MuggleNet Fan Fiction
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Carried In My Heart by Oregonian

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A Thank You to my always helpful and supportive beta reader, Nagini Riddle of Gryffindor House.

–Hannah! It’s so good to see you again,” Ernie Macmillan exclaimed.

–Can I sit here?” Hannah Abbott asked in a subdued voice.

–Well…certainly,” he stammered, and Hannah sat down next to him on the compartment seat, hunched over as if she were cold, although the day was balmy.

–You’re coming back to school,” Ernie began tentatively.

–I wasn’t ever going to come back,” Hannah said, still looking down, her hands clenched together between her knees. –But I got a letter from the Ministry—I have to come back. There isn’t any choice.” She raised her face to Ernie’s. –I’m leaving my father all alone, and I’m afraid for him. They killed my mother because she was a Muggle. Will they kill him because he married a Muggle?”

The question had no answer. Ernie took Hannah’s hands and squeezed them gently.

–I missed a whole year of school,” Hannah continued sadly.

–You’ll be able to catch up.”

Hannah shook her head. –No way it could be done. I’ll be doing my sixth year over. I won’t be with the kids I used to be with; you’re all in your seventh year now.”

–But you knew the Hufflepuffs in the year behind you too. We all knew them.”

–Sort of. I guess I’m going to know them better now.”

Ernie stared out the window at the station platform where a few people still milled around. –You know what will be strange? All the kids who were being taught at home by their parents will be coming to Hogwarts now. I wonder how they will fit in, or if they have learned as much as the Hogwarts students their own age. Will they be Sorted like the first years?

–I guess so. They would have to be.”

–Imagine that. Some of them might be as old as we are, as tall as adults, sitting on the stool with the Hat on their heads. I never would have dreamed it.” After a moment he added, –If any of them get Sorted into Hufflepuff, we’ll have to be sure to make them feel welcome. They’ll feel so out of place.”

The train began to move, and the station was slipping behind them.

–They’ll help fill up the empty spaces in the dorm,” Ernie said, staring forward.

–What empty spaces?

–The Ministry set up a Commission during the summer. They call it the Muggle-born Registration Commission, and Muggle-borns are supposed to go to the Ministry office to be registered, or interrogated, or something. No one knows what happens to them, but a lot of people have gone missing.”

Hannah looked at him with wide eyes. –How do you know about this?”

–It’s in the Daily Prophet. They print lists of Muggle-borns who didn’t show up for their interviews. We’re supposed to inform the Ministry if we know where these people are.”

–That’s awful,” Hannah whispered.

–You didn’t know about this?”

–No. We live on a farm, my Dad and me. We don’t take the Daily Prophet. I’m just here because I got that letter.”

Ernie reached over again and took one of Hannah’s hands in both of his, enclosing it completely. Her hand was cold in his, and he hoped she would feel his warmth flowing into her.

–Don’t worry,” he said. –We’ll stick together, like always. Even if you have to take classes with the sixth years, you’re still one of us.” He stood up. –I have to go up to the prefects’ carriage for a while, but I’ll be back.” Reluctantly he moved to the compartment door, then turned his head to face her again as his hand rested on the brass lever. –Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back.”


Early in the journey, some younger Hufflepuffs had wanted to join Ernie and Hannah in their compartment, but Ernie had shooed them away. Hannah had started to object to this apparent lack of cordiality, but Ernie had just said, –Don’t worry. There’s plenty of seats on the train. They’ll find places somewhere else. It’s not crowded like in the old days.”

He wanted to spend as many of these eight hours on the train as he could alone with Hannah. He had missed her greatly after she left school early in the previous year, but he had never sent her an owl because he didn’t know what to say. In his young life he had never had any experience in writing a letter of condolence, and he didn’t know how to phrase it, yet it seemed wrong to write without any mention of Hannah’s loss of her mother, so he had continued procrastinating in writing the letter until it seemed discourteously tardy. Now almost a year had gone by.

An hour later, after listening to the instructions of the Head Boy and the Head Girl in the prefects’ carriage and making a one-time circuit of the corridors, Ernie returned to the compartment where Hannah sat alone, gazing out the window. He joined her on the bench seat, upholstered in rusty red leather, and they sat for a while without speaking, watching the landscape slipping past the window, as they had done so many times in the previous six years. The tall urban buildings had long since given way to leafy suburbs and now they were traveling through flat rural farmlands.

–Good meeting?” Hannah finally asked.

–The usual,” Ernie said. –Did you bring a lunch?”

–Yes, I always do,” Hannah answered.

–Me too,” said Ernie. –The stuff on the trolley is all sweets. I don’t see how some kids can make an entire meal out of all of it. It would make me sick to my stomach.”

–I’ll bet you ate them when you were younger,” Hannah said with a sly look at him out of the corner of her eye.

Ernie was glad to see that she was a little more cheerful. –Sure, when I didn’t know any better, but now I take a long view. Got to take care of yourself.”

He leaned across and started to open his shoulder bag that was sitting on the opposite seat. –Let’s eat now. I’ll have to patrol again pretty soon.”

As the two of them took out their brown paper lunch sacks and withdrew their sandwiches, Ernie remarked, –All the kids that I know for sure were Muggle-borns, like Justin, they’re not on the train today.”

–Where do you think he is?’ Hannah asked.

