The Exchange Student
by Gina

~

Chapter Five: Replacement Seekers and Communi-Orbs

< >"I didn't know they were going to react like that! I HONESTLY didn't!" Amy was sitting in McGonagall's office, protesting that she hadn't known who Voldemort was and that she didn't know that half the class was going to faint at her words, all the while being scrutinized by McGonagall, Finch, Snape (who had come up to complain about the sudden lack of nereid scales) and Dumbledore. Harry and Ron were waiting in two guest chairs that had been summoned by McGonagall, who was now glaring at Amy. Dumbledore was leaning back in a corner, unwrapping a lemon drop, his face grave.

< >Amy finally finished, her face red from the effort of talking nonstop for five minutes straight. McGonagall cleared her throat and demanded, "But how could you possibly not know about You-Kn -" she glanced at Dumbledore, who raised an eyebrow "-all right, Voldemort?" She shuddered involuntarily.

< >"Well, um, it might help if you told me what he did."

< >Dumbledore emerged from the corner and narrated an incredibly abbreviated version of Voldemort's wicked enterprise, omitting several names of the victims, including Harry's parents. Amy paled as his story wound on. By the time she was finished, she was fairly shaking. "My God.."

< >"So, now can you understand what a horrific impact your simple question had on the rest of the class?" Dumbledore asked gently. Amy nodded mutely, trembling. After Amy had recovered, Dumbledore cleared his throat and asked, "What exactly did the fairies say?"

< >"Never mind that, how did you understand what they were saying?" Snape demanded harshly. Dumbledore frowned slightly at the interruption but decided to let it go.

< >"I - I don't know. I never really thought about it," Amy stammered.

< >Snape leaned closer to Amy and said quietly, "Are you aware that it take extraordinary communication powers to get a fairy to respond?"

< >"Erm…I am now."

< >Dumbledore cut in. "Yes, well, I'm sure that's not the most important issue at hand, Severus." Snape said nothing, but never took his cold eyes off of Amy. Finch looked at her thoughtfully. "Can you answer my first question, my dear?"

< >"Yeah. Th-They said that Volde-er-" Amy saw McGonagall wince- "'You-Know-Who is back. Oh my God…" Her voice trailed off. "Does that mean that he's still alive?"

< >"It appears so," Dumbledore replied.

< >"Geez…"

< >"Did they say anything else?"

< >Amy hesitated, then said, "No, I don't think that they did."

< >Dumbledore looked straight at her with his twinkling, piercing blue eyes. Amy seemed to be deeply interested in the carpet. Finally he sighed, and said, "Thank you. If you remember anything, please come directly to my office. It will know where to find you." He ushered them outside, urging them to go to dinner. The three of them walked towards the Great Hall, disoriented and dazed.

< >"Voldemort's back?" Harry whispered, ignoring Ron's insistent shout of "Say You-Know-Who!"

< >"I guess so," Amy replied, just as shaken as Harry and Ron. "Did-did he really do all those things Dumbledore said?"

< >Ron and Harry nodded.

< >"Dear God." Amy's face was white, her eyes wide with horror. "That's horrible." She shook her as, as though trying to shake out all the things she had heard. "There were things like that that happened in the Muggle world too…"

< >"Like what?" Ron asked curiously. But Amy didn't say a word all the way to the Great Hall.

< >The Great Hall hushed to a silence as Amy walked in. Everyone stared at her, some glaring at her suspiciously as if she were about to cast a spell on them, others who had been more well-informed giving her understanding glances. But no one spoke to her, especially those who had fainted in the Care of Magical Creatures class. These students in particular refused to even have eye contact with Amy, so the only company she had during lunch was Ron and Harry.

< >Until Fred and George decided to come over.

< >"How's our favorite messenger of doom today?" George said loudly, smiling, and extended his hand hand to shake Amy's. Fred pushed him aside.

< >"You look just lovely, absolutely bewitching, perfectly radiant for a carrier of disaster," Fred agreed, extending his hand as well.

< >Amy giggled and shook their hands reluctantly. Fred leaned forward, and asked in a low voice, "Listen, the Honeydukes are having a dance in their store for anyone who wants to come tonight. We're not allowed to go, but we know a passage that leads right into the basement of the shop. You guys want to come?" Fred finished, addressing all of them.

< >"I'd love to," Amy said. "Are you coming, Ron?"

< >Ron looked crestfallen. "I can't. I have detention with Snape."

< >Amy's face fell. "Harry?"

< >"We have detention together, sorry. I wish I could."

< >Amy looked hesitant. "Well, if both of you can't come..."

< >"Don't be ridiculous," Ron snapped good-naturedly. "Heaven knows you need some cheering up. Honeydukes is the right place to go, I'd say."

< >"All right," Amy agreed, but she still looked slightly worried.

