Chapter 29 : The Last First Day
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A/N: Enclosed in this chapter: some internal exploration by our characters, wrapping up Gabriella’s visit, and we finally begin to get into all the Hogwarts business. So much to get through, and a lot to discover, so away we go… Read, Review, Enjoy!
"But you aren’t sure you heard him say it?" Hermione asked Ron. It was just before breakfast Sunday morning and they had all gathered in a corner of the Great Hall where Luna had cast a charm to ensure their conversation remained private.
"Does it really matter? Either way the guy was slinking around the castle at night!" Ron said, obviously still unnerved by his encounter with Tristan the night before.
"But who knows the reason for it. It could be something harmless." Harry said, but even in his ears the suggestion sounded weak and he knew what was coming.
"A vampire who slinks around in the night without a malicious intention? Come on, you don’t really think he wasn’t up to something?" Ron asked him.
"This isn’t like in the books and muggle movies Ron." Hermione said defensively. "Vampires don’t need to sneak out and hunt at night if that’s what you’re thinking Tristan may have been doing. They are perfectly capable of going out in the daytime as you saw him do yesterday and like you’re seeing him do today." She nodded her head toward the door, where the subject of their conversation had just walked in and directly through the bright ray of sunlight streaming through the high windows, remaining perfectly unharmed. Though he had known this fact about vampires, Harry decided he definitely needed to do some brushing up on what was truth and what was fiction where those particular beings were concerned.
"Well, just because he doesn’t have to sneak around in the night doing nasty things that he could do in the day doesn’t mean he isn’t." Ron argued, crossing his arms and pouting slightly as they continued to debate his story and essentially question his ability to know and understand what takes place right in front of his eyes. Harry felt bad, but at the same time he knew that the reason they were harping on this so much was because none of them wanted to believe what Ron was telling them, himself included.
"It doesn’t mean he is either." Ginny quietly added.
"But we was! I saw him come back into the common room, meaning he had leave at some point! He was out doing who knows what in the school!" Ron stubbornly returned.
"But it could be for something completely innocent." Ginny argued.
"And besides, you said he was nice to you up until the end when you may or may not have heard him say something threatening." Hermione added.
Listening to his friends discuss and argue this new possible danger left Harry feeling unsure about what exactly they should do about it. Even considering how things had turned out last year, with Malfoy not being the threat they had all thought him to be, he still didn’t believe things were handled properly when they had brought their complaints to Dumbledore. And he wasn’t sure that he had any more faith in the Headmaster’s ability to control the villains presently wandering his school, though at least Harry now had a better understanding as to the reasons. Here at Hogwarts, there was so much red tape to go through, so many channels that must be explored in order to keep the appearance of compliance between the school and the ministry above suspicion. According to Hermione who had actually read the articles, Edmund’s attacks through the Daily Prophet have so far all been directed toward Arthur and his management of the ministry. Harry knew it was important that no one have a reason to be able to suggest that Arthur, nor anyone associated with ministry, has given free reign to Dumbledore to run the place as he pleases. Especially considering what an obvious target the old wizard has been in the past for Death Eaters to use in an attempt to gain control of the school.
But what did that leave them to do in a situation that may actually be dangerous? Was Tristan as horrible as they were all thinking? After all, Ron only thought he heard a threat and he had admitted that he’d been sleeping when the other boy had come in. Perhaps it was a combination of sleepiness, nerves and a predetermined dislike of the new boy that caused Ron to hear what he thought he did. Well… just because Tristan was a vampire, just because he was sorted into Slytherin, just because he’s related to Walden Macnair, and just because his family is known to have sided with Voldemort in the past- that didn’t necessarily mean he was an enemy. After all, Draco was a werewolf in Slytherin and the son of the Malfoys. Harry didn’t want to make the wrong move, and he didn’t want to have to involve Dumbledore or any of the adults who all had their hands tied by rules and public perception, not until they were sure of what they had.
He didn’t know what to do, so he turned to the only two people he could think of with enough experience and knowledge to gauge whether Tristan was truly a threat, Draco and Luna. "What do you two think?" He asked suddenly, interrupting the conversation that had been taking place while he’d checked out and focused on his increasingly alarming train of thought.
"Me?" Draco appeared surprised that his opinion was being considered. He glanced at Luna, and Harry was able to determine that they were having some sort of silent conversation. At last he said, "I think everyone should just stay away from him. Not that I’m scared of him or anything, but… well, yeah, okay so I guess maybe I’m a little worried that he’s here. I’ve heard of the things his parents did the last time Lord Voldemort tried to take over and while they may not have been so fierce since he was vanquished-"
"Except with muggles." Hermione interrupted quietly.
Draco glanced at her before quickly looking away. Some undecipherable emotion that seemed deeply rooted in guilt passed across his face before he continued. "Okay you’re right, despite the horrible things they are rumored to have done to countless muggles and a few squibs over the last sixteen years, they have been totally celibate when it comes to attacks on our kind. However, when they were fighting with Voldemort, they were ruthless against anyone or anything that stood against them. The only good thing was that they never turned those they attacked, never passed on the curse."
"Oh good, they only killed and mutilated their victims." Ron rolled his eyes as Ginny elbowed him.
Harry found the point a thoughtful one. "But if we know that Harland is going around turning people already, that he most likely is trying to build up his own army to offer up in servitude to Voldemort… well why wouldn’t they try to convince the Macnairs and anyone like them to do the same. I mean what’s more terrifying than being forced to face down an army made up not only of powerful and evil wizards, but vampires and werewolves who support their cause?"
"Lupin said Harland had tried to build an army before, so of course he’s likely to do it now. But according to what Draco knows of them, Tristan’s parents have never tried to do anything like that, right?" Ginny asked hoping for the best one could hope for in this situation.
"As far as I know the only person they passed their curse onto was their son, and that happened the moment he was conceived." Draco shrugged casually, though Harry noted that the boy’s eyes held the weight of the concern he felt about the topic under discussion. "But really that means nothing. Lord Voldemort can be very convincing when he needs to be and if what he ultimately wants is a dark army of vampires, then I guarantee you that’s what he’ll get. Even if the Macnairs refuse to turn anyone, meaning they deny the Dark Lord, he would just destroy them and find someone more willing to do as he asks."
Harry didn’t need convincing that Voldemort would do whatever he had to do if it meant that he had the most horrifying dark army of loyal followers that he could gather. Who would willingly want to stand up and face beings and monsters from their worst nightmares? And what’s more, he was pretty sure that the enemy’s idea of terror didn’t include mere muggles, so if he really intended to have Harland and the Macnairs out "recruiting" in a sense, then he doubted their targets were non magical. The thought of a bunch of evil, hate-filled vampires and werewolves armed not only with their own natural strengths and extra abilities but also brandishing wands with malicious accuracy, it definitely made him uneasy. As Harry pictured the dark brood all descending on him and the small band of resistance warriors foolish enough to stand with him, he struggled to control the sharp, instinctual shiver of fear that suddenly ran up his spine. He nearly succeeded, taking the feeling that had rattled him so badly and outwardly showing no more than a small shudder as if responding to a mysterious draft.
