A Study in Magic: The Application
by Books of Change
Chapter Seven: Just a Little Different
When Harry came downstairs from after his phone call with Julia Lestrade, he was greeted with the sight of Albus Dumbledore in full wizard regalia—tall pointed hat, sweeping purple robes, the works—and sharing a table with the rest of his family.
“Good evening, Harry. Returning from a deep thinking session, I see,” said Dumbledore pleasantly.
Harry, whose voice had deserted him, just nodded. He then wondered if Dumbledore knew he was planning to use a Horcrux to bait Voldemort into breaking into Hogwarts. Now that he was facing the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the plan seemed utterly mad.
“Do sit down, Harry. The Panage Curry is excellent,” said Dumbledore, patting the seat next to him. “I believe Pad Kee Mao is your favourite?”
Still speechless, and not knowing what else he should do, Harry sat down. Dumbledore spooned the rice and red curry on Harry’s plate, and then asked:
“While we partake our meal, Harry would you be so kind as to share your thoughts?”
Harry floundered, “Err, sir … it may not be very bright? Or sane?”
“There will be no judgment,” said Dumbledore seriously. “What may seem mad to others could very well be the best of possible ideas. I am all ears, Harry.”
Harry hesitated some more before he haltingly shared his idea. Dumbledore listened without interrupting and showed no hint he thought Harry was stupid or crazy. The same went for John and Sherlock. Sirius, on the other hand, seem to sink lower and lower into his seat.
“Harry, no,” his godfather groaned, a hand on his face.
Harry stared at his untouched food. “I couldn’t think of anything better,” he mumbled.
“The idea has much merit,” said Dumbledore, making Harry look up with a start. “Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes are the crux of the problem, if you may pardon my unintentional pun. Focusing all of our energies on finding and destroying them will bring us closer to victory.”
“But you can’t just send anyone!” Sirius protested. “A Horcrux is the evilest magical object there is! Even I know that!”
“Yes, that is true,” said Dumbledore somberly. “I will not have any of you underestimate the difficulty. Lord Voldemort’s diary, Harry, Neville and Julia had to kill a Basilisk before they could destroy it. The last Horcrux I destroyed contained a deadly curse. I would’ve lost my life, I am sure, had not June Hu been by my side.”
Harry felt his heart sink down to his feet like so much lead. If Dumbledore and Grandmaster Shin had so much trouble, what hope did he have?
“But we can’t avoid it, just because it’s difficult,” said John.
“Well said, John!” Dumbledore cried. “I couldn’t have put it better myself! I am glad and very proud, in fact, that you have arrived at the conviction yourself.”
“So everyone in the know focuses on finding LV’s soul jars, it’s been decided,” said Sherlock, radiating bored. “We have the means to destroy them, I presume?”
“But what about the means to discover them?”
“That is an excellent question, Sherlock, and it is one of the main reasons why I am here,” said Dumbledore. Then he swept his bright blue eyes over everyone.
“I cannot, in good conscience, ask Grandmaster Shin to continue to help our quest to find and destroy Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes, not when he needs many more months before full recovery. But even if this were not the case, I am convinced discovering the Horcruxes are not a matter of magic, but a matter of wits. The ability to think Lord Voldemort’s thoughts after him without him knowing, in other words.
“That said, Harry and Sherlock, I believe you two are the ones to do it.”
There was a moment of terrible silence. Everyone looked stunned except Sherlock, who looked positively giddy. If it weren’t for Benedict snoozing on his chest, Harry was sure Sherlock would’ve jumped up and down with glee.
“…Dumbledore,” said Sirius at last. His expression was a strange mixture of weariness and defiance. “With all due respect, and not out of some misbegotten notion Sherlock and Harry aren’t capable, because Merlin knows they are, but … Sherlock’s a Muggle, and Harry is an underage student. So most of the time, they can’t go to the places they need to go to investigate.”
“True,” said Dumbledore placidly. “Yet despite those stated handicaps, I believe Sherlock already has some insights he can share.”
Sherlock grin was all teeth.
“These soul jars, Horcruxes, Voldemort could have used anything for as a container, correct?”
“Correct,” said Dumbledore.
“What do you need to do to create one?”
“I will not tell you the exact details of Horcrux creation for the simple reason I do not know them,” said Dumbledore. “But even if I did know, I would not share them, for it is too vile of a subject. However, I can say murder is likely a key component.”
Sherlock huffed. “Fine. Were there time gaps between creations?”
“It is very likely.”
