Chapter 5 : Year 1: September
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Hermione spotted Hagrid’s enormous figure towering over the students’ heads. He was standing by a train wagon a few yards further back than the one from which Hermione and Ginny had just stepped out. A giant lamp dangled from one of his massive hands, already attracting a group of newcomers who seemed to be more afraid of the dark than a man of Hagrid’s size. Hermione wanted to go over and say hello, but Ginny dragged her towards the carriages that would take the older students to the school grounds.
“Can you see them?”
Ginny nodded towards the carriages that waited for them by the end of the platform, and Hermione stretched her neck to be able to see over the top of the other students’ heads. She swallowed and nodded. For the first time, she could see the large, monsterlike creatures that had always pulled the carriages, but only could be seen by those who had witnessed death. This year she was one of them. Judging by the cries and shocked, frightened facial expressions of the other students, she wasn’t the only one who saw the thestrals for the first time. They were horrifying, but it was the realization of how many students had witnessed death last year that upset Hermione the most. She smiled encouragingly at a second year boy who gazed yearningly at Hagrid and the first years, who were busy climbing into the little boats that would take them across the lake. His lower lip trembled as he followed his friends over to one of the carriages, climbed into it and let out a shriek as it started moving. Hermione felt bad for him. Not because he had to ride with the thestral, because she knew it wouldn’t harm him, but because he seemed much too young to have seen someone die.
Luna Lovegood walked over to one of winged horse creatures and started stroking its muzzle. She then turned around and smiled dreamingly at the others. “Aren’t you coming?”
Neville, Ginny and Hermione followed her into the carriage and the thestrals set off towards the school. As they got closer to the castle, the students could see the flickering lights through all the windows, the high towers and pinnacles that would always look like something from a fairytale to Hermione, the plains stretching out into the darkness, and the mountains, dark and tall against the deep blue night sky. The Black Lake created another source of light, since each boat held, apart from a couple of nervous first years, a large lantern in its stern. The view was both magical and beautiful, especially compared to how it had looked the last time they were there. After a few days most of the destruction had been removed and fixed, but the castle was now completely restored to its former glory. It was a nostalgic feeling – it was like travelling back in time, being twelve years old and believing that the carriages pulled themselves, and then lifting your head to see the castle from that direction for the first time.
“Boys, it’s almost time!”
Mr Weasley was standing by the fireplace in the Burrow, holding the ceramic pot with floo powder in his hands. Ron and Harry, who were busy swallowing the last bites of their early breakfast, nodded and stood up. Harry began clearing the table, but Mrs Weasley immediately protested.
“I’ll take care of that, dear. The two of you better head off.”
Harrys shrugged, left the plates on the wooden table and walked over to Mr Weasley.
“Ron, why don’t you go first?” Mr Weasley said, holding out the pot towards his youngest son. “And then you, Harry. Wait for me there.”
Ron took a grain of the powder, threw it into the flames, which flared up and took a fiercely green colour. He crouched, stepped into the fireplace and said: “The Ministry of Magic!” whereupon the flames grew higher and devoured him. As soon as he had disappeared and the flames had retaken their normal colour, Harry followed his best mate.
The great entrance hall, whose sidewalls were covered by fireplaces, was as crowded as ever. Although most of the people who worked at the Ministry would have arrived a bit earlier, there were people everywhere. A constant flow of visitors walked through the large door across from the fireplace from which Harry just stepped out. He placed his feet on the polished stone floor, and in the corner of his eye he could see the many fires shift colour from red to green and back again. Ron was standing a few yards away, shaking hands with a very old, white-haired wizard.
“A true honour, sir!” the man was just saying, smiling reverently. “You must know how grateful I am for what you’ve done for the Wizarding World. If you’d only…” His glance wandered over to Harry, and he interrupted himself in the middle of the sentence, staring blindly at him. “Is it really…?”
“The one and only,” Ron answered with a grin.
The man took a few faltering steps towards Harry, bowed and reached out his hand.
“Mr Potter,” he said, “to get to meet you in real life… you’re a hero, you are! Yes, you’ve always been known as the boy who lived, but you’re so much more now, aren’t you? You’re the boy who defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!”
“I think it’s okay to say his name now, Nigel,” said Mr Weasley, who had arrived in the hall too, and was watching the scene that took place there with an amused look on his face.
“Arthur!” said the old man. “I have just had the honour of meeting Harry Potter and your son. Merlin, you must be proud… your son saved the entire world!”
“I sure am,” Mr Weasley said and winked at Ron. “Look, Nigel, we’d love to stay and chat, but we’ve got to get going. The boys are attending today’s trials and I’ve got work to do as well.”
“The trials, of course,” Nigel said and nodded. “I read in the Daily Prophet that they would start today. Make sure they get what they deserve, Mr Potter, Mr Weasley.”