He wanted his friends to think he was in control- of himself, if nothing else. He wanted them to believe he was capable of keeping them safe… that he could face any danger that threatened them with his head high and the certainty of victory so firmly fixed in his own mind that any other outcome was impossible for them to envision. Shaking at the mere thought of the idea of what the enemy may be up to was not the way to inspire that kind of confidence. It was time for him to really be serious now… to really be the grown up he wanted all the adults in his life to see him as.
"So what would be the worst case scenario?" Harry asked outloud against the inner discussion he was having with himself.
"Well like werewolves, those people turned by a vampire have an instinctual drive to seek out and obey the one who created them. Only the strongest and most willful minds are able to resist the natural bonds of creator and creation. " Hermione delicately reminded them, obviously aware of the sensitivity such a topic may create for Draco, who none of them held in the same category as Harland regardless of their individual feelings for the boy. But that didn’t stop Draco from feeling like they did and they all knew it. "I guess it’s good in the sense that it ultimately wouldn’t be Voldemort actually controlling the hordes that would be created, but I don’t think it’s much better to have Harland and the Macnairs in control. Especially since they don’t seem to have much of a problem following his orders."
"Yet." Draco answered seriously. "People like them, with that exact right amount of skilled ability, touch of insanity, sly cunning and untamed hatred, those are the ones who are never satisfied with fulfilling the desires of others- even if they want the same thing. I mean eventually, playing second string will get to them, it did with my father. He hated being under the Dark Lord’s thumb, probably still does. Now our gardener Bowie has been with the family for longer than I’ve existed, and from the things he used to tell me growing up, Lucius had some kind of devious plan to eventually overtake his master and put himself at the head of the cause. But you got the Dark Lord first Potter, and so before anything big could happen at all, everyone had to go underground to protect their identities and images from the harsh punishment that the public was demanding for those who had helped disrupt their lives. Although, according to old Bowie, he never thought Lucius had it in him to actually succeed in whatever he’d planned. Said even though he never overheard whatever it was Lucius had actually concocted, he always figured my dad would just get himself killed by his ambition and then he’d get his chance to escape the mansion."
"Well, these days, I’d put my money on Elise, Sarah and Elanya’s little alliance to beat out Voldemort before Lucius could. Even with one of them in a coma." Luna scoffed, crossing her arms and beginning to look very frustrated by the conversation.
"Either way, if Lord Voldemort wants someone to lead an army of horrors in his name, then he couldn’t have chosen better than Harland and the Macnairs." Draco shook his head. Harry could tell they were all feeling a similar overwhelming disbelief over the ridiculous topic they were discussing with such seriousness.
"But there’s no certainty that’s what he’s planning right?" Ron asked nervously.
"Regardless of whether they intend that or not, it’s nothing we can stop, especially if it already began. Besides I’m sure it’s something the Order had already thought of the moment Harland showed his face again, especially since we were able to stumble onto the idea almost by accident and especially since they all knew he’d done it before. As for right now in our immediately present situation, I agree with Draco that we stay away from Tristan." Luna broke in, bringing the conversation back to the main point. "I haven’t been given a vision of anything to do with him yet, except for a few bad dreams that probably were just meant to warn me that the possibility of danger was coming. The less we have to do with him, the better the chances that we get through this time we are forced in his company without incident."
"Or the better the chances we don’t get a warning before he strikes." Hermione said.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked her. He had noticed Luna stiffen with discomfort.
"Well, from my understanding of Luna’s precognition, the more involved someone is in her life the more visions she’ll receive that pertain to that person. Like you told me once before," she turned to Luna, "you didn’t see us all in your visions until we became closer friends, until our lives started impacting yours."
"So what, you want me to go make friends with him? Go spend time with him and endanger myself so that maybe I might get a warning for the rest of you?" She answered with a demanding harshness.
Hermione appeared taken aback. "Of course not. I just don’t think avoiding him altogether is the answer, especially if he is starting to threaten people our first night here. If he is up to something…well, isn’t this why you guys have these powers? To help get the upper hand?"
"Ron isn’t even sure of what he heard!" Luna threw up her hands, garnering the attention of some nearby students who had come down for breakfast. Of course they couldn’t hear her because of the spell, but Harry knew the snarky things the rest of his classmates thought of his little ragtag group of friends who could only be perceived as silently yet dramatically arguing among themselves in the corner.
"At this point it seems that the only thing we can all know for sure is that none of us like even the idea of Tristan being here." Ginny said, stepping between the two girls to relieve the sudden tension, most of which was coming from Luna. "And the only thing Ron can without a doubt tell us is that the guy was out walking around the castle at night for some possibly secret and possibly devious motive; which is something every one of us has done many times in the past. Let’s just agree to be on guard and see what happens."
"I agree completely. It’s the best, and really the only thing we can do right now." Harry said supportively, wanting to reinforce the positive behavior she’d been displaying lately. Secretly, he was proud of the progress Ginny had made and wanted to be sure she kept going in the right direction. After all, he did care about her very much, as he did every Weasley. Even after everything they’d been through and done to each other, he’d never stopped caring about Ginny. "Besides, we don’t have anything near convincing enough to take to Dumbledore, we can’t even convince ourselves of what’s going on. There’s no point in arguing when there isn’t anything to argue about yet."
"Whatever. Consider me on my guard." Luna grumbled, breaking the charm and walking away to take a seat among her fellow Ravenclaws without a backward glance at her friends. Harry watched as she folded her arms over the table before gently resting her face upon them and closing her eyes. Apparently she’d decided to keep her head down until it was time to eat which effectively allowed her to ignore the faceless students nearby.
Lumps of panicked anxiety rose in his throat as Luna willfully extended her cold indifference of those around her to include him. Harry had never in his life felt so completely shut out by another person as he did in that moment. A resounding emptiness overran the place in his mind where once he’d always carried the comfort of her consciousness, constantly keeping company with his. A strong desire to stride over to the table overwhelmed him. He wanted to pull her up out of her seat, to take her aside and have it out right there, to demand to know what was wrong and how to fix it so that he could have the real Luna back. His Luna, the one he knew and would be able to recognize with his soul a hundred years from now, even if he never was able to totally understand her.
It bothered him to no end that she was so distant from them all in every respect and more so, that she seemed content to stay there for now. Harry knew he couldn’t let things remain this way, that he couldn’t lose her- he had become aware that until she had started to pull away, the now horrifyingly real fear that she would abandon him had never crossed his mind. All of these whispers now assaulting him with snippets of primal knowledge carried messages of a faintly familiar if yet unrecognized awareness from a place of intense truth kept permanently suppressed deep within him. These inklings of feelings were making him fully aware of the intense and heart-wrenching loss he would feel should Luna decide to completely turn her back on him.
