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Chapter 6 : Back Again
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September 1st arrived too soon in Harry’s opinion. He had had a wonderful summer, especially after his birthday party. He had noticed that since the re-opening of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and the arrival of the letters offering him and Ron to go back to Hogwarts, Mrs. Weasley had been less depressed and resembled more her former self. Harry knew that she was never going to be the same, nobody would after all they have lived and all the people they had lost, but she definitively looked happier.
By the morning of the day of their last trip to Hogwarts The Burrow had become an organized chaos. They had barely finished breakfast when Mrs. Weasley went into full Operation Back to Hogwarts mode –as Ginny had named it- and started going up and down checking that they had packed everything they were going to need for their last year. Harry had left his school robes, his Quidditch robes and most of his textbooks at the Dursleys’ before leaving the house forever the previous summer so he had had to buy everything new. He had put everything still wrapped in his trunk. Only the books had been re-read, although reluctantly, during the summer trying to remember something after over a year out of school.
But now everything was back in the trunk at the end of Harry’s bed in Ron’s bedroom. Cleo’s cage laid empty on the truck because the owl had been sent to deliver a message. The cage containing Ron’s owl Pigwidgeon rested on his owner’s bed and the tiny bird hooted excitedly inside while he looked under the bed for the last time to see if there was something left behind.
“Boys, it’s time to leave!” called Mrs. Wesley from downstairs.
“We’re coming!” answered Harry. “Are you done, Ron?”
“I think so,” answered Ron emerging from under the bed. “Are we apparating downstairs?”
“I’m not. I still don’t feel confident enough to try to apparate with my trunk and Cleo’s cage. What if I end up with handlers instead of ears and a cage around my head?”
That mental image apparently was enough for Ron who said: “You’re right. We better do it the old way”.
“At least we can use magic now” said Harry grabbing his owl cage with one hand. Then he flipped his wand with the other and said: “Locomotor trunk”. Immediately his trunk rose from the floor and, conducted by Harry’s wand, it floated downstairs.
Apparently Ron tried to do the same but something happened one his way down because Harry heard the distinctive sound of something heavy falling and Ron saying something his mother certainly wouldn’t approve.
“Are you OK?” inquired Harry from the bottom of the stairs. “Do you need any help?”
“I’m fine! I’m fine,” answered Ron from upstairs in a trembling voice. “Pig pecked at me and I lost my concentration. But I will be there in a sec. Don’t worry”
“OK” said Harry, thinking that Ron didn’t sound completely fine but he didn’t insist because he didn’t want to hurt his friend’s pride. A couple of minutes later Ron appeared behind his floating trunk. He looked intensely concentrated and he didn’t blink once until his trunk rested completely next to Harry’s.
“Boys!” they heard Mrs. Weasley calling from outside. “Hurry up, we are waiting for you!”
“Coming!” shouted back Ron and holding his wand firmly, cast the incantation again and floated his trunk to Harry’s car that was parked in front of the main door.
The ride to King Cross was very pleasant. Ginny, Harry and Ron couldn’t stop talking about how exciting it was going to be playing Quidditch together again. They also speculated who was going to return and who wasn’t. Ron said the he was sure the Slytherins were not going to have the guts to come back but Mr. Weasley commented that many families hadn’t been accused of anything so there was no reason for them not to come back. Ginny declared it didn’t matter because Gryffindor was going to flatten Slytherin at Quidditch anyway.
Mrs. Weasley didn’t say much but Harry, who was in the seat behind the driver’s saw her smiling a couple of times and drying a tear once. It had to be a bittersweet moment for her. Her last child was heading towards her last school year and Ron was going to graduate after all. He knew that Mrs. Weasley had worried about her youngest son’s future when he had decided to drop out Hogwarts and go with Harry in the horcrux hunt. Still, she had been as supportive as it was possible to ask and Harry loved her even more for that.
They were still working on a training plan for the Qudditch team when Mr. Weasley announced that they had arrived. They looked out and saw that indeed they were in front of King Cross Station.
“Come on, let’s take out your luggage so your father can go and park” directed Mrs. Wealsey and they hurried to do as instructed. Ron got carts to accommodate their trunks and the owl cages and they headed towards Platform 9 ¾ while Mr. Weasley drove away to park the car.
For the sixth time in the last eight years Harry pushed his cart through the barrier separating platforms nine and ten and just as the first time he did it, Harry awed at the sight of the Hogwart Express surrounded by the steam that emanated from its scarlet engine. Families chattered and said their goodbyes, cats run around people, owls called each other from their cages, friends reunited after the summer… everything was perfect.
