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GP Contest Stories >> Curses and a Maze by JimMcGuffin

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
Disclaimer: Rowling, not me.

A/N: And so I make my individual debut here at gp with this challenge. Let me explain what this is. This fic is actually a composite of two previous Halloween challenges I posted at another fanfic site, Sink Into Your Eyes. I made a few changes to both of them based on reviewers' suggestions and so that they flow better together. It is a pre-HBP fic, taking place in the trio's sixth year. Ships included are Ron/Hermione, Dean/Ginny (but they break up).

“Now that we have all finished eating,” said Dumbledore as he addressed the crowd of students, “I must ask for your attention as I make the following announcement. It is my pleasure to inform you that Halloween this year will be the most fun any of you have ever had here at Hogwarts. In order to compensate for having had a less than pleasant Defense Against the Dark Arts professor last year, the staff and I have decided to have a huge party for all students third year and above on the final day of October.”

The headmaster paused for a moment as the students ooohed and aaahed at his announcement. Harry Potter thought back to the past few Halloweens. After a troll in his first year, the opening of the Chamber of Secrets in his second year, a break-in by an alleged murderer in his third year, his entry in a rather dangerous tournament in his fourth year, and endless detentions with Professor Umbridge in his fifth year, Harry was hoping that he would be able to actually enjoy Halloween for once this year.

“There will be a large maze right on the Quidditch Pitch,” Dumbledore continued. “and students from each of the four houses will contribute to its construction. As the fifth years have their O.W.L.s this year while the seventh years have their N.E.W.T.s, the sixth year students will be in charge of the building of the maze, with each prefect to come up with the design of one room. But the prefects may enlist the help of younger students or even former Hogwarts students to assist them in the construction.”

“Wow,” Ron Weasley exclaimed. “So I’ve got to come up with something that will scare everyone --”

“That’s a laugh, weasel,” Draco Malfoy interrupted. “I bet you you’ll be so scared of your own room that you’ll die of fright before you even finish building it!”

“Yeah, that’s funny coming from you,” said Ron, “since once the maze is done, you’ll probably get lost in your own room!”

“Shush, Ron,” Hermione Granger scolded him. “Dumbledore hasn’t finished speaking yet.”

“There will be Portkeys scattered throughout the maze to transport students back to the start if they get lost,” the headmaster went on. “And anyone who reaches the center of the maze will be treated to a wonderful surprise. So I expect that there will be much planning and building this weekend.”

“This weekend?” Hermione asked. “But it’s only September. Surely we can wait until October to start building the maze?”

The headmaster smiled. “Miss Granger, I assure you that you will regret it if you delay in the construction of your room of the maze.”

“Hold on!” Ron broke in. “What about Quidditch matches? They won’t be canceled again, will they?”

“There will still be Quidditch this year,” said Dumbledore, “but the entire season will be pushed back a month in order to accommodate this Halloween treat.”

When Dumbledore had finished his announcement, all of the students were discussing the maze and trying to come up with ideas for its decoration. But Harry was silent. He wasn’t sure whether having a maze was really a good idea. He thought back to the last time there was a maze on the Quidditch Pitch. It was, of course, the final task of the Triwizard Tournament in his fourth year. And that maze was terrible, for it had led to the death of a Hogwarts student and the return of Lord Voldemort. And now, not even a year and a half after that horrible incident, Dumbledore was having the students build yet another maze! Harry couldn’t help but imagine what might happen this year in the maze. What if another student died, just as Cedric Diggory had the year before? Sure, Voldemort wasn’t invited to this Halloween party, but that didn’t necessarily mean that the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters wouldn’t find some way to sabotage the maze, just as in the Triwizard Tournament. Harry hoped that nothing would go wrong this year, but he still had that uneasy feeling in the back of his mind. But he said nothing to Ron and Hermione at the moment.

“Where's Ginny?" Harry suddenly asked as the students left the Great Hall.

"Last I saw she was with her boyfriend Dean," Hermione replied. Ron scowled, for he still wasn't sure whether he approved of his roommate Dean Thomas dating his sister.

The first week of classes passed rather quickly. There were two new teachers at the school. One of these was the return of Remus Lupin for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Now that the Second War had begun, Lupin’s extensive knowledge of the subject outweighed any concerns of lycanthropy, and so the Ministry allowed him to teach. The other was Nymphadora Tonks for History of Magic. Dumbledore was interested in protecting the school, and so he replaced the ghost Binns with a witch with Auror experience. All the students found her lessons entertaining as she used her powers as a Metamorphmagus to transform her appearance into Godric Gryffindor, and spoke in lecture as if she were actually the Founder. Even Harry, who had just barely passed his History of Magic O.W.L., enjoyed her lessons.

Saturday arrived, a rather sunny day. Ron had agreed to have the boys help him on his room while Hermione would take the girls. While the Muggle-born witch insisted on waiting until October to start building her room, Ron wanted to start right away. So he had most of the Gryffindor boys meet him out on the Quidditch pitch.

“Ron,” Dean Thomas complained, “no other House is starting this early, so why should we?”

“Because I want our room to be the best!” said Ron triumphantly. “And to make sure that this room will be the best, I decided to call for some outside help. And look,” he added as he pointed skyward, “that outside help is arriving right on time.”

Two red dots streaked through the air, heading towards the pitch. Soon Harry and the others could see Ron’s older brothers Fred and George arrive by broomstick.

“The Weasley twins are in da house!” George announced.

“When our little bro owled us about a Halloween maze,” Fred added, “we knew that we just had to be involved somehow.”

