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Harry Potter and The Secret Horcrux by LogicalRaven
Chapter 22 : Returning
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 35

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The rooms at Porter’s Glen had a claustrophobic feel to them. The month had passed slowly but much had been accomplished. Hermione had been adamant about finishing their lessons before training, but Harry still felt much more prepared for the battle he knew was in his future. As it turned out, many of the NEWT assignments had proved very helpful. Nearly all of Flitwick’s homework had been focused around non-verbal magic.

There hadn’t been much news from the Burrow on the activities of the Order. Tilly had happily accepted her assignment to be the correspondent with Ginny but she had only delivered one message.

Harry, Ron and Hermione,

I can’t go into detail about what is happening with the Order but I have information I need to give you. I hope you haven’t changed your mind and that you’re still planning on returning to Hogwarts. Mum is having a fit about knowing where you three have run off to so it may be best if Tilly doesn’t appear when the others are around.


Harry reread the letter again before sighing with disappointment. He knew he was being silly. Ginny couldn’t have very well mentioned their moment in a letter she knew her brother would be reading. Moments where Harry allowed himself to dwell on his personal feelings about Ginny were far and few between. He had to defeat Lord Voldemort and survive if their young romance had any hope for a future and he realized that.

“Any news?” Hermione asked as she appeared at Harry’s shoulder.

He realized that she knew that the letter he was reading wasn’t new the fold marks were far too worn. Still, she kept up pretenses and tried her best to sound casual.

Harry shook his head as he quickly refolded the parchment and tucked it firmly into his pocket. “Nothing. Seems too quite doesn’t it?”

“Perhaps, or maybe they just aren’t including us because some of them realize you need to concentrate on your training,” Hermione replied. “We’ll find out what has been going on soon enough we’re returning to Hogwarts tomorrow. Do you really think that one of the Horcruxes could have been hidden under Dumbledore’s nose the entire time?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said in a low voice. “We’ve exhausted all our other resources so even if a Horcrux isn’t at Hogwarts it won’t be a waste.”

“A waste?” Hermione admonished. “Finishing our education isn’t a waste.”

Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes and engage in another verbal battle about how his NEWTs were not going to help him when he confronted Voldemort. Hermione shook her head and pulled out her wand with a set purpose in her eyes.

“Have you been practicing your non-verbal charms?” Hermione inquired.

Harry groaned, “How many times do we have to practice non-verbal Banishing Charms?”

Hermione didn’t answer; instead she waved her wand and chucked a plate towards Harry. His quick reflexes allowed him to easily deflect the object with a simple Banishing Charm. He was just about to complain about how pointless all this practicing was when he felt another plate smash into the back of his head and shatter.

Harry fell forward and landed in a crumpled pile in the floor. His hand reached for his offended head as he turned around to see a pink-faced Ron brandishing his wand.

“Sorry, mate,” Ron apologized.

Hermione smirked, “See, Harry, all this practice and you still aren’t prepared. You’re recovery time between non-verbal charms is too long.”

“If I had known you were planning a sneak attack maybe I would have been more prepared,” Harry snarled.

Hermione shook her head. “Death Eaters aren’t going to tell you about sneak attacks you have to have your guard up.”

“I think he knows that already,” Ron suggested.

Harry flashed Hermione a frustrated look before getting back to his feet. He aimed his wand at the broken plate on the floor and silently thought to himself Reparo. Hermione nearly beamed when the plate mended itself as it wobbled and clattered on the floor.

Ron leaned down, picked up the plate and nodded, “Perfect, not even a chip.”

“The NEWT level charms are much more difficult when done non-verbal,” Hermione warned. “I should hope that Harry has mastered the Reparo charm at this point.”

Ron started to argue but Hermione stopped him mid-sentence by giving him a pointed look. “Have our lessons arrived yet? I’m expecting a Defense lesson today.”

Ron sneered and made a face that caused Harry to snicker. Viktor Krum was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts and Ron never failed to make a disgusted faced whenever Hermione mentioned Defense.

“Honestly, Ron, it’s not like I don’t see you doing that,” Hermione protested in frustration.

Ron rolled his eyes. “You’d think there’d be some kind of rule against that sort of thing.”

“Against what sort of thing?” Hermione said indignantly.

“Well, you know, students and Professors,” Ron replied.

Harry closed his eyes and shook his head. He was positive Ron was never going to be able to keep his foot out of his mouth and successfully have a real relationship with Hermione. Ron’s jealousy over Viktor Krum insisted on rearing its ugly head no matter how much Ron insisted he didn’t care if Hermione and Viktor were friends.

“Probably just a jumble of undecipherable mess again,” Ron said as he continued to antagonize Hermione.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Just because you don’t like Professor Krum doesn’t mean you have to act like his lessons aren’t important. Defense is one of the most important subjects, especially now.”

“Professor Krum,” Ron chortled. “Harry, where are you going?”

