Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 26 :: Callidus

26 • Callidus

“Before I call Dobby, though, I’m wondering about something. I have been awfully reclusive on Sundays, I know, so I have no idea what it is you normally do on those days.”

“You mean aside from practice? Not much, really. Homework, playing around.” After a pause he continued, “Yeah, Hermione is usually around then.”

“It’s a shame the girls can enter your dorms whenever they want,” Harry commented. “Well, we’ll figure something out. Let’s get you back before she decides to give up and go to bed. It’s way later than normal. And, Ron, I know it sounds crazy, but start checking for tracking charms every so often. Better to be paranoid than caught.”

*

Harry folded his arms behind his head and said, “Do you suppose there’s some rule that says you can or cannot visit in another house’s common room or dorms?”

“I think if there is, it would be prefaced by something or other that said members of the house must agree on it.”

“I don’t suppose I’d be finding that in Hogwarts: A History, then.”

“I spoke with Narcissa. She has agreed to take her holiday in France. I also asked her rather more than she is presently aware of, though I admit it was a bit forward of me. As it turns out, she is completely indifferent to her husband’s plight. She is more concerned with what will happen should Lucius die and leave Draco in control of the Malfoy fortune.”

Harry lifted his head and sent a mock stern look at Tom. “You’ve been a very naughty dark lord.”

“I know,” Tom said gravely, “and I shall agonize over it for . . . at least a second or so.”

Harry relaxed back and stared at the ceiling. At least she would be out of the way, and presumably Snape already knew to speak to Malfoy. He still had no idea how to finesse the situation with Ron, though. Granted, he certainly had no desire to give up his Sundays entirely, but he did want for his friend to be able to visit more often, more easily, without arousing suspicion.

That he already came on Saturday evenings after DA lessons was enough to cause Hermione’s ire to rise, though he severely doubted she knew exactly where he was meeting up. Possibly she thought they stayed in the Room of Requirement. Of course, Ron also had prefect duties to handle, which cut into his free time.

In point of fact, Dumbledore might already be aware that Harry was sneaking Ron in. If indeed the Room of Requirement was ‘bugged’, he would have been informed of their conversations and could have drawn his own conclusions. He had no way of finding out, and it continued to frustrate him immensely that he could think of no manner in which he could get at the sorting hat a second time.

Even if he could get into the office, one of the portraits would notice and squeal on him, and to have it removed briefly would likely result in the same. Switching mental lanes, he wondered if Dumbledore would call him in for another meeting.

“What are you pondering, Harry?”

He rolled his head to the side and said, “Mostly frustration. This place is like one huge prison. I’m not sure I can stand the idea of waiting until I take my NEWTs. They won’t matter anyway, since they’ll be for the wrong person, and I’d never even see the results. My only regret would be that I’d leave Ron alone for an entire year here.”

Tom tilted his head to the side, then straightened. “Perhaps not. There is nothing to say you could not live here in the Chamber, or even Hogsmeade, or that Ron could not visit with Dobby’s help whenever he wished. Given his position, it would not be beyond reason that he might become somewhat reclusive once his best friend ‘died’, thereby leaving him with more time to himself.”

Harry crinkled his brow. “I suppose that’s true. I also suppose, that if we’re obscenely wealthy, I don’t particularly need to worry about test scores. I can just find something I’d like to do and do it. I could even go learn the things I would have learned in school in the muggle world, and take tests there. I admit, I never tried very hard then, because Dudley would get upset at me showing him up.”

“There is certainly that option. There are plenty of things you could do, Harry, that wouldn’t require you to provide test scores. For example, if you felt like setting yourself up as a wand maker or a broom designer, test scores are somewhat irrelevant.”

Harry smiled softly, then said, “Speaking of wands. . . ?”

“I’m working on it. I’ve tracked down several applicable books, for one thing, and I do have contacts in other countries that can make custom wands. Parts of that basilisk may yet come in handy.”

Harry got the distinct impression that Tom wasn’t being entirely forthcoming, but let it pass with a nod. If he was holding something back it was quite likely that he had a very good reason for it. “Are you any good at pranks, Tom?”

“Since when do dark lords play pranks?”

“You’re not without a sense of humor, Tom, and besides, you could be the first. I was thinking that with Halloween safely out of the way, maybe we could have some harmless fun. Include Ron and Blaise as well.”

Tom gazed at him curiously and slid off his chair, down to the floor. “I already know you aren’t thinking of telling Blaise, so I might have to be that little voice in the back of your head during planning sessions, hm?”