The Gryffindors all cheered the twins’ arrival. Then Fred and George began to suggest some ideas for the room they were to build.

“We could put up some more fireworks,” said Fred.

“Or maybe fill the room with Stinksap,” George added.

“How about a graveyard?” Dennis Creevey, a third-year, suggested.

“No way!” Harry called out. A graveyard would remind him even more of the night Cedric died and Voldemort returned to full power.

“How about that Weasley swamp you guys used last year?” asked Andrew Kirke. Many of the other younger students agreed with Andrew’s suggestion and began to chant rather loudly in unison, “WEAS-LEY SWAMP! WEAS-LEY SWAMP! WEAS-LEY SWAMP!”

“I guess that settles it,” said George.

“Due to popular demand,” Fred announced, “there will be an encore of the famous -- or should I say infamous -- Weasley swamp we pulled on the Toad Lady last year!”

The twins entered the hedge maze, and the other students followed. When they arrived at the room assigned to the Gryffindor boys, George waved his wand around the room, and gradually the ground grew ever so spongy and damp.

“That should do it!” Fred yelled, and the all the boys cheered once again.

On the second weekend of September, the twins decided that a mere swamp on its own wasn’t nearly scary enough for a Halloween maze. It was the creatures in the swamp that were frightening. And the Hogwarts lake was a perfect source of aquatic creatures. The twins obtained Dumbledore’s permission to transport the giant squid to the swamp, which was not an easy task. A single Accio Summoning Charm was not enough to move something of that size. It took the effort of every male Gryffindor using the charm “Wingardium Leviosa” to lift the gigantic sea beast. The boys kept their wands in the air as they directed the squid towards the marsh. Once it was hovering above the desired location, they lowered their wands, and the huge creature landed with a splash. Everyone was wet and dirty, but the twins stated that it was all worth it.

The following Thursday was the nineteenth of September, Hermione’s birthday. Harry and Ron greeted her in the Great Hall that morning.

“Happy birthday, Hermione!” Ron called out to Hermione.

“Here are your presents,” Harry added as he and Ron each handed her a wrapped package.

Because Hermione’s parents were dentists, they discouraged their daughter from eating sweets. Thus she always appreciated it when her friends bought her sweets for her birthday. Ron gave her some sugar quills while Harry had the house-elf Dobby prepare a pumpkin-filled tart especially for her. Naturally, Harry did not tell his friend who had cooked the pastry, for he knew that she would have a fit if she knew that an elf had worked extra for her.

“Thanks, Ron and Harry,” said Hermione. “So I guess I’ll be having a sweet seventeenth birthday after all!”

“So, Hermione,” said Ron, “have you started on your room for the haunted maze yet?”

“No,” she answered, clearly irritated. “How many times must I tell you that I’m not starting on my maze until October? I bet you’re way behind on your schoolwork.”

Harry braced for another one of Ron and Hermione’s rows. He knew that Hermione was right as both he and Ron were slacking on their work, but he knew that it was always best to avoid joining in on his best friends’ arguments.

“Since I’m in charge of my room,” said Ron, “I can start on my room in September if I want.”

“Are you really in charge? The last time I checked, your brothers were the ones calling all the shots in the maze’s construction.”

“But --” Ron started to protest, until he realized that Hermione had a point there. “Hey! I’m supposed to be in charge, not Fred and George! Well, I’ll have to go out and remind him who’s supposed to be overseeing the building of the maze.”

He stormed out of the Great Hall and headed towards the pitch. As he left, Hermione stated flatly, “I’m going to class now. It won’t be my fault if Ron is late this morning.”

“I’ll go after him,” said Harry.

He raced after Ron, catching up to him as they arrived at the pitch. On weekdays, George volunteered to stay at Hogwarts to work on the maze while Fred operated the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes store.

“George!” Ron yelled angrily. “I’m supposed to be in charge, not you and Fred.”

“Well,” his brother replied, “you are in charge -- of the bill. You’ll be charged for one Weasley swamp, plus a few extra surprises that we’ll be adding later.”

The next two weekends passed, and Ron’s mood did not improve. He repeatedly complained to Harry about how Fred and George had seized control of the room and had the gall to charge their own flesh and blood for the swamp, which he realized he probably would not be able to afford. Indeed, Ron stayed in Gryffindor Tower and refused to go out to the pitch as the twins continued to work on filling the swamp. George had used “Accio” to Summon some grindylows from the lake. Fred, meanwhile, had a more ambitious plan. He chewed some gillyweed and swam down to the domain of the merpeople and attempted to convince them to join the swamp. He was largely unsuccessful, although two rebel teenage mermen appeared a little interested in the idea.

On the first Saturday in October, Harry and Ron met Hermione in the Great Hall. Ron recalled what Hermione had said earlier.

“So, Hermione” he reminded her, “it is now October. Are you going to start on your room now?”

“Well,” she replied, “since Professor McGonagall didn’t leave us any homework in Transfiguration this weekend, I guess I do have time to work on the room today.”

“Finally!” said Ron.

Harry had been surprised when McGonagall told them that there would be no assignment. The only times that the Head of Gryffindor House had ever given them a free weekend was when her house was involved in a Quidditch match, and certainly the pitch was in no condition for a match. Still, it gave the students some additional time to work on the maze.

At lunch that day, Hermione gleefully announced, “Finished! And I’m sure that the object in my room will scare everyone.”

“Finished?” Ron repeated incredulously. “But that’s impossible! You’ve only worked on the room for five hours and you’re done? We’ve been at it for five weeks and we’re nowhere near completion.”

