The Cat’s Out of the Bag in More Ways Than One
Something tickling his ear startled Josh awake. Looking around, he saw Silk pulling back to the pillow he’d been sleeping on.
"Why did you wake me?" Josh kept his voice low, since he didn’t know if any of his dorm mates were awake yet. Nor did he know what time it was since the dark blue curtains around his bed blocked out all light.
"If you will allow it, I would like to hunt." Silk hissed just as softly to his bonded. "I know there are mice in the wallsss. Lassst night, I picked up the ssstrongest ssscent yet when you ssssat by the fire. But in order to make sssure that your nessstmatesss do not accidentally injure me, I need you to return me to that ssspot.”
"Let me get dresssed and I will take you down." Josh promised as he pulled back the curtains and got out of bed.
Silk waited patiently for his master to return dressed in the garments he was required to wear here.
As Josh placed his pyjamas at the foot of the bed, Silk slithered on to his left wrist and once he was settled, Josh pulled his book bag, containing the books he would need for his morning classes over his other shoulder. Once Josh was in the common room, he sat down in a chair near the fireplace between a pair of the bookcases.
From the light coming in through the arched windows of the common room, Josh could see that the sun was just beginning to come up over the mountains. While the common room was empty right now, he knew the older students would soon be coming down to get some studying done before breakfast.
Dangling his left wrist, over the side of the chair in the direction of the fireplace where the mortar and some of the stone had worn away, leaving behind a crack in the wall, Josh hissed, "I have classsesss until this afternoon and then I want to walk around the groundsss, ssso I won't be back here until almost sssunssset, so if you want to go exploring after your hunt, Sssilk, go ahead. Jussst be careful."
"I will be," Silk hissed reassuringly. "Learn well young massster for all knowledge iss ussseful."
"Even if it isss sssomtimesss very ssshocking," Josh countered dryly as he stared up at the domed ceiling painted to look like a starry sky and thinking back over his first week in this very strange school.
His mum had been right about the power of the node sitting beneath the castle. As an air elemental, even though he’d only been learning how to use that power for a few months, he could feel the energy from the node humming in the air around him. He had no doubt that for his mom the effect had been a lot more powerful since she was able to tap the energy running through the ground and not just the excess that was in the air around her. On his very first night at Hogwarts, Josh found that in order to get to sleep, he had to spend almost an hour meditating to be able to block the feel of the energy out, because it was like drinking one of those stimulant drinks that were starting to hit the stores in England, claiming to give the drinker a burst of energy and help them stay awake. Something he definitely didn’t need when he was trying to sleep. During the day the energy came in very handy, keeping him awake and alert in his some of his classes, like History of Magic. A more boring teacher he had yet to find, though there probably was one out there as boring.
On their very first full day here, the fifth, sixth, and seventh year Ravenclaw Prefects had broken the first years up into groups of two or three and had taken them on a tour of Hogwarts before breakfast to make sure they knew where all their classes would be and they had also made sure the first years were able to locate the few landmarks that didn’t move about, so that they would be able to navigate their way around the school. The prefects had made it very clear that Ravenclaws were never late to class without a very good reason such as a teacher keeping them after class, in which case they were told to make sure they had a note from that teacher for the professor who taught their next class. The only really excused reason that didn’t require a note was getting stuck on the stairs and having them move you to a hall or stairway that would mean you had to take a long detour to get back to your class, since the stairs were one of the few things that were beyond anyone’s control. They were told even the Headmaster didn’t have complete control over the stairs of Hogwarts unless the students were in danger or the castle were under attack, but that the castle hadn’t been attacked in at least several hundred years.
Josh was being given the tour by Prefect Selena Alberts along with another first year Padma Patil, when they’d met one of the least liked people at Hogwarts next to Peeves and that was the Caretaker Filch. One of Professor Flitwick’s orders to the Prefect’s had been to make sure the first years knew where the out of bounds third floor corridor was, so they didn’t wander into it by mistake. And that was where they had encountered Filch. He had refused to believe that Prefect Alberts was under her Head of House’s orders to show the first years the corridor’s location. It had taken her asking a Slytherin Prefect, who was giving a similar tour to some of the Slytherin first years, to fetch Professor Flitwick so he could confirm his orders, before the caretaker was willing to let them go.
The three Ravenclaws had joined the Slytherin’s and headed for the Great Hall in the hope of getting some breakfast before their first classes, since Filch had caused them to run late. On their way, they ran into Professor Quirrell, literally. The first years both Ravenclaw and Slytherin had gone down in a heap with the stuttering Professor. While it was slightly embarrassing with an older man trying not to touch anything he shouldn’t as they tried to extricate themselves from the pile, Josh doubted that any of the other first years had felt a sharp stabbing pain in their heads, when Quirrell’s thin, almost bony hand brushed against them. Josh was also fairly certain that Quirrell had felt something too, because the man had pulled away hissing slightly as if he’d been stung. Josh just hoped that the man didn’t know which first year had caused that reaction, because even though why his carefully hidden scar had reacted to the man, but he was going to take it as a warning to be careful around him, until he had a chance to speak to his mother and see if she had any ideas about why it had reacted that way.
It was after breakfast during his first transfiguration class that Josh had received his first big shock. The teacher, Professor McGonagall had thought nothing of turning something inanimate, a desk in this case, into a living breathing animal and then just as casually turning the living animal back into a desk, essentially killing it. It was a very telling lesson showing just how casually those in the magical enclaves viewed the effect their magic had on the world around them and the fact that they might not care about the results of their spellcasting.
