deal."

"I envy you that, Dennis," said Harry. Dennis looked extremely impressed at the idea that Harry Potter envied him anything. "It wasn't like that for me, as you know. It must be nice."

"I guess you get used to it, you don't think about it that much," Dennis pointed out. "It just seems normal. What about your family, Ginny?"

"Oh, it's probably about usual. The men are all pretty... reserved, I should say," she said, grinning at Ron. "Ron will grudgingly deal with emotion if he has to, the twins just make a joke about it, like they do about everything, and Percy pretends it doesn't exist. I think Bill and Charlie are a bit more relaxed, and so is Dad, but he was never a big hugger. Mum, of course, will hug and kiss anything that moves. Being the only other woman in the family, I guess I'm more like her. One thing I will say, I definitely approve of this new direction of Harry's." She smiled at him teasingly.

"Which new direction?" asked Hermione, just having joined them.

"Hugging people all the time," replied Ginny.

"Oh, yes, I like that too," agreed Hermione. Ron snickered.

"Well, I wouldn't say 'all the time,'" pointed out Harry. "I think I hadn't done it for a few weeks at least, until now."

"Well, you'll have to step up the pace, Harry," said Ginny. "I'll scour Gryffindor Tower for volunteers. I think I might find a few."

"Count me in," said Katie.

"And after hearing I got one, my sister will be demanding one," joined in Dennis.

"There does seem to be a lot of demand, Harry," smiled Ginny. "Maybe it's time to get another petition started."

Harry laughed along with the rest; he found it hard to be bothered by being teased about that.

Their joking was interrupted by Madam Hooch announcing the start of the Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw match. Harry didn't care that much which of these teams won, but found himself pulling a bit for Ravenclaw. He still liked Cho, and hoped for her sake that Ravenclaw would do well in the Quidditch Cup. As well as second place, he told himself.

Harry found while watching the game that he enjoyed listening to Colin's commentary more than when he was playing. He thought Colin was quite good, at least as good as Lee, and less obviously biased. He mentioned this to Dennis, who said that he'd relay it to Colin.

Ravenclaw did end up winning, by a score of one hundred ninety to one hundred twenty; Hufflepuff appeared on the verge of a big win when Cho came up with the Snitch. Harry applauded enthusiastically, while the others did so politely. "Don't be so excited, Harry," Ron warned. "They'll probably beat Slytherin, so if we beat Hufflepuff, we'll be playing them for the Cup."

"And if that happens, I'll be doing everything I can to beat her, I promise," said Harry with mild sarcasm, as if Ron should never have doubted it. Ginny raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. "Besides," continued Harry, "look how many goals they got scored off of them. I have a feeling the Ravenclaw Keeper isn't going to be the Star of the Match."

"No, he'll have to pick Cho," Dennis agreed. "Nobody else for Ravenclaw did well enough."

"It's funny how Quidditch is, really," said Hermione. "There's all this scoring and defending and chasing, but what it really comes down to is the team that gets the Snitch wins. I mean, Hufflepuff was clearly the better team, but because Cho got the Snitch, they lost. Wouldn't it be better if the Snitch counted for less, like fifty or sixty points, so it would be a big advantage but not a guaranteed win?"

Ron shook his head. "That's part of the fun of Quidditch. It's unpredictable. Anyone could win at any time."

"No matter how good or bad they are? I thought the whole point of sports was to be the better team, not to be luckier."

"It's not luck, Hermione. In all of Harry's matches in which he's ended up on his broom, he's gotten the Snitch seven times out of seven. Not to mention, once with a broken arm. Today should have been eight, would have been... you see my point. Harry's skillful, not lucky."

"I didn't mean that, Harry," Hermione protested. "I know you're good. But isn't it the case that in any game, the Snitch could suddenly appear closer to the other Seeker than to you, and you can't get it no matter how good you are?"

"Yes, that's true," Harry admitted. "It could happen."