< >Fred and George were grinning. "Excellent," George whispered. "Meet us by the statue of Uric the Oddball. See you at seven." They left in high spirits.

< >Amy looked uncomfortable. "I really wish you could come," she said fervently, looking at Ron. Then added, "Both of you." She smiled at Harry, who smiled back.

< >Ron groaned at the thought of his upcoming detention. "What do you think we'll be doing? Cleaning out the dungeons?"

< >"Probably the toilets."

< >"Maybe he'll make us test out his undetectable poison supply."

< >"I wouldn't put it past him."

< >As they head for their next class, Harry noticed that Amy and Ron had fallen back. He tried not to listen, but he couldn't help overhearing their conversation.

< >"Amy, are you sure you're okay?"

< >"Of course, Ron."

< >"Then why do you look so pale? I'm worried about you." Ron caught Amy's arm, and turned her around gently to face him.

< >"You don't need to be."

< >"What did those fairies say to you?"

< >"Nothing…nothing…"

< >"Amy…"

< >"Look, they didn't say anything, okay?! Just leave it."

< >There was a short pause. "All right Amy," Ron whispered. She sighed.

< >"Oh Ron, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you. I should have kept my mouth shut."

< >"No, Amy, it's all right. I don't mind."

< >"You're so sweet, Ron."

< >Harry had to admit that he was relieved when they reached the Defense Against the Dark Arts room. The lesson went by quickly, and no one seemed to be paying attention. Amy kept bringing her hand to her forehead, as if testing to see whether or not she had a fever. A sudden high shriek made the entire class jump. "What was that?" yelped Seamus Finnigan.

< >Finch smiled. "Well, now that I finally have your attention. The culprit of the sound that you just heard was this." She pulled out a little aquarium, and in it was what looked like a tiny, fuzzy shrimp with whiskers and the head of mouse. It darted about in its cage, staring wildly at the class with milky eyes. "This is a flairth. They may look harmless, rather innocent if anything else, but they contain powerful dark magic. To demonstrate, I'm going to place a frog on the rock in the middle of the aquarium." She pulled a large, bright green frog out of her pocket and placed on the smooth stone. "Now watch."

< >At first, nothing happened. Then the flairth, sensing another living thing in the cage, swam up to the rock where the frog sat. The frog croaked once. Immediately, the flairth clung to the bottom of the rock. There was a loud crack, and then nothing but a few bubbles were floating on top of the water. The flairth swam away, content. Finch assigned the class into groups of three, and they worked on how to get a flairth out of the water, a tedious and risky process. Neville cried out when his flairth made half his wand disappear. As the final bell rang, Finch reminded the class, "Don't forget to work on your hybrid project!"

< >Finally, the schoolday ended. Harry suddenly remembered he had Quidditch practice. "Oh no, I've got to go to practice. Ron, come with me."

< >"Oh that's nice, just forget about me then," Amy said huffily.

< >"Of course you can come too!"

< >"I'm just teasing. Where's the field?"

< >"Right out there. Here, let's go. I can't wait to start." They all hurried out to the practice field, their robes flapping behind them. The entire Gryffindor team was already outside, waiting for Harry. "Hello captain," they called out as Harry made his way onto the field. "Hey Ron."

< >"Hey guys."

< >Ron grinned, glad to be part of the team. "Hey."

< >Harry cleared his throat. The noise soon toned down, and all eyes were fixed on Harry. "I heard Malfoy in the hall yesterday, bragging as usual about his so-called abilities on his broom. But he said something that bothered me a little. He said his father got him 'updates' on his broom, and what sort of updates they are, I don't know. But to be frank, I'm worried. He was glaring at me the entire day with this smug sort of smile on his face, and I didn't like it. And I don't mean to sound like a coward or anything, but I think-" Harry took a deep breath -"I think that we should get a replacement for everyone on our team, just in case something happens."

< >The team looked at each other nervously, then nodded unanimously in agreement. Sonn, they had worked out replacements for everyone except Harry himself. "Who's gonna be the replacement seeker?" Fred asked.

< >Harry wasn't sure himself.

< >"How about Amy?"

< >The team turned to face the speaker-Ron. George frowned. "Does she ven know how to play Quidditch?"

< >Amy bristled. "Of course I know how to play Quidditch!," she exclaimed indignantly. "I was the seeker for my old team at Catswings!"

< >"Was it any good?" Katie Bell asked.

< >"We've won all the House cups for six years in a row, if that qualifies as good." The team murmured, then George grinned and said. "What sort of broom did you ride?"

< >"A Comet two-sixty."