“Typical escalation, as he gains better means to find objects worthy of his notice,” said Sherlock, his gaze turning inward. “If you were put the objects in a timeline, Dumbledore, in what order would you put those you’ve found so far?”
“The diary first, the ring second, and the cup third,” Dumbledore replied. “This I have guessed based on Lord Voldemort’s career path and murder victims after he left Hogwarts. What I little I know and traced I shall share with you two.”
“Beautiful. I love this,” Sherlock grinned his Joker Grin. “So the case hinges on tracing Voldemort’s personal history. I’m guessing there are precious little witnesses to interview and personal effects to examine.”
“With the possible exception of myself, anyone who might’ve known something is dead,” Dumbledore confirmed. “I was not able to find and interview them until it was too late. Also, Lord Voldemort never developed the habit of hoarding personal wealth and possessions. There is very little he holds dear, save for his own self and his desire for immortality.”
“Obviously.” Sherlock turned to Harry. “I wasn’t planning on teaching you serial killer lore until later, but in light of current circumstances, I will have to revise that. We need to approach this like a serial killer case. Ignore the fact we already know who the killer is.”
Harry, who was already watching a lot of YouTube videos and documentaries on psychopaths, dictators, and serial killers, shrugged.
John sighed. “Great. Yay, let’s make this more difficult than already is, why not, it’s not like we have all the time world. Now I have a feeling summoning the non-ghost dead for a quick interview is a huge no-no.”
“You are correct,” Dumbledore turned rueful. “I once raised the idea to June Hu as a pure hypothetical. His response was: if you even think about doing such a thing, I’m going to break every single bone in your body, heal you badly, and then break them all again. Needless to say, I did not need further discouragement.”
“That bad, huh?” said John, while Harry and Sirius whistled low. “Can you tell us why it’s such a taboo?”
“It concerns the Fundamental Laws of Magic,” said Dumbledore. “The first of law, in fact: Tamper with the deepest mysteries — the source of life, the essence of self — only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind. Tampering with the dead is the same as tampering with life, John. We must leave them be.”
John nodded slowly. “I guess that makes sense.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Sherlock groused.
John smiled and patted his arm. “Or maybe not. Let’s trust the expert on this one, okay?”
Sherlock snarled wordlessly.
Dumbledore chuckled. “To return to the subject of investigating Lord Voldemort’s past without him knowing, Harry, your scar … has it been hurting at all?”
Harry raised a hand unconsciously to his forehead and rubbed the lightning-shaped mark.
“No,” he said, “and I’ve been wondering about that. I thought it would be burning all the time now that Voldemort’s out in the open.”
He glanced at Dumbledore and saw that he was wearing a satisfied expression.
“I, on the other hand, thought otherwise. Lord Voldemort knows the dangers of letting others access his thoughts and feelings. It appears that he is employing Occlumency, a spell that allows one to block their thoughts from intruders.”
“I suppose this levels the playing field,” Sherlock drawled. “Not to mention we don’t have to worry if he’s sending us false information.”
“Well, I’m not complaining,” said Harry, who missed neither the disturbing dreams nor the startling flashes of insight into Voldemort’s mind.
Dumbledore smiled and continued. “On a closely related subject … I gather that you four have been following all major Wizarding news outlets this past month?”
“Yes,” said Harry, and his heart beat a little faster.
“Then you will have seen that there have been not so much leaks as floods concerning your adventure in the Hall of Prophecy?”
“Yes,” said Harry again, as he recalled one such Daily Prophet article. The reporter ostensively called Harry ‘The Chosen One’, and heavily hinted that there was a prophecy that named him as the only one who will be able to rid the wizarding world of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It did not, however, spell out the actual wording of the prophecy itself. Harry said as much to Dumbledore.
“You are correct, Harry, and quite astute to have noticed this, I must say,” said Dumbledore, while Sherlock and John shared a grin. “There are only six people in the whole world who know the full contents of the prophecy made about you and Lord Voldemort, and four of them currently reside in Baker Street, London. It is true, however, that many have guessed, correctly, that Voldemort broke into the Ministry of Magic to steal a prophecy, and that the prophecy concerned you.
“Now, I think I am correct in saying that John and Sherlock told you about the prophecy?”
“Yes,” said Harry. Sherlock had recited it to him when he returned from Hogwarts before they all went to Yorkshire to visit Sherlock’s parents. Sirius didn’t take the news well; in fact, he spent the three days following getting thoroughly drunk.
“But you have not told anybody that you know what the prophecy said?”
