You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


Ravenclaw's Diadem by Hermaine

Format: Novel
Chapters: 9
Word Count: 66,953
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Young Adult
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Ginny, Luna, Neville, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Ron/Hermione

First Published: 03/29/2019
Last Chapter: 08/18/2019
Last Updated: 08/18/2019

Summary:

Three months after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry in the late evening is enjoying the memories of the happiest birthday in his life, until while drifting into sleep he sees a dream which says to him that Voldemort is still alive and is planning to rise even more powerful than ever. Doubts about whether Voldemort is truly defeated take the trio of the friends along with Ginny back to Hogwarts where they will seek for the truth. Is the history truly going to repeat itself or was it only a simple nasty nightmare?



Chapter 1: Unhappy Birthday
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Author's Note: 

 

Of course, the fantastic world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K.Rowling.

 

This story is dedicated to everyone who had a feeling that the story of Harry Potter ended a teeny-tiny bit too fast.

 

And since English is not my native language, please be harsh with my spelling and grammar. Cheers!

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Oh, what a birthday, thought Harry, lying down on the bed and still seeing visions from the party of his eighteenth birthday, which seemed to want to repeat again and again in his mind, until his smile will be spread wide from ear to ear.

 

In the Burrow, through the window of the small bedroom on the fifth floor streamed in the fragrant summer air, fully saturated with the dizzy aroma of night flowers tended by Mrs. Weasley. The evening was particularly nice, the last rays of the sun disappearing behind the horizon and the moonlight beginning to glow over the Burrow, which were especially friendly with him today, giving him the truest and the most wonderful birthday in his life. When Harry thought about it – even more wonderful birthday could only be his eleventh one when he did learn he is a wizard.

 

Anyway, all the events of today were still fresh in his mind; how Ron and Hermione, and especially Ginny, together with other guests sang to him “Happy Birthday”, while Mrs. Weasley was floating to the dinner table an enormous multistory whipped cream and sponge cake mountain decorated with summer berries, which only for the sake of clarity could be called a birthday cake. Obviously, Mrs. Weasley had overcome herself by preparing a birthday meal to feed all the guests, along with all Weasley children and Hermione Neville and Luna were also invited. And there of course was also invited Harry’s little godson with his grandmother.

 

Oh boy – and the birthday presents! Harry raised his gaze, looking over at the stack of gifts piling on the table. Ron had given him a new Sneakoscope: “Let’s hope that we will never hear this thing whistling again.” He got a new wristwatch from Ginny. “And just try me to be late on the dates!” she jokingly had warned the birthday boy. From Neville after his grandmother’s advice Harry received a Raylight – a special lantern which lit with light charm could illuminate even the deepest corners of the darkest room – so to speak, evil never sleeps, and who knows when a ray of light could come in handy. In the Teddy’s stroller Harry found his godson’s – or rather his grandmother’s Andromeda’s – gift of plump dragon skin gloves, then from Bill and Fleur he had a book of Magical Protection. “If you are seriously thinking going through the Auror training courses, then this one could be quite handy to you,” Ginny’s elder brother had said, smiling. Even Charlie had arrived and brought him three chocolate dragon eggs. “A Romanian product, these are very popular among locals – if you are lucky, a miniature dragon could hatch from the egg which, according to local stories will raise your financial status,” such was a behest from dragon friend Charlie, whose gift far outweighed the heavy pack of Chocolate Frogs from Percy. George – what a surprise – gave him a whole box with Weasley Wizard Wheezes stuff, and Arthur and Molly had gifted him new eyeglasses, made in Germany. Mr. Weasley had explained to him: “For the first time when you will put on your new glasses, say Anfang, then you will be able to adjust the sharpness of your vision, and when you find it well-adjusted say Fertig.” Luna perhaps gave him the most incomprehensible and meaningless gift – something similar to Muggle dream catcher, but with something like ear trumpets. As Luna explained this thing may be able to detect Nargles, so it’s an immensely useful thing. Whatever it was, Harry had hanged it over the head of his bed, on the recommendation of his friend. Tonight, his sleep wouldn’t be disturbed nor by Nargles, neither Blibbering Humdingers nor any other fiddle-faddle. To his surprise even more absurd than Luna’s gift was given him by Hermione – it was an ordinary blank diary. “Harry, memories are valuable beyond measure, so I wish for you to never forget anything you went through because your life experience is what makes you such a great person and friend.”

 

Her wish was absolutely beautiful and he could almost agree to it, unless the survived pain in the last year wouldn’t be so great – so many good and dear people were killed – Fred, Tonks and Remus also should be here today. Many other families also had mourned their relatives who had fallen into the battle. But the dead have been resting in peace under the ground for a few months now, received the tears of their loved ones, and Harry was comforting himself with the idea that their death was not in vain. These heroic people died to put an end to Voldemort’s terror, so the rest of the world could finally live in peace and safety, therefore Harry let himself to enjoy his happy birthday because Voldemort has been defeated and it was time to build a new world of happiness and harmony.

 

And what could go wrong? I hope that the worst in my life I have already endured, Harry thought drifting into the peaceful world of dreams in which he still played Quidditch in the backyard of the Weasley family house. Neville, Hermione, Fleur and Percy were sitting at the table with the elderly guests, but Luna had wanted try to play with them, so Ron had gone to the barn to bring one of the old broomsticks and helped her to climb on it. Harry in his dreams saw again how their game went – this time he caught the apple thrown by Ron, but after a moment when the game had become much faster George unintentionally hit Luna in the forehead with another apple, and she had to sit down on the bench. Luckily she wasn’t seriously hurt – it was just a bump. “There’s such a saying that there’s no party without punch,” Luna said, smiling at Harry and then with a flick of her wand she cast a cooling charm on her forehead. Weasley brothers continued to play the Quidditch game with Harry and Ginny until they were exhausted. But they weren’t tired enough for some more jokes. As usual, the biggest prankster was George who caught some gnomes and conjured on their head glowing caps and let them run through the garden as huge garden lamps. “Gerroff me, gerroff me!” they were calling, trying to get off from themselves the shiny, hostile thing, while Harry and others were still laughing, holding their bellies as George charmed yet another gnome. However the most interest in the glowing gnome heads showed Crookshanks. Harry saw in his dreams how the Hermione’s red cat is stealing after one of the shining dwarf heads, slowly, easy, step by step tail plucked to the ground, then – hop – the cat jumped to the gnome, but suddenly the cat landed not in the Weasley garden, but rather in a dark basement, moreover, it seemed that after the blink of an eye the cat itself was disappeared into thin air.

 

The feeling of the dream suddenly shifted from the fragrant, sultry evening to something completely different – it changed to a cold, dull, all-forgotten cellar, which induced unpleasant chills along his spine, as if it was more than just a dream, as if there was something more than just darkness. Then out of nowhere spoke a voice, it seemed so inconceivable, as if it wasn’t a real voice but only a plain uncertain thought.

 

“I am suffocating in this dark dungeon, but with you my friend I will once again reach my greatness – maybe I will become greater than ever, and this time no one will stop me, not even the famous Potter. I’m still alive. And everyone will be so wrong who could have imagined that one green sprout could defeat me – me, Lord Voldemort! Hahaha!”

 

When shrilled the dark and icy laughter, Harry sat up in his bed, his body trembling all over and he shot his hand to his forehead. Wet with cold sweat, he looked around, but in the fragrant, bright night there was nothing more than the moon, the silence, and some more glowing gnomes. Only the old scar was lightly throbbing as foretelling something ominous.



Chapter 2: Found and Lost
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

In the next morning Harry woke up with swollen eyes – he had been shifting from one side to another in the bed long in the night without being able to forget the incredibly vivid dream.

 

I have to tell this to Ron and Hermione. I’m very curious – what they are going to say about that? Harry thought still lying in bed with open eyes. The sun had already climbed a bit in the sky, but in the Burrow it was still quiet, even Mrs. Weasley hadn’t come down to the kitchen to cook the breakfast. But it had to be only a dream because in the forest Voldemort destroyed the connection between me and himself; what I saw was not real. But what if it somehow was real? Then what? But how could it be possible?

 

Getting dizzy from intrusive thoughts, he got up and grabbed the same t-shirt from yesterday and put it on himself. In front of his shirt there was a dirty spot where yesterday while playing Quidditch Charlie had hit him with an apple, but that didn’t matter to Harry at the moment. He took the new glasses given by Arthur and Molly from the nightstand and put them on. Then he paused for a moment. He looked at his mokeskin pouch, which had proved to be very useful to him during all the previous year, still holding the Marauders map, the shard of his godfather’s mirror, and two of the destroyed Horcruxes – the relics of Slytherin and Hufflepuff.

 

After the battle for the first week he had even slept with that pouch, otherwise he simply couldn’t fall asleep after all of those dreadful duels and worries, but for the last month he hadn’t even looked at it. The old anxiety was back again this morning, so Harry chose to grab his pouch from the nightstand and putting it around his neck somehow made him feel relaxed. Then he passed the stack of gifts piling on the table and opened the door of the Ron’s old room. When they had returned to the Burrow after the Battle of Hogwarts Mrs. Weasley had wanted him to occupy the Percy’s room, but Harry had refused her offer. Although he felt here like at home, he still wanted to be as far away as possible from all the Weasleys, and here, in the attic room at the top of the house, where silence was only disturbed by the old ghoul of the house, he felt the most comfortable. So the Percy’s old room had been given to Hermione.

 

Harry silently tiptoed down one floor lower past the bedroom of Arthur and Molly; it seemed to him there sounded some kind of shuffling in there. The wristwatch was left in the pile of gifts, but on Saturdays Mrs. Weasley usually started her morning routine at eight o’clock.

 

And even if it wasn’t a dream, how could Voldemort be alive? another persistent thought disturbed Harry while he slowly, quietly climbed down the stairs. Didn’t we all see how he collapsed? Kingsley then had picked up his corpse to bury it in Azkaban next to the graves of other wizard criminals. But passing by the bedroom of Bill and Fleur, where they had both stayed overnight after the Harry’s birthday, he heard in his mind a taunting voice – the one which never holds its condemnation when you have failed at something: And what do you know about his soul, hm? What if it has survived somehow? Has anyone made sure of that? Dumbledore always said that you have reached unexplored shores of magic.

 

Having reached the second floor on which was the former room of Fred and George now housed by Ron, Harry quietly knocked on the door. Behind the door there was only silence – it was no wonder because if there was such an opportunity, Ron liked to snore until late in the morning. He carefully opened the door and saw the figure of his friend beneath the blankets on the bed. When he got closer to him, he looked over his friend’s sleepy face and ruffled red hair.

 

“Ron,” Harry tried to awaken his friend, lightly pricking him with his fingers. “Ron,” he called again, now shaking him a bit. Ron mumbled something under his breath, still being sleepy. “Ron!”

 

“What is it?” the redhead asked with narrow eyes. “Harry? What are you doing here?” Rising on the elbow, he lifted his eyes to a window where the sun stood just slightly above the treetops. “Why are you here so early in the morning?”

 

“I couldn’t sleep, you see, I saw a dream,” Harry said awkwardly. Now it seemed to him that he was acting rather silly – after all it was just a dream. The scar hadn’t really hurt, so it hardly was an actual vision of real life.

 

“What kind of dream?” asked his sleepy friend as he sat up in his bed and rubbed his drowsy eyes with his fingertips.

 

“You know, I was drifting into sleep yesterday thinking back about the party how we were playing Quidditch and then how George was chasing gnomes through the garden,” Harry began.

 

“And – so what?” Ron asked, still not being able to comprehend why exactly his friend seemed so worried as if he had seen a ghost.

 

“But then the dream suddenly changed. I saw something like a dungeon, and there was Voldemort. No, he wasn’t actually there, but he somehow was planning in there how to resurrect himself once again.” He restrained himself to not to start pace around the Ron’s room.

 

At the mention of Voldemort’s name Ron apparently winced. He still dreaded to call his full name. “You saw You-Know-Who? And what was with your scar? Did it hurt?” he asked as he raised his anxious gaze to his friend’s face.

 

“No, it didn’t hurt, maybe for a short moment, but there was nothing more,” Harry said, looking at his friend. “But I couldn’t sleep at night. That dream seemed so vivid as if it would be a real one.”

 

Ron smirked, thinking about something. “You had to put that Luna’s dream catcher thing by your headboard then maybe such nightmares wouldn’t show to you.”

 

“That’s exactly what I did before I went to bed,” Harry replied, also slightly smirking.

 

“No use for such a thing. Completely senseless,” Ron concluded.

 

“Yeah, right. But I still have such a bad feeling. I wonder, is Hermione awake now?” Harry asked as he heard someone climbing down the stairs. He could imagine Mrs. Weasley is going to cook the usual Weasley breakfast.

 

“Let’s go and look,” Ron said and, getting out of bed, quickly put on his pants and shirt, and then both young men opened the door and walked over the small staircase landing to the former room of Percy. Ron knocked at the door twice and without waiting for the answer opened the door, but they were surprised by the high squeal of Hermione.

 

“Ron!” she cried angrily, turning around to face him, squeezing her summer shirt over her chest as the white lingerie strapping flashed in front of both her male friends. Harry immediately turned away, but Ron stood there with wide eyes. “Will you let me finish dressing up or not?” she asked testily.

 

“Oh, yeah, yeah, of course,” Ron stuttered getting a little bit red in the face and closed the door. A moment later Hermione called them both in her room as soon as she had made her bed.

 

“What’s the matter when both of you without saying even so much as good morning are crushing straight into my room?” Hermione asked, partly to scold them, partly being intrigued, combing her thick brown hair.

 

“Harry saw a bad dream,” Ron answered without hesitation, taking a seat on Hermione’s bed. She gave Harry an odd look.

 

“It wasn’t just a simple bad dream,” Harry explained grumpily – he wasn’t a little child who starts to cry when he sees a bad dream, “but yesterday before drifting into sleep I saw a nightmare where Voldemort is still alive and is planning to resurrect himself once again.” Harry didn’t bother anymore to hide his anxiety. “He was more like just a voice, like just a thought, and he said that he’ll rise once more and he’ll be more powerful than ever.”

 

Harry stared at Ron’s alarmed face and Hermione’s shocked figure – they looked just like he felt: frightened and desperately hoping that it was just a nasty nightmare.

 

“Harry, but it was just a dream, wasn’t it?” Hermione spoke first after a short moment of silence, putting her hairbrush on her nightstand.

 

“I saw it like any other dreams, but it seemed awfully vivid, as if I myself would be in the darkness and could hear someone else’s thoughts, and when I woke up my scar was itching. It wasn’t such a severe pain as before when I could see in Voldemort’s mind, but that feeling was rather unpleasant and longed for a moment,” Harry explained, still standing on his feet. He felt too restless to be able to sit idly on the bed.

 

“Maybe this pain was something similar to afterpain? Andromeda told us yesterday that Tonks has felt such pain after giving birth. The fight with Voldemort was definitely a traumatic event, so it’s only normal for you to see nightmares at night and perhaps feel a phantom pain in your scar,” Hermione offered an explanation. However, Harry just had a feeling that this dream was somehow different – more vivid, more realistic. Of course, the first weeks after the battle he had seen wicked and creepy nightmares almost every night where he saw Fred with blank, unseeing eyes, slowly shuffling his feet toward him, then Remus and Tonks glanced at little Teddy behind the white veil, then Colin pale as death was chasing him flashing his camera. But he had never seen Voldemort among all the other dead before – at least not alive and promising to resurrect himself. If he had seen Voldemort in his nightmares then only as a pale corpse with red eyes floating down the stream in the black water of an underground lake…

 

Ron also had recovered his ability to speak: “But what if it was a real dream – if it was a vision?”

 

“Ron, it can’t be a vision because Voldemort is destroyed. We made sure that he is gone and no one can return from the dead,” Hermione opposed.

 

“What if he has returned as a ghost?” Ron asked.

 

“His soul has been broken in eight pieces, how do you imagine such a ghost?” Hermione asked, being a little bit angry with Ron. They had already discussed this many times before.

 

“But…” Harry began. They had destroyed Voldemort, all the Horcruxes were found and eliminated, he had even seen one of the shreds of the soul of the darkest wizard in the world – there was no doubt that he had no chance of returning to this world as a ghost or in any other form. “But what if…” Harry said now more urgently.

 

“Harry, what exactly do you want to say?” Hermione said, encouraging him with a smile.

 

“But what if we didn’t destroy him?” Harry pointed out, remembering intrusive thoughts from earlier in this morning.

 

“Harry, that’s impossible,” Hermione said.

 

“Yeah, Harry, we did our job at our wits’ end to destroy him and now you had a bad dream and are telling us that all of our last year’s work is not worth a damn?” Ron asked rather sarcastically.

 

“But think about it! We did defeat him, we took away his power, that’s for certain, but can we be absolutely and definitely sure that Voldemort is really destroyed?” Harry argued.

 

“Well,” Hermione began, “that’s an easy question. We know that Voldemort purposefully created six Horcruxes, and another shred of his soul lived into you, correct?”

 

“That’s correct,” both young men confirmed in unison.

 

“That part of the Voldemort’s soul which lived in your head you destroyed by willingly going into your death,” Hermione continued her explanation.

 

“Exactly. I even saw how that monstrous piece of a soul looked like,” Harry added wincing.

 

“Well, and Voldemort killed himself with the backfired Killing curse which he wanted to cast at you,” Hermione said, pointing to Harry. He nodded approvingly.

 

“And during the last year we destroyed all the remaining Horcruxes. The very first – the Riddle’s diary – you destroyed in our second school year, Harry,” Hermione said.

 

“Yes, there was left only wet pages with a large hole in the middle of the diary,” Harry confirmed.

 

“Dumbledore destroyed the Horcrux that was in the Resurrection Stone,” Hermione continued to name the Horcruxes.

 

“Yes, then the Stone was torn in half,” Harry confirmed again, imagining for a moment his mom and dad whom he had seen in the Forbidden Forest after turning the Resurrection Stone on his palm. The Stone was now lost somewhere in the depths of the Forbidden Forest where he had left it on purpose so that it could no longer be found by anyone.

 

“Then, Ron, you finished that Slytherin’s Locket,” Hermione continued.

 

“Yeah, right, I hit him between the eyes,” Ron confirmed, smirking.

 

“Then I stabbed the Hufflepuff’s Cup,” Hermione told shuddering as she cast a glance at Harry’s mokeskin pouch, put around his neck where he kept the ruined relics of Hogwarts,” these were four of the Horcruxes.”

 

“And Neville cut off that snake’s head,” Harry added, “and the Ravenclaw’s Diadem got burnt into Fiendfyre and turned into dust.”

 

Ron pondered it, “Harry, think what you want, but all the Horcruxes have been destroyed. If only he hasn’t made more of them.”

 

“No, it can’t be because he was obsessed with the number seven, so he recklessly turned Nagini into a Horcrux,” Harry argued.

 

“And we destroyed all the Horcruxes with a particularly powerful elemental magic, so it’s impossible that any of the Horcruxes wouldn’t be destroyed completely,” Hermione thought out loud.

 

“That’s right. There’s only been left just a pile of old scrap from those Horcruxes,” Ron confirmed, casting a look on Harry’s mokeskin pouch.

 

Hermione sneered, remembering what had remained of the Hufflepuff’s Cup after she had stabbed it with Basilisk’s fang – strong was that bloody Horcrux, fighting back, whispering delusive thoughts in her mind, and then it had ended its life in an agony. But the Cup, once golden and brilliantly shiny, now had grown with green lumps from Basilisk venom – the poison seemed to have eaten through the odious shred of soul, but the tiny piece of soul was able to protect itself from complete destruction by saving its dwelling. Such a strong poison as a Basilisk venom any other ordinary item would have eaten away and turned it into dust, but the Horcrux was made of the darkest of the magic, so it was able to resist even the deadliest of the world’s substances.

 

Suddenly, Hermione’s eyes widened, showing sheer horror.

 

Both of her friends noticed it immediately: “Hermione, what happened?”

 

“We now just listed all the Horcruxes we have destroyed, but…” it was hard for Hermione to tell her revelation to her friends, “but what if either of them wasn’t real?”

 

Harry and Ron both looked at her with confusion. “What do you mean – what if either of them wasn’t real?” Ron didn’t understand. “All of that crap looked bloody real.”

 

“Ron, you said it yourself just a moment ago that from all of the Horcruxes, completely all of the Horcruxes that were in the form of objects were left over a bit of scrap. The magic of the Horcruxes is strong enough to defend against even the most destructive substances in the magic world.”