But that well hidden place within him that was currently sending echoed warnings through his head was a part of him that Harry rarely let himself explore, and therefore he willfully kept the knowledge confined to the dark recesses within the deepest trenches of his mind. He was unsure that he wanted to go searching within for enlightenment on the many thoughts and emotions he’d shoved back there; especially since he had pushed those musings and feelings aside almost before they had actually formed in a semi-successful effort to not have to deal with them. Of course they were subjects already known and explored in the lowest levels of his subconscious where they’d already been processed and accepted… Purely honest thoughts and emotions that would remain buried and unnoticed by his conscious mind until he was mentally ready to accept them as a factual reality for himself.
Perhaps it was his own lack of desire that was standing in the way to some form of self-actualization, maybe he was too content with what he had and what he knew. But Harry also felt he’d never really been given a proper opportunity to take the amount of time necessary to focus as intensely on his self-reflection as would be required to confront and accept the truths he could possibly find there. And looking around now at the rest of his classmates scrambling to take theirs seats as McGonagall rose to address them, he felt no small relief in the fact that the present moment would also be an inappropriate time to forage so deeply into his subconscious.
The stern professor stared disapprovingly at Harry and his friends as they all hurried to take their seats as quietly and with as little notice as possible… Although Ron did have to practically drag Ginny behind him in order to keep her from fulfilling some previous threat she’d made of sitting at the Slytherin table so that Draco wouldn’t have to be there alone. McGonagall cleared her throat and bid all the students before her a good morning, taking over duties normally carried out by the Headmaster. But Harry knew that Dumbledore was presently delighted to be busy entertaining the castle’s secret guest until he and Luna arrived to take over as host and hostess. The thought of being so close to a conversation with Gabby brought a moment of bright happiness to his darkening mood.
As McGonagall went on and on about last minute notices concerning classes the next day, Harry argued with himself whether he had good enough cause to break his word to Hermione and finally decided that even if he didn’t, she wouldn’t have to know as long as he was careful. So while staring absently at the empty plate in front of him and pretending to listen to McGonagall with his usual bored indifference, he did what he’d been specifically asked not to and made an attempt to reach Luna for a secret conversation right in front of Hermione. There was absolutely no reply.
Harry tried apologizing for things he wasn’t sure he did, but Luna apparently wasn’t interested in explaining what exactly he’d done to make her so angry with him. He tried reasoning with her, explaining how badly it was affecting him that they were fighting. He tried telling her how much it hurt him to know she was so unhappy and about how more than anything he wanted to help her in any way he could… Even going so far as to confess that even if she accepted his help and still wanted to hate him for whatever reason, that he’d be happy just knowing she was happy. He tried flattery, reverse psychology, anger, pleading and downright begging in order to get her attention. All he received in return was an icy dark wall that she had very decidedly placed between them. He knew she could hear him and was therefore deliberately ignoring him.
Well, fine then. Harry argued with himself. If she wanted it to be this hard, then she’d just have to wait for him to have more time to put in a more extreme effort. But if she thought just because she didn’t pay him any attention that he’d give up so easily… or… maybe that was it… Maybe she knew that if she made it harder for him to be able to fix the problem between them as well as whatever else was going on with her, the more time and attention he’d put into the whole thing, and into her. He mentally shook his head, refusing to believe Luna was capable of playing such games with him, no matter how humanly fallible he now perceived her to be. Besides, what aim would she have in such a game?
No, he decided it was much easier to believe Luna’s actions were the result of the complexity of whatever problems she was having rather than that she had some deceitful alterior motive. He couldn’t ever see himself believing her capable of anything truly devious because as human as she may be, she was filled with too much positive light. It was a naturally warm glow emanating from her core and he’d seen it felt in varying degrees by everyone who came in contact with her. That kind of illuminating inner beauty and pureness of character couldn’t be faked. Even now, as dark and gloomy as her exterior portrayed her, he was able to tell that it was just a fragile shell that would inevitably burst when the light she was shutting up inside herself finally overwhelmed her. Turning to look directly at Luna, Harry took in her slumped over shoulders and the exhausted frustration marring her normally shining face with a twinge of gray. Try as he might, he couldn’t make her meet his eyes and he began to wish desperately for that moment to come when the false visage his friend currently wore upon herself would shatter and release the girl trapped within.
As McGonagall wound up her announcements and the repetitive warnings to those thinking of displaying inappropriate behavior, Harry let himself rest on the assault of thoughts related to Luna’s mood and their obvious yet undefined problems with each other. Just as he boxed it all up in his mind to be opened again at a more appropriate time, a note from the Headmaster suddenly appeared before him, informing him of the arrangements made for the remainder of Gabby’s brief visit. As he read, he allowed himself to fully revel in the nervously excited anticipation rapidly bubbling up inside him. As soon as breakfast was served, Harry gobbled his food down as quickly as he could without choking, eager to get to the meeting that had been set up for him, Gabby, and Luna. Dumbledore had apparently decided to allow them use of his office while he busied himself making some mysterious arrangements elsewhere.
Harry still wasn’t sure what he would tell the Headmaster when the time came that he had to explain how he had lost one of his abilities. Ultimately, he decided it was in his best interest not to be too prepared. He did his best work in the moment and didn’t want to sound rehearsed anyway. So in his mind, he visualized the problem into it’s own separate and much smaller box, placing it next to the larger one he’d just filled with concerns of Luna. He didn’t want to think of or feel anything other than the actual hope and real joy he was experiencing now that things were happening, now that the idea of the coven was becoming real. You ready? He thought to Luna as he gulped down the last of his juice.
I suppose. She coldly answered back. The fact that she had answered him this time only enforced Harry’s believe that she was willfully and deliberately keeping herself cut off from him.
Shaking off her attitude, he leaned over to kiss Hermione’s cheek before rising. "See you guys later." He said happily as he walked off. Luna was behind him, purposely dragging her feet to keep them from walking together, so he didn’t bother to slow his speed or wait for her. He was determined not to let anything dampen his mood and/or ruin this short time they had with their coven’s healer. Unfortunately no matter how many times he said the password once he reached the gargoyle, it just would not spring to life and allow him entrance until she was at his side. Apparently the stone guardian had been told to expect a pair of students. When it finally moved, they hopped on the first stair together though Luna was sure to keep herself as far as possible from him. They took the stairs up to the office in complete and extremely uncomfortable silence, entering just as Dumbledore and Gabriella were finishing their meal.
"Harry! Luna! Good morning!" She greeted them with a smile, rushing over to grab them both up in her slender arms. He liked the openness and warmth exuding from her and couldn’t help but grin as he politely hugged her back, swept up in her friendliness. Apparently the feeling was catching because as she pulled away, he caught the honest smile crossing Luna’s face.
"Good morning to you." He happily returned the greeting.
"Who are you writing to?" Ron asked as he plopped down next to Hermione on the couch. She had returned to the common room after breakfast while he’d gone with Seamus and a bunch of other kids down to the quidditch pitch. Ginny and Draco had disappeared to who knew where and were doing who knew what. They all had found ways to keep busy while Harry and Luna spoke with Gabriella, preferring activity to sitting around waiting.
