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Harry Potter and the Time of Second Chances by Neville James
Chapter 21 : Suspicious Switch
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 7


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A/N: Well, I promised and now I've delivered. This is the longest chapter yet and I think it will probably remain the longest. Unfortunately it got cut in half by the upload so now it's in two chaps. I hate to make you all wait, but hopefully this will hold you over until next Friday. I hope you enjoy it and please let me know what you think. Take care and enjoy, Kyle : D


Chapter 21: Suspicious Switch


Harry awoke early the following Tuesday morning, with hopes of getting to the library and studying time-travel for an hour or two before the start of lessons. The weak beams of grey light that shone through the dormitory window spilled onto Harry’s figure at odd angles while he dressed himself, and beckoned him to the window sill. Taking a quick glance outside, Harry was happy to see that there was easily a foot of snow glistening over the grounds and begging to be disturbed.

Harry tried not to think of all the times he, Ron and Hermione had taken half of their day to have snowball fights and such whenever a new snowfall arrived. Now he wondered if perhaps they were out in the snow in his time, having a great time and not even thinking about him. He sighed heavily and turned to quietly make his way to the library.

Harry found to his annoyance that at half past six in the morning, even Madam Pince had trouble making it to the library on time. After reaching the locked library doors, it was another ten minutes before she arrived to open shop for the day. He considered letting himself in with the alohomora as he had often done before, but quickly decided against it as he did not want to explain to an extremely irritable Pince why he was sitting in the library in the dark.

Harry now moved quietly around the shelves of the old library searching for any materials that might help him with time travel queries. He figured that if there was anything useful it would be in the restricted section and under the ever-watchful eyes of Irma Pince, this was a section in which he would not find himself any time soon.

Harry simply settled for a stack of texts on Potions, Metamorphmagi and Defense techniques before installing himself at a rather comfortable table in the farthest corner from the nosy librarian’s line of sight. By the end of two hours, Harry was no closer to finding a way home, however he could now probably cast a double hex, hopefully alter the pigment of his skin, and without a doubt brew the wolliwhipper wart potion and effectively rid himself of any large wart if need be.

As he returned the heavy volumes to their shelves so not to incur the wrath of the not so morning person Madam Pince, Harry laughed to himself. Never in a million years would he have guessed that of all his classes he would find Potions to be the most intriguing and then find that of them all he was more then able to receive Outstandings for his work. Perhaps, he joked, he would receive special commendation for his Potion work when the N.E.W.T’s were over. He laughed even harder when he entertained the thought of himself coming back to Hogwarts one day as the Potions Master. Professor Potter; that would be the day.

Harry reached the Great Hall for breakfast and found that as usual he was gawked at upon entry and the level of chatter immediately rose as he walked between the tables to take his seat across from Marc. Three days later and still all people wanted to talk about was his incredible catching of the snitch.

‘Harry, where were you this morning mate?’ Marc asked through a mouthful of oatmeal.

‘Went to the library to check things out,’ he answered and gave Marc a look to ensure that he understood what he meant. Marc nodded.

For the past two days, the pair had been taking turns checking the library for what they could find, but neither had come up with anything so far, only succeeding in frustrating them both further. For a while it hade appeared that Marc did not mind being stranded in the past, but now with the insistent harassment from a certain blonde Hufflepuff, Marc had reaffirmed his wish to get home at any cost.

The pair were soon joined by Lily and Gwendolyn and then of course the Marauders and then the Prewetts. Gideon had taken to ruffling Harry’s hair every time he saw him, telling him that he and James shared talent and looks, so they had might as well have the same hair style. Harry continued to flatten it best he could while telling Gideon that arrogance was not a look that suited him, and the entire table burst out laughing when James announced that arrogance looked good with anything.

Gwendolyn only stayed ten minutes or so, excusing herself early and telling her friends that she had an appointment. This would be the fifth day in a row that she had an appointment and Harry began to wonder what these appointments concerned.

As soon as breakfast ended, Marc excused himself and took off running to his first class, Sheena not twenty paces behind him. Both Prewetts found this amusing and told Harry that they would keep an eye on him in between classes before they left for advanced Transfiguration.

