Even in the dim darkness of the Minety Common Room at Hallworts Academy for Indecently Talented Rugby Players, Hermione could tell that something was amiss.
She stepped forward, resting a hand upon one of the millennia old armchairs that littered the Common Room and peered through the gloom at a figure crouched over a desk in the far corner.
“Harry?” But there was no movement, no hint that he had even sensed her presence. Hermione was worried. The scar on Potter’s forehead had been throbbing since he’d been bounced in a recent quidditch cup match against Bradford on Avon and it had been troubling him ever since.
Stepping nimbly around the pile of Quidditch coaching books recently published by Professor Garland, she caught sight of a document on the table in front of her troubled friend.
Just as she was about to call his name again the Common Room door burst open and Minety Quidditch Captain, Wallace Hibbard burst into the room. Spotting Potter hard at work in the corner, he strode past Hermione and smacked his trusty seeker hard on the shoulder.
Harry leapt up, his chair crashing backwards, his wand firmly grasped in his hand. “What the …?”
“Steady on old chap,” said the affable Wallace, somewhat taken aback by Harry’s startled reaction to a perfectly normal wallop across the shoulder blades. “No need for a wand and stuff like that. I say, Potter, are you OK? I mean, you will be available for the next quidditch match against Corsham on Saturday?”
Harry adjusted his glasses, knocked awry, and put down his wand. “Sorry Wallace, a bit on edge, but I’ll be fine for the match – you can rely upon me.”
Once again the silence was broken by a maniacal laugh which filled the silent void as Nearly Headless James floated through the door, head, recently knocked from his neck in a brutal encounter in Devizes, hanging to one side. “Time for shut eye you horrible lot or Professor Albus Dumbleward will be after you all.” He laughed again but it was a chill, mirthless laugh, caught in the tension that was almost palpable within the Common Room, and then was gone.
Hibbard regained his composure. “You know, we’ve got to give it our all this weekend or Professor Peirce will be after us again and it will be another round of Tuesday night detentions for us all,” and with that he swept up his Nimbus 2000 broomstick and departed the way he’d come.
The silence, and gloom, descended upon the Minety Common Room again and Harry, quite unaware that Hermione was close by, settled back into his chair and resumed his close investigation of the sheet of paper that lay before him.
“Harry,” she whispered, not wishing to shock him for a third time. “Harry?”
Potter’s head rose from his deliberations and he looked at her, a darkness in his eyes. “Something’s wrong Hermione. Something’s dreadfully wrong.”
Hermione pulled up a chair and sat down by her troubled friend, resting a reassuring hand upon the troubled forearm of her troubled friend. “What’s going on Harry, and don’t try to put me off with some old rubbish; I want to know the truth. What’s the matter.”
Harry took off his spectacles and cleaned them on the cuff of his purple and green robe. He glanced up at the trophies and painting that adorned the walls of the Common Room.
“He’s back, the dark lord has returned.”
“But Harry, you can’t mean ….” Hermione halted suddenly, catching her breath. She knew, better than anyone, that his was one name that could not be repeated in Hallworts Academy.
“But he is and he’s close. My scar has been aching all week and the signs are all around.” Harry placed his glasses carefully back on his nose and pointed at the sheet of crumpled paper that lay on the desk.
From where Hermione was sitting it looked like a table of figures, perhaps a charm recipe or some sort of magic but she couldn’t quite make out the numbers.
“What does it mean Harry? What’s the paper all about?”
Harry wiped sweaty palms against his robe and turned the paper towards his friend. “It’s all here.” He pointed at the columns of letters and figures. “It all starts here but who knows where it will all end? This is serious Hermione, this is deadly serious.”
Almost in sympathy with Harry’s discomfort, the fire in the corner, so lovingly crafted by Minety Housemaster O’Dell, suddenly extinguished itself and a cold waft of air pulled any remaining humour and warmth from the room.
Hermione shuddered and then looked back at the table of figures. It wasn’t any sort of magic that she recognised, and she knew more about spells than anyone else at Hallworts.
“It’s dark magic,” uttered Harry, rubbing the scar on his forehead. “Darker than I’ve ever come across and we are the only two who know about it. You mustn’t tell anyone of this, not even Wardy or Roberts and certainly not Dale.”
Harry turned the document back and pointed to the row of figures under the “TB” heading. You know what this is don’t you Hermione? This is the latest incarnation of the Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North Quidditch league table.”
Hermione, who had never taken much notice of the quidditch table looked to where Harry was pointing.
“It’s all wrong, it’s all wrong and dark magic is behind this,” said Harry, rising to his feet. “Don’t you see, Hermione?” He became more agitated, his voice rising. “Every time you score four tries or more in a match you get a bonus point. We had three bonus points against our name after we’d defeated Chippenham on the 22nd October.”
Hermione gazed back at the table, desperately trying to understand the cause of Harry’s anxiety.
“Don’t you see? Can’t you see the discrepancy? Something’s amiss and we’ve got to fight it, we can’t let “he who shall not be named” win.”
He pointed again at the paper and for the first time Hermione became aware that there were two tables on the sheet and not just one.
“Look!” Harry pointed at the TB column for the 22nd October and again at the 29th October. “We had three Try Bonus Points after the Chippenham match and we scored four tries against Devizes. Four tries means a bonus point and we haven’t been credited with it.”
At last Hermione appreciated the reason for Potter’s agitated state.
“The forces of darkness are at work. Not only has Matt Stone’s 2nd Minety Quidditch team been wrongly credited in both results and the D&W3N Quidditch league results and table, but we’ve been denied what is rightly ours in D&W1N.”
“We can’t let them get away with this,” said Hermione, appreciating the depths of the situation. “We must go and see Dumbleward first thing tomorrow morning.”
No sooner had she uttered these words than the door to the Minety Common Room opened again. Professor McAllister peered in. “Come on you two. Lights out.”
But as the Common Room descended into darkness, Harry was already plotting a way to wrestle the missing bonus point back from “He who shall remain nameless.”