“Yes, but . . . I was also thinking that you’re the only person out of us that can easily, and without notice, pop off to muggle shops and the like.”

“Something tells me that you aren’t thinking of simple tricks like colouring peoples’ hair for a bit, then.”

Harry wrinkled his nose.

“What, then?”

“Well, nothing really malicious, but nothing that seems so obvious. I was thinking of muggle shops because they would have things we don’t. And we might be able to get some ideas from that world. The fact that we have a house-elf in our pocket. . . .”

“Then perhaps we should discuss this while we’re waiting to head to the bank, hm?”

*

Their trip to the bank was quiet and unremarked, much like the last time. This time, however, Harry had ready his letter from Greltack, which he handed over to the first available teller without a word. Within a minute he and Tom were being led back down that seemingly endless hallway and into the office from before.

Greltack arrived within moments of their guide leaving and took his seat with a nod of greeting. “What can I do for you today, gentlemen?”

Harry and Tom both inclined their heads, then Harry said, “First, I would like to ask if you would be willing to take on the mantle of estate manager for my combined estates, sir. I’m sure if you were to agree that we could work out a suitable salary for such, and if not you, then I hope you could recommend someone who could provide me with service as honorable as yours is proving to be.”

Greltack did a slight double take, then smiled. “I am quite sure we could work something out, Mr Potter. I would be honored to accept. If you like, I could have the paperwork drawn up now, though it would take a few minutes before it was ready to be signed.”

“That would be lovely, thank you.”

Greltack gave another nod and wrote out a short note, then placed it into a basket on his desk marked “Out.” Then he looked back up and said, “What did you have in mind for changes to your estates?”

Harry opened the satchel he had used to transport the original documents in and pulled out a new sheaf of papers, then placed them on the desk and pushed them forward. “I have worked out a way to split the investments according to who I would like them to go to on my . . . death. This should allow for self-sustaining accounts to be created, either now or then, whichever, that would provide the beneficiary with a lifelong income that doesn’t infringe on the capital. I thought you could look these over and tell me if this is possible or not? That is, possible, yet still allow for quarterly statements which make it seem as though nothing has changed.”

“Of course. I shall peruse these now, though I do not foresee a problem with what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Harry spent the next few minutes idly tracing the patterns on the walls with his eyes, and asking Tom privately if he had any idea if they meant anything. Tom’s response was to offer to look up some books on goblin history, ones that were not better used as sleeping aids.

Greltack looked back up and said, “I see no problems. As you have made your splits within each distinct estate, I will be able to easily compile a report for Dumbledore which will leave him none the wiser. I would presume, however, that in keeping with privacy, those reports would not be stamped with the customary symbol which denotes an attached will.”

“Correct.” Harry assumed Greltack asked out of courtesy and not because the goblin thought he was too stupid to have considered it. “That leaves one other matter,” he said as papers appeared in Greltack’s inbox.

“The remainder of the combined estate.”

“Yes, since any properties have already been noted in those bequests. I need to know my options for placing that money elsewhere. Since I am given to understand that you are not in any way required to show the contents of a will, I would hope that it would not be a problem to move the remainder to a new vault, or vaults, for the final benefactor.”

“And what name will you be going by, Mr Potter?” Greltack inquired smoothly.

Harry held his breath in surprise, then exhaled with a gust. “Remind me to add extra to whatever salary we agree on as a bonus, Greltack. You are indeed perceptive.” After a pause in which he cleared his throat he said, “I have not yet decided on the exact name. Is it possible to create the necessary vault or vaults without one?”

Greltack smiled slightly and inclined his head. “If we were to do so, I would request that the key, or keys, be bonded to you personally. That way there would be no question as to the rightful owner when the time comes.”

“I don’t object to that. Your salary can be taken from the new vault, and if you do not object, I would like to you stay on as the manager of that, or those, after the . . . change . . . has occurred, even though for now there will be no investments to worry about. Whether the beneficiaries would like to retain you for their own will be their decisions, of course. How long do you think it will take to arrange things?”

“I should think about a week, Mr Potter. Once we have worked out our agreement, all matters pertaining to your estates will come to me and me only, so you need not fear that another goblin will take this as an opportunity to, shall we say, use the information for their own benefit. They will only know that a manager has been retained.” When Harry nodded he took the papers from his inbox and said, “Shall we negotiate, then?”

