Harry awoke early on a Saturday morning ready to spend the day at Hogsmeade village. He was already two weeks into his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he lay in his four-poster bed, he could hear that his best friend Ron Weasley was still asleep, snoring as well as wheezing slightly. This struck him as odd since Ron never slept in on a day they could visit Hogsmeade. Ron certainly didn't sound well. The past week had been very quiet and uneventful and Harry expected this weekend would be much of the same. After dressing, Harry ambled into the common room to find Hermione near the fire, sitting surrounded by a pile of books.
"Ready to go to Hogsmeade?" Harry asked as he took a chair beside her.
"Oh, I'm sorry Harry; I've got so much to read that I can't make it," Hermione replied awkwardly. "But if you can get me some Peppermint creams while you're there, that would be wonderful."
Harry should have known this would happen; it was all too typical for Hermione. Yet it did strike him as odd that she would become preoccupied with homework so early in the term. Perhaps this had to do with her recently added responsibilities as a Prefect.
"Okay then," Harry replied, resigned. "Ready for breakfast?"
Hermione smiled. "I'm starved, and I need a break anyway." The least she could do is join me for Saturday breakfast, Harry thought to himself while he smiled to hide the frustration.
Harry and Hermione went into the main hall for breakfast. After a full helping of bangers, fried tomatoes, and poached eggs, they grabbed some scones and sausages for Ron, since he never appeared at the main hall. They headed back to the common room to find no sign of Ron. Harry went back to his bed as Hermione followed, to find Ron sitting in his bed, still in his pajamas, looking pale and groggy.
"Come on, Ron, it's Saturday," Harry said, sensing that something was off. "Ready to go to Hogsmeade?"
"Sorry, Harry, I feel awful," Ron said with a slight drawl.
"Ah, must have caught flu then?" Harry replied with worry; already he could see his Hogsmeade visit coming to an abrupt end.
"Unless someone hexed me. Dunno."
"Here are some bangers and scones," Harry replied hopefully. "See if this helps. Try coming down to the common room."
For the next half-hour, Harry and Hermione sat near the fire. Hermione read, while Harry thumbed through a book on Alchemy. Crookshanks insisted on trying to sit on Harry's lap. Eventually Ron staggered downstairs in his robe.
"Oh, I feel dizzy!" said Ron as he tried to look for a place to sit
"You really do look awful," Hermione said with concern. "You should go to Madame Pomfrey."
Hermione glared at Harry which caused him to feel guilty; even Harry had to admit to himself that she had a point.
"Harry, you are not going to force Ron to go out in this state, are you?" Hermione stated with a challenging tone.
"Of course not!" Harry replied defensively. "Hermione's right, you really do look pale."
"I'm going back to bed," Ron replied as he turned to the stairs. "Harry, if you could get me some Cauldron Cakes, I'll owe you."
"You usually don't get those," Harry replied curiously.
"I know," Ron shrugged, head down, "but maybe it will help."
Suddenly Hermione seemed to become motherly, which quite amused Harry. "Ron, is eating sweets such a good idea? You are going to Madame Pomfrey; you never know, what if it's something poisonous you ate?"
Ron gave Hermione one of his irritated stares. "Like what? Hermione, if I start to throw up slugs, or dung beetles, then I'll go!"
As Ron disappeared, Harry found himself staring at the fire.
"Hogsmeade won't be much fun without you and Ron going."
Just then, Neville, Dean, and Seamus walked into the common room. Hermione leaned into Harry, close to his ears.
"Why not ask Neville to go with you?"
Harry faced Neville, as Dean and Seamus passed, both pausing curiously.
"Neville, would you like to come with me to Hogsmeade?"
It occurred to Harry that it had been awhile since he asked anything like this from Neville; Harry noticed that Neville was taken back by the offer.
"Really? Sure, got to find something for Gran anyway."
"We were going as well," Dean replied with a grin. "Why don't we all go." Harry gave a nod.
"It's settled then," Hermione smiled, "I'll be here to keep an eye on Ron, IF…" she added, "he won't be too prickly."
"Okay, but I'd hate to have to see Ron stuck with Madam Pomfrey all day," Harry said slyly as he walked up stairs to his room.
"I know, go on then!" Hermione replied, grinning as the boys followed Harry.
