The Exchange Student
by Gina


Chapter 2: The Exchange Student

< >"I'll miss you both so much," Hermione sniffed as she embraced Ron and Harry. "I can't believe I won't see either of you till Christmas!" But despite all her lamentations, Hermione could not keep her excitement for making her eyes sparkle. Suddenly she exclaimed, "Oh, I almost forgot!" She searched through one of her many bags until she found what she was looking for: two wrapped, spherical objects, each with a small scroll attached to the wrappings. "They're Communi-orbs. The directions are on the sheet of paper. They're kinda like owls, just loads faster and you can see me when we talk. Of course, I'll still send you tons of owls," she added hastily. The Hogwarts Express train tooted its horn loudly, as if reproaching Hermione for taking too much time. "Goodbye!," she waved to them as she left for her car.

< >Ron had long ago said farewell to Percy, and he sniffed slightly as he watched Hermione. "I'm gonna miss her a lot," he admitted.

< > "Me too," Harry agreed fervently.

< > "In fact, I'm already starting to miss her lectures. Isn't that weird? I never thought I would miss her that much."

< >Harry grinned and the talk shifted to the upcoming Quidditch match as they made their way back to Hagrid's motorcycle.

< > "Are yer ready ter go?" Hagrid asked.

< > "Uh-huh," Ron nodded. They both got into the side-compartments that Hagrid had made for that day. They zoomed away, Hagrid sniffling a little and making frequent comments like, "I'm goin' ter miss Hermione a lot yer know," "Who's gonna come ter visit me an' Fang when Quidditch season starts up?" and "I wonder if she remembered ter take Crookshanks wit' her...Fang may not take ter 'im."

< >As they pulled up to Hogwarts, Harry could make out Dumbledore's outline as he waited for them on the front steps.

< > "Did she get on the train safely?" he asked anxiously.

< > "Safe an' sound," Hagrid replied proudly.

< >Dumbledore smiled and nodded his approval.

< >"If ya don' mind me askin' sir, who're yer waitin' fer out here? Almos' time fer dinner, ain't it?"

< >"Yes it is, Hagrid, but I've just received an owl saying the exchange students are going to be late, and I'd like to greet them and show them around the school before they get lost."

< >"Oh. What're they arrivin' by

< >"Wing Transport

< >Ron looked impressed. Hagrid's mouth hung open. "Yer not jokin' are yer sir?"

< >"Of course not Hagrid." Dumbledore turned to face him.

< >"It's jus' that I've been wantin' to see one since I were a kid."

< >Harry was absolutely bewildered. "What's Wing Transport?" he asked Ron.

< >"It's the best kind of wizard transportation ever! Usually-wait, never mind, you'll see for yourself. I can see it now, right there." Ron pointed to a tiny, bright speck in the dusky sky. Harry watched it as it grew larger, then gasped as he saw what it was.

< >Two resplendent winged horses were pulling a small, copper chariot. The horses were a beautiful chestnut hue, their wings gilded and gleaming in the little light there was. The chariot also had a pair of golden wings attached to side. A pair of sillhouettes showed through the gauzy curtains, and Harry could make out a melodious laugh as the two pegasus landed. Hagrid stared, awed by the sight.

< >The first person to get out was a tall, tanned boy, who looked as if he were about Percy's age. He had light brown hair, and Harry could see his eyes were green, a shade lighter than his own. He had on no robes, and his muscular arms bulged as he picked up about five, overflowing suitcases in each hand. A light voice protested from inside.

< > "Oh, Peter, stop showing off and give me my bags."

< > "I'm not showing off, Amy." Peter grinned. "And it's not like you're gonna be able to carry all that stuff you packed.

< > "C'mon, give me my stuff."

< >Peter laughed, showing his spotless teeth. "Make me

< >The second-and last-passenger stepped out of the chariot. It was a slender, mischief-eyed girl. Harry couldn't help but notice her beauty. Her hair was as dark as the midnight sky, sometimes flashing brown in the setting sun. She was wearing a fuzzy sweater and denim shorts, the somber colors contrasting sharply with the paleness of her skin. Her light brown eyes sparkled with laughter. Harry glanced at Ron.

< >Ron was standing stock-still, entranced.