“Ron! Harry!” they heard a very familiar voice calling them. Hermione advanced pushing an ostensibly loaded cart with Crookshanks sit on the top of her many trunks.
“Hermione!” greeted her Ron and run towards her. When she had spoken many people had turned to look and several of them stared at Harry or whispered excitedly.
“Hello” she said cheerfully and stepped forward to kiss him.
“What’s all this?” he asked pointing her luggage.
“Well, I got a little bit carried away”
“Yeah, well now that we had the chance to take our N.E.W.T.’s I want to do well, so I decided to bring some back-up books”
“But… there’s a huge library at Hogwarts. You have been there. Haven’t you?”
“Very funny, Ronald” said Hermione rolling her eyes. “Do you know how many people will be borrowing the same books?”
“Heee… just you?”
“You will see, there will be a waiting list for these books! Remember that there will be at least fifty per cent more students in seventh year. I don’t want to have another reason to worry. The exams will be enough”.
“You know you will do well. You always do”.
“Well, I hope so,” said Hermione looking pleased.
“You will have to help us, though”
“Of course I will. You need to concentrate on Quidditch. I so want to see the Slytherins’ faces when Gryffindor wins the Cup again”.
After many tight hugs from Mr. Weasley and teary kisses from Mrs. Weasley, Ron, Harry, Ginny and Hermione finally got into the train. The headed immediately towards to the back of the train but before they reached the last car they were called from one of the compartments. Neville, Luna, Dean, Seamus, Parvati and Padma were congregated there in an extremely good mood.
“We are storing our luggage in the next compartment,” indicated Seamus. Harry, Ron y Hermione advanced to the next door and saw that effectively there was a small hill of baggage inside the compartment. So they added their own and then joined their friends who had butterbeer and beetle cracks on a trunk turned table for the occasion.
“What are we celebrating?” asked Ron.
“That we are going back to Hogwarts, of course!” replied Padma. “We honestly thought we were never going to graduate. Our grandmother couldn’t stop crying when she heard we had the chance to come back. We were going to be the first in our family that wouldn’t finish school”
“I know! My mom was thrilled too. She didn’t want me to be a school drop-out”
“But now we’re all back” said Neville happily. “Although with McGonagall in charge doesn’t mean that we will be able to graduate”.
“I know! Our N.E.W.T.s will comprehend the usual subjects. You’d think that after all that happened they would have some… compassion. I can’t remember a word of what we learned in sixth year. They should have reduced the list of contents or something,” said Seamus.
“But that would be unfair with the rest of the people who have taken N.E.W.T.s before” argued Hermione”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No. I mean…”
“OK. There’s no point in fighting about something we can’t change,” interrupted Parvati. “So why don’t we make a toast for our last year at Hogwarts?”
“And for Harry!” added Neville.
“No. For all of us. You fight as much as I did, “ said Harry.
“And for the ones that fell fighting” proposed Ron rather sadly thinking of Fred.
“You’re right, Ron. Cheers!”
“Cheers!” repeated everybody and drank to their victory and the memory of their friends.
The afternoon passed quite enjoyably. After a while, Ginny excused herself and went looking for her classmates. The rest of the group kept talking and making plans for their last year at Hogwarts.
It wasn’t Ron but Hermione who eventually asked about Lavender. Parvati told them that she was recovering at St. Mungo’s and that her injuries were going to require several more months to heal. She also told them that she had seen Oliver Wood working at St. Mungo’s. Apparently after the final battle he had been helping his aunt who was a healer there. He had been giving just basic care, like tending water to those who couldn’t get out of bed and things like that. But now he was thinking about making a career as a healer.
“I didn’t know Oliver had done so well in his N.E.W.T.s,” said Hermione. “You need top marks in Potions, Transfiguration and Herbology and at least an E in all the others to pursue a career as a healer”
“He didn’t” it was Neville who answered. Everybody looked at him. “I spoke with him when I went to visit… some friends. He had to apply for a special authorization to re-take his N.E.W.T.s. He got an O in Transfiguration but only an E in Potions and Herbology the first time. So now he’s studying like crazy”.
“I see. Well, good for him. It’s interesting how you can find you call…”
“No way!” exclaimed Harry and jumped to his feet. He was sitting facing the compartment’s door and he was sure he had just seen someone he knew passing by.
“What happens?” asked Dean.
“I’ll be right back” said Harry and exited. He walked down the hallway towards the front of the train, peering into each compartment without success. When he was ready to admit it had been only his imagination, the door of one of the lavatories opened and Harry realized he had been right. Draco Malfoy was coming back to Hogwarts.
NOTE: I'm sorry for the delay. Blame my boss for giving more work I can do without magic.
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