Professor McGonagall hadn’t been pleased when he had asked her if the animal had been harmed when she turned it back into a desk. She had told him rather curtly that even if she hadn’t reversed the transfiguration, the animal would’ve reverted back to a desk in a few ours since she hadn’t made the transfiguration permanent and that nothing had been harmed by what she had done.
Josh had then asked something that had gotten him his first detention and strange looks from the teacher and his Ravenclaw and Slytherin classmates. He had asked Professor McGonagall what kind of safeguards the wizarding world put on a spell like the one she had just shown them. He told her that there was at least one nefarious use he could think of right off the bat for transfiguration; that of turning a human into something like a book or a table and making the change permanent. It would take care of the need to hide the body because unless there was a way to detect that an object had been transfigured and from what to what the victim could be in plain view of friends and loved ones the whole time with no one the wiser.
Josh smiled to himself as he remembered the results of that last comment. Apparently Professor McGonagall had thought he was a budding warlock or Dark Lord as they were called here, so he'd had a meeting with Professor Flitwick his Head of House and the Headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore after dinner that same day.
After being introduced to Dumbledore's familiar, a phoenix named Fawkes, Josh had spent the better part of an hour explaining why he had wanted to know what safeguards there were on changing something from living to dead or in this case inanimate and about his Wiccan beliefs and the karmic debts that could accrue if a person misused the power given to them by the gods without caring about the harm they did.
Professor Flitwick had had a lot of questions about the Wiccan belief structure, and Josh had given him a general outline of it, without going into much detail. Dumbledore had spent most of the meeting in his office silent and staring at Josh as if he were trying to see into his head, which made Josh glad he'd used that shielding spell to protect his thoughts. He hated the idea of someone rummaging around in his mind like it was an old trunk.
Dumbledore's demeanour had changed though the moment Fawkes decided that Josh's lap made a far more comfy nest than the perch he was sitting on. Once that had happened, Dumbledore seemed to take a liking to him and had said he would speak to Professor McGonagall about the detention since it was clear that Josh hadn't intended to be disrespectful and that he was only trying to insure the safety of those around him which was a laudable goal. Dumbledore had then surprised him by telling Josh in no uncertain terms that each witch or wizard was solely and wholly responsible for their own actions and that not even the Wizengamot tried to legislate a person’s behaviour within the wizarding world and that the only time they were called to account was if their actions caused harm to many, or threatened to reveal the magical world to the Muggles.
Josh had then made the mistake of asking, what happened to those in the non-magical world who were exposed to the magical one and didn’t have a magical relative. Dumbledore had told him he didn’t need to worry about that since he was sure that Josh would never perform magic in front of unaware muggles.
When the Headmaster dodged that question, Josh was fairly certain that he wasn’t going to like the answer. It had taken a couple of days and some help from Madame Pince to whom he had lied saying he wanted to make sure his mother was going to be safe from the Aurors since she was a muggle before Josh had found out just what the magical world did to those in the non-magical world who were accidentally exposed to the magical world and weren’t related to a muggle-born witch or wizard.
Prior to finding about the magical world’s habit of doing memory wiping or altering spells, Josh’s opinion of Hogwarts and the magical world had largely been neutral, but after that, his opinion had begun swinging toward the negative. While Josh was willing to admit that he was probably being a little hypocritical with regard to the wiping of memories, given the truth spell his mother had used to insure his safety, he had a problem with the wholesale removal or alteration of someone’s memories. It was not something to be done lightly or without a good reason and a willingness to incur whatever karmic debt might be required from taking such actions, and yet those in the magical enclaves seemed to think nothing of it or the harm they might be doing to someone whether it was physical or mental.
Josh’s thoughts were abruptly brought back to the present when a seventh year Ravenclaw who was thoroughly engrossed in the book he was reading, tried to sit down on him.
“Hey!” Josh called startling the young man and causing him to drop his book.
“Oh… sorry…” The Ravenclaw seventh year whose name Josh couldn’t remember quickly scrambled to pickup his fallen book and continued to apologise at the same time. “I didn’t see you there and didn’t really expect anyone to be up this early besides me.”
“That’s okay,” Josh just shook his head at the seventh year wandered toward one of the nearby tables, his nose once again buried in his book.
Until just now he hadn’t quite believed Blaise’s claim that some Ravenclaws took absentmindedness to a whole new level, but the seventh year who tried to use him as a seat cushion was proving the Slytherin’s point perfectly. The seventh year was far worse than his mother had ever been even was when she was working on a coding problem. Josh personally doubted the young man was even aware of his current surroundings and had the feeling that even if an explosion were to go off in the common room the seventh year wouldn’t notice it, unless it ripped up the pages of his book. Josh also couldn’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for this guy’s yearmates. They had to be the ones at least partly responsible for making sure he’d survived this long by making sure he didn’t fall down the stairs, ate, and got to class on time.
Josh was speaking with a couple of his yearmates about the classes for the day and what they had heard about the teachers from their older siblings, when the voice of a sixth year prefect Andrew Markum suddenly silenced the room. “First years can I have your attention please?”
They all turned their attention to the slender sixth year.
Seeing he had their undivided attention, Markum went on. “As you know for the past couple of days we have been prepping you for your first potions class. The reason for that is very simple. The only House that Professor Snape cuts any slack to is his own. It is also a very well known fact that in the very first class Snape tends to ask questions that only upper years or those with prior potions experience would know the answer to.”
“Or one of the Slytherins,” one of the second years piped up earning a slight laugh.