“Correction,” said Hermione. “The other boys have been working for five weeks. You seem to be spending most of the time in the Tower pretending to study. Well then, it’s back to the library for me. I have to study for my Transfiguration essay.”

“What?” asked Ron. “I thought you said McGonagall didn’t assign any homework.”

“She didn’t,” said Hermione. “I’m just starting my essay that’s due in a fortnight. Oh, and one more thing, you two. Don’t even think of peeking at my room.”

After Hermione left, Ron said, “Harry, I’m going to the pitch. I want to peek at Hermione’s room.”

“But she just told us not to,” Harry reminded him.

Ron ignored him as the two of them headed for the pitch. It took a while, but eventually Ron found the other Gryffindor room. He peered around the corner, took one glance, and suddenly he was screaming and running for his life.”

“What’s wrong?” George asked in a mocking tone.

“Is our ickle brother scared of what’s in Hermione’s room?” Fred added.

“It’s -- it’s -- it’s Aragog!” Ron called out. “She knows I hate spiders, so what does she do? She puts the one thing I hate in her room. I can’t believe the nerve of her. I bet she asked Hagrid to help her put his pet in the maze just to give me the heebie jeebies.”

“Are you sure?” Harry asked him. “Maybe the spider isn’t real.”

“Good point,” said Ron. “That had better be fake.”

“Well, guys,” Fred announced that evening, “we’re done with everything in the maze but the final surprise, and it’s a secret. So only George and I will be working on it.”

“You’re free for the rest of the month!” George added.

This, of course, angered Ron even more. “It’s supposed to be my room, Harry, and now my brothers are keeping something secret from me!”

When the boys returned to Gryffindor Tower, they were shocked to see that it was all decorated for some sort of party. McGonagall was standing just inside the Fat Lady. “Welcome, boys, to my seventy-second birthday party.”

Harry thought to himself, so that was why she hadn’t assigned any homework. She wanted her students to celebrate her birthday, the fourth of October. But this wasn’t like McGonagall at all. She would never start having parties out of the blue. The professor herself was dressed, not in her usual robes, but in a yellow polka-dot dress. Also, her hair was not in the usual tight bun but hung down to her neck.

“It was Dumbledore’s idea, of course,” McGonagall explained. “He wanted to reward me for remaining loyal to him and not to Umbridge last year. So he threw me this party.”

There were refreshments, of course, but most of the Gryffindors were disappointed. For McGonagall had served copious amounts of her favorite food, haggis, for which none of the students seemed to care.

“EUUUU!” Dean cried out. “Maybe if I had some ketchup or mustard I can drown the taste of this mess.”

“Sorry,” said Seamus, “but there’s no ketchup in sight.”

“And no,” Harry added, “I don’t happen to have any Grey Poupon,” referring to the condiment that rich Muggles tended to eat in the back of their limousines. At this little joke the two other half-bloods laughed.

Former Gryffindors Fred and George had provided the fireworks and Stinksap. “Well, since we didn’t use them in the maze, we can’t let these go to waste.,” said Fred. So he and George set off the fireworks while the Gryffindor students squirted each other with the Stinksap.

Ron, meanwhile, was in no mood to party after both Hermione and the twins were intent on keeping secrets from him in the maze. Harry saw the glum look on his friend’s face and said, “Come on, Ron. A little Stinksap fight should cheer you up.”

As Harry’s Stinksap reached its target, Ron smiled and said indignantly, “I’ll get you for that!” and began to chase Harry all around the common room. He stopped cold, however, when he saw Hermione.

“So,” he said to her, “tell me, is that spider real or fake?”

“Ron!” she scolded him. “I told you not to look in my room!” and soon there was yet another row between the two friends.

“Weasley, Granger!” McGonagall called out. “I will not tolerate any arguments at my party. I want you all to have fun. Oh, Mister and Mister Weasley,” she continued, turning towards the twins, “this is for seven years of acting up in my classes!” And as she squirted Stinksap at her former students, Harry saw that the Transfiguration Professor had both literally and figuratively let her hair down that night.

“Why can’t she be like that in class?” he heard Neville mutter to him.

Harry thought that Halloween would never come. Over the next few weeks, he had to endure essays in several of his classes and Ron’s bitterness. He had not spoken to Hermione at all since McGonagall’s party and the few times he did speak to Harry, it would be about how Hermione was punishing him with Aragog because she didn’t like the sugar quills he had given her for her birthday, or how Fred and George’s secret was probably even more spiders. So he was happy when it was Hogsmeade weekend and he could escape reality, even for one day.

Harry didn’t want to choose sides and sit with Ron or Hermione. He was resigned to go to Hogsmeade alone when he saw Ginny, passing through the Entrance Hall as Filch checked to make sure that no first or second years were leaving the castle.

“Hey, Ginny,” Harry smiled, “why don’t we go to Hogsmeade together?”

“Because she’s with me, that’s why,” his roommate Dean Thomas replied, and Harry suddenly remembered that Dean and Ginny were dating.

“I can speak for myself, thanks,” said Ginny. “I’m sorry, Harry, but --”

“But I don’t want you talking to other blokes,” Dean spoke in a irritated tone, “especially him. Now let’s hurry up before Madam Puddifoot’s shop is too crowded.” Ginny rolled her eyes as Dean pulled her out of the castle, causing her to trip on the threshold of the oaken front doors.

“Ouch,” Ginny muttered, “I scraped my elbow.”

“Do you want me to kiss it and make it feel better?” asked Dean hopefully as he extended his hand.

