The Demented Train
~ Harry's group made their way down the train, Harry peeking into compartments as they went, hoping to find an empty one. Ron and Ginny followed, lugging Gin's trunk along. After finding the last cabin in their current train car full with most of the Hufflepuffs from third year (Harry waved to Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones, both of whom he liked, but since Justin Finch-Fletchley, whom Harry still had a small grudge against, was there too, Harry didn't stop to talk) they made their way to the next train car. When he opened the inner door to the next car, he barely had time to register the person on the other side before nearly being tackled by the force of the older girl's embrace.
"Harry!" Exclaimed the Gryffindor chaser closest to Harry, Katie Bell, who would be starting fourth year this term.
You could hear his 'oof' as Katie literally lifted her younger teammate off the ground. "Hey there, Katie cat," Harry squeaked out.
Katie huffed, sitting her Seeker back down, "One of these days I'm going to get Alicia back for that bloody nickname."
Harry unsuccessfully tried to stop himself from giggling.
"Scamp," Katie griped.
In retaliation she snatched the beanie off his head and roughly tousled his hair, not that you could really tell the difference in his perpetual mess of unruly black hair.
"I think you're overdue for a cut there, Hawkeye!"
When Katie stopped messing with Harry's hair, Hermione's eyebrows rose, "Harry, your hair wasn't nearly that long yesterday! Are you okay?"
After Hermione pointed it out, Ron interjected, "huh, it is longer. I thought you said that didn't happen anymore, Harry?"
"I said it didn't, usually, happen anymore. And I'm fine, it just grows out like that sometimes, you know that Hermione," Harry said as smoothly as he could, hoping that Hermione would drop it. But when she crossed her arms, he was sure he'd be questioned later, in private.
"Okay… that's kinda weird Harry, but hey look at your new fit! I'm glad you finally got some new duds! Those old hand-me-downs looked terrible."
Harry looked down at his outfit, today he'd chosen a stretchy, black and teal tee, and mostly matching black track pants with a green stripe running down the side of both legs. Even though it was only the first day of Autumn, he always got cold on the long train ride. Her compliment made Harry blush in pleasure.
"I love the pink converse, but you know, just cause you love us chaser girls so much doesn't mean you have to start dressing like us," Katie teased, but with a one armed hug so he'd know she didn't mean it.
He smiled back, although the dressing like a girl comment made him feel kinda weird. Butterflies in the stomach, but also kinda nauseous.
"Yeah, well… uh, pink, I'll have you know, was originally for boys… so maybe I'm just trying to take it back, you… uh, uncultured pleabaleane."
"Plebeian," Hermione corrected, rolling her eyes with a smirk.
Harry just smiled and hurried through to the next car. He loved teasing all of his teammates, but especially Katie. She was only a year older, and not all that much bigger. The other players intimidated a younger Harry rather thoroughly, so when Katie realized the shy little thing tended to gravitate towards her, more so than the others, she made it her mission to get him out of his shell. It took Katie most of his first year, and a bit of teamwork from the others, but all the extra effort led to closer friendships for the entire team.
Katie led Harry's group to the cabin her and the other chasers had claimed, while Harry asked all about Katie's summer vacation.
~Hermione smiled as Angelina and Alicia took turns exchanging hugs while greeting Harry. It was obvious to anyone who actually paid attention that the older girl's doted on him. Hermione truly was grateful Harry had the Quidditch team to rely on, but she couldn't help that occasionally a touch of jealousy would rear it's unsightly head, especially during tender moments with the chaser trio like now. If anyone knew what loneliness felt like, it was her. She'd gone through most of grade school alone, and knew Harry was the same. So yes, she was really very happy for him to have people other than just herself and Ron, but that also meant he had less time for her. Ron was decent enough as friends went she guessed, but without Harry there really wasn't all that much for the two to bond over. Sure, Ron was happy to use her for her help on his school work, but let's face it, he didn't really care one whit about magical theory, not like Harry. It wasn't even that Ron was slow, that Hermione could excuse, no, the truth of that matter was that Ron was, well… lazy, plain and simple. Unfortunately, that rather limited their potential conversational options.
"Hey there, Mrs Brainiac. So I guess your visit to 'la bibliothèque de Beauxbatons' didn't steal you away from us then?" called Alicia Spinnet, bringing Hermione's wandering thoughts back to the moment at hand.