“Fortunately for the Ravenclaws we have noticed that the questions he uses in his first class as well as his choice of your first potion tend to run in cycles, so that gives us a slight advantage over the Puffs and the Gryffs. Before you head to the Great Hall for breakfast, I want each first year to make sure they pick up one of the sheets on the table over there.” Markum gestured to the pile of parchment waiting to the left of the entry way to the common room. “They contain the ten most likely questions we think he will ask as well as five possible first potions he might have you make including the most important steps you need to be aware of for each, so that you don’t wind up melting your cauldron or blowing it up.”
Jana Yarborough a female first year asked, “Isn’t that kind of like cheating?”
“Not really,” someone Josh thought was a third year answered. “Think of it as levelling the playing field. Snape favours his own house and will be asking questions he knows you don’t have the answer to in order to make you feel nervous and stupid. We are simply countering with the weapons we have in our arsenal; our brains and our ability to spot patterns. You will learn very quickly that you will need every advantage you can get to compete with Slytherin cunning. Just be grateful you don’t have to deal with the Slytherin first years. This year the Puffs have that dubious honour, though the Slytherins won’t do much to them since they don’t consider them much of a threat or a challenge the way they do us or the Gryffs.”
“All right everyone,” the Head Boy Jason Barnett called out, “let’s get to the Great Hall for breakfast and first years do not arrive late to Potions. Believe me when I say, you do not want to be singled out for Professor Snape’s special attention.”
In the Great Hall, Josh saw Neville was sitting near the end of the Gryffindor tables, looking somewhat uncomfortable as a bushy haired girl kept chattering at him and the red headed boy sitting across from her.
Since Neville had the look of someone wanting to be rescued, Josh decided to oblige. “Hey Nev, can I join you?”
Neville nodded eagerly and gestured to the seat across from him.
“You ready for Potions, Nev?” Josh asked as he filled the plate that had appeared in front of him.
“Not really.” Neville admitted, looking nervous at the thought of Potions with Snape.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Josh tried to sound encouraging. He could see that Neville needed some kind of boost to his confidence so he added. “After all you seemed to know what you were doing when we worked together in Herbology and Potions is just an extension of that. You’re just putting together what you’ve grown so that it can help someone.”
“Excuse me,” the bushy haired girl spoke up before Neville could respond, “But you have to sit with your House during meals. It’s in the rules.”
Josh gave her a measuring stare. “What possible difference does it make to you or anyone else where I sit or eat my breakfast? And more importantly, who are you to be telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing? You aren’t my mother, nor are you a teacher, the head boy or girl, or even a prefect. In fact to me you look like a first year… just like me.”
“My name is Hermione Granger.” She countered testily. “I know I am not a teacher, prefect or the head boy or girl, but I do happen to know the rules. I memorised them so that I would be sure not to break them and they state quite clearly that all students shall eat their meals with their House.”
“And where did you find these rules?” Josh didn’t provide his own name, “Because, I don’t remember receiving a rulebook for Hogwarts, before or after my arrival here.”
“The rules are clearly listed in Hogwarts: A History.” Hermione granger informed him stiffly. “And if you’d bothered before you got here to learn about the school you were going to be going to, and I would think that you would have wanted to, given you are in Ravenclaw, then you would know the rules.”
“Hogwarts: A History was not on the booklist,” Josh pointed out reasonably. “And it is just possible that it was removed, because some if not all the information contained within it was outdated and archaic… like maybe the rules that you went to all the trouble to memorise. After all would it be right to prevent siblings who are sorted into different houses, like say… the Patil twins who are in Gryffindor and Ravenclaw from being able to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner together if they wanted to? That it would seem to me would be dividing a family and not allowing the siblings to maintain a connection if they want one.”
“I never said the Patil twins should stay apart.” Granger protested, annoyed that he would say the information she had was wrong. “There are other places they can meet like… like the library….”
“Where Madame Pince prefers that silence reigns and so the girls would be unable to talk.” Josh countered easily. “And while we Ravenclaws do have a few classes with the Gryffindors, I don’t think the teachers would appreciate the twins discussing things that didn’t have anything to do with class. Maybe you should check with your Head of House and see if those rules are still enforced, before you tell someone else they are breaking them, because they may no longer apply given that no one else seems to know about them besides you.”
Granger just stared at him in disbelief. The information contained in books was never wrong. “My copy of Hogwarts: A History does not contain inaccurate information. The clerk at Flourish and Blotts told me it was the most recent edition.”
“I didn’t say the information was inaccurate, I said it might be outdated and no longer apply.” Josh reminded her. “After all if those rules did indeed still apply, then the book would either be on the book list or we would’ve been sent a copy of those rules so we would all be aware of them.”
Granger flushed at the rebuke and realized there was nothing she could say to dispute this intruder’s viewpoint right now, but once she found it she would look forward to taking him down a peg or two the arrogant… Unable to come up with a suitable comparison, Granger returned her attention to her breakfast and her book.
Josh and Neville began a lively discussion of magical plants vs non-magical ones, making sure to include some of the ones on the paper he’d been given before leaving the common room in their discussion, even as they started walking down toward the potions classroom in the dungeon.
Since there were an odd number of first year students for both Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, Josh was able to partner with Neville without any complaints being made by either house.
While they were waiting for Professor Snape to arrive, Josh had to stifle a laugh several times at the pseudo mad scientist motif the man seemed to have chosen for his potions lab. His mother must not have seen this room or she would’ve told him about it so he would be prepared. The only things he could see that were missing that would have graced any B grade mad scientist’s lab were the monster on the slab with the electricity crackling around it and the insane assistant cackling madly in the corner.