“No thanks!” said Ginny as she stood up unaided.

Harry stepped outside into the cold and bitter autumn day and continued on the path towards Hogsmeade, hoping to run into someone else he could hang out with in the village. Finally he was able to catch up to Neville Longbottom.

“Hi, Neville,” Harry greeted his other roommate. “You going to Hogsmeade alone?”

“I always go there alone,” Neville explained. “Well, except for that time last October when we all met in the Hog’s Head for the first D.A. meeting. That was fun, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Harry agreed.

“I wish we could still have the D.A. meetings,” said Neville. “I learned a lot of neat spells then. Why don’t we have them anymore, anyway?”

“Because Umbridge is gone, remember?”

“I know, but You-Know-Who isn’t gone, is he?” Neville pointed out.

“And anyway, as you just said, you learned a lot already,” Harry reminded him. “I have full confidence in you that you’ll be able to defend yourself when the time comes. I’m sure of it.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

“So where should we go?” asked Harry.

“I haven’t been to Honeyduke’s in a while,” Neville informed them.

“Let’s go then.”

But when they were just outside the sweet shop, Harry looked through the window and saw Ron standing in the middle of a long queue. He waved at Ron briefly, but then left before Ron could say anything to him. He was not in the mood to hear Ron complain about Hermione again.

“Good idea,” Neville agreed, “the queue was much too long. Why don’t we go to Scrivenshaft’s instead? I don’t think it’ll be crowded there.”

Neville turned out to be right, for when they arrived at the quill shop, there was only one student there. To Harry’s dismay, that one student was Hermione.

“Ahhh, I sure am thirsty,” said Harry suddenly. “Let’s go to the Three Broomsticks.”

When Harry and Neville arrived at their favorite watering hole, they saw that, as usual during Hogsmeade weekends, the place was packed. The only two available seats that were somewhat adjacent was at the table where Luna Lovegood was sitting.

“Hello, Harry and Neville,” she called out to her friends.

“Hi, Luna,” Harry greeted her.

“What’s that you’re drinking?” Neville asked. “That sure doesn’t look like a butterbeer.”

“No, it isn’t butterbeer,” said Luna. “It’s gillywater. I don’t like butterbeer.” Her finger played around with the onion floating in her glass.

“Why not?” Harry asked.

“Don’t you know what’s in butterbeer?” Luna countered. “And besides, the other Ravenclaws had too much butterbeer to drink at Professor Flitwick’s party three nights ago.” Harry figured that, since Professor McGonagall had held a huge party for the Gryffindors a fortnight earlier, the Head of Ravenclaw would do the same for his house.

“No, I don’t know what’s in butterbeer,” Neville replied.

“Crazy serum,” Luna answered anyway. “It makes the drinker go crazy. And know what else is in there?”

“And maybe I don’t want to know,” remarked Harry, who expected that he might not pick up another butterbeer if he heard Luna’s version of what its ingredients were.

Luna changed the subject. “Harry, I have some great ideas for the D.A. to tell you.”

“Not you too! As I told Neville earlier, there’s no need for the D.A. to restart.”

“I think you should continue it,” Luna told him.

“That’s what I said to Harry,” Neville informed her. “We want the good guys to win the war.”

“And I thought we were the good guys,” Luna added.

“I know we are the good guys,” Harry agreed, “but as I said earlier, I think you are already --”

Suddenly, the students heard three loud cracking noises right outside the bar, followed by the sounds of footsteps hurrying away.

“That’s odd,” said Luna. “Why would someone Apparate then run away?”

“I think it may be Death Eaters,” Harry voiced his fears. Then he turned to Neville. “It’s time to put what you learned in the D.A. to the test. If I’m not back in five minutes, it means they have caught me, and it’ll be up to you to stop them.” Then he ran towards the door and stepped outside, his wand poised, ready to fight.

“Stupefy!” Harry fell to the cold, hard ground.

“If it isn’t Potty-Wotty,” a female voice spoke in a mocking tone, and Harry knew that it was none other than Bellatrix Lestrange.

Harry stood up and drew his wand. “So,” he spoke coldly, “we meet again.”

“I guess you didn’t have enough fun at the Ministry last summer,” the Death Eater replied. Then she raised her wand again and uttered, “Crucio!”

“Protego!” Harry called out simultaneously, but unfortunately, the Shield Charm was powerless against the Unforgivable Curse. Once again, Harry doubled over, the pain in his entire body too much to bear. He started to cry out.

“Silencio!” said Bellatrix Lestrange. “I can’t have the entire village hearing you. Now to go inform my master that I have captured you.”

“Expelliarmus!” Neville appeared on the scene, backed up several former D.A. members, including Luna, Seamus Finnegan, Lavender Brown, and Parvati Patil. The Death Eater’s wand flew out of her hand.

“Give me my wand back, Longbottom!” she demanded. “Give me my wand, and I swear I won’t hurt you!”

“Stupefy!” Neville called out, and Bellatrix fell to the ground right next to Harry. He kept his wand pointed at her heart.

“Please,” she begged for mercy, “please don’t kill me!”

“I don’t kill for pleasure -- I’m not a Death Eater like you. But I will torture you all the same, just as you tortured my parents. Diffindo!” Neville called out his favorite spell from Herbology, a spell which normally cut into plants. But this time it caused the Death Eater’s cotton cloak to rip, causing her to freeze as she remained immobile on the ground.

“Here,” said Luna, and she force-fed Bellatrix a dozen butterbeers. “They say these make you crazy.”

Neville then saw Harry lying on the ground. He extended his hand and helped Harry return to his feet.

