The sun rose over the horizon on the clear morning of September the second. Sunlight crept through the blinds that hung over the windows in the small and neat bedroom. The study desk was clear of the usual pile of books, and the bed was already made, the sheets smooth over the soft mattress. There was a trunk at the foot of the bed, and a freshly ironed set of school robes and a prefect badge lay on the pristine white sheets. Everything seemed normal for the first day of school, except that the student was not her usual excited and happy self.
Hermione Granger sat in the cushy armchair she did her reading in, her face red with tears. In a few hours she would be at platform 9 ¾ , on the red train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Everything was packed, all her homework was finished, and her parents were getting ready to take her to the station. But for the first time in her life, she wanted nothing more than to forget about school and stay home, curled in a ball, and cry. Her legs were tucked up and she wrapped her arms around them, rocking slowly back and forth on the chair. Her hair was cut short, just below her chin. She had cut it in a tantrum she threw at her father, who she felt was no longer her family. He had inadvertently caused her all this grief, and may have ruined her and another’s lives forever. She gripped a lone piece of tear-stained parchment in her right hand, she had to magically repair it numerous times to prevent it from ripping apart. Because of her father, Harry Potter has disappeared, and no one knew where he was.
She remembered the days of earlier that summer, when she and Harry finally got past the awkwardness of it all and finally exposed their true feelings for each other. Dumbledore needed her to protect him from Voldemort’s occlumency , and became an established Occlumens herself. At first, Harry did not know the mental protection she had over him, but was not too pleased when he found out that Dumbledore and her were secretly guarding his thoughts and emotions from the Dark Lord. It was for the best, because even though she was successful at shielding him from the visions he had in his fifth year, another phenomenon was also discovered that needed both of them to control. Harry had inherited a powerful patronal Charm, a mythical power that Godric Gryffindor passed onto his son, Solidus. She had helped him regain control when it took over, and was a pillar of support during his trial and court case. He was under extreme pressure this past summer, and his moods were as volatile as an active volcano. A mere few days after the trial was over he was put through an ordeal that no one should have to endure: on his sixteenth birthday Ginny and herself were taken hostage, and Harry was challenged to a duel by none other than Bellatrix lestrange. After defeating her and the Hunter in a sword duel, he and Draco Malfoy combined forces and hunted Voldemort down to his island fort and an epic battle ensued, Harry dying right before her eyes. She used the Infinite Revival spell to bring him back from the brink of death, knowing fully well that she would give her own life if it was successful. It was a sacrifice made out of love for him, and she would do it again in an instant if she had to. Her father was distraught when he was informed of what happened, and accused Harry of being a man that would only bring death to his family, banning him from ever seeing Hermione again. She got his last bit of correspondence when she awoke some weeks later, having barely survived that night and was being hospitalized in St Mungo’s under heavy surveillance. It read:
Remember what I said at Cho’s place. I love you. Never forget that.
He was gone, and she was broken hearted. Her father’s words had hit directly, and Harry blamed himself for her near death, banishing himself away from everyone. So the rest of the summer she was in a daze, she did not know what to do, her first true love was gone, gave no indication where he was, and more importantly, when he’ll be back. The new school year of Hogwarts was upon her, and she wanted nothing more than to stay home. That was out of the question of course, she had to continue, she couldn’t break down just because of Harry, she had to be strong until she saw him again. Dumbledore had awarded her the Head Girl badge, Ernie Macmillan of Hufflepuff would be her male counterpart. Her parents were thrilled, but she couldn’t care less. She just wanted to get through this year and the next, she knew Harry would come back. Getting up, she went to the bathroom to shower and get ready for school.
Draco Malfoy was now waking up in the plush muggle hotel near his previous home in upper class Manchester. The new Malfoy manor was being built right this very moment, and the construction wizards said that by Christmas it would be back to its prior splendor. He didn’t really care about that, he just wanted a house to live in. His father’s advisors and business associates were all pitching in to help Draco take control of the Malfoy fortune, as a sort of way of showing their ‘sympathy’.
Sympathy my ass, they know I’ll incinerate them if they and cheated me.