Hermione's smile became much more genuine as she stepped over to Alicia for her own hug.
"Of course not!" Smiled the young witch, "although…"and she was off, gushing praises and comparisons over the foreign school, and okay, yes, she had to admit that they did have a rather magnificent library.
I guess something good did come of Harry dragging me along when he wanted to associate with the girls.
Alicia was the brainiac, as she liked to call Hermione, of the chaser's little group. She came from a long line of potioneers, and intended to continue in her parents footsteps. Last year she struck up an unlikely friendship with Hermione, often acting as mentor for the younger, socially awkward witch. Alicia, like Hermione, was not the easiest person to get to know. She had a rather dark sense of humor, and could come across as being quite callous if you didn't know her. Those that did however, understood that she was actually very empathetic. The problem was that she hid her insecurities behind sarcasm and formality, whereas Hermione hid behind facts and bossiness.
Alicia and Hermione were just beginning to dive into her summer stay in France, when Harry introduced Ginny as the new Gryffindor reserve player. Hermione turned to see Harry's mischievous smirk, and a very red faced Ginny,
"Fantastic, another girl for the tie!"
"Finally, it's about time!"
"What position will she be trying for?"
All three of the chasers cheered so loudly, and right over top of each other, that Ginny actually took a step back, or at least tried to, almost tripping over her trunk that hadn't been tucked under one of the benches yet.
Angelina stepped forward to give Ginny a once over, and as Angelina was rather tall and well muscled, Ginny took another step back, and around her trunk, right into Ron. Angelina smiled at Ginny, though Hermione doubted it was to reassure the girl. Angelina liked to be a little intimidating, even though she was secretly a big softy.
"She's got the right build for speed and maneuverability, about the same size as you, huh little imp," Angelina tossed over her shoulder at Harry with a laugh. "Have you played much with your brothers, Ginny?"
"N-no, umm, not until this summer anyway. They wouldn't let me before, always said I was too little…" Then Ginny took on an eerily similar expression to the twins whenever they were up to something, she admitted, "course, they didn't know I've been sneaking out to the broom shed and taking joy rides on all of their brooms since I was about six."
Everyone but Ron began laughing, Angelina telling Ginny that she was going to fit right in. Ron however started sputtering about how he'd gotten himself caught the very first time he'd ever tried that. He seemed to be re-appraising Ginny with a look of both envy and begrudging respect.
They all found their seats in the opulent, if a touch worn, carriage. The cabin they had picked for themselves had a mix of blues and gold fabrics, lovely textured wallpaper, brass fixtures, and soft comfortable seats. When asked where the missing three trunks were, Hermione and Ron excitedly showed off their early Christmas gifts, while Harry tried to hide his pleasure at his best friend's obvious appreciation for their gifts. For the next several hours they alternated between conversation topics, while sporadically, friends and acquaintances would pop in, or one of the girls would head off to visit with friends for a bit, before eventually returning. As per usual, Malfoy eventually found them, and of course, he strutted straight in as if he were royalty. Hermione couldn't stand the pompous jerk. He was terrible to most everyone, but he was always extra malicious towards Harry. Jealous, she suspected. Thankfully the older girl's chased him off pretty quickly, but not before Malfoy let off some snide parting shot about how Harry always seemed to be hiding behind the girls around him.
Alicia loudly called out the door, "Hey, Malfoy, you don't have to pretend to be jealous that Potters always got girls around him just because you prefer the company of wizards."
Everyone in the cabin, and if Hermione wasn't mistaken everyone in the next several compartments, burst into laughter.
As the laughter died down Harry admitted, "honestly, I wouldn't mind hiding behind any of you girls the next time Malfoy shows up. The prat's always so bleeding annoying! Why does he constantly have to target me anyway?"
"Yeah, sorry mate, but you know why. He's jealous that you're famous and he's not," offered Ron.
Harry frowned at the reminder.
"It's okay Harry, we all know you hate it," chipped in Hermione.
Katie, who was currently sitting next to Harry, pulled him into a one armed side hug. "Cheer up, Harry. First match of the season is against Slytherin, so just picture destroying him again out on the pitch."
Katie then turned to Alicia and teased, "Oye Spinnet, why are you talking smack about my lgbt family huh?"