“Harry,” Neville asked, “whose blood are you wearing all over you?”

Harry wasn’t sure either. It was most likely his own from a wound somewhere around his torso when he fell to the ground the first time, although it could have been Bellatrix’s. He started to respond to Neville, only to realize that, although the Cruciatus Curse has worn off, the Silencing charm had not.

“Harry, what’s wrong?” Neville repeated. But Harry ignored him as he suddenly remembered that there had been three cracking sounds, meaning three Death Eaters were in Hogsmeade. He had to warn all the students in the village that there were two more Death Eaters wandering somewhere about.

Harry raced over towards the next shop, which happened to be Zonko’s Joke Shop. When he entered, he tried to tell a group of Ravenclaws there that there were Death Eaters in Hogsmeade, but the Silencing Charm was still in effect.

“Look at Harry Potter, wearing his Gryffindor red robes,” Michael Corner called out. “And it looks like he wants to play a game of Charades with us. Let’s see, two words, first word, sounds like red” -- Harry was pointing at his body, then at his scar -- “bed, fed, no, head, is it head?”

Harry shook his head, but Michael continued to call out, “Head, yes, it’s head. What, you want us to put something on your head?”

Harry continued to shake his head violently and wave his arms. The Ravenclaws all began to laugh, and he saw that among the crowd was his ex-girlfriend, Cho Chang.

“You want us to put some red Filibuster’s Fireworks on your head?” asked Michael gleefully. “Whatever you say, Harry!”

And so Michael lit the party decorations, which, although the magical fireworks did not burn Harry’s hair, they did sting a little. Harry, now indignant, ran outside of the joke shop, the Ravenclaws continuing to laugh at him.

For members of the reputedly smartest house, Harry thought to himself, they sure acted stupid. He needed to find someone who would actually understand what he was trying to say. And then he suddenly realized where he needed to go. He headed for Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop.

“Hello, Harry!” she said, but then her expression changed after she took one look at him. “Something’s wrong, isn’t it? What happened?”

Harry pointed to his scar. “Voldemort,” Hermione began, “you don’t mean that there are Death Eaters here in Hogsmeade?”

He nodded, then pointed to his robes. “But Harry, your robes weren’t red when you arrived here. Or is it blood -- have you been attacked?”

Harry nodded once again. “So that’s why you can’t speak -- someone must have put some sort of spell on you to stop you from talking. Harry, do you know where Ron is?”

He motioned for her to follow. Hermione dropped the quills she was about to purchase, then followed Harry across the village towards Hogsmeade.

Hermione gasped. “We’re too late.”

A Death Eater, whom Harry failed to identify, was inside Honeyduke’s sweet shop. He’d already stunned a queue of Hufflepuffs, including Ernie Macmillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hannah Abbott, and Susan Bones, and now he was in a one-on-one duel with Ron.

“Petrificus Totalus!” Ron called out, and his opponent fell down as immobile as a statue.

A pair of Slytherins, namely Vincent Crabbe and Draco Malfoy, entered the shop, but Ron was unable to see either one of them since his back was to the door.

“Ron,” Hermione called out, “quick, get behind the counter!” But she didn’t call out in time to prevent what would happen next. Right then, Crabbe invoked a stunning spell. Ron’s head crashed into the counter, and he was knocked cold.

Malfoy raced towards the prone Death Eater. “Father, what did that weasel do to you?” he asked. Harry was surprised that the Death Eater was Malfoy’s father, but he should have remembered Mr. Malfoy was a Death Eater.

Draco Malfoy now faced the unconscious Ron, his wand pointed directly at Ron’s heart. “For what you’ve done to my dad, you deserve the worst curse that I know how to perform. And I learned this one from my dad, of course. Electrificus magnus!”

Harry’s mouth gaped open. That spell would cause a major shock through Ron’s body, and if Malfoy’s wand was aimed where Harry thought it was aimed, it could even cause Ron’s heart to stop beating for a few moments or so. Only an evil wizard would use this curse when his opponent was already knocked out.

“Noooo!” Hermione screamed. Harry, unfortunately, was too far away from Ron to deflect the curse. As a yellow beam shot out from Malfoy’s wand, Harry saw that Hermione was closer to Ron. And she was able to leap in front of Ron before the curse hit him. The beam deflected off of Hermione’s hair, and as a result, her usually bushy hair rose and stood up on her head as a result of the shock.

Ron finally regained consciousness. “Hermione, what are you doing he -- what happened to your hair?”

“Oh, nothing,” Hermione laughed as she embraced Ron. Harry was glad that his two best friends were finally speaking to each other again.

“What the -- how can both of you still be walking and talking?” asked Malfoy, who was now walking towards Ron and Hermione.

“Watch out, Hermione!” Ron called out, but he was too late.

“Expelliarmus!” Malfoy caused Hermione’s wand to fly out of her hand.

“Stupefy!” Ron’s curse missed Malfoy, but soon the two young wizards were engaged in a one-on-one duel.

Harry stood watching, helpless. Since the Silencing Charm still had not worn off, he was still unable to utter any spells to help Ron out, while Hermione still had no wand. He considered handing Hermione his own wand, but realized that wands seldom worked except for their original owners.

Then Ron suddenly had an idea. “Hermione, when I give the signal, you slap Malfoy!”

The two young wizards continued to duel each other, with Ron and Malfoy deflecting the other’s curses. A few minutes later, Ron finally said, “Now!”

Hermione obliged. “Ahhhh,” Malfoy called out. “A Mudblood touched me! I need a shower!” Then the Slytherin dropped both his and Hermione’s wands and stormed off towards the castle.