Josh also noticed that Neville was looking nervously at some of the bell jars that had things floating in them that looked like organs or bits of animals. He was about to say something to divert Neville’s attention, when the door to the classroom slammed open, causing everyone to jump and look around. As Professor Snape strode into the room, Josh once again found himself stifling his laughter and wondering if the man had ever seen the Batman movie, cause he looked a lot like the caped crusader with his determined stride and robes billowing out behind him. The only thing missing was the mask. He had enjoyed the Batman movie when his cousins had taken him to it during their last visit to America in ‘89.
As Professor Snape passed by their worktable and took possession of the front of the classroom, Josh felt Neville recoil slightly and moved slightly so that he blocked some but not all of Neville’s view of the grim faced man striding back and forth at the front of the room like a caged tiger and even though he was no empath like his mother, he tried to project a reassuring presence for the other boy.
Seeing Josh stand up and look Snape in the eye, and not wanting the other boy to think he had made a mistake in choosing to be his friend or lab partner, Neville straightened up and tried to project an air of confidence he really didn’t feel. Snape was a very very scary man and so far he hadn’t even said a word. But Neville had been sorted into Gryffindor so that had to mean he was brave… didn’t it?
Neville had been so wrapped up in his concerns that he didn’t realize class had started until Snape barked at him, “Longbottom, since you think you don’t need to pay attention, tell me, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Neville stared at him blankly for a moment until he remembered the herbs he and Josh had been talking about on their way to class. He remembered that the Asphodel was from the same family as the Lily and that Josh had mentioned he had seen in one of his books that it was good for chronic fatigue. He also remembered that wormwood was very poisonous if too much was used, but there was a safe form and dosage that helped numb pain.
“Well we are waiting Longbottom.” Snape snapped when he hadn’t answered.
“I think it’s some kind of strong sleeping potion, but I can’t remember the name, sir.” Neville finally told him.
Snape was surprised he even managed to give a partially correct answer. “Your tutor was obviously someone with little skill at potions if they couldn’t help you remember the name of such a simple potion.” He turned his attention to Josh, “What about you, Mr Talbot? Do you a muggle-born know the name of the potion I am referring to?”
“I believe it’s called the Draught of Living Death and with wormwood in it, I’m not surprised by the Death part of the name. When too much wormwood is used it can be very deadly as those who drink Absinthe have found out.”
Snape sneered. “Muggle alcoholic beverages have little to do with the art of potions, Talbot. Tell me, where would I find a Bezoar?”
Granger who was sitting at the next workstation over was bouncing in her chair, her hand waving trying to attract the Professor’s attention.
Ignoring her, Snape repeated his question. “Mr Talbot, where would I find a Bezoar?"
Josh was silent for a few moments. “I believe it can be found in the stomach of a goat and animals similar to it.”
“Correct,” Snape told him. “And do you know the difference between Monkshood and Wolfsbane?”
“There is no difference other than the name.” Josh responded knowing this one very well. His mother had warned him at a very early age to stay away from the Aconite she grew in the greenhouse along with others, for use in certain potions. “The primary name for the herb is Aconite and it is a plant that should be handled with great care because even the smallest amount can be lethal.”
“Correct, though a bezoar if you are lucky enough to have one and use it in time, can save you from Aconite poisoning as well as most other poisons.” Snape nodded. “Five points to Ravenclaw. And one to Gryffindor, for your partially correct answer, Longbottom.”
After several minutes of note taking, Snape set them to making their first potion; a potion to deal with boils. Seeing how much Neville’s hands were shaking, Josh took over the task of cutting the herbs into pieces of the right size while Neville crushed the snake’s fangs into powder. Then Josh took the task of stirring since it required a steady hand while Neville added the ingredients.
When Neville started to add the porcupine quills, Josh hissed and pushed his hand away before the first quill could leave his hand.
“What’s wrong?” Neville asked softly, “the instructions on the board say to add the quills after the slugs have stewed.”
“We have to take the cauldron off the heat first or the potion will overheat and eat through the cauldron among other things.” Josh told him as Snape stalked around a few of the Gryffindor brewers.
“Eeep,” Neville squeaked.
Josh took a deep breath as he stepped out of the main doors for Hogwarts. They had the afternoon off and he really had needed to get out of the Ravenclaw common room before he wound up saying something he really didn’t want to. Apparently all the first years in the Ravenclaw who were either purebloods or had older brothers and sisters at Hogwarts could talk about was Harry Potter and where he was and why he wasn’t there for his first year the way he was supposed to be. They also were speculating at great length about which House he would’ve wound up in.
Josh couldn’t help wondering what they would say if they knew he was right under their very noses in Ravenclaw. Not that he would tell them. He’d seen the rock star glaze in most of their eyes when they talked about Harry Potter and made him sound like he was the second coming of Merlin.
The surface of the lake when he reached it was smooth as glass. Glancing around, Josh saw the shore of the lake was littered with rocks and stones. Picking up some of the smoother ones, Josh started trying to skip them across the water.
After a few stones had skipped across, with just a few ripples, the next stone being caught by a tentacle that rose out of the water startled Josh.
“Sammy likes to play catch.” A booming voice told him as the rock was thrown back on to shore.
Josh looked around to find the owner of the voice and saw it was Mr. Hagrid. “What is Sammy?”
“He’s the squid of Black Lake.” The groundskeeper told him in a lower voice as he came to stand beside him.
“A squid?” Josh stared at him in disbelief. “How does a creature that can only live in salt water come to live in a fresh water lake?”