Alicia grinned, raising one eyebrow before, "So you're telling me you'd claim Malfoy as family?"
"Oh goddess no! Crap… can't believe I walked right into that one," answered Katie, looking completely mortified at the notion of sharing any relation to the blond haired tormentor of the dungeons.
"I didn't realize you were gay, Katie? Do you mind if I ask how long you have known?" Hermione asked, ever the curious one after all.
Katie smiled back shyly, not a very common occurrence for the rambunctious tomboy, "A few years now, though I'd only come out to a few people, until this summer at least."
Hermione was about to ask more when Ron suddenly blurted out, "So wait, that means you're into chicks, right?" At Katie's nod he continued, "Ha, me too!"
So Ginny smacked him on his shoulder.
~ Hermione mentioned it was probably about time that everyone changed into their school robes, when unexpectedly, the train began to slow. Everyone rocked hard in their seats as their own forward momentum contested with the train's deceleration. Thankfully no one had been standing, though Hermione was only saved from toppling forward by Alicia's quick hand.
Hermione laughed uneasily, "I suppose that's what I get for being the least athletically inclined." She turned to Alicia, "thank you." Alicia patted Hermione's arm as she stood.
Everyone looked up, hearing the unmistakable patter of running footsteps. Ginny came bounding into view, explaining that she had been visiting a Ravenclaw friend, and was almost back when they suddenly slowed.
"Do you think we've broken down?" Asked Katie, sounding more apprehensive than she would have liked to admit.
Surprisingly it was Ron that answered, "Ha, doubt it. The engine runs on a combination of muggle tech, and magic. The steam is heated by warming charms and all the pipes and things have indestructible charms on them. S'long as the conductor doesn't forget to refill the water tank with a spell, we should be fine… why are you all looking at me like that?" Ron stared at the group blankly, which was fine because they were doing the same to him.
"Uhh, Ron… don't take this the wrong way, but how in Merlin's name do you know all that? If it's not chess, Quidditch, or food you always have to ask Hermione everything." Harry asked cheekily.
Harry shouted "oye" as Ron threw one of the left over cauldron cakes from the trolly witch at him.
Ears going red, Ron explained, "Dad… well you know, he's kinda obsessed with muggle things… he's always going on and on about anything that mixes magic and that tech stuff. Can't get enough of it."
"Bit of an understatement, that," Harry commented.
"And how," agreed Ginny, causing both of them to devolve into giggles, Hermione to start scolding them both, and Ron to look even more chagrined.
Angelina stood too, "I'm going to go see what's up. You four behave yourselves, and mind Aunty Alicia."
"Hey!" Alicia scoffed, but apparently she decided she liked the idea because she said, "Alright you heard UNCLE Angelina," she especially stressed the word uncle, "so you all better shape up."
Ginny stuck her tongue out at Alicia, and when Harry noticed he did the same, quickly followed by Angelina for the implied insult. Hermione just shook her head, wondering at how they could possibly all enjoy such juvenile theatrics, and maybe admitting to small temptation to join in.
Angelina only made it a half dozen steps from their door when all of the lights winked out. Cursing, she made her way back to the cabin. Alicia called "Lumos," and Hermione could see again, and she noticed that Ginny looked to be gripping Ron's hand rather forcefully. She noted that Harry was staring out the window, and seemed to be holding himself very rigid.
"Harry, what is it, what do you see?"
"Someone's out there… and I have a really bad feeling about this."
Ron groaned, and suddenly everyone was scrambling in their bags and trunks for wands.
Ginny and Angelina both cast lumos as well, but before Hermione or Ron could ignite their own wands, Harry pushed Hermione's arm back down, and catching Ron's eye shook his head no.
It took Hermione several seconds before she softly gasped, and whispered, "So we don't draw attention to ourselves?"
Harry nodded, "Don't be seen, and don't be a target," he clarified quietly.
"That's right, you four listen to the smart imp," Angelina said light heartedly. "You play back-up while us scary fifth years stand guard, okay?"
And with that Angelina and Alicia positioned themselves in front of the doorway, far enough inside to not easily be seen from the hall. After a few moments, Harry scrambled up, and suddenly his trunk was expanding. He opened it to the first room and ordered Ginny and Hermione in.
"Harry, no. If you are fighting then so am I!"
