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Dark Sacrifice by Hippothestrowl
Chapter 2: Back to School
Sephany Dell was proud of her first real active combat-ready duty. "Well potential combat at any rate" she thought to herself. She was on bodyguard duty with her friend Tonks and not just a babysitting job either: Harry Potter no less. She knew of Harry of course, who didn't? And she even had exchanged the odd greeting "Good morning!" and such while she was still at Hogwarts. She had been in her last year there when the sorting hat had first declared Harry to be in Gryffindor and being in that house herself had applauded along with everyone else.
Hogwarts seemed long ago. The auror training had been arduous but very rewarding. Mad-Eye Moody had made sure she learnt the basics well and noting her intelligence, dedication, and eye for detail had given her special duties after her initial training was complete. 'Special duties' often meant non-dangerous investigations and snooping or merely representing the aurors at various meetings. But now she was co-entrusted with guarding possibly the most important and targeted wizard in the magical world - Harry Potter. Yes, she was under the supervision of Tonks but still...
Sephany had known Tonks as long as she could remember. A friend of the family, Nymphadora Tonks had been there when Sephany's mother's heart failed - some said from a slow wasting spell. It could never be proven of course. Tonks had been like an older sister, comforting her and guiding her out of her sorrow. Her father had never been there even when Sephany was a baby and Tonks was the nearest to family she had now that her mother had also passed on. Together they had prepared a tiny mausoleum; an intimate little room of white stone in her memory.
For a time they shared a home, laughing and telling each other stories. Mostly it was Tonks who read and Sephany listened. Sephany loved to hear Tonks reading from one of their many books: old tales of Camelot, more recent tales of adventures of various wizards, and completely fanciful books full of humour and excitement. Being a metamorphmagus she often made Sephany laugh by reshaping herself to fit the tale she was telling. But now they were working together and it was all business.
Sephany lifted her hands and glanced down at them. "The disillusionment charm takes a little getting used to, Seph," said Tonks, sensing her protegee's slight body movement, "but our near-invisibility gives us an edge and doesn't draw attention to our target."
Sephany looked over at Harry Potter further along Platform Nine and three-quarters and shook her invisible blonde head. He seemed to be getting plenty of attention anyway from first years as well as his friends Ron, Hermione, Neville and others. Now that Umbridge had departed Hogwarts, Fred and George had decided to return for one more year. Where were the twins? Sephany cast a careful look up and down the platform. She did not fancy being embarrassed by a bag of sticky flour on her first active duty. "Stay sharp!" she thought to herself, "they're already on the train." She had caught sight of the two red-headed youths in one of the carriages. Once the rest of the students were aboard and the train departed the two young women could relax a little and fly their broomsticks overhead. The train was secure and all passengers carefully checked beforehand.
Harry grinned at Ron and Hermione as they listened to the familiar rhythm of the tracks.
"I expect that as usual, Snape will be making life very unpleasant for some poor potions students this year, Ron." said Harry
"Yes, glad it's not us eh?" replied Ron, casting a sideways glance at Hermione who was sorting out the order of books in her bag.
"We'll have all that extra free time to relax. "
"Don't worry. You'll be expected to put in extra studies on your other subjects." said Hermione, completely unruffled.
"Says who?" asked Ron in an unbelieving voice.
"Says, School Rule No.385" replied Hermione, "or maybe it's 285. I'll check when we get there."
"How do you remember the actual rule numbers?" responded Ron with amazement that was only slightly exaggerated.
"Easy. I take five of them to bed each night and recite them to verse." replied Hermione in a serious voice but with a wink at Harry.
Ron missed the wink but caught Harry's stifled amusement.
"You just made that whole lot up didn't you?" said Ron, looking at Hermione.
"Of course I did." said Hermione. "I never use verse." Hermione then burst out laughing at the look on Ron's face.
"Move over Fred and George. There's a new comedian in town." said Harry, wondering at the changes in Hermione since they first travelled on the Hogwart's Express years before. "I think we'll give you an 'Exceeds Expectations' for that one, eh, Ron?"
Ron looked at Hermione, half-laughing, but not exactly sure of the joke. "I have to admit you still amaze me at times. Most of the time actually."
He tailed off awkwardly but was rescued by the trolley lady who diverted everyone's attention.
As they stuffed themselves with chocolate frogs and other confections, they began discussing whether they would be restoring Dumbledore's Army to practice their own defence against the dark arts sessions.
"I'm inclined to leave it a while until we see who the new defence teacher is." mumbled Harry through a mouthful of cauldron cake.
"The DA needs your leadership, Harry." said Hermione quietly.
Harry pulled a dumb face and waggled his liquorice wand limply.
Ron and Hermione burst out laughing. "The Great Leader cometh." grinned Ron.