 

Harry realized it immediately. “But nothing was left from the Diadem!” he exclaimed.

 

“Right, it broke in your hands turning into dust,” Ron thoughtfully confirmed.

 

“You see, the Fiendfyre didn’t burn it for so long, so if the Diadem was a real Horcrux, there had to be left over at least a piece of burnt-up band. Harry, what if your dream was real? What if we truly haven’t destroyed the real Diadem?” Hermione asked anxiously.

 

“And remember what Xenophilius said? Time by time there shows up some people who try to imitate such diadems,” Rons added.

 

“And, moreover, it was in the storage room that has been visited by thousands of other students. At first we thought Voldemort was stupid enough to think he was the only one who had found out about the Room of Requirement, but what if that wasn’t true? What if the diadem we found was fake? What if Voldemort has hidden the true Diadem anywhere else?” Harry realized, having completely understood Hermione’s revelation. But then what was that dark liquid that had leaked out of the Diadem? he thought, but then immediately came the answer. It could have been anything, even the most common glue. And the scream he had heard – there was a battle going on; it was most likely he didn’t hear Voldemort’s soul at all, but it has been just a scream of a wounded fighter nearby. Actually, the fact that the poor band he had in his hands could have been Voldemort’s Horcrux now looked like a very doubtful fact to him. “Who knows where the real Diadem might be now? Maybe that crafted thing of Xenophilius was the true Diadem?” Harry added sounding despaired.

 

“That’s not true, because You-Know-Who hurried to the Hogwarts, at least you said so yourself, it means the Diadem had to be at Hogwarts,” Ron said. “Only it seems it wasn’t placed in the storeroom of old things.”

 

“So, it means Hogwarts. Well, if it really is true then our job is not done yet, and Voldemort actually can rise again,” Hermione made the terrible conclusion.

 

“Yeah, and he will rise greater than ever,” Harry said grimly.

 

At this Hermione made a smile. “Harry, that wouldn’t happen because you sacrificed yourself to deprive him of power. He may still be able to rise again, but he will never recover his power. At least for that you have taken care of, Harry,” Hermione comforted him, smiling warmly at her friend.

 

Harry wholeheartedly hoped that Hermione’s words will turn out to be true.

 

“By the way, we can look what Arithmancy says about it. How did I not think of it before?” Hermione said as she went to the desk and from the pile of books pulled out the copy of the New Theory of Numerology. When she had sat down on a chair, she took a sheet of parchment and a bottle of ink and opened the book.

 

Harry and Ron went over to her and stood behind her back as Hermione wrote on the page the words ‘TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE’ and ‘LORD VOLDEMORT’ and using some kind of chart she assigned a number to each letter. Calculating numbers for a moment, she wrote a number 7 behind the first group of words, and a number 2 after the second group.

 

“I would say that there is no wonder about this seven,” she said, putting the tip of the quill to number seven she just had drawn. They were well aware that Tom Marvolo Riddle had thought of a number seven as a sacred number. “Although I am not so sure about this number two. I don’t know what exactly it means. I could tell this more precisely if I could know his date of birth.”

 

“Well, I don’t know it,” Harry simply said.

 

“Sorry, I’m just thinking out loud,” Hermione said, smiling at Harry. “In Arithmancy there is a fundamental meaning for each number, and the number two represents the extreme opposites as day and night and is a number of balance, mixing positive and negative characteristics. In a way, it is the character of Voldemort – he is incredibly wise and great, but at the same time also immeasurably cruel. But this number just as well could also mean something important in his destiny, like a second life, like a second revival.”

 

“It doesn’t sound good,” Ron concluded. “But how can you know which one of these two names actually determines his destiny?”

 

“That’s right, Ron!” Hermione looked at him approvingly. “I have to look at the both of his names. Then seven plus two is nine.” Mumbling under her breath she calculated. “Nine corresponds to the overall success of efforts. Such a person always gets what he wants.” Then Hermione, having thought about something, split her book to almost at the end and read a certain paragraph she had found there. She wrote one more number nine on the sheet, then she draw like a hook in front of the number and continued to draw a line like a roof over the number nine, and finally she wrote a number three behind the equals sign. “Three. We have not yet studied it in professor’s Vectors lectures, but Numerology says that a strong personality may express itself in double, so we have to find the first order of the double number, and here as a first order number appears a number three. It has a meaning of instability. But in the case of Voldemort, it can also characterize his destiny, or rather – number of destinies.”

 

“This Arithmancy of yours is simply amazing,” Ron said approvingly.

 

“It means three life periods,” Harry concluded. “First, he was Tom Marvolo Riddle then he was Lord Voldemort. Maybe he could have become someone else now?”

 

“I don’t know,” Hermione grimly breathed, looking at both of her friends. “Just please do not misunderstand these calculations. I used here only his name; full analysis also requires date of birth or date of other significant events. Currently, this analysis is more likely to show the probability that there is a possibility that something is probable. It doesn’t explain anything. The Arithmancy is not the Divination; it only reveals the directions made by the destiny. Maybe Voldemort was destined to be reborn twice and experience three lives, but maybe you destroyed this opportunity by facing him in the battle. What we see here now on this page is just probabilities and possibilities.

 

But Harry didn’t need anything more. Although his evidence, if he could call it, was based on a bad dream after his birthday party and Hermione’s allegedly calculations of the Arithmancy, he felt a fear thorn pricking into his insides – he deeply inside into his heart, liver, kidneys, and spinal cord somehow knew that there was a serious ground for his worries. Suddenly in his mind he heard Hagrid’s words from his eleventh birthday in the cabin at the sea: Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die… Most of us reckon he's still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. If Voldemort had a slightest chance to survive after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry could not ignore it. He could even say it was his duty to check it out. His negligence, stupidity and omission had to be mended and as soon as possible. What if history is repeating again?



Chapter 3: The School is calling again
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“But what are we going to do now?” asked Ron. “If we now rush to the Hogwarts what are we going to say to McGonagall? Sorry, we didn’t actually do what we had to do in the spring, so can we nose around here for a Merlin knows how long time?”

 

“We need to think of some kind of cover,” Harry suggested. It seemed that his anxiety has started to itch into his insides – he probably hadn’t done the task assigned by Dumbledore. What if Voldemort wanders somewhere out there, somewhere near the Hogwarts? “We ought to go back to Hogwarts as soon as possible at all costs.”

 

Hermione opened her mouth to say something when there rang a bell, calling everyone to the kitchen for breakfast. “Let’s eat and then we’ll think about what to do next,” she said.

 

Both of the young men nodded, and the trio climbed down the stairs and went into the kitchen, where they were welcomed by a mountain of omelet and cheese and ham sandwiches.

 

Ginny had helped Mrs. Weasley prepare breakfast in the morning. “Good morning, come for breakfast!” she happily called out to her friends as she put a jug with a carrot juice on the table, and when they all were sitting at the table she took a place next to Harry. Soon came also the others – Arthur, Bill and Fleur stepped down from the upper floors, while George and Charlie still drowsy from sleep shuffled in here from the living room. “It’s nothing for us, bachelors, to spend one night on the couch,” Charlie chuckled. He spent his vacation to stay at the Burrow for a week, but last night he had let Bill and Fleur to occupy his own old room so instead he had slept on a couch.

 

“You don’t look fresh at all this morning,” Mrs. Weasley said, smiling at the young people, still preparing tea by the stove. “As my grandpa used to say, in difficult mornings after the party there is nothing better than sour cabbage juice. Makes you fresh as a cucumber.”

 

“Or fresh as a cabbage?” George asked with a sneer, putting a huge pile of omelet on his plate.

 

“Don’t you mock me, this is just a saying.” Although Mrs. Weasley waved George off, she smiled at him.

 

“Well, I don’t think a sour cabbage juice is something I would like to drink now,” Ron said wincing as he picked up a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

“But I recommend you to drink a huge glass of water. The water really replenishes energy,” Mrs. Weasley advised them as the tea was still brewing. “Actually, I also slept very badly last night.”

 

“What was it, mom?” Bill asked, picking up a fork. “Were you dreaming about Lestrange again?”

 

“Yes, I saw in my dream how he had broken into the Burrow and he was chasing me…” Molly said, heavily sighing. However, she had said it so that it made Harry think that the dream had a continuation and it was not at all pleasant.

 

Arthur tried to reassure his wife: “Fidelius is very well doing its job, so don’t worry, dear, he can’t get in here. Martin with his Auror team has put a whole bunch of detection spells around here; you and we all are safe here.”

 

“Arthur, I understand that and wish that all you just said would be true,” Molly said, smiling at her husband, as she put a kettle with a tea on the table and then she squeezed his shoulder and sat down next to him. “But the fact that I know all of this doesn’t lessen my worries. What if he does something awful again?”

 

Harry remembered it like it had happened just yesterday. When they had come home after Fred’s funeral, they had found the Dark Mark above the driveway of the Burrow and under the Mark was a message burnt in the air with letters of fire: Molly Weasley, come and face me! You killed my wife and will regret it painfully! Afterwards, the employees of the Auror Office led by Martin Hunter, Head of the Office, spent a whole week around the Burrow placing all the possible detection and protection charms in addition to Fidelius. Fortunately, so far, there was still silence from the rest of the Death Eaters.

 

“Has anything moved in Lestrange’s case?” Hermione asked, sipping carrot juice.

 

“At Auror Department, everyone is working through the night,” Arthur replied. “But Lestrange is well-hidden, most likely he is using his acquaintances, maybe he changes his place of residence regularly. As far as your parents are concerned, it wouldn’t be safe at all for them to return now. I’m afraid Lestrange would be more than happy to get them,” Arthur replied to her with a serious expression.

 

Hermione’s face fell. She obviously longed for her parents and hoped every day that they would be able to return to their normal lives soon. However, it was not safe yet; the war was not over yet.

 

“Everything will be alright,” Ron said as he took Hermione’s hand trying to reassure her.

 

“Harry, your new glasses suit you very well,” Ginny said, disrupting the gloomy mood that had been taken over all the people at the breakfast table.

 

“My vision has become very sharp now. I can see very well now. Thank you, Molly and Arthur!” Harry thanked Mrs. and Mr. Weasley.

 

“It’s a great pleasure for me to hear this, my dear. Do you see that here, behind the omelet plate, there’s also a plate of sausages, don’t you want some?” Molly offered smiling at him. “And how do you feel, dear?” she now turned to Fleur. “Is everything alright with your stomach?”

 

“Eet’s all right for me. Thank you, Molly,” Fleur replied in her French accent, continuing to eat her breakfast quietly.

 

Bill, although, rolled his eyes as he heard it. Mrs. Weasley was asking Fleur now and then “is everything alright with her stomach” whenever she arrived at the Burrow. As Ginny had told Harry, pregnant women tend to have nausea in the mornings. Likewise, in the presence of Fleur Molly had started to talk a lot about how wonderful and amazing is Teddy as a three month old baby and how nice are the baby sounds he makes when he is humming and bubbling. As well, she gave some advices now and then. “You must never lull a baby with a sleeping spell!” or “Until two years of age, you can’t give syrup of Hellebore for cough. As long as the child is not three years old, you must forget about the teleportation!” And there were even more similar recommendations, clearly related to bringing up children. Mrs. Weasley certainly couldn’t wait to have her own grandchild.

 

“Well, dad, you can relax at least today,” said Ron. “You don’t have to go to work today.”

 

“Fortunately, it is a bit calmer for the second weekend now,” Arthur said with joy.

 

“But I am afraid to even imagine how much work is going to await me on Monday. Definitely there is going to be a huge pile of cases of incidents. One might think that after the fall of You-Know-Who we will once and for all have peace, but no. Every little worm comes up with some kind of rascality that we have to clean up for hours. Now they have started to charm those Muggle boxes with buttons that the Muggles put close to their ears, and, as they do it, then – snap, and the ear is bitten and there appear tubers like those on clown hats. And there doesn’t help any ordinary healing spells, because the whole disaster is too close to the brain. If we don’t want them to remain dumb for their whole lifetime then we have to take them to St. Mungo’s Hospital to remove all those tumors. It seems they’ll soon have to open a new department for Muggles.” He bitterly laughed as he finished speaking.

 

“That’s terrible,” Hermione murmured. “But, Mr. Weasley, what exactly are those Muggle boxes that are being charmed?”

 

“I don’t really know what those boxes are and what the Muggles are doing with them. They are usually small boxes with buttons and with something like a stick at one end and about this big,” Mr. Weasley explained showing with his palms about half a foot in length. “Muggles are saying this thing is ‘tephelon’. Hermione, Harry you know better Muggle things, what is the correct name of this device, and why the Muggles are putting it to the ear?”

 

Harry and Hermione looked at each other. They didn’t know what Arthur was talking about because they had never seen such a thing before.

 

“Tephelon – maybe you were thinking of a “telephone”,” Hermione asked. “You can talk over a telephone or a phone at a great distance. Do you remember how a long time ago you tried to call Harry? That’s why they put it to the ear. However, as far as I know, a telephone line is required for a telephone connection. How can it be possible to use a phone on the street or in the open field without an attached cord?”

 

“Look, we’ve lived in the woods for so long, that the Muggles have already managed to invent phones without a cord,” Harry said.

 

Mr. Weasley was overly excited. “Then this phone is a new invention for them! You don’t say! I must have one of those for myself!” Mrs. Weasley just hopelessly rolled her eyes.

 

“I’ve also seen some Muggles having a conversation using this – telphone – actually it looks very useful,” George said and then he suggested. “Maybe I could also make something like that in my joke shop; something that allows direct conversations?”

 

“You know, it really would be one very useful thing,” Ginny confirmed. “That would have been very handy for us when we needed to resist the dictatorship of Snape.”

 

They were all discussing their ideas about portable communication devices for a moment, also mentioning the Sirius’s mirror, until breakfast food was all eaten. George said farewell to everyone before he flew to his shop, as he had anticipated a rush of customers on Saturday. Before departure through the Floo Network he told Ron to help him with testing some of the new products, but Charlie and Bill with Fleur went along with George to the Diagon Alley for leisure and other business. Because of the threat of attack by Lestrange the people of Magical Law Enforcement Patrol had advised them to go out from the house only within a small crowd. “My vacation will last only until Monday, so I need at last to go to the Magical Menagerie at the Diagon Alley and look at their dragon tonic. The Romanian product isn’t good enough. If our dragons get the conjunctivitis, we have to put in a lot of effort to get their eyes clean again,” explained Charlie before departing.

 

“Harry, and what are you going to do today?” Ginny asked when they had said goodbye to the three Weasley brothers and Fleur in the living room standing by the fireplace. “Are you going to prepare for your Auror Admission Exam?”

 

“Look, I think we should talk, all four of us,” Harry said in a hushed voice, as he glanced at Ron and Hermione.

 

Ron initially seemed a little bit taken aback, but he nodded anyway, while Hermione had agreed immediately without hesitation.

 

Harry looked back at Ginny. “Let’s go out to the garden for a talk.”

 

It seemed that Ginny began to feel a little worried about how serious he looked, so she immediately agreed.

 

The four young people rushed out of the house. As usual in the summer morning, the air was warm and the weather promised another nice and hot summer day. Only the faces of Harry, Ron, and Hermione appeared as the darkest rain clouds when all the friends had found a distant corner at a farther black currant bush growing by the old ruins of a stone wall.

 

“Well then, tell me what happened – you look worse than three Dementors!” Ginny said.

 

“Ginny, I saw a bad dream last night. A very bad,” Harry said in a gloomy voice.

 

Ginny plucked off some of the berries of black currant bush and chuckled: “I warned you yesterday not to drink butterbeer after champagne,” and she threw the dark, juicy berries in her mouth.

 

“That’s not the champagne’s fault. Alright, listen,” – and Harry told his girlfriend about his dream of a terrible voice in the black emptiness.

 

“So what? The dream is a dream. Why you are so worried?” Ginny asked not being able to comprehend his anxiety.

 

“When Harry told us his dream this morning, at first we thought the same thing,” Hermione said. “But then we discussed the matter more carefully and…”

 

“Wait a minute, but you destroyed all the Horcruxes, at least considering as far as I understand from what you have told me, Harry,” Ginny said.

 

“You see, all the time until now we thought it so ourselves that we have really destroyed all of them,” Ron confirmed.

 

“But then this morning, after this Harry’s dream, we thoroughly discussed it all again and…” Hermione told Ginny, at the end taking in a deep breath and making a pause.

 

“And – what?” The matter sounded indeed serious, so Ginny didn’t like it at all.

 

“And – it is very likely that we didn’t destroy all the Horcruxes. It is very likely that the one which got burnt was not the real Ravenclaw’s diadem because it was a fake one. And it means Voldemort might be somewhere out there, wandering somewhere around. Most likely in some kind of form of a ghost,” Hermione explained.

 

“To put it mildly it doesn’t sound good at all,” Ginny commented, almost shuddering. “And the real diadem? Who knows where it is now?”

 

“I have a strong suspicion that it must be at Hogwarts. When Voldemort realized that we had got the rest of his Horcruxes, he immediately ran to Hogwarts,” Harry explained. “We just have to figure out how to get back to Hogwarts and what to say to McGonagall. We can’t just go to her now and say that probably there somewhere around the castle is wandering around Voldemort because I saw a bad dream… moreover, after a birthday party.”

 

“But wait a minute. Exactly why you simply can’t go back to Hogwarts? You don’t have to tell McGonagall anything about bad dreams,” Ginny suggested.

 

“But how we will explain to her what are we doing there in the middle of summer?” Ron asked.

 

“Why do you need to search for the diadem right at this exact moment? Apply to McGonagall as usual students for the seventh school year and search for the diadem how long you wish. The last time it took at least eleven years for Voldemort to recover a little bit of his power. I highly doubt that this time he can do it in a couple of months, if it is possible at all,” Ginny told her thoughts.

 

Harry felt a little bit taken aback – he had been so worried that he hadn’t done his task and had only thought how to get back to Hogwarts at this very moment, so he hadn’t thought about such an opportunity. This would mean that he should wait only one more month, and he could return to Hogwarts for a whole year, for a whole wonderful school year. And they could all together make sure whether his dream was true or not, in no hurry searching for the diadem without unnecessarily disturbing McGonagall.

 

“Ginny, it’s a great idea!” Hermione confirmed. “You guys can go back to Hogwarts with us and we still have a whole month to make a search plan.”

 

“Then we just have to write a refusal letter to the Auror’s office,” Ron planned what to do next, “and have to apply to McGonagall.”

 

“That’s right,” Harry agreed.

 

The voice of Mrs. Weasley sounded loudly from the window of the living room of the Burrow: “Dear boys, you have received the owls!”

 

They changed glances to each other and hurried to find out what kind of messages they have received. Would something have come from the Auror’s Office about the next week’s admission examination? The girls followed them to the indoors. The owls had left two envelopes of beige parchment sealed with a large stamp decorated with huge letter H in the middle, surrounded by a snake, a lion, an eagle, and a badger – the letters have come from Hogwarts.

 

Harry, like Ron, opened his letter and began to read it.

 

 

July 31st, 1998

 

Dear Mr. Potter:

 

Due to the battle which took place in Hogwarts on May 2nd this year where the darkest wizard of our time was abolished, the OWL and NEWT exams were cancelled. So this year due to these extreme circumstances Hogwarts offers an opportunity to revisit the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for your seventh school year and take the final examinations.

 

If you are interested in this offer, please send an owl with your affirmation within one week so we can send you a list of the necessary school supplies as soon as possible.

 

In case of a positive answer, please also give an answer if you would like to use this year’s opportunity offered by Hogwarts to study an Alchemy course for one year as an optional subject. The answer has to be given on time because the Alchemy course will only be approved if we will complete the class with at least 10 students.

 

Minerva McGonagall

 

The Headmistress of

Hogwarts School of

Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

 

Ron looked at Harry smiling. “Well then – do we say yes?”

 

“Hogwarts, here we come,” Harry agreed with a smile.



Chapter 4: The Books and the Quibbler
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Both Harry and Ron instantly sent the owls to Auror Office, refusing their candidacy for admission exam, and as soon as Errol and Pigwidgeon had returned, they immediately wrote their next letters to McGonagall affirming their studies of seventh year at Hogwarts. Hermione did not follow this procedure because she had applied for her seventh year at Hogwarts the very next day after the Last Battle against Voldemort. McGonagall had also allowed it to her, explaining that until the new school year, all the damage to the castle will be repaired so the students will be admitted again for the next school year. Discussing Alchemy, he, Ron, and Ginny decided to take advantage of this opportunity, while Hermione was thinking differently – she claimed she had already enough Alchemy in her first school year.