"But that's not right in one way, Hermione," protested Ron, having sunk his teeth into the argument. "You make it sound as though if one Seeker sees the Snitch and is closer, that's it, it's over. But it often doesn't work that way. You heard Madam Hooch saying that every time Harry gets the Snitch in his sights, he ends up with it. But that's why he's so good; usually that's far from the case. The Snitch darts around so much, it's very hard to catch. So, yes, there is a bit of luck, but the better Seeker will end up with the Snitch at least three times out of four, probably more."

"Cho Chang, would you come over here, please?" asked Colin.

"Even so," Hermione persisted, "it still seems that the Seeker has a disproportionate effect on the outcome of the game. It seems to me that you might as well just have a game in which only two Seekers look for a Snitch."

"I don't know, Hermione, I feel pretty useful," Ginny said. "In fact, I like being a Chaser better than I liked being a Seeker last year. There's more action, it's more fun. I know I don't have the same effect on the outcome of the game, but I don't think that's all there is to sports."

Hermione shrugged. "It seems strange to me, but maybe there's something about sports that I just don't get."

They stopped talking to listen to Cho talking to Colin, who had just asked her how she had found the Snitch. "Well, Colin, it just popped up not too far from where I was. It was just good luck, really."

"See?" said Hermione, amused. Ron gave her an annoyed look.

"Do you have any general comments on the match, Cho?" asked Colin.

"Well, Hufflepuff played well, obviously, we were fortunate to end up with the win. They did an excellent job. Also, I'd like to congratulate them for playing without feeling the need to resort to Confundus Beams or other low and sickening means of cheating." This denunciation of Malfoy's tactics brought a large cheer from the crowd, including Slytherins.

"I take it that you're unhappy with what happened to Harry," said Colin unnecessarily.

"That's putting it mildly, Colin. I was disgusted and appalled, and not just because Harry's a personal friend. He really could've been hurt. Harry was too polite to answer your question about Malfoy earlier, but I'm not. I think he ought to be expelled." This got a big cheer from the two-thirds of the crowd that had remained to hear the interview with Cho. "And if he were reinstated onto the Slytherin team, and our next match is against them, I'd refuse to play." There was more applause. "Well, maybe I'd play if they strip-searched him before the match." This got a big laugh. "But he still disgusts me. And I'm sorry that your brother, who had such a great first match, had to have it end under circumstances like that."

The Gryffindor team was still listening, and hearing that, they cheered and congratulated Dennis, who was still embarrassed, but enjoying the attention.

"Thank you, Cho. Ladies and gentlemen, the Star of the Match, Cho Chang." The crowd gave one last round of applause, and headed out of the stadium, as did Harry and his teammates.

"Well, good for her," said Hermione, walking out with them. "I know you couldn't say what you thought, Harry, but I'm glad she did."

"After today, I don't think Malfoy will have many sympathizers left," said Ron. "The other three houses already didn't like him, and now he's upset the Slytherins who like you, and the Slytherins who really wanted to win the Cup, since he helped them lose that match."

Harry was on the left side of the group, with only Ginny on his left. He asked her, "So, are you going into Hogsmeade with us?" She looked around to make sure there was no one listening, and pulled him aside, letting the others go ahead.

"I'd love to, Harry, but I'm not going to. Some of my fifth year friends have been annoyed with me lately, saying that I prefer being with you and Ron and Hermione to being with them. Well, they didn't say it exactly, but they've been making jokes, and I can tell they're not happy. So I'm going to spend most of the time in Hogsmeade with them."

Harry was surprised; he hadn't known that she had that problem. "Sure, no problem," he said.

"It is for me," Ginny said, clearly unhappy. "To be honest, Harry, I'd rather spend the time with you three. I'm not as close to them as I am to you, I enjoy spending time with you more. But they're my dormitory-mates, and if I started spending all my time with you three, I'd estrange myself from them, and I don't want that."

"I can understand that," Harry agreed. "It's too bad you're not in the same year as us, then this wouldn't be a problem. When did this start?"

"Mainly in the weeks after your fight with Voldemort. During that week, I spent as much time with you as I could, of course, and they understood that. But I unconsciously did it a lot afterwards, too, and they slowly started to feel like I thought they weren't good enough for me. And that's not the case, but how do I explain to them that while I like them, I like you more? So I want to put more effort into spending time with them. I just don't want you to think that I don't want to be around you guys all of a sudden."