Harry glanced back over his shoulder before heading out of the kitchen. He was in no mood to hear more of the typical banter he had come to expect from his two best friends. He only had one day left at Porter Glen and then he would be returning to a place he had considered home for so long. If he was honest, he would have preferred never to set foot on the grounds again. Since Dumbledore’s death, Hogwarts felt like a place of empty memories that he’d rather forget.

“Master Harry? May Tilly ask you a question?”

Harry turned to find his aunt’s tiny house elf gazing up at him with a nervous expression. He hadn’t paid much mind to the little creature as it ran through the house trying to please him and his friends. The little elf had clung to his leg for nearly half an hour when he first returned.

“Err, sure,” Harry nodded.

“Master Harry, Tilly not be wanting to be left alone again. If you command I’ll stay here and clean this home and wait for Harry to return but Tilly would very much like to come with you to school,” the little elf squeaked.

Harry blinked in confusion. How many house-elves was he going to inherit that wanted to follow him around everywhere and doing his bidding?
“Tilly, I have a house-elf at Hogwarts,” Harry said carefully as he thought of Kreacher. “I’m sure that if you didn’t want to be alone that the Weasleys would welcome your company.”

Tilly lowered her head and Harry could have sworn her brilliant eyes shone with tears. “If master wants Tilly to go to the Weasleys then Tilly will obey.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Harry retracted. “I mean, it’s your choice where you want to go.”

Tilly sniffled then ran from the room in a fit of sobs. Harry watched her disappear down the stairs to her den in the basement of the house.

“Hermione will never let me hear the end of this if she finds out,” Harry thought to himself.

Harry felt the day was wasted and knew very well with Ron and Hermione bickering and him feeling sorry for himself and thinking about Ginny nothing was going to be accomplished. They had Hogwarts for studying so Harry used his last day at Porter’s Glen to sort through some old family photo albums in the attic.

He had noticed them the day after they had arrived but had never found the opportunity to hide away to look through them. It felt somewhat personal and he wasn’t comfortable allowing his two best friends to see him in a weakened state yet again. The only person he had truly allowed to see him at his most vulnerable was Ginny.

He ascended into the attic and pulled the door closed behind him. He knew that Hermione would probably panic and search from him within a couple hours and probably find him within four. He pulled up a squashed old pillow and took a seat before grabbing the album closest to him. The albums were tattered but the pictures seemed full of life. There were tons of images of wizards and witches that Harry had never seen but looked familiar. He spent what seemed like an eternity staring at unknown wizards and witches that smiled and waved up at him. They were trapped in happier times and brighter days.

“He’s not up there,” Harry heard Ron say in the distance.

Harry felt himself grin as he realized that the two of them had most likely spent the entire day bickering about where he was hiding.

“It’s the only place we haven’t checked, Ronald,” Hermione lectured.

Harry tossed the album he had been flipping back into its pile and attempted to straighten his tousled appearance. As he was dusting off the lint that had collected on his jumper the attic door opened and Hermione turned to Ron and gave him a ‘told you so’ look.

“We’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Ron announced as he attempted to ignore Hermione’s look.

Harry took an exasperated breath. “Sorry, I just needed some time alone to think.”

“I suggest we finish our assignments and turn in for an early night,” Hermione began. “Mrs. Weasley is going to expect us early since we’re Flooing to Hogwarts from the Burrow.”

“Don’t know why we can’t just Apparate,” Ron grumbled.

Hermione rolled her eyes and Harry was certain she was going to ask when Ron was going to remember that you can’t Apparate onto the grounds but she didn’t. Instead Ron grabbed him by his elbow and directed him towards the stairs. Harry took a last glance at the pile of albums and then followed his best friends back down into the main part of the house.

The next morning they left Porter Glen early and Apparated back to the Burrow. Harry half expected a cold reception but Mrs. Weasley seemed nearly cheerful as she finished cooking some eggs and toast.

“You three finished all your assignments I hope,” she inquired as she placed a plate in front of Ron and Harry.

“Yes Mum, we were good while we were away,” Ron answered before stuffing a forkful of egg into his mouth.

Ginny entered into the kitchen a moment later looking bitter. Harry remembered she wasn’t much of a morning person and chuckled lightly at the state of her.

“Of sod off,” she barked as she collapsed into the chair next to Hermione.

Mrs. Weasley shook her head. “Now Ginny, dear…”

Ginny mocked her mother briefly before passing Harry a flirtatious grin.

“What time are we supposed to be at Hogwarts?” Ron asked with his mouth full.

Mrs. Weasley placed a plate in front of Ginny. “Right after breakfast. Professor McGonagall wants to get the students there as quickly and orderly as possible. You’ll all be Apparating straight into the Gryffindor common room. The Ministry has set up secure Floo connections so there’ll be no danger to the students.”

Breakfast was soon over and Harry found himself tossing a handful of Floo Powder into the fireplace at The Burrow and saying, “Gryffindor common room.”

He was never a fan of traveling by Floo. He arrived dizzy and dusty a moment later and collected himself off the floor in time to catch Hermione as she came whizzing out.