‘So are we going to Charms or not?’ Lily asked and all six of the remaining friends headed out of the hall toward professor Flitwick’s classroom.

*


The morning’s lessons were uneventful, both James and Sirius once again failing to knock their tiny charms teacher from his stack of books. History of magic had been even more dreadfully boring than usual and Harry promised himself that when he got home, he would definitely speak with Binns about possibly livening his lessons. Finally the end of lesson bell rang and Harry picked up his already packed rucksack to leave.

‘Harry?’ he heard from behind him and turned to find his mother. ‘Would you like to have lunch in the Astronomy tower today. I thought we could talk or something. I understand if you don’t want to.’

‘Absolutely,’ he replied immediately, more than happy to spend as much time talking one on one with his mother. ‘Shall we order in?’ he joked.

‘After a quick stop at the kitchens, where both students were more than adequately supplied with food and drink, the pair made their way up to the tower and took a seat at a table next to a window overlooking the grounds. It really was a much nicer environment to eat than in the Great Hall where it was nearly impossible to hear your own thoughts let alone carry on a conversation.

‘So, how are you feeling lately Harry? Is your shoulder still bothering you?’ Lily asked, concern clearly conveyed as she spoke.

‘Oh, it’s nothing,’ Harry said, his wound now barely hurting him anymore. Except of course when he moved it.

‘How about you? Are you alright?’ he asked, unsure of how to ask what he truly meant.

‘Of course. I wasn’t attacked remember?’ she said with a small smile and took a sip of juice. ‘I was simply worried for the four of you.’

‘The four of us?’ Harry asked with a grin. ‘So you admit you were worried about James?’ Lily’s eyes darted away from Harry’s and looked out the window as red began to creep up her neck. Harry tried to hide his smirk but it was far too difficult.

‘Well, I was worried about everyone, the same way I would worry about anyone in that situation,’ she replied quickly, impressing Harry with her almost convincing lie.

‘And you were not affected in the least by his last words before being ravaged?’ Lily gave him a warning look that wiped the smile from his face and had him quickly change the subject for fear of being cursed. ‘How about Gwen? Where’s she been going all week? She can’t have missed that many meals in a row for a professor. Besides I didn’t think she would need remedial lessons.’

Lily gave him a calculating glance before looking around and lowering her voice to a whisper. She leaned in closer just in case somebody heard her. ‘You have to promise me you won’t say anything to anyone Harry. Do you promise me?’ she whispered seriously.

‘Of course,’ Harry said, even more interested in this apparent secret.

‘She’s been meeting her boyfriend.’

Harry looked surprised and gave a small laugh. Was that all? Gwen had been skipping meals in order to visit with a boyfriend in secret. What was the point?

‘Why don’t they just wait for the Hogsmeade trip or have lunch together with all of us?’ Harry asked, completely bewildered by the pretty brown-haired girls actions. ‘I mean she doesn’t hesitate to say anything to anyone and she generally gets what she wants. It just seems odd to me that she would hide something like that.’

‘Oh no. She can’t. Gwen doesn’t usually care what others think about her, but if anyone found out she was dating a Slytherin, they’d think her a traitor.’

‘A Slytherin?’ Harry shouted in a far higher voice than Lily was accustomed to, making her jump.

‘Shhhh! I told you. You promised you wouldn’t say anything, so don’t you dare tell Sirius or James. Especially Sirius. He’s been after Gwen since third year, and he’d maul her himself if he knew she was dating Severus.’

Harry nearly fell out of his seat as she said this. Snape? How could Gwen be dating Severus Snape? Of all the people in the Hogwarts, he would be the last person Harry would have guessed Gwen would select. With her looks and personality, it was clear to most individuals at Hogwarts that she could have any male in the castle.

‘How long have they been seeing each other?’ Harry asked, wondering if perhaps this was the reason for Snape’s somewhat civil behaviour toward him recently.

‘Since Christmas break of fifth year,’ she answered with a smile and laughed at the surprised expression on Harry’s face.

‘But that’s nearly a year!’ Harry finally managed to say.