William Hargreaves knew Draco inherited the Infernus Elemental, and knew that his temper was fierce. Since that last meeting with Potter in the fight against Voldemort, Draco’s power had magnified itself incredibly. His power far exceeded his instructor now; he was now a fully-fledged level five Fire Summoner. Draco now had a grudging respect for his school nemesis; he was an awesome fighter. He had half expected Potter to chicken out when he told him he was going after Voldemort, but amazingly he agreed, and right after getting beaten senseless from the Warlock and Lestrange. He could admire that about him, efficiency and force of will, a deadly combination. He went to change, and after he was done dressing, grabbed the hunter’s katana, put Sirius’ black cloak in his trunk, and set off to King’s Cross and Platform 9 ¾.
Ron and his younger sister were already on their way to the train station. Only Hermione, the Order, and himself knew that Harry was gone, and that sooner or later Ginny would ask why she hadn’t heard from him in the longest while. They were standing at the platform for about fifteen minutes when they saw Hermione and her folks approach them.
“Hermione! How are you doing? Looks like you’re feeling much better!” Ginny said, beaming. “Umm.. Have you seen Harry?”
Roger Granger frowned at the mention of his name, but said nothing. Hermione glanced at her father, who did not respond to her silent accusation.
With a solemn shake of her head, “No,” she whispered, her voice weak.
“Have a good year darling,” her mother kissed her on her cheek, sympathizing with her daughter. It tore at her to see her daughter in this state, but she halfway agreed with her husband. It was the second time Hermione was in mortal danger in less than a year, and both times she was on some crazy mission against fully grown dark wizards, where things escalated to a matter of life and death. Hermione looked at her mother’s brown eyes, so much like her own, and tried to smile. Her mother tried to smile as well, but the pain her daughter was feeling drew tears from her eyes. Grabbing her tightly in a warm hug she said softly in her ear, “He’ll be back, dear, everything is going to be fine.” She released her, wiping her eyes with a little kerchief. Hermione looked at her father, eyes cold with betrayal.
“Goodbye,” she told him icily, and spun away, toting her trunk on the trolley. Ginny and Ron were a bit taken back, and followed her into the train.
“Hermione. What’s wrong?” Ginny asked, standing at her side as she packed her trunk in the luggage area. “You all right? Where’s Harry?”
“Maybe you should leave her alone, Gin,” Ron said quietly, taking Ginny away from the prefect’s carriage. Ginny looked at her older brother, confusion on her face.
“Why? What happened?”
“umm ..Harry’s not coming to school. He went, went on a trip..” Ron lied, not sure how to break it across to her.
“A trip? Trip where?” Ginny asked, even more baffled.
“I don’t know….” Ron said, avoiding his sister’s eyes.
“What do you mean: ‘You don’t know’?”
“Listen, I DON’T KNOW, OKAY! “ Ron burst out. “Just drop it for the while, you find out when we reach in school. I have some duties to do, see you later.” He left in a huff, leaving Ginny utterly bewildered.
Neville Longbottom was anxiously waiting to talk to Harry. No one knew how to mail him and he needed to talk to him about Lestrange. She was dead, and his parents had been avenged. He had seen it with his own eyes, and wondered day after day how he managed to survive her killing spell. There was a sort of happiness he had in him now that he was dead, and he no longer felt that ball of hate inside of him whenever he thought about his parents. He wanted to thank him personally, and pledge him his friendship for the many years to come. Sitting in the carriage that they usually met in, he talked idle chatter with Dean and the Creevey brothers until his arrival.
The train had started when Luna, Ginny, Seamus, Ron and Hermione filed in and took their seats. Neville was perplexed.
“Where’s Harry?” he asked Hermione. “Aren’t you two together now?”
Hermione said nothing, and looked out the window, wiping away a tear before it had time to fall down her cheek. She couldn’t stand it! Everyone was asking her for him! Why couldn’t they leave her alone?”
“He’s not coming, Neville.” Ron answered, glancing across to his best friend. “He went away for a while.”
“I don’t know.”
“When will he be back?”
“I don’t know.”