When Hermione had first walked in, she’d been thrilled to discover her entire dorm was deserted for the morning as she had actually been looking forward to some time alone with her thoughts. But apparently Ron had changed his mind about his own plans. "No one." She answered as she rolled up the parchment and stuffed it in her pocket, feeling irritated by the interruption. "I was just writing some notes to myself, to remind me of what I want to ask about in my classes tomorrow."
"I think there’s a point where one can love school too much." He teased.
"Isn’t there someone else you can go bother?" she shot back without worrying about the harshness in her voice. She had been in the middle of something after all, and he’d just sat down uninvited. "Very mature." She responded to the face he made at her. "I thought you were going to go play with Seamus somewhere."
"Quidditch. I was going to go play quidditch with Seamus but his broom broke and the other guys decided to head in rather than wait for him to fix and recalibrate it. So I came to find you, but if you’d rather be alone I can happily go take a nap." He rose and stretched his tall, lanky form. "Have fun writing your notes." He rolled his eyes in a purposely over-dramatic fashion before heading off to his room.
Once certain she was alone again, Hermione pulled out the parchment with a confused sigh and looked over the only two words she’d managed to get down on paper. Dear Fred. She had wanted to write to tell him about Gabby not being able to heal Draco and to check on whether he needed her to research anything for their cure while she was here with access to the massive library. But as soon as she sat to write, the words wouldn’t come. She hadn’t wanted to sound annoying, like she was bothering him or pushing him to get this cure moving, and she wasn’t sure sending a letter about that very topic the day after they had parted company was as laid back and casual as she’d first thought. And then when Ron had come in, she’d felt a sharp stab of guilt in her gut, like she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t. The feeling had surprised her, but not as much as the lie about writing out notes, and how easily it had come out of her mouth. She didn’t know why she hadn’t wanted Ron to know that she intended to write such a harmless letter to his brother, she and Fred were friends after all and had every right to correspond with each other.
Feeling stupid and irritable, she willfully put pen to paper, wrote out a letter and after careful consideration signed it, Your friend and collaborator, Hermione Granger. Reading it back to herself, she saw that it was concise and to the point, nothing at all to feel guilty about. Harry knew they were working on this cure and now that they weren’t able to collaborate in person, mail was one of the only other ways to go. However, she decided last minute to put in a post script, wishing Fred well on reviving his store and expressing hope that he wasn’t going crazy being on his own. She felt it added a bit of friendly warmth to the directness of the main part of the letter and was glib enough that any of his friends could have written it. Once satisfied that her letter contained nothing special or outstanding –certainly nothing that would give her a reason to feel guilty- she made her way to the owlery.
At first, she’d intended to use Hedwig as Harry always allowed his friends to send her if they needed to mail something. But as the graceful creature soared down to land on her shoulder, she began to have second thoughts. She stared deeply into the owl’s enormous, round eyes with all the appearance of holding some secret and ancient wisdom and suddenly felt it was wrong somehow to use Harry’s pet when sending a letter to Fred. While stroking Hedwig’s silky white feathers and eliciting several soft, satisfied hoots from the animal, Hermione selected one of the school’s public mail owls to tie her note to.
As she sent the happy little thing on it’s way, Hedwig tilted her head and seemed to question the decision to send another owl in her place. But unable to explain it to herself, she certainly wasn’t going to attempt to explain it to a creature incapable of understanding most of what she said, no matter how intelligent and special Hedwig appeared to be. Instead, she simply pulled out the box of owl treats Harry kept in one of the lockers and gave her a few as a bribe to forget seeing her up there. Satisfied that all was well, she made the trek back down to her room deciding Ron had the right idea. Surely a nap would clear her head a bit.
"How much time before you go to find all the other people?" Gabby asked after Harry and Luna had finished telling her of their plans and progress thus far in assembling their coven.
"Well, we’ve already made contact with one other besides you. Our friend Ron wrote to Jacinda and she has returned a positive response. As for the others, we intend to go looking right after the semester ends since mail isn’t the safest way to contact anyone about anything of importance these days." Harry quickly explained what Jacinda had said about the danger of sending letters to her. He made a mental note to himself not to send Hedwig anywhere, not wanting harm to come to her should anyone try to intercept her. He felt that he’d convinced Ron in the danger of mailing things, and he was positive the warning was unnecessary for the rest of his friends.
"Yes, to mail a letter, to travel, to simply sit safely in one’s home, so many things that should have innocence are becoming dangerous these days." She said sadly.
"Hopefully we’ll all be able to change that." Luna softly offered.
"When you are leaving to go find the others, I am to go with you?" Gabby asked, looking to them both.
Harry was surprised and glanced at Luna who merely shrugged, looking just as thrown by the question as he was. Apparently neither of them had thought of the possibility that anyone besides their friends would want to go searching with them. "If you wanted to I suppose." He answered. "Otherwise we could set up some place and time for us all to meet. I know there are usually loose ends to tie up and not everyone would be able to leave immediately." I wasn’t able to, he thought to himself, feeling a slight hint of bitterness.
"I am supposing this will be dangerous." Gabby looked thoughtful, but not necessarily concerned.
"Extremely. As you know many people have already lost their lives over the span of many years because of Voldemort and his movement." Harry paused to gather the courage he needed to admit what he needed to tell her. "I can’t guarantee that this will go in our favor-"
She raised a hand to stop him. "Harry, I am not afraid to die. I am scared only of living my life with fear. If our ancestors were once to be brave enough to risk sacrificing themselves for the rest of the world, then how could we not now follow their example? We are having to carry on their legacy."
"Hopefully the rest feel the same way you do." He answered, moved by her certainty.
"Some will and some won’t. They won’t all be as agreeable as Gabby here." Luna said suddenly. "I’ve seen us arguing with some of them, distant visions with unfamiliar faces. But there’s so many decisions not made that I still haven’t seen a clear outcome for the coven as a whole."
"But it must work out in order for the vision you do have of the future to happen, right?" He argued.
"What vision is this?" Gabby asked.
Luna looked down. "A happy one, where we and our friends finally find peace among ourselves. But that could be any time, before or after this war is over; it had nothing to do with winning."
Harry felt a bit of disappointment. Of course he wanted them all to finally reach a place where everything was going right within their group, but he had always hoped Luna’s vision had that other meaning as well, that they had beaten Voldemort. He didn’t think true happiness could be obtained otherwise. Are you sure about that? He heard Gabby’s voice whisper through his mind. Real happiness is not to be measured by our successes, I do not think, but by the memories we have, the path we’re on and the people traveling life with us.
Maybe. He responded though he wasn’t sure he agreed. Surely everyone would be more pleased to be able to live out their lives safely rather than find some kind of inner happiness.