< >Harry handed his gleaming Firebolt to Amy. "Here. Let's see how you do." She held the Firebolt reverently and nodded. Harry released the Snitch. Amy mounted and kicked off in one fluid motion, and in about seven seconds the Snitch was fluttering in her hands. The team clapped and cheered. "I'm releasing the Bludgers, Amy!" Harry called as the two black cannon-like balls both zommed towards Amy's head. She led them on a wild chase around the field, whipping in between the goal posts and diving until her toes were skimming the grass before pulling up sharply again. Suddenly, Amy caught sight of the Snitch. She stopped abruptly in midair, hovering calmly as both Bludgers raced towards her body.

< >The team shrieked and shouted at her to move out of the way. "Amy! You'll get killed! Move!," Ron yelled, but Amy merely waved at him. At the last possible moment, she pulled sharply out of her position, catching the tiny Snitch as the two Bludgers crashed into each other and fell onto the field with heavy thuds.

< >The team whooped wildly, George and Fred doing somersaults while whistling at Amy. Ron hugged her tight when she came to the ground. "You scared the crap out of me!," he shouted delightedly, twirling her in the air.

< >It was clear who the replacement seeker would be-now all they needed to do was practice. The team was in high spirits, and it was one of the best practice sessions they had. By the time they were finished, it was nearly dark, and everyone was covered in dirt. Ron had punched Fred when he caught him "accidently" looking up Amy's robes. Harry had a bruise on his arm, and Ron had been hit by the Bludger once when Fred had collided with George while trying to beat a Bludger away from Alicia Spinnet, but all in all, the team was very happy. Amy had been quickly accepted by them, and she and the three Chasers were chattering happily as they retired to the girl's showers.

< >"Quite a catch you've got there, Ron," George said admiringly as he watched Amy's slender back disappear into the showers. Ron blushed.

< >"I heard that!," Amy's voice snapped. "Don't talk about me like I'm a trout you just caught, George!"

< >George laughed and changed into his school robes.

< >Ron and Harry joined Amy, who was trying to pull her school robes over a strapless dress. "Need help?" Ron asked.

< >"No, I think I got it, thanks," came Amy's muffled voice as she finally pulled the robes on over the fiery fabric. Her head poked through the opening. "Does it make me look bloated?"

< >"Oh, stop fishing," Ron grumbled, smiling.

< >"No, I'm serious, I don't want to get detention. Does it look strange?"

< >Ron regarded her seriously. "I dunno..." he drawled out, screwing up his face with a look of the utmost concentration.

< >"Ron! I'm serious!"

< >"It looks fine. I thought you said you couldn't get detention."

< >"No, I can, just points can't be deducted from a house at Hogwarts. There's a big difference."

< >The trio's pace grew slower and slower as they came nearer to Snape's room. But no matter how slow they walked, Snape's classroom soon lurked in front of them. Amy squeezed Ron's hand. "Good luck," she whispered to both of them. Harry felt like he was marching to his own execution. As they reached the door, Amy suddenly reached up and gave Ron a peck on the cheek. Blushing furiously, she ran down the corridor, where Harry and Ron could see Fred and George waiting for her.

< >Ron placed a hand where Amy had kissed him, as though afraid its imprint would fly away. He stared dreamily after Amy until Snape came bursting through the door. "What do you two think you're doing?" he asked smoothly.

< >Ron jerked to attention. Harry muttered, "Oh, er, just waiting for you to open the door."

< >"Well, Potter, the door's open, now hurry up and get in." As they walked in, Snape added blandly, "Since you're both five minutes late, I think I'll take five points from Gryffindor. Each."

< >Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Ron shook his head. His ears were bright red. "Sit down," Snape said smoothly. "And don't talk." They sat. Snape glided over to his desk and slid into his chair. Gazing at the clock on the opposite wall, he said nothing, merely sat and glared at Ron or Harry dangerously whenever either of them made a sound. An hour dragged by, then two.

< >Suddenly, to both Harry and Ron's enormous relief, Professor Finch burst into the room, her eyes bright and her rosy mouth curled into a smile.

< >"Hello Professor," Harry called out. Then he remembered Snape. He shot him a nervous glance - but it wasn't needed.

< >Snape's total attention was riveted on Professor Finch. "Can I help you, Holly?" he asked, his cheeks faintly flustered. Harry and Ron exchanged an amazed glance. Holly? Since when did Snape address new professors by their first names?

< >"Hello, Severus," Finch replied brightly. "I was wondering if perhaps you would like to accompany me to the Three Broomsticks. I've finished grading my exams early, and if you're not busy…" Finch let her voice trail off suggestively.

< >Snape fairly leapt to his feet. "Of course I'll come," he said, mustering what dignity he could after stumbling over his robes. He made to follow her out the door, but his eyes suddenly caught sight of Ron and Harry. "Oh, er, your detention will end -" Finch shot Snape a warning look. "- now. You may leave." He didn't even give them a second glance as he slipped out the doorway after Finch.