Harry let Tom argue that one with his much greater experience in financial matters as ammunition. Eventually they settled on a figure that was agreeable to both parties and Harry added on a small additional percentage as a bonus amount. From there they moved on to Harry’s original will.

He dissolved that entirely but for one thing, the bequest to the Dursleys. Harry would not have been surprised if Dumbledore checked on that. Of course, he could inveigle other recipients to reveal how much they had received as well, or even overhear them talking, but no matter what, by then it would be too late.

Greltack wrapped things up by saying, “Very well, Mr Potter. If you will be so kind as to return in a week, we can finalize the details on your new vaults. The keys for the bequest vaults will be held here in trust until such time as it is necessary for me to send the recipients notice of their inheritance. The only other matter I can think of at this time would pertain to the true quarterly statements.”

“Please don’t owl them. Either I will come to pick them up, or send a representative.”

Greltack gave a significant look to Tom, then turned his gaze back on Harry.

“I realize my companion admits to no name. I’ll have to think about that, I suppose. I’ll continue to use the minor trust for owl orders for now.” Harry paused and thought things over, then said, “As we’re done for the moment, could we be shown to my vaults? I’d like to see for myself what’s in them aside from money. The inventory was rather vague in some respects.”

“Certainly. I will guide you myself.”

Much later Harry and Tom returned to the castle with a trunk full of goodies. Clothing, furniture, books, and much more were hauled from the trunk gleefully as Harry rambled on about where he’d like to put things within the Chamber. After several minutes of indulgent listening and nodding Tom said, “You know, we should probably do something about Myrtle’s bathroom. Or at least the entrance there.”

Harry stopped dead and looked up in surprise and not a little worry. “What exactly do you mean?”

“Well, we don’t need that entrance, and it might be foolish to leave it in any kind of a useable form. I realize that only a parselmouth can open it, but, it seems to me that with enough effort, a determined person could blast apart that entire structure and get in anyway. It was only safe so long as it wasn’t known. And it has been for years now.”

“Um, okay. Then what do you suggest?”

“There is already a collapsed ceiling in the tunnel. We could make that a more permanent feature. As well, consider filling much of that side of the tunnel. . . . Maybe I’m being too suspicious.”

Harry shrugged and dropped to the floor. “I don’t know. Wouldn’t it be simpler to place the entire structure under a Fidelius Charm? Though it is technically a part of the school, it also isn’t. Or, create a set of diversionary tunnels that bypass the inner door entirely and lead people around in circles?”

Tom looked thoughtful at that, then nodded. “Perhaps both,” he said, then raised a hand to rest on his chest. “Severus is signaling. Do you mind if he joins us?”

“Of course not.”

*

Snape accepted the usual glass of port and sat down, sipping before he decided to speak. “I have had a little chat with Draco as you requested. He seemed quite keen on the idea.”

“Very good. Has he mentioned anything about his latest plans to get at Harry?”

Snape shook his head. “Not yet, but I get the distinct impression that he has something in the works. Whatever it is, he must be practicing discretion, since I doubt you would be asking otherwise. However, I also implied that perhaps having been given this particular task, he ought to be looking ahead rather than wasting his time on petty revenge schemes as the Dark Lord would no doubt eventually dismiss his actions as childish, and possibly decide that he, Draco, was not mature enough to be of much use to him.”

“Whoa,” Harry said, “thanks, professor. Maybe with that running through his head, and the knowledge that he will be in his seventh year next, he may focus on congratulating himself for becoming Voldemort’s lead here at the school and trying to consolidate his power with his new comrades.”

Snape inclined his head, not deigning to speak.

Tom rubbed his hands together briskly and smiled at Snape. “Very nicely done. So that you know, I have nearly finished my machinations with Lucius’s Dark Mark. Once I have him set, I can move on to the others with more speed and finesse. I think I can safely say that we will be able to move at the school year’s end.”

He glanced over at Harry, who immediately said, “As I said before, this place is like one huge prison. If not the end of the school year, then shortly after. There might be benefits to me returning to Privet Drive first. You’ve already proven that the blood wards are a joke. It might come as a shock for the old man to learn that as well, and may be a blow to his pride that he never seemed to have considered it the way we did.”

Tom nodded. “I could always leave a suitably nasty note behind. Of course, once we both end up seemingly dead it will be a moot point, but still, there ought to be no doubt as to how you disappeared. I would suggest coming to get you in the guise of your uncle, but the Order might have people detailed to follow you home.”