“What about school?”
“NEVILLE, I DON’T KNOW!” Ron pounded on the seat in frustration. “ He took off, and he didn’t say where okay!!”
“WHAT?!” Everyone in the carriage said, focusing on Ron.
“When we reach school, you’ll find out more details,” he said in a resigned tone. After probably the most depressing trip to Hogwarts ever for Ron and his friends they all disembarked and went to the numerous carriages that were there to take them to school. Hermione froze, and Ron stopped, noticing her awkward behavior.
‘What is it?” he asked her.
“I- I can see them.”
“See what?” he asked, looking around.
“You can? But I thought it was only if someone saw a murder can the-“ Ron froze mid-word, and wished he hadn’t said anything. He knew now why she could see it. That night, against Voldemort….
“Harry…” she sniffed, then ran off, breaking down in tears again. Ron ran after her, and grabbed her about her body, pulling her close. She cried into his robes, breath-jerking sobs racking her chest.
“Shhh.. its all right, it’s all right. He’s alive, you saved him. It’s okay, it’s okay, we’ll see this through together okay? C’mon don’t cry, it’s hard for me too, and what kind of role model would I be to the brats of year one if I were to break down and cry too- on the first day of school? They’ll think of me as a softy!” he said, holding back tears of his own. Hermione stopped crying, Ron’s attempt at consoling her making her smile. She tried her best to clear her face of tell-tale redness and smudged eyeliner with a simple charm, smiling softly at Ron.
“Ron, thanks. I’m really a mess. I don’t know what I would do without you. Let’s go, I’m sure Hagrid is waiting to see us.” Ron nodded, and they went to one of the carriages and got in. Ron sighed: little did the others know that much more than just Harry’s absence would be news at the opening feast.
“First years ! First years this way please!” Madame Pompfrey called at the main entrance to the great hall of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizadry. Neville and some of the other Gryffindors were surprised, where was Professor McGonangall? Ron and Hermione looked at each other in understanding, and silently walked inside the hall. Ron had gone to the small funeral service to their fallen comrades, along with his family and the close relatives to the deceased and the Order of the phoenix. Hermione was still in the hospital at the time, but through owl post Ron had filled her in over the rest of the summer.
They went to their respective tables, and the students scanned the changes to the great hall and staff at the table in front. It was a dreary setting, black tapestries hung all over and professor Dumbledore was wearing an all black robe, his face solemn. There were two new faces at the staff table. Well one entirely new face, Amos Diggory was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and there was a stern-looking middle-aged man with short black hair sitting in Professor Snape’s seat. After the sorting was finished and the hat once again went silent, Dumbledore cleared his throat and stood up, getting everyone’s attention.
“Another year at Hogwarts has begun, and it begins with a heavy heart from all of our staff. Two of our Head of Houses have fallen in battle this July past, and we shall miss them dearly.”
There was a loud gasp amongst the students, and chatter rose audibly.
“Professor Minerva McGonagall, head Mistress of Gryffindor House, Order of Merlin third class, loved Mother of two, and our resident Transfiguration teacher has been murdered by He-who must-not be named. She was 74 years of age.” There was complete silence, and everyone averted their eyes and bowed their heads in respect.
“Professor Severus Snape, head Master of Slytherin house, Potions Chemist first class, brother of one, has also been killed in battle. He was 39 years of age, and will also be dearly missed.” The silence ensued, and everyone was looking at the Headmaster with rapt attention. “There will be a formal ceremony for all students to pay their respects on Thursday of this week. “
“Our new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher is Amos Diggory. You may remember him as Cedric’s father, he has volunteered his services to the school.” There was a round of subdued applause, and Amos Diggory stood up briefly in acknowledgement. “Our new potions master will be Jacques Mollineax, who hails from France. He comes with excellent recommendations from Madame Maxine. Please make him feel welcome,” Dumbledore said, and again there was a gentle applause. “ I will fill in for transfiguration for this year until we find another teacher for Professor McGonagall, who in reality could never be replaced.” Dumbledore dabbed at his eyes with a table napkin, and took a moment to compose himself. It was one of those intense moments, a moment that everyone realized that Albus Dumbledore was only human, and death affected us all.
