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Chapter 9 : Finding a Place, a Place to Belong
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Walking back through the doors of Hogwarts seemed like a dream. Harry felt like he was floating; floating high above everyone around him; disassociated. He felt, well, he felt a combination of things. Happiness, he was home. But also, mixed in with his joy was a pool of sadness, loss. And in between his happiness and sadness, swirled a glimmer of hope, of wonder. The unexpected lay ahead, as did danger. But really, Harry had never had a Hogwarts year when there wasn’t some sort of danger. His future was unpredictable. What he wanted to do was clear, but his path to his goal was blocked off by shadows of the unfulfilled dreams, cracks in the road that needed filling.
Harry glanced around nervously. Hermione, Ron and Ginny trailed behind, waiting for the reaction that they were expecting from the student body. As if on queue, the intricate, welcoming doors of the Great Hall swung open to allow Harry and his friends to enter. They had entered the castle a little later than everyone else to avoid the trampling, screaming crowd, although they were all starting to have second thoughts about that, now that they had to walk into the Great Hall by themselves, in view of everyone at the feast.
Creaking open wide, Harry peered cautiously through the doors at the throng of students that sat waiting impatiently for the trio to arrive, Ginny tagging along. Slowly shuffling in, the room was filled with triumphant shouts of glee and amazement. The first years had to stop themselves from gaping. They all knew of the famous Harry Potter, but seeing him in person was like a dream come true.
He got a standing ovation, and they kept on clapping well after they all sat down at Gryffindor table next to some trembling third years. It took Professor McGonagall ten minutes to get everyone to calm down before she could begin her welcome speech.
“Welcome, everyone, to another year at Hogwarts. As you all know, this previous year brought grief, sadness, loss, but happiness as well. If it weren’t for Mr. Potter, Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley, the chances of us all being here today are very slim.” As she mentioned their names, she gratefully motioned towards them, smiling in their overall direction with pride.
“First years, we all warmly wish you the best possible first year you can have here at Hogwarts. New experiences to have, new friends to be made, and new magic to learn. To all of you, my best regards. Please enjoy the feast that our house-elves have thankfully prepared for us this evening. To fifth years and up, I shall be introducing the new prefects, captains and head students after the meal, so please, prepare yourselves.” She gave a small smile and turned back to the Head Table. Within seconds, the tables groaned under the weight of all of the platters of food, and Harry exhaled the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding in.
The stares filtered away, and only a few lingering gazes were remaining throughout the meal, and Harry hated the feeling of being watched. He still hadn’t gotten used to it after being under constant surveillance by both good and evil every day of his life.
Harry, Hermione, Ron or Ginny didn’t talk to each other at all during the meal. The students surrounding them did a terrible job of hiding their keen ears and eager faces. It was a relief when McGonagall stood again; it gave Harry a place to look without having to stare at his plate.
“Please excuse my forgetfulness; I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our new Potions professor. Joining the staff of Hogwarts this year, let us give a warm welcome to Professor Prescott Argilla.” McGonagall gave a polite smile to the man, now standing up at the staff table. Harry shifted his gaze and observed Professor Argilla. He was wearing a robe of bottle green, slightly unclasped to reveal his black trousers and shirt. He looked neat, yet his expression showed a hint of amusement, a hidden playfulness encased in his eyes. His eyes. As Harry scanned the unfamiliar man, something seemed so strangely familiar. His hair was unruly, similar to his own, but instead it portrayed a dark brown, hinted with traces of auburn. Harry’s eyes flickered back down to the man’s face. He looked almost middle-aged; he bore no wrinkles, yet he looked mature, more so than a 20-year-old. His complexion was paler than most, yet flushed at the cheeks. He was quite tall, and slim. A happy smile graced his features as he took his seat again. As he lowered himself to his chair, a candlelight danced by his eyes; a reflection, a shiny reflection sparkled in the professor’s eyes. And for an instant, they locked a glance through the courteously applauding students. Emerald. A glint of emerald.
Although swept up by confusion, the feast continued on as usual. The dishes were cleared away, and students quieted once more, and McGonagall began her closing speech.
“I’m sure you’re all eager to have a nice, worry-free year, and I don’t wish to hold you back from that. Before I dismiss you all, I shall just take a moment to introduce this year’s prefects, head students and new professors. Prefects; for Gryffindor House, Meara Ackerley, Tyler Wilson, Frieda Rigott. Hufflepuff; Dennis Creevy, Peggy Eskern, Samuel Harris. In Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood, David Wers and Charles Livingstone. And in Slytherin, Elijah Kirby, Kieran Hauser and Chantille Patterson. Congratulations, to all of you, I trust you have all looked over your Prefect Responsibility sheets that were sent out during the summer. Now, for Head Boy and Head Girl. This year, the selection came easily to us. We have chosen two people who are not usually recognized for their contributions in difficult situations. Head Boy and Head Girl are Ronald and Ginny Weasley.”