Harry and Neville walked with Dean and Seamus to Hogsmeade, spending the hours looking through the shop windows. All four went to Honeydukes Sweetshop first; then Harry joined Neville and Dean as they went to Gladrags Wizardwear. Harry was even enjoying himself with Neville, Dean, and Seamus. As Harry stood looking through the shop window of Zonko's Joke Shop, he heard voices from around the cornter hat he recognized. In a moment, the voices were quite unmistakable; Harry could tell that Neville was facing none other than Draco Malfoy with Goyle and Crabbe…
"Longbottom, I thought you were too afraid to come to Hogsmeade, eh?"
"I have every right to be here," Neville replied, mustering more courage than normal.
"Suit yourself; maybe a good binding spell will change your mind. Or I'll decorate your face with Boils," Draco said with a smirk.
Harry had heard enough as he turned the corner and made his presence known, glaring at Malfoy with revulsion.
"Okay, Malfoy, that's enough, go!"
Draco didn't expect to see Harry, but quickly regained his typical swagger.
"I see you're now hanging out with Longbottom more, eh, Potter? Sorry company you keep."
"I'd be careful, Malfoy; Mr. Weasley knows all about your father." Harry wasn't about to have Draco have the last word, not any more, now that Voldemort was back, after what happened last year. "I would hate to see you have to visit your parents in Azkaban; I wouldn't get too cocky."
Suddenly Dean and Seamus walked up, sensing trouble. Harry could see from Draco's shifting eyes that he could see he was out numbered four to three. Harry could tell Draco was working this out in his mind.
"It that a threat? Cocky, same here, Potter; now that You-Know-Who is back." Draco replied, losing a bit of his confidence. "Father was right; you'll still meet a sticky end like your parents. Still a mudblood lover."
The anger started to well up in Harry. After all these years of his comments and what he said next seemed to surprise even him.
"I'd trade 10 Mudbloods or 20 Muggles over your pathetic, wretched, spotty bitch of a mother any day!"
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
Draco seemed to have lost any composure at that point. His hand was on Harry's shirt before anyone would react. Crabbe and Goyle seemed to flex their arms for a moment, but then didn't know what to do.
Draco pulled his wand from under his robes in an instant; Harry quickly realized he didn't bring his wand. How could have I been so stupid, Harry thought. With no wand to protect him, he had to do the only thing he could think of, he grabbed Draco's other hand before his wand was level with Harry. They wrestled with both arms. Just at that very moment, a crowd of people passed, including a dark brown haired girl Harry's age.
Everything seemed to happen at once and yet in slow motion. Draco shoved Harry away, right when the girl, who was holding a large weave basket, passed them. Then Harry tumbled right into the girl, her basket spilling as Harry landed on her leg. She gave a terrible shout and clutched her ankle. Draco sized up the situation quickly; this looked bad for him this time, if Potter told. Draco, Goyle, and Crabbe stepped back.
"Malfoy, you idiot!" Harry snarled, "Go, before I report you to McGonagall."
Draco stood for a moment, silent. Before Draco knew what happened, as if pushed by an invisible hand, he flew ten feet before falling to the ground, stunned. Draco jumped up, his hair dangling as he looked with fury at all of them.
"Which one of you did that? So Potter found a new way to cast spells, eh? Not if I go to Snape first, Potter!"
Draco stormed off with Crabbe and Goyle following. Neville, Dean, and Seamus stared at Malfoy hard as he stalked off. Harry kneeled beside the girl who was still on the ground.
"I'm really sorry about that; are you okay?" Harry asked as he felt his face go red.
"You should really be more careful with your friends. I think I'm okay, my ankle is sore," the girl replied, slightly cross; Harry couldn't blame her.
"Malfoy is not my friend, that stupid git," Harry snarled. "Can you stand?" Harry asked. Harry knew this looked really bad; if she was a Hogsmeade villager, who knew what kind of trouble awaited him?
Dean, Neville, and Seamus found themselves scrambling to pick up the spilled basket, as food was scattered on the ground, mostly breads and vegetables. There was a pile of freshly cleaned clothes buried in the basket. They made a point to be careful. The girl tried to stand up but couldn't support weight on both legs.
"Do you live at Hogsmeade? We should help you home," Harry asked awkwardly
"We have a summer cottage on Secuutus Lake; my grandfather's servant is waiting for me at the lake. I don't think I can carry that basket now though," the girl replied, wincing.