 

Not only Hogwarts, but the rest of the magic world, were also involved in the damage prevention. Pius Thicknesse had fallen in the Last Battle and was replaced by Kingsley Shacklebolt. The new Minister for Magic had hands full of work – there had to be eliminated the consequences of catching the wizards and witches with Muggle ancestry, there had to be helped countless families to rebuild their homes where the financial aid was organized by the generous Mr. Gustav Gold, there had to be renewed the Ministry’s own agenda and not even mentioning the organization of the Quidditch World Cup in the nearby country of Ireland. However, the Weasleys skipped the World Cup games of this year due to the security reasons. As well, led by experienced Martin Hunter, the Aurors had a lot of catching to do with the last remains of the Death Eaters, therefore the hearings at the court went long through the day until late at night, and Harry had to come to a few of them as a witness.

 

Just over a week had passed since they had sent their letters, and on Tuesday morning all four young people received the lists of their required textbooks for their seventh year.

 

Harry opened a folded parchment sheet, described with green ink, and read:

 

 

The following textbooks are required for students of the 7th year of Hogwarts for studies of Herbology, Charms, Potions, Defence against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, and Alchemy:

 

Felicita Plum. Plants for Garden, Pot, and Tummy

Miranda Goshawk. The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7

Libatius Borage. Advanced Potion-Making

Quentin Trimble. Confronting the Faceless

Emeric Switch. A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration

Archibald Aberratius. Basics of Alchemy

 

The Head Boy is welcomed at coupe number 3 at Hogwarts Express, where you will be contacted by Minerva McGonagall, the Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

We are looking forward for your presence at Hogwarts Start-of-Term Feast on September 1st,

 

Filius Flitwick

Deputy Headmaster.

 

 

The list of books for Ron and Ginny looked very similar to Harry’s, but in Hermione’s list was also added the book of Lukas Karuzos New Theory of Numerology for her Arithmancy studies, which Harry had given her as a Christmas present three years ago, but instead of Alchemy book she needed Rune Dictionary. They also had a whole pile of badges. Ron took out from his envelope the familiar Prefect badge, Ginny had the honor to wear the Captain’s badge – technically she was also the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team last year, but the last season of Quidditch had its chips, especially for Gryffindor team. And Hermione and Harry had received their Head Girl and Head Boy badges.

 

Harry beamed at his friends, changing a little bit longer look with Hermione. He is going to be the Head Boy! He had received this badge like his father had before. Although the last ten days he had been living with dark thoughts, these seemingly simply news that he had been given a title of Head Boy blew him in the chest like a large balloon of happiness. Hogwarts had chosen him, had appraised him; Hogwarts needed him!

 

Receiving the list of school supplies for four friends meant only one – they had to go to Diagon Alley to buy all the necessary things. Unable to hide their excitement, friends decided to go to the paradise of magical shops today. They told Mrs. Weasley, who had already started to prepare food for meal of this evening – Ginny had a birthday today – and as they were ready to go, they flew by the Floo Network to the Diagon Alley while it was still morning.

 

Today Diagon Alley looked almost like in the old days – there were no informative posters made by the Ministry on the facades of the houses, but only the usual advertisements of various shops. People, happily chatting, moved in little bunches or did their shopping alone. There were only few shops with shut down or nailed up windows looking like ugly scars from the endured terror, apparently no longer hosted by their previous owners. But in any other way, there in the Diagon Alley had started another nice, sunny day, just as it had been at Ottery St Catchpole.

 

The friends decided to start shopping with buying the required books, then they wanted to go to the Apothecary and finally they needed to visit the Quidditch Supplies store. The new captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team definitely needed a decent broom. Likewise, Ron had intended to spend some of the Ministry’s cash prize for special merit for the purchase of new clothes and a nice broom. They were awarded with money prize together with the Order of Merlin First Class at a solemn ceremony; while the other fighters of the Battle of Hogwarts had received smaller cash prize and the Order of Merlin Second Class. Since the four young people had pockets full with the Ministry’s prize in a form of money they could skip the visit at Gringotts and at once go shopping.

 

So the friends leisurely strolled to Flourish and Blotts bookshop, where they wanted to buy the books they needed for their studies. All of them were now in a quite happy mood, wondering what might be the daily life at Hogwarts. Ron was eagerly anticipating the banquet of the first September. Although, Hermione was in completely different thoughts.

 

“As if at home mom wouldn’t feed you from the morning till the evening. In my opinion, it is immensely important to gain an acknowledged educational document approved by the magical world, which opens up an enormous amount of opportunities for getting a decent job. And not even mentioning the very knowledge we are going to learn in our seventh year. I wouldn’t miss it for all the money in the world.”

 

“But I don’t think it will be easy. After all these disruptions and, moreover, I didn’t get the chance to finish my sixth year. I think we will have to struggle quite a lot at first,” Ginny expressed her concern.

 

“And with all those extra responsibilities when are we going to find the time to search for the Diadem?” Harry said, also sounding a little bit worried.

 

“Yes, Harry, we will also have the responsibilities of Head Boy and Head Girl, that is, we will practically be the professors’ assistants. As far as I know, we will have to assist the professors in their duty to watch the corridors on Saturday nights, then at the festivities we will have to help to prepare the decorations, and in the case of emergency we’ll have to help to organize the prefects, and we will have to inform the prefects about the new passwords at the beginning of the school year. Let’s hope that at least this year there won’t be anything to do with emergency situations,” Hermione finished her list of responsibilities on a happy note.

 

“Harry, how difficult could it be for you the duty to watch the corridors? You could just watch the Marauder’s Map, and it’s done,” Ron happily said to his friend.

 

“Yeah, only that hanging of Christmas balls in Christmas trees doesn’t seem very exciting,” Harry chuckled.

 

“And wait a moment, don’t you forget about the Quidditch training! This year I am the captain, so both of you just try me not to come to the training!” Ginny laughed at them warningly.

 

“Hold your horses, my dear; you haven’t even accepted us into the team yet. What if we fail at the tryouts?” Harry argued, smirking.

 

“Then Ron will be able to devote himself fully to his prefect duty,” Ginny teased her brother. “Guiding around lost first years definitely is beyond exciting.”

 

“Don’t laugh at me like that. Everybody knows I’m bad at Quidditch,” Ron said sullenly.

 

“Mhm, and two years ago did that Quidditch Cup fall to you out from thin air? If you just gather yourself up you play quite well,” Ginny stated.

 

Ron answered nothing, just murmured something under his breath. Although, at the end of his fifth school year he had helped the Gryffindor team to win the Quidditch Cup, he still had a stage fright when he had to face a large group of people. Harry remembered the Order of Merlin Award ceremony when Ron distracted by the constant and intense attention of such a huge crowd of people had wanted to disappear in thin ear, although any other time he would have liked to be noticed and respected. So to say – it was too much of a good thing. In addition, Harry had suspected that Ron was still a little bit ashamed for leaving him and Hermione in the winter to wander alone in the woods.

 

“Of course, if you are going to be this grumpy during all the training, then you better don’t come at it at all,” Ginny warned. “But while you are behaving like a normal person, attending the training is obligated.” She knew very well exactly how painfully Ron reacted to his failures in the Quidditch. But she also thought that sometimes he acted so overly exaggerated – Ron was already a grown up, and withal being a man, he could tiff like a little girl.

 

Suddenly someone interrupted their conversation.

 

“Harry, Harry Potter?” asked a man in a black top hat and dark blue robes.

 

“Yes, that’s me,” Harry answered, confused.

 

“It is such a pleasure and honor to meet you, sir. My name is Willis, and I would like to express to you my gratitude for saving the world. If not for you, everything still would sink into darkness. May I shake your hand?” the wizard asked.

 

“Um, yeah, thank you. Yes, of course,” Harry said stuttering and stretched out his hand toward Willis. The short man shook it passionately, and then he shook also a hand to Ron and Hermione, and wished everyone a nice day and went off to his own business.

 

The central street of Diagon Alley was full of people, so, of course, the bypassing walkers had heard their conversation. And if the famous Harry Potter had shook his hand with one person, then others also wanted to look in the face and to congratulate the “most famous and most mighty wizard of our time”, as he was honored by Daily Prophet which even many weeks after the Battle of Hogwarts constantly reminded almost in every newspaper release that everyone needed to be grateful to Mr. Potter for all the prosperity and peace of the moment. Later after the battle, Harry had given into the insistence of the Daily Prophet and he had given an interview on Voldemort’s hunting, and later he had written a press release about Dumbledor’s death and Snape’s true merit over the past year. Harry had only asked the journalists to say nothing to the wizarding society about the Horcruxes, because, according to Hermione’s advice, it was the knowledge which would be better to be forgotten. After the interview was published, Ron and Hermione also had become widely known among wizards and witches.

 

“I am so happy to meet you, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger,” said an older witch with blonde hair excitingly, shaking her hand with them with radiant eyes.

 

Right now, around the four young people had gathered quite a large crowd as the people tried with their elbows to break their way closer to the famous persons. Then they were greeted by a bunch of wizards in red robes, then came a group of giggling witches, being about some ten years older than Harry, then their hand wanted to shake countless other bypassers until in front of them stood a mother of two teenage girls who tried to push in front of Harry and Ron her daughters, almost completely ignoring Ginny and Hermione.

 

“Hello Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley! I have the immeasurable honor to meet both of you. My daughters, Henrietta and Adele, are very delighted to meet you as well. This year, they will begin their fifth and third year at Hogwarts,” the mother explained.

 

“Hello,” the girls cooed in a sweet voice both at the same time.

 

Harry felt that Ginny was tightening her grip on his upper arm so he realized this was getting out of hand. They stood here for already half an hour in the middle of the Diagon Alley, shaking their hands with one after another person, but the crowd of people hadn’t thinned in any way – it was just the opposite. Moreover, the people began to act even more shameless. Harry didn’t know what to do.

 

“Um, hello there. Thank you for your kind words, but we really have our own business and we would like to go further. Have a nice day,” Harry tried to excuse himself. But taking a step forward, they had a new wave of greetings and congratulations. Ron and Hermione had also started to become worried because they were not able to move forward not even a step. And they had gone just a halfway to Flourish and Blotts!

 

Suddenly, something with a clicking sound dropped to the ground and rolled away out of the crowd where it flourished into a gorgeous flower of fireworks. Everyone immediately turned to the unexpected wonderful event, and the four young people slipped away from the huge crowd unnoticed. It seemed to Harry that there were some wizards rushing to the scene with pulled out wands – they probably were from Magical Law Enforcement Squad observing the Diagon Alley and watching out for any disorder. Mr. Hunter, taking all the security measures for the Weasley family, had explained them that after the attack by Lestrange the Squad is going to guard all major gathering places of wizards, so he advised the Weasleys to go out to these places in little groups being cautious and it would be better for them to not go out of their secured house at all if not necessary.

 

“It’s the newest of George’s inventions. I had come to an arrangement with him that I will take the Fireflowers with me today so I can show him our latest improvements. That’s why I have some of them in my pocket. George hasn’t anyone to assist him now, since Fred… is gone,” Ron explained.

 

“Let’s hurry to Flourish and Blotts while the people haven’t encircled us again,” Hermione urged her friends.

 

Luckily, everyone on the main street of Diagon Alley was distracted by the flamy plant as it had blossomed with sparkling flowers which had begun to grow more and more new blossoms and people were amazed at the beautiful firework show.

 

As they entered Flourish and Blotts, the young people found themselves relieved that the bookshop wasn’t overfilled with people. There were just a few older customers and several students from Hogwarts who wanted to buy their textbooks in time just like them.

 

The shopkeeper rushed to his new customers as he noticed them.

 

“Oh, Mr. Potter, you are welcomed here, and of course hello to you too, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger. And hello to you, Miss Weasley?” the older man greeted all of them. “How can I help you?”

 

“We’ll need textbooks for the seventh year of Hogwarts,” Harry replied, taking out his list of required books. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny also took out their parchment sheets with a list of books and gave it to the shopkeeper as he urged them to do so.

 

“Wait a moment, please. I’ll find the books you need right away. Perhaps you are in a need for another book?” the bookseller asked with joy wanting to be helpful to famous Potter.

 

“We would love to see what you have in the stock, is it alright?” Harry suggested.

 

“Yes, sure, of course, Mr. Potter. When you have looked through the bookshelves, please, come and pick up your textbooks at the cash desk.” And the shopkeeper hurried to get the books required for Hogwarts for his four customers.

 

“Harry, it seems everyone here is dancing to your tune,” Ron said, partly amused, partly with a little bitterness in his voice.

 

“And does it look to you that I like it even a teeny-tiny bit? We can’t even come to shop properly as the people swarms around us,” Harry said to Ron, being well aware that his friend didn’t like to stay in the shadow of his fame.

 

“Let it be. At least here is peaceful. Let’s go and look for a book – I have a feeling I know what you need, Harry,” Hermione said, sounding more joyful.

 

“What kind of book are you talking about?” Harry asked, but Hermione had already plunged into depths of the bookshelves, and the other three friends had to run after her. She had gone to a department dedicated to magical protection. On the table next to the shelf were stacked several piles of books on the theory of the Defence, written by Trimble.

 

“Hermione, but this book is already in our list. The shopkeeper will pick them up for us.” Ginny didn’t really understand what has come into Hermione’s mind.

 

“I think Harry needs another book. It will be useful to you later anyway.” Hermione smiled at her friends and began to carefully examine the shelves.

 

Here, Harry also noticed other textbooks of Defence against the Dark Arts required for the previous years, including the book by Wilbert Slinkhard – thank goodness, there is no more Umbridge at Hogwarts or Ministry. She was not convicted to Azkaban due to the absence of evidence, but she had to leave her job at the Ministry.

 

“Aha, this could be it,” Hermione soon exclaimed. “Transfiguration for Defensive Purposes.” She took the book out of the shelf and swiftly opened a table of contents of the book and started to quietly inspect it with her eyes.

 

“Harry, look at this. Here’s a bunch of transfiguration spells which lets you change your look. Remember, in the sixth year, we tried to change the color of our eyebrows. In this book, there are spells starting with eyebrow changing, there are also spells for changing the hair color, beard attachment spells, and at the end there are also even spells for eye color or for complex facial transformation. Although these spells aren’t the simplest ones, but you’ll be able to learn them if you’ll practice hard enough, and I think these spells will turn out to be useful later in your Auror training, and maybe even now you can use some of them,” Hermione said enthusiastically.

 

“Yeah, thank you, Hermione. I hope these will be useful for me. I just need to learn to cast them somehow,” Harry thanked his friend, not being really sure if he could succeed in casting the spell of complex facial transformation. Harry and Ron weren’t on the ball doing just the eyebrow transfiguration, and that was the simplest of the transformations in this book. However, Harry was grateful to Hermione for her efforts anyway.

 

Suddenly, a familiar lightly stretched voice sounded behind the corner. “That vendor has gone off to who knows where. Now, how can I pay for the books? How long will I have to walk around the bookstore?”

 

“No one shows us neither respect nor honor anymore,” someone else slowly said nearby.

 

“That’s true. Probably that’s why I didn’t even get back my prefect badge.” At that moment, Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott came around the corner into the view, talking to each other. After seeing the four Gryffindors, both of them stopped.

 

“Oh, that’s why – the bookseller has hurried to fulfill Potter’s order, but for the others he gives only cold shoulder,” Theodore spoke out grudgingly.

 

However, Draco Malfoy was not so eager to express his frustration. After all, Harry had saved his life, and at that moment at the Malfoy Manor he hadn’t betrayed Harry when he had fallen into the hands of the Snatchers. One definitely couldn’t call it a friendship, but it was such a relationship between those two young men that didn’t allow to start the conversation with an insulting or a hostile note. Therefore Draco greeted them and at the instant looked away, feeling uneasy and then went away with Theodore further into the bookstore.

 

“Let’s go back to the cash desk. I don’t like to be pampered all the time,” Harry said.

 

“But it’s only Malfoy. It wouldn’t hurt him if he has to wait for five minutes in the queue next to ordinary people,” Ron said to Harry.

 

“Well, Malfoy may have deserved it, but the bookstore is also visited by other people, and they all have to wait just because we have wanted to enter here. It doesn’t seem right to me, so, please, let’s go back,” Harry urged his friends to finish their shopping so they wouldn’t become a burden on other customers. It seemed Ron wouldn’t have minded to be attended as a celebrity without waiting in the queue, but he knew how much Harry didn’t like to be overpraised or admired by other people. In addition, Harry had doubts about the positivity of his fame because he knew how unstable it could be – one day there everyone was praising him as a savior of the magical world, but the next day there could have been published an article similar to Rita Skeeter’s ones in a newspaper which would show him as a complete madman. In Harry’s mind, there was still fresh the memory of the dark sides of his glory when he had to endure too much of it in his fifth year of Hogwarts. That’s why he thought – the more everyone is leaving him be, the better. And although his fame among the wizards and witches was completely positive at the moment, he did not feel the slightest liking that he was regularly greeted by strangers who constantly thanked him for saving their peace and prosperity. For the saving of the peace and prosperity of all the people – both wizards and Muggles – which he probably hasn’t even saved, if it was true that Voldemort is still wandering somewhere out there… And now each praise of a familiar person or a stranger said to Harry felt to him like a thorn in his heart, which reminded him that his current glory was undeserved, that he had not done his job properly, even though he had put himself fully into doing it. There is just a slight hope that Voldemort without his many Horcruxes has become very weak, and this time it would be quite easy to destroy him, Harry thought in despair, wishing to be able to correct his failure when he will return at Hogwarts.

 

Meanwhile, the friends had arrived at the cash desk. The shopkeeper was already rushing to it with a sizable stack of books, more or less ignoring the other customers waiting at the counter.

 

“Oh, Mr. Potter, have you already looked through this modest bookstore? I’ve picked up four sets of books for Hogwarts and also for Miss Granger a copy of her New Theory of Numerology and Rune Dictionary,” the bookseller put all the books on the counter, pointing to two books of which the dictionary was so thick it could easily be mistaken with Hogwarts: A History.

 

“Thank you, but instead of Numerology and Rune Dictionary we will take this book. And we are sorry we forgot to tell you we already have the Confronting the Faceless and A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration, and the book of potions will only be needed just for me,” Harry apologized, placing a copy of Transfiguration for Defensive Purposes on the counter.

 

“Yes, of course. As you wish, sir,” the book salesman said, making a stiff smile at them – he will now have to go and bring the redundant books back to the shelves. “Mr. Potter, I’ll give you a little discount. Then you have to pay for your books one Galleon and three Sickles plus five more Sickles for your Transfiguration book,” the salesman named the price for all of Harry’s books as he effortlessly calculated it in his mind.

 

The young people paid the named price for each of their set of books and started to go out of the store. Just nearby the counter Harry heard as one older woman whispered to another: “My boy is also going back to Hogwarts this year, but one Galleon for a set of books? I just paid three Galleons for the books for my boy. It means I’ve paid an arm and leg for these books!”

 

Going out of the bookstore, Harry being interested pulled out his purchased books from his shopping bag and looked at the price tags – indeed they actually cost ten Sickles each. It meant the shopkeeper had sold them the books for only a half price. Somehow this revelation made Harry angry.

 

Next, the four friends went to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes because Ron needed to give George the improved Fireflowers. Feeling a bit grumpy and not wanting to attract unnecessary attention, Harry walked with his head down. Luckily for him this time, people didn’t delay him on this short move to George’s shop.

 

Entering the Weasleys’ store, it seemed to Harry that everything here looked like as usual – gorgeous and eye-catching. There were all kinds of extraordinary wonders on the shelves, including the especial novelty: the Gryffindor Swordpencils – In the lesson it‘s a common pencil, but in your free time challenge your friend to a real sword fight! –, and the wristwatches with a small cuckoo figurine that makes their cuckoo calls in full hours. On the shelves for the girls there were marvelously glittering lipsticks and hair color changing hair bands, as well as hair clips with very alive looking butterflies. However, not all of the shelves were overly full with the goods. Some of them were half empty and it seemed the goods had not been restocked for some time.