“A wise decision, on the whole,” said Dumbledore. “Although I think you ought to relax it in favour of your closest and most trusted friends. Yes,” he continued, when Harry looked startled, “I think they ought to know. You do them a disservice by not confiding something this important to them.”
Harry scratched the back of his head. “Well, I did tell them about the Voldemort fragment in my scar…”
“Indeed,” said Dumbledore, looking at Harry with approval. “On a different, though related, subject, it is my wish that you take private lessons with me this year.”
“Private with you?” said Harry, surprised to his core.
“Yes. I think it is time that I took a greater hand in your education.”
“What will you be teaching me, sir?”
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that,” said Dumbledore airily. When Sherlock glared at him, he added, “it has come to my attention you are encountering difficulties learning Dao-ga. I’ve been discussing the matter with Grandmaster Shin, and he’s been contacting those who can help. Speaking whom which, June Hu has graciously consented to lead Hogwarts’s new educational program for adult witches and wizards who discovered their magic late in life.”
Harry wondered how Mr. Shin was going to teach adult students magic when he was recovering from a gunshot wound. John, on the other hand, looked up with interest. “Is Lestrade in it?”
“Yes. Ms Susan Lusichi, who I believe you’ve met, will be attending as well.”
“Nice,” said John. “Anything else?”
“Three more things,” said Dumbledore. “Firstly, the Ministry of Magic will send a security team to Baker Street come September first, to escort Harry to King’s Cross station. The team will operate under the assumption they are escorting Harry alone, therefore he will bid his Muggle guardians farewell at 221B. Now, I have no doubt Sherlock will want to interview the team members. So I’ve taken the liberty of arranging a meeting tomorrow at noon so Sherlock may observe and deduce them to his heart’s content.”
Sherlock perked up. John looked at the evil gleam in his eyes and sighed.
“Great, thank you, and my advance apologies to the poor sods,” said John.
“You are very welcome,” said Dumbledore, eyes crinkled with mirth. “Secondly, Harry I wish you to keep your Invisibility Cloak with you at all times from this moment onward. Even within Hogwarts itself. Just in case, you understand me?”
“I understand,” said Harry.
“Very well,” said Dumbledore. “Lastly, when you are not using your spare time to find the Horcruxes, Harry, I want you to focus on your duties as a student and prefect. Anything else that may come to your attention, whether it is finding possible agents Lord Voldemort may have sent or anything else, please entrust those matters to me. This is so you do not overburden yourself. Do you understand?”
“Very good. Now, I will not detain you from your dinner any longer. Tuck in!”
Sherlock’s interview with the Ministry of Magic’s security team went less than well—for the Ministry wizards. When it was over, five Aurors got themselves arrested for drug possession, three ended in a Muggle holding cell for being high as a kite, and two got an ASBO. When Auror Savage, out of understandable rage, tried put a hex on Sherlock, John knocked him out clean. The only person who emerged more or less unscathed was Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt. Unlike the rest of his team, he remained at Harry side and refused to budge for any reason.
“You pass,” Sherlock told Shacklebolt.
“I’m honored,” said Shacklebolt dryly. “Mr. Lestrade was absolutely right about you, Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson. I’m glad to know Potter has such capable if unorthodox parents.”
“Speaking of capable leaders and teams,” said John to Harry after Shacklebolt left to rescue his teammates, “let’s go over yours. Who’s your backup when you’re out in the field?”
“Details and record keeping?”
“People you’d delegate field work?”
“Ron, Fred, and George. Maybe Ginny.”
“Person who will kick your bum when you’re losing your sh!t?”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow at Neville Longbottom’s name but didn’t comment. Truth be told, Harry wasn’t sure why he said Neville over Hermione, but his gut made its preference clear. John simply nodded.
“Okay. Good. Now remember to go over this with them so you’re all on the same page.”
Harry was thinking how he should tell his friends without sounding bossy when Hermione started a five-way call between her, Harry, Julia, Neville, and the Weasleys to tell them she was appointed prefect.
“Congratulations, Hermione! I knew it would be you! So do you know who the other prefect is?” Ginny said.
Everyone looked Harry. Harry sighed and showed them his badge.
“Oh, Harry, I knew it! I knew it!” Hermione squealed.
Harry just scratched his head while Ginny, Julia, and Neville offered their congratulations, and Fred and George their condolences. Ron said nothing so far, and Harry thought he knew why. For a moment, Harry fervently wished Dumbledore had appointed Ron as prefect; Ron was more than capable of the role, and it would have meant far more to Ron than it ever would to Harry.
