The summer between my years of being a fourth-year and a fifth-year at Hogwarts was the summer the temperatures skyrocketed. It got so hot that I couldn't stand just hanging around the house, as airy and open as it was. I could feel myself getting more wound up as each day went by, could feel my irritation rising steadily and I just knew that it was only going to be resolved by an explosion…possibly literally…
In my defence, though, can you really blame me for getting frustrated? I mean, I witness Wuya and Chase Young murdering two of my schoolmates before giving Wuya her body back – using my blood, mind you! Then the Minister for Magic basically calls me a liar because he's too afraid to admit that I'm telling the truth for both the implications to his career and, oh, just the whole entire Wizarding world!
On top of all that, I have barely heard from any of my friends all summer and it was already August. The few messages that I did receive from the Pedrosas and Clay and Omi – who were practically family – were so cryptic that it was barely worth it.
So, it was the ever-increasing frustration brought on by all of that that led to papa coming to find me at the local martial arts studio one night in early August. I had been going to the studio most days as something to do, but after a month of it I got so worked up that I lost track of time. It was already pitch black outside by the time he came and found me, but, despite that we decided to walk home – it wasn't far and it was a nice night.
It wasn't until we had reached the outskirts of the busy city – almost home – that I started to feel that walking was a bad idea.
"Papa…" I murmured hesitantly. "Do you feel that?"
Papa frowned and glanced down at me. "I don't feel anything. Why? What is it?"
I glanced about me uneasily. "I don't know… I just…it feels like something's coming…like something's going to happen…"
The temperature – which had barely fluctuated for over a month – suddenly dropped. Papa wrapped his arms around himself, grinning. "Looks like the end of this damned heat; thank God."
"No." I muttered as I watched papa's breath fog. "No, something's not right…" Even as I said it, the unease that had been nudging at me ignited, screaming at me as I felt an all-too-familiar clammy sensation. "No." I muttered, shaking my head as I stopped dead. "It can't be…"
Papa walked a few more steps before he realised that I had stopped, stopping himself and turning towards me. "Kimiko? What's wrong?"
"We need to get home. Fast." I told him, knowing that it may not stop them, but it was worth a try.
"Okay." Papa conceded, hearing the urgency behind my words. "Okay, we'll get there as quickly as we can, but first tell me what's going-"
Papa broke off with a gasp, turning to face – what seemed to him – empty air. I, on the other hand, being a witch, was able to the dreaded shape of a Dementor. It was looming over him and I could see papa's eyes darting around the space before him, trying to spot the creature he knew was before him despite what his eyes were telling him, as he could hear its rasping breath.
"Papa, just…don't move." I said, trying to calm him down as I reached for my wand.
Okay, so I'm still underage and so not technically allowed to use magic outside of school, but the law states that even underage witches and wizards are permitted to use magic in certain situations and this…is definitely one of them.
However, as I raised my wand I felt another one approach me from behind, so I whirled to face it instead.
"Kimiko?" Papa called out from behind me. "A Dementor, that's what's in front of me, isn't it? That's why I can't see it."
My lips twitched, but only slightly. I hadn't realised just how much papa knew about the world of magic. "Yes, they are. Let me know if you think that one moves. I'll keep an eye on this one."
"There's one on you?"
I quickly tried to dissuade him, pleading "Just stay where you are, papa," but I had barely spoken when I felt him push me out of the way. I fell to the ground, grimacing as I heard my wand skittering across the ground. Thinking quickly, I glanced about, trying to gauge the position of my wand, papa and the Dementors through the darkness as the few streetlamps nearby flickered off.
"Damn it." I muttered as I quickly lit my hand. Through the small circle of light that created I spotted my wand and immediately dove for it, rolling as I hit the ground, and snatched it up. I held it out in front of me as I searched for the Dementors. I saw them cornering papa, who stood there motionless, not knowing which direction to run in.
"No!" I shouted unthinkingly, though I was glad of it when one turned away from papa and started for me. "Expecto patronum." I called out – even though I knew it wouldn't work as I was struggling to come up with a happy thought.
Panicking as the Dementor closed in on papa – I wasn't really focusing on the one closing in on me at that point – I tried again, but, again, only silver vapour came out. 'Come on!' I berated myself, struggling to pull myself together. I turned my thoughts to Rai and the others, as no matter how mad at them I was at that point in time, they still meant a lot to me and my happiest times had been with them. (So had the times when I had been in the most danger, so I drew from those memories the relative normalcy of this situation, helping to regain my Gryffindor courage.)
My mind conjured up a montage of images of times spent with Rai and the others – though mostly Rai, as I had discovered last year that I'm in love with him; which, as you might think, is particularly hard to hide from him when he can read your mind. As I had been telling myself to do all of last year, I reinforced my mind barriers enough that I could tell when he tried to get in and quickly shove any thoughts of that kind into the area of my mind which was most heavily guarded.
I couldn't help the small smile that came to my face then, so I raised my wand confidently, knowing that these memories were strong enough, and shouted "Expecto patronum!" My stag patronus erupted from the end of my wand and charged down the Dementor bearing down on papa before I turned my wand towards the one which was now almost on top of me.
The two Dementors fled after that and as the streetlamps flickered back on, I sprinted towards papa, dropping to my knees beside him. "Papa? Papa, are you alright?"
Papa groaned and pushed himself up from the ground. "I'm fine." He said, but his actions belied his words as he staggered, almost falling to the ground again. I caught his arm and pulled it around my shoulders.