 

George rushed out of the storeroom at the back of the shop, carrying new boxes with Gryffindor Swordpencils as everyone bought them like crazy. Harry noticed that the young red-haired man looked tired – apparently he was working without stopping all day all night, but with all this hard work it was nearly too much for him alone. Before he always had have Fred with him doing half of the work; now George had to deal with everything alone. Or almost alone – a young blonde girl straightened out from under the counter as she found some of the client’s required Shield Gloves that she hadn’t yet stocked on the shelf.

 

Seeing the small group of his family and friends, George greeted them joyfully. Placing the boxes with Swordpencils on their stand, the young man looked sideways at his assistant for a brief moment, but then immediately turned to his brother who gave him a couple of something that looked like large round seeds.

 

“I brought you the new Fireflowers. You can check them for yourself. Harry and I made some improvements for them to roll away a little further from the people, otherwise it was no pleasure to lose our eyebrows,” Ron told about the latest developments, while George stacked the Fireflowers in the pocket of his suit.

 

“Very well, thank you! I’ll check them later,” George murmured.

 

“Well, how is it going with you and Verity?” Ron asked. Meanwhile, Ginny and Hermione had rushed to take a look at the offer of the girl section.

 

“Uh, now we have been more or less friendly with each other,” George reluctantly replied throwing a glance at his employee. “You know, after Fred’s death, I acted as an asshole, so if Verity wouldn’t have stayed here this shop would have gone to the dogs long ago. But well, it is as it is. Thanks for the Fireflower. Now I don’t have even a moment for a rest. The shelves are always half empty, I’m carrying the boxes almost all day long. I even started to look for some employees to do the restocking but those who came to me the first ones – they looked more like some kind of Slytherin bandits. I suppose they weren’t able to find a decent job anywhere else, so they were oppressing me. I hope Angelina will come here later to help me at my shop. I’m really glad you came in, but now I have to rush! And Harry, remember, everything here for you is at my expense,” George said goodbye as he winked to his friend.

 

“Well, what actually happened between him and that his employee, Verity?” Harry asked to Ron, while both of them examined the stand of the Swordpencils.

 

“You know too well what George was like for the first few months after Fred’s death. He didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, only worked through day and night, and he demanded the same from Verity. In addition, it seemed to me she actually liked Fred a bit more. Then, for the first month, Verity was enduring it all without saying a word, but in the second month both of them started to argue because they were so overworked that they barely could stand on their feet. Then Verity contacted me and asked for my help. Then, you already know, I started to help George to deal with the new products,” Ron explained.

 

Before Harry was able to ask him anything more about George, he was greeted by some Hogwarts schoolmates.

 

“Harry, Ron, hello! Have you also received the McGonagall’s letter from Hogwarts?” asked the former roommate Dean Thomas standing next to Seamus Finnigan and Lavender Brown. Seeing the girl, Harry barely resisted himself of wincing. One side of her face was rough, bumpy, and malformed. She had been trying to shield it with her thick brown hair, but the scars on her neck bitten by Greyback at the Battle of Hogwarts were well visible. After the battle, she was brought to the St Mungo hospital being barely alive, where she spent almost a month, lying unconscious on the bed. Even the Daily Prophet had constantly reported her health condition, and now for a few weeks, Lavender had recovered to the point that she was able to leave the hospital and she could return to a full life.

 

“Yes, we received it,” Ron replied.

 

“Then we are going back to Hogwarts, right?” Seamus asked. “If you are coming back too, then these Slytherins wouldn’t have a chance this year!” the young man added with a smile.

 

“Yes, we are going to finish our seventh year. Then we’ll see each other at school. I’m glad to see you all. However, we still have a lot to do,” Harry made an excuse, searching for Ginny and Hermione with his eyes.

 

“Oh, well, yeah, we will see you at Hogwarts. By the way, these glasses suits you very well, Harry,” Lavender called after him before turning to the shelf of WonderWitch cosmetics – Rash, warts, and scars on your face Will disappear without a trace! It seemed to Harry that Lavender was sounding somehow oddly sad. Was she hoping that Harry would now begin to recite his last year’s adventures or she wished to hear a pity from him in the presence of all these people? “I wonder why did Lavender sound so odd?” Harry said grumpily.

 

“That’s probably because I treated her as an asshole before,” Ron sneered without any joy.

 

Ron was right. Harry had already forgotten it – Lavender just felt awkward in the presence of Ron, and there was nothing to do with him. Oh God, he thought to himself, I am imagining things that aren’t even true. The sooner I’ll get out of this Diagon Alley, the better.

 

However, as he shouldered through the crowd to the Ginny, some groups of students looked at him with nastily hungry stares.

 

Fortunately, he and Ron soon reached their girlfriends, and they all together agreed to quickly get the rest of their needed things and then eat an ice cream at the newly opened Fortescue parlour, and then without any delay go home.

 

Sticking to their plan, they all went to Madam Malkin’s shop where they bought proper new Hogwarts robes, then they shopped for stationery supplies, and got ingredients from Apothecary for potion lessons. Luckily, all this time, the friends were able to avoid the overwhelming attention of people. Only a few of the pedestrians greeted them and expressed their honor to meet them. Finally the four friends had come into a Quidditch supply store, which was a small shop in the middle of the main street of Diagon Alley. This year, unlike last year, Ginny will have a real chance to be a captain of the Quidditch team, so she needed a new broomstick which Harry had promised to give her as her birthday present. Besides, he and Ron also needed a new broom.

 

As they went inside, Harry noticed there were just a few people here. Only some girls with Ravenclaw badges on their chest were examining a broomstick talking to each other: “Jodie, you are now the new captain, so I’m saying you need at least the Nimbus two thousand two. We can’t afford the Firebolt, but if Potter is going to return at school you need a decent broom to be able to compete with him. Terry was the best of our flyers, but you already heard what Anthony said – with his potion skills he was accepted into St Mungo, so he won’t come back to school this year,” one of the girls expressed her opinion.

 

Thinking for a brief moment, the girl named Jodie didn’t respond anything, but then, after noticing Harry, she began to speak. “Hello Potter! You’ve got cool glasses! Are you getting ready for Quidditch? I hope this year we’ll have a chance to meet on the Quidditch field to have a good match. Of course, if you are intending to return to Hogwarts this year. I am Jodie Muller, the Captain of Ravenclaw’s Quidditch team,” a blonde, slender girl introduced herself as she was quickly narrating her monologue.

 

“Um, hello. I’ll return to Hogwarts…” Harry replied awkwardly.

 

“But the Captain of Gryffindor Quidditch team is me,” Ginny added, knowing well the Ravenclaw girl of her year. “Then we’ll meet on the pitch.”

 

“Cheers,” Jodie wished for them, but then she turned to her friends and said: “Maybe let’s go to the Snitch on the Green alley. Hasn’t there arrived a new supply of broomsticks?”

 

The other three girls nodded and then all of them hurried away quietly murmuring goodbye.

 

Hermione glanced around absently while Harry, Ron and Ginny began to examine carefully the broom offerings. Immediately, the shopkeeper rushed to offer his help – he was a thin, old man. “Good day! What do young people want, then? Is your need just for leisure or for serious Quidditch match?”

 

“We’ll need broomsticks for Quidditch, three of them,” Ron replied.

 

“Well, well, the broomsticks for Quidditch are just right here. Look, here’s the new Cleansweep; here I have the Nimbuses. And here, being the most important, of course, is the Firebolt. I heard the second version will be available soon, but we all have to wait for it at least half a year. So, what should I show to you?” the man began to show everything around with enormous enthusiasm rubbing his hands.

 

Three of friends studied the Quidditch brooms, being very interested in the newest Cleansweep 8 and Comet 500. Of course, the Firebolt would be the best available broomstick, but it cost several hundred Galleons – such amount of money for Ron and Ginny could only appear in their dreams, but Harry felt too sorrow for his old Firebolt, so it didn’t seem right to him to give away a large pile of money from his Gringotts vault to simply buy a new Firebolt. And the old one he got as a present from Sirius…

 

Finally, they decided the Comet 500 will be good enough for them, which also cost a pretty penny – fifty Galleons for one broomstick. Paying money for his and Ginny’s broom, Harry heard Hermione say: “Look, there’s Hagrid. I’ll go out and say hello to him.”

 

The girl briefly glanced at her friends and rushed out through the door. As soon as they had paid for their new brooms Harry, Ginny and Ron also run out of the shop, hastily saying goodbye to the overly happy shopkeeper.

 

“Oh là là! Look it, there’s yeh too, Harry. An’, Ron an’ Ginny,” the giant said as he joyfully made a smile in his beard.

 

“Hi Hagrid!” the young people greeted him.

 

“Please tell us how things are going at Hogwarts – what’s going on there right now?” Harry asked first before Hagrid.

 

“O’, we have a lot to do. We are working till late at night. Not everything has been completely repaired yet, but at least the main walls of the castle are in order. The Boathouse is still ruined; there’s not much left to the September first when I have to take them new first years over the lake,” Hagrid told them excitedly. “An’ how do yeh do – I see, ya got all kinds of shoppin’ bags. Then are ya getting ready for Hogwarts, right?” the giant asked.

 

“Of course,” Ginny replied. “How can one not want to go back to Hogwarts? So we all will be in the same class this year with the permission of McGonagall.”

 

“But if you have so much work to do, what are you doing here, Hagrid?” Ron asked.

 

“Well, yeh are not takin’ the Care of Magical Creatures, but near me hut, in the forest, there are roaming such interestin’ creatures as whatacrows. They are smart birds, but scary as hell. I need to go to the Magical Menagerie to look fer somethin’ to scare them away,” Hagrid said thoughtfully, although it seemed to Harry that the giant actually was quietly thinking how to domesticate them. “An’ there are those nasty boggarts all over the place. As people are saying – when there’s any kind of disaster or a battle, then yeh later can’t get rid of them.”

 

“I wish you luck, Hagrid,” Hermione said with a smile. “I am very happy to see you, and we are going to see each other at Hogwarts again.”

 

“Of course, I have a great pleasure to see yeh too. And especially for yeh, Harry. Yeh all went through such difficulties as only a rare wizard have seen, an’ now look at yeh – yeh are happy an’ getting ready for Hogwarts. You-Know-Who is defeated, an’ now yeh can live in peace. Good job Harry! That’s the way to go! An’ yeh, Ginny, help him how yeh can, now yeh two can live happily ever after. Bye, bye all of yeh. Then we’ll see at Hogwarts,” the giant said, waving his large-sized palm and went off to the shop of Magical Menagerie.

 

Harry was delighted to hear Ginny’s suggestion that they could finish their shopping ending it with an ice cream. “The Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour has been reopened again, hasn’t it? Let’s go there?” Ginny had said.

 

“All right, let’s go there,” Ron agreed. “Harry, listen, didn’t you say some time ago that Fortescue knew a lot about history?”

 

“Yeah, it’s true. He knew a lot about it,” Harry groaned reluctantly. Hagrid’s genuine happiness had spoiled his mood. Their old, huge friend truly thought the war against Voldemort has been won and now everyone can have their happy lives back. But what if there are still some other cruel and terrible challenges ahead? When Harry had escaped from the Dursleys in his third year and had lived in the Leaky Cauldron, back then Fortescue had given him ice cream for free every day and had told incredibly lot of stories about medieval witches. Who can tell now – maybe he would have known something about the relics of Hogwarts, but now the life of a wise, intelligent and knowledgeable old man has been taken away by Voldemort’s terror more than a year ago. If this monster is wandering somewhere around out there, how many more kind, sincere, and wise wizards will have to suffer?

 

Sunk in his dark reflections, Harry noticed that they had already arrived at the Fortescue Ice Cream Parlour which was indeed open to visitors. But there was no friendly old man sitting behind the counter, there was just a smiling lady. Approaching the parlour, Hermione greeted a visitor, hidden behind the newest release of the Quibbler. “Hi Luna!”

 

“Hi my friends!” The girl smiled with true joy as she saw her friends, putting aside her magazine. “Come, join me! The new glasses really do look good on you, Harry!” she said excitedly.

 

The four young people instantly took the seats around the table next to Luna at the white wooden chairs and on one of them they placed all their purchases.

 

Harry now wanted to get up and go to the counter to order ice cream but the lady was already standing at their table.

 

“Oh my dear God, you are Harry Potter, and Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, and you Miss are also a Weasley?” the owner said enthusiastically.

 

“Yes, I’m Ginny Weasley,” she confirmed. Harry cast a glance at the counter – there were three customers waiting patiently. He pursed his lips in frustration – did others really have to wait in the queue just because he had come here; he, Harry Potter, the boy who lived, the boy who vanquished the Dark Lord. Sort of… He was the boy who didn’t do his job properly, that’s what he was, Harry thought bitterly.

 

“My name is Diana. Fortescue was my dad, but there’s a long time gone when I called myself a Fortescue,” she said happily telling her story as she waved her hand. “What should I bring to you? You are such nice and noble people, so I will gladly give you ice cream for free. At my expense. It is such a pleasure for me that you have come to my Ice Cream Parlour. In the evening I could tell my children at home, that Harry Potter himself with his friends had visited my parlour,” the lady just continued to talk without a pause.

 

“No!” Harry exclaimed quite loudly. “I can pay for my ice cream myself. You don’t have to give it to me for free!”

 

Diana was strongly confused by Harry’s harsh voice, but then she smiled stiffly.

 

Hermione looked at the Luna’s two ice creams for a brief moment and to make amends, she quickly said her order: “We would like to also have four big ice creams with hazelnuts, please.”

 

The owner murmured, “Alright,” and hastily rushed for the requested ice cream. It seemed she felt relieved when Hermione had said her order, so she could leave the company of young people.

 

Luna turned her head to Harry, leaning it on one side, and said: “Harry, why are you so anxious today as if you were going to catch another evil wizard? And Ginny – I wish a happy birthday to you!”

 

Ginny mumbled, “Thank you,” with a smile, but Harry stared at the blonde Ravenclaw girl with wide eyes – Luna was the first person who hadn’t become overly excited about his endless and great feats, but actually wanted to know how he felt. And even her observation was unusually accurate. Only he wasn’t going to catch another dark wizard, but the same one.

 

“Look, I think we can tell it to Luna too,” Harry suggested. “And also to Neville,” he added as soon as he saw his friend coming out of the nearby apothecary and approaching to them. Neville raised his hand to greet them and they answered his greeting. Meanwhile, the owner of the parlour has already brought them the four ordered portions of hazelnut ice cream. “Here you are! You have to pay twenty Knuts for each ice cream.”

 

The friends gave to the lady the required money. Harry noticed that Diana now acted very stiffly in his presence.

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry began, “if I was too harsh with my reply. I just don’t like to get things for free if others have to pay for them. And I often used to come here to your father for an ice cream. He really knew a lot about history.”

 

“Thank you, dear,” she said with a smile as she obviously accepted the apology. “Yes, as a child I also liked to listen to his stories. Especially dear to me was the story of the daughter of old Lady Ravenclaw. It had everything what a little girl needs – it was a story of love when a young girl falls in love with a handsome young man, and then she runs away from home to her happiness. Oh, to this story I could listen again and again in the evenings,” Diana said daydreaming, but then she suddenly woke up. “Sorry for talking so much! I won’t bother you any longer, there’s ice cream melting for you. Enjoy your ice cream!” As she said it, she hurried back to the counter, but Harry was sitting with open mouth – now when he actually might have wanted to ask her more about the story of Ravenclaw’s daughter, she had run away.

 

Meanwhile, Neville had come to their table. “Hello, hello,” he said, seeing his good, old friends, and made a sincere smile. Then he took a chair from a nearby table and sat down to their company.

 

Everyone greeted back Neville, and Luna smiled knowingly at him. “I told you I’ll save one for you too. A small freezing spell, and the ice cream will still taste as freshly made. This is your favorite – with hazelnuts.”

 

Smiling, Neville took his portion of ice cream, and Luna at once remembered: “Harry, did you want to tell us why are you so anxious today?”

 

“Anxious?” Neville wandered glancing at Harry. “What happened then? Why Luna thinks you’re anxious?”

 

“Oh, he just can’t stand that everyone is giving away things to him for free,” Ron said grumpily.

 

Hermione threw a little bit critical glance at him and interjected: “And there is also that other thing. Harry, tell it yourself; you are the one who discovered it.”

 

Neville began to appear worried, but the expression on Luna’s face transformed into a mild interest.

 

Quickly Harry cast the Muffliato Charm over their table. “All right, listen then – I saw a bad dream ten days ago. A very bad.” Harry had to gather all the courage to be able to tell his revelation to someone else – as if the more he was talking about it, the more real it was becoming. However, if there was anyone else who deserved to know this, it was certainly Neville and Luna, his most loyal fighters, except for Ron and Hermione. “So, in short, I saw in a dream that Voldemort wasn’t completely destroyed and he was seriously planning to rise again.”

 

After Harry’s statement, both Neville and Luna sat in their chairs shocked with their mouths halfway open.

 

“It can’t be,” Neville finally breathed.

 

Luna was the first to regain her clarity of thoughts. “Harry, but if you say you saw it in a dream, how do you know it is even a little bit of truth? The dream, however, is a dream. That could be true only then if you had put my given Dreamer by your bed that night.” When Harry heard it, he at instant remembered the moment Luna had given him her present at his birthday: This is the Dreamer. It doesn’t allow nightmares to visit you at night, but sometimes it may catch bypassing thoughts. Thinking back, it seemed to him as there a thorn of fear would prick in his abdomen.

 

“You see, at first Hermione told me the same that it was probably just a dream,” Harry said, knowingly glanced at Hermione, who slowly ate her ice cream, licking the spoon. She nodded approvingly. He turned back to the Ravenclaw girl and continued: “But then we started to discuss why it can’t be true until we realized where we could have made a mistake. We probably haven’t destroyed all of the Voldemort’s Horcruxes.”

 

“We haven’t? But all of you hunted those bloody Horcruxes all the year, and I cut off that snake’s head. Are you going to say this snake was not a real Horcrux, but the real one could be who knows where?” Neville said, expressing his anxiety.

 

“Neville, I think the snake was a real Horcrux. You did everything correct,” Luna comforted her friend, well knowing his doubts about self-confidence which were haunting him since childhood. After all, he had begun to show the heroism worth of Gryffindor only in his fifth school year. Until then, even his closest relatives had a great deal of doubt as to whether the boy had any abilities. “Harry, please tell us what did you actually conclude?” Luna suggested calmly, blinking her big round eyes.

 

“We began to discuss how we had destroyed all the Horcruxes, and Luna, remember how you led me to show the Ravenclaw’s Diadem how does it look like?” Harry began.

 

“Mhm.” Luna nodded.

 

“You see, back then we thought we had found it in the Room of Requirements, but then we started to think that it might not have been the real Diadem, because after the exposure to Fiendfyre it turned into the dust. Contrary, all other Horcruxes were visibly damaged after the destruction, but their magic was strong enough to save the Horcrux in one piece. That’s why we suspect that this burnt-out diadem was just another forgery, but the real one is somewhere out there untouched. Most likely it is located at Hogwarts,” Harry finished his narration.

 

Neville still seemed shocked. If only in his eyes were gone the fear and guilt for being somehow something mistook, for example, cut off the head of the wrong snake.

 

“At Hogwarts? Are you sure? If the diadem in the Room of Requirements was just a fake, then the real one could be anywhere in the world,” Neville said hopelessly.

 

“We are completely sure of Hogwarts because Voldemort hurried exactly there to save the Diadem. That’s why we are now going to return to Hogwarts for our seventh school year so we can devote all of our efforts to search for the Diadem,” Harry explained. “Well, Neville, you are also going back to Hogwarts, right?”

 

“Yes, I am. I received the letter from McGonagall and at once sent an affirmation. I didn’t learn much during that Snape’s dictatorship. Ginny and I had to organize bold sabotages so there wasn’t enough time for me to study,” their friend said with a smile. “And my grandmother thinks every proper wizard must have a Hogwarts diploma.”

 

“Well, this means the struggle against the darkness isn’t over yet,” Luna summarized the conversation. “Mmm – she has added a caramel to this ice cream, isn’t it delicious?” she said, licking the tasty spoon in the hot sunshine.



Chapter 5: The Fall has come
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The four friends didn’t even notice, or one of them noticed it even too well – it felt different for each of them – when there came up the September first when it was time to go to Hogwarts. Harry had spent the remained two weeks of August and that unbearably long Monday in the Burrow with Ginny, Ron, and Hermione enthusiastically searching for even the shortest articles of the games of the Quidditch World Cup. Although, it appeared Harry had spent his days peacefully, keeping up with the intense sports events, he had always thought of Voldemort and the task ahead of him in his long free time, so he couldn’t wait for the day, the moment when he will be able to get the job done. No matter how pleasant was the life in the Burrow, but this was one of the very few times in his life, when he felt trapped here unable to wait for the day of departure.