< > "Give me my bags!," Amy laughed, and lunged at Peter. He dodged her easily, and as they struggled over mastery of the bags, the two pegasus left unnoticed by everyone except Hagrid.

< >Just as Amy had almost gained possesion of her suitcases, Dumbledore intervened. He extended his hand to both of them. "Welcome to Hogwarts. My name, inconsequential as it may be, is Albus Dumbledore."

< >Peter shook Dumbledore's hand and introduced himself, then Amy, both looking comically solemn.

< > "Mr. Weasley, Mr. Potter, why don't you help me show these two to their new rooms?" Dumbledore called to them. Harry began walking over to help Dumbledore, but then noticed Ron wasn't with him. He jogged back to where Ron was standing.

< >He was still staring after Amy. "Ron! Hello? C'mon, let's go!"

< > "Wha-oh, um, ok."

< >They trotted up to where Dumbledore and the two exchange students were

< >waiting. "Why don't you introduce yourselves," Dumbledore suggested.

< >The girl extended her hand to Ron while the boy put down his bags and shook hands with Harry. "Peter Jenkins," he said cordially.

< > "Amy Swift," murmured the girl.

< > "Harry Potter."

< > "Ron Weasley." Ron's whisper was barely audible.

< >Amy smiled. "Hi Ron." She turned to Harry, her features set in a quizzical frown. "Harry Potter...that sounds familiar..."

< >Peter shook his head and chided Amy playfully. "Tsk, tsk, you just don't remember any of your lessons, do you Amy? Harry Potter. You know, from like, five of our Social Studies and Civics books. Remember?"

< > "Oh! Man, it's like, the biggest honor to meet you." Amy shook Harry's hand. Harry blushed a little and muttered, "Thanks." He didn't notice the slightly crestfallen look on Ron's face.

< > "Well then, let's continue on our way, shall we?" Dumbledore led the children around the school. "This is the Great Hall. We have all of our celebrations, feasts, and regular meals here."

< > "Dude," murmured Peter. "Hey Amy, check out the ceiling."

< > "Huh? Oh! Wow, it's beautiful." The ceiling was glowing with the soft colors of twilight, a few bright stars dotting the night sky.

< >After everyone had had their fill of the ceiling, Dumbledore continued the tour of Hogwarts. "You have to be careful of two things here: the first is all the trick corridors, rooms, doors, windows, walls, and steps. The second is-"

< > "WATCH OUT I'M COMING THROUGH!" The group ducked quickly as Peeves appeared out of nowhere, carrying a spitting Mrs. Norris by the tail, bellowing at the top of his voice. He made a sharp U-turn and headed straight for them. "GO CATCH!," he roared gleefully and sent Mrs. Norris flying towards Peter.

< > "Duck!," yelled Ron.

< >But Peter did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, hunkered down and

< >sprang into the air, coming back down to the ground with the scruff of Mrs. Norris's neck clutched in his left fist. He set her down gently on the floor, and after a few dizzy turns, Mrs. Norris walked off tipsily towards the Ravenclaw common rooms.

< > "That's the second thing to watch out for," Dumbledore continued calmly, brushing off his robes. "Peeves. The school poltergeist. Quite useful, in some instances, but he can be rather a nuisance at times."

< >Ron nudged Harry and gave an incredulous look. Calling Peeves a nuisance was a vast understatement, and judging from the looks on Peter and Amy's faces, they seemed to agree. Dumbledore continued the tour- using a few hidden staircases and corridors that Ron and Harry had never seen before as shortcuts-, introducing all of the classrooms, the bathroom that Moaning Myrtle occupied ("I wouldn't try to use it if I were you," Dumbledore advised Amy), the common rooms, the girl's and boy's dormitories, the infirmary, the way to the greenhouse, and finally, the way to the Forbidden Forest. "Now, I've showed you the way to the Forest to show you how to avoid it." Dumbledore gazed at Amy and Peter over his half-moon glasses. "Make sure that you do so," he said gently. Turning to Ron and Harry, he said, "Show Peter to Percy's old room. I'll get Professor McGonagall to show Amy to hers." With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore banished Amy's bags to Hermione's unoccupied room, and the two of them went off to find McGonagall.

< >The three boys started off in silence. Peter suddenly asked, "What are the teachers like?"

< > "Why do you ask?" Harry replied.