Harry addressed Ginny first, "Please Ginny, listen, it's not that I think you're weak or anything like that okay. This is only your second year. You just don't know enough to do much good, not yet. I'm not even sure how much use I'll be!" Still seeing that defiant streak in her eye, and thinking about all the overprotectiveness she'd likely received from her brothers, he added, "and you know it's not cause you're a girl right? I mean, just look who I'm hiding behind," he confided, though Ginny only looked a little mollified.
Then, turning to Hermione he pleaded, "You too Hermione. You are amazing at defensive theory, but even you've admitted you'd be kinda pants in a duel."
Hermione shook her head, "All of us should get in." Before Harry had even finished shaking his head, Hermione added, "All of us or none of us, Harry. Strength in numbers."
"I think she's right, Harry. Half a dozen spells, even if they aren't as powerful, are more likely to get through then just three." Confirmed Alicia.
"True that! But still, that was some quick thinking little impling. Might have to upgrade you to gobbo status," Angelina joked. In an attempt to keep the tension down, or so Hermione assumed.
Harry grimaced, and slammed his trunk back closed. She knew it was Harry's need to protect those he cared about, and not her refusal that fueled his ire.
"Okay, fine, but I think we need a plan. Alicia?" Harry asked.
"Good idea. Hmm, Angie and me on offense, Katie you on defense. If one of us go down, Harry takes their place. The rest of you, fan out behind Katie, and only fire if you have a clear shot. Everyone got it?" At their nods she instructed them all to silence until they knew what they were dealing with.
It didn't take long after that. First, they all felt the cold, like the heat itself was being drained from the air around them. As the wand light began to dim Alicia went pale, and the tip of her wand took on a slight tremble.
"What is it?" Whispered Angelina. Alicia had taken hold of Angie's left hand with her right, Alicia was left-handed.
"I think I know what's coming, oh mother magic, goddess above, I hope I'm wrong!"
"A… a Dementor."
"Merciful mother… wh-what do we do!?"
"I-uh… I don't know… ah damn, damn, damn, umm…" Angelina gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, "o-okay, everybody listen close. If I yell out Dementor, I need you all to cast the shielding charm, Protego. Dementors aren't fully corporeal so none of the spells we know are likely to slow it down, let alone hurt it, but the shield charm should at least stop it from getting close to us… I think. Might even lessen its aura if we all cast it together."
"I-uh, I don't know that one. What's the wand motion," Harry asked.
Katie quickly instructed them on the motion, and told them that normally you'd picture a protective wall of magic in front of yourselves, but this time they needed to try to join it with the wall the other girls would conjure.
"Combined magic is tricky, let us go first. If you add yours after we've already established the charm, they should unite-"
From further up they heard someone scream.
"What in Merlin's name are Dementors doing on the train!?" Katie half sobbed, letting her fear get the better of her.
Harry sighed, "I uh, I wasn't really planning to say anything, but… Sirius Black. The dementors are after him, and uh… he might be after umm, me..."
Everyone but Angelina turned to stare at Harry. Alicia was in the middle of asking Harry just why in the hell he thought that Black was after him when Angelina cried out, "Alicia!"
The blackness outside their room was nearly impenetrable, even with two lumos spells going, but Alicia saw something, maybe two cabins up, and it was headed their way. The cold intensified.
"Does… does anyone feel, umm, happy?" Alicia asked.
"What? No, of cour- no, wh-why?"
"I- er, sorry… the dementors… their aura, it's… they eat it, happiness. I was trying to…"
Alicia stopped speaking as they all felt it. It was as if a wave of despair swept through the cabin, leaving everyone frozen. Some immeasurable moment of time later, the Dementor was just suddenly there, directly in front of the cabin door. Alicia yelled "Dementor," and all three of the older girl's simultaneously cast Protego. And miraculously, it was as if Hermione could breathe again. She heard Harry's ragged intake of breath. They both cast, Harry a split second ahead of her. She felt it as their spells joined with those already active. The pressure that had been pounding against her, assuring her that she would fail, that she wasn't good enough, it lessened marginally. She looked over and saw that Ron and Ginny were both struggling with the unfamiliar spell, but as she had to actively hold her own, there was little she could do.