Although trying to mask it, Ron’s obvious pride was rolling off of him, as an ecstatic Ginny walked quickly behind her brother, trying to match his pace as they went to the front to say a few words. The room erupted in happy applause, especially from the Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws and Gryffindors. Not having to be bossed around by Slytherins lightened the mood greatly. Ron and Ginny both stood in front of the congregation.
“It’s an honour to be chosen to be the Head Students. We’ve all come so far from what happened previously, and we hope to assist you all at Hogwarts this year. But if you take a wrong step, you may want to watch out.” Ginny smiled at everyone, and motioned for Ron to say something. It was obvious he was nervous.
“Er…thanks. Good luck to all you first years, and I hope everyone has a fantastic year.” Ron quickly jumped back from the podium and Ginny led him back to their seats. Harry and Hermione both clapped feverishly as they returned to the table.
“Congrats, Ron!” Harry nodded respectively at his best friend, glad to see him so happy. They consumed themselves in Quidditch chatter, while Hermione did her best to show Ginny how happy she was for her. McGonagall gave her parting words, and the students dismembered, following their prefects to their respective common rooms. Ginny bustled off, dragging a lazy Ron behind her, to help keep everything under control. Harry and Hermione kept a slow pace out of the Great Hall, absorbing everything about the room with their wandering eyes.
“It all seems so different now.” Hermione sighed, gesturing around the hall.
“I know what you mean. It looks the same. But it doesn’t feel the same. This isn’t Hogwarts. It’s Hogwarts: Generation Two, or something like that.”
Hermione chuckled. “I guess it makes sense when you put it like that. It is practically a different building.” She skimmed her hand across one of the stone walls.
“Well, yeah, but…I don’t know. The war’s over now. These first years will never really understand what it was like. They won’t get that creeping feeling of danger we got every time we looked around a corner back in second year. They won’t get that adrenaline rush that we got every time we made it past Filch, or Umbridge, or Snape. They just…well, they’re not really part of my Hogwarts. The one in my head, the one that I love. They’re just here.” Harry spoke quietly, emphasizing every word that rolled off his tongue, a wave of emotion powering him.
Hermione turned to Harry, a smile that Harry didn’t recognize upon her face. “This is your home, Harry. This is my home, this is Ron’s home. New bricks, a new ceiling, that won’t change it from being ours. The end of a war, that might, but you can stop your opinion, your view from changing. Just treasure this Hogwarts like it was the old one. It’ll be the same this year. Really.” Hermione let the honestly show in her voice. She nodded sincerely and slowly led Harry out of the Hall and towards the staircase. “Come on Harry; let’s see if we can find Ron.”
“Not Ginny?” Harry asked, amused.
“Not Ginny.” Hermione confirmed, a playful smile gracing her features.
The Gryffindor Common Room was nearly empty by the time Harry and Hermione arrived there. It was late, and the majority of the students were tired from the day’s travels. Ron sat alone on the plush couch, flipping through a Quidditch magazine.
“Hey guys! What took you so long?”
“Oh, just trying to avoid crowds.” Harry responded.
Ron merely nodded and Harry sank into the spot next to him on the couch. Hermione had disappeared into her dormitory unannounced, before returning shortly after with a leather case held tightly within her arms. Harry and Ron watched her curiously, wondering what the contents of the case were. She unzipped it to reveal the 20 something vials of angry glow that she had collected a few days back.
“Shouldn’t we be shielding our eyes or something, ‘Mione? I mean, because of what happened last time?” Harry asked worriedly.
“No, I already thought of that. I slightly tinted the glass of the vials so the glow will not be severe enough to cause any damage.”
“Brilliant!” Harry approved. Hermione couldn’t stop herself from smiling.
“Wait, so what is all this?” Ron asked, confused.
“Remember that glow that Harry almost blinded you with?”
“Hey! I said I was sorry…you don’t have to rub it in!” Harry protested. Hermione disregarded his comment.
“Well, I did some research-”
“Of course.” Ron mumbled. Hermione narrowed her eyes in Ron’s general direction.
“Well, I did some research and found out that the glow that emits off Harry when he is very angry has the magical properties to allow us to see with our eyes closed if used properly. So, I got Harry to think about things that made him angry, while I captured it into vials. Hence,” she motioned at the vials. “The result.”
“Genius!” Ron exclaimed. “How do we use it?”
“Well, I’ve narrowed down all of the possibilities, and it looks like we’ll have to use these.” She pulled an intricate looking object out of a pocket in the case. Two glass domes, about the size of cereal bowls, were connected to a leather strap that connected everything together. In the middle of each dome was a small hole. Ron looked at them with disgust.
“What are they?” He shuddered.
“They’re called Occulus-Expugnolers. It’s a magical device used to apply potions directly to the retina, and I’m hoping it will work with Harry’s glow as well.” Hermione explained.
“Do we really have to use those?” Ron asked desperately.
“Yes, if we’re going to make it through the veil safely, so we can rescue Harry’s prophecy and save Sirius. We have to go one step at a time if we’re planning on making it out alive.”
“That’s fantastic Hermione!” Harry exclaimed. “But when will we actually do it?”