Harry put a reassuring arm around her shoulders as they walked. "Don't worry, we're not going to think that," he said. She chuckled. "What?" he asked.

"It's just that they've already made a couple of jokes about how you're my boyfriend. This is only going to encourage them," she said, referring to his arm.

"Oh, sorry," he said, starting to move his arm away. Ginny reached up and firmly moved it to where it was before. "I didn't say I wanted you to stop," she said, putting her arm around his waist. They laughed, then he gave her shoulders a squeeze, and they let go. "Like I said, I want to encourage this new direction."

"I suppose I should be sure to do that with Hermione in public, too, so people won't get the wrong idea," Harry joked.

"Well, then they'll just think you can't decide which of us you want, and you're leading both of us on," she pointed out. "So you can't win, really. There's no point in worrying about what people are going to think."

"I guess I've been a celebrity long enough that I should have figured that out by now," Harry agreed. He suddenly remembered something she'd said on the Hogwarts Express at the end of the last term. "So, you're not going to spend any of the time this weekend with Dean?"

She glanced at him, confused. "Why would I-oh, that," she said, then chuckled. "No, I was just messing with Ron. Almost every time I say something about being interested in this boy or that boy, he gets all weird, like he doesn't approve. Like it's any of his business who I see anyway. I don't need him hovering over me, making judgments about who I should or shouldn't see, so I'm hoping to break him of the habit by telling him a new name every now and then. Maybe he'll get tired of hearing about it and leave me alone. I've decided that if he really ticks me off, I'll tell him I'm interested in Crabbe or Goyle."

"That's mean," he said, as they both laughed. They said goodbye as they entered the castle.

Most of the school's students who were third years or older went directly from the stadium to Hogsmeade. Harry went back to Gryffindor Tower to change, and told Ron, Hermione, and Neville that he wanted to speak to Dumbledore quickly before going to Hogsmeade. So they decided that they would go ahead, and he would join them when he was finished.

He headed down the corridors to Dumbledore's office. He was about to turn one corner when he heard voices coming from ahead. He stopped because it sounded like Malfoy. He glanced around to make sure he wasn't seen behaving stealthily, then casually lingered where he was for a moment. The voices became clearer. He heard Malfoy saying, "...talking to Crabbe and Goyle. He was just introducing the stupid announcer, I thought it was going to be dumb stuff like that."

Harry then heard Snape's voice. "Then you deserve what you get, as much for stupidity as for breaking the rules," Snape said coldly. "I have told you many times that the headmaster is a person to be taken seriously, not only..." Harry couldn't hear any more as they walked away. He turned the corner and continued walking.

Harry could barely stifle a laugh. He hadn't been listening! Malfoy's contempt for Dumbledore had done him in, Harry thought gleefully. He hadn't thought Dumbledore would say anything worth listening to. As he approached Dumbledore's office, Harry put his neutral face back on. This kind of reaction wasn't something he wanted Dumbledore to see. He knocked, the door opened.

"Ah, Harry, yes, I thought you might be stopping by. First of all, you have suffered no lingering effects from the Confundus Beam, I trust?" Harry nodded. "Good. I was sure my countercurse was thorough, but it is good to get confirmation. Now, was there something you wanted to ask me?"

"Well, one thing was that I was wondering why he would have done it, knowing that there was a magic-detection field up, but I just found that out on the way here." He explained what he'd heard in the halls.

Dumbledore nodded. "I put up the magic-detection field in hopes that it would discourage him from using the Beam; I would have preferred to avoid even a small risk of injury to you. But fortunately, the field identified the Beam so quickly that there was no chance for it to cause lasting harm."

Harry took a few seconds to process this. "You mean, you knew about the Beam before the match? How?"

"Pansy Parkinson came to me an hour before the match. She had just discovered what Mr. Malfoy was planning, and was unable to get to you covertly. It is better that she came to me, in any case. I knew to take her warning seriously; you may not have."

Harry thought again. "She shouldn't have done that," he said, worried. "Malfoy could figure out where it came from, and she could be in danger."