“Thanks,” she muttered as she collected her balance.

Ron appeared a moment later, landing in a heap on the cold floor with Ginny landing square on top of him a moment later.

“Get off,” Ron grumbled as Hermione reached out to help Ginny to her feet.

Harry took in a deep breath as he looked around the familiar common room. For the first time that he could remember he wasn’t excited about being back. There was a dark veil of regret that the walls seemed to emit.

“Looks like we’re the first ones here,” Hermione commented. “I wonder if we’re supposed to report to the Great Hall.”

Ginny walked over the announcement board and pointed to a memo posted. “Good guess, Hermione. It says we’re to go the Great Hall to get our schedule and instructions.”

Harry felt as if he were being slugged repeatedly in the stomach. The last place he wanted to see was the Great Hall. It wouldn’t seem right with McGonagall making the welcome announcement. There wouldn’t be a sorting ceremony and there would be no notice for Quidditch tryouts. Everything Harry had come to expect from Hogwarts had changed.

“Come on,” Ginny nudged and took his hand as Ron and Hermione slipped out of the portrait hole.

Harry glanced down at Ginny’s hand over his and let his eyes meet hers. “Ginny…”

“It’s all right,” she said in a low whisper. “We’ll be discreet.”

“It’s not just about being discret. Nobody can now. Nobody can think we’re still together,” Harry warned.

Ginny frowned but nodded. “We’re still friends so that means we can talk and be seen together.”

“No,” Harry said almost instantly. “They’ll suspect that we’re still together.”

Ginny sighed loudly before disappearing out of the exit without him. He knew she would be disappointed and upset that he didn’t want to continue what they had rekindled at The Burrow. It was one thing for Ron and Hermione to suspect that they were still together but something completely different for Slytherins to think that.

Harry slowly made his way to the Great Hall alone. He preferred being alone at that moment. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the words of encouragement Hermione would offer or the lack of tact Ron would show.

No sooner did he enter the Great Hall did he spot Ginny. It was as if she was a magnet that he couldn’t help but be drawn to. She was chatting with a Ravenclaw. Harry vaguely remembered him being in the DA but couldn’t place his name.

Hermione passed Harry a worrisome look as he took a seat next to her. “Don’t go and be all jealous. She’s just talking to Terry Boot; he’s really not her type.”

“I’m not jealous,” Harry said quickly. “What is he talking to her about anyway?”

“Dunno,” Ron shrugged. “If he knows what’s best for him he won’t try anything funny. Everybody knows Ginny is your girl.”

Harry’s eyes darted towards Ron. “No, everybody shouldn’t assume that. It’s best if she’s talking to other guys.”

Hermione rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything else. A few minutes later Professor McGonagall rose from her seat.

“Good morning,” she greeted. “Welcome back to Hogwarts. We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure your safety this year. Due to the current situation we are facing, all activities and classes that would require you to leave the castle have been cancelled. If you are taking NEWT -level Herbology or Care of Magical Creatures then you can do independent study but will not physically attend class.”

“Oh no,” Neville whimpered. “How can you study Herbology without a greenhouse?”

“Quidditch is also cancelled for the year,” McGonagall continued. “We hope we’ll be able to resume the team competitions after this year. The curfew has also changed this year as have prefect patrols. All students are to be in their dormitory by no later than six. Any student found wandering the halls after curfew will be expelled. Mr. Filch would like me to remind you that the list of banned items has been expanded to include all Weasley Wizarding Wheezes products.”

Ron snickered.

“Prefects will not have patrols. The Ministry has provided us with Aurors who will take the nightly hall patrols. Your Head of House will be delivering your class schedule. Now, since there are no further announcements the feast can begin.”

Ron looked over at Harry and started to say something but stopped.

“Who is our Head?” Colin Creevey asked.

To Harry’s surprise he caught a glimpse of Tonks at the end of the table with an arm full of parchments. A Professor T had assigned all the Transfiguration homework that had been assigned but Harry had never suspected that Professor T might be Tonks.

“Wotcher,” Tonks greeted in a whisper as she appeared over Harry and Hermione shoulders. “Pulling double duty. Not many folks want to take the professor positions after what happened to Dumbledore.”

“So you’re our professor?” Ron asked.

Tonks grinned. “Nah, I’m just a substitute until McGonagall can find a real teacher. I’m assigned her for Auror duty so I’m a logical fit for the moment. I also get to be your Head of House.”

“I didn’t know you were a Gryffindor,” Harry stated.

Tonks smiled widely. “I wasn’t. Actually I was a Hufflepuff but Hogwarts is running a bit short on Gryffindor alumni at the moment. Ah, here is yours, Harry.”

Harry took a scroll from Tonks and placed it on the table in front of him. He wasn’t at Hogwarts for classes after all.

AN: I'm So SO SO SO sorry. Life has been crazy and I haven't had a whole heap of time to update. I'm already working on the next chapter so bear with me :)

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