Harry looked at Neville who could tell that Harry was probably going to ask a favor.
"Come on, Neville help me."
Harry gave a glance to the other boys as he handed a bag from Honeydukes to Dean. "Dean and Seamus, give this to Hermione and Ron."
"Oh, my name is Harry Potter," he said turning around to the girl, wondering just how serious this was.
"I'm Miranda Morbino, please to meet you," Miranda replied.
"Did anyone see what happened?"
"I don't know how Malfoy fell," Dean replied with a frown, "it's like something pushed him. He did have his wand out though."
"He's not allowed to use his wand while at Hogsmeade, it's against house rules," Neville added indignant, yet sounded doubtful if it was true.
"Serves him right though," Seamus replied equally outraged. "We saw what he did Harry; we'll back you with Professor McGonagall." Dean nodded.
"Okay, Neville, we're going to help her get to her home."
"Harry, we should get back soon; I don't want trouble," Neville replied
"Neville, it's the least we can do," Harry replied, which caused Neville to have a touch of guilt. "Besides, we owe her this. I'd take her back to Hogwarts and see Madam Pomfrey, but it might be too far I reckon."
The boys all knew this was quite true. Harry and Neville helped her up; the girl put her right arm on Harry's shoulder, while Harry and Neville held the basket arm to arm and began to walk.
"I never knew there was an extra lake," Harry replied as Neville nodded; come to think of it, there were still things about the landscape that Harry had never discovered yet.
"You're very kind to do this; a little magic ointment and I'll be all right, really," Miranda commented as they started.
Harry, Miranda, and Neville walked a couple of miles away from Hogsmeade, until they reached a small dark lake. In the distance they could see a man standing beside a boat as they drew closer. The man looked a little like a young Filch, only with jet-black hair.
"Gonzalo," Miranda said calmly, "these boys helped me; I had a little accident, and I think I'm okay though."
"Are you certain you're okay, Miss?" Gonzalo replied as he was already walking towards her.
"Oh, I think so, but I'd like them to come to the cottage."
"As you wish, Miss," Gonzalo said as he eyed the two boys carefully. "Remember, Miss, your grandfather is wary of strangers."
Harry handed the basket to Gonzalo, who sat it on the far side of the small boat. Harry stepped onto the boat, helping Miranda on. Neville nervously followed on board. Then the boat sprang to life as Gonzalo made a wave of his arms. This boat floated across the lake. There was a thin mist on the lake that didn't seem natural.
"So you both go to Hogwarts?" Miranda said as Harry held his hand on the rim of the boat, trying to act nonchalant.
"Yes we do," Harry replied as Neville nodded.
"I've never seen any Hogwarts students; we always leave Hogsmeade before the term starts," Miranda sighed. "Must be a wonderful school, heard a lot of things about it."
While the boat floated on the eerily calm water, Neville found himself staring at the water. Neville started to lean to one side when he spotted something moving. At first he thought it was the reflection of the water, then Neville could see it quite clearly, becoming distinct, two glowing orbs, like eyes were trailing them deep under the water, moving towards the surface. Whatever color Neville had in his face had drained at that point. He grabbed at Harry's arm while Harry was distracted in conversation.
"Oh, Hogwarts is the best," Harry replied with a grin.
"Harry," Neville said in a whisper, "something is following us down there. I don't like this."
"Shh, Neville, we're almost there."
Harry couldn't understand Neville; there were lots of magical things that populated their lake at Hogwarts, should this lake be any different? Neville knew better after five years at the school. Gonzalo had overheard this, and smiled with a mischievous grin.
"There are plenty of things that hide in those waters, plenty of secrets."
Neville gulped, wide-eyed; this was not lessening his nerves.
"Please, Gonzalo, don't frighten them. He likes to tease people, don't worry about it," Miranda said reassuringly, sensing Neville's nervousness.
The boat finally reached the shore; Harry helped Miranda with his arm as they stepped out, Neville followed while Gonzalo who pulled the boat onto land. All four of them walked over to the cottage entrance. Two huge wooden doors that looked very old towered over them. Harry held Miranda with one arm while Gonzalo and Neville dragged the basket. The island felt strange, the air still and slightly stagnate. With a loud creek of the wooden door, they entered the cottage through the main hall. The hall was decorated with antique furniture and beautiful tapestries on the wall. Once could sense that this must be a very old Wizard family full of tradition. They walked into a large kitchen.