–Dunno,” Ernie said while chewing a bite. –I just hope to Merlin he got out of the country. I hope he wasn’t one of those fools who hang around, telling themselves, ‘Oh, it can’t really be that bad.’ ”

–And what about us?” Hannah asked, holding her uneaten half-sandwich. –Are we fools to still be here?”

–Dunno that either,” Ernie answered. –I suspect that some half-bloods have scarpered too. Figure they’re the next in line. But other people probably think their kids are safer at Hogwarts.”

–No one really knows, do they?” Hannah said. –My dad and I just decided to be together in however much time we had left. At least if we’re going to die, we’d rather die together than separately. But now we can’t do even that. I don’t think we have control over anything anymore.”

Ernie finished his sandwich and took an apple out of his sack.

–Maybe not,” he said. –But at least you won’t be facing N.E.W.T. exams this year. I remember how worried you were about your O.W.L.s, but you passed them well enough to come back last year. It’s not like some people who had to sit their O.W.L.s over again because they did so badly.”

–You can do that? You can sit O.W.L.s over?”

–If you want to, and if you pay an extra fee, or maybe it’s a bribe.”

Hannah smiled broadly this time, which Ernie was glad to see, and said, –You don’t suppose.” Then she became solemn again. –I suppose I’ll be taking the same classes I signed up for last year.”

–Yes,” Ernie said, –but this year I’ll be able to help you study because I took them last year.”

Hannah shook her head. –I don’t want to take up your time. You’ll be studying for N.E.W.T.s.”

Ernie stood up, brushing crumbs off his lap onto the floor. –I don’t mind; you’re smart. Remember how well you did in Defense Against the Dark Arts? It won’t take much of my time, and it will be good revising for me.”

Hannah smiled at him and then continued with her sack lunch, while Ernie began eating his apple.

–See? It’s not going to be so bad. We’ll even be prefects together again.”

–Really?” Hannah exclaimed. –Do you think they’ll have me do that? I’m not in your year anymore, and there’s already two sixth-year prefects, the ones that were fifth-year prefects last year before I left.”

–You bet they’ll let you do that. You know something? They never appointed a new prefect to replace you after you left. Last year I was the only one in our class. Of course, it wasn’t more that I could handle,” he added proudly. –We can patrol together. It’ll be like old times.”

–Yeah, we always worked well together.”

Ernie finished his apple and Vanished the core, then looked back into his paper sack to see what else his mother had packed for him. In the bottom of the sack were a little parcel of nuts and raisins and a parcel of carrot sticks.

–I’ve got some biscuits that I’ll share with you,” Hannah said. –Unless they’re too sweet and unhealthful, of course,” she added.

Ernie looked up to see the twinkle in her eye. –Did you bake them yourself?” She nodded. –Then they’re just right.”

As she tumbled some of the biscuits out of her sack into his open hands, he said, –Remember the time when Justin accidentally left the Baltic Lignophore sitting on the corner of a wooden table, and it reached down with its branches and gnawed the leg off the table?”

–Merlin, that was so funny,” Hannah laughed. –I remember we were all down at the other end of the greenhouse doing something else, and all of a sudden—Crash! And the whole table tipped over.”

–Yeah,” Ernie said. –I’ll bet nobody ever forgot again that you need to keep them on metal tables. When was that? Our second year?”

–Maybe. A long time ago.”

–And then there was the time when those Ravenclaw kids were trying to make their plants grow better than anyone else’s—they thought they were such hotshots—and they put some kind of special fertilizer on them—they said they got the recipe out of a book but I doubt it, I think they made it up themselves—and overnight they grew so much they filled the greenhouse like it was a giant glass box of market lettuce.”

–I heard about that,” Hannah said, –but I didn’t see it. Did you?”

–Yeah, I actually did. I was just coming up to breakfast early, after studying in the common room like I always do in the morning, and I heard some Ravenclaws talking. Apparently the kids had sneaked out to the greenhouse as soon as it started to get light, to see how their experiment had worked, and they panicked when they saw what had happened. So I ran out there as fast as I could because I knew Professor Sprout would Vanish or Shrink it as soon as she saw it. It was wicked. The leaves were all pressed up against the glass, you couldn’t see anything but leaves, and the branches were sticking out the ventilation ports. I really hope those ‘Claws wrote down what they put in there, because it definitely worked.”

Ernie leaned back against his seat. He was glad he could make Hannah smile again, if even only briefly. He was not a fool. With Professor Dumbledore dead, and Professor Snape in charge, this school year was going to be grim. He was infinitely glad to see Hannah again but dismayed by the circumstances for all of them. And with Snape elevated to the Headmaster’s post, who was going to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts? Some poor bloke who wouldn’t last the year, no doubt.


The school year turned out to be beyond their worst fears. The war was heating up not only in the wizarding world at large, outside of Hogwarts, but it had also penetrated, like the thickest London fog of olden days, throughout the castle into all the classrooms and public areas—the Great Hall, the library, the entrance hall, the corridors, any place that Headmaster Snape, Mr. Filch, the Professors Carrow, and the inquisitorial goons could have free passage. Communications between students in these areas was by hasty whispers in locations where anyone approaching could be seen from some distance away.