‘How astute Portus,’ Lily teased and started to eat some of the turkey on her plate. ‘So I’m certain you’ll understand her wish for secrecy when it comes to the Marauders at least.’

Harry shook his head and started to eat his meal as well. He laughed to himself as their meal continued, unable to believe the things he had learned in the past thus far.

*


The following days sped past, each student busying themselves with the preparation for end of term exams and then of course the Christmas holidays. There was little more than a week of term left now and Harry had yet to hear from the Headmaster when finally an owl flew in during breakfast and let a letter drop onto his lap. He hastily unrolled it, leaving several strips of bacon for the owl as payment for a job well done, and read the brief message on the yellowing parchment.
Harry,
Please meet me in my office after your morning lessons and please be sure to bring Mr. Evans with you as well. I
have some very good news for the both of you. The password is pumpkin pasties.
Albus Dumbledore


Harry rolled the parchment back up quickly and stuffed it into his robes pocket, looking up to find Marc watching him with interest. Harry nodded at him and Marc’s eyes lit up significantly, indicating that he understood what had been in the short letter. On their way out of the hall, Harry quickly explained that they were to meet outside the Headmaster’s office before going to the Great Hall, and then both parted ways to attend their morning lessons.

Harry tried his best to listen attentively during Charms and History of Magic, but found that he could barely keep his mind focused for more than a minute without it returning to the prospect of going home. Perhaps Dumbledore had found a potion or the correct spell, and now all they would have to do is help him research it. Harry figured that he might very well be home by the end of the week. That gave him just enough time to ask all the questions he wanted and to properly say goodbye to his parents and his new friends before he went home.

It seemed an eternity before Marc’s figure finally wandered down the corridor to meet him, and soon the pair was walking up the familiar spiralling staircase and into the ever-welcoming round office of Albus Dumbledore. The old wizard was, as usual, sitting behind his desk in a very comfortable looking armchair, his fingers interlocked and an odd smile on his face.

‘Take a seat please,’ he said in his regular calm voice. ‘I apologise for removing you from your meal but I felt it prudent to inform you of my discovery. I contacted two very wise wizards, and together we have found a way to create a time specific portkey that will allow you to return home. Thanks to Sorcerer Flamel and my very own brother Aberforth, you will be able to transport yourselves home, but it will have to be tonight. I assume you’re both ready to leave?’

Harry and Marc were both grinning, but those smiles faded slightly at hearing they would be leaving that night. They had both been counting on more time to say goodbye, but it appeared this would not be the case.

‘Yes sir,’ Harry said with a fake grin plastered on his face. ‘How and when do we get home?’

Dumbledore spent the next five minutes explaining to them that they would simply go out to the edge of the forest, where they would most likely be unseen, and tap the knot on the Whomping Willow with a stick to stop its branches moving. Then at precisely eleven o’clock they would be need to be touching the trees trunk so that it could act as the portkey.

‘You will arrive in my future self’s office moments later, and hopefully Misters Potter and Evans,’ he raised an eyebrow at them both, ‘not too much damage will have occurred. Do not worry about your friends either, as I have left myself a memo here,’ he said as he lifted a bit of parchment from his desk for them to see, ‘that will remind me to expect the pair of you in my office. This way no one will have worried too much about your disappearance.’ He smiled at them both.

‘Is that all then?’ Marc asked, sounding surprised by the simplicity of it all. Dumbledore chuckled.

‘Yes Mister Evans, that is all. I would like to take this chance to say my farewells, as I doubt we will get another uninterrupted moment. It has been a pleasure having the both of you at Hogwarts in this time, and I sincerely hope that you have both received some extent of insight as to why we do not play with time. I feel very fortunate that I have met you both this year, and even more fortunate to know that we shall see one another again.’

‘Thank you professor,’ Harry said with a smile. ‘I hope you know how grateful we are, but I’m afraid I must ask you to do something else for me.’

‘And what might that be Mister Potter?’ he asked, his eyes twinkling more brightly than ever and giving Harry the indication that he already knew what was about to be asked.