"You have both been kind. Could you stay for tea and biscuits?" Miranda asked as Harry helped her to sit down.
'Humm…I think so. Neville, would you like that?"
"Oh, that would be nice, thanks," Neville replied slowly, "but it's getting late, Harry. We should get back; the school will expect us."
Harry could tell something about this place really unnerved Neville.
"I guess you're right, but some tea would have been nice though."
Miranda sensed Harry's reluctance. "If you don't mind me saying, if Neville is really anxious, Gonzalo could take him back now, and Harry could follow."
"Neville, do you mind?" Harry replied earnestly. "I'll make it back soon enough and be there in time for the banquet, okay?"
Neville nervously nodded and followed Gonzalo to the main hall and outside.
Miranda gave Harry a smile.
"Tea and biscuits were already made before I left. The kettle is still hot, and the biscuits are, too. They're in that warmer box over there. Oh, and the ointment is in the bottom cupboard."
"Oh, okay; a magic warmer?" Harry replied, looking around. Miranda nodded. Harry realized that there were a few things he should tending. Within minutes, he was applying the ointment and without thinking massaging her feet.
"Er - want me to take out that stuff from the basket? Set it somewhere?'
"Oh, that would be nice," Miranda replied, eyeing Harry intently. "Sorry Grandfather isn't up; he's sleeps a lot, not too well right now."
Harry walked over, pulled out the food from the basket, and set the vegetables and breads on a kitchen table as he glanced at her curiously. "So, you live with your Grandfather then?"
"Well, Mum and Dad died when I was four, so it's just been him, me and Ariel. She keeps me company, and she's quite lovely, floating around here somewhere," Miranda replied as Harry then pulled the clothes from the basket and placed them on another counter.
"My parents are dead too, never really knew them." Harry continued thoughtfully, "I live with my Muggle aunt and uncle."
"Are they nice then?"
Harry had to laugh at that. "Oh, they're awful, not because they're Muggles, just stupid really. So what school do you go to?" replied Harry as he walked over to the kitchen stove, poured some tea, took a biscuit from a plate and gave it to Miranda, before helping himself to tea.
"Oh, I go to a wizard school near Italy," Miranda shrugged, "very lovely there, but I don't get out much."
"Well, you speak well." It was quite true; she seemed very fluent for an Italian girl.
"We're always here in England over the summers; I never really thought about it before. We're going back home a week from Sunday."
Harry found himself really engaged by Miranda; he noticed what a lovely face she had and her long brown hair. Before Harry knew it, an hour had passed and Gonzalo appeared.
"Well, I best be off," Harry shrugged. "Hogwarts students can visit Hogsmeade tomorrow. Can I come by again?"
"Of course, I'd like that." Miranda replied brightly. "What you should do, you see, is on the lake where Gonzalo picked us up, there's a torch; light that up and that will be the signal for Gonzalo to pick you up."
Just as Harry nodded, he felt something brush up against his leg, like a cold hand or a wet dog, Harry spun around. "What was that? Something just touched me."
"What was what?" Miranda replied confused, "There's nothing there Harry."
"Got any pets? Anything?"
"I wish we did, only our post owl Hercules and he's away." Miranda said as he turned.
"Weird, well, I'll see you."
Harry and Gonzalo crossed Secuutus Lake and Gonzalo walked with Harry to the outskirts of Hogsmeade. I guess he's supposed to do that, Harry thought as Gonzalo followed. Harry caught up with a number of Hogwarts students as they were making their way back to the school. As he arrived, he ran into Dean who told him that Hermione was with Ron in the hospital wing. Harry entered the hospital wing to find Hermione and Ron, who was awake; both gave him a curious look.
"I hear that you've been busy. All right, what happened?" Ron asked as he sat up.
"You already know then?" Harry said, knowing he should have known considering how gossip spreads.
"Dean, Seamus and Neville told us; well, most of it anyway," Hermione replied.
Harry felt that certain things were more important. "First off, are you feeling better, Ron?"
"A little," Ron shrugged, "but Madame Pomfrey won't let me leave yet."
"Which is just as well, Ron," Hermione replied, "although I could use your help with the Prefect duties, you do need to rest."
Ron gave Hermione a sharp look; she had probably spent to long visiting as it was getting on his nerves, but he answereed, "Anyway, tell us."