“Erm, Tom,” Harry said slowly, “you don’t suppose that Aunt Petunia will do something silly like take that money and disappear with Uncle Vernon and Dudley, do you? They might not be there for you to control into coming to get me.”

Snape looked up sharply at that. After seeing a faint nod from Harry, Tom said, “I was able to bribe Harry’s aunt into securing emancipation papers for him so that we could go to Gringotts and set about dealing with Harry’s financial situation. While the amount of money was only a fraction of what I command, it was rather a lot for people in their position. You’re right, Harry. I would do well to check up on them. If they decide to disappear, I shall have to make arrangements.”

“Such as quietly purchasing the property?” suggested Snape.

“Yes.”

“There’s also the issue of Mrs Figg,” Snape said.

“I will check tomorrow, then. Assuming they have not already left, I will have to persuade them to remain for now. I doubt I could keep the watcher satisfied long term. I should also persuade them to not do anything conspicuous, such as fling about their new wealth.”

“What do we do if they’ve already gone?”

Tom sighed and shook his head. “I really don’t know. I take it back; I will go check now, discreetly. Please excuse me.” He rose and strode off quickly.

Harry looked down at his hands for a moment, an idea hitting him full force, then bravely looked his professor in the eye and said, “Sir, I’d like to apologize to you for so rudely invading your privacy last year. I know it was wrong, and I knew it then, but. . . . Well, it really doesn’t matter why I did it. It was a horrible breach of trust and I’m ashamed of myself that I did that to you. I certainly don’t blame you for calling off the lessons, and I was too much of a coward to own up to what I’d done. I’m not even sure what I expect to come of this, but I do know it’s right to admit my failing, and offer to make it up to you if you’ll let me.”

There was a long silence, and Harry continued to look at Snape, though not in a challenging manner. Eventually, the man spoke. “Potter, I am interested to know if you learned anything from the experience.”

Harry blinked and dropped his gaze to the side. After opening and closing his mouth several times he said, “Actually, I’m sort of grateful in a way. It was a good thing to learn that my father was just human, with the same faults as anyone else. So often I’ve heard about what a wonderful man he was, and perhaps he did become that, mostly, but still, he was every bit a child then and it showed. It was painful to realize that he could be just as nasty as my cousin or even Malfoy. I still don’t know how to feel about people comparing me to him. I never knew him, so how do I know if it’s a compliment or not?

“I still wonder sometimes if Sirius saw me as a smaller James, you know? At least I can console myself with the knowledge that I try, at least, not to provoke others as he did. Maybe it’s because I grew up the way I did, as someone else’s whipping boy. It also helped me to see Sirius as more than just a savior, and Remus as a more complex person. He must have been afraid of what his friends might say if he tried to assert his authority. I could see that he was ignoring things on purpose and I think he was worried that if he tried to intervene his friends would turn on him.

“As for you, I can certainly understand why you might have hated them, all of them. One, or two, cocky, arrogant gits who saw nothing wrong with humiliating someone so openly, one who vicariously enjoyed his friends’ behavior when he probably would never dare himself, and one who couldn’t bring himself to do what he was entrusted to do. I know it was only one incident, and I know it’s not the whole story, but it still said quite a bit.

“It was also the only other time I’ve ever seen my mother.” Harry smiled softly. “She could be quite ferocious, I guess. I can sort of see myself in her. She stuck her nose in where it wasn’t wanted either. If for no other reason, I’d be grateful for that. The only other memory I have of her is when she died, and that’s hardly pleasant. . . .”

A few heartbeats after he trailed off Harry heard Snape murmur, “Apology accepted.”

Harry let another minute pass before he said, “Sir, I found a number of interesting books in my vaults, some of which were Potions related. I don’t know if any of them would be useful to you, but you’re more than welcome to go through them and borrow whatever you’d like.”

“So noted. Now, as I’ve finished my drink, I would like to return to my quarters. Once you have finished sorting through your new acquisitions I will find the time to go over them.”

“Of course, sir.” He called Dobby and Snape was gone within moments, though the elf returned as he had requested.

“What is master wishing?”

“I was just wondering, Dobby, how things have been going for you. We haven’t really sat down and talked for a while.”

“Dobby is being fine. Dobby is. . . . Dobby is having a friend at Master Tom’s home he is visiting regularly.”

“Oh?” Harry grinned. “Is this a lady friend?”

Dobby gave him a sidelong look, then said, “Dobby’s friend is being called Crest.”