“On another note of great importance, he who must not be named is no more. Voldemort has been defeated.”
There was a huge round of applause throughout the hall, and only Hermione and Ron did not share the same sort of enthusiasm to the news. They clapped halfheartedly, while their mates were standing and applauding ferociously. After a few minutes of exuberant noise making, Dumbledore once again motioned for quiet.
“ This past summer was one for the history books, and we owe it to people who are present in this very room. Voldemort had captured one of our own and a rescue effort consisting of a few other Aurors and myself were captured trying to infiltrate his hideout. Professor McGonagall, along with Professor Snape, led another team to get us out of his clutches. They too were unsuccessful, and they themselves were captured. At that same moment, many of the older students here were at one of your friends’ birthday party when the Wizard Hunter and the Death Eater Lestrange attacked you. Two of your own defeated them both, and then came to our aid, defeating the Dark Lord himself. I would like to congratulate and personally thank Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy…and finally, Harry Potter. Without the actions of these young people, Hogwarts, and our Wizarding community as we know it, would no longer exist. Please stand and be recognized.”
After some persuasion, Hermione stood alongside Ron as they stood up at the Gryffindor table, while Draco Malfoy stood up at the other end of the hall at the Slytherin table. There was a silence as everyone looked around for the fourth name, where was Harry?
“Harry is not here today, but we will applaud for him as if he were standing right in front of us. He has been through a lot, and deserves to take some time off. Please feel free to give credit to these young heroes of our time.” He put his hands together and a loud roar followed soon after, the hall had gone beserk with applause. The entire school was making a huge ruckus, excepting Hermione, Ron, and their close friends. Only when the whole of their house realized that their heroes were not celebrating alongisde them their clapping became gradually quiet. Hermione sat down while everyone stood, just wanting time to fly past, she only wanted it to awake her when she saw him again.
“Please, tuck in.” Dumbledore announced, and the feast began. Hermione ate nothing, and silently played with her food. The Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and Slytherins were ecstatic with the news, but the whole of Gryffindor table was subdued and morose, their inspirational leader and embodiment of what Gryffindor House stood for was gone. He was a mountain of strength for those who felt that they had none, and their cherished Quidditch Seeker. It was obvious to those who were at Cho’s party that Harry and Hermione were together, and Hermione was taking his absence hard. Everyone was glancing sympathetically at her, but she kept her eyes on her food, idly moving it around her plate. When the feast was brought to an end she was the first to leave, making her way silently up to the dorm rooms.
At that same moment, Harry Potter was lying face down on a burning farmland, his breaths coming in hard gasps of air. There were dead cows everywhere, the stench of the burning flesh suffocating him. In his right hand he held his sword, in the left, his wand. He lay very still in the tall grass, his eyes half closed. It had begun. The mad men who felt they needed to prove themselves were already after him. The unfortunate family that allowed him to spend the night in their barn was dead, their house put to blaze soon after dawn, trapping them as they slept. Harry was too late to stop the fire, but the unnamed dark wizard he dueled with had no remorse in killing the innocent. Harry’s rage overtook him, and he blindly attacked the extravagantly dressed man, and ran right into his Reductor Curse. The cloak absorbed a little of the impact, while his Charm protected him from the majority of the explosive force. The fight was over in one flash of steel, but right now his body was suffering the after effects of the powerful attack. His newfound ability was barely keeping him alive, the pain he felt was nearly as intense as the Cruciatus curse. He lay there for nearly an hour, his strength building as Solidus’ charm began its slow and painful healing process.