 

The morning of the September first has begun as usual every year – with the haste, grabbing and gathering everything that hadn’t been packed in the previous evening. True enough, Harry had packed his suitcase already a week ago, so he was the first one ready and helped Mrs. Weasley to put the plates on the table while Ron was running from his room back and forth to the laundry room, then searching for socks, then for shirts. Hermione, noticing it, rolled her eyes.

 

When she entered the kitchen, she explained the reason for her delay: “I gathered my clothes and found the book of Numerology that had fallen behind the table. It took me a while to get it out, and then I had to charm it smaller to fit it in the suitcase. And then I had to catch Crookshanks and had to get him into the cage.” Then Hermione swiftly came closer to Harry. “In my suitcase, I put in the books of the Dark Arts, too. Maybe they came in handy,” she quickly whispered, leaning to the Harry’s ear, then she sat down at the breakfast table, and Harry nodded once as he put in front of her a plate with the pancakes.

 

After several more minutes there came also Arthur, Ginny and finally Ron. Ginny had found her new Hogwarts robes which inexplicably had gone to the Ron’s purchases for Hogwarts.

 

“I have to tell it, it seems to me this morning, everything is going more fluently than other mornings at September first,” Arthur observed. “Now, we even had all come to breakfast in time,” Weasley senior said, looking at his wristwatch which showed ten minutes after eight.

 

“Good appetite, my dear ones!” Mrs. Weasley wished. “Time is still enough, but you already know how it is, my darling – just take it slower a little bit and the time disappears in a blink of an eye. That’s why I’m saying to you – good appetite and let’s not waste our time,” Molly remarked with a smile and as she took a bowl with omelet she put a large spoon of it on Arthur’s plate and then gave it to Harry.

 

Putting large piles of food on their plates, all of them started to eat hungrily. Ron was the most diligent with this occupation – the prefect duties on the train were always tiring, and in the evening he usually felt so hungry he could eat a horse.

 

“Well, dad how is it – did you get the car?” Ginny asked.

 

“Yes, I managed it. The Auror Office gave us it immediately for security reasons,” Arthur explained.

 

This morning, the conversation at the breakfast table hardly went smoothly – all of them just quickly finished their breakfast, then in their suitcases they put the last quills and ink bottles, then they levitated their suitcases to the yard where they were already waited by the car lent by Auror Office. From the outside, it looked like an ordinary Muggle car in plum purple color. Of course, it turned out that not only there was enough space for four huge suitcases in the trunk, but the four young people together with the owl and the cat could freely sit on the back seat of the car, but the Weasley couple sat comfortably in the front left seat. In the chair of chauffeur, there sat a medium height Auror who introduced himself as Justin Savage.

 

Hermione placed the cage with Crookshanks by her other side so the cat would be farther away from Ron’s Pigwidgeon. As they were all seated, they could go along with their way.

 

The time was plenty enough as they parked near the King’s Cross Station. They swiftly went through the barrier, behind which was the Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

 

And there it was – a bright red engine, patiently waiting for its passengers. This morning, the station’s platform seemed unusually quiet, but they had also come unusually early – they had at least half an hour until the departure. Mr. Weasley helped to bring their suitcases on the train, and the young people could choose a coupe as they wish, because there was only seldom ones occupied. They settled on one in the front coupes of the train, and in there Mr. Weasley helped to bring their suitcases.

 

The four young people stepped out of the train after Arthur to say goodbye to him and Molly. From Mrs. Weasley they all received a warm embrace and a lovely farewell kiss – Harry had even two – and, as a mom, she wished them to enjoy their last year of Hogwarts and, after an old habit, strictly said them to not get into any mischief. All of them laughed sincerely.

 

They boarded back the train and bent out of the window to wave the farewell to the both senior Weasleys. Now, on the platform had arrived quite the crowd of passengers who had been eagerly awaiting their trip to Hogwarts, which once again for a lot of new students will be the first substantive adventure in the fascinating world of Magic. There, in the crowd, Harry within the groups of the smallest students spotted well-known faces – there came Dean, a little bit farther there went Augusta Longbottom with her grandson Neville in the direction to the Weasley couple. Augusta Longbottom radiated with joy, and it was obvious that Neville was no longer the small, hunched boy who was tripping after his stern looking grandmother – now he had grown up as a dashing young man who had gained a straight posture as well after his heroic deed – he had finally realized how strong he was and was proud of his accomplishments. In the crowd, one might see he was also appreciated by one or two girls. In addition to other Gryffindor boys and girls, through the barrier of the Platform also came the students of Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw houses. Of course, soon there came Luna with her peculiar looking dad, after her came Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbott, then there was also the Captain of Ravenclaw Quidditch team, Jodie, who they had met at the Quidditch Supplies shop. She was pulling over her suitcase and a package obviously giving away a wrapped in broomstick. Naturally, there was also no shortage of Slytherins who wanted to go to Hogwarts. There was Pansy Parkinson, dark skinned Blaise Zabini. And, of course, there has to be Draco Malfoy, too. However, the Slytherins seemed to have changed somehow – as they have met, they acted unusually quiet and inconspicuous. In addition, it was even more unusual to see Draco without both of his sidekicks. In the spring, Crabbe had died of his own curse of Fiendfyre, but Goyle as it looked like must have decided to start his adult life where the education was not of primary importance.

 

The Slytherins started to board the train, and for a moment Draco noticed Harry looking out of the window of the train, and the blond guy immediately looked away, awkwardly greeting Harry with a slight nod. It seemed to Harry the Slytherins from all the Hogwarts students were the most regrettable – after the Last Battle it seemed there was nothing left of their pride.

 

Harry told his observation to Hermione, who had already started to look for her new Hogwarts robes and her Head Girl badge.

 

“I’m not surprised about that. Imagine, wherever they go, everyone sees them practically as traitors,” Hermione explained with her nose in her suitcase.

 

“But many of them are little innocent children,” Harry objected thoughtfully.

 

“However, Harry, it is difficult to set boundaries for people’s prejudices. I think you know it very well for yourself,” she made a point, giving him a knowing look. Now Ron and Ginny had taken out their black robes from their suitcases and listened in to the conversation between Harry and Hermione.

 

“Prejudices?” Ron asked. “Hermione, all Death Eaters have come from Slytherin. There are no prejudices – it simply cannot be unseen that the greatest evil comes straight from their midst,” he said stating his opinion.

 

“You forgot Peter Pettigrew,” Ginny objected.

 

“I said – the greatest evil,” Ron defended. “Pettigrew was just one single case. Who knows what these Slytherins are brooding in their minds. I suppose someone like Malfoy will know how to spoil our day.”

 

“Ron, these are the prejudices I’m talking about. As Harry just said, there are also many younger students from first few school years who have nothing to do with what happened in the spring,” Hermione argued.

 

“Okay, you’re talking about little kids, but how about Malfoy, Parkinson and their Slytherin clique?” Ron opposed.

 

“But none of them had stood up against us in a clear battle. And if we due to our prejudices are pushing them away, it is the first step towards a new Voldemort. Or even the same one, considering what Harry discovered this summer,” she said firmly.

 

It seemed Ron flinched a little bit from such a terrible idea. “And didn’t Malfoy step in our path? I would like to know, who then was the one who made that hell there in the Room of Requirements, if it wasn’t Malfoy?” he asked.

 

“Actually,” Harry said, “Malfoy waited for us there, but Crabbe was the one who made that fire…”

 

“Yeah, big deal. Aren’t they all together as one?” Ron asked incredulously. For him, it was not easy to forgive the offense of Slytherins.

 

“No, they are not. Besides Malfoy didn’t give us away when these Snatchers took us to that mansion of his,” Harry defended.

 

“Feh, I suppose he just had willies. A coward and traitor he is. I don’t understand why both of you so suddenly have started to worry about what those Slytherins are thinking?” Ron insisted.

 

Ginny also had something to say, “Ron, because they both are right. If we treat the Slytherins as criminals instead of trying to accept them, it is just like igniting the burner of a time bomb. If we want to live in peace, we have to learn to live together with the Slytherins as well.”

 

“To live together with such an ass like Draco Malfoy? You’re kidding, right?” Ron was indignant.

 

“Hermione, Ginny, I really do agree with you. We must not completely push out the Slytherins from our midst. In addition, an old proverb says to keep your enemies close,” Harry commented, looking at Ron.

 

“Harry, for that I could even agree with you, but start to be friends with them – that’s too much for me. Then I better go through the Forbidden Forest three times in a row,” Ron postulated his opinion.

 

“Ron, nobody’s asking you to be friends with them, just don’t treat them like Death Eaters right away. Give them the opportunity to prove that the Slytherins can also act as normal civil people,” Ginny explained.

 

“Normal civil people?” Ron sneered, still not being able to believe his friends looking at them like they have lost their marbles, “How could they be normal civil people?”

 

There blew the whistle of the train and the four young people paused their conversation, taking a look out of the window. The last passengers of the Hogwarts Express were rushing inside it. The friends smiled, watching few little girls who had just run through the barrier of the Platform and now sprinted to the train with fear in their eyes. Harry glanced at Ron – it was such a pleasure that their September first had started without a hurry this year. Maybe it meant that the rest of the year could be calm as well, unlike all the previous years? Their only unusual task was to find the Ravenclaw’s Diadem, which they will be able to freely do without disturbance taking their time; then there will only be the lessons, and their Hogwarts positions, and then was the Quidditch, and who knows what the Slytherins are going to do this year? A calm year? Seriously? When there has been calm at Hogwarts? Harry thought happily. The four friends yet gave the farewell greetings to the Weasley couple who talked to Neville’s grandmother. Smiling, they passionately waved their hands, answering their farewell until the train had picked up all the remaining passengers jumping in it at the last minute, and then sighing heavily it began to move forward, until accelerating it drove away from the Platform. It was done now. After a year’s break, they had gone to Hogwarts for their studies.

 

Ron, Hermione, and Ginny took off their Muggle jackets and pulled the black Hogwarts robes over their head. Harry also opened his suitcase and took out the bag with his new clothes along with the Head Boy badge from the side pocket of his suitcase. He also took off his jacket and put on the robes, looking like a proper Hogwarts student. His friends had already pinned their badges on their chest, and Ron and Hermione were ready to take their suitcases with them – the prefects, as well as the Head Boy and the Head Girl had specially designed coupes at the forefront of the train, where they were supposed to stay for the entire journey. Only Ginny had to stay alone in the compartment, because the Quidditch captains did not have to fulfill the duty to help to guard the order in the Hogwarts Express. Ron and Hermione had already gone out to the corridor, levitating their suitcases behind them, when Harry swinging in his palm the Head Boy badge turned to Ginny, who had just pushed her suitcase under the seat.

 

“I’m sorry for leaving you alone. I’ll try to get back as soon as possible,” Harry promised.

 

“Don’t worry about me,” Ginny replied. “Having a whole coupe just for myself in the Hogwarts Express – I feel like a princess.” She smiled warmly.

 

“Okay, but anyway I’ll try to be back to you as soon as possible to be your company. And, please, look after my suitcase,” Harry finally added smiling.

 

The voice of Ron called from the corridor: “Harry, where are you? Won’t you come?”

 

“I’m coming!” he called back. He gave a quick kiss on his girlfriend’s lips and then ran after Ron.

 

Ron had already entered the nearby prefect compartment, but Hermione was waiting him at the coupe on the other side of the coach.

 

“It seems this is the right one,” Hermione spoke out loudly, looking at the number three made of brass above the coupe door, which professor Flitwick has urged to search for the Head Boy and Head Girl in his letter.

 

“Then let’s go inside,” Harry said, opening the coupe door and letting in Hermione first with her heavy suitcase and her Crookshanks cage, and then he went after her into the compartment and closed the door.

 

Looking around the small room, he noticed that, unlike the usual coupes for other schoolmates, here were much softer upholstered seats, placed on only one side of the coupe, and there was also a small tea table just below the window, but opposite the sofa-like seats was a mirror, decorated with a golden frame.

 

Crookshanks napped peacefully in his cage which the girl had carefully put on the wide coupe seat before. Hermione had just managed to put her suitcase under the sofa when she noticed something she found unusual.

 

“Harry, why didn’t you take your suitcase with you?” Hermione asked him. “And where is your Head Boy badge?” she wondered becoming even more confused looking at her friend.

 

“Listen, I am thinking about something you might not like and even more that won’t please Ron,” Harry began, swinging again his badge with his palm looking at it. When he had found it in the envelope, he had felt such a sudden and fulfilled joy – his father also had been a Head Boy. And as a child, he had always wanted to grow up to be like his dad – to get the title of Head Boy, to become an Auror, to be a man whom everyone remembers as a good person. And yet – now when he held the badge, it didn’t seem right to him anymore. Did he get it because he was him, the famous Harry Potter, or because there was really no other person in his school year who could have deserved it more? And even more – it seems these Head Boy duties could really take a lot of time, which he could use to search for the diadem. Who knows if they really will find it on the very first day – what if they will need more time?

 

“Harry, what are you talking about now?” Hermione was still confused. “What has come into your mind?”

 

“I’m thinking about what we just talked about and argued with Ron. I think both you and Ginny are absolutely right…” he slowly began to explain when something suddenly moved in the mirror – the portrait of Minerva McGonagall, the Headmistress of Hogwarts, had instantly appeared. She looked like always – with the usual square glasses, the chin proudly raised up, and the black hair made in a tight hair bun, only in the strict eyes there seemed to be a little more kindness and happiness than the young people were used to see.

 

“Good afternoon, the new Head Girl and Head Boy,” McGonagall greeted them.

 

“Hello, professor,” Harry and Hermione replied without hesitation, standing on their feet.

 

“Miss Granger, Mr. Potter, I am delighted to see both of you here,” she said smiling kindly. “So, let’s start it. Both of you have been chosen to fulfill the honorable duties of the Head Boy and the Head Girl of Hogwarts. So, let’s start by discussing your responsibilities and rights this position is giving to you, alright?” McGonagall was ready to get the ball rolling immediately.

 

“Um, professor?” Harry spoke. “I have a huge request for you, therefore I would like to ask you – can I bring another Hogwarts student here?”

 

McGonagall appeared to be intrigued and confused at the same time, “Another student? Potter, what kind of request are you going to ask of me?”

 

Harry shuffled from one foot to another – he was aware that his idea was audacious, most likely it was even never heard of, but he could not give it up. “Professor, can I give my Head Boy title to somebody else?”

 

McGonagall stared at him, surprised. For a short moment she didn’t know what to say. “To somebody else? Potter, what are you talking about? Why do you want to give away your Head Boy title to somebody else?”

 

“It’s simply that, you know, there’s the thing,” Harry stuttered. So it was with those persistent and crazy ideas – you couldn’t get rid of them, but when you have to tell it to someone else, it wasn’t easy at all – if this other person will see you as completely mad, or even worse – will start to mock you about it? Harry quickly gathered his courage and told his full idea: “There’s the thing I don’t want even more glory, honor or responsibility, I just want to finish the Hogwarts school year on a good note, so I would like someone else to take the Head Boy position instead of me.”

 

“And who is the one you would like to put in your place?” the headmistress asked. Hermione just stood next to him with her mouth open, unable to believe what she had just heard.

 

“Professor, may I bring him here? Then we could talk it through all together,” Harry suggested, casting a glance at Hermione with awareness.

 

“Technically, Potter, this duty and honor is meant for you. Besides, in my whole lifetime I can’t recall not even a single case when there at Hogwarts would have been changed the Head Boy. And I think there wouldn’t be also a single case in the whole history of Hogwarts when anyone would have abandoned this title voluntarily,” McGonagall strictly said, obviously thinking that the excuse for attracting too much praise couldn’t be taken very seriously. “If you are afraid people will consider you too glorious and arrogant, I can explain in my speech of this evening how the Head Boy or the Head Girl is chosen.”

 

“It’s alright, professor, but I have also other reasons why I would like to pass on this title and duties to someone else,” Harry said. “Please, let me bring him here, and I’ll explain it to you in more detail.”

 

“Potter, this is something unheard of. I don’t really understand what has come into your mind,” McGonagall said grumpily.

 

“Professor, I’m honestly asking you to fulfill my request. In the Order Rules of Hogwarts, however, there is not forbidden to pass on the assigned title to someone else, if it is done with the headmaster’s approval?” Harry asked. Now when the conversation has started, it was easier to defend his positions.

 

“As far as I know, technically I can actually make such a decision. Very well then – bring him here. I just do not understand why do you need all of this,” McGonagall said at the end muttering under her nose, still expressing her displeasure against the changes in her set order.

 

Harry smiled at McGonagall and said quietly: “I’ll be right back.” Then he hurried out of the coupe. It seemed the coupe with the Hogwarts student he was looking for should be close by; they had also settled at the front of the train.

 

Harry passed the coupe taken by Ginny where he briefly looked in through the matted window of the sliding door, noticing that the girl had bent over something she held in her hands, probably reading Witch Weekly Magazine what she hadn’t managed to do at home. Looking through the window of the coupe at the opposite side, he observed that there wasn’t the young man he was looking for – there were only several girls in there. Two coupes farther away, he found what he was searching for. There were sitting two lesser-known Slytherin girls, one of them was from his year named Daphne, the other was definitely her sister, and there was also Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott, and Draco Malfoy. This time, though, Malfoy didn’t seem to be so fond of all the great plans of his adult life – Harry, remembering his last trip with Hogwarts Express in the September first, had to restrain himself for not to touch his nose. The old quarrels have to be put aside, besides, he hadn’t asked McGonagall so determinedly to give up now. That’s why Harry gathered his Gryffindor courage being persistent on his decision.

 

“Malfoy, could you please come out?” Harry said instead of greetings as he pulled the coupe door open.

 

Draco tilted his head sideways looking at him inquiringly, but without saying anything he got up and walked out into the corridor. Luckily, here, at the forefront was relatively calm, just further at the end of the train came the sounds of clamoring and scurrying.

 

“What’s the matter, Potter?” Draco asked as he had closed the door. Harry saw that Malfoy looked much graver than usual, and it even seemed to Harry that his face without his trademark sneering grin looked really odd – the blond guy almost looked like an ordinary common person. Obviously, Voldemort has left his terrible marks in every soul, but for these transformations has been paid a very high price. After the Battle of Hogwarts, the Malfoys had lost their honor, pride and a good pile of money as well as their influence in the Ministry, which was constantly reported by Daily Prophet all summer long, posting mocking articles by the alert journalists.

 

“Come with me, I have an offer for you,” Harry said sounding almost imperious.

 

“An offer? To me? Haven’t you mistaken something, Potter? The Slytherins are an abbreviated piece of nothing now,” Malfoy said frowning in surprise.

 

“You see, that’s the thing I would like to change a little bit,” Harry replied enigmatically. “Here,” he said, pointing to Head Boy and Head Girl coupe.

 

Being even more surprised, Malfoy opened the coupe door. “But this is the…” he stopped in mid-sentence as he saw the reflection of professor McGonagall in the mirror as well as the surprised expression of still standing Hermione.

 

After he had urged Malfoy into the compartment, Harry closed the door and heard Hermione whispering: “Oh, Harry, that’s what has come into your mind.”

 

If Hermione had instantly suspected Harry’s intentions, then it wasn’t so easy for McGonagall – even a moment later the surprise and incomprehension haven’t left her expression.

 

“Well, Potter, explain yourself!” the headmistress ordered. Harry almost started to laugh, although there wasn’t the right time at all for it – of course, the position of headmistress was something new to her, besides, there were all the Hogwarts restoration works going on, and the confusion with the N.E.W.T. students, and in addition to all that he is pestering her with Slytherins. Quickly calmed down, he collected himself and finally said his request, “Professor McGonagall, I’m asking you to allow me to hand over my Head Boy title to Mr. Draco Malfoy.”

 

McGonagall and Hermione had already begun to suspect the Harry’s intentions from the previous conversation, so their faces remained as they were: McGonagall was frustrated and confused, Hermione – surprised. However, the most remarkable were the eyes of Draco Malfoy showing absolute shock and his opened jaw which was hanging down practically hitting the floor.