“I’ll have to do a few test runs with the Expugnolers to see if my theory will actually work, and then we’ll need to wait for the right day. I was thinking that if we stayed here for Christmas, we could do it over the break, so then it won’t interfere with school.”
“Logical.” Harry agreed.
The Trio gathered their things and said their goodbyes, Hermione and Harry going to the Gryffindor girls and boys dormitories, Ron going to the separate common room for the Head Students, where he would meet Ginny. Harry felt an odd sense of loss as they parted; even though they were just separating for the night, even though they would all be there in the morning, the insinuation of leaving picked at him. It bothered a part of him; after losing so much, the thought of losing those so close to him pained him.
It hit Harry that he had no idea what he was going to do about his new teaching position as he made his way up the stairs. Didn’t he have to teach a class tomorrow? A wave of panic swept over him. He had nothing to teach, no idea where his classroom was, and was at a complete loss as to how he was supposed to keep an entire class under control. And then, with a wash of relief, he remembered McGonagall’s announcement that classes would not begin until the day after next. Harry sighed and quietly opened the door to his dormitory.
It was the same room as always, except the arrangement was different. The usual four four-poster beds were gone. In their place lay a larger, plusher bed, still enrobed with the thick burgundy linens, yet missing the curtained frame. Harry entered the room. With Neville, Seamus and Dean not returning for the extra year, and Ron now staying in the Head Students dorm, he was alone. The younger Gryffindor boys slept in rooms below and above him, in groups of four surrounding each other in loud, excited chatter. Their voices were muffled through the thick walls, and Harry sank down onto his bed as he undid his shoes before pushing his trunk down to the end of his bed.
He knew it was old, he knew it was a stupid tradition; he knew his bed was two times bigger than his trunk, but he did it anyways. Having his trunk at the end of his bed brought back memories. It made him feel like Hogwarts had never changed, like the world had not been turned upside down. It made him feel safe.
Morning came silently and seamlessly, the hazy light filtering through the windows and slanting onto Harry’s bed. He watched the affect the clouds had on the light; the passing of them blocked the brightness, before lazily letting it regain its original shine. Harry yawned and dressed, making his way down to the common room. The room was empty, and beheld an air of coolness by the absence of occupants. Harry checked the time. It was only 6:00; still too early for the other students to be up yet.
The hearth was bare; the house elves must have cleaned it out during the night. Harry slung his book bag over his shoulder and exited the common room, in search of McGonagall. He desperately needed an explanation about this whole teaching thing.
Coming across the Headmistress’ office wasn’t as difficult as Harry’s first attempt at locating it back at the end of the previous year. This time, the halls were unscathed; the unfamiliar, less worn, new brick still intact. He followed the route that he had grown accustom to throughout his Hogwarts education, walking in the same way, passing through the same doorways, but hearing unrecognized echoes with his every step. The structure was different; not encased with the history as the former. He had been there; that time in the summer when Mr. Weasley used the Floo to discuss with McGonagall whether they should repair everything or splurge a little to get everything new. And of course, McGonagall wanted a fresh start. So here he stood today, pausing, in between two portraits; pausing to run his hands across the foreign walls, and enrobe himself in a feeling of misplacement. Sure, it looked the same, but with the same thought that been crossing his mind many times over the last 24 hours, Harry realized, he didn’t really belong here anymore.
“When’s your class, mate?” Ron inquired.
“Not until this afternoon. McGonagall changed her mind and appointed an experienced teacher for the older grades; I’m only doing the Gryffindor first years…plus it gets me out of Ancient Runes.” Harry smiled lopsidedly at Hermione after receiving a playful glare for his statement.
“Lucky git.” Ron muttered in mock jealousy.
“Honestly!” Hermione swatted Ron’s arm in frustration. “Without Ancient Runes we’d still be in that tent without a glimmer of hope.”
“But because of you, we aren’t, so that’s all that matters.” Ron smirked.
Harry’s footsteps echoed through the silence that the library offered. It was lunch now; everyone was eating in the Great Hall. But Harry couldn’t eat – he was too nervous. He absorbed the coolness, the calmness in the air. He sighed. Deep shadows intertwined in the aisles, adjacently being cast from the tall windows. The tapestries looked cleaner; like someone had used the refreshing charm on them multiple times. Harry pulled back the Gryffindor fabric. And to his horror, the plaque was gone. The builders; he knew they would do something to upset him. Gryffindor’s quarters must have shown on the original school plans. People were now failing to keep him out of such a sentimental place. And with a wave of anger, he vanished.
Harry had to focus very sharply on Gryffindor’s quarters to Apparate there safely. Luckily, with his power, he had been able to push past the weak security charms that had been placed invisibly around the perimeter of the wall of tapestries. With the usual pop, Harry found himself in the middle of the regally presented room, everything in the same location as he had left it. And so he sat, parchment unrolled, quill in hand, and for the first time in his life, Harry Potter wrote lesson plans.
A/N: I know, I know, it’s been longer than usual. But I hope you still enjoyed this chapter. Next chapter will be up as soon as possible. And I shall stress again, REVIEW!! Thank you so much,
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