“Magic, lad,” Hagrid told him as he tossed rocks to the squid to catch. “Sammy is a very old squid. I think he’s lived in the lake for over three hundred and fifty-seven years. I looked it up when I went to school here and he was first mentioned as being seen in the lake around then. I think one of the Care of Magical Creatures teachers back then got him for a class and he just stayed.”
“Why didn’t they take him back?” Josh wondered.
Hagrid shrugged, “Maybe all ‘is kin were killed, and since from what I read he was a baby then, he wouldn’a survived alone among predators. He might also be the last of his kind. Merlin knows, I’ve never heard of another one like ‘im. He’s got a good life here. He gets regular meals and Sammy’s dead useful in keeping the first years safe from the other creatures in the lake, when they are crossing it. He catches them and puts them back in their boats before things like Grindylows can git ‘em.”
“Well, I’m glad he found a home, even if it’s not one I would’ve ever though of for a squid.” Josh commented.
“Yer, Josh Talbot aren’t ye?” Hagrid asked finally remembering the name of the boy who had brought back the Stone that Dumbledore was supposed to be protecting for Flamel.
“Yes, sir,” Josh agreed.
“’M not a teacher, so ye don’t have ta call me sir. ‘M just Hagrid.” The groundskeeper then asked. “I was about ta make ma’self a cuppa, would ye like to have one with me?”
Josh shrugged, “Sure, why not.”
Josh followed the huge man to a wooden house with a thatched roof, that was near the edge of what he had been told was the Forbidden Forrest. There was smoke coming out of the stone chimney and a couple of rough wooden benches, one with a crossbow leaning up against it on either side of the doorway. Hagrid’s house made Josh think of that Robin of Sherwood series that his mum had liked to watch a few years ago on the ITV channel. It looked a lot like the headman’s cottage in the village near Nottingham where the people followed Hearne and the Old Ways and would help Robin Hood out as much as they could.
As Hagrid opened the door, Josh heard a loud barking coming from inside
“Back Fang, I’ve just brought some company fer tea.” Hagrid order as he stepped through the doorway.
When Josh followed cautiously a minute later, he saw Hagrid restraining the biggest dog he had ever seen. It was bigger than Jerry’s Great Dane Marmaduke.
Fang managed to wriggle out of Hagrid’s grasp and bounded toward Josh. Before he could get out the door though the dog was licking his face as if eager to greet this stranger.
Hagrid managed to get a firm grip on Fang’s collar and pulled him back to another part of the large room and ordered, “SIT!”
As Fang sat down near the foot of the very large bed, Hagrid apologized, ‘Sorry ‘bout that, but since I don’t have that many visitors, Fang gets excited when we do and forgets he is not a puppy any more.”
“That’s ok,” Josh assured him. “I’ve got a friend at home who has a Great Dane and he acts like a big puppy.”
Hagrid gestured toward the table, “Have a seat while I get things ready.”
Josh glanced around. Yep, definitely looked like a medieval cottage inside as well. There were Hams and Pheasants hanging from the roof beams along with dried bundles of herbs and in the middle of the room was a huge wooden slab table with small wooden benches on either side of it.
Taking a seat at the table Josh noticed there was a newspaper on the table. It was the first one he had seen in the magical world and pulled it toward him curious to see what it looked like and what they considered important news.
The glaring headline of the Daily Prophet was: Harry Potter Missing! Never Arrived At Hogwarts! What Has Happened To The Wizarding World’s Hero? Josh had to bite his lip as he read the piece of fantasy that was considered wizarding journalism regarding why Harry Potter wasn’t at Hogwarts where everyone expected him to be.
Below that was another article with a slightly smaller headline: Over Twenty Pureblood Witches And Wizards Missing! Aurors Baffled! Curious, Josh read the article. Apparently around September 1st, over twenty pureblood wizards and witches had vanished, a number of them after putting their children on the Hogwarts Express and some of the others after departing the Ministry for lunch. At first it had been thought that someone had been trying to get revenge albeit somewhat late on those Deatheaters who had been let go after testifying that they had committed their crimes under the Imperious curse like Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy and Sidney and Janice Parkinson, but that idea had quickly lost its validity when Delores Umbridge an Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic had also vanished after failing to show up for work on September 2 after her holiday ended.
Josh quickly hid a smirk, wondering if the Parkinson that was mentioned was the bigot that had ripped into his mother at King’s Cross Station. She had said she was going to open the eyes of a bigot and if this paper was right, there were a lot more bigots that even his mother knew about. Given that his mother had addressed her plea to the Gods themselves, Josh doubted the other wizard’s and witches that were missing were any less of a bigot than that Mr. Parkinson and had been judged as deserving the same fate. Josh was kind of curious about what the Gods had done to them, but he doubted he would ever find out.
Josh was about to return the paper back to its original location when a small article near the bottom of the front page caught his attention. It had a moving picture of the goblins at Gringotts standing in front of an open vault, scowling and waving someone off before closing the open door on the empty vault. The article itself indicated that a vault at Gringotts had been broken into on the day he and his mum had visited.
He whistled loud enough to attract Hagrid’s attention before commenting, “That must’ve taken some nerve and a large amount of stupidity.”
“What?” Hagrid asked returning his attention to the tea he was pouring.
“For someone to be willing to risk trying to steal something that the Goblins were responsible for.” Josh tapped the newspaper. “When Mum and I were there, we got the distinct impression that the goblins disliked thieves. Whoever owned the vault must be psychic though since the article also says that the contents were emptied before the thieves had a chance to break into the vault.”