‘I would like your pensieve sir. And I must ask that you surrender your memories of our time here. Although I haven’t told you much, I fear it may be enough to change our future, and that is something I cannot risk. I promise I will return them to you as soon as we get home. That way they can’t do any harm.’ Dumbledore smiled.

‘Of course. I have already emptied it for your use,’ he said, before flicking his wand and having the heavy basin appear on his desk. ‘I will leave only enough in my memory so that in your parents’ sixth year, two students from Durmstrang by the names of Portus and Turner participated in an exchange that ended on the evening of the fifteenth of December.’

‘What of the other professors?’ Harry asked, knowing that Dumbledore would already have taken care of it.


‘Not a problem. Their memories have already been altered, though I would warn you to still keep your distance from professor Sharpbane,’ he said and then coughed. Harry was certain that he was covering a snicker.

Moments later, Harry and Marc had said their farewells to the kind Headmaster and were walking back carefully to their common room, a pensieve carried between them with swirling white memories sloshing back and forth.

They packed it securely in Harry’s trunk and placed an imperturbable charm on it to protect the loss of precious memories, before making their way down to the Great Hall for what remained of their break. They had barely been seated for five minutes when Dumbledore walked in from the antechamber behind the staff table and cleared his throat to make an announcement.

‘Two announcements for you all. I am sad to inform you that we will be losing two of our number this evening. Tonight marks the end of Misters Portus and Turner’s exchange programs and they will be returning to their homes for the holidays early.’

Chatter quickly travelled through the room, most of Gryffindor table now staring at Harry and Marc in shock at not having been told. Harry tried not to look at his parents or Remus, who was eyeing him knowingly. He noticed a hurt look on Lily’s face that told him she could not believe what she was hearing.

‘While they will both be missed, I offer my thanks for the time they chose to spend with us and ask you all to help me give them a proper farewell.’ He waved his wand at the ceiling and Harry watched as decorations appeared all around the room, making it feel like a surprise party. Everyone began to applaud and both Harry and Marc started to laugh.

The chatter died down eventually and everyone’s attention returned to the Headmaster for his second announcement.

‘Though we are losing two of our students, I am pleased to introduce to you our new Durmstrang arrivals, who will now be staying with us until the end of Christmas holidays. Please help me in inviting them to our school.’

The students all began to clap their hands together once more as a tall man with shortly trimmed hair and a curling beard on his chin walked into the Great Hall. Harry nearly fell off his bench, and Marc gave a small squeal of surprise. Igor Karkaroff walked into the hall closely followed by five students, every one of them bearing a look of superiority on their faces that clearly meant they would be sitting at a certain table. Once all six arrivals were standing at the front of the room, Dumbledore continued.

‘Professor Karkaroff will be assisting our Professor Sharpbane in Potions lessons to hopefully demonstrate what the Durmstrang courses offer, and each of these five students will be attending lessons with you for remainder of term. If you could kindly introduce yourselves?’ he asked politely before taking a seat.

There were three girls and two boys, all of them appearing to be sixth or seventh years. The first to speak was a tall red-haired girl with a pug-nose and steely grey eyes. She introduced herself as Percede Kringull and announced that she was clearly a pureblood before stalking off to sit at the Slytherin table. Several people began to speak with her as though they were old friends.

The next girl was a very short brown-haired girl with eyes so light they nearly looked white. She introduced herself as Trindel Murlave before also announcing her status as a pureblood and joining Percede at the Slytherin table.

As Harry’s eyes shifted to the next two people, he felt his hand dip into his robes and grip his wand. Both Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange introduced themselves before also joining their friends and leaving a solitary girl behind.

Harry was now seething in his seat as he stared coldly at the nearly black-haired girl in front of him. Her long curling hair flowed down past her shoulders and her heavy-lidded black eyes stared over at him icily before she smiled.

‘Bellatrix Black. A pleasure I’m sure,’ she sneered, before looking further up the Gryffindor table and smiling cruelly. ‘How nice to see you again cousin,’ she said in a mocking voice.

Harry looked up to watch as Sirius fixed a glare on her. ‘As always Bella,’ he nearly snarled.