Ron and Hermione laughed. Harry thought to himself, Malfoy may have learned many curses from his father, but in the end he was the same old stupid Malfoy.

“Well,” Ron smiled, “he won’t be attacking anyone else today.”

“And at least all the Death Eaters have been stopped,” Hermione agreed.

But was that really all of the Death Eaters, Harry asked himself. He thought back furiously to when he was still at the Three Broomsticks. He had heard three Apparition cracks but seen only two Death Eaters. That meant that there was still another Death Eater out there. He immediately ran outside to find the villain.

“Harry,” asked Hermione, “where are you --”

But Harry had no time to explain, especially since he still couldn’t speak. He raced along the streets of Hogsmeade and into each shop, trying desperately to see the last Death Eater, but to no avail.

Finally, Harry arrived at the last shop, which happened to be Madam Puddifoot’s teashop. Harry knew that there were several Hogwarts students inside, including Dean and -- Ginny. Harry’s heart leapt as he opened the door to the teashop.

Gary Goyle, Gregory’s father, was standing a few feet from Dean and Ginny, but none of the students noticed the Death Eater save Harry because most of them were too busy snogging.

“Come on,” Dean begged his date as he continued his futile attempt to kiss her.

Now Gary was only inches from the couple. Harry realized that he was trying to attack them somehow without betraying his presence. If only he could perform a curse without speaking, Harry thought to himself.

Then he suddenly remembered that there were nonverbal spells as well as verbal ones. But he had never been able to perform one successfully. He thought back to a spell he had found written in a book somewhere and said over and over in his mind the word “Levicorpus.” But much to his disappointment, nothing happened. Then he recalled another nonverbal spell, and this time it worked to perfection.

By this time every couple had stopped snogging and started watching the scene. Harry opened the door, and as a burst of cold wind blew past, the Death Eater suddenly floated high in the sky, much higher than Harry had ever flown on a broom. At that moment Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and several other former D.A. members entered the tea shop.

“Wow!” Hermione commented as he saw the Death Eater continue to soar ever higher. “What happened?”

Harry scarcely heard Ginny say, “Good job, Harry.”

“Thanks, Ginny,” Harry replied, the silencing charm apparently out of effect. Then he heard the couple argue all the way towards Hogwarts.

“That was brilliant,” Neville congratulated Harry. “You’ll have to teach us that if the D.A. meets again.”

“What spell was that anyway?” asked Ron. “Was it Levicorpus?”

“No,” Harry replied. “It was another spell, Ventum Helium. It makes a person float in the air, and like a balloon, by the time he lands he’ll be far, far away.”

“But then we won’t be able to put Gary back in Azkaban,” came the voice of Nymphadora Tonks, and Harry was glad when he saw her with Professors McGonagall and Flitwick. “But at least we’ll be able to put Mr. Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban. That is good, of course.”

“As for Bellatrix Lestrange,” explained Professor McGonagall, “she’ll have to be sent to St. Mungo’s due to the brain damage. I think there’s a bed available right next to Frank and Alice Longbotttom.”

“Poetic justice,” Neville said, and the students all laughed. As the students all returned to the castle, Harry noted that he would always remember that dark autumn evening and the D.A.’s first victory.

Finally, Halloween arrived on a Thursday. Harry was hopeful that this would be his first ever enjoyable Halloween. He and his friends decided to follow the Muggle tradition of wearing a costume. As it was his parents’ fifteenth deathday, Harry wanted to honor his father’s memory, and so he dressed himself as a stag. Hermione, meanwhile, still had an old Tooth Fairy costume that her dentist parents made her wear when she was young. It was a tight fit since Hermione had grown slightly in the six years since she had last worn it.

“What are you supposed to be?” she asked Ron.

“I am an exterminator,” he explained. “Dad told me that’s what Muggles use to rid themselves of pests and bugs, such as spiders. The poison comes out of this,” Ron added as he pointed to a long tube. “So I’m not afraid of your spider anymore, Hermione.”

“Whatever,” Hermione muttered.

"Where's Ginny?" Harry suddenly asked, changing the subject.

"She and Dean have already gone to the maze," Hermione replied.

“Let’s go to the pitch,” said Neville, dressed as a Gryffindor lion, and so the four of them headed out towards the maze on which they had worked so hard the last two months.

“Welcome to the Halloween maze, Harry and friends,” said Dumbledore, who was standing outside at the maze’s entrance. “Enter if you dare!”

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville entered the hedge labyrinth. They had a choice whether to go to the left first or to the right.

“Let’s go to the right,” said Harry. “I went to the left first in the tournament and no good came out of that.”

The first room was Ernie Macmillan’s. The Hufflepuff had filled his room with zombies and cannibals, but it would take more than voodoo and inbreeds to scare a group of four Gryffindors. The following room belonged to Padma Patil of Ravenclaw.

“Hello, Gryffindors,” came a faint female voice. At first Harry couldn’t see who it was because of so much fog, but then the smoke cleared and he could see that it was none other than Professor Trelawney, sitting in front of her crystal ball.

“OOOOH!” Ron said sarcastically. “I’m so scared.”

“But you have much reason to be afraid,” said the Divination Professor. “For many bad things are going to happen to you --”

“Yadda, yadda, yadda,” Ron continued. “I’m going to die a horrible death. AAAAH! Run for your lives, because this so-called fortune teller says we’re going to die.”

Ron ran up ahead and turned a corner as Harry and Neville followed him. Hermione saw that Ron was quickly approaching her room.