Ron's spell kept appearing, but he couldn't hold it long enough for it to merge with the others. Ginny would cast a nearly perfect Protego, but it would only form a small shield directly in front of her. It looked to be surprisingly solid, powerful, but it would quickly flicker and fade after only a moment or two. When she looked back at Harry. She saw that he was pale, slick with sweat, and panting near silently. His expression was determined, but his eyes were scared.
Hermione looked up at a sudden, ghastly sound, a deep, guttural, rattling inhalation. The dark specter before them, draped in ragged, foul robes of faded black, appeared to be sucking in more than just the air. The tattered, black and mottled grey veil over its face was being drawn in by the force of the dementor's inhalation, but it felt like more, like instead of air, the very life essence in Hermione's veins was being drawn out, leaving her cold and scared. She had the impression that nothing would ever be able to make her laugh again. She was beginning to drown in her own despair, certain she would never be good enough, never deserving of friendship… until Harry fell.
Ron shouted for Harry, but it was all he could manage to hold up Ginny, who had gone limp, though still conscious.
When she saw her best and closest friend in the world lying on the ground, shaking as if he were in the midst of a seizure, suddenly her fears meant nothing. So what if she wasn't good enough, she stopped caring if she deserved him, all that mattered, was defending him. Magic poured out of her, no longer in eddies, instead it burst out with the force of a hurricane. Feeling the sudden explosion of energy the three older girls looked back, and saw their fallen seeker.
The Dementor had been slowly gaining ground, pushing against the shield wall, but Hermione's sudden push of energy stopped it, and when the anger and need to protect from the three others slammed into it, the Dementor was slowly pushed back. The cold deepened, and Hermione could feel that the Dementor was fighting back. The two powers evened out once the Dementor had reached the middle of the aisle. It could no longer move forward, but it's terrifying aura surged into them, stronger than before. Harry screamed, a pitiful, high pitched shriek of pain, and loss, and suffering. The energies pouring out of the girls increased fractionally, but it wasn't enough. Hermione was sure, could somehow sense it, that the Dementor was going to outlast them. Their energies were finite, they couldn't keep this up, but while the Dementor was expanding a tremendous amount of energy, she could still feel it feeding off of them, replenishing some portion of the energies it was spending.
Hermione was growing desperate, they all were, certain that they would only be able to keep this up for a minute more, maybe less. The Dementor turned. The pressure of despair dropped away. The Dementor fled, gliding away at an unnatural speed. A glowing, silver… something… flashed passed their cabin from further back in the train. Whatever it was, it flew furiously after the Dementor, as it passed it erased the cold of the air, if not the cold in their blood. Moments passed in silence, they were too afraid to trust that it was truly gone. The train door directly next to their cabin slammed open, and they all jumped in alarm. A man ran forward, stopping cold in front of their cabin, as five wands were suddenly pointed directly at him.
Slowly he raised his arms, pointing his wand up toward the ceiling, "Easy children. Wands down please." When they slowly acquiesced, he continued, "Are you all alright? I need to be sure the Dementor is gone, but still, do you know who screamed?"
Alicia and Angelina stepped back, all eyes falling on the small, thirteen year old still unconscious on the floor.
"Harry! Merlin's beard!" The strange, tired looking man ran a hand through his hair as the blood drained from his already pale face.
"Here, should he rouse before I return, give him a large piece of this. All of you should have some too, it'll help."
He fished in a coat pocket before handing Angelina a couple large bars of muggle chocolate, Hermione recognized them as Galaxy brand, and wondered that a wizard would have muggle candies.
As he turned to go Alicia asked who the man was.
"Professor R. J. Lupin," shouted their new professor as he tore off further up the train.
I rather shamelessly stole the nickname Katie cat from Netflix's A Christmas Carol.
A little of the personalities and backgrounds for Katie, Alicia, and Angelina's were shamelessly stolen from another fic, "The Family That Chooses You." It's very much worth the read, even though I occasionally dislike their sentence flow/structuring. Though I'm sure mine is far from perfect.
Sorry this one took so long! I was really dreading the Dementor scene, and how to write it in a way that also took into account Harry's gender dysphoria. I eventually had the idea to write it from another's perspective, and really really liked that idea, but was still a little nervous about doing it justice. I'm REALLY happy with how it turned out! I hope you guys will love it as much as I do. Thanks a million!