Realising that the first year was talking about the article in the paper about the break in involving Flamel’s vault that he had emptied for Dumbledore, Hagrid mumbled, “yea, ‘spect yer right. Owner was lucky to git their stuff out before the thieves did.”
Josh was relaxing in one of the comfortable chairs near the fireplace in the Ravenclaw common room, having just finished up a very involved essay for Potions, when he felt something slither up his calf, underneath his pants.
Having a fairly good idea about who it was, Josh leaned over as if to retie his shoelace and then even though there was enough noise in the common room to cover the sound of it, he softly hissed, “Ssssilk, you can transssfer to my arm.”
He felt the weight on his leg move to his arm and once Silk was securely wrapped around his wrist, invisible to all eyes, Josh headed toward the stairs for his dorm.
“Hey, Josh, why are you turning in so early?” His dorm mate Terry Boot asked.
“Not going to bed,” Josh told him. “My stomach is feeling a bit upset. I think it was something I ate before dinner, so I was going upstairs to get something my mum made for it. Word of advice, though it may never happen, if you ever get invited to tea at Hagrid’s, avoid eating anything unless you know it was made by someone else.”
“His cooking is that bad?”
“Yep,” Josh headed upstairs. It was only the truth after all. Hagrid’s cooking was even worse that Amy’s. Amy could burn water and given the fact that she was a brilliant artist that was why the members of the coven always insisted she do the decorations for the feasts. It showed her talent to the gods and they avoided hurting her feelings. Personally Josh thought she knew she was a bad cook even though no one had ever said so to her face, but he like the others never wanted to hurt the feelings of such a sweet person. Amy was a good soul.
The dorm room was empty when Josh sat down on his bed. Silk slithered off his wrist and appeared a moment later.
“Did you have a good hunt?” Josh inquired.
“Yessss,” Josh noticed that Silk sounded very distracted.
“Did something happen on your hunt?” Josh was worried about what might distract his companion like this.
Silk was silent for several minutes before he admitted in an awed hiss “I ssssaw a bassssilissk!”
Though he didn’t dare say it aloud, Blaise was tired of listening to Malfoy brag about how well he could fly a broom and how he was going to run rings around the Gryffindors that afternoon in their first flying class. Though if he had to make a choice he would prefer listening to Malfoy brag, than listen to him complain about how incompetent the Aurors were at doing their job because they couldn’t seem to locate his parents. His complaints usually led to the other members of Slytherin whose parents were missing complaining as well, though they did it very quietly, not wanting to give the other Houses any ammunition to use against them. Blaise thought it was exceedingly stupid of them not to realise that the other Houses already had all the ammunition they needed, given the Daily Prophet had printed the names of the missing witches and wizards. Though none of the other House members had done so yet, not even Ron Weasley who would have loved to have something he could use against Malfoy given the fight they’d had on the train.
While he personally had no family missing, Blaise was fairly certain that the Aurors were not incompetent. He knew from his cousin that they were doing their job, they just weren’t losing any sleep over the people who were missing, given that the majority of them had been tried as Deatheaters at the end of the last war and had managed to get off with a fine by claiming they were under the Imperious curse.
Something good had come out of Malfoy’s parents being missing, Blaise reflected silently. Draco wasn’t threatening everyone with his Father when something didn’t go the way he wanted.
Getting to his feet, Blaise Zabini intended to head to their first class of the day, when he caught sight of Talbot sitting at the end of the Ravenclaw table, picking at his breakfast while his attention was firmly fixed on an old book. He found the Ravenclaw a fascinating set of contradictions. The other boy was most definitely a powerful young wizard even the magic he used was a kind Zabini had never heard of or seen before. While silent casting was something a powerful witch or wizard could do with training, even silent casting required the wand movements to be made. Wandless magic users, while also known in the magical world, were very very rare. Dumbledore was the most well-known of them but not even he could do silent, wandless casting. Never before had Zabini seen a form of magic that could be accomplished just by saying some words and not even in Latin, the language most if not all spells were created in and making no movements with either a wand or the hand. He had even written to his mother to see if any of the books on magic in the family library mention the kind of magic Talbot had done, but she had found nothing even vaguely like it and had sent back instructions to befriend the boy and see if it was a form of magic that could be learned. Given that the Zabini library went back almost to the time of the Founders, if their library didn’t contain any mention of it, then the magic Talbot had used was very unique and possibly very powerful.
Shrugging his shoulders, Zabini realised it was time he started carrying out his mother’s instructions to befriend the other boy and see what he could learn about this unusual way of doing magic. Zabini was grateful for one thing as he headed toward where the other boy was sitting; Talbot was in Ravenclaw and not one of the other two houses. It would’ve been extremely awkward to strike up a friendship with a wizard who acted like a muggle-born if Talbot had been sorted into either Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. His yearmates in Slytherin would’ve been instantly suspicious as would the older years of both Houses. Luckily Ravenclaw was as close as you could get to a neutral House at Hogwarts.
“Hey Talbot,” Zabini called out as he got closer to the other boy. “What are you reading that is so fascinating you are forgetting to eat?”
Josh looked up startled. “Magical Creatures Great and Small last revised by Daniel J. O’Neill in 1969. I was curious about the creatures we in the non-magical world consider legends and myths.”
Blaise looked at the pictures that covered about have of each of the two open pages. On one of the pages was a picture of a Pegasus and on the other a Thestral.
Talbot tapped the picture of the Thestral. “This looks like something the artist H. R. Giger could’ve dreamed up," Josh commented. "He's drawn a number of weird looking creatures like the creature in the Alien movie." He studied the picture of the animal more intently. "I also can’t help wondering if HP Lovecraft might not have seen one once, cause they make me think of some of his more demonic creations."