“So, Aragog,” Ron spoke bravely. “We meet again.”

Ron then proceeded to shoot the bug spray at the spider, but nothing happened. Surely, Harry thought to himself, a Muggle potion would fail against a magical being.

“Die, you horrible monster, die!” Ron yelled at Aragog. “If I can’t defeat you by shooting poison at you, then maybe throwing these rocks will! I will beat your room, Hermione!”

“Don’t touch that rock, Ron!” Hermione warned, but it was too late. For the rock was actually one of the many Portkeys scattered about, and Ron was transported back to the start of the maze.

“I’d better go after him and explain things to him,” she continued as she grabbed another rock and disappeared just as Ron had.

Harry was now left alone with Neville. Suddenly the latter’s face lit up. Neville pointed his wand at the creature and yelled out, “Riddikulus!”

CRACK! As “Aragog” vanished, Harry suddenly realized that it was a boggart, not a spider. It had only taken the form because Ron had spotted it first. Harry now appreciated the simplicity and brilliance of Hermione’s room. All she had to do was ask Professor Lupin for the boggart he had shown them three years ago and in a matter of hours, she would have something that would, by definition, scare everyone.

Because Neville had approached the boggart, it now took the form of Professor Snape. Neville uttered the incantation “Riddikulus!” again, and, just as it had back in third year, the Snape form was now wearing one of Mrs. Longbottom’s most beautiful dresses.

“I’d never thought I’d say this,” Neville laughed, “but wearing that dress, Snape is HOT!”

The boggart vanished, but at that moment, the real Professor Snape by passed. “Yes, I am hot.” For Snape was dressed in his own costume, a green flame.

“I am trying out this new potion I’ve developed that makes my temperature increase. Watch.” And he intentionally bumped into Harry.

“OUCH!” Harry yelled as his backside was slightly burned.

“It works,” said Snape triumphantly. “And now, I know that it is highly irregular for me to help a couple of Gryffindor students out, but the headmaster has ordered all teachers to roam around the maze and help out any lost students. And if you two are as bad as finding your way out of a maze as you are at brewing Potions, I’d say that you’ll never find your way out. So follow me, Potter and Longbottom, and I shall lead you into the Slytherin room.”

At first Harry and Neville hesitated, then Snape pushed them along with his scalding hot hands. Grudgingly they followed their least favorite teacher towards Pansy Parkinson’s room. It was supposed to be an insane asylum, but the room seemed to resemble Azkaban more than a sanatorium. The room’s inhabitants looked like escaped Death Eaters. He thought he recognized Crabbe and Rabastan, who were two of Voldemort’s loyal followers.

Harry pondered the scene for a few moments. Were the Death Eaters real? He would not put it past a Slytherin to have actual Death Eaters inside the maze. And Snape -- a former Death Eater himself -- had prodded he and Neville -- who were both born as the seventh month dies -- into entering the maze. Was this some sort of set up, just as the maze back in his fourth year was just a set up? For the first time since he entered the maze, Harry was truly scared.

“Run, Neville,” he yelled. As the Death Eaters began to surround him, Harry tried to run, but then he tripped over a rock Portkey, and he suddenly found himself back at the start of the maze.

“Wow, that was a close one,” Harry said to himself.

“I see that you were a little lost there, Harry,” said Dumbledore, who was still standing in front of the labyrinth’s entrance.

“Dumbledore,” Harry said in a panicked voice, “there are Death Eaters inside the maze. Snape set us up, and now they have Neville!”

“Harry,” the headmaster replied calmly, “let me reassure you that it is all an act. Lord Voldemort was not invited to this celebration. Your friend Mr. Longbottom is not in danger.”

As Harry recollected his breath, he suddenly realized that he had been foolish. Of course there were no Death Eaters in the maze, and there was no reason to be afraid. Just be certain, though, he decided to take the left path this time.

Once again, the first room he reached belonged to a Hufflepuff. Hannah Abbott had used a wolf theme, and there was a beast growling at Harry. He flinched slightly. But then suddenly a cloud passed over the starry night sky, and the wolf transformed into Professor Lupin.

“Hi, Harry,” said the Defense teacher. “I volunteered when Hannah asked me to participate. You see, the full moon was a few nights ago, but I am still affected slightly, especially since I took only half the recommended dosage of Wolfsbane Potion for this effect.”

Harry waved good-bye to Lupin and proceeded through the maze. He bumped into Luna Lovegood, who was dressed as a beast Harry didn’t recognize.

“Hello, Harry,” Luna greeted him in her usually dreamy voice. “I’m supposed to be a Crumpled-Horned Snorkack, of course.”

“If you’re a Crumpled-Horned Snorkack, then where are your crumpled horns?” Harry pointed directly at Luna’s bare head.

“They took it, of course,” she answered, and Harry knew that by “they” she meant her fellow Ravenclaws who had a habit of taking her possessions.

“That’s too bad,” said Harry, and he and Luna walked toward the next room. It belonged to Anthony Goldstein, who was in Luna’s house.

“How in the world did THAT get up THERE?” Luna asked Harry. She was pointing up towards the top of the hedges. Up there was a large jack-o-lantern, and inside were three ghosts, namely Peeves the Poltergeist, the Grey Lady, and ex-Professor Binns. They were playing keep-away with Luna’s crumpled horns. She tried to reach them, but neither she nor Harry could leap nearly high enough to reach them.

“You really want these horns?” Peeves asked Luna tauntingly. “Then take them!” He threw the horns directly at Luna. She reached out, but little did she know that Peeves had sneaked a rock-Portkey inside one of the horns, and the girl promptly vanished.