 

“Potter, I asked you to explain yourself! I realized the fact that you are going to give away your Head Boy position to Draco Malfoy the very moment you brought him through that doorway of this coupe.” McGonagall had recovered her usual strict posture.

 

“Professor, you see, in my opinion, Malfoy has deserved to receive this title as in an advance. We must not push anyone out of our midst or we must not punish anyone without a valid reason for what they have not done or for what have done their parents. So I ask for you to give Malfoy this opportunity to prove it and show it to others, too, that everyone, including Slytherins, belongs to our society, and no one will be excluded for no reason,” Harry explained. It seemed McGonagall relaxed a little bit after hearing it.

 

“Of course, Potter, I had to see it from the very beginning that you have in mind a noble and honorable act,” McGonagall said, “But do you really think this duty should be given exactly to Draco Malfoy? I do need to remind you that I have not reinstated him in his prefect position for a reason – I learned from Mr. Filch that he was indeed guilty of burning the Room of Requirements, in addition endangering the lives of both of you and Miss Granger, as well as Mr. Ronald Weasley.”

 

“I’m sorry, but Mr. Filch hasn’t understood the situation correctly – it was Crabbe, who set the fire to the Room of Requirements, besides, Malfoy had even tried to discourage him from it. In addition, Malfoy, um… Draco did not betray us when we were in trouble with Bellatrix Lestrange, and I can also add that his mother saved me from a certain death; that’s why I think Draco Malfoy from all the seventh year students has deserved an opportunity to prove himself as a worthy member of our society,” Harry explained. Of course, McGonagall as well as other fighters of the Battle of Hogwarts remembered too well the May second when they were fighting against the horde of the Death Eaters, mostly consisting of the older generation of pureblood wizard families, including the Malfoys among them.

 

McGonagall was silent, thinking over this entire situation. It could be seen that she did not like it – to put the son of the Death Eaters as the Head Boy, it would be something unimaginable.

 

Then Hermione spoke up. “Professor, I understand your confusion, but I also understand Harry’s statement – we talked about it earlier today – that people shouldn’t be judged until they are proven guilty. And what we expect this year is that the Slytherins will most likely be judged for all the sins in the world. That’s why Harry is encouraging to stop this expected injustice at the very beginning, demonstratively showing that we are tolerant people who are ready to forgive and we won’t support any kind of injustice in our midst,” she finished stating her opinion.

 

“Miss Granger, you’re talking as a true Gryffindor, and if Mr. Potter has decided it so strongly, I’m willing to make such an unheard-of exception. However, if my table will start to burn by the Howlers sent by the parents of students, Harry, I will refer to you that this whole switch happened at your specific request, which I have approved, alright?” McGonagall warned. Draco was still looking stunned – however, now he had closed his mouth – and couldn’t help himself, so he was just standing there on his feet and listened to the conversation, unable to believe a single word of it. They wanted to make him Head Boy? Unbelievable!

 

“Of course, professor,” Harry replied gladly.

 

Seeing Harry’s joy, McGonagall lightly raised the corner of her mouth.

 

Harry took out from his pocket the gilded badge of Head Boy and handed it to Malfoy.

 

“With the permission of our kind headmistress, I hand over the title and duties of the Head Boy to you. With this I give you the opportunity to prove that you can be more or less a reasonable person. Just don’t throw your chance away, so I don’t have to regret this decision,” Harry said with a hint of a warning, putting the badge on the Malfoy’s palm. Still confused, Malfoy took the badge and turned it in his hands as if he still couldn’t believe anything that was happening here. “Then I must say thank you, Potter… and thank you, professor McGonagall,” he finally said, and in his gloomy face appeared a bit of joy – everything was not lost yet, he still had some hope of mending the honor of his family’s name, which was broken till the dust.

 

“So, as we have dealt with this issue, now I have to instruct you about your duties.” McGonagall was happy to finally get to the point, telling about the real thing this conversation was actually meant for.

 

“Harry, technically I should ask you to go out as an unauthorized person, but, though, please stay and listen to it you too. Besides, you will have to tell your decision to prefects as well. So, listen carefully – at the moment, it is up to Head Girl and Head Boy to maintain the order in the Hogwarts Express where it is not only advised but even obligated to use all the available help of the prefects. Also there on that table, soon will turn up the scrolls containing the passwords of the three Houses – as you probably are already foreseeing it,” McGonagall cast a knowing look on Harry, “the Ravenclaw house isn’t demanding a password, but asks a question instead. These notes with the passwords you will give to the prefects of the respective Houses, and do read the password for your House as well. The note with the password must be destroyed after memorizing it. That’s all for now. Later, when you’ll arrive at Hogwarts, along with your list of lessons you’ll receive a notification about the next meeting where we are going to discuss other responsibilities you’ll get assigned at school. I repeat again, it is your duty now to distribute the passwords and to arrange the order in the Hogwarts Express. Have a nice trip and let’s meet at the feast of this evening,” McGonagall finished the conversation, telling the Head Boy and the Head Girl all their responsibilities. Both Hermione and Malfoy nodded in agreement.

 

“But, Mr. Draco Malfoy, please keep in mind that I am complying Mr. Potter’s request to trust you in advance today, but if you in any way will make me see that Mr. Potter has had too high opinion of you, I as a headmistress will immediately cancel this arrangement without hearing any objections, and you, Harry, will have to fulfill the duties of the Head Boy for yourself,” McGonagall added as a warning.

 

“Of course, professor McGonagall. I’ll do everything in my power to not to disgrace the badge of the Head Boy,” Malfoy promised.

 

“Then that’s it for now. See you later in the evening,” the headmistress said, now smiling a little. “Oh, yes, I almost forgot – the password of the Prefects’ bathroom is Nettle Balm.” As she had said it, the image of her disappeared from the mirror and there could be seen only faces of Hermione, Draco, and Harry.

 

“Potter, why do you have such a completely crazy idea of giving up the position of Head Boy?” Malfoy asked, turning to Harry.

 

“Do you have any objections to this outcome? You heard it, even our dear headmistress agreed to it,” Harry replied, smirking.

 

“Well, alright, but what was all that nonsense you just said to her?” Draco still couldn’t comprehend anything. This time Hermione answered to him.

 

“As you probably have already concluded it for yourself, the Slytherins aren’t very popular now,” Hermione simply explained.

 

“And then – didn’t McGonagall take away your prefect badge just because Filch had told her something? That’s not the most reliable source – so we want a little bit to correct this injustice,” Harry added convincingly.

 

“O-kay,” Malfoy said very slowly, trying to understand it all, “I can see it, but, Potter, why you wanted to achieve it this way?”

 

“It’s quite simple. The Sorting Hat has sung about it even a long time ago in its songs that we really need to unite once and for all; otherwise it is just a matter of time until Voldemort will rise again… I mean, someone like Voldemort,” Harry corrected himself quickly.

 

“I see, Gryffindor thinking,” Malfoy quietly said to himself, though slightly flinching hearing Voldemort’s name. Then he spoke louder, “Then now we have to go to the prefects to instruct them?”

 

Just as Draco had said it, on a dark wooden tea table with carved legs there appeared three paper scrolls, each stamped with a Hogwarts seal and banded with a green thread, and each of them had the name of a House written in the handwriting of McGonagall.

 

“The passwords,” the girl said with a slight admiration in her voice as she took with her hands the little paper rolls.

 

“Hermione, maybe you can go now and give out the passwords, I need to say a word to Malfoy,” Harry suggested. “We’ll come after you just a moment later.”

 

“Yes, of course. Just don’t take it long,” Hermione said with a smile then she turned to the coupe door and walked out to the coupe of the opposite side of the couch, where they were patiently waited by the prefects.

 

Harry turned away from the coupe door and looked at Malfoy. “So, Malfoy, although I kindly asked McGonagall to make you the Head Boy, but if you’ll begin your old vices or if Hermione will complain to me even one single word that you have disrespected her, consider you’ll have to deal with me,” Harry warned him in a low, stressed voice, crossing his arms over his chest. He really didn’t want to make his friend suffer all her seventh Hogwarts year due to his, very likely, hasty decision.

 

“Potter, calm down. I’m not so stupid. I’m not going to mock Granger or begin to abuse her in any other way,” Draco said. “And yeah, I suppose thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

 

“Then do those duties properly and be kind to Hermione,” Harry strictly said to him once more, giving him a firm stare. “Then let’s go, Hermione will have handed out the passwords.” Draco nodded and they both started to walk to prefects’ coupe.

 

“But, Potter, I actually don’t understand why you don’t want to be the Head Boy for yourself?” Malfoy asked immediately.

 

“As I and Hermione just said -” Harry began to explain, but Draco interrupted.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I see all that. But is the salvation of the society the real reason or you have something else in mind? You mentioned the Dark Lord. Are you thinking about catching the Death Eaters in your free time because decorating Christmas trees is too modest?” Malfoy asked curiously at the end barely restraining himself for not saying a nasty comment about the Harry’s enormous glory. They have come to the prefects’ coupe door. Harry thought with an admiration that Malfoy was indeed very close to the truth, but he wasn’t going to admit it to him.

 

“Or maybe I just want to comfortably lay on a soft couch in front of a warm fireplace, while you’ll patrol in the dark, cold corridors late in the night,” Harry said smirking then he put his hand on the handle of coupe door and opened it.

 

Holding a rolled sheet with the inscription Gryffindor, Ron exclaimed: “Finally, Harry, I was starting to wonder why is it taking so long -” The young man broke in a mid-sentence as he saw Malfoy who also came into the compartment right after Harry.

 

“What’s he doing here? Wasn’t he removed from the prefect position?” Ron said in frustration with an angry expression.

 

“And, Weasley, how do you know it?” Malfoy spoke in a much calmer tone than Ron.

 

“You complained it to Nott at that time in the bookstore. You don’t have to shout out loud your problems in public areas if you don’t want others to know them,” Ron scolded him.

 

“So wait a bit, calm down, calm down,” Harry said, lifting his arms so anyone could notice him. “Ron, please, calm down.”

 

“When he’ll go back to wherever he has come from, I’ll be calm,” Ron said, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“Listen, Ron, and hear everyone else – after a special arrangement with professor McGonagall, I’ve decided to hand over my Head Boy duties to Draco Malfoy, so -” Harry stated, gazing for a brief moment to Malfoy, “so with all the issues related to the Head Boy you will turn to Malfoy.”

 

Needless to say, after this announcement, there was a noticeable shock in the prefects’ compartment, while Ron’s expression was impossible – he stared at Harry as if the other head suddenly had grown up on his friend’s shoulders. Harry barely restrained himself to not to chuckle about that. However, Ron collected himself and asked Harry for a talk face to face. Harry agreed to it immediately, and both young men went out to the corridor. At the front of the train was still relatively calm and quiet, unlike the rising noise coming from the rear couches. Lest Malfoy deal with it, Harry though in silence, oppressing a smile.

 

Ron turned to Harry with a deadly serious expression. “Harry, are you completely out of your mind or what? To make Malfoy for the Head Boy? Why on earth did you do that?” Ron demanded.

 

“Ron, I have two reasons for it. First, it’s what Hermione and Ginny was talking about while we were still dressing,” Harry began to explain.

 

“Feh – that nonsense that those Death Eaters shouldn’t be judged too quickly?” Ron snorted. “Alright, let’s say I could almost agree with their opinion, but to appoint Malfoy for the Head Boy? Maybe then we could also appoint Lestrange as the Minister for Magic?” Ron ironically scoffed.

 

“You know it very well, I’m not trying to justify the terror of Death Eaters not for a moment, but remember that Malfoy’s mother saved me from Voldemort. That’s why I owed him,” Harry explained.

 

“Then that’s the second reason, is it?” Ron concluded.

 

“No, the second reason is dealing with all those prefects, pumpkins and Christmas trees will hardly help me to find that bloody Diadem. We can’t be sure that we will find it in the very first evening. What if we need weeks, maybe even months?” Harry replied, pursing his lips.

 

“Right, but the Head Boy’s position would allow you to wander around the castle in the night. Have you thought about that?” Ron asked, now more calmly.

 

“When there has been anything that would have prevented me from walking around Hogwarts in the night?” Harry laughed. With Invisibility Cloak and Marauders Map he had access to all the places of the castle.

 

“Right,” Ron said with a blank expression.

 

“Listen, Ron, I already gave Malfoy a strict warning. If he would again begin to torment the first-years or would take the liberty to say even one inappropriate word to Hermione, I’ll take care that he will leave not only the position of the Head Boy, but also the Hogwarts. But as long as he is behaving well, we’ll be able to go on adventures throughout Hogwarts. Doesn’t it sound much better than boring sitting in the professors’ offices?” Harry said with a little smile.

 

“You know, I’m almost beginning to understand your move,” Ron agreed, also smiling. Harry’s smile stretched only wider. Somewhere from the other end of the train came the sound of an unpleasant thud.

 

“Then go and deal with that disorder, but I’ll go back to Ginny,” Harry said. “And, Ron, by the way I didn’t say anything you can’t spoil his day a little bit.” Harry winked at Ron. Hearing it, Ron quietly chuckled to himself and went back to the prefects’ coupe, but Harry went a couple of coupes farther until he found the one with Ginny inside it. As he opened the door, he saw that the girl was still alone. Dressed up in her Hogwarts robes, she was sitting on the seat and was silently reading, as it turned out, the Daily Prophet.

 

“Hello again. I’m back,” Harry said, smiling at his girlfriend.

 

Ginny lifted her gaze and looked at Harry with an inquisitive expression. “I just heard strange thuds coming from the back of the train. Isn’t it your duty as the Head Boy to go there and put everything in order?” Ginny asked, shaking her head and tilting it a little bit down as if pointing to her boyfriend’s unacceptable omission.

 

“Meh, Draco Malfoy will deal with it,” Harry said as though not making a big deal of it as he fell into the seat next to Ginny and put his hands behind his head.

 

“Seriously?” Ginny exclaimed in surprise, but contrary to Ron she appeared to be amused.

 

“It seemed to me already a little bit suspicious that you didn’t pin the badge on your robes, but I have to admit I didn’t think of Malfoy,” Ginny said. “And what about Ron? Such a pity I didn’t see his face.”

 

“Naturally, at first it seemed Ron was going to fly off the handle. But then we had a talk, and I said now he had all the chances to torture Malfoy as he wish, and then he became more tolerant of my crazy idea,” Harry explained.

 

Ginny simply smiled at him. He looked at the girl’s wonderfully beautiful face with pale freckles framed by vivid red hair curls, but the best he found her brown eyes burning with flame and life. After all the survived dreads, after all the losses that had shattered his already small bunch of relatives and friends, life was exactly what he needed the most. So, gazing at the girl’s dark brown eyes, he put his hand on her shoulder, leaned closer and pressed a soft kiss on her lips.

 

“See, there’s also a benefit from the fact I abandoned the position of the Head Boy – finally we’ll be able to spend more time alone,” Harry whispered as he pulled away for an inch from her lips, but then a moment later he kissed her again, this time more deeply. Ginny kissed him back without hesitation as usual putting in the kiss all the love for her boyfriend. They tightly embraced each other and with the kiss they tasted their lips, but soon – in Harry’s mind much too soon – Ginny pulled away from him.

 

“Harry, you definitely are a very good kisser, but I think you should read what is written in the Daily Prophet,” Ginny explained the reason why she had stopped the kiss. “This morning, with all the haste I didn’t have time to read anything, but now when you went away – Harry, take a look for yourself.” As she reached with her hand, she took the newspaper lying next to her on the seat and gave it to Harry.

 

He took the newspaper from her and folded out the front page. A large headline reported that Aurors under the lead of Martin Hunter had caught three more Death Eaters few days ago.

 

On August 30, at 10:00 AM, a large-scale operation of Aurors lead by Mr. Martin Hunter, the Head of Auror Office, took place, during which three former supporters of You-Know-Who, the so-called Death Eaters: Torquil Travers, Sisyphus Selwyn and his wife Morgan Selwyn have been arrested.

 

The operation took place in the Muggle inhabited quarter of the Godric’s Hollow, where the Selwyn couple had settled down, killing Mr. Peeble, the owner of the house, and after the seizure of the house Sisyphus Selwyn had changed his appearance to the host of the house.

 

Their malice was revealed thanks to the newly created registration committee by the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, whose duty is to listen to the submissions by telephone (they are such a reports the Muggles are submitting to their authorities with a special communication tool – the telephone) of the Muggle Police Stations. The newly formed committee had recorded a call in which a Muggle named Gwyneth Luksh from Godric’s Hollow reported to the Crisis Intervention Team her worries for her neighbor’s mental health. After saying her name and address she told that after her request to lend her some sugar Mr. Peeble had replied to Mrs. Luksh unusually unkind with impolite words telling her to go away from his property which led Mrs. Luksh to start wondering if her neighbor Mr. Peeble has any suicidal thoughts.

 

The Ministry’s Auror Team immediately realized what they might be dealing with, and after several days of careful planning, the work of the employees of Law Enforcement Office was successful without any victim. Captivated Death Eaters are held under strict guard in the Ministry’s Remand Chambers, and soon they will be handed over to the court where the arrested offenders will have to answer for inducing general hatred, chaos and violence, for supporting the regime of You-Know-Who, for torturing Xenophilius Lovegood at last year’s Christmas, as well as for the takeover of transactions of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank during the You-Know-Who regime.

 

Having read it, Harry although doubted whether their hearing at court would come so soon, because the Aurors spent days and nights for their main job to catch the remained Death Eaters, which was not an easy task at all. The first two ones, Avery and Rookwood, they had caught very soon after the Battle of Hogwarts, but somewhere out there was still roaming the most dangerous of all the monsters – Rodolphus Lestrange, who was most likely trying to assemble the last remains of Death Eaters under his wing. For now, the Ministry’s Auror Team had also hands full with work to deal with the outrageous support group of former Minister for Magic, Pius Thicknesse, led by Dolores Umbridge, who was insistent at claiming that they had been cursed with the Imperius Curse and hadn’t done any crime of their free will. As well, half of the summer was also spent, investigating the Malfoy case, where Harry was summoned as a witness. At that time he had testified in the court that Narcissa had saved his life, so she was finally abolished for all charges, but Lucius was sentenced to a suspended sentence with prohibition to occupy any publicly important position. So the Malfoys got the freedom, but their family name was ashamed and disgraced.

 

“Three Death Eaters less – these are great news,” Harry said, smiling sadly. Thinking about the Death Eaters and remembering their terror was never pleasant.

 

“Considering the huge amount of the Death Eaters that was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts, there are left only a few of them,” Ginny agreed. “I only hope they will soon track Lestrange. Otherwise, mom constantly lives in fear of danger.”

 

“I suppose both Kingsley and Hunter will deal with him. But we also have an extremely important task ahead of us, otherwise all this Death Eater hunt will be worth nothing,” Harry said gloomily.

 

“Harry, of course, we’ll find the Diadem,” Ginny said, smiling and kissed him lightly on his cheek. “If you were able to find a whole bunch of Horcruxes in a year, wouldn’t we all together find a single one now?”

 

“If you are helping me, everything is possible,” Harry confirmed, pecking his girlfriend on her lips. “Is there anything more worth of interest in this newspaper?” he whispered, turning back to the newspaper again.

 

Next to the main article about the arrest of the Death Eater trio, there was a smaller article – an annotation of a huge insightful article in the middle of the newspaper written by none other than the scandalous Rita Skeeter. Having read the author’s name, Harry groaned quietly. Rita Skeeter – it never promised anything good, and it seemed she had started to taunt again someone he would rather defend. This time her reflection was devoted to Severus Snape.

 

Harry opened the central page of newspaper and began to read:

 

I, Rita Skeeter, the tireless reporter of the Daily Prophet, with the greatest pleasure am letting you to peak into the scandalous pages of my newest book Snape: Scoundrel or Saint for those who have not yet managed to buy it. Today you’ll get an insight into Severus Snape’s chosen paths in his adult life after graduating from our beloved school of Hogwarts.