"On the contrary, Harry, she did exactly the right thing," Dumbledore replied. "This was not a mere prank; you could have been in serious danger. What she did today is exactly the sort of thing she hopes to accomplish by staying undercover.

"In any case, he will not figure it out. The magic-detection field, while not something I had planned to do, is a plausible enough security precaution that its presence would not raise suspicion. Mr. Malfoy will readily believe that he was the victim of unfortunate happenstance, and his own inattention. No suspicion will fall on Pansy."

"But if a few things like this happen, it will. She has to be very careful about what she lets us know. With enough evidence, Malfoy will suspect her."

"Yes, Harry, but it is we who must be careful, not she. We are the ones who use or do not use the information. We must judge its importance, weighed against the possible risk to her. In the intelligence trade, there is such a thing as 'information so good it cannot be used.' This refers to very important information which, it is known to both sides, could only have come from one source. The side receiving the information must make a difficult choice. If they use the information, the other side will know, and the spy's cover is blown. A highly important spy can no longer be used. But if they do not use the information, then it was not so useful to have the spy. The spy's current information must be weighed against possible cumulative future information. It is usually not an easy choice to make."

"Don't you also have to think about the risk to the spy?" Harry asked, surprised that Dumbledore had not included this in his list of considerations.

"Of course one does, Harry, and in that sort of situation, it is usually possible to extract the spy before the sensitive information is used. But at high levels of statecraft, such information can save thousands of lives. Many spies have a sufficient sense of loyalty to the side they are working for that they would sacrifice their lives to save so many others. It depends on the person, of course."

"Well, I don't want Pansy taking that kind of risk for me," Harry said firmly. "The last thing I need is someone else dying for me."

"It is extraordinarily unlikely, Harry, which she understands as well. But what risk there is, she wishes to take. I strongly urge you not to criticize her in any way for what she has done, but rather to praise her. She needs to know that what she is doing is useful. It is very hard for her. You may express concern for her safety, but you must honor the risks she takes. As I have honored the risks you have taken in your time here at Hogwarts, rather than tried to stop you out of concern for your safety."

Harry was silently frustrated for a minute, looking around at various things in Dumbledore's office. He regarded the portraits of the former headmasters, all pretending to be sleeping. He walked over to Fawkes, and petted him for a few seconds. Finally he sat back down in the chair opposite Dumbledore's desk.

"I guess I haven't made things easy for you over the past five years, have I?" Harry grudgingly admitted. "Always jumping in front of dangerous things, when you'd tried so hard to keep me alive. You could have justified stopping me by my age, but you didn't. And I know how badly Pansy wants to help me." He paused again, defeated. "All right, I understand, of course you're right." Harry looked at Dumbledore with a pained expression. "This is only going to get harder, isn't it?"

Dumbledore nodded sympathetically. "Yes, and it could get much harder. I wish that were not the case, but it is. You may recall that this is a variation on the conversation we had after Hermione was Cursed."

Harry realized that was true. His further thoughts were cut off by the door being knocked on, and opening. Snape entered, followed by a nervous Pansy Parkinson. "Ah, thank you, Severus. Good afternoon, Pansy."

Pansy blanched when she saw Harry. She looked at him, then Dumbledore, then Snape. It was easy to see what she was thinking.

"Professor Snape is aware of your situation, Pansy," Dumbledore said reassuringly, though Pansy did not look reassured. "He can be relied upon to keep the utmost discretion." She looked back at Snape as though he were a stranger, then back to Harry again. Her eyes asked the question, do you trust him?

Harry nodded without hesitation. "I trust Professor Snape," he said. She breathed a sigh of relief, and flew into his arms. "You're okay, right?" she whispered. "I'm fine, thanks to you," he whispered back. She backed away and looked into his eyes. His expressed concern, pride, and gratitude; hers, affection and relief. Harry reflected that a lot of communication was done without speaking.

Responding to Harry's last non-whispered comment, Snape said, annoyed, "It is more accurate to say, Professor Potter, that you trust the headmaster, and he trusts me. It works out the same, of course, but I never would have supposed that a student of my own house would have required you to vouch for my trustworthiness."