No one can be safe all of the time, Harry, death comes in many forms whenever it pleases to. So how could the end of any war bring anything other than simple relief? War has been existing since we, the humans, decided to distinguish ourselves from the rest of nature; I have no knowledge of one that ends and solves all the problems that had been the cause of it. Where in history does it say to us that victory has the guarantee of happiness? I think true peace within us all, which only can be gained by collecting and accepting of the moments and the people who make us the best we can be, is far more highly prized. I have lost the home I made for myself in the Canada and now I must flee back to Spain where I will have nothing. But I am not sad because I still have my husband, my talent and my life. I want for nothing more. I am happy and still we have not won the war. She argued silently with him as she turned to Luna with a supportive smile. "I hope that vision you had comes true for you all, whether it means the end of all this fighting or not."
"Either way, it doesn’t matter right now." She shook her head.
"Right," Harry agreed, sensing both he and Luna were becoming uncomfortable with the topic of her vision. "One thing at a time, and our first goal is to research the last few names we need. Once we get out of here in a few months, we’ll go find them all and then we’ll worry about convincing anyone to join us."
"When you get out of here." Luna reminded him looking a bit anguished by the idea. "As of right now, I’m in school for the year."
"That may change, Miss Lovegood. Have some faith." Dumbledore said with a wide smile as he entered the office. "Please forgive the interruption, but Professor Sinistra has just informed me of some rather severe weather coming our way from the north. Unless you leave soon, Mrs. Hernandez, you may be stuck here another night."
"Why can’t you just apparate home?" Harry turned to Gabby.
"I am not knowing what you tell me." She shrugged helplessly at her lack of understanding.
"He means physical transport-displacement." Dumbledore explained kindly.
"Ah yes!" She said with excitement before turning somber. "Your Headmaster and I were discussing this possibility to, how do you say, apparate? Yes, but because of my mother’s low standing among the small wizarding society where we are from, I was not allowed to be licensed."
"I don’t understand." Harry said. "What does your mother’s standing have to do with anything?"
"Well, it is my father’s line that goes back to our ancestor of the coven, Hermelinda. But my mother, she was a squib." Gabby appeared grieved by the admission.
"There are places in the world were certain people are looked down on even more than they are here. In some of those places, prejudice extends to include the person’s family and therefore their rights and privileges are less than those who consider themselves to be the picture of their society’s perfection." Dumbledore explained. "And before you jump on the idea," he turned to Harry, "I am fully capable of teaching her and I am sure she is more than capable of learning as quickly as you and your friends. But if Mrs. Hernandez were to apparate without a license, especially from here, it will draw the kind of attention to her that none of us want. It is safest to use the travel plans I have already secured."
"And I am glad to be going to my husband, but I am very sad to be leaving such wonderful new friends." Gabby said, rising to take Dumbldore’s hand and reaching up to place a kiss on his cheek.
"Well, we were delighted to have had the pleasure of meeting you." The Headmaster humbly returned. "Our gamekeeper will be the one honored with the task of taking you all the way into Spain and directly to your home. Of course I’ve also arranged a private escort for you both from the ministry and they will secretly meet up with you outside our school’s grounds. Mr. Potter, why don’t you escort Mrs. Hernandez down to Hagrid’s and introduce them to each other."
"I thank you very much." Gabby replied. "I am hoping only that no one was too put out by my unexpected visit."
"Not at all. Hagrid was delighted to offer his assistance; he is a wonderful personality and a perfect escort. I’m sure the two of you will get along pleasantly in the short time you will be in each other’s company." Dumbledore assured her. "I only caution that you not let his rather substantial size alarm you." He said with a smile.
Gabby nodded but looked to him in confusion. Harry smiled as he tried to think of the best way to describe Hagrid before she actually laid eyes on him. "Then I suppose it is time for me to be going?" She asked, now with a bit of uncertainty.
"Unfortunately for us, it seems that way." Dumbledore bowed his head slightly as he led her to the door. "It was a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Hernandez. I look forward to seeing you again sometime in the future."
"The pleasure has all belonged to me. Until we are to meet again." She hugged him before planting one last kiss on him.
"Yes, well." Dumbledore replied with a grin. "Miss Lovegood, if you wouldn’t mind staying back to speak with me a moment as there is something I must discuss with you, I think it would be best if you also said your farewell now."
"Thank you for coming." Luna said quietly. "And thank you for making things right with Harry again, I don’t know what any of us would have done if you hadn’t been able to fix him."
"Oh Luna, my new little moonbeam." Gabby pulled her in for a tight hug before pulling away and resting their heads together. Harry knew they were speaking to each other, but it was something meant only for them and despite the amplification of his powers while in the presence of an additional coven member, he was unable to break through their barrier. Gabby pulled back and smiled down at Luna before gently kissing the girl’s forehead and turning to him. "We are ready to go?"
"I suppose we are." Harry said slowly. He shot a confused glance at Luna who was busy staring thoughtfully at the floor with a distracted air that seemed to suggest she’d forgotten anyone else was around her. Feeling himself tense up in anticipation of the things waiting to be dealt with, he sighed heavily before turning and leading the way down to Hagrid’s hut. Now that it was time for Gabby to be sent away and for him to get back to reality as he knew it, Harry became aware that the frustrated befuddlement which had recently plagued him was slowly creeping back through his senses.
Luna watched them walk out of the office with mixed feelings. Gabby’s last silent words to her were tumbling around in her head, turning things she’d thought she’d become certain of inside out and leaving her to question all over again. But before the healer’s carefully considered message could really sink into her soul, Dumbledore cleared his throat in an attempt to get her attention. "Please, take a seat." He offered as he sat himself behind his desk.
"Is this about my classes?" She settled stiffly on the edge of the chair, feeling too tensed up with her thoughts and emotions to be able to relax- even anticipation for the topic they were surely about to discuss couldn’t garner all of her concentration.
"It is. Late last night, I sent a request for an early meeting with Griselda Marchbanks, as she was so instrumental with helping us get everything approved for the seventh year advanced classes. Sure enough we were able to meet in the fireplace and discuss the arrangements necessary to carry out your request before breakfast. I am happy to inform you that after careful consideration, she has agreed to help set up an inaugural advanced placement class for the sixth year students and upon review of everyone’s school records, you have been selected as a participant- along with only six others."
"I can’t believe the ministry actually agreed." Luna was amazed that for once something was happening so easily.
"Well, technically, only Ms. Marchbanks and Arthur are aware of the situation. But by the end of today, they will have worked to make your request a reality. I am to inform you and ask the other five if they would like to participate. By dinner, you will be moved to the new dormitory with the seventh years and tomorrow morning you and the other sixth years wishing to participate will report to me for your classes." He smiled kindly at her.
"And you’re sure this isn’t going to be a burden or inconvenience to you?"
"The education of my students is never a burden. And being given the chance to once again have a more direct contact molding young minds, it is a challenge I welcome."
Behind his earnest smile, she could tell he was holding back. There was something, some other reason he had for doing all of this. But though his mind held no walls, it was so thickly fogged up in there that she’d need a map to get out again, were she to attempt to go searching for answers. Besides, she was too thrilled to be getting what she wanted to worry too much about alterior motives, especially since she doubted that whatever the Headmaster was hiding, it was hardly malicious in intent.