He smiled ingeniously and trotted away, heading towards one of the counters next to the large door. Mr Weasley led Harry and Ron to the elevators. They travelled down to the dungeons where a thin, pale witch let them into the oval-shaped room where the trials would be held. Harry knew the room well – he had seen it in Dumbledore’s memories of the trials after the first war, and his diciplinary hearing after having performed underage magic had taken place there. Kingsley nodded at them from his seat among the jury members, and a tubby, hollow-eyed witch came to greet them.
“Mr Weasley, Mr Potter,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. My name is Theresa Thent, and I’m Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Do you understand your duties today?”
“We’re just witnesses, right?” Ron said. “So we’ll just answer your questions.”
“That’s about it,” Miss Thent said. “I’ll show you to your seats.”
A few moments later, Harry and Ron sat down in the front row, on the left side of the jury, wearing their plum-coloured robes, and Miss Thent, who had taken place at the rostrum. Next to them was Aberforth Dumbledore, who whisperingly told them how Wizengamot had begged on their knees for him to take his late brother’s role as Chief Warlock.
“I’ll tell you this much,” he said with an inscrutable smile. “They sure don’t care about that whole goat-story anymore. And I can still keep the Hog’s Head, so I decided to accept. How can I turn down the chance to help send Death Eaters to Azkaban, eh?”
Suddenly, everyone in the room fell silent and began staring at the large wooden door on the opposite wall. The only thing that could be heard was the sound of echoing steps coming from the other side of it. Harry almost fell off his chair when the door was burst open with a loud noise. Two men, whom he had never seen before, ushered the accused man to the chair that was placed in the middle of the room. During the trials after the first war he would have been chained to it, but this time he just sat down – no cage was lowered down to prevent his escape. The only precaution taken was the two guards, who took a few steps back and pointed their wands at the man, who reached up a shaky hand to brush his blond hair from his face as he sat down.
“Lucius Malfoy,” Miss Thent said, not letting a second go to waste. “You stand before Wizengamot as a result of your joining Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters during these last couple of years. You are accused of torture of Muggles and Muggle-borns, and for using the Imperius curse on employees of the Ministry.”
Lucius Malfoy lifted his head. For a few moments, he met Miss Thent’s eyes. He then turned to stare at the boy who had killed his master. Harry didn’t look away. He couldn’t help but notice the desperation in Malfoy’s face – he was a beaten, defeated man who looked like he had nothing left to lose.
“How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”
“He… he forced… the Dark Lord can be very… persuasive.”
“And yet,” Miss Thent replied, “he tried to persuade a whole bunch of us sitting in here, but you’re the only one with the Dark Mark on your wrist.”
“I beg you to have mercy,” Lucius said, making a movement that made the guards stiffen and aim their wands at him. “My family… he would have killed them!”
“There were help to get for those who wanted to get out,” Aberforth Dumbledore said. “My own brother offered that help to Severus Snape, and he took it.”
“Severus doesn’t have a son!” said Lucius. “Or a wife!”
“Didn’t Severus Snape murder your brother?” asked one of the witches in the jury.
“That was staged,” Harry explained. “Snape really was on our side.”
“You have to understand, I have a child! I wanted to protect him!”
Miss Thent couldn’t stop herself from snorting. “Then tell me this, Mr Malfoy: do you think you succeeded in protecting him? Allowing your own son to become a Death Eater? Perhaps you missed him this morning, but I think he was in the cell next to yours in Azkaban!”
“I had no choice!”
“There is always a choice.” Harry was startled when Ron stood up next to him and started speaking. “My parents had to make that same choice. The difference between them and you is that they are good, loving, moral people and you’re nothing but a coward!”
“The difference between them and me is that their son died!”
Lucius spat out the words, and Ron, blinded by fury, pulled out his wand and aimed it at him.
“Mr Weasley!” Miss Thent looked upset. “Put that away and sit back down!”
“… so the whole thing ended with Lucius returning to Azkaban, and Draco and his mother was cleared of all charges,” Harry summed it up later that night, while sitting in front of the burning fire in the living room with Ron, Mr and Mrs Weasley, and Bill.
“How come they were released?” Bill asked. “I wouldn’t exactly have mourned over seeing them get locked up as well.”
“It feels weird to defend him after spending so many years hating him,” Ron said. “But Draco… I think he was just influenced by his dad. I don’t think he wanted any of it, to be honest.”
“Besides, both Draco and his mother lied for me,” Harry pointed out. “When we were at Malfoy Manor and Hermione had hexed me so they wouldn’t recognize me. I could tell that he did. But he lied to his father, telling him he couldn’t be sure it was me. And in the Forbidden Forest, when Voldemort thought he had killed me, Mrs Malfoy lied to him and said I was dead. She probably saved my life that night.”
“Well, are you attending the trials tomorrow too?” Mrs Weasley asked. “Because if you are I will have to mend that rip in your robes, Ron, it’s not appropriate to go dressed like that…”
“No, Mum,” Ron said. “We start our training tomorrow, remember? We don’t have to dress up for that!”
He smiled eagerly at Harry. They had both looked forward to tomorrow for months, and didn’t quite know what to expect. Kingsley had told them it would probably be like being back in school, but they were excited nonetheless.
“By the way, have you heard from Ginny and Hermione?” Mr Weasley asked.