“I’d love to hear all about her, if you feel like telling me,” Harry prompted.

By the time Tom returned several hours later Harry had heard a great deal about Crest and Dobby had long since left to resume his normal duties as a Hogwarts house-elf. He was still smiling fondly when Tom took a seat. “What happened?”

“Neither of us considered the fact that your cousin is still in school. So yes, they are still there, and I made sure they would remain. I’ll simply have to swing by every few days to reinforce that idea, and that they should live within their normal means for the time being.”

“Uncle Vernon is quite proud of Dudley going to his old school Smeltings,” Harry commented with a curled lip. “By the way, Dobby is getting on famously with one of your house-elves. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about baby house-elves soon. You might want to tell Crest that she has your approval.”

“Well, well, I shall do that directly. I trust you had no difficulties with Severus? I did leave rather abruptly.”

Harry flashed him a slightly sheepish smile. “Er, yes. I apologized to him, actually.”

“And did he accept?”

“Yeah, but not until I told him what I’d learned from it. I didn’t push or anything, but I did offer him free use of the Potions books we brought back. I don’t know if I should be surprised or not that he didn’t take me up on my offer to make it up to him.”

“I think . . . that perhaps he has seen enough in the past few months to have possibly changed his opinion of you, Harry, such that it would not occur to him to take advantage of the situation. But, that is only speculation on my part.”

Harry shrugged a shoulder. “It’s all right. It’s high time I found the courage to apologize, and it doesn’t matter if nothing really changes. I did the right thing and I was sincere in it. I would be happy if he’s simply not my enemy.”

*

Harry stepped out of the Potions dungeon with Blaise beside him and made a beeline for the Room of Requirement. They’d been loitering in the hall for all of thirty seconds when Ron arrived, just in time for the door to appear. Glancing around quickly to see if anyone was there to notice, the trio slipped inside and flopped into seats.

“What conditions?” Ron asked curiously.

“Mm. Rather like the first time. I asked for a place where no one could find us. And”—he glanced around the room for a moment—“where no one could listen in, though I’m not sure if that would work properly.”

“So what’s with the cloak and dagger?” asked Blaise.

Harry slung a leg carelessly over the arm of his chair and smiled. “I was thinking we ought to celebrate. Halloween this year was surprisingly normal. No trolls, no mysterious messages in blood. . . .”

“Celebrate?”

“Sure! I’m going to make the bold and totally unwarranted assumption that this year will be different.” Harry paused to snicker, then said, “So in honor of that willful delusion, I propose that we three have some fun for the rest of the year to liven up the sometimes dull and boring school routine.”

A glance at Ron showed that his friend was very amused, though Harry couldn’t tell if it was simply that he had been manipulating the truth or not. “However”—he sent a stern look at Ron—“it would mean that we all are very proper students and get all our work done before we do such things.”

Predictably, Ron groaned. “Harry,” he whined.

“Ron, look. I don’t care if you pretend to be irresponsible, so long as you aren’t actually. I mean, who’s going to suspect you of anything if your marks are on the rise? Obviously you’ve been finding time to revise better, and you’d be able to prove your knowledge in class and on tests, so no one could accuse you of cheating, either. And, you’d have the satisfaction of knowing that even if you were always publicly moaning over the work you have to do, you would have the work done and all that time left over to be a bit creative.”

Ron crinkled his brow and glanced at Blaise, who raised his brows in a kind of shrug, then set his bottom lip and looked at Harry. “This use of logic and reason has got to stop, Harry. I find it quite scary.”

“As amusing as this is, you still haven’t really explained celebrate and having some fun,” Blaise objected.

“Oh, that’s simple. I thought we could play the occasional practical joke, that’s all. And no, Ron, I don’t mean with stuff from your brothers’ shop. First, their stuff is banned, and second, if we tested anything experimental, people would look to you and me first anyway. However, if we came up with anything interesting, I suppose we could give the idea to the twins.”

“If we’re going to do this,” said Blaise, “I would propose certain rules. For one thing, staying out of the house areas. Common room and dorms, I mean.”

Harry nodded and added, “Nothing inherently malicious, and I don’t think we should be avoiding our own houses, or even ourselves. The surest way to get caught sometimes is to never be the one pranked.”

“Maybe if we make it random?” Ron suggested.

“Then maybe Malfoy should never be hit,” offered Blaise with a grin.