“This is a mistake. I’m going to be worst prefect in history,” said Harry honestly.
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Julia with a crooked smile. “Wasn’t You-Know-Who a prefect? He recruited members for his burgeoning terrorist organization when he was still a minor, terrorized Hogwarts with the aforesaid baby terrorist organization, and then murdered a fellow student with a Basilisk. Hard to top that.”
Harry groaned. That was not what he was going for.
“I think Ron would’ve been a better choice. Me, I’ll forget everything worrying about LV.”
“…Right. Because You-Know-Who has greater priority,” said Ron in a weird tone. “Being prefect doesn’t mean much in comparison, eh?”
I’m making things worse, Harry thought with a sinking feeling as Ron looked away.
Harry ended up not telling his friends what Dumbledore told him the day before that night. Nor did he tell them how he wanted everyone to function as a team to discover the missing Horcruxes. He couldn’t bring himself to, not when didn’t know how one person he considered vital would take the news.
“He’ll get over it, whatever it is,” said John after the call. “Don’t let it get to you.”
Harry said nothing but hoped John was right.
The days following the five-way call would have been quiet and peaceful had it not been for the stories of disappearances, odd accidents, even of deaths now appearing almost daily in the Prophet and Magical Mobile Network’s public news broadcast. Sometimes Mr. Lestrade brought news before it even reached either. Then Sirius brought grisly tidings that made neither.
“I found Igor Karkaroff’s body in a shack up north.”
“Dark Mark?” Sherlock asked.
Sirius nodded, his face gaunt and grim. “Yeah. Frankly, I’m surprised he stayed alive this long after deserting the Death Eaters. My brother Regulus only managed a few days as far as I can remember.”
Ron called Harry a week after Sirius told everyone what happened to Karkaroff.
“Look, I’m sorry about last week. It’s just … the MMN news broadcast, it’s getting to me. You wouldn’t believe half of the stuff that comes in but doesn’t make the final cut. It’s bloody awful.”
Harry wanted to punch himself. He couldn’t believe he forgot Ron was in charge of the MMN public news broadcast, therefore was exposed to more bad news than possibly anyone.
“Forget it, it’s not your fault,” said Ron gruffly. “Anyway, I’ll be out of it soon. Mandatory fifth year sabbatical. I think it’ll do me good.”
Harry spent most of his time in John’s company after that gloomy phone call. Most of the daylight hours they spent training or reading or chasing after an increasingly mobile and insatiably explorative Benedict. In the evenings, Harry tinkered with his messenger bag to optimize stashing and retrieval, while John cleaned an alarming number of guns, knives, and other equipment which purpose Harry didn’t want to know. Sherlock was out and about; Harry assumed he resumed his Voldemort Research with a vengeance.
About three days before the start of term, Harry realized had outgrown his school robes while packing his trunk. That meant a trip to Madam Malkin’s. Sirius strongly advised John and Sherlock against going.
“Probably for the best,” John agreed, while Sherlock sulked.
“We’ll make it quick,” Sirius promised. To Harry, he said, “we should go incognito.”
“I’m not taking any chances.”
Harry wondered just how bad things were as he donned his go-to undercover getup: concealer, large grey hoodie, scarlet-tinted glasses and a white cane. Sirius transformed into a large black dog. Thus they travelled to Charing Cross Road: a blind boy and his guide dog, for all appearances.
Harry blinked behind his tinted sunglasses went he entered the Leaky Cauldron. The pub, for the first time in memory, was entirely empty. Only Tom, the wizen and toothless landlord, remained of the old crowd. Tom looked up hopefully when they entered, but Harry murmured: “Just passing through.”
Tom nodded gloomily and returned to wiping glasses. Sirius “guided” Harry to the small and chilly courtyard in the back where the dustbin stood. Harry tapped his wand on a certain brick in the wall, which opened at once to form an archway onto a winding cobbled street. He stepped through the entrance and paused, looking around.
Diagon Alley had changed. The colourful, glittering window displays of spellbooks, potion ingredients and cauldrons were lost to view, hidden behind the large Ministry of Magic posters that had been pasted over them. Most of these sombre purple posters carried blown-up versions of the security advice on the Ministry pamphlets that had been sent out over the summer, but others bore moving black-and-white photographs of Death Eaters known to be on the loose. A few windows were boarded up, including those of Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. On the other hand, a number of shabby-looking stalls had sprung up along the street. The nearest one, which had been erected outside Flourish and Blotts under a striped, stained awning, had a cardboard sign pinned to its front:
Amulets: Effective Against Werewolves, Dementors and Inferi
A seedy-looking little wizard was rattling armfuls of silver symbols on chains at passers-by. “One for you boy?” he called as Harry and Sirius passed, leering. “Something to protect your neck?”