"Come on, papa. We need to get you home." I started towards home, supporting papa, when I saw a middle-aged woman, who I recognised as one of my neighbours, who used to babysit me, scurrying down the road towards us.
She reached us, looking rather out of breath, and looked us over. "Are you alright? Yes, dear, we'd better get your father home; then both of you should eat some-"
"Chocolate." I finished for her, and I saw her smile grimly as I did. "Mrs Figg? How do you know that? You're a witch?"
"Not quite, dear. I'm a squib."
"Oh." I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. Squibs are the opposite of muggle-borns: someone with magical parents, but they are unable to do magic themselves, or if they are, their magic is rather feeble.
"Oh, don't worry about it." She smiled at me, no doubt knowing what I was thinking. "I got over it a long time ago."
"Uh…Mrs Figg? How did you know we were out here?"
Mrs Figg raised an eyebrow at me, as if the answer should be obvious, and in that moment I understood. "Master Fung's been having me followed?"
"Of course, dear." She smiled from papa's other side, where she had pulled his other arm over her own shoulders so we could reach home faster. "You didn't think that he would let you stay here unprotected after what happened in June, did you?"
"I hadn't really thought about it." I admitted sheepishly.
"Well, never mind. There are a few of us, I keep an eye on you and usually there's someone else with me – it was supposed to be Mundungus Fletcher tonight, but Mundungus took off about an hour ago, heard something about a good deal on cauldrons. Oh, when I get my hands on that Mundungus-" she growled, but was cut off when a familiar crack echoed through the quiet neighbourhood, the crack of someone apparating or disapparating.
A small, greasy man stood before us, and from Mrs Figg's expression, I took this to be Mundungus Fletcher. "Where have you been!" she demanded of him.
"Oh, come on, now, Figgy." He laughed. "Nothing's been happening. You don't need me."
"You very well know I'm a squib, Mundungus." Mrs Figg hissed back. "How was I supposed to deal with a pair of Dementors?"
"Dementors? Here?" he scoffed, but then he took a closer look at papa and his eyes widened. "Blimey!"
"Exactly. Now, make yourself useful and pass on the message." Mrs Figg seethed as Mundungus disappeared. "What Master Fung was thinking putting him on protection duty, I'll never understand…" I huffed a laugh at that. I don't think there are many people who could understand what Master Fung thinks about anything.
We reached the house then and Mrs Figg glanced around. "Go on, get inside, but keep an eye out. I'm sure you'll be seeing more of us soon." She turned and left, and though I was tempted to call after her, to ask what she meant by that, something told me that I wouldn't get an answer. Instead, I helped papa through the door and set about making us a hot chocolate drink each.
I had just sat down in the living room with mine when a letter dropped through the letterbox. Putting down my hot chocolate, I scurried to pick it up, sure that it would be for me, as muggle post didn't come that late. I was right, it was for me, and it was a letter from the ministry.
I curled up in the armchair opposite papa before I opened it, unsure what it could be, though my instincts were filling me with dread. Opening it, I was only able to stare at its contents.
"Kimiko?" papa asked upon spotting my expression. "What's wrong? What does it say?"
"They…the Ministry has expelled me from Hogwarts…" I whispered in disbelief.
"They've expelled me…" I blinked in confusion and shook my head to clear it. "But…they can't do that." I said weakly, looking up at papa and letting the letter fall into my lap. "The ministry doesn't have the power to expel Hogwarts students. Besides, Dementors count as an emergency situation, and the laws for the Restriction of Underage Sorcery clearly state that even an underage witch or wizard can perform magic in an emergency. As for 'performing magic before a muggle', well, you're my father, that doesn't count. That law is for using magic against muggles or revealing the existence of magic to muggles. This is…I don't understand…"
Papa lifted the parchment from my lap and read over it once before looking worriedly at where I was leaning back in the armchair clutching my hot chocolate. I glanced at the sofa, remembering how, almost three years ago, Hagrid had sat there, too large to sit anywhere else, and told me about magic, about my magic, and about Hogwarts. Was this to be how my magical education ended? Expelled falsely after three years, just as Hagrid was?
"It'll be alright, Kimiko." Papa soothed, coming to sit on the arm of my chair. "You said it yourself, they can't expel you. We'll fight it…I'm sure the Pedrosas will help – Antonio works in the Ministry, doesn't he? And Master Fung too…"
He trailed off as we heard another letter drop through the letterbox. Papa went to get it this time and when he returned, he passed me a small, folded piece of parchment. I opened it and soon saw the hurried scrawl of Antonio Pedrosa. "'Don't worry. Master Fung is fixing everything now. You're not expelled. Stay in the house and keep safe. Antonio.'" I read aloud. "'P.S. Everyone is very glad you're alright.'" And in the bottom, underneath the post-script, were five scribbled words, as though the writer had had very little time before Antonio folded and sealed the parchment: 'Well done – see you soon!' in Rai's distinct handwriting.
"You see?" papa said after I showed him the letter. "Master Fung will sort it out. Now, go and get some sleep – you've had a long day."
I got up and put away my cup in the kitchen, hesitating at the bottom of the stairs. "You'll wake me if there's any more post?"
"Promise." Papa smiled. "Now off you go." I headed upstairs and changed and – as was unusual as of late – was asleep almost as soon as I crawled into bed.