Content with this reaction, Bellatrix smiled and walked over to take a seat, but surprisingly passed by the Slytherin table and sat down with the Ravenclaws. Harry watched as she hugged a tall blonde girl and he let out a gasp when he saw her face.

‘Malfoy,’ he hissed, instantly recognizing the face of his enemy’s mother.

‘Not quite,’ Sirius said, still glaring over at the girls who were now discussing something excitedly. ‘She’s not going to marry that sorry excuse for a wizard until the summer. Until then, she’s still a Black.’ He said this with more disgust than Harry would have imagined possible.

‘How did you know she was marrying Malfoy?’ James asked, obviously having put aside any anger at not being told about his friends’ departure.

‘One of the girls was talking about it in the library the other day,’ Marc said quickly and James nodded in understanding.

‘Those two make quite the pair don’t they?’ Harry said, eyeing the sisters coldly, knowing that at least one if not both, would become Death Eaters. ‘I’m sorry their parents ever reproduced,’ he added bitterly.

‘Whoa!’ Sirius said, ‘I might not like Bellatrix or Narcissa, but their sister is my absolute favorite cousin. I only wish Andromeda could have come instead of her. Unfortunately, she’s at Beauxbatons. Their parents decided they would do well to have a connection to all three schools, whatever that means. It would have been great to have Romy here in Narcissa’s place.’

Harry apologised quickly, and felt terrible for having inadvertently insulted Tonks’ mother.

For the rest of the meal, Harry was constantly asked by students why he had not told anyone of his departure, but found it difficult to concentrate on them as he was trying to keep an eye on the witch that would one day kill his Godfather. Now he knew who had been speaking to Voldemort in his last nightmare. Bellatrix had told him that she would be able to get something he wanted by the week’s end, and now she was at Hogwarts; it had to be her. But what could she possibly want with Hogwarts that Narcissa or one of the Slytherins could not attain?

Soon it was time to return to lessons and Harry felt uncomfortable leaving Bellatrix without a guard, but he had little choice as he was dragged along the corridors by James and Sirius.

Potions was almost bearable today as Harry knew it would be his last ever lesson with professor Sharpbane. Unfortunately, Karkaroff was now present and he was the one teaching the lesson while Sharpbane patrolled the aisles and criticized the students’ work. Harry also had the pleasure of having both Bellatrix Black and her friend Percede in the classroom, each of them partnered with a Slytherin and receiving near praise from both adults.

Harry worked quietly with Snape on the particular poison they were learning to brew, watching sadly as Karkaroff eyed the dark-haired boy curiously. Evidently he knew what the Dark Lord had in store for Snape, and now Harry wanted more than ever to warn him not to give in to whatever threat or offer Lucius made. Between not cursing Bellatrix and not warning Snape, his parents, or his Godfather about their futures, Harry was using every bit of self restraint he could muster.

At the end of lesson the bell rang and the students were promptly dismissed after they handed in their samples for grading. Harry handed theirs in and then waked back to where Snape was packing his things.

‘Severus?’ he said, and watched as the large-nosed boy looked up at him. He figured it would be the last time he ever called Snape by his first name. ‘I know you were embarrassed because of a chance you took for me. I just wanted to say thank-you before I left. You’re the best partner I’ve ever had in Potions and I thought you should know.’

Snape narrowed his eyes at him in a calculating way before he spoke. ‘I was far from impressed with the evaluation of our growth potion Portus, but as much as it pains me to admit it, you are the best partner I have ever had as well. Mind you, you’re the only partner I’ve ever had in this class.’

Harry smirked but then smiled genuinely when his future nemesis held out a hand to him. He shook it tightly and was unsurprised to find his hand to be very cold and dry. Before he let go he leaned forward slightly and wished him good luck with Gwen. The last thing he saw of the sixteen-year-old Severus Snape was the only shocked expression he had ever witnessed on his face.

*


By the time of Harry’s final lesson, he had said more goodbyes than he could remember in his own time. It appeared that many would be sad to see both him and Marc leaving, but he knew that it was the only way. On their way down to the Great Hall, Harry and Marc were suddenly grabbed by James and Sirius and dragged back toward the common room, the dark-haired boys telling them that they had to grab something before they could go to dinner. Harry and Marc exchanged suspicious glances before conceding and allowing themselves to be steered through the port hole.