“No thanks,” said Harry firmly.
They made their way towards Madam Malkin’s. Harry noticed that many of the people who passed them carried a harried, anxious look, and that nobody was stopping to talk any more. The shoppers stayed together in their own tightly knit groups, moving intently about their business. Nobody seemed to be shopping alone.
Harry stood still and bowed his head for a moment when he reached Madam Malkin’s. All this terror, all this desolation, because he made that one fatal mistake…
He felt something cold nudge against his hand. It was Sirius, who whined softly. Harry tried to smile. Then he drew in a deep breath and entered the small shop.
It appeared, at first glance, to be empty, but no sooner had the door swung shut behind them when Harry heard a familiar voice issuing from behind a rack of dress robes in spangled green and blue.
“…not a child, in case you haven’t noticed, Mother. I am perfectly capable of doing my shopping alone.”
There was a clucking noise and a voice Harry recognised as that of Madam Malkin, the owner, said, “Now, dear, your mother’s quite right, none of us is supposed to go wandering around on our own anymore, it’s nothing to do with being a child—”
“Watch where you’re sticking that pin, will you!”
A teenage boy with a pale, pointed face and white-blond hair appeared from behind the rack, wearing a handsome set of dark green robes that glittered with pins around the hem and the edges of the sleeves. He strode to the mirror and examined himself. Harry hid behind a coat rack as soon as he noticed his own reflection in the mirror. He had no desire to interact with Draco Malfoy while in disguise.
Harry was debating the merits of leaving in his head when Narcissa Malfoy strolled out from the behind the clothes rack. She noted Harry, his obviously Muggle outfit, and let out a contemptuous sniff.
“No, Draco,” she said, turning her nose up like Harry was smelly rubbish.
Sirius growled. Harry buried his fingers into his shaggy black fur as a warning. Meanwhile, Madam Malkin bent down towards Malfoy, who looked surly.
“I think this left sleeve could come up a little bit more, dear, let me just…”
“Ouch!” bellowed Malfoy, slapping her hand away. “Watch where you’re putting your pins, woman! Mother, I don’t think I want these anymore.”
He pulled the robes over his head and threw them onto the floor at Madam Malkin’s feet.
“Then let’s go, Draco,” said Narcissa. “I’ve seen the sort who shop here … We’ll do better at Twilfitt and Tatting’s.”
And with that, the pair of them strode out of the shop. Harry pulled his hood lower as Draco stomped pass. Neither Malfoy took any notice of him.
“Well, really!” said Madam Malkin, snatching up the fallen robes and moving the tip of her wand over them like a vacuum cleaner, so that it removed all the dust. She was so distracted she didn’t notice Harry even when he was almost upon her. Madam Malkin let out a small scream when Harry cleared his throat and then apologised profusely for ignoring him. She felt so bad she actually gave Harry small discount.
“Why does Malfoy want to go on his own?” Harry muttered after he got his new robes. Knowing Malfoy, Harry was sure the reason could not be innocent.
“I can sniff him out for you,” offered Sirius when Harry raised his concerns back at Baker Street.
“It’s too late now,” said Harry. “I guess I’ll have to figure it out when I’m back at Hogwarts…”
“What did Dumbledore say about getting distracted?” said John.
Harry pulled a face.
“Seriously, let Dumbledore handle it,” said John sternly. “You’ve got bigger things to worry about. Don’t waste it on the little pissant.”
Harry tried to remember John’s admonition when he met Malfoy in the prefect’s compartment on Hogwarts Express come September First. Malfoy strut in like he owned the place, and narrowed his light grey eyes when he noticed Harry and Hermione.
“Well, look who’s here. The Chosen One and his pet Mudblood.”
Harry whipped his wand out. “Watch your language, Malfoy.”
Hermione, who was standing slightly behind him, whispered, “No, don’t, honestly, it’s not worth it.”
“Yeah, like you’d do anything when Dumbledore’s not here to protect you,” sneered Malfoy. “I must say, for someone who’s destined to face the Dark Lord, you don’t really inspire any confidence.”
“That’s enough!” said Cedric Diggory sharply as he marched in. Harry noted the Head Boy badge on his robes as kept his wand pointed as Malfoy. Cedric sighed and muttered, “Harry, c’mon, you’re better than this.”