This was the second encounter he had with this particular wizard, the first was when he touched down in France shortly after he left the manor. He had stopped at the nearest wizarding bar to get something to eat and this arrogant bastard immediately recognized him, and started talking some French nonsense in threatening tones. Harry ignored him, eating his food, while all the other patrons and the bartender gave the two a lot of space, inching away from the oncoming confrontation. Calmly eating his food, Harry only stopped when his charm ignited, warning him of peril. The man tried to stun him, but his pathetic spell bounced harmlessly off Harry’s cloak. Slowly, he had gotten up, and easily disarmed him. The simple Disarmament charm had flung the man across the room, knocking him flat on his back The wizard scrambled to pick up his wand, but Harry stepped on his hand as he grabbed it, slowly applying pressure to his knuckles with the fortified strength of his mythical power. The wand snapped, and there was a sickening crunch as most of the bones in his hand broke, the man howling in agony. The other patrons began to laugh at him, adding humiliation to the pain. Harry merely paid his fare and made his way out of the bar, leaving the pitiful man screaming and cursing in French. Now, weeks later in southern Italy, the same man managed to track him down and set ablaze the farmhouse of the family who generously offered him a job and a place to lay his head. He wondered now as he lay there amongst the dead animals if he had killed the man who dared oppose him would those poor folks be dead today?
As he lay there contemplating his fucked-up existence and if it was really worth living, he heard the sound of someone crying. His senses back to full alert, he recognized the voice of the young teenager who lived here. She was still alive! His eyes snapped open, and he pushed himself up from the ground.
“HOLD ON!!” he shouted. “I’M COMING!!” he yelled, hearing the cries more clearly now. Forcing himself through the pain he raced to the sound, and found the young daughter of the kind couple in the back yard of the burning farmhouse. She was lying on her side, covered in ash. Harry coughed as he ran through the smoke, and scooped her up into his arms. She seemed to be okay, except that she was coughing fiercely.
“Mama? Papi?? PAPPI!!” she screamed, trying to run back into the burning house, Harry held her back, trying to stop her from running into the deadly flames. She struggled against him, kicking and fighting to run back inside
“< Were they inside? Where are my parents? >” she asked in Italian.
“Listen to me. They’re gone. I can’t speak Italian, do you know English?”
“ Yes.” She said in a strong accent. “You the new worker? What is name?”
Harry thought about it for the while. “My name is Harry. Harry Potter.”
“< Do you know how this happened? Why is my house on fire, where are my parents??!!>” she screamed hysterically, tears running down her soot covered face. There was a loud popping sound of another window being blown out and part of the roof exploded into the air, tumbling dangerously towards them. Harry picked her up and dove out of the way, it missed them by mere metres. She screamed again, and Harry bundled her up and ran out further into the open, her struggles no match for his strength.
“Listen, speak English. I do not understand.. comprende? capesh? I will help you, but you need to speak English!” he said urgently. “What is your name?”
“ My name ..Kenna. Kenna Rossilini.”
“C’mon, we’ve got to get out of here. Do you have any Family near here?”
“Family? No. Family here. Mother and father here. But now, they are dead.” She sobbed loudly, her nose reddening and her lip trembling. Harry took her to an outdoor faucet and helped her wash her face, moving all the grime and soot from the fire. He knew she was inside the building when they were attacked, he saw her screaming out the top window. How in the world did she get out of that inferno? He wiped her face with his jersey, and stared into her startling blue eyes. Eyes that looked remarkably familiar. The shiny blonde hair, the arrogant good looks she possessed, even the hint of the infamous sneer on her lips: it was if he was looking at a young, pretty, feminine version of Draco Malfoy. His eyes widened in shock, there was an uncanny resemblance. Hearing the sirens in the distance, he knew that the presence of a dead man slashed across his chest and he wielding a sword would be a very difficult thing to explain to the police.
“I’m going to take very good care you. Do you want to stay and wait for the police, or do you want to come with me?” Harry asked Kenna, looking into her eyes.
“Take me. I want to go !” She sobbed, practically putting her life into his hands.
“C’mon, this way,” he ordered, taking her hand and running to the barn that housed the tractor and other heavy-duty farm equipment.
They both got on his bike, and Harry sped off along the open fields of the Rossilini farm. More innocents were dead, all because of his famous name. His young charge gripped him about his middle tightly, holding on for dear life. He was responsible for the death of her parents, and he would be damned if he let anything happened to this girl who could be no older than fourteen years of age. They sped over the vast fields, riding into the unknown danger of being the hunted in a strange land.
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