As soon as they had entered, a roar of cheers and shouts of surprise were heard from almost every Gryffindor in the castle. Harry saw every student he had met from Gryffindor since he had arrived seated around two long tables in the middle of the room.

‘We thought we ought to do it right, mates’ Sirius said with a grin.

‘Not that they deserve it,’ James said jokingly. ‘I still can’t believe you didn’t tell us you were leaving. I thought you’d be staying until the end of seventh year. We could’ve had so much fun destroying the Slytherins!’

‘Won’t the Headmaster be wondering where all the students have got to?’ Marc asked the obvious question as he looked around the room.

‘He already knows,’ Remus said from a seat next to Lily at one of the tables. ‘McGonagall approved it so we don’t have to worry.’

As soon as he said this, the table filled with plates of the most delicious foods Hogwarts offered, and Harry smiled knowing that these were generally reserved for the Halloween and end of term feasts. He and Marc took their seats at the head of the tables and simply enjoyed themselves for next few hours, talking to their friends and sadly making promises to keep in touch, though they knew it would not be possible. This would be the last time they saw most of these people, so both boys made the best of the situation and enjoyed what time they were offered.

The spectacular party continued for several hours, no one wanting to leave the fun, but by ten o’clock Gideon, Remus and Lily were ushering the younger children off to bed. By half past ten, the few remaining students said their final goodbyes to the boys and made their way up to their dormitories as well.

Harry was now sitting in one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace with an armful of cards and letters, filled with addresses and messages that he knew he would never be able to respond to. He had never been one for goodbyes, mainly because he rarely had anyone to say it to, but today he had said it nearly a hundred times and it was starting to get to him. He would truly miss these people.

He would miss Gideon’s false authority and Fabian’s lame jokes about everything. He would miss Sirius’ happiness and Remus’s friendship. He knew that he would see Remus when he got home, but it would be different. Most of all, he would miss his parents. His relationship with James might not have been the best at the start, but now he felt so close to the boy that he was not sure how to say goodbye. Lily’s friendship was the one that he would remember above all others. She had been nothing but his friend since the first day he met her. Spending time with both of these teenagers had given Harry a second chance that he never thought he would get, and for that he was thankful.

Looking up, Harry found Remus watching him and he suddenly remembered what he had to do yet. ‘Could you help me with my trunk Remus?’ he asked and smiled appreciatively as the sandy-haired boy got to his feet.

‘We’ll help you with yours Marc,’ James and Sirius both said, getting to their feet as well. Peter remained seated.

As soon as they were in the dormitory, Harry locked the door, walked over to his four-poster, and crouched down to his trunk. He lifted the pensieve out and looked up at Remus, hoping that he would not mind giving up his memories.

‘If you could just add your memories of that night to the pensieve, I can give them back to you when I get home. That way time won’t change and you can still remember what happened here. Before you do though, I just want you to know I’m really glad that I got the chance to know you as a teenager Remus. Now I know for sure that we would have been friends if I were at school with you. I hope you don’t mind giving up the memories, and I promise I’ll be careful with them.’

‘Not a problem Harry, and thanks. I guess it’s better than the obliviate. See you in a while,’ he said with a smile and then proceeded to remove wispy silver strands from his mind and allowed them to join Dumbledore’s in the stone basin.

When he was done, Harry replaced the pensieve and sealed his trunk tightly before levitating it down to the common room where Marc was now saying his final goodbyes to James, Sirius, Gideon, Fabian, Sophie, Gwen, and Lily. Even Peter had stood up to say goodbye, and as Harry reached the bottom of the stairs, he held out a hand to the short boy.

‘Good luck Peter,’ he said in the most polite and quiet voice he could find. ‘Make good choices.’ The nervous looking boy looked up oddly at him but nodded all the same.