Harry only relented when a swarm of prefects entered the compartment. He barely paid attention when the new Head Girl (Harry missed her name) went over their duties and additional instructions, for he was busy glaring at Malfoy’s every twitch.
Malfoy was up to something. He was now sure of it. For all that he was affecting a bored and supercilious air, Malfoy was paying attention, especially when the Head Girl announced:
“In the evenings, those who are not on patrol duty will assist the night classes.”
Harry wanted to mention his suspicions when they were released an hour later, but Hermione had other concerns.
“That complete cow Pansy Parkinson,” said Hermione viciously. “How she got to be a prefect when she’s thicker than a concussed troll…”
“Consider her competition,” said Harry. “Come on. Let’s find Ron and the others.”
They found Ron, Neville, Julia and Ginny in the very last compartment. Harry judged from the wrappers on the floor they’d already had lunch and went through a whole box of chocolate frogs since. Suddenly, Harry realized he was tired and famished.
“I’m starving,” Harry said as he stowed Hedwig next to Pigwidgeon. He then collapsed next to Ron and took the frog Neville offered.
“So who are the others?” Ron asked.
“Hannah and Ernie for Hufflepuff. Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil for Ravenclaw. Take a wild guess who it is for Slytherin.”
Ron groaned. “Malfoy.”
“Yep,” Harry scowled. “I know he’s up to something.”
“If he is, just make sure to get his mates for before he gets us.”
“We’re not supposed to abuse our position, Ron!” said Hermione sharply.
“Yeah, right, because Malfoy won’t abuse it at all,” said Ron sarcastically.
“So we should descend to his level?”
Ron ignored her. “You can make Goyle do lines, Harry. It’ll kill him, he hates writing.” He lowered his voice to Goyle’s low grunt and, screwing up his face in a look of pained concentration, mimed writing in midair. “I… must… not… look… like… a… baboon’s… backside.”
Everyone laughed. For the rest of the train ride, they discussed what other creative punishments Harry could dole out to Crabbe and Goyle. It was fun to talk about, even if it was never going happen. Harry, for his part, was glad Ron was in a good enough mood to joke about it. When darkness fell and lamps came on inside the carriages, Harry sat back and let his friends carry on talking. He pressed his forehead against the window, trying to get a first distant glimpse of Hogwarts, but it was a moonless night and the rain-streaked window was grimy.
At last, the train began to slow down and they heard the usual racket up and down it as everybody scrambled to get their luggage and pets assembled. As Harry and Hermione were supposed to supervise all this, they left their compartment.
Harry heard a scream from the platform.
“What’s going on?” he shouted as he ran towards the sound.
Harry pushed and shoved through the crowd and eventually found himself at the dark rain-washed road outside Hogsmeade Station. A group of terrified young students were edging away from the stagecoaches that always took the students above first year up to the castle. They jumped when they noticed Harry.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked.
No one answered for a moment. Then one of them blurted: “Are you Harry Potter?”
“No, I’m Harry Watson,” said Harry waspishly. “Now let me repeat the question: what’s wrong?”
Silence. At last a little black girl pointed a trembling finger at the creatures standings between the carriage shafts.
“Ah,” said Harry. “I know what’s going on.”
“How do you know?” a stringy boy with matted black hair demanded.
Harry ignored his tone. “Show of hands: Who saw the Muggle Shooting footage this past summer?”
The students looked at each other. Then one by one, they all raised their hands.
“Then what you see are Thestrals,” said Harry. When quite a few of them gasped, he added, “No, they’re not bad luck. It’s just … only those who have seen death can see them.”
Now the students looked at each other and started to murmur.
“You’ve seen people die. Killed,” Harry pressed on. “That’s why you can see them now.”
“You can see them, too?” asked the black girl from earlier timidly.
Harry nodded. “I’ve been able to see them since my first year.”
Then he turned his gaze back at the Thestrals. He couldn’t blame the younger students for screaming at the sight of them. The Thestrals were fleshless, their black coats clinging to their skeletons, of which every bone was visible. Bat-like leathery wings sprouted from each wither. Their heads were dragonish and their pupil-less eyes were white and staring. Standing still and quiet in the gathering gloom, they presented an eerie and sinister sight.
“It’s all right,” said Harry softly. “They won’t hurt you.”
He looked at the nearest Thestral and wondered if it was the one that saved him from Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle when he was a firstie.
“They’re just different.”