After making her aware of the remaining changes to her class schedule, she was excused and left to roam free until lunch. Dumbledore had suggested she gather all of her things and prepare them for the house elves to move for her. But she hadn’t unpacked a single item since arriving the day before, unable to bring herself to accept the permanence of her situation. Apparently she’d been right, now that everything was being fixed. The fear of being left behind by Harry and the others had been overwhelming and one of the major things affecting her altered thinking and behavior. As she exited the office, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. One giant weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Now all she had to worry about was whether she’d already pushed Harry so far that he was ready to give up.
Not wanting to admit so many things to herself, she’d already begun distancing herself from him… and the others… figuring it was only a matter of time until they all left her. Her confidence in her own vision had been wavering as she wondered whether it really was the best future for everyone, and especially for her. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized why she’d been saying, doing and feeling the things she had been lately… It was because she was tired of having to be vigilant in keeping the others on the path, of waiting for things to align the right way and of questioning herself and her motives. Of course, with Gabby’s last silent words to her still circling in her head, she knew that it also wasn’t as easy as all that.
Harry had never felt as grateful or pleased to meet anyone as he had with Gabby. And now, he’d never been more sad to see someone leave. They had said their good-byes after she’d been introduced to and charmed by Hagrid, forming a fast friendship between them. He only hoped the rest of the coven was as friendly and open as she was, but he doubted they’d be so lucky. After thanking her over and over for everything she’d done, Gabby and Hagrid had taken off as large drops of rain began sprinkling the ground. Harry walked back to the castle feeling melancholy, dragging his feet and not wanting to accept that he now had a whole semester to wait before he could go find the others.
Everything in him wanted to go find Luna, to force her to have that talk he felt they so desperately needed to have. He held himself back, knowing that he needed to do so when he was calmer, more in control of his emotions regarding whatever they were going through. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold out much longer; he was entirely uncomfortable having Luna remain so distant. If she didn’t come to him within the next few days, even just to at last scream at him and tell him what he’d done, then he’d have to force the issue. Today, he decided to let things be, to let them both adjust to being back at school before immersing themselves in problems left over from home. So he walked back to the castle, determined to find Hermione and enjoy the last free day before his life became consumed by his studies. That was, until he saw that Dumbledore was at the front door waiting for him.
"Why don’t we take a walk, Harry?" the Headmaster said. He had used his name familiarly as he was want to do in more intimate moments, but his tone wasn’t exactly friendly as he made it clear that he hadn’t made a suggestion.
"Okay." He agreed, knowing his day of reckoning had arrived. Now he would have to weave a tale about losing his power so convincing and with such believability that Dumbledore may only suspect it was untrue. But just as he opened his mouth to spin his yarn, he received a big surprise.
"I do not wish to know, Harry." Dumbledore said quietly.
"Excuse me?" He was unsure he heard correctly.
"I do not want to know how or why you lost your powers. At this moment it is inconsequential." He explained. "Obviously you and your friends have decided that you can all handle whatever problems you face without help, and in this instance, you were right."
Harry felt like this was somehow a trap. There was no way Dumbledore would make it so easy. "It’s not like we were doing anything bad." He defended himself against accusations that had yet to be put forth, but he couldn’t help it. While they may have been doing something they weren’t supposed to when Cho and Sarah had teamed up to take his power, they certainly weren’t doing something bad. In fact, going to Azkaban had garnered a lot of useful information for them as well as what they were able to share with the adults.
The old wizard brought them to the edge of the lake, raising his wand and shielding them from the rain as it grew heavier and more persistent. Then he turned to him with a heavy sigh. "Harry, none of you are ever doing bad things when you all get hurt or placed in peril. I would never think any of you capable of doing evil things, I recognize that you all proceed in your actions with the best of possible intentions. The problem is that your friends, and you especially, are doing dangerous things. You all seem to think that either we wouldn’t want to help or wouldn’t understand your reasoning. I don’t want to put you in the position to lie to me, Harry. Not ever again. So I won’t ask you to tell me what happened and will only be glad that this time, you were able to handle and survive the fallout of your decisions."
He hung his head, feeling slightly shamed. Of course he knew that this man had wanted to be there for him, and that he would always try. He’d saved Harry’s life, overtly and in secret, many times over and yet Harry had come to almost look at him as one more opponent in life. How had it come to this between them? Where had the trust gone and who was most responsible for breaking it? "So now what?" He asked aloud.
"Now, we begin again, from this point on. Your friends, the team you’ve put together for yourself, and the Order, my team- they must become one in the same. I ask that you never again lie to me, that you come to me or someone else in a better position to help you rather than continue to risk all your lives in order to prove you can do it alone. In return, I promise you that I will keep no secrets and I will answer your questions directly. I will not only acknowledge that there are things you can handle on your own, but that there are things I cannot help you with at all."
Harry was quiet for a while, watching as the pelting rain struck and slid down the invisible barrier between him and the elements. "I can agree to that." He finally answered.
"Very good." Dumbledore nodded.
Harry knew better than to think they were now equals. The older wizard had lived many more years, had been given much more time to practice, experience, and learn. Perhaps some sad day in the future, when he was as old and Dumbledore was gone… maybe then he could think himself equal to the great, if secretive, man beside him. But until then, Harry felt more comfortable now that he thought they could move past student and mentor to respected friends. They stood side by side for a long while, each contemplating the future as they stared through the rain and out over the choppy lake.
"So?" Draco asked as he rose to meet Ginny who was just leaving McGonagall’s office. He was glad she’d finally finished her meeting, having begun to feel very exposed waiting for her in the hallway. "What did she want?"
Ginny looked a bit shocked, but her smile was wide and excited. "I don’t know how it happened, but I guess Luna convinced them to create an accelerated program for sixth years. My grades qualified me, just barely, but I’m in. We’re going to be moving to the dorm with you guys by dinner."
"Really?" He was more surprised by his surprise than by the news. When would he learn that Dumbledore would do anything for a certain group of students? Them getting their way here, it was something he should be used to by now. And despite the fact that he was now a part of that elite group, he still didn’t feel comfortable.
"Guess that means I won’t have to sneak around in the night to see you. I think it takes away some of the excitement." She said, clearly teasing. They made their way outside, standing under the roof to avoid the rain.
"Well, I’m glad. I wasn’t too thrilled that you snuck out last night." He admitted.
"You seemed pretty thrilled to me." She said in a flirty manner, batting her eyelashes at him.
He smiled involuntarily. "You know I was happy to see you, it was what you had to do to get there that I had the problem with. I mean what if you had run into Tristan out there?"
She waved off his concern. "But I didn’t. He walked right by me."
Draco was taken aback. "You mean you saw him out there?" He felt an angry yet protective surge of emotion toward her. He hated that it was so close to the full moon, knowing it was harder not to give into the more instinctual and less civilized side of himself.
"Relax, either he didn’t know I was there or he didn’t care. It was just outside your common room, I wasn’t even sure it was him until Ron said something this morning."