Only within the Hufflepuff common room and dormitories did Hannah feel at least a little bit safe. Although she was taking sixth-year classes, she had been reinstated in her position as a seventeen-year-old prefect alongside Ernie, and they took their turns in patrolling the dark corridors at night, talking in low voices, stiffening instinctively whenever they crossed paths with patrolling Slytherin prefects, or, worse, the Head Boy and Girl, Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson.

The atmosphere in the classrooms was tense, and even the professors seemed jumpy, as if their minds were only half on the lessons they were presenting, and Ernie complained that the classes weren’t as rigorous as they had been in previous years.

He and Hannah were studying together at a small table in the Hufflepuff common room after dinner in early October. The lamps on the walls gave a warm yellow glow, and a low buzz of conversation came sporadically from students at other tables.

–You’re probably right,” Hannah said, not glancing up from her open book and her sheet of parchment. –Perhaps it’s a miracle the school still functions at all. But I’m not completely sorry if they’ve slackened a little. There’s so much else we have to do now—patrolling, keeping the kids in line. Speaking of which…” She stood up. –I’d better check on the study table. I’m hearing a little too much oratory coming from that direction.”

She pushed back her chair and walked across the room to a longer table where the six first-year students were studying together. Hannah had instituted the study table for them two weeks into the term when it became apparent that infringement of the rules at the castle, including failure to complete homework, would be punished more severely than in the past, and she wanted to keep them safe and teach them survival skills as quickly as possible.

Ernie watched her go. Already he could see her blossoming in her self-appointed caretaker role, while he himself was focused on his own studies and the end-of-year N.E.W.T. examinations. It would be harder, he thought, having to learn more from his books because he was getting less content in the classroom. He shook his head and returned his gaze to the page he was studying.

When Hannah returned, he asked, –Everything okay?”

–It’s fine,” she said, smiling. –They were hung up on a point in their Potions lesson and couldn’t go forward, so they started talking about other stuff. I got them going again. They need to learn to manage their time better and ask me for help when they get stuck, instead of just stewing.” She reached out and gave Ernie’s hand a squeeze.

He glanced over at the study table and saw six heads bent over their work again, quills scribbling industriously on parchment. Hannah is so capable, he thought, His grandiose vision of helping her with her sixth-year classes, which he had entertained during their long train ride to Hogwarts in September, had rapidly dissolved, as it had become obvious that she didn’t need help. In previous years he had thought of her as sweet, quiet, unremarkable Hannah, notable mainly for her anxiety and loss of composure about her O.W.L. exams, although always a kind-hearted friend.

But he could see that she had changed during her year of absence. There was a steeliness and self-confidence that had not been there before. Perhaps the murder of her mother had taught her to focus on what was most important, or had taught her to face adversity with courage rather than retreat. He didn’t know. But he knew in his gut that they were growing in different directions. Now that she was no longer at home, watching out for her widowed father, she had transferred her concerns to the first years and was taking charge of them.

He could even see himself eventually eclipsed by her, and this bothered him because he had always prided himself on being the top student in his class and, now that he was in his seventh year, the top student in Hufflepuff House. Achieving that status had never been out of his reach in previous years; it had only been necessary to put in long hours of study. But this year was different. Glory would be attained in other ways, he suspected, but he didn’t know what those other ways were.

At nine p.m. Hannah returned to the study table and told the first years, –That’s it. Time to pack it in and head off to bed.” Most of the students gladly snapped their books shut and gathered up their parchments, but one girl remained sitting.

–Hannah, I’m not finished yet.”

–Then set your alarm for six a.m. and finish in the morning, Elsa,” Hannah advised her kindly. –You can’t think straight when it’s late and your brain is tired.”

Hannah shooed the first years toward the dormitories and turned to Ernie. –We need to get some shut-eye also. We start patrolling at two a.m.”

–Who are we relieving?” Ernie asked.

–David and Phyllis.”

She probably has the whole schedule memorized, he thought.

At two a.m. Ernie and Hannah received the patrol clipboard from the returning patrollers and started out into the dark, deserted corridors, their wands alight and their cloaks wrapped tightly around them. They followed a standard mapped route, and every thirty minutes they took an allowed-five minute break, sitting on a bench or window seat. Even so, one covered many miles during a patrol shift. At three a.m. they encountered Blaise Zabini, who was striding alone along the corridor at twice his usual pace, a look of fury on his face.

–Have you been up on the fourth floor?” Blaise demanded.

–Not yet,” Ernie answered, shaking his head. –What’s wrong?”

–Those idiots are writing graffiti on the walls,” Blaise declared angrily. –And I can’t get it off. You’re positive you haven’t seen anyone?”

–Not a soul,” Hannah said. –Do you want us to go up there?”

–Don’t bother,” Blaise barked back. –If I can’t get it off, you can’t get it off. Stick to your route. Professor Snape will have to deal with it in the morning.”

He stalked off down the corridor. Ernie and Hannah watched him go, and then Ernie said, –If it weren’t for the special privileges given to Slytherins, I might have been Head Boy this year. It’s not really fair. The appointment wasn’t made on merit.”

Hannah detected a note of bitterness in his voice. She suspected that the Head Boy title had been Ernie’s dream ever since he had come to Hogwarts as an eleven-year-old, although she wasn’t sure he would have been named to the post, even in better times.