"That's because I'm the one she's risking her life to protect," Harry retorted.

"The risk to her life is small in the extreme, Professor," responded Snape, appearing to be trying very hard to remain polite. "It is only your sense of melodrama-"

"Tell that to Hermione," shot back Harry. "If you can tell me there won't be any more Notts, then I'll believe that her life isn't in danger. Can you tell me that?"

"Of course we do not know whether more students will cast their lot with the Dark Lord, Professor, which is why Miss Parkinson's activities are useful. But if she takes sensible precautions, her role need not be discovered. In your concern for her safety, you exaggerate the danger to her considerably."

"I think he's right about that, Harry," Pansy agreed. "You do worry too much."

"Headmaster," nodded Snape, dismissing himself. Dumbledore nodded back, and Snape left.

"Pansy, I agree with you in part," said Dumbledore, "but Harry is in a sense responsible for your life. I have carried such burdens for many years, but it is new to Harry. It is only natural that he be concerned, perhaps to a degree you consider excessive. It is because he cares for you that he does so."

"I know," she said. She turned to Harry and said, "I'll tell you what, Harry. You try not to worry about me so much, and I'll try to be patient with the worrying you do. How about it?"

Harry nodded, not so much because he thought he could do it as because he didn't want to argue about it. He paused. "I also, of course, want to thank you for what you did. Professor, what do you think would have happened if Pansy hadn't warned you?"

"We cannot say for certain, of course, but we can speculate. Mr. Malfoy's Beam was only in contact with you for one second before it was stopped. He could have kept it on you for perhaps five seconds without drawing undue attention, and perhaps longer after he caught the Snitch. After such exposure, you could easily have fallen off your broom, and it is entirely possible that you could have suffered permanent mild brain damage."

Harry continued, being sure to make eye contact with her. "So, that's what you saved me from. I'm very, very grateful."

Her eyes filled with pride; she took his hand, and just nodded. After a moment, she turned to Dumbledore. "So, is he going to get expelled?"

Dumbledore gave her a serious look. "I am aware this is not what you wish to hear, Pansy, but no, he will not."

She stared at him in frustration. "After what he did? After what you said could have happened to Harry? Wouldn't that be considered an assault, worse yet, an assault on a teacher?"

"There are many elements to this, Pansy, which make it difficult to take extreme measures against Mr. Malfoy. Some will seem like technicalities to you, but they are important nonetheless. First of all, on the Quidditch pitch, Harry cannot be considered a teacher, as teachers cannot play Quidditch. For those purposes, he must be considered a student. Secondly, people should not be prosecuted for what they could have done, but simply what they did. Mr. Malfoy admitted cheating to try to win the match, but denied any intent to cause permanent damage to Harry. If Harry had in fact been permanently damaged, then expulsion would be in order. I know you believe-"

"It's not what I believe, it's what I heard," she interrupted. "I heard him say that he hoped that Harry would end up, quote, sounding like one of those house-elves he likes so much, unquote. That sounds like intent to me."

"Unfortunately, Pansy, that is simply talk, and cannot be prosecuted. To take a further example, after Hugo Brantell's first visit here, he told me that he was sure that Mr. Malfoy would kill Harry if he thought he could get away with it. You told Harry the same thing, based on your observations of Mr. Malfoy. Should I have expelled him for that? It would be prudent, it would protect Harry. But I could not. Now, there is apparently a better reason, but I must do what I would do if he were any other student. Expulsion, you must realize, is an extremely harsh and final sanction. It requires the highest standard of proof, having such a strong impact on a person's future. We cannot fill in the blanks around Mr. Malfoy's actions with what we feel sure is true; it can only be things we know are true, and can prove. And on the basis of what can be proved, his actions do not merit expulsion."

"His past doesn't count for anything at all?" Pansy demanded.

"Except for the incident with the Skiving Snackboxes, Mr. Malfoy does not have a record of disciplinary problems."

Pansy was still angry. "I could spend the next three hours telling you stories about things he's done that are not only against the school rules, but cruel and abusive as well." She paused. "But I suppose you'll tell me that since it's nothing official, or provable, it can't be considered either."