“Yes,” Harry said. “They’re fine. School is tough… and I think it’s tonight that Ginny will hold Quidditch try-outs.”
“Hermione’s studying,” was the only thing Ron had to say, which made both Harry and Bill snort with laughter.
The large floor clock, which stood next to the lounge site in which they were sitting, began striking. Bill turned his head to look at it and rose to his feet.
“I have to head homewards,” he said. “Fleur is waiting for me.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to bring some pudding home?” Mrs Weasley asked for what must have been the seventh time that night. “She does eat for two now!”
“Oh, she’s eating, alright,” Bill said with emphasis while raising his eyebrows. “In fact, that’s all she does. When she’s not vomiting, that is. But no thank you, Mum, she’s probably got dinner ready by now anyway.”
And that being said, he raised his wand and disapparated.
Ginny was standing on the ground, looking up at the players dressed in red circling around on their broomstick above her head. It was drizzling, and because her head was bent backwards, the small raindrops hit her face. She glanced over at Andrew Kirke and Jack Sloper, the beaters who had replaced Fred and George when Umbridge had kicked them off the team during Ginny’s fourth year. The two boys were busy passing one of the Bludgers to each other. Ginny felt a sting of sadness inside when she thought of Fred – he was the one who had taught her to play Quidditch once. The memory made her vision blurry as her eyes filled with tears. She shook her head – this wasn’t the time for grief – while one of the players dressed in red landed on the grass next to her.
“So, what do you think of… are you okay?”
It was Demelza Robins, who had been on the team with Ginny two years earlier, before Snape became headmaster and abolished the Quidditch tournament.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Ginny said, clearing her throat. “What do you think of the beaters? Kirke and Sloper or Kirke and Jimmy Peakes?”
“So you’re sure about Andrew Kirke, then?” Demelza said with an enigmatic smile. “Good. I won’t mind being teammates with him…”
A dreamy expression took over her face, and Ginny laughed. Choosing not to comment the longing glances Demelza shot at Andrew, who had started aiming the Bludger at his rivals instead, she said:
“That blond keeper is pretty good, right?”
“Yes,” Demelza admitted. “But don’t you know who she is?”
Ginny squinted, trying to see the girl’s face clearly. It was definitely familiar, but only because they had been in the same house for the last couple of years. They had never talked to each other. Ginny was pretty sure the girl was in the same year as Dennis Creevey though, which would make this her fifth school year.
“That’s Caroline McLaggen!” Demelza whispered and rolled her eyes.
I took a few seconds for Ginny to react with a dejected sigh.
“And she’s related to Cormac, I presume?”
“His little sister,” Demelza confirmed while crossing her arms over her chest.
Ginny turned her eyes to the players again and just caught Caroline make un unbelievable save and smoothly avoid the Bludger that Jack Sloper accidentally shot at her, all in one movement. She was good. But Ginny couldn’t stand her brother, and for all she knew, Caroline could be just as bad. Just the memory of Cormac accusing Ginny of cheating during Ron’s try-outs two years earlier made her blood boil. Not to mention the game in which he had had to stand in for Ron and ended up beating Harry unconscious with a Bludger – which we wasn’t supposed to touch to start with – and making Gryffindor lose the game. If there was anyone Ginny didn’t want on her team, it was another McLaggen.
“Well, I don’t envy you,” Demelza said, straddling her broomstick to join the others in the air again. “Having to pick out the team, I mean… I’m glad I don’t have to do it!”
She nodded, as if to stress her point, and then left Ginny alone on the ground. Ginny watched her as she joined the other chasers, who were passing the Quaffle around behind the goal posts.
“Is it too late to try out for the team?”
The voice made Ginny jump. She span around and found herself eye to eye with Dean Thomas, her ex-boyfriend. She had managed to avoid him over the last couple of weeks, ever since she saw him pass the compartment she had shared with Hermione, Neville and Luna on the Hogwarts Express. “Of course he’s back,” Hermione had said. “He couldn’t finish school last year. He was on the run because his mum is a Muggle.”
Dean was clearing his throat, waiting awkwardly for Ginny’s response. She felt her cheeks burn. The situation was extremely uncomfortable – she didn’t know how to talk to him anymore.
Dean looked as abashed as she felt. “How’s… how’s Harry doing?”
“Oh,” Ginny said. “He’s doing great. He’s actually starting auror training tomorrow. Him and Ron both.”
“Okay.” Dean nodded and then continued: “So… am I too late or what?”
“Oh no, not… not at all,” Ginny said. “Please tell me you’re trying out for the position as seeker? We’ve only got two third years, and they’re hopeless!”
“Yes,” Dean said. “I mean, I like being a chaser too, but we’ve already got three of those, right?”
“Right,” Ginny said. “Brilliant. Why don’t you… get started? And while you’re up there, will you tell Jack Sloper to give his bat away? I don’t want him killing my entire team before the season has even started.”
A/N: Thank you so much to those of you who have reviewed this story so far! I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me know what you thought about this chapter. I will update again soon :)
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