< > "Well, I'm used the teachers at my school, and I just wanna know how to play it off here. I mean, there's got to be one pain in the butt, right? Who's that?"

< > "Snape," Ron and Harry answered simultaneously.

< > "Okay, we're making progress here. What class?"

< > "Potions

< > "Who's the most boring teacher?"

< >Ron thought a moment and said, "Professor Binns. He's the HIstory teacher."

< >"Okay. Who's the strictest?"

< > "Well, Snape's just plain unfair, but-"

< > "McGonagall's just plain strict. You have to watch out around both of 'em. But just to tell you, she's nicer than Snape." Ron finished Harry's sentence. He seemed to have found his voice.

< > "Okay. Well, it can't be that bad." Suddenly, Peter grinned broadly. "What about the girls at this school?"

< >Ron's voice disappeared again, and he flushed as he walked towards the portrait of the Fat Lady. Harry pretended to have misunderstood the question.

< > "What do you mean?"

< > "You know..." Peter's voice trailed off and his face softened dreamily. "Single chicks. I hope that not everybody's hitched here, or am I gonna have to be stuck with Amy for the rest of my trip?"

< > "What's wrong with Amy?" Ron's face was a bright as his hair, but his voice had returned once more.

< >"Well, nothing, I guess. I've just known her too long. We're ex-step-siblings." He laughed at Ron's puzzled expression. My dad got divorced, then he married her mom, then they got divorced."

< >"What happened Amy's mum?"

< >Peter's smile faded. "She died."

< >Ron looked down. "Oh."

< >"What about her dad?" For some inexplicable reason Harry was hoping that Amy's father was alive, but at the mention of Amy's mother's death, he had felt a monstrous surge of hope-maybe he had found another orphan to relate to. Harry snapped back as if someone had slapped him. What kind of disgraceful thought was that? Yet at the same time...

< >"He died too. Plane crash."

< >Harry's insides surged.

< >"Poor Amy." Ron looked shocked, dazed.

< >"You're not kidding," Peter muttered bitterly. "She didn't even know what happened-her aunt said her 'daddy and mommy had left and were coming back later.' She was three, for God's sake. She only found out two years ago."

< >Ron stared at Peter, stunned. "You can't be serious."

< >"Yup."

< >"How could anyone do that? To her?"

< >Peter didn't notice the emphasis Ron made in reference to Amy. He just shook his head in agreement. "It's sick, some things people do for insurance money."

< >"Insurance?"

< >"Well yeah. I mean, Amy's aunt already had four kids. And she isn't exactly the richest person in the world, so she agreed to take Amy under her care. And when she did, she got extra money for Amy's life insurance, so that her aunt could pay to take care of her. But if she told Amy, what would stop her from running off when she turned eighteen? So, she tried to keep it a secret for a while, tightened Amy's belt, treated her own kids with extra candy and presents, and lived her life till Amy found the transactions between her lawyer and her aunt." Peter coughed, then continued. "The way Amy tells me, she was looking for a dictionary and stumbled across the documents by mistake." He laughed dryly. "Now she's determined to get the hell out of there as soon as she learns to drive."

< >Ron looked outraged.

< >"Well, here we are," Harry said as the reached Percy's rooms. The des was huge, and took up most of the space but Peter didn't seem to mind. "You guys

< >have the coolest rooms in here!," he remarked, awed. The large, posh down bed seemed to preen in conceited delightment, and the ornate mirror glimmered brightly and said "Thank you" in a pleased tone of voice.

< >Peter laughed, elated, and began unpacking. "See you guys at dinner?"

< >"Sure," said Harry. Ron seemed too inscensed to speak, but shook Peter's hand before leaving with Harry. As soon as they were out of earshot, Ron exploded. "HOW COULD SHE!"

< >Harry was confused. "What? Who?"

< >"Amy's aunt! How could she do that? How could she lie about something like that?"

< >"Well, I dunno, but I'm sure you could ask Petunia. They sound like they have a lot in common."

< >Ron laughed shortly, and didn't talk about Amy's aunt again. Instead, he shut up for the rest of dinner, fuming silently.

< >Fred and George tried their best to trigger some polysyllables out of him. "Hey Fred, look at Snape."