“Alien Movie?” Blaise didn’t understand the reference.
Josh sighed trying to explain exactly what a movie was would be next to impossible. A movie just had to be seen, but remembering the moving portraits in the castle he told Zabini. “A movie is kind of like your magical portraits, only most of the time the scenes they show are fictional and a whole lot more fun to watch.”
Before Zabini could say anything more the morning mail arrived and Talbot got a surprise as a snowy owl landed next to him and stuck out her leg.
“Pol, you have something for me?” Talbot stared at the snowy owl in surprise for a moment before removing the letter and handing the owl some bacon. “Mum must be back from Cousin Penny’s then.”
The snowy owl bobbed her head, took the bacon and then after it was eaten took off for the Owlery.
“Pol?” Blaise wondered where the name had come from.
“Short for Polgara.” Josh told him. “She is a sorceress in one of my favourite series of stories. Her favourite form was a snowy owl.”
Before Blaise could say anything further, the rest of the Ravenclaws started putting their books away and getting to their feet. Josh looked at his watch and put his letter and the book away as well. “Time to get to class.”
As the two boys reached the entryway, they heard a voice call out, “Josh wait up.”
Josh turned to face Neville and saw him holding out a glass ball filled with white swirly smoke that was about the size of a one Pound coin. “Look what my Gran sent me.”
Before Josh could ask what it was a drawling voice could be heard to comment. “A rememberall, Longbottom. That was a waste of her money, since I doubt it could help you remember anything.”
Zabini winced as a group of Slytherin first years gathered around them with a group of Gryffindor first years gathered nearby, ready to come to Neville’s defence if needed. He was fairly certain that Draco was about to do something stupid.
His guess was quickly proven right as Malfoy plucked the rememberall from Longbottom’s hand before the other boy could pull it out of reach. However before Malfoy’s clenched fist could get out of range, Zabini saw Talbot’s hand dart out and grip his wrist, and seemed to be applying pressure to the heel of his hand where Draco’s thumb was. Zabini noticed that no matter how hard Draco tried, the blond Slytherin wasn’t able to pull his hand free of the Ravenclaw’s grip and he was hissing in pain. A moment later his fist opened and Talbot plucked the rememberall out of his grasp and returned it to Neville.
Neville pocketed it gratefully as McGonagall walked up. “What’s going on here?”
“Malfoy took the rememberall my Gran sent me, Professor.” Neville told her. “Talbot helped me get it back.”
McGonagall looked over the group and saw no evidence of spells being cast, or wounds. “And how did you accomplish that, Mr. Talbot?”
Josh shrugged, “I used a pressure hold my self defence teacher taught me.”
She wondered what a pressure hold was and then dismissed it as something muggle. She was just grateful that he had been able to quickly resolve the situation without a spell being cast. The last thing they needed was a fight breaking out in the Great Hall. “Thank you Mr. Talbot. Ten points to Ravenclaw for coming to the aid of a student from another House.”
“Neville is one of my friends, ma’am.” Josh told her.
Malfoy stood there rubbing his right hand which was still throbbing, staring at the teacher in disbelief. “You’re giving him ten points for attacking me?”
“No, Mr. Malfoy,” McGonagall corrected him. “I gave him ten points for coming to the aid of another student. I’m giving you detention with Mr. Filch tonight for taking something that didn’t belong to you.”
“You have no proof of that.” Malfoy protested.
“Oh, I think these other students should provide a sufficient number of witnesses as to whether you did or not take Mr. Longbottom’s rememberall.” McGonagall countered. “And if you wish to continue protesting, I will be more than happy to add another day of detention and take ten points from Slytherin.”
Malfoy decided to cut his losses especially given the glares he was receiving from his fellow Slytherins.
Looking at her watch, McGonagall told the gathered students, “Well, all of you had better get to class.”
As Josh headed down the crowded corridor toward Charms class, he was surprised when a bushy haired girl ran into him, nearly knocking him over before running on. It took him a minute to realise it had been Granger the bossy Gryffindor who had run into him and that she had been crying. After almost two months of contact with the girl between classes and his friendship with Neville, Josh had thought he knew what Granger’s first response would be in most situations. He was surprised that she hadn’t apologised for running into him not even a muffled I’m sorry. She had always seemed to be such a stickler for behaving correctly. He couldn’t help wondering what had gotten her so agitated that she would act so out of character. He made a mental note to speak with Neville and see if he could find out what had happened.
Josh caught up with Neville just as they were going down to the Great Hall for the Samhain feast. “Hey Nev!”
“Hi Josh,” Neville returned his greeting.
“Neville, can you tell me what had Granger so upset earlier today that she nearly ran me down without so much an excuse me?” Josh inquired as they entered the Great Hall.
Neville looked somewhat solemn as he said. “I’m ashamed to say it was because of my dorm mate Ron Weasley. We both know Granger is not very tactful when pointing out the fact that someone got something wrong, and she can also be a bit arrogant at showing off her knowledge but when she did it today, it was apparently the last straw for Weasley. He basically said loud enough for her to hear ‘that it was no wonder that no one could stand her’ and ‘no wonder that she had no friends’. And given she’s not a favourite of Lavender Brown or Parvati Patil either, I overheard them gloating over the fact that she hadn’t been to class ever since Ron made those comments, and is currently hiding in the girl’s bathroom.”
Josh sighed, “While your fellow Gryffindor, probably shouldn’t have been so tactless, I’m surprised she reacted that way. It can’t be the first time she has offended people with her ‘I know better than you’ attitude.”