She reached out and rubbed his shoulder affectionately, hoping to soothe the sudden tenseness gripping his body. "Why didn’t you tell me last night? Or everyone else this morning when we were all talking about it?" he asked carefully.
"Because it wasn’t a big deal and I didn’t want to make it one. I figured you’d get upset about it and it’s not worth it."
"I don’t want him here." He said through clenched teeth.
"Neither do the rest of us. But he’s just someone we have to put up with while we’re here." She shrugged helplessly.
Something in the matter-of-factness in her tone, the total acceptance she seemed to display over being forced to coexist with someone threatening to her, it struck a guilty chord deep within him. He brushed her hand from his shoulder and took a step away. "So it’s no different than when it was me you were all not wanting to be around. Just one more bad guy to take my place now that I’ve defected to the other side."
"Draco, of course it’s different." She tried to reach out to him but he stepped further away.
"Right, because this guy is actually dangerous instead of just playing at it." He made to move past her. "I’ll see you later, okay? I have to go meet Drake before dinner."
"Draco…" she called after him, but thankfully decided to let him go. There was no meeting set up with Drake until after classes the following day and he didn’t want her to follow him and find out he’d lied just to get away from her. He didn’t want to be near anyone at the moment, feeling he wasn’t in the right frame of mind and could say something he wouldn’t be able to take back. Instead, he wandered the grounds out in the rain, skipping dinner and the rest of the evening altogether.
It was just before lights out that he returned to the common room, noting that there was now an extra room in the Slytherin hallway. Figuring it belonged to some sixth year who had made it into the accelerated program, he ignored it and went directly into his own room. He’d half expected Ginny to be waiting there for him, having found some way in, but the room was mercifully empty. As he collapsed on his bed, he felt numb and lonely. He could hear faint sounds from the room next to his, Tristan’s room, and felt a sudden territorial response.
Without a second thought, he got up and made his way across the common room to the Gryffindor wing. He marched right up to Ginny’s door and knocked softly, not wanting her brother to know that he was out here trying to gain entry. She let him in and with a nod, the little episode that happened between them was put in the past. They lay together in her bed, ready to fall asleep together so that they could face the next day in the same manner. He sighed in false contentment. He had so wanted time alone, to not have to think of how different things were now. Instead, he’d come to protect what he felt was his, deciding it was better she was where he could always see her rather than leave it up to chance. He couldn’t wait for the full moon to come and go, hating that the instincts of the wolf in him seemed so much stronger as it was overtaking his own learned and desired behavior.
Harry had spent all night tossing and turning in his bed, though he was careful not to disturb Hermione who was sleeping peacefully next to him. It was last night’s announcement and the implications thereof that had kept him awake. He’d been shocked to be told that not only had a new sixth year program been started, but both Luna and Ginny had been accepted. Apparently imitating Hermione last year had been of some benefit to the youngest Weasley, not that she wasn’t intelligent in her own right. But it wasn’t Ginny’s admittance into the program that was bothering him. It was Luna’s. He was happier than he’d expected, knowing she would be able to leave with them at the end of the semester. At the same time, he was tense, knowing she was just a few rooms from him when she may as well have been countries away.
He sighed as the clock rolled around to the waking hour, feeling both restless and exhausted. Hermione stirred next to him, turning to him with a sleepy smile. "Happy last first day." She said as she stretched.
"We’ll see about the happy." He answered, feeling grumpy as he rose to find his school robes.
"Ugh, it’s still raining." Hermione buried her head under the pillow.
Until she’d said anything, he hadn’t even noticed the heavy rain pelting his small window. It had become white noise, almost comforting in a way. "Well, you can’t have sunshine everyday." He said as he dressed.
"Wake me when the world looks better." Was her muffled reply.
"Come on." He gently shook her before pulling her up. "You’re the one who’s supposed to be convincing me to go to class remember?"
She sat back down on the bed with a pout. "I was excited yesterday…"
He caught a thread of something she must have thrown out for him to see. Upon further reflection, he saw that it was because she was embarrassed to admit it. "Really, Mione? You’re that upset that you’re almost done with school?" He smiled at her, liking what he thought of as the absurd part of her personality. Of course maybe he thought that because he never took school all that seriously himself.
"I know it’s silly, but I like the idea of going to school each year; of having new books and classes and supplies. I’m just feeling a little melancholy now that this is the beginning of the end of our time at Hogwarts."
"You could always come back and teach someday when the world is normal, if you wind up missing it that much." He teased.
She hit him with her pillow before rising and moving to the door. "You’re so very helpful. I’ll meet you in the common room."
Ron had no idea why he felt so nervous. He hadn’t expected today to feel any different than any other first day of school. But after meeting up with Harry and Hermione and seeing how they were trying to hide their blatant nerves, he decided he felt more anxious now than he had his first year. Once Ginny, Luna and Draco entered the common room, they all made their way down to breakfast, making small talk to break the silence.
Though his stomach was rumbling, he found it hard to eat. Every bite felt like a lump of lead traveling through his body, and in his tense state everything tasted bland. He was so intent on forcing himself through his meal that the mail owls took him completely by surprise, nearly startling him out of his seat. As they delivered their parcels and flew off, he caught the disappointed look that crossed Hermione’s face.
And apparently so had Harry. "Were you expecting something?" he asked suspiciously.
"Not really." She answered looking down at her plate.
Before either boy could puzzle it out, Luna approached them holding a large rectangular envelope. "Look what I got." She pulled out an advanced copy of the Quibbler. Ron was delighted to see a rather unflattering picture of Lucius Malfoy on the cover with the headline, Muggle Hater Malfoy Actually Born of Muggle Parents.
"That is amazing." He reached for the magazine, flipping through it to the article as the others gathered around to read over his shoulder.
"Well Mr. Lovegood certainly didn’t hold back." Ginny said when they had all finished. "I hope this is going to be okay for him. And Draco." As one, they all turned to look at the Slytherin table where Malfoy was once again sitting by himself. Ron hated that he felt pity towards him, all he wanted was to hate the guy. Was that too much to ask for? Why did things have to keep happening to make him want to defend his former enemy?
"I’ll show him the article and talk to him about it between classes today." Harry offered, as they all knew Ginny wouldn’t have much time to see anyone but her classmates that day and she was the one normally expected to talk to Malfoy.
They were all surprised when Luna moodily grabbed up the magazine. "No, I’ll talk to him. You’ve done enough, getting both him and my father involved in this in the first place." She stalked back off to her own table, leaving the rest of them to stare questioningly at Harry.
"Whoa, what did you do to piss her off so badly?" Ron asked.
"I wish I knew." He replied glumly.
Ginny was excited and curious as she walked into Dumbledore’s office with Luna, and the other four kids who made it into the classes- Alvis Addy from Ravenclaw, Della Chandler from Hufflepuff, Troy Mason from Slytherin, and Colton James also a Gryffindor. None of them were kids she had associated with much beyond sharing some classes in the past and so she was unsure whether or not she was going to like being cooped up with this office for the next few months. For this reason, she stayed close to Luna. She’d never been of the shy sort, and shyness wasn’t the problem now. She realized she actually didn’t want to get close to anyone else, didn’t want to know them, talk to them, or trust them. She no longer found any interest in anyone beyond her own circle of friends and family, feeling she had enough people to worry for.