She put a hand on his arm and said, –No, it’s not fair. But look at it this way—at least you don’t have the extra duties of the Head Boy and you can spend more time studying for good N.E.W.T. marks. That’s what matters in the long run.”

He was silent, and she added, –Twenty years from now, nobody else will care who was Head Boy, and, to be honest, it looks like a shit job anyway.”

Ernie looked at her, startled. –Those are hard words, coming from you.”

–These are hard times. We’ve got to stick together and keep our eyes on what’s really important. Our families. Each other.”


As the weeks went by, conditions in the castle continued to deteriorate. Punishments escalated, inspiring increasing acts of rebellion by the students, triggering more punishments, in an endless cycle. Keeping the younger students safe while countering the vicious influence of the Death Eaters was becoming ever harder for Hannah, while Ernie retreated into his books.

One evening Hannah stalked away from the first years’ study table and threw up her hands. –I’ve had it!” she announced to anyone and everyone, and cast herself down into a chair.

Wayne Hopkins, a seventh-year student, looked up from his book and said kindly, –What’s the matter, Hannah?”

–It’s these stupid Muggle Studies essays! That stupid Carrow assigns the kids to write these essays about Muggles that are absolute garbage, and if the kids don’t write them, they get in trouble, but if they do write them, they’ll end up believing them. How can I help them understand that yes, we write this stuff, but no, we don’t believe it, but yes, we have to pretend we do, to protect ourselves, but no, it’s not right, that’s the coward’s way out…” She gritted her teeth and ran the fingers of one hand through her hair.

–What do you want to do, Hannah?” Wayne continued.

–What do I want to do? If you want to know, I’d like to incinerate the whole lot of them!”

–The Carrows?” Wayne asked.

–No,” said Hannah, more calmly now. –I mean the essays.”

–That could be arranged,” Wayne said with assurance, keeping steady eye contact with Hannah.

–How?” she asked.

–Simple,” Wayne answered. –You put an Incendiary Charm with a time delay on one of the parchments. You’ve probably seen how Professor Carrow collects all the essays into a bundle and puts them in her bag at the end of class. You time the charm to go off at the beginning of the lunch hour, when they’re still in the bag. Voila! Spontaneous combustion.”

–And by the time she gets back from lunch, they’re all in ashes.” Hannah was grinning widely now. –Maybe even her whole office, if we’re lucky. Do you know how to do that?”

–I know who does,” Wayne said. –Neville Longbottom. I know him well because we’re in the same research group in N.E.W.T. Herbology, and he’s in N.E.W.T. Charms, so I’m certain he can do it.”

–I know him too, sort of. I was in Dumbledore’s Army with him back in fifth year. Will you ask him for me?”

Ernie looked up from his book. –You’re not actually going to do it, are you?”

Hannah opened her eyes wide in surprise. –Of course. We can’t let them run roughshod over us. We can’t let them teach the little kids this garbage. We have to strike back. Don’t you want to fight too?”

–I want to study for my N.E.W.T.s. I don’t want to get thrown out of school.”

–I’ll leave you two to discuss this between yourselves,” Wayne said hastily, and he gathered his books and parchments and moved to another table across the room, where he directed his attention to his homework and did not look at Ernie or Hannah again.

Hannah turned back to Ernie. –I can’t believe you’re saying that,” she said in a hushed tone, leaning close to him. –You were in the D.A. with us back in our fifth year. What’s changed?”

–I was in the D.A. to learn how to do Defense Against the Dark Arts so I could pass my O.W.L.s,” he returned in a forceful whisper, –so it helped my studies. But I can’t get involved with this now. Unlike you, I’m facing my N.E.W.T.s at the end of the year. I have to study, and I have to do my prefect patrols, and that’s all I have time for.”

–No time for the rest of us?”

–I can’t help it if I think about my future.” He turned his face back to his book again. It was hard to see the hurt in her eyes.

–If we don’t defeat You-Know-Who, we won’t have a future. Nobody will.”

In the ensuing week, Ernie noticed Hannah and Wayne in close conversation a couple of times, in a corner of the common room away from other students. He did not doubt that Hannah and Neville were finalizing a sabotage of the sort that Wayne had suggested, with Wayne as their go-between. But Ernie didn’t ask her because he didn’t want to know. When she helped the first years at their study table in the evening, he did not watch her interact with them, but kept his eyes on his books and parchments and tried to ignore all sounds of conversation.

So that was why he did not notice, one evening, as Hannah was looking over the children’s Muggle Studies essays, that she said to one boy, –You have too many strike-outs and mis-spelled words in your essay. Professor Carrow won’t accept it. Here’s a clean sheet of parchment. Write your essay over again more carefully.”

The next afternoon the news ran around the school that there had been a fire in the office of Alecto Carrow and that most of her desk had been reduced to ashes.

As the weeks went by, a steady stream of acts of sabotage occurred, each defiant act being unique, so that the Death Eaters could not anticipate what would happen next nor detect a pattern. One morning the door to Alecto Carrow’s Muggle Studies classroom was discovered to have simply disappeared overnight, replaced by a blank, featureless extension of the stone wall on either side of its previous location. No effort by Professor Carrow sufficed to restore the door, and Professor Flitwick, when summoned to help, declared that it was beyond his experience. All of Professor Carrow’s teaching materials were inside the now-sealed room, so Muggle Studies classes had been cancelled for two days until the room could be accessed again by creating a new doorway in a different location.