 

As far as general factual information is concerned, Severus Snape has served at Hogwarts as a Potions Master since 1981. Meanwhile, he conscientiously fulfilled his honorable professor’s duties, tirelessly providing the students with invaluable potion mixing skills, of which have to be thankful quite a lot of the younger professionals of St Mungo’s hospital where this skill is literally vitally needed to save countless lives of witches and wizards. And as Harry Potter, the greatest and most respected young man of our time, had said so passionately in his last interview-report in the Daily Prophet defending the memory of the holy martyr of Severus Snape, the apostle Snape, at the same time of fulfilling his duty of the schoolmaster, had selflessly obeyed to his role of the double-agent and spy providing the Order of the Phoenix with a great deal of knowledge of the plans of the now overtaken Dark Lord, until all of this noble hero’s selfless action ended with a tragic and brave fall in the war, fighting against the relentlessly obtrusive evil. From this point of view, undoubtedly, Mr. Snape is easy to glorify to even holy heights. BUT…

 

How much of this is true? Was Snape really such an invaluable teacher? And moreover, was Snape really not only an invaluable double agent, but has he been a double agent at all? And how about his heroic death? These and the other questions about the controversial personality of Severus Snape will be discussed to the last detail throughout the book.

 

For the dear readers of the Daily Prophet, here is a small summary of the book Snape: Scoundrel or Saint for the first three chapters:

 

As the Archives of the Reception Documents of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry tell, Severus Snape had started his studies at Hogwarts in 1971 under the green flags of Slytherin, where dwells everyone who wants to have great achievements, is quite clever and persistent. Reviewing the old school extracts of his time, it seems Snape had justified the expectations of Slytherin for his person with a great overdone – in the O.W.L. examinations, the respectable professor and later headmaster Snape had received five marks of Outstanding, covering, of course, the skills of Potion Making and the Defence against the Darks Arts, but being only modestly satisfied with Exceeds Expectations in the studies of Arithmancy, and Transfiguration. Needless to say, Snape’s results of the N.E.W.T.s are even more impressive – six Outstanding, including Alchemy, and one Exceeds Expectations. Obviously, in order to get such marks, one’s mind must be especially wise or even genius, and besides, such brilliant achievements would lead into thinking about a bright future career. But what really happened to Snape after he graduated Hogwarts? Was he ready to get involved with the work of the Ministry of Magic? Maybe you are imagining a fast upward career in the St Mungo’s hospital? Or you’ll try to oppose he had wanted to travel around the world before bounding himself with the duties of paid work?

 

Then there’s the disappointment waiting for you – safe sources say the miscomprehended genius Snape immediately, on the very first day after graduating Hogwarts, joined the You-Know-Who group of supporters, more commonly known as the Death Eaters. And surprise – surprise, the honorable, respectable, gifted young man Snape with the utmost enthusiasm got involved in this self-proclaimed organization not just for playing the masquerade with other group members. Along with such Death Eaters as William Crabbe, Gellert Goyle, Brut Rosier, Antonin Dolohov, Mark Mulciber, and Amycus and Alecto Carrows – let them rest in peace – as well as with Andrey Avery, who is currently serving a prison sentence in Azkaban, and others, including practically untouchable Lucius Malfoy, Snape had committed countless atrocities during the First Wizarding War. It is easy to imagine in the daily life of the group of the Death Eaters, it was quite common for them to indulge in the mockery, tormenting or even the torturing of the Muggles or the wizards with Muggle ancestry which unlikely causes a big surprise to anyone. But where at such moments was Snape, being postulated as holy by the praiseworthy young man of Harry Potter? Will you say he probably was ashamed of such actions, because he as an unknown genius had gone to You-Know-Who in the search of protection and further education in the Dark Arts, perhaps already then planning how to destroy the hateful Dark Lord and his created system from inside?

 

Contrary to the beliefs of respectful Mr. Harry Potter in his article defending Severus Snape, from the very first day being in the middle of the Death Eater society Snape had shown off his enormous cruelty towards the Muggles, thus excelling in the eyes of his Master alongside with such savages as the notorious Lestrange family. In addition, the exclusive source says Severus Snape has been the one who had started the hanging of the unlucky victims in the air, continuing it with public humiliation and torture, eventually killing his victim – very much like what had happened at the event of the era of a thinkable peace in 1994 after the final game of Quidditch World Cup. Considering Snape’s brutality and endless endeavor of approval of the Dark Lord, and along with the excellent knowledge of almost all branches of Magic, it could be said practically with no doubt that Severus Snape was the actual culprit of the disorderly events in the 1994.

 

For more information on this incident, every reader was given the opportunity to get acquainted with in the bestseller The Biography of Harry Potter which was released just in June by the outstanding author, Rita Skeeter.

 

For the further course of Severus Snape’s Death Eater career, I welcome everyone to read in my book, Snape: Scounder or Saint. The book is available on bookstore shelves from August 31st. Think for yourselves – is he a scoundrel or a saint?

 

“It’s madness,” Harry just said. “But I didn’t say anything in my letter that he was a double agent during the First War. She is trying to make me sound like a little, naïve child. And listen to this – well, I could agree with it that there was time in the past when Snape had gone with other Death Eaters in the raids, but in the Quidditch World Cup?”

 

“Harry, this is Skeeter,” Ginny said gloomily. “You already know she can blow out the sensation from a thin air.”

 

“I know it, but I’m worried that she is so blatantly denying memory of Snape. What should I do? Should I send another article to the Daily Prophet? Will it be worth?” Harry pondered not being sure how to react.

 

“Speaking about another article, I doubt there will be any benefit from it, because what are the news you are going to tell with it? You already made it quite clear and understandable in the previous article that Snape acted on the orders of Dumbledore, so he had infiltrated among the Death Eaters as a double agent, that he had murdered Dumbledore on the order of very Dumbledore, and the last year he had taken care that there wouldn’t start an utter eradication of Muggle born wizards in Hogwarts, AND he made sure you got the help you needed to defeat Voldemort. I really don’t know what more you could write about. I think those who believed in Dumbledore will believe also in you, so let that Skeeter go fry an egg!” Ginny said, adding her expression at the end of her speech with a smile.

 

“I suppose you’re right,” Harry agreed with her. “I don’t have even the slightest wish to start a war with Skeeter in the newspaper now.”

 

“Harry, just be ready that others could be interested in this article, and not everyone will be convinced of Snape’s generous sacrifice,” Ginny warned, knowing well, that Harry sometimes could get annoyed and angry when he was asked with intrusive issues making him feel uncomfortable and offended, especially if there was discussed the motivation of Snape’s actions.

 

“Of course, I’ve got my act together.” Harry smiled tilting his head for a little bit. “Besides, now I have you. Everything seems easier to me when I’m with you.”

 

Ginny replied to him with a smile and then kissed him. “I’m glad I am able to make your life easier.”

 

“Of course, you are. Besides, you’re very beautiful,” Harry said, closely examining the girl’s face as he cupped her cheek with his palm. He leaned to her and gently kissed her, then lingering in the sensation for a brief moment he opened his lips a bit wider and kissed her more tightly. Taking a deep breath, she kissed him back.

 

They would be more than willing to continue their occupation, but suddenly there opened the coupe door, behind which Hermione and Ron appeared.

 

“I told you to knock,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes, while Ron looked away feeling awkward.

 

Harry and Ginny pulled apart, but they stayed close, taking each other’s hand.

 

Ginny spoke first, “So – have you done your duty so fast?”

 

Ron replied, smiling, “For this we have Malfoy. We sent him to the back of the train to deal with those little savages. I heard they have started to toss around the Fanged Frisbee.”

 

“I came in just for a moment. I better go and put everything in order myself. Nevertheless, I’m the Head Girl,” Hermione said, not wanting to get ashamed for not doing her Head Girl duty on the very first day.

 

“Well, please, Hermione. Let that ferret fight with them for a little moment. Harry, maybe this thing with the Head Boy will come out as a good punishment for him,” Ron said, laughing.

 

“You see? Sometimes I’m just wondering where those good ideas come from,” Harry joked.

 

“It’s only a pity you have to work with that moron, Hermione,” Ron spoke with a slight touch of concern in his voice.

 

“Meh, it’s no big deal. During last year we dealt with Voldemort. Dealing with one scrappy Slytherin will be a piece of cake. Besides, he is well aware of it that now he has to control himself if he’s dreaming of getting a decent job in the future,” Hermione concluded. “Well, I better go to the back. Who knows whether those little kids haven’t already killed Malfoy.” She turned around and went to the far end of the train ready to set it under the order.

 

“Right – You-Know-Who,” Ron said, sounding completely serious, still avoiding to pronounce Voldemort’s name.

 

“What did you finally conclude? What are you actually going to do? I mean, from where are you going to begin the search?” Ginny asked.

 

“As we already discussed it in the Burrow, we have to start with checking all the places that could be on the way from the entrance to the Headmaster’s Office, starting with the most plausible place,” Harry said.

 

“Your idea is good. You just need to remember that Hogwarts is not a small sugar hut standing on a chicken leg,” Ron recalled.

 

During the next hour, while the train rhythmically rolled further, now taking its smoking chimney through the fields full with golden grain, white clouds floating over them, the young people once again discussed their ideas about the possibilities for Voldemort where in the castle to hide one tiny piece of a diadem. With the time during their conversation their ideas became more and more insane.

 

“So, there’s still the Chamber of Secrets. That would be a real Slytherin thinking,” Ron suggested.

 

“Aha, Slytherin with the Ravenclaw’s Diadem. Think before you talk, Ron,” Ginny pointed out. “Voldemort would never desecrate his ancestor.”

 

“Harry, wait a minute. Do you remember who knew about the Chamber of Secrets back then?” Ron asked rather dramatically.

 

“You think about Moaning Myrtle?” Harry understood his friend’s hint. “I don’t think she’ll know something this time. Back then he was still a student and he needed Myrtle to not to tell anyone about his actions when he was sneaking in the girl’s lavatory,” Harry was skeptical about the latest idea.

 

“Alright then,” Ron said, curling his lip a little bit. “Then we stay with this – we begin by searching over the Trophy Room, then we go to the kitchen. Who knows, maybe elves will know something. Kreacher has already become more helpful to us now. We have to look also for other Hogwarts secrets. We can’t be sure that we or the Marauders gang have discovered all of them,” Ron summed up all of the previous talk.

 

“Hey, what do you think about the Slytherin Common Room? Voldemort might have found it quite a dear place,” Ginny said.

 

“But how could he have gotten into unnoticed in the Common Room full with people?” Harry asked doubtfully.

 

“He definitely knew how to cast a perfect Disillusion, and then he could secretly hide the Diadem somewhere,” Ginny guessed.

 

“Or those slimy Slytherins were overjoyed for their master’s visit,” Ron said grimly.

 

“Or rather, I suppose he could have met a Slytherin student in the corridors and compelled him to hide the Diadem without the very Slytherin even knowing what he was doing,” Harry said his theory, ignoring Ron’s comment.

 

“Maybe we need to ask Malfoy if he has seen something like the Diadem somewhere in his common room?” Ginny thought out loud.

 

“What are you thinking? Maybe we should start to invite him to our family dinner?” Ron said, sounding quite angry. The association with Malfoy didn’t seem to him to be wise, in any case, not until he wouldn’t have adequately suffered for all the misery he had caused in the previous years.

 

“Relax, I’m just looking for a solution,” Ginny apologized and raised her hands as a gesture of defending. “Let’s first search over all other places and leave those Slytherins the last.”

 

“Of course, the castle is terribly enormous. The search for Diadem could take very long time,” Harry said in a more collected voice as Ron. Indeed, the number of potential hiding places for Diadem was incredibly huge. Only one thing was clear – it was not hidden in the Room of Requirements. Or was it – and the dream he saw in the evening of his birthday before sleep was just a dream? After all, he hadn’t seen any more nightmares like that. But whatever it was true or not, he was determined to devote all his efforts to investigating of this issue, although it could take his blood, sweat and tears – but it was the matter of the security of the whole Wizarding world in the near or far future.

 

The young man’s thoughts in a short moment of silence were interrupted by Hermione’s approach in the doorway of the coupe. She looked rather irritated.

 

“Where have you been so long?” Ron asked with interest. He had thought that managing order on the Hogwarts Express couldn’t take more than an hour.

 

“Where I was? Remember those noises from the rear coaches?” Hermione said angrily. Everyone nodded approvingly. Hermione sat down next to Ron opposite with Harry and Ginny. “It was something inconceivable,” she complained raising her hands and putting her fingers on her temples then she threw her hands forward. “It was a complete disaster.”

 

“Are those first years so abnormal?” Ron inquired smirking.

 

“First years! They weren’t first years!” Hermione exclaimed.

 

“Hermione, please tell us. Now it really starts to sound interesting,” Ginny suggested with a smile.

 

Hermione also smiled a little, but then turned to Harry: “You can guess three times, Harry, who caused this chaos?”

 

“Did Malfoy already managed to do something inappropriate?” he asked starting to feel disappointed that Malfoy wasn’t able to endure even two minutes as the Head Boy.

 

“No, no. All that mess was already going on while we were still talking with McGonagall. It’s not Malfoy’s fault this time,” Hermione explained to her friend. Harry relaxed a bit; luckily his crazy decision hasn’t failed so unimaginably soon. “Two more guesses,” Hermione stated.

 

“Well, tell us! Otherwise, we’ll die here of impatience,” Ginny exclaimed.

 

“Alright, alright. Harry, do you remember Romilda Vane from our own Gryffindor house?” Hermione said, raising one eyebrow and knowingly tilting her head.

 

“She was the one who put a love potion in those sweets?” Harry asked as he remembered a black-haired girl who had proven to be obsessed with him two years ago.

 

“Aha, she is the one,” Hermione confirmed. “You see, it seems Romilda has given up hopes to get you, Harry, so she has found her next victim,” Hermione explained.

 

“Well, well, and whom she has been taming now?” Harry asked, smirking.

 

“Neville,” Hermione replied. They all chuckled. “And do you know what had come into her mind? She had got a Fanged Frisbee and, as she sat in the coupe on the other side of the coupe with Neville inside, she had thought that she should make a noise with that Frisbee so that Neville would come out to see what was going on there. Can you imagine that?” Hermione said, sounding incredulously at the end of her story.

 

“Well, she’s got the thinking,” Harry laughed. Ginny and Ron also started to look more and more joyous, only Hermione seemed angry and too serious.

 

“Mhm, so far there wasn’t anything mad,” Hermione objected, shaking her head.

 

“Is there something more?” Ron asked.

 

“Now, imagine,” Hermione said, pursing her lips. “Neville had put on the door the Silencing charm so those thuds didn’t bother him much and he simply ignored them. And when Malfoy had gone to the end of the train, Romilda had already begun to hit her Frisbee to the door with a full force, so it bounced off and hit Malfoy straight in the face. Then Neville had heard his scream and he came out to see what was happening there, but that Frisbee managed to bounce back from the wall and hit Neville’s arm. At that moment, I was already there. Luna, Seamus, and Dean rushed out of Neville’s coupe, and there was also close by Ernie and Hannah. But you can’t image the whole situation – Ron, do you really find it ridiculous to get hit in the face with those Fangs?” Hermione asked, turning her head to the side and looking closely at her quietly chuckling friend.

 

“If it is Malfoy’s face, it is even very much amusing,” Ron laughed.

 

“Well – and what happened next? Those Frisbees are terrible!” Ginny wanted to know.

 

“Of course, Malfoy’s face was all bloody, half of his cheek ripped open, blood flowing in streams. Luckily, Neville had just a scratch in his upper arm. Ernie caught that damn Frisbee and I confiscated it immediately. Meanwhile, Romilda stood in the doorway of her coupe in utter shock. I don’t understand how could something like that come into someone’s mind? Every year in the September first, we are reminded that these Frisbees are forbidden. Especially for those who haven’t thought about that hitting face with this Frisbee is not pleasant at all,” Hermione said as Ron sneered loudly.

 

“Madness. But how did it end – has Malfoy lost his face now?” Ginny asked.

 

“Fortunately, no. It turned out Hannah had took Admission Exams for St Mungo’s hospital’s healer training course but she didn’t pass the potion test, however she had mastered the basic healing spells. It turns out Episkey can also sew open wounds, so she showed me how to do it, and we both put back together Malfoy’s face. In general he was lucky that he wasn’t hit in the nose by that monstrous Frisbee. Then it wouldn’t be so easy for us. But he’ll need to go to Pomfrey anyway. We just stopped bleeding and closed the wounds so he wouldn’t have a big scar. And all this injury has to be disinfected. Then, Hannah dealt with Neville’s arm alone, but I went to find the first aid kit with bandages,” Hermione told her adventures of today.

 

“It sounds to me that Buckbeak is nothing comparing with this Fanged Frisbee,” Ron laughed, not flinching at all from Hermione’s angry look.

 

“So, what did Romilda do? Was she just standing like that in the doorway all the time?” Harry asked.

 

“When I had found the bandages and had put them on Malfoy’s face, I began to ask questions to learn what had actually happened there and who owned that plate. Romilda confessed with a shame. You know how angry I was at that moment? I started to understand McGonagall when she took from each of us fifty points in our first year. Blast! She is a sixth-year girl, a Gryffindor!” Hermione said in an angry voice. “And she can do such an incredibly silly thing. I really wanted to take away twenty points right away so that no such foolishness comes into her mind, but she was lucky that the school year hasn’t yet begun. But I’m definitely going to report this to McGonagall,” Hermione said strictly.

 

“You know, Mione, I think you’re going to be a great professor McGonagall,” Ron added.

 

“What do you mean?” Hermione hadn’t calmed down after the incident, so she didn’t get the jokes right away.

 

“Look, you already want to remove points from your own house. In addition, people are starting to tremble, just seeing you. I suppose that poor Romilda almost pissed her pants from your severity,” Ron explained his thought with a little laugh.

 

“Oh,” Hermione said, finally showing a warmer smile, “but she deserved it. Such madness on the very first day. And really – can’t she come up with a cleverer method of how to get to approach the guys?”

 

“So, you want to say, if you throw Fanged Frisbee in his face, then the guy isn’t yours instantly?” Ron asked dramatically seriously, so other friends started to chuckle.

 

“Mhm, that definitely sounds like the real life,” Hermione said bemusedly. “Do you ever want me to throw such a Frisbee in your face?”

 

“Hermione, just to make sure everything works out I advise you to take a larger Frisbee. The size must be important, though,” Ginny added.

 

“And if you don’t have a Frisbee, just tell me. I and Ginny will hastily get you one,” Harry suggested teasingly, gazing at Ron for a brief moment.

 

“I’ll consider it,” Hermione thanked her friends. “Well, Ron, I already have one in my hand,” she said, pulling out of the pocket an edge of Fanged Frisbee.

 

“I was just joking. I hope we actually do it fine also without it,” Ron said, smirking and then kissed Hermione on her cheek.



Chapter 6: Like Home again
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The remaining time of their trip the friends had spent chattering and teasing each other in their coupe. Ron and Hermione had once more gone on a round of their duties, but as Ron had told Harry they hadn’t found anything worse than some unruly first years. Hermione had gone to Malfoy’s coupe to make sure he is still alive; Ron had also gone along with her, showing great interest. As soon as they had found out that Hermione’s and Hannah’s cooperative work was good enough on his face even after several hours, Hermione and Ron had attended the prefect coupe and knowing that everything was in order they had returned to the coupe with Harry and Ginny.

 

As the train approached the Hogsmeade station, Hermione and Malfoy again had to organize prefects to oversee the placid departure of students from the Hogwarts Express.

 

When the train stopped at the station, Harry and Ginny left their suitcases in their coupe, where they would be picked up by the house-elves, and went to the train exit where through the crowding people they slowly got out. And there were already waiting for them the carriages with the Thestrals. Harry was already accustomed to them, but Ginny froze next to him as she saw them.

 

“They aren’t as scary as they look,” Harry reassured his girlfriend with a sad note in his voice. He felt even sadder when he realized that practically all of his classmates would be able to see these creatures this year – in the Battle of Hogwarts, that terrible day of May 2nd, there was no shortage of death; at least fifty of their allies had died, including some of his classmates. When Harry had helped to collect the fallen bodies after the Battle, he remembered having seen some D.A. members lying without life – Michael Corner, Colin Creevey, both Patil twins, and Kellah – the shy imperceptible girl of their year. Now they will all remain silent forever. Besides his classmates, a whole bunch of house-elves had given away their lives – fortunately at least Kreacher wasn’t among them, but Winky wasn’t so lucky, as well as several Centaurs had given their lives to defeat the forces of darkness, and the Aurors had also suffered the loss of five great colleagues, including Nymphadora Tonks. And there were fallen more than twenty Death Eaters, hordes of giants and werewolves. Only the change in the number of Dementors couldn’t be determined, but Harry wished from the bottom of his heart that those dreadful monsters would be destroyed from the surface of the Earth for good. If he could say something in this matter, he would definitely like to reform the guard of the Azkaban fortress, finding another way – he just didn’t know yet what it could be…

 

After a short moment of silence, when Ginny was out of her shock, she spoke up, disturbing Harry’s thoughts: “Oh, now I see how they look like. Of course, I hoped I would never have to see them, but I guess there’s nothing I could change now.”