Neville shrugged. “Maybe she thought she would get a fresh start in the magical world, since no one here knew her.”
“That only works, if you don’t bring the attitudes and behaviours with you that made you disliked elsewhere.” Josh pointed out just before they went to their separate tables.
The feast had been going on for a while when the Defence teacher Quirrell came running in and once he reached the Head table he gasped. “Troll! …. In the dungeons! … Thought you should know.”
As the man slid to the floor in a senseless heap, word spread like a wildfire from those students closest to the Head table to the rest of their Houses. In a few moments there was pandemonium.
Several long bangs silenced the Great Hall and in the silence, Dumbledore ordered, “Prefects, lead your Houses to their common rooms immediately.”
As the prefects were leading the students out of the Great Hall, Josh heard a voice in his head that he recognised as Hogwarts’. Josh, Miss Granger is still in the bathroom! She never came to the feast! I have been monitoring the Troll’s progress and he is heading in her direction. You have to warn her!
Can you guide me to her? Josh never even stopped to consider refusing the request.
Yes, but you have to hurry!
Josh spotted Neville as he cleared the doorway and pulled him out of line. “Nev, Granger doesn’t know about the troll. We need to get to her and warn her.”
“You want me to come along?” Neville squeaked. “Wouldn’t you be able to move faster on your own?”
“Granger doesn’t know me that well and I’m from a different house so she might not trust me.” Josh reminded him. “You she knows and you’re a fellow Gryffindor. Will you help me?”
Neville nodded, but Josh could still see the fear in his face.
“Good man,” Josh patted him on the back. “Let’s go.”
Josh followed Hogwarts instructions as the castle tried to delay the troll. The problem was that not much was stopping it. The path it was travelling didn’t have any movable staircases and the armour and barriers she was putting in its way were being smashed to pieces causing a lot of damage.
He’s found her! Hurry! Hogwarts cried, just as they rounded the corner and saw the troll entering a doorway it had just knocked open with its club.
Both boys heard her scream and darted in the doorway. They saw a smashed sink with water spewing out of it and Hermione Granger curled up under another one screaming while she tried to avoid the swinging club.
“Granger!” Josh shouted. “Shut up, you’re just attracting his attention.”
Hermione was so surprised at hearing the unexpected voice in the girl’s bathroom she went silent instead of trying to argue the point.
“Neville, try and get to Granger. I’ll distract the troll.” Josh ordered, before shouting, “Hey stupid!” in the general direction of the troll.
The troll turned around searching for the source of the new noise
“Over here!” Josh waved to attract its attention as Neville tried to pull Granger out from under the sink. He needed to keep the troll’s attention focused on him for a few minutes. Long enough for Neville to get Granger out of the room.
As he dodged the swinging club, Josh looked around desperately trying to find something he could use as a weapon and then it hit him… the water on the floor. He just hoped he could muster enough concentration while dodging the club to harness the node energy in the air around him and use it to cool the air around the water and force the water to freeze.
He was almost there when he heard Neville’s voice shout, “Wingardium Leviosa!”
Startled, Josh saw the troll’s club go above his head as the troll’s foot came down on the icy patch Josh had created. While the sheet of ice wasn’t very thick, it was thick enough to make the troll’s foot slip, just as Neville’s spell lost its hold on the troll’s club.
As the troll crashed to the ground knocked out by his own club, its outflung arm struck Josh, sending him into the wall and knocking him unconscious.
Once they were certain the troll wasn’t going to be getting up any time soon, Neville and Hermione ran over to check on Josh.
“And just what happened here?” McGonagall demanded as she, Snape, ad Quirrell arrived on the scene.
“Talbot and I remembered that Granger was in here and hadn’t gone to the feast so she didn’t know about the Troll.” Neville stammered trying not to look at the stern faces in the doorway. “The troll beat us here and was trying to hurt Granger so Josh distracted it while I tried to get her out of the way.”
“Why wasn’t Granger at the feast?” Snape demanded. “And more importantly, why didn’t you let one of the Prefects know she wasn’t there? It’s their responsibility to insure your safety. It would have been far better to let them handle this than a pair of first years who barely know which way to point their wands.”
“Professor McGonagall,” Hermione interrupted the inquisition, not wanting to have to explain about how hurt she had felt because of Weasley’s comments. “Mr. Talbot has been knocked out by the troll I think we need to get him to the hospital wing.”
McGonagall quickly conjured a stretcher and floated the unconscious boy on to it. “Professor Snape, would you please take Mr. Talbot to the Hospital wing while I escort these two first years back to the Gryffindor common room?”
Snape muttered something that no one could make out before gesturing with his wand toward the stretcher. It rose and floated along behind him as he headed for the hospital wing.
Madame Pomfrey came in early to check on her only patient, the first year who had been knocked out by the troll that had somehow managed to get into the school. According to what Minerva had told her, he had been injured trying to save another student. Madame Pomfrey didn’t know whether to call the child brave or foolish for trying to confront a mountain troll. Fortunately other than a slight lump on his head, all the scans she had run on him showed he would recover without any side effects from the ordeal. She also fully expected him to wake up this morning after spending the night unconscious.
As Pomfrey approached the bed the Talbot boy was lying in she gasped. There was a different child lying in the bed she had left Talbot in the night before. This child had shoulder length black hair instead of the short auburn hair Talbot had. Moving closer to get a better look at his face, Pomfrey saw the lightening bolt scar on his forehead and gasped.
It was Harry Potter!