Harry told them everything that happened: the visit across Secuutus Lake to the cottage, meeting Miranda and the strange thing that happened just as he was leaving.
"That Lake is haunted you know," Ron said.
"What?" Harry replied curiously.
"Fred and George overheard Filch talk about it; the Hogsmeade villagers don't like going there anymore."
"That's funny," Hermione replied. "With what little I've read about Secuutus Lake, I haven't heard about any haunting."
"Hermione, not everything is in a bloody book you know," Ron replied curtly. "Besides," Ron continued, "the rumor is that it's been haunted for the last ten years or so. Filch said so. I heard people have been getting thrown in the lake, or have had rocks chucked at them. Two people died many years ago there in an accident; that's what I heard."
Harry looked thoughtful. "You know, I felt bad for her, dunno why though, something about her."
"Other than her living on a creepy lake no one likes?" Ron asked.
"She didn't seem to know who I was; she never made a fuss about it. You know how it is, 'famous Harry Potter' and all."
Hermione couldn't resist the laugh. "Harry, I'm surprised."
"What?" Harry looked puzzled.
"I thought you'd like that fact that she didn't make a fuss," Hermione said with a smile. "Maybe she was being polite."
"Maybe where she's from, they don't know about Harry," Ron replied.
"Ron," Hermione responded, "Harry is in most of the Wizard history books, I doubt it."
"I reckon so; I guess you're right," Harry replied, pondering.
Hermione suddenly jumped, remembering. "Oh, Harry, McGonagall wants to see you right away."
"I don't like the sound of that," Harry replied and with that, he was headed to her office.
Harry went to Professor McGonagall's office to find Dean, Seamus, and Neville already there. Professor McGonagall looked stern as she saw him.
"Mr. Potter, I have been informed about the incident at Hogsmeade. This is most unbecoming of several of our advanced students. Stay right there!"
Harry waited as Dean, Seamus, and Neville all looked at each other blankly. Harry doubted that this would call for him to be expelled, but he didn't like to think what kind of detention he would receive. Suddenly she reappeared with Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy; Harry gave Draco a scowl. Snape gave Harry an all too typical stare.
"I understand that Mr. Potter found a way to attack Mr. Malfoy without the need of a wand," Snape stated.
"Professor Snape, indeed both boys conduct has been inappropriate," McGonagall replied calmly. "But I can assure you that is not what Mr. Thomas and Mr. Longbottom witnessed."
Harry turned to McGonagall. "Professor, Malfoy was picking on Neville; he drew his wand on me, when I stopped him, that's where this whole mess started."
She gave Harry a stern look. "For both of you boys, that is beside the point. There is a certain level of conduct that is expected of Hogwarts students while they visit Hogsmeade, and a villager was harmed because of your bullying. Which reminds me, is that girl alright?"
"I think so, just a sprain; I promised to visit her again," Harry was quick to point out. Harry could tell that Draco was already scheming something.
"Professor, I wasn't intending to use my wand. Potter has it all wrong, and I was just joking."
This didn't seem to make Professor McGonagall waver. "Both of you will receive detention; ten points will be taken from Gryffindor, forty from Slytherin. Is that agreeable, Professor Snape?"
"Indeed, I shall talk with Mr. Malfoy about this habit of his."
Harry was stunned; did Christmas come early this year? Why was Snape being so agreeable? What was he playing at? Did Dumbledore give him a talking-to over the summer? Draco even seemed more stunned as if everything Draco knew about Snape collapsed. As if the bottom fell out from Draco's world. Harry had to wonder if this had anything to do with the new DADA teacher, Professor Umbridge.
"But I was pushed over. I'm sure Weasley had something to do with it. I'm sure Weasley had Potter's Invisibility Cloak. I…"
McGonagall raised her hand and stopped him. "Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Weasley has taken ill and has been under the supervision of Madame Pomfrey. Miss Granger never left the Hogwarts grounds. Therefore neither of them were ever at Hogsmeade today. This decision is final."
"But…" Draco replied as he looked between Snape and McGonagall.
"Mr. Malfoy," Professor Snape replied, "another word and I will personally take five points from my own house. Follow me; I have a suitable idea for your detention."