Dumbledore nodded. "I know it is frustrating. It would be so easy to make small exceptions, especially when we are sure we are right. But proper legal rules must protect the guilty as well as the innocent. It cannot be otherwise. If we start bending the rules to prosecute the guilty, the innocent will suffer as well. History is replete with examples of what happens when we start down that path. Surely you can recall such occasions from your History of Magic classes."

Pansy shook her head. "I can barely keep awake in that class. I've done a lot of daydreaming, though."

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows, and looked at Harry, who also shook his head. "Hermione's the only one who can concentrate enough. She was our designated note-taker."

"Hermione sure must come in handy sometimes," said Pansy quietly, no doubt remembering the map.

"Indeed," said Dumbledore, looking dismayed. "I shall have to check into this further, perhaps encourage Professor Binns to make his lectures more accessible. History is a very important, though admittedly less than practical, subject. But you may take my word for it that when we start making concessions to expediency, we head down a dangerous road."

Pansy sighed. "If you say so, sir. It's just hard for me to see that right now. I guess this is the kind of thing the person who has your job has to think about."

"Not only my job, Pansy, I hope. The more people there are who are aware of this sort of thing, the better off our society is. Now, as for Mr. Malfoy, his punishment is as follows. Firstly, he is no longer a member of the Slytherin Quidditch team, and will not be until and unless he undergoes a remarkable change in attitude. Secondly, he will be given twenty hours of detention. As you have noted, Harry, this does not seem to be a deterrent to him, but it should be done for symbolic reasons.

"Lastly, he will temporarily take up residence in different quarters. From now until the Christmas break, he will reside in one of the guest rooms, most recently used by Dean and Seamus. He will stay in the room when not in classes, his meals delivered to him. He will not be allowed visitors." Pansy's expression indicated her relief. "Yes, you will not have to keep up many pretenses to Mr. Malfoy for the next several weeks," agreed Dumbledore.

"Well, sir," said Harry, "it certainly sounds like you did the most you could do without expelling him. I appreciate the effort."

"I also made sure that he understood that any violation of the terms of his sanctions, or other breaking of rules, would be met with immediate expulsion."

"Well, you can bet he'll be on his best behavior, then," said Pansy grimly. "He'll wait until after Christmas, and then figure out a way to take his best shot at Harry. I've gotten the impression lately that he doesn't plan on graduating from Hogwarts-nothing specific, just lots of little things he's said-and I think he'll gather some of his father's Dark Arts collection, and come back here and figure out a way to use it against Harry and not get caught, or escape. You'll have to search his bags when he comes back. You'll also have to search Crabbe's and Goyle's, too." She saw the expression on Dumbledore's face, and her face fell. "You won't search Crabbe and Goyle, because they haven't done anything wrong."

Dumbledore nodded. "In addition, Pansy, things come by mail every day. To perform such searches as would be necessary would turn Hogwarts into a virtual police state. Police states are usually very safe, but people do not wish to live in them."

"I know... but his father's got lots of stuff, and Malfoy'll have no reason to hold back anymore. I guess I'll have my work cut out for me. It's just... Harry's in real danger, sir. I just want him to be safe."

"No more than I do, I assure you. Pansy, has Harry ever told you that I love him?"

Harry smiled, a little embarrassed. "It didn't come up in conversation."

"He said you and he were very close," Pansy said. "He said a lot about you, and it was obvious he has strong feelings for you. But he didn't say how it went in your direction."

"It happened little by little," Dumbledore said. "I felt a little guilty for sending him to live, after his parents were killed, with his relatives. I knew they disliked magic, and were not particularly kind or loving people. When he came to Hogwarts, he very quickly showed the courage and determination of a person far beyond his years. I could not help but admire him as he faced one trial after another, and was equal to them all. As I have told Harry, I could not even say when it happened, but at some point, Harry became as dear to me as any friend or close relative. I would readily give my life to save his. So believe me when I tell you, Pansy, that anything I do which tends to endanger Harry, I do with great reluctance because I feel I must."