Harry furrowed his brow, then nodded slightly. “I can think of several reasons not to hit him. The fact of the matter is, he’d generally be my first target according to most, so he’s better off left out. And if it casts suspicion on him, oh well. It might not always be easy to manage, though.”

“Sounds good. But do we even have any ideas yet?”

“Well,” Harry said slowly, “I do kind of have one off the top of my head. I saw something silly once, but I didn’t really like how it worked. It gave me an idea, though. What if we were to randomly replace forks, and maybe spoons, on the house tables so that when you tried to use them, they bent under any weight?”

Ron looked horrified at the prospect of being denied food, but nodded.

“A delay?” said Blaise. “People could use them for several minutes, then they start flopping around.”

“Are we going to have a name? You know, like your dad.”

“I wouldn’t think so. Having a name makes it tempting to use it,” said Blaise.

“We could still have nicknames, though I’m not sure what we’d base them on. It isn’t like we’re illegal animagi like dad and his friends were.”

Several minutes later Ron said, “Latin words for attributes? Harry could be Fortis, Blaise could be Astus or Callidus, and I could be Quaero.”

“Since when do you know so much Latin?” Harry accused.

Ron flushed lightly and hunched for a second. “Mum.”

“Astus, then.” Blaise mock saluted and grinned.

“So I’m brave and courageous?”

“Aren’t you?” Ron made a face at Harry. “The closest I could think of to strategic or strategy was plan, so that explains Quaero.”

“So be it. But we can’t use the names in public.”

“Harry, how exactly do you plan on tampering with that much tableware?” Blaise had his head tilted to one side and slightly back.

“I have friends in low places,” he said. While he could point out that Dobby was his friend, he didn’t want to, since if questioned, the elf would deny everything, even to Dumbledore. Ron knew, of course, but Harry would bet that his friend would keep his mouth shut. “It’s more important that we figure out the spells we’d need.”

“Then we should head to the—” Blaise began, only to be cut off by a shake of Harry’s head.

“The room might be able to provide. If not, then the library, sure.”

*

On the walk down to Hagrid’s class after lunch, Harry and Ron stayed well away from anyone else, and had even left a bit early. “So what happened Saturday night?”

Ron made an odd noise and hefted his bag more securely over his shoulder. “She was surprised when I came down the stairs. I acted sleepy and clueless, though. She went to bed almost immediately after that.”

“She didn’t say anything about going to Dumbledore, then?”

“No. Not even at breakfast. I’m not sure she dares after I’ve made it clear I support you. I expect she wouldn’t because I’d be sure to squeal to you the moment I could.”

“Mm. Yeah. Well, I hope you would.” Harry flashed a grin as he found a spot to take a seat. “Listen, I’ve been thinking about what I said earlier. It doesn’t matter if she or anyone else thinks you’re irresponsible about your work, so long as you do do it. On the other hand, you could use the periods you have free, like when I’m in Potions, to take care of your assignments. I don’t have to do all of mine in my room, as well. If she happens to notice us being studious, that’s fine, and it might help along the way when you disappear at odd times and she doesn’t know where you are. It’s even better if we randomly pick places to work.”

“Well, yeah,” Ron said with some reluctance, “I guess so.”

“And, with your recent training, it should be easier anyway. A well organized mind does wonders for memory retention, for one thing. You shouldn’t need as much time now, and that leaves more time for other things, right?”

Ron sighed and plucked at the grass. “All right. I’ll”—he grimaced—“behave.”

Harry clapped him on the shoulder and grinned broadly. “Thanks, mate. And you’ll see, it won’t be so bad. I promise.” A second later he looked around in surprise when Ron sucked in his breath sharply and went pale. “What?”

“Hagrid,” Ron choked out, and pointed.

Harry raised himself up a little and squinted. “Is that. . . ?”

“One of Aragog’s children, yeah. I think I’m gonna be sick.”

After class was over Harry helped a still pale and rather wobbly Ron back up to the castle, and in fact, straight to the library. “The sooner you get this done, the better it will be. Then you can forget all about this horrible experience,” he said soothingly, hiding his very real amusement at the situation.

“That should never have appeared in class,” Ron said in a tone that was a curious mixture of firmness and fear. “You don’t bloody care for them, you run like hell!”

“Would have made for a fun Defense essay, eh? All you need is a bewitched Ford Anglia on your side,” Harry said cheerfully as he guided Ron into a seat, then took one himself.

Ron’s head shot up, a ghost of a smile on his lips, and chuckled.