He said goodbye to the Prewetts and wished them luck in Auror training. He told Sophie to keep an eye out for Fabian or she might just end up marrying him. She smacked him on the arm before hugging him goodbye. When he hugged Gwen, he leaned in and whispered something into her ear that no one else could hear. The deep shade of red that crept onto her face and the glare she gave Lily alerted her as to what it was and made Harry laugh.

Next was Remus. He shook his hand firmly and told him to keep the other two in line while they were gone, getting a scoff from both James and Sirius.

‘I’ll see what I can do,’ he said to him, but rolled his eyes dramatically as a sign of the futile attempt.

As Harry shook hands with his Godfather, he considered whispering a warning into his ear. Nothing large but possibly something to warn him about the veil. It took all his will power but he managed to stay quiet. Next, he said goodbye to his father and was not sure what to say other than to keep at Quidditch and maybe one day he would be as good as him. James laughed and told him he would try.

‘Remember mates, you two are the only representatives of the Marauders at Durmstrang. Do us proud.’ Harry and Marc both saluted with grins.

Finally it was Lily’s turn and Harry was not sure of what to say. He did not have a funny comment or embarrassing moment to bring up and he could not find the words to say goodbye to his mother for the last time. He tried hard to think of something, but all that came to mind was that he would never speak to her again. As tears started to build up in his eyes he blinked a few times for control and found that Lily was chuckling.

‘Don’t you start Portus or I’ll turn into a fountain,’ she said, tears in her eyes now threatening to pour down her cheeks.

She leaned forward and gave him a tight hug, one that Harry would never forget. He closed his eyes for just a moment to etch into his memory the comforting feeling of his mother’s hugs. As she pulled away, Harry noticed a strange look he was getting from James and finally thought of something to say.

‘Oh, and promise you’ll do me a favor Lily,’ he said with a grin.

‘Anything,’ she said curiously.

‘Good. Go out with James already.’

Everyone in the room started to laugh and Harry could see the red creeping onto both of his parents faces as he bent down to grab the handle on his trunk.

‘How are you two getting back to Durmstrang?’ James asked then, trying to quickly change the subject.

Both boys had not thought of an excuse so they answered quickly at the same time.

‘Floo powder,’ Marc replied.

‘Hogwarts Express,’ Harry answered.

James and Sirius exchanged curious looks before turning back to the boys questioningly.

‘Marc’s going directly home, but I’m headed into London first. I’d like to see what the train ride is like. We don’t have anything like that at Durmstrang,’ he lied very hurriedly and hoped that everyone believed him.

Lily gave him an odd look but then shrugged her shoulder and gave him another quick hug before saying goodbye and heading up to her dormitory with Sophie and Gwen.

‘I didn’t know the Express travelled at night,’ James said curiously before also shrugging his shoulders. ‘Well, did you want a hand down to the station then Harry? I’m sure the professors wouldn’t mind if we escorted you.’

‘No, that’s alright,’ Harry said far too quickly and now got even stranger looks from the Marauders. ‘Well we’ve got to go, so goodbye again and thanks for everything, Take care of the Slytherins while we’re away,’ Harry called as he and Marc pulled their trunks through the porthole and finally closed the portrait.

One last goodbye to the Fat lady had them dragging their floating trunks down to the entrance hall and then out through the front doors and into the brisk night air. According to Marc’s watch, they had six minutes to get in place in front of the Whomping Willow. They hurried across the silent grounds and Harry was worried when it took them a while to find a stick long enough to reach the knot on the willow’s trunk. Finally they placed their trunks on the ground next to it and sat on them each with a hand on the tree.

‘Are you ready to go home Marc?’ Harry asked, wondering if his friend was having any second thoughts.

‘Absolutely,’ Marc said seriously, ‘but to tell you the truth, I think I’m going to miss Sheena a little bit.’

Harry and Marc both laughed out loud at this, Harry feeling tears in his eyes as he tried to keep his hand on the tree trunk.

‘Twenty seconds or so,’ Marc told him through his laughter and both boys prepared themselves for what would come next.

Unfortunately, they were still laughing too hard to notice three hands slip out from under an invisibility cloak on the other side of the tree and grab hold as the time ran out.



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