Despite her experiences with Harry, Pansy was still not used to people opening up to her in this way. Filled with emotion, she nodded. "I understand, sir. I guess it must be hard for you, caring so much about Harry but needing to do your job, too."

"It is not easy, I admit. I should be used to it by now, it seems, but it is never easy."

Pansy looked at Dumbledore with admiration. "When I was getting to know Harry, back in September, early on he told me lots of personal things about himself. It really surprised me. Now I wonder if it's something he picked up from you."

Harry smiled. "I'm not even sure, to tell you the truth. It wouldn't surprise me, though."

"Another thing, sir," added Pansy. "All my life, I've been used to parents, teachers, whoever, giving instructions and never bother explaining. They'd say 'this is how it's going to be,' and that was that. Not only did you explain it, you really wanted me to understand it, it was important to you. That's pretty amazing to me, and I really respect it. Thank you, sir."

Dumbledore tilted his head in acknowledgment. "A common courtesy, unfortunately too uncommon. I may be a headmaster and you a student, but your feelings are no less important than mine. They, and your safety and Harry's, are very much at issue, so you deserve to be as fully involved in events as possible."

"And sir, thank you for yesterday. It really helped." Harry looked at her blankly as Dumbledore nodded his acknowledgment. "I took your advice, and came to see him yesterday," she said to Harry. "You were right, he was really helpful."

"I was very glad to be able to be of help, Pansy," said Dumbledore.

"Well, I suppose we should get going," said Harry. "The others are waiting for me in Hogsmeade... are you going?" he asked Pansy.

"Well, I was going with him, but now, I'm not sure. I might go in for a bit, but now my day is kind of free. Maybe I'll go spend some time with the first years."

"Good idea," Harry said. "Listen, Pansy... again, I'm really grateful for what you did. The fact that I worry about you doesn't mean I don't appreciate it. Thank you."

"I was so happy to be able to do it, Harry. It's what I got into this for. So when's our next meeting? We still have to be careful, but it'll be a lot easier now."

"How about 4:00 on Monday, usual place?"

She nodded. "Okay, see you then. Professor, thank you again."

"You're very welcome. Pansy, Harry, please enjoy yourselves."

They left, and quickly went in different directions so as not to be seen together. Harry went straight out the castle entrance, an on into Hogsmeade.

Harry thought he would have to look around from shop to shop to find the others, but he ran into Ron and Hermione quickly on the main road. "Where's Neville?" Harry asked.

"He wanted to do some Christmas shopping, he's in the Owl Order Office," said Hermione. "So, what did you hear from Dumbledore?"

Harry related all that had happened. "So Pansy's not happy about Malfoy not getting expelled, but she's really happy that she was able to help me."

"Good thing she went to Dumbledore, you'd have shaken it off and not done anything about it," Ron said, "and we'd be in the infirmary trying to get you to identify a ball and a pen."

"That's not funny, Ron," Hermione chastised him.

He looked at her quizzically. "I wasn't trying to be. I was saying he'd have ended up badly, and should take threats more seriously."

"Oh. Well, all right, then. Let's go join Neville at the Owl Order Office. I'm going to look through their catalogs and find something really nice for Pansy. She deserves it."

"Good idea, that's very nice of you, Hermione," agreed Harry. "I need to go there too."

"Well, I'd go there, but it's kind of depressing if you don't have money to spend," said Ron. "Why don't I just go to the Three Broomsticks and meet you there after you're done?" They agreed to do that, and Ron walked off.

When he was sure Ron was out of their hearing range, Harry said to Hermione, "I wish I could just give Ron a bag of Galleons, but I know he'd never take it."

She looked at him knowingly. "If your positions were reversed, Harry, neither would you."

"This is one of those 'I hate it when you're right' situations," said Harry. "No, I wouldn't. But I still wish he would." They walked on in silence for a minute. "Hermione, I have a question. In wizarding history, can you think of any times when bad things happened when well-intentioned people started bending laws and rules in the name of expediency?"

"Sure, there's been lots of times like that. Probably the most famous is the series of events that led to the schism with the centaurs back in 1388. Prior to that, some centaurs lived in close proximity to humans, and had similar rights. Now, some people got it in their heads that..." She suddenly eyed him appraisingly. "Are you really interested in this?"