Ernie did not know whether Hannah was involved in some of these acts, but he never asked, and the unanswered question hung in the air between them like a barrier. He began counting the weeks until the arrival of the N.E.W.T. examiners. Just let me hang on until the exams are over, he prayed.

Except for their prefect patrols together, he did not spend much time with Hannah anymore. He told himself that it was because they were studying different things But even when she occasionally sneaked over to the kitchen to get some sweet treats from the kitchen-elves for a little morale-boosting party in the common room in the evening, he did not join in. He watched her from a distance, feeling very alone, assailed by intrusive memories of their first year at Hogwarts, when everything had been so simple and exciting.


News reports of what was occurring outside the castle were scanty, vague, and unreliable. Newspapers had been banned; all incoming mail was opened and censored by Mr. Filch and the Carrows before being given to the students, and it was widely assumed that much mail was not being delivered at all. No one knew where Harry Potter was, or what he was doing, though uninformed speculation abounded.

During Christmas break, Ernie hoped to glean more information, since his parents subscribed to the Daily Prophet, but the recent editions of that newspaper at their house contained nothing but obvious propaganda; after reading through a small stack of newspapers, he knew no more than before.

Back at Hogwarts in January, there were rumors that someone had somehow smuggled a wireless into the castle and that it had been rigged to pick up broadcasts, but the alleged contents of these broadcasts were little more than pep-talks, nothing more substantial than reports on deaths and lists of persons who were still known to be alive.

Hannah and Wayne began taking roll call in the common room every evening at eight forty-five p.m. to make certain that no students were out after nine p.m. The punishments for rule-breaking were becoming steadily more severe—imprisonment, the Cruciatus Curse—and curfew violation was a serious infraction.

–How can you be so careful of the little kids’ welfare and at the same time risk your own safety so much?” Ernie asked Hannah one evening after her nightly head count, as he sat at a table surrounded by his usual stack of books. –Sooner or later they’re going to figure it out, this pipeline from Neville to Wayne to you. The time-delayed Incendiary Charm, the Door-Disappearance Charm, all that other stuff. And then what? I worry about you every day, even if I don’t say so. So far you’ve been incredibly lucky, but—”

–I know it wouldn’t do any good to say, ‘Don’t worry, Ernie,’ ” Hannah said, glancing around to see if any other Hufflepuffs were close enough to be hearing their conversation. One of her fears was that a younger student would get wind of her resistance activities and naïvely give the information away. –You’ve always been a good friend, and when I was little, you were so supportive, and I really appreciated that. Yeah, we’ve been lucky so far,” she gave a rueful little laugh, –if you can call being here in the castle lucky at all. I feel like a sitting duck, waiting for some kind of disaster to strike at any minute—you know it’s going to happen, sooner or later. And I just can’t sit here like a target. I have to take action.”

Ernie reached out and squeezed her hand. –Just be careful, be smart. That’s all I ask. I’d hate to lose you.”

–Likewise.” She gave him a sad smile.

Their mutual support was put to the test the very next night, when Hannah took her checklist and began marking off the names of the students in the common room at eight forty-five. Several people were missing, so she went back into the dormitory rooms to complete the roll call, but a few minutes later she emerged hastily into the common room again and announced loudly to everyone there, –Does anyone know where Miranda is? I don’t see her anywhere.”

Everyone glanced around the room, and the second-year girls looked at one another blankly, shrugging their shoulders and saying, –I don’t know.”

–Guys, this is serious,” Hannah reiterated. –Does anyone know where Miranda is? Did she say she was going anywhere?”

A few answers came from the crowd—–She didn’t tell me anything.” –I haven’t seen her.”

Ernie stood up. –Okay, when was the last time anyone saw her? Did you see her at dinner?”

A handful of younger students said, –Yeah, I saw her.” –She was there.” –She was sitting next to us.”

–And after dinner?” Ernie continued. There was some shaking of heads, but no one offered any information.

–Then Miranda’s missing, and you all know what that means,” Hannah said. –We’re all going to search all of our residence really fast. Everyone, to your dormitories. Look under all the beds, behind all the curtains, in all the cupboards, behind racks of clothes. Open every trunk. Then check the toilets, look in every stall and in every shower.”

The students sat there, staring at her without moving.

–Go!” Hannah said. –Be as fast as you can. You can all be back here in five minutes.” The girls got to their feet, but most of the boys lagged.

–You too,” Ernie ordered them. –Get moving.”

–Oh, she won’t be there,” a fourth-year boy drawled, rising slowly.

–You don’t know that,” Ernie barked back at him. –She’s not where she’s supposed to be, so she could be anywhere.”

As the students scattered back into the dormitory wings, Hannah said, –Let’s check this room completely, under every sofa, behind every curtain.” She moved rapidly around the room, brushing curtains aside, getting down onto her knees to check under sofas and armchairs that were really too low for anyone to hide under, while Ernie jerked open the doors of cabinets that held game boards, puzzle boxes, and other common room equipment.

–There’s no way she could Disillusion herself, is there?” he asked as they searched at top speed.

–No, no, I’m certain she doesn’t know how. Oh, Ernie, we’ve got to find her.”

The students began entering the common room again, looking around uncertainly. Ernie faced them again.