< >Ron's jaw had dropped in amazement. As soon as both teachers were out of earshot, he jumped from his seat and yelled "WHOO HOO!"

< >Harry grinned wildly. "I DON'T BELIEVE IT!"

< >The both raced down the corridor, laughing like madmen and rebounding off the walls. "Hey!" Ron stopped in his tracks as a thought occured to him. "Maybe we can meet Amy and the twins at Hogsmeade!"

< >Harry hesitated. "What if we're caught?"

< >"Oh, c'mon, where's your taste for fun? You're starting to sound like Hermione."

< >That did it. "Oh, fine, the passage is this way." A sudden vibration in his pocket made him stop. "What's that?"

< >"You felt it too?" Ron asked, mystified. He dug around in his robes, and finally pulled out the culprit: Hermione's present, still unwrapped. Ron hastily tore off the shiny paper, and stared delighted into the communi-orb. "Hermione!," he cried. "Wow! How've you been?"

< >"Fine." Harry could hear Hermione's voice clearly, but couldn't see her face. He dug around for his own communi-orb, and gazed into it. Sure enough, Hermione appeared in the middle, her bushy brown hair done up in a ponytail, her face tanned. She was smiling happily, but couldn't hide a twitch of annoyance as she asked, "Did you even unwrap my present after I gave it to you?"

< >Harry nodded truthfully. He had, but it had reminded him distastefully of a crystal ball, so he had stuffed it in his pocket and forgotten about it. "Of course I did," Ron fibbed, his ears turning red.

< >Hermione shook her head, then decided to leave it. "So, what's going on at Hogwarts?"

< >"Oh, not much…" Harry began. "Ron's seeing someone." Ron's ears flamed.

< >Hermione looked ecstatic. "Oh are you really?" she squealed.

< >Ron nodded awkwardly.

< >"How wonderful! What's her name?"

< >"Amy. Swift."

< >"Oh." Hermione giggled. "I'm seeing someone, too. His name's Derek. And oh God, he's so dreamy!"

< >Harry's jaw dropped. This didn't sound anything like the Hermione they knew. Ron's ears had stopped burning, but he looked just as startled as Harry. "Dreamy?" he repeated blankly.

< >Hermione nodded vigorously. "Mm-hmm. He was in Potions with one of the exchange students. Peter was his name, I think. Do you know him?"

< >"Yeah."

< >"Oh, well I've got to go. I'll talk to later, okay? Bye!" There was a sudden click, and Hermione's smiling, shallow image disappeared. Ron and Harry stared at each other.

< >"Was that really Hermione?" Ron asked, dazed.

< >Harry and Ron walked to the dormitory in silence. Harry drifted off to sleep fitfully. He kept waking up, sweating and panting, without the slightest recollection of his dreams, and with a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. As though Harry'd just realiazed that someone close had just died. A sudden whisper made him sit up.

< >"Psst. Ron. Harry. Over here."

< >Harry pulled his covers apart. Amy stood at the foot of his bed, grinning broadly. Her dress was slightly torn and a large bruise was shining around her eye, giving her an uncanny resemblance to a raccoon. "What happened?" Harry asked.

< >"Shhh!," Amy hissed. "Not so loud! Do me a favor and wake Ron up, will you?"

< >Harry nodded. Leaning over, he tickled Ron's ear with his quill. Ron snorted in his sleep, then sat up. "Huh? What?" His eyes found Amy. "Amy! What're you -"

< >"Can't you two keep quiet?" Amy asked frantically. "Shhhhh." Ron snapped his mouth shut. "Okay, you'll never believe what happened." Amy's eyes glimmered in the dark. "When we got to the dance, there was this one guy who was trailing me everywhere." Ron proped himself up on his elbows. "I didn't even notice till Fred and George asked me if I knew him. Then, during one of the faster songs, I felt someone grab the back of my dress. And he tore off a piece, look. Damn idiot, don't people have any idea how much these things cost ? I was saving it, too. Oh, well, anyway, I tried to punch him." She caught Ron's incredulous look. "Dude, if you spent sixty-nine dollars on a dress just to have it ripped apart by some perverted little stranger, you'd be pretty pissed off too. But I punched the wrong guy. Some guy who worked there I think. Then he thought that Fred punched him, since he was standing right next to me, and he punched Fred. Next thing you know, fists are flying everywhere, and we decided to sneak out. But I got an eyeful before I could get away." She laughed silently. "Anyway, I just wanted to tell you what happened. I wish you could've been there."

< >"Did you get a good look at the guy who was stalking you?" Ron asked, trying to keep his voice level.

< >Amy shook her head. "No. He was wearing a cloak." A sudden noise from the hall made Amy start. As soon as it faded away, she said, "Well, I'd better go. I'll see in the morning, guys." And she was gone.


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