Harry had no choice but to proceed to the next room. He found out that it was the Gryffindor room on which he himself had worked.

“It took you long enough, Harry!” George called out.

“But surely you can make your way through the Weasley swamp, now can you?” Fred added. So far, the twins were the only ones to both build the room and guide everyone through the maze.

Harry confidently stepped into the swamp. He could see the squid’s tentacles and was able to avoid them rather easily. Then he saw that he was just about to step onto a rock. Knowing, of course, that it was another Portkey and that he did not want to find himself at the start a third time, he walked around it -- right into a grindylow’s grasp.

He was sinking fast. He tried to use the same “Relashio” spell that he used back in the Second Task, but although the grindylow released him, he was unable to fight his way back to the surface. As he descended, he could see one of the mermen repeating in an extremely taunting voice, “We do not help humans! We do not help humans! We do not help humans!”

He was going to die, Harry realized. Nearly Headless Nick had died on Halloween, his parents had died on Halloween, and now he would be next. He should have known that the maze would be a terrible idea, and wished that Dumbledore had never come up with the idea.

Just as Harry was about to lose all hope, he saw a branch from one of the hedges. He grabbed it and realized that someone was on the other end. He began to make the arduous climb back to the surface, struggling to hold his breath. After a minute or so he had made it back, and he was standing face to face with his rescuer.

“You are safe, Harry,” came a quiet female voice. Unlike Luna, whose face was still exposed, this witch was completely dressed as a white cat. Harry was just about to ask who she was when the twins suddenly interrupted him.

“And now,” said Fred, “it is time to reveal our final surprise. As you know, you can’t really call it a swamp unless it is home to a toad.”

“And so, we present our toad!” George called out. “A toad called Umbridge!”

Harry could see the figure of the previous Defense teacher rise from the swamp. It was obviously a dummy, for it kept repeating the phrase, “Wands away, quills out! Wands away, quills out! Wands away, quills out!” in a monotone voice. He, the twins, and the mysterious cat witch all burst into laughter.

“Well,” said George, “I hope you enjoyed our room.”

“And if you liked it, then go to Number Ninety-Three Diagon Alley for all your Wheezing needs!” Fred added with a grin.

Harry and the cat witch proceeded to the next room. “Look, Harry!” she pointed out. “I can see the exit straight ahead!”

“But there’s one more room to pass first,” Harry warned. “Malfoy’s room.”

They walked into what seemed to be an empty room. Then suddenly, more fog, just as back in Professor Trelawney’s room, appeared, and Harry could not find the way out.

“Over here, Harry,” the girl called out. He followed the voice, and soon he found the center of the maze and gazed upon Dumbledore’s last surprise.

It was a dance floor. About a hundred students had already arrived, including Neville and Luna, but neither Ron nor Hermione at all. There were music by the Weird Sisters and the students were showing their finest dance moves.

“Party on!” said Professor McGonagall who, just as she did on her birthday, wore a party dress. Harry realized that his Head of House was no certainly party pooper.

The refreshments at this party were superior to those at McGonagall’s birthday party. There were sweets, including candy corn, a Muggle Halloween staple. And of course there was butterbeer, Luna’s earlier comments about its contents notwithstanding.

“Let’s dance, Harry,” said the cat witch, and Harry obliged. As he danced, he reflected on his trip through the maze. He thought about Ernie’s room with the zombies and Hermione’s room with the boggart. He thought about the Ravenclaw room where he lost Luna and the first Slytherin room with the Death Eaters, which he now knew were fake. His mind moved on to the second Slytherin room. A mere mist was the best that Malfoy could come up with?

Then he thought about falling into the Weasley swamp and how the girl with whom he was dancing had saved him, as well as how she led him out of the Malfoy fog. Perhaps he was appreciative because she had rescued him, but whatever the case, Harry found dancing with her much more satisfying than he did with Parvati Patil at the Yule Ball back in fourth year.

“Ginevra Molly Weasley!” came the voice of Dean Thomas, who was dressed as his favorite West Ham football player.

The cat witch unmasked herself. Harry thought to himself, how could he have been so foolish not to realize that the girl who had saved him and with whom he was now dancing was none other than Ginny?

“Ginny,” Dean repeated, “As your boyfriend, I forbid you to dance with Harry.”

“You don’t own me!” said Ginny furiously. “Especially not after you ditched me back at the Slytherin Death Eater room!”

“Dance with me now!” Dean yelled at her as he tried to grab her.

“Hey! Hey! That is unwanted physical contact!” said Ginny. Then he touched her.

“Do that one more time and I’ll hex you into next Tuesday!” she threatened.

Then he tried to kiss her. Ginny drew her wand and yelled out, “Dies Quintus!” and Dean instantly fell to the ground. Harry had expected her to use the Bat Bogey curse until she explained.

“My EX-boyfriend cannot wake up for another five days. In other words,” she added with a grin, “I just hexed him into next Tuesday!” Harry could not help but laugh at her remark.

Ron and Hermione finally arrived. Apparently, Ron was no longer angry with her once she had explained about the boggart. When Ron saw the dance floor, he remembered Hermione’s words to him in that big brawl after the Yule Ball.

“Hermione,” he said, “will you go to the dance with me?”

“No,” she replied, and his face reddened. “Just kidding! Of course I will, you daft prat!”

So Ron danced the night away with Hermione. Even Lupin danced with Tonks, much to Harry’s utter surprise. For the rest of the evening, Harry and his friends danced without a care in the world.

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