–Did anyone see anything, any kind of clue?” There was a general shaking of heads and murmurs of –No.”

Susan Bones, standing at the back of the throng, said firmly, –Then we need to think where she might be.”

–In the hospital wing,” Megan Jones suggested. –Did anyone notice, has she been feeling sick?”

–No,” a second-year girl said, bewildered. –She was fine.” She turned her face inquiringly to her fellow second years, who agreed, –No, she was fine.”

–In the kitchen?” someone suggested.

–I doubt that she knows how to get in there,” Wayne remarked, –but it’s worth checking. I’ll just pop over there and look.” And he immediately left the common room by the door into the corridor. The distance to the kitchen door was very short.

–Maybe she’s in the library,” Ernie suggested, –although surely Madam Pince checks all the aisles before she closes up at night.”

–Or she could be hiding somewhere, like in a bathroom,” Hannah suggested.

–Why would she do that?” one of the students asked.

–I don’t know,” Hannah answered, –but it doesn’t matter. Where else could she be? A classroom? The trophy room? I can’t imagine she’d be lurking in the entrance hall or the Great Hall.”

–No,” Ernie said. –If she were, she’d just come straight down to the common room. So let’s start with the most obvious—the hospital wing and the library.”

–Yes,” Hannah agreed. –Ernie and I will go out looking for her, won’t we, Ernie?” He nodded his head. –Everyone else stay here in the common room. We at least have some sort of excuse to be out of our residence because we’re prefects, but the rest of you stay here.”

–It’s not your night to patrol,” Zacharias Smith pointed out.

–If anyone challenges us, we’ll say something. We’ll think of something.”

The common room door opened again and Wayne re-entered. –She’s not in the kitchen. It’s all dark. There’s no one there. The house-elves have all gone to bed.”

–Ernie and I are going out to look for her,” Hannah said.

–What if she comes back while you’re gone?” Wayne asked.

–You can alert us with your Galleons. You still have them, don’t you?”

–Yes,” said Susan, although Zacharias was silent.

–Then wish us luck,” Hannah said.

She and Ernie retrieved their cloaks from their dormitories and then opened the common room door. Hannah glanced back over her shoulder and gave her House-mates an anxious but brave smile as she and Ernie stepped out into the corridor.

–Merlin help us now,” Ernie muttered. He faced Hannah. –What should we do?” he asked. –I’m not used to all this late-night skullduggery.”

–Let’s think,” she said as they started down the corridor. –The library is closer than the hospital wing, so we should go there first.”

–What if we meet someone?” Ernie asked.

–I say let’s bluff it out,” said Hannah as they strode rapidly toward the entrance hall, using their lowest voices. –I’m betting that the prefects from the other Houses haven’t memorized any schedules but their own; they won’t know for certain that we weren’t scheduled tonight.”

–We have to check behind every statue and in every bathroom we pass, in case she’s hiding,” Ernie added.

Once in the entrance hall, they went rapidly up the main stairs to the next floor, trying to keep their footsteps as quiet as possible, flicking their wand lights into the blackness of every niche and alcove. Hannah and Ernie both felt their hearts hammering and their breaths coming fast. –Miranda, Miranda, where are you?” they whispered.

–I’ll keep my eyes out for someone ahead. You keep a lookout for someone coming from behind,” Ernie whispered hoarsely. But it was difficult for Hannah to keep up with Ernie’s long strides while turning her head from time to time to look back.

–Ernie, I can’t keep up,” she whispered urgently. –Give me your hand.” He reached back with his left arm and she grabbed his hand and held it tightly as they continued their desperate journey through the dim corridors.

Soon they came to a pair of bathrooms. –You check boys’, I’ll check girls’,” she said, dropping Ernie’s hand and ducking quickly into the girls’ bathroom. Once inside, she raised her wand light to Lumos Maximus and said in a piercing whisper, –Miranda! It’s me, Hannah. Are you in here, sweetheart? It’s okay, I’ve come to take you home.” There was no answer. Swiftly she opened the doors of the stalls, hoping each time to see Miranda huddling there, but every stall was empty.

She reduced her wand light and turned to go, but outside the door she suddenly heard what she thought were voices coming from outside the bathroom. She froze in place and extinguished her light completely. Let it be just a passing patrol, she prayed silently. The voices faded, she waited another minute, tense and staring into the darkness in the direction of the door, and then the bathroom door was pushed open. Her heart gave a giant –Thump”, but it was only Ernie.

–C’mon,” he whispered forcefully. –Let’s get out of here. That was close.”

They walked as fast as they possibly could. Along more dim corridors. Up another staircase. There were so many classrooms; if Miranda was in one of them, they’d never find her. They didn’t talk now, just walked at almost a run, flicking their lights briefly into niches but focused almost entirely on reaching the library before encountering any patrols, or worse, Mr. Filch.

The tall, dark doors of the library loomed up in front of them, and relief poured over both Hannah and Ernie as they slowed to a normal walking speed and arrived at the doors. Ernie pulled the brass handle of one door just far enough to let them slip inside, and then he gently closed the door soundlessly behind them.

–We made it,” he whispered. –Thank Merlin.”

The reading area with its tables and chairs was in deep gloom, and the aisles between the stacks were in blackness.