< >"Why? I don't want to look at him any more than I have to in class."

< >"Neither does anybody else, but he's acting weird. Look."

< >"Oh, all right, I'm looking, I'm-what the...?"

< >Snape was acting rather strangely-he was engaged in a polite conversation with McGonagall, something unheard of for Snape. Under normal circumstances, he was incapable of poltie conversation with anybody, let alone the head of his rival House.

< >Fred and George looked on grimly.

< >"There must be something wrong."

< >"He's probably going to pop another surprise quiz on us tomorrow."

< >"Or maybe he's killed a Gryffindor."

< >"There's no one missing except Percy. Where's his replacement?"

< >"Getting his stuff unpacked," Harry chimed in.

< >"Okay...why the heck is he talking to McGonagall?"

< >"Hey George, look." Fred nudged his twin and nodded across the table towards Amy. She looked splendid. She had changed into some spare robes, and they fit her supple frame perfectly. Her hair had been pulled out of its ponytail and now framed her heart-shaped face like a halo of midnight. She seemed to be enjoying herself, and was chatting amiably with Alicia Spinnet and Lavender Brown. The rest of the Gryffindor girls clamored around her, trying to ask her questions about Catswings. (The boys seemed rather in awe of her.)

< >George let out a low whistle. "Wow. She's-wow." He saw Ron blush, and pounced. "Is she your girlfriend, Ron? Have you asked her to visit?"

< >Ron turned deep red and shouted, "SHE'S NOT MY GIRLFRIEND!"

< >Ron's words rang in the silence that now enveloped the Great Hall. Amy looked at Ron curiously.

< >A snotty guffaw pierced the silence. Hundreds of heads turned to see Malfoy collapsing in his seat, his pointed face contorted with spiteful mirth. Soon, the entire Slytherin table was rolling out of their seats, banging goblets and jeering Ron. Even Snape smirked at Ron's blushing face.

< >A sudden, loud remark penetrated the laughter and taunts.

< > "That table is like, the biggest group of jerk-offs I've ever seen. Especially that blond, pointy-faced little turd sitting at the center." Amy washed down her comment with some cider, dabbed her mouth, and excused herself, saying "I think I'll go visit Peter. You said you saw him in the Common room, right?"

< >Lavender nodded.

< > "Okay. See you later." With that, Amy turned on her heel and left for the Gryffindor common rooms, leaving Malfoy scowling under Ron's returning confidence. Snape was glaring after Amy, and Harry could hear him demand, "Who was that girl?"

< > "That," said McGonagall with a slight smile, "was Amy Swift. One of the exchange students from Catswings. Very bright, brilliant rather, according to her records, just rather outspoken."

< > "I see," Snape said unpleasantly.

< >Fred shook his head dolefully, while George whistled a funeral march.

< > "Why?" Harry asked. "What's wrong?"

< > "You should know, Harry. No one gets away with insulting Snape's house if he can help it. No one."

< > "He wouldn't do anything to Amy though, since she's an exchange student," Ron said. Then he added uncertainly, "Right?"

< >George just shook his head, and the two of them left, leaving Harry and Ron to wonder what was going to happen to Amy.

< > "It can't be that bad, could it? I mean, what's the worst he's done to you?"

< > "Gave me detention for a week," Ron said miserably. "And took about thirty points from Gryffindor in a day. "

< > "Oh." Then Harry chuckled. "Still, that look on Malfoy's face was pretty funny."

< >Ron grinned. "She called him a turd," he said dreamily. "My kind of girl."

< >Harry faced him sharply, startled. "What did you say?"

< > "Noting."

< > "But I thought you said-"

< > "Oh that, well, er, I was talking about someone else."

< >Harry looked at Ron skeptically but he looked so confused and distressed that he left the matter alone. The Great Hall had been nearly deserted, so Ron and Harry finished their custard and left hurriedly for the Gryffindor common room. Everyone was clapping Amy on the back, or congratulating her for basically voicing the opinions of the entire Grffyndor house. Peter was laughing at Amy's interpretation of the story. Although she had only said one sentence, Amy had made a favorable reputation among the Gryffindors. Fred and George seemed to have forgotten their dire predictions and were idolizing her, even telling her and Peter the locations of some secret passageways.

< > "School would be so boring otherwise," George sighed.