Harry wished that Ron could have seen this as it was priceless. Harry made a point to give Draco a smile as he left with Snape, sulking. A moment later, Dean, Seamus, and Neville left as well. Harry had to wonder if Snape's decision had anything to do with his involvement with the Order of the Phoenix, if it was a sign of cooperation directed at Headmaster Dumbledore.
"Professor McGonagall," Harry replied slowly, "do you have any idea about my detention?'
"Not as of yet," she replied as she sat at her desk to continue grading essays.
"Well, I was thinking, I could serve my detention by helping out that girl, Miranda, whatever they need. I know where she lives anyway," Harry said helpfully.
She looked at Harry. "I'll consider it. You can serve part of your detention by helping her family, but I think Mr. Filch should accompany you. Can a message be sent to this family?"
"Yes, they live on Secuutus Lake," Harry replied.
"Oh my," McGonagall reacted with worry. "I had no idea, do be careful, Potter, the Hogsmeade villagers claim that the lake is haunted. Please send an owl to them and I'll speak to Mr. Filch immediately."
Late that evening, well after midnight, when all were asleep in the castle, something entered Gryffindor tower. First hovering over Harry's bed, then Ron's, it reached Neville's bed, who awoke and screamed when he saw it. It was exactly like what he had seen in the lake earlier that day. Something shapeless, a formless mist with two glowing orbs for eyes. In addition there was a low hum, like a droning moan from deep water. Neville's scream woke his dorm mates as the apparition took a quick glance at Harry and fled, flying out the window. They heard a large crash as if something was knocked over outside. All the boys jumped out of their beds.
"Neville, what happened?"
"Did you see it?" Neville replied looking pale, "Same eyes! Harry, it-it followed us here!"
"Was it a Hogwarts ghost we've never seen before?" Ron said nervously.
"No, Ron," Neville replied adamantly, "I swear it was different from a regular ghost, something bad, like it wanted to hurt someone, to do someone in."
Harry ran to the window to witness a commotion in the distance.
"Something's going on! Look, sounds like it's coming from the Quidditch pitch. Come on," Harry said as he headed downstairs.
Neville, Seamus, and Dean opted not to go; Ron began to follow Harry only to be met by Hermione who was running into the common room.
"What on Earth was that? Who screamed? What happened?"
"Something was in our room just now," Harry replied. "Neville says it tried to get at him. It flew out; there was a crash outside. We're going to find out."
Hermione rounded at Ron, "Well, you're not."
"What?" Ron replied, thunderstruck.
"You're still too sick to run around at night; you need to rest for class this week and Quidditch practice and your Prefect duties. Let Harry ask, he probably won't get very far anyway."
"Oh please, really, like I'm going to go outside. You're not my mum," Ron retorted back.
"I know, she'd say the same," Hermione reasoned. "Off to bed, I'll go with Harry."
"If it wasn't for Krum, I'd reckon you fancy me," Ron said in an off hand way as he turned and walked upstairs. Harry could tell that caught Hermione off-guard; Hermione shot daggers with her eyes at Ron's back.
Harry and Hermione walked down into the main hall to find Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore talking to Mr. Filch. Other students were milling around in every direction in their robes.
"I tell you, Professor, it must have been Peeves," Filch stated indignantly. "I saw a white blur. You must go about getting rid of Peeves; he's destroying school property, I tell you."
Harry and Hermione carefully walked up to Professor McGonagall as she looked at the both of them.
"Well, I take it everyone must be up at this hour? What can I do for the both of you?"
"Professor, what happened?" Hermione asked.
"The Gryffindor stands on the field suffered some damage due to something or someone," replied Professor McGonagall, attempting to hide her worry.
"Professor, we have something to tell Professor Dumbledore," Harry replied and he took a look at Dumbledore. Dumbledore glanced at them with interest.
"Yes, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger?" said Dumbledore with only a trace of the usual glint in his eye; it continued to seem to Harry that Dumbledore appeared very aloof.
"Professor," Harry said, "something woke up Neville, flew out our window towards the stands I reckon. Some kind of ghost, but Neville insisted that it wasn't a Hogwarts ghost, but something else."
"Did you see anything Harry?"
Harry shook his head 'no' as he continued, "I woke up from Neville's scream, and I just saw a big blur really."
Dumbledore turned to Mr. Filch, who had a disappointed expression.
"There, Mr. Filch, some evidence that it wasn't Peeves. I will have to speak with Mr. Longbottom tomorrow about what he did witness. Well, it is late; everyone go back to your rooms and off to sleep!"