He shrugged lightly. "Not every last detail, but the general outline, yes. Professor Dumbledore was disappointed that Pansy or I couldn't think of any situations like that. I'd like to be able to tell him I know of at least one."

Amused, she asked, "Now do you wish you'd paid more attention in History of Magic?"

"Like Pansy said, it's a major accomplishment not to fall asleep in History of Magic," Harry said defensively.

"Okay... anyway, some people decided that the centaurs were responsible for the spread of a disease that was going around..." She kept talking until well after they were in the Owl Order Office. Harry found, to his surprise, that he was actually interested.

They met Neville in the office, and Harry told him the major details of the meeting with Dumbledore, leaving out any mention of Pansy. "He wasn't even listening?" asked Neville in amazement, smiling. "Couldn't happen to a nicer guy..." Harry was not inclined to slap Neville's wrist for his indulgence in Schadenfreude.

Harry had been talking to Neville for a few minutes when Hermione, across the room, motioned Harry over. He came, and she showed him a catalog from a rare goods shop. "Look, this is perfect!" she said.

To Harry's surprise, he was familiar with what she was pointing at. It was a set of two small notebooks which people could use to communicate in writing over a distance. Harry could not look at them without a twinge of regret that he had never used the one that Sirius had given him; they were not exactly the same, but similar. "You think I should use them with her?" asked Harry.

"No, Harry, I don't mean you. You meet with her a lot already. I'm talking about me. She could use it in her dormitory on her bed at night, it would give her another person to talk to. What do you think?"

Harry didn't know what to think, exactly. On the one hand, Pansy would probably welcome another person to talk to. On the other hand, she and Hermione weren't exactly similar types. But then again, neither are Ron and Hermione, and they get along, so I shouldn't discourage her, he thought. "I think it's very nice of you. I have to think she'd appreciate it and welcome it."

She smiled, but looked concerned. "I hope so, Harry, but I just found a problem. I didn't see the price at first. Look at that, fifty Galleons! After my Christmas shopping, I've only got a little over twenty left... Harry, maybe Ron won't take money from you, but I will. What do you think?"

"Well, I'm definitely inclined to be generous to someone who may have saved me from brain damage. Tell you what, why don't you let me pay for the whole thing."

"Oh, Harry, you don't have to, I can always get more money from my parents..."

He leaned over, close to her. "Hermione, do you know what I get paid for being a teacher?"

Her eyes widened. "Oh, that's right, you get paid! I forgot about that! You never mentioned it!"

"I didn't think about it myself, until I got the first pay at the end of September. After that, I didn't say anything because of Ron, I didn't want it to sound like bragging..."

She nodded. "I can understand that. So, how much is it?"

"Three hundred and fifty Galleons a month."

"Wow! That's really good! I read that the average salary for British wizards is two hundred eighty-eight Galleons a month, and you don't even have expenses!"

He nodded. "And I've got quite a lot of gold in my vault. I may have a lot of problems in my life, Hermione, but money isn't one of them. So, just let me pay for this, okay?"

"I withdraw my objections, Harry. You may pay for it. After they arrive, we'll set up another meeting with Pansy so I can give hers to her and explain how they work."

Fortunately, Harry had brought most of his gold-on-hand into Hogsmeade, so he had no trouble paying. He took a few catalogs so he could look for gift ideas later that night, then all three left to meet Ron at the Three Broomsticks, where they ate, drank butterbeer, talked, and reveled in the morning's victory. Upon their return to Gryffindor Tower, they joined the victory party in progress, except for Hermione, who slipped away unnoticed early on. People praised and teased Dennis, who looked like he'd never enjoyed himself so much. Harry remembered feeling like that after his first capture of the Snitch, and he was very happy for Dennis. Eventually, he went up to his dormitory bed and spent an hour looking through the catalogs, deciding what to order the next day. Finally, he went to sleep. It had been a very good day.

Author notes: In Chapter 15: Having breakfast with Harry, Hermione, and Ron before going into Hogsmeade, Neville talks to them for the first time about his parents.