–You take that side,” Hannah said, gesturing with her hand beyond Ernie’s shoulder, –and I’ll take this side. Wands on Lumos Minimus.”

–And keep them pointed towards the floor,” Ernie added.

–But she’ll be hard to see in her black robes, if she’s here,” Hannah reminded him. –We’ve got to look carefully.”

She started rummaging around in her pocket.

–What’re you looking for?” Ernie whispered.

–My coin.” She pulled it out of her pocket and held the tip of her wand next to it. –No messages.”

Ernie heaved a deep sigh. –Let’s go.”

They each moved into their assigned half of the stacks, walking slowly, hoarsely whispering, –Miranda, Miranda,” and straining their eyes to see a human face above dark robes. There were so many study carrels scattered about the library, and window seats, and small auxiliary reading areas, as well as a few side rooms for specialty collections.

Ernie suddenly bumped sharply into a bookshelf ladder that he had failed to notice, and the –Clunk” sound seemed to reverberate throughout the library. As the pain of the unexpected blow coursed through his shin, he heard a gasp from the darkness up ahead. Still keeping his wand light trained on the floor, he whispered as forcefully as he could, –Miranda! Miranda! Is that you, sweetheart? It’s me, Ernie.”

Swiftly he went up to the end of the aisle between the bookcases and glanced right and left, waving his light. To his left was a narrow study carrel, and huddled on the chair of the carrel was a little figure in black, with her knees to her chest and her feet on the edge of the seat, and a terrified, wide-eyed face.

–Miranda!” Ernie exclaimed, rushing up to her and falling on his knees in front of her. He wrapped both arms around her, saying, –Sweetheart, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

–Ernie,” Miranda said tentatively, –is that you, Ernie?”

–Yes, it is,” he said joyfully. –Hannah and I came to find you. We’re going to take you back.”

–Oh, Ernie,” Miranda said, starting to cry. –I was so scared.”

–What happened, sweetie?”

–I was trying to study, but I was so tired, so I put my head down for just a minute, and then I woke up and everything was dark. I didn’t know what to do.” She continued sniffling.

–Well, now we’re going to find Hannah. Come on, Miranda, up you come.”

He got her onto her feet and led her back down the aisle to the main reading area, where he called –Hannah, Hannah” as softly as he could.

A few moments later, Hannah’s dim wand light appeared at the end of an aisle on the other side of the reading area, and he heard her whisper, –Ernie?”

–I found her, Hannah. We can go now.”

–Oh, thank Merlin,” he heard her say. –It’s a miracle.” She threaded her way quickly between the tables and chairs until she was standing beside Ernie and Miranda.

–Miranda, we were so worried about you.”

–She fell asleep in a study carrel, and I guess Madam Pince didn’t see her,” Ernie explained. –But now we’ve got to figure out how to get back.”

–What do you mean?” Miranda asked.

–What Ernie means is that if we three all just walk down the corridors and get caught by Mr. Filch or the Slytherin patrols, we’ll be in big trouble because we’re all out well after curfew,” Hannah explained.

–Or Professor Snape or the Carrows,” Ernie added. They were silent for a minute, thinking.

–Here’s what I think we should do,” Hannah said finally. –Like you said, we can’t go back. It’s just too risky. We were incredibly lucky coming here, but our luck won’t last forever. We need to go on to the hospital wing and pretend that we’re bringing Miranda because she’s sick. That will give us a reason to be out at this hour.”

–Good idea,” Ernie said.

Hannah looked down at Miranda. –Can you pretend to be very sick?”

–What do I have?” Miranda asked.

–Well…you have a terrible headache, a horrible, awful headache, like you’ve never had before. We’re afraid it’s a brain tumor or a broken blood vessel.”

–You’ll have to act like you’re in pain, moaning and crying,” Ernie instructed her, and then a thought occurred to him. –Think about how you felt when you woke up in the library. Think about how scared you were. You were crying and shivering. Can you close your eyes and put yourself back into that space? Can you be an actress?”

–I guess so,” Miranda said.

–Wait a minute, Ernie,” Hannah said. –If she’s that sick, how’s she going to walk?”

–Right,” Ernie answered. –I’ll have to carry her.”

–Oh, Ernie, she’s not a baby. Can you do that?”

–She’s not too heavy. I’m stronger than you are. And we’re not going to Levitate her. I’ll carry her in my arms.” He turned to Miranda. –If we encounter anyone, I’ll tell you to close your eyes and start breathing heavily, like this.” He demonstrated some shuddering, deep breaths. –I think a person in pain would breathe like that. Can you do it?”

Miranda nodded, wide-eyed. –I think so.”

–Fine. Let’s go.”

They went up to the door and Hannah cautiously opened it a crack. –The coast is clear,” she whispered. –Here goes nothing.”

Ernie heaved Miranda into his arms, and they all went out into the corridor, heading in the direction of the hospital wing. He had one arm under Miranda’s knees and the other arm under her shoulders, and she sagged her head against his chest. Hannah led the way with her wand light on standard Lumos, and Ernie followed, whispering words of encouragement steadily into Miranda’s ear. With his burden, Ernie could not walk so fast as before, but they made steady progress, and after a few turnings of the corridor they were finally back on what would have been a straight path from the Hufflepuff common room to the hospital wing. Just a little farther….

Hannah stopped suddenly. –Someone’s coming,” she whispered.