< > "The one behind the statue of Belinda the Berserk is a new one George and I found yesterday," Fred confided in her. "I think it was built by accident, to tell you the truth."

< > "Where does it lead?" Amy inquired.

< > "We're not sure. We haven't tried it yet." A sudden mischievous gleam twinkled in Fred's eyes. He glanced at Ron, then said casually. "I'm sure Ron could show you though, he knows the passages almost as well as we do."

< >Ron looked as if he were going to keel over.

< >Amy smiled at Ron. "I'd like that."

< >He looked at her uncertainly. "You...would

< >Her smile softened. "Yeah. I'd like that a lot." She looked at fingernails absently, then asked, "Show me tomorrow at lunch

< >Ron was so elated he couldn't speak. All he could do was nod his head vigorously, and goodbye as Amy left for her rooms. She looked over her shoulder and waved back. "Bye, Ron."

< >After they had gone back to their rooms, Harry grinned at Ron in the dark. "I think you like her."

< > "Who?"

< > "Amy."

< > "What? No! No...what gave you that idea? Why would you think that?" Ron managed to sound completely unconvincing.

< > "Face it Ron. It's obvious. Not the remark in the Great Hall, no had any idea of who you were talking about, but..." Harry's voice trailed off. He took a deep breath before going on. "I've known you for a while Ron. You've never acted like this before. I mean, I've never seen you blush so many consecutive times in a day. You never act like this around any other girl. Normally, if Malfoy had started laughing at you like he did today I'd have to pin you down to your chair to keep you from strangling him. Today, you looked like you were going to melt in your chair. I'm not sure if other people can see it but I seriously think you like her. So, I just want to know. Do you?"

< >There was an anxious pause. Then, Ron whispered, "I dunno." He sighed. "It's...confusing. I don't know how I feel about anything anymore. I mean"-Harry heard Ron sit up in bed- "Before I even saw Amy, I was fine. Things made sense. And now..." Ron's voice wavered. "It's like getting a really bad cold. All you can think about is how much your head hurts, or how hard it is to breathe because your nose is clogged up, right? It's pretty much the same thing, just without the nose part."

< >Harry didn't respomd. What Ron was saying was making sense, in a way, but it wasn't registering fully in his mind. "Maybe if I felt that way," he thought. "Maybe then I'll get it." Aloud, he said, "Yeah, I see what you mean."

< >Ron settled back in his bed, satisfied. Soon he was asleep, his breathing becoming deeper and heavier.

< >Harry felt his eyelids drooping when suddenly a piercing scream slashed the quiet. He sat bolt upright, every hair on his head trembling at the sound. All the boys in his dorm woke up, terrified.

< > "What was that?"

< > "It sounds like someone's being murdered!"

< > "Comin' from the girl's dorms!"

< >Neville whimpered weakly.

< >Ron had been listening to the snatches of conversation floating around the room. Finally, he jumped out of bed and jammed his slippers onto his feet.

< >Neville peeped at Ron. "Where are you going?"

< > "To see what's wrong."

< > "Where?"

< > "The girl's dorms."

< >Everyone began shouting at this.

< > "McGonagall will give you detention!"

< > "You'll get suspended!"

< > "You'll get expelled!"

< >Ron ignored them and turned to Harry. "Are you coming?"

< >Harry hesitated for a moment, then nodded. They both set off grimly in the direction of the girl's dorms. Neither of them spoke, they just ran as quickly and silently as they could, trying to reach their destination without being seen.

< >The screams had diminished to dismal moans. Finally reaching the girl's dorms, Harry and Ron tried to find the room where the moans were originating from. "There!" Ron pointed. No one was in the hall, so they darted to the door. Ron put his ear to the door, while Harry tried to see what was going on through the keyhole

< > "What's happening?"

< > "...don't know. Lavender, get a..."

< > "Oh God, she's..."

< >A wail flared from within the room. Harry could see glimpses of people rushing about, and an adult hand putting a cold towel on a girl's forehead. Her face was turned away from him, so Harry couldn't see who it was.

< > "...quick, someone get Madam Pomfrey."

< >The door was flung open. Ron and Harry tumbled forward, their support yanked away from them. They lay heaped together on the floor, Professor McGonagall glarind down at them with the utmost fury.

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