Dumbledore greeted them all warmly, gesturing them to take seats in the desks he’d provided for them. "Welcome, let me start by saying this is a new experience for me as well and so we shall learn how this class will work together." He regarded them with a confidently gracious smile. "I am glad you all have chosen to participate in the opportunity granted to you and we will hope as one that this little experiment in education will be a successful one."
Alvis raised his hand. "Sir, what is our schedule? How will our classes work so that we can learn everything we need in order to make it to next year?"
"Relax Mr. Addy. I assure you that I will not skimp on lessons. You will learn everything you need to know and hopefully much more. As to your schedule, I think that is something we shall also work out together. For now, why don’t you all pull out your wands and your transfiguration books. We can start there."
Ginny happily unpacked the necessary items, feeling completely at ease with her education placed securely in Dumbledore’s hands. She found herself thinking positively- that maybe this year wouldn’t be as bad as she’d thought it would be.
Hermione walked into Professor Binns classroom with the others and took a desk in the back, expecting Harry to share it with her. Instead, she saw him take in the pitiful image of Draco as he slumped into his own desk, looking horrified at the thought of who would sit beside him. Harry glanced at her and she gave her silent consent as he pushed Ron into the seat next to her and sat himself by Draco. It warmed her heart to see him thinking of others so much lately. Apparently everything he’d gone through had forced him to grow up and mature a bit and she was glad of it, hoping he’d start thinking more before acting. She knew when she’d hitched herself to his wagon that she’d always be scared, worried that he’d be injured or killed. Other than the few short months when he’d been trying to push them all away, Harry had always been himself with her, had never hidden any part of his character. She’d always thought it’d be that way- that she’d never be able to rest easy while they were together. But it had been something she’d thought she was prepared for, until lately when all the fear for him and herself had begun to eat away at her. Now she felt new hope that by learning from his experiences, he’d become more careful and considerate of his own life.
"Are you joking?" Millicent’s annoying voice interrupted Hermione’s pre-class musings. She came out of her reverie to see the other girl hovering over Draco’s desk looking incredulous. "I really thought this would turn out to be some weird sick joke, Draco. But here you are sitting next to Potter like you’re best friends! What are you thinking?"
He appeared almost uncomfortably shamed at first and then something like quiet fury seemed to bubble up within him. And then it was gone and he sat back in his chair looking extremely casual with the old Malfoy grin across his face. Hermione held her breath in anticipation, noting that Harry and Ron were also tensed up, waiting to see what would happen- as were the other students who had filed into the room. At last Draco responded. "It’s not a matter of what I’m thinking but how. And right now, I’m thinking for myself."
"Nicely said, Draco." Tristan said as he suavely entered the room. "It is always better to know the decisions you make for yourself are your own. Too bad you’re making the wrong ones."
"Says you. We’ll just have to wait and see on that." Draco replied, keeping his easy demeanor and devious grin. But his eyes now held a bit of horrified contempt.
"We certainly will." Tristan said, wearing a malicious smile. He turned and took a seat next to Millicent as Professor Binns floated into the classroom and took a seat behind his desk.
"Please open your books to chapter one." He started his class without notice of the dark atmosphere filling the room as his students glared at each other. With a sigh, Hermione opened her book, choosing to look at this encounter as a win. Neither Harry nor Draco had lost their temper and so at last it seemed cooler heads were prevailing.
A swift knock on the door interrupted Dumbledore’s rather amusing lesson. Luna had been thoroughly enjoying learning in such a small group and had been reflecting on what a good choice she’d made in going to Dumbledore for help. But almost a full five minutes before that knock came, she’d been overcome by the feeling that something bad was coming. She knew it was McGonagall at the door before the woman entered, asking to speak with the Headmaster in private.
As he excused himself, she looked to Ginny and signaled her distress. There was no holding back the vision that was coming and the last thing she wanted was to have it in front of so many witnesses. Ginny caught on and gratefully created a distraction, pulling out the pair of extendible ears she’d stolen from her brother and getting the easily moldable minds of their peers onto the idea of eavesdropping. Luna took the opportunity to duck under Dumbledore’s desk, laying herself down just as her sight blurred out. And then she waited to be shown the outcome of whatever bad news was being delivered to the Headmaster.
Harry was thrilled by the interruption of someone knocking on the door as Professor Binns had nearly put him and everyone else to sleep. Well everyone except for Hermione who was furiously taking notes on information he was sure she already knew. He grinned at the absurdity of her devotion to school. They all looked up expectantly, but Binns carried on as if he hadn’t heard the knock.
"Excuse me, Professor?" McGonagall opened the door and walked in, as used to Binns behavior as his students were. "I apologize for the interruption, but I must borrow Mr. Potter for a moment."
Binns simply nodded his consent before continuing on in his lesson and Harry had never felt so thankful to be pulled out of class. He followed McGonagall down the hallway but despite how much he asked, she refused to tell him anything, simply informing him that the Headmaster would tell him everything as she had to get back to her classes. She left him at the gargoyle, giving him a look of concern before hurrying off down the hallway.
He climbed the stairs and entered the office, finding Dumbledore behind his desk and Luna seated before him. "Please have a seat Harry, I’ve suspended my class until after lunch so that I may take care of a few things that have come up. I wanted to take a moment to inform you and Luna of what’s occurred. " He paused, looking uncomfortable with the information he had to give them. "I’m afraid we’ve received some news from home."
"About what?" He asked as he sank into the chair, his heart rising to his throat.
"About Sarah." Luna answered quietly while staring at the floor looking pained.
Dumbledore regarded her with a small, sad smile but Harry knew she must have had some kind of vision and at this point probably knew more than anyone else. "Is she awake?" He asked hesitantly.
"I’m afraid we don’t quite know. She’s missing." Dumbledore answered uncomfortably.
"What do you mean she’s missing?" He demanded.
"He means she’s been stolen." Luna said angrily. "Right out from under their noses."
"That’s not exactly what happened. According to initial reports, about fifteen minutes ago two young women attacked the prison ward of St. Mungo’s. One was throwing fire from her hands at anyone who tried to stop them as the other brandished her wand expertly, breaking through the charms placed around the room. In the confusion and out of control fire they started, they made away with Sarah, though according to a witness she appeared to still be unconscious." Dumbledore paused to look at him expectantly over the top of his glasses. "You know what happened, Harry."
"Yeah, Elise and Elanya broke in to get their friend. And if they find a way to wake her, there’s no telling the trouble and chaos the three of them could cause." He answered as an unanticipated shiver of dread went through him.
NOTE: Okay, we’re still moving along, and I again apologize for the snail’s pace at which posting are happening. It seems the world is against me getting this finished. Anyway, next chapter a little less drama and a little more action so stay tuned!
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