Ernie pulled up behind her. –Who?”

–I don’t know.”

–Quick,” Ernie said. –Turn around and face me. Put a Cooling Charm on her face.”

To his relief, Hannah did not waste time asking why, but immediately turned around, held her wand next to Miranda’s face, murmured Frigorificus, and quickly lit her wand again.

–Ooh, that’s cold,” Miranda whispered.

–It’s supposed to be,” Ernie whispered back. –Now you’re an actress. Act sick. Breathe deep. Moan. Keep your eyes shut, no matter what happens. Understand?”


–Okay, let’s go.”

They commenced walking agin. The light in the distance grew closer, someone carrying a lantern. Let it not be Filch, Ernie prayed. If it was Filch, he might notify the Carrows, who wouldn’t pay any attention to their story of Miranda’s being sick, but would gleefully inflict tortures on all three of them.

When the figure was closer to them, they could see that it was Headmaster Snape. He stopped, and so did they.

–Well, well,” said the Headmaster, eyeing their little procession. –What brings you out of your quarters so late at night, roaming the halls?”

Ernie could feel Miranda in his arms, breathing heavily in a shuddering pattern, and although he didn’t dare look down at her, he felt certain that her eyes were closed.

Hannah spoke up. –I’m Hannah Abbott, Headmaster, sir, and this is Ernie Macmillan. We’re Hufflepuff prefects. We’re bringing Miranda Bates to the hospital wing because she’s very sick.”

–I know very well who you are,” the Headmaster snapped. –What’s the matter with her?”

–A violent head pain that came on suddenly tonight, sir,” Ernie said. –We’re worried it might be something serious.”

–Why are you carrying her? Can’t she walk? Can’t she speak for herself?” Snape demanded.

–No, sir, she can’t walk. Miranda, can you say something to the Headmaster?”

Miranda moaned and said, –Oh, it hurts, it hurts,” but, Ernie noted with satisfaction, she kept her eyes shut.

Snape reached out and put a hand on her forehead. –She’s very cold,” he muttered.

–Stand her on her feet,” he ordered.

Ernie and Hannah glanced at each other, and then Ernie gingerly set Miranda on her feet though she sagged in his arms, and when he released his hold, she promptly collapsed onto the stone floor of the corridor.

She deserves an award, Ernie thought. He stooped over and with Hannah’s assistance got Melinda into his arms again, where she lay panting and moaning.

–May we proceed, sir?” Hannah asked with perfect composure. –I want to get her to Madam Pomfrey as soon as possible.”

–I will accompany you, to make sure you get there without incident,” Snape said smoothly, turned around, and preceded them all the way to the doors of the hospital wing. Does he suspect something? Does he think this is some sort of a prank gone awry? Ernie wondered. His heart was pounding; Miranda was beginning to become heavy in his arms, but he scarcely noticed, so intent was he on maintaining the story.

Once they were inside the reception room of the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey emerged from the ward and hastened up to them.

–These students have brought their classmate for medical attention,” Snape told her evenly. –I will leave her in your care.” Turning to Hannah and Ernie, he said, –I suggest that you two remain here until morning also. It wouldn’t do to have you roaming the halls at night.” He turned and left.

–Bring her in here and lay her down,” Madam Pomfrey said to Ernie and Hannah, leading them into the ward and gesturing toward an empty bed covered with tight, white sheets, and a dark blue blanket. –What’s the matter with her?”

Ernie laid Miranda gently on the bed and whispered into her ear, –Professor Snape is gone now. You’re safe.”

She opened her eyes and said cautiously, –Is it okay?”

–Yes,” said Hannah jubilantly. –It’s okay now.”

–You were great, you were wonderful,” Ernie exclaimed. –Just perfect.”

–And you were wonderful,” Hannah said to him, the happiest of smiles on her face. –Thank you, thank you. I was so worried.”

–And I was…was…” Ernie could not think of a word to describe how he had felt. They turned to each other and then fell into each other’s arms, quivering with relief.

–We did it,” Hannah exclaimed, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry. –We really did it.”

–Do you think he suspected?” Ernie said.

–He’s always suspicious,” Hannah said, –but he didn’t know.” She looked over at Miranda, lying calmly on the bed, alert and in no obvious distress. –Miranda, you were a genius.”

Madam Pomfrey looked back and forth in confusion between the embracing couple and the girl lying comfortably on the bed.

–What’s going on? I’m completely bewildered. Will somebody please explain?”

–You explain, Ernie,” Hannah said. –I need to duck into the toilet for a minute.” She disentangled herself from his arms, and he watched her go, knowing she was about to use her Galleon to send a message to Susan: ’Mission accomplished.’

He sat down on an adjacent empty bed, still shaking with leftover nerves, and letting his arm muscles relax after carrying Miranda so far.

–Well?” said Madam Pomfrey, but he ignored her for a moment and allowed himself to imagine the scene in the Hufflepuff common room as Susan received the news. He could see his fellow Hufflepuffs in his mind’s eye, some seated, others standing or fidgeting or pacing, and then hear the sudden roar of triumph when Susan announced that Miranda had been found and everyone was safe.

–We did it,” he repeated softly to himself, scarcely able to believe it yet, and then he realized that during the entire time, through all the dark and danger, he had not thought about his N.E.W.T.s at all.