"But, Professor-!" replied Filch with his mouth agape.
"No one has been harmed, have they? The damaged property can be repaired; I think it is best to wait until tomorrow to sort out this matter."
As Harry and Hermione walked back to the common room, Harry realized that he never mentioned to Professor Dumbledore that Neville saw the same ghost while they crossed Secuutus Lake.
He thought of mentioning this to Hermione, but he already knew what she'd say. The following morning, before breakfast, many of the Hogwarts students went to gape at the lopsided Gryffindor stand. After breakfast, Harry met up with Mr. Filch.
"So I am to follow you to Secuutus Lake, eh?" asked Filch as they walked towards Hogsmeade. "Nasty place I heard; Hogsmeade villagers whispering about it all the time."
Harry already knew what he meant, but thought he'd ask anyway to see if Filch had a different answer. "Why it that?"
"Why? It's haunted. Just last year two wizards were walking along the lake when they found themselves in the water, twenty feet from shore. Never saw anything from what I hear."
Harry and Mr. Filch walked passed Hogsmeade to Secuutus Lake. While they walked, Harry noticed that Filch seemed out of character, at least for him. He nervously kept turning around, darting his eyes in every direction, as if expecting something to attack. The lake looked the same; there was still that strange, unnatural mist. Filch looked at Harry as if wondering what to do next. Then Harry remembered what Miranda instructed; he pulled out his wand and pointed it at the torch post.
"Incendio!" The torch burst into a bright blue flame. It took several minutes but Gonzalo appeared on the water.
"Who is this family again? Spotty place to live," Filch said with a frown.
"They're visiting," Harry murmured as Gonzalo drew closer.
Gonzalo arrived at the shore while Filch eyed him intently. Funny, Harry thought, Gonzalo looks like he could be related to Filch. It was quite true. Gonzalo did look like what Mr. Filch probably looked like as a young man, only with black hair. Mr. Filch seemed oblivious to the slight similarity.
"Hello, Mr. Potter," Gonzalo said evenly.
"Hello, Gonzalo. This is Mr. Filch, our school caretaker; he's supposed to follow me and report back," Harry replied as Gonzalo nodded.
Both Mr. Filch, who looked guarded, and Harry climbed on the boat. Soon they found themselves on the island. They entered the main hall to me met by a tall, older, yet feeble man.
"Ciao, Mr. Potter," he said, "Il Nostro Amico! Welcome, my granddaughter and I have been waiting for you! I'm Prospo!"
Prospo looked at Mr. Filch curiously, yet warmly.
"Oh, this is Mr. Filch," Harry replied. "He's from my school, just to see me safe."
"Well, we have plenty for you to do today, don't we Gonzalo?" said Prospo while Gonzalo nodded.
"Hello, Harry!" Miranda said brightly as she walked in. Harry returned a smile.
"Well, I'll be off now," Mr. Filch said, seemingly anxious as Filch and Gonzalo walked out.
"Magic is permitted in this house," Prospo said warmly. "I don't want to wear out our honorable guest with our chores. Was your school expecting hard labor?"
"Probably," Harry replied, teasing.
"Well," Prospo said with a grin, "I'll have to just make it sound worse in my letter back!"
Just then, Prospo seemed to weaken, slouching a little as if he needed to sit.
"Excuse me, my boy," Prospo replied weakly. "Miranda will show you what to do until Gonzalo gets back."
With that, Prospo walked into another room.
"Sometimes," Miranda said apologetically, "he's quite well, then he'll go into these fits. Grandfather will be fine. Follow me, you can polish the armory." She smiled as Harry followed.
Gonzalo took Mr. Filch back to the other side of the lake. While Gonzalo offered to accompany him, Filch insisted to walk back alone. Gonzalo disappeared on the lake. As soon as Filch could no longer see Secuutus Lake, he seemed to breathe easier. Then there was a slight wind, which caused Filch to pause. Suddenly, as if it materialized from nowhere, a rock flew and struck Mr. Filch hard on the forehead.
The pain, coupled with the shock, caused Mr. Filch to stagger for a moment. Raising his hand on his head, he could feel a small gash and then saw blood on his hand. He turned back in horror in the direction of the lake as he staggered toward Hogsmeade, uncertain if he could make it before losing consciousness.