 

“Let’s go and find an empty carriage,” Harry suggested. Somewhere further, he could hear Hagrid trying to call the first years.

 

Ginny nodded and they both climbed into an empty carriage. Soon Neville and Luna joined them, greeting both of their friends who already sat inside the vehicle.

 

“Listen, Neville, Hermione told us some horror story. What really happened at your end of the train?” Ginny asked as Luna had closed the door and the carriage had begun its ride.

 

“Oh, yes – horror – it could be the best description,” Neville smirked. “It was like that – before boarding the train, that Romilda Vane insistently welcomed me to join her group with her friends. I didn’t have even the slightest desire to do it, besides, I had met Luna, and then we quickly jumped on the train. Unfortunately the opposite coupe was free then Romilda managed to settle in there. The train had just begun to move when she already started making trouble with the door of our coupe. In our coupe were also Dean and Seamus, and when that noise started to become unbearable, Dean said that this girl should be silenced for once. Then I put a Silencing spell on the door of our coupe, but then about half an hour later I heard Malfoy screaming and then, though, I went out to see what was going on there.”

 

“Malfoy had half of his face with blood, but Neville hurt his arm,” Luna added nonchalantly.

 

“A real horror story,” Ginny confirmed.

 

“Yes, that sounds crazy. I suppose Hermione already told us what happened next when she and Hannah more or less healed both of you,” Harry said.

 

“We were lucky that there was Hannah. She coped with everything brilliantly. My wound doesn’t hurt at all, but I’ll have to go to Pomfrey anyway to disinfect it; Hannah didn’t know how to do the disinfection,” Neville said. “There’s a hole in my new robe and I had to undress in front of Hannah,” he added as little spots of pink color showed up on his cheeks.

 

“With the Reparation Spell I managed to sew the hole of your robe,” Luna said. “A seam is still visible, though, but at least there isn’t a bloody hole in your clothes.” Then she turned to Harry, changing the subject: “Harry, may I ask you how you are going to search for the Ravenclaw’s Diadem?”

 

Harry and Ginny began to tell her about everything they had talked through all together with Ron and Hermione, telling her that they should be looking for the Diadem in the Trophy Room first, to what Luna agreed that it sounds as a very good idea. With such chatting, after a while, the carriage was nearing the gates with the winged boars on both sides. Harry gazed through the window of the carriage at the ancient castle with longing and admiration – at Hogwarts he had always felt like at home. If only in the last summer he had felt happy and cozy also in the Burrow. Though, he was occupied by the gloomy thoughts of the Battle of Hogwarts, the many fallen friends, Voldemort, and one old missing Diadem, when seeing the Hogwarts, Harry instinctively felt relaxed. The castle was still standing in its old place, taking into itself students who happily went for new adventures and knowledge… thinking they were completely safe…

 

“Harry, why are you so silent? Did a Wrackspurt catch your thoughts?” Luna asked.

 

“No, no, I was just wondering what this year could bring to us,” Harry explained.

 

“I suppose everything will be fine. Let’s do everything the best we can as always, and then it just can’t turn out to be bad,” Ginny comforted her boyfriend, putting her palm on his hand.

 

“I agree with Ginny. We’re going to help you and all together we’ll find that Diadem. I’m more afraid I wouldn’t be able to get along with the studies. Last year me and Ginny had to make disorder and rebellions – so I have forgotten much of the studies,” Neville laughed nervously.

 

“Oh yes – I highly doubt it will be enough for us to know Stupefy, let’s say, in Transfiguration,” Ginny chuckled.

 

“Aha, maybe it would only meet the demands of McGonagall, if we manage to get some Slytherin his mind in the right place,” Neville agreed, laughing again, this time more joyfully. “Wait a minute, but who will teach the Transfiguration now? McGonagall is the headmistress now.”

 

“I guess this wouldn’t be the only surprise awaiting us this year,” Harry concluded, now looking through the window at the Hagrid’s Hut. The windows of the Hut were dark, but he knew everything was fine with his giant friend – he had heard the Hagrid’s voice at the Hogsmeade station. Most likely he is sailing in the Boathouse of the Hogwarts with the fleet of the first years at any moment. Tonight was overcast, but quite warm, so Harry thought the trip with the boat should have been rather pleasant – just like it was in his first year.

 

“Listen, Harry, generally speaking about the Slytherins, why did it seem to me that Malfoy had the Head Boy badge? It can’t be true, could it?” Neville asked indignantly.

 

“Neville, this time it will be true. The Head Boy really is going to be Malfoy this year,” Harry explained, trying to sound comforting.

 

“Unbelievable! What was McGonagall thinking when she made him the Head Boy?” Neville exclaimed angrily. “To make Malfoy for the Head Boy, with all his Death Eater doings. I’d rather say – if somebody had earned this position, then it had to be you, Harry. But look, it’s Malfoy.”

 

“Neville, actually McGonagall had really appointed me as the Head Boy,” Harry said and smiled as wanting to apologize for such situation. “But I particularly asked McGonagall to give this position to Malfoy.”

 

“But I don’t understand why did you do it, Harry?” now asked Luna.

 

“It’s very simple – this position would give me redundant duties that would prevent me from looking for the Diadem. Now I’ll have much more free time. In addition, I feel famous enough, so I wanted to give Malfoy the opportunity to prove that he is not like the other Death Eaters,” Harry explained. “And if he wouldn’t be able to deal with these duties, McGonagall will take away his Head Boy title and give it back to me. I think he would never want to experience such a disgrace, so we don’t need to worry about Malfoy at the moment. And here we are,” he said as soon as the carriage had stopped near the front steps of Hogwarts.

 

“Now it’s clear to me. Otherwise, I was beginning to think what kind of brain damage McGonagall could be having,” Neville confessed.

 

They all started to get up and couldn’t wait to get inside the Hogwarts. At least Harry was so impatient to feel like at home again.

 

There it was, standing big and profound, with its old walls, which seemed to look different here and there – somewhere it seemed a bit skewed, somewhere the color of some wall sections was segregating from the base wall of the castle, however in the darkening evening twilight it was hard to see exactly how much the castle was damaged. But the most important thing was that the castle was repaired and reopened for a new school year, and it was visited this year with joy and excitement by several hundred students who now flowed in through the wide entrance door.

 

The four friends also didn’t stay in their place, but went along with the flow of people to the Great Hall. Walking through the Entrance Hall, Harry noticed that the House points scoring hourglasses were repaired, but there were missing a few suits of armor that had been placed by the door previously – there were definitely more of them before. And a large railing section was not as luxurious as the rest of the marble banisters, it was carved out of ordinary, rough wood. But when he entered in the Great Hall, everything at the first glance seemed as in the old days. There were four House tables stretching across the length of the hall, and at the top of the hall was the table for professors with a high chair in the middle. Now it was already taken by McGonagall, who was waiting for everyone to come. Looking up at the ceiling, Harry admired the cloudy sky of this evening dotted here and there with some stars – even to this day he had difficulty believing that there wasn’t just open sky above the Great Hall. And there were also thousands of flying candles throughout the hall!

 

Feeling happy for their return, the young people had already passed by the Slytherins first, then after the Rawenclaw table, where did Luna take her place, they passed by the Hufflepuff table until they had come to other Gryffindor students. Harry, Ginny, and Neville took their seats at the table and as he sat down Harry noticed that one cloud over the top of the Great Hall behind the teachers’ table actually wasn’t a cloud but rather a patched up hole.

 

While Harry was gazing at the ceiling, a girl’s voice cried out behind him, “Nice glasses, Harry!” He turned and saw Hannah sitting near behind his back and she greeted him waving her hand. “Thank you,” Harry said loudly with a smile and waved back to her.

 

Harry looked at the golden plates and unable to hide his excitement asked Ginny, “How do you think, are the elves still cooking as good as before?”

 

Ginny replied, “I could easily think that Kreacher would be ready to skin everybody who would take the liberty to add the wrong peppers to your food. So, yes, I think the food this year might be better than ever.”

 

As Harry smiled, he heard Hannah’s voice coming from just next to him, “Neville, how’s your arm? Have you been to Pomfrey?” Both young men turned to look at her.

 

“Oh, it’s just a scratch. I’ll go to Pomfrey later,” Neville said.

 

“But I advise you to go to her to disinfect the wound, okay? Otherwise, you’ll have to stay in the hospital wing at the very beginning of the school year,” Hannah said with a hint of reproving.

 

“Meh, I’m like an old wolf of D.A.,” Neville growled, but then hastily added as he saw Hannah’s gaze getting serious, “But if you say so, I’ll go to Pomfrey right after the feast.”

 

“It’s better for you to do it,” Hannah smiled at Neville and gently touched his injured upper arm, taking a look at it before sitting back at the Hufflepuff table. It seemed to Harry that Neville’s cheeks were a little bit pink – apparently he wasn’t accustomed when a girl worried about his health.

 

Surrounded by exciting murmur, Harry noticed the notorious Romilda Vane arriving at the Gryffindor table. “Look, there’s Romilda. I hope she’s not going to start tossing the Fanged Frisbee now,” Harry said jokingly.

 

“You know, Harry, half a year ago, when I had to cut that snake’s head, it was everything clear for me what to do, but how can I get away from Romilda if she’ll try something like that again? I really don’t know what to do with her,” Neville pointed out sounding miserable as he looked at his plate.

 

“The most important thing is – do not eat anything she offers you,” Harry advised.

 

“And for the starter you could try to explain her that you’re not interested in her,” Ginny suggested.

 

“What if it wouldn’t be enough for her?” Neville said disbelievingly.

 

“Of course, it would be even better if you would start to date with another girl – someone you really like,” Ginny continued to give advices.

 

“Yeah,” Neville simply said, sounding a bit thoughtful as he lifted his gaze up at the clouds.

 

Soon the great majority of the students had arrived in the Great Hall, so finally, done their job with the safety and order, came the prefects and after them came also the Head Boy and the Head Girl. Malfoy took a seat at the end of the Slytherin table – from a distance his face looked fine and smooth, he obviously had visited Madam Pomfrey – but Hermione just went further ignoring the blond guy until she found her place opposite Harry and Ginny sitting next to Ron.

 

“So, that’s done,” she said as she had sat down.

 

“Was there any disorder?” Ginny asked.

 

“Compared to the previous trouble, there were just some minor things – I and Ron had to help to find some Pygmy Puffs, then we had to calm down a bunch of third years and second years who were terrified of the Thestrals. To be honest, I also felt weird now when I can see them…” Hermione added sadly as her voice faded at the end.

 

“And then there were those Hufflepuff fourth years,” Ron added with a chuckle. “They had bet that this one guy couldn’t put five Knuts in his nose and then take them out.”

 

“Well – and how did it end for them?” Ginny asked, but Harry had already begun to smirk.

 

“Naturally, he didn’t know how to get those Knuts out of his nose afterwards,” Ron said, laughing. “But I did it quickly with Accio – blurp, and they were out.”

 

“And what did that guy lose?” Harry asked with a chuckle.

 

“Oh, Harry, I’m glad you asked. Imagine, they had bet on the Chocolate Frog card with you on it,” Ron replied, still being amused. “It seemed to me that Hufflepuff guy was ready to put his second nostril full with Knuts to get it back.”

 

Harry laughed sincerely. “Look at it, it turns out I’m being already printed on the Frog cards. Who would have thought it?”

 

“But those ideas. Do we really have to deal with such things the whole year?” Hermione said, sounding a little annoyed. “You know, Harry, but at least I’m glad this year you got to the Great Hall without any surprises – without flying cars or broken noses,” she added. The friends laughed, sitting nearby and nodded.

 

Now opened the door on the left side of the High Table and after the professor Flitwick came a long line with the first years who looked rather scared. They all toddled to the teachers’ table and stood facing the other students. The youngest Hogwarts students were so many they had to stand in at least three rows. Meanwhile, in the Great Hall, the persistent murmurs silenced; loud voices about the final game of the Quidditch World Cup as well as the laughter mostly at the Gryffindor table died down along with the joyful chatter of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. The gloomy conversations of the Slytherins have been already quite silent, but also they subsided completely when professor Flitwick had gone to McGonagall’s chair and from there had brought a stool with the ancient hat of Godric Gryffindor with uncountable mends. Flitwick put the stool with the Sorting Hat opposite to McGonagall and in front of all students and the first years, and the Hat opened the rupture along its wide edge and sang:

 

Let it come what has to come

The Sorting Hat is standing here again.

It’s only one duty meant for me

To sort the students of Hogwarts here.

Come closer, little one, don’t be afraid

I’ll just peek inside your mind,

Who are you, what are your thoughts

That’s the thing I’ll say to you.

Are you like Gryffindor the Brave

Who’s ready to get into a fight,

Ready to face the evil in a hurry,

Ready to make the enemy dance with your sword.

Or maybe you are thinking of Hufflepuff the Diligent,

Having the heart, compassionate and loving.

And the caring about your dearest ones

You hold more important than anything else.

Or maybe you hear a call from Ravenclaw the Wise,

If wisdom is dwelling in your head

And intelligence is a thing for you

When the relentless enthusiasm keeps you awake.

Or maybe you consider yourself as Slytherin the Conscientious,

Who sees his goal more clearly than everything else

And who drowns himself into knowledge,

Although the sleep is already washing over.

But look – isn’t it strange how different we are,

And yet we are all the same.

Because the Hogwarts will hold only then,

If we all will join together.

So, little one, come closer, don’t be afraid,

Put the Hat on your head to get sorted as in times of old,

But remember one thing – hurry to make friends,

Because in Hogwarts we are all the same.

 

When the song of the Sorting Hat was over, there sounded the applause and the whispering waved over the hall. The Hat had once again prompted the students not to divide, but to make friends and look for a common ground, just as they had already reasoned in the Hogwarts Express. Having heard the song, Harry felt a bit more relaxed – maybe his decision to appoint Malfoy as the Head Boy instead of taking this position himself wasn’t completely crazy after all.

 

„This year there are so many first years,” Harry said to Ginny after he had silently thought about the message of the Sorting Hat. „It seems to me they are about one hundred and fifty.”

 

„I assume many families with all that Death Eater terror left their children at home. So this year they’re practically double,” Ginny said wisely.

 

„Only how long will it take? Now it is,” Harry said as he looked at the wristwatch given by Ginny, „ten over eight. In my first year the Sorting Ceremony was almost an hour long, and we were only forty.”

 

As they were talking, meanwhile the professor Flitwick had hurried in front of everyone with a long, long parchment scroll. Flitwick explained without hesitation: „When I call your name, come hastily here, sit here on this stool, and put the Hat on your head. It will call out which House you’re sorted in. In order not to delay the time, I will name the next one to come here, on the line of the Sorting Hat. Is it clear? Then let’s get over with this thing fast, so we get sooner to the eating. Then we start with: Abbott Melanie.”

 

Melanie Abbott, apparently having similar looks to Hannah, came in front and sat down on a stool, putting on her head the Sorting Hat. Meanwhile, Flitwick called Azalia Laura to get ready next for the Sorting.

 

After thinking for a short moment, the Sorting Hat gave Melanie the Ravenclaw House. The girl immediately gave the Hat to Laura, who had already come to the stool. With the cheers she joined her new-gained Ravenclaw members.

 

„Almic Brody,” Flitwick already read, when Laura had just sat down on the stool.

 

„It looks like it’s going to be a little bit faster this year,” Ginny confirmed the obvious, „otherwise we would really sit here until late tomorrow.” They cheered for Brody, who was sorted into the Gryffindor.

 

Proceeding with the Sorting Ceremony, Harry noticed that Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and Gryffindors were sorted out quite fast, but the first Slytherin sat there on the stool for an indecently long time. Burke Theobald sat there with the Hat on his head almost five minutes until he was finally sorted into the Slytherin.

 

„Burke – why does it ring me a bell?” Ginny asked.

 

„Burke... Borgin and Burkes,” Harry thought for a moment, remembering the shop on the Knocturn Alley. It was no wonder someone named Burke had gotten into the Slytherin and, remembering the shopkeeper’s soapy attitude towards his customers, Harry wouldn’t be surprised if this boy had just been arguing with the Sorting Hat. After all, the Sorting Hat allowed making your own choices; at least it had allowed him to choose anything other than the Slytherin.

 

So the Sorting Ceremony continued. „Marble Tom,” called out Flitwick after a long while. Fortunately, the majority of the students the Sorting Hat sorted out rather quickly, and this year the Ceremony went extraordinarily smoothly. At one point, he had no chance of whispering anything to Ginny, as the Sorting Hat just sent one student after another to the Gryffindor, including Prewett Primula, who was a distant relative of the Weasleys through the family tree of Molly. This year they are going to have a nice influx of students, who will fill the empty places of the classmates who had fallen in the war. Although, this year the new members of the Slytherin were unbelievably few. Selwyn Orion was about the seventh Slytherin, and the Sorting Hat had let go of him amazingly fast.

 

Smith William joined the Hufflepuff when Ron had finally started to look intently at the plate – his friend was definitely starving. Harry glanced at his watch – it showed ten after nine. The Sorting Ceremony was taking more than an hour, but fortunately most of the new students had already taken their places by their new House members. Twenty minutes later, Zack Thomas took his seat by the Hufflepuff table, and this time the whole school cheered for the poor surprised and exhausted boy, feeling glad that they would finally be able to start the long-awaited meal to fill the empty bellies.

 

Flitwick took the Sorting Hat back to the chair of McGonagall and sat down at his seat to her right hand. Meanwhile, McGonagall stood up. She cleared her throat and said: „What’s there to talk much about now – let’s start the feast!”

 

And for the delight of everyone on the long tables, a wide variety of delicious dishes arose. And whether it was due to an unusually long Sorting Ceremony, or Ginny was really right about Kreacher, but the food was prepared at the highest level. When it was time for the dessert, Harry alone wanted to engulf a whole syrup cake, if he could somehow put on another extra stomach. However, suddenly he noticed something. Or more precisely – he noticed something was missing. This year there was no dish with sherbet lemons on the table. And now Harry suddenly realized that once Dumbledore had told him that he has an unusual taste for this Muggle sweet. But there were no longer neither sherbet lemons nor Dumbledore... Suddenly he felt sadness washing over him, but it wasn’t meant long for him to feel heavy-hearted, because as soon as the remnants of the food left the plates, McGonagall stood up and began her headmistress speech with the most important announcements this year. Harry noticed that the former Transfiguration professor had a sumptuous chain of the Headmaster on her chest, which was apparently given from one headmaster to the next.

 

„Now, when we all are full, I expect you’ll show a bit more joy to hear what I have to say to you at the moment,” McGonagall began her speech.

 

„This year Hogwarts is experiencing many changes, including in the terms of teaching staff. As you have noticed, from this year on, the Headmistress of Hogwarts will be me – Professor Minerva McGonagall – and therefore, Aurora Sinistra is taking the position of the Head of the Gryffindor House. The students of the senior years will know her as their Astronomy professor.” There stood up a tall, dark skinned witch with wide face who made a little bow to the Gryffindor students, receiving applause from them. „But the position of the deputy Headmaster will be occupied by the professor Filius Flitwick.” The short Flitwick rose to his feet to his chair and bowed. „In turn, you are going to see as a professor of the Transfiguration subject this year, I would like to say, the excellent Emerald Switch.” McGonagall waved her hand to the rather old man with brown hair and a square face. „The professor position of the Defence Against the Dark Arts will be taken by John Dawlish.” Harry recognized the old Auror who stood up and nodded with his head. Neville next to him smirked as he said: „Now it looks like Dawlish has recovered from my grandmother’s curse.” When Dawlish had sat down, McGonagall continued to introduce everyone with the new teachers: „Flying lessons will be led by Alicia Spinnet.” Harry recognized with admiration the girl one year older than him who was a great Quidditch player; she is going to be a good substitute for madam Hooch who had fallen in the Battle of Hogwarts. „The Muggle Studies you are going to take under the guidance of the professor Gabriel Truman.” Now raised a rather good looking young man with dark hair. „And finally, the long list of the newcomers I can finish with the professor Philip Flamel, who after the two year break is going to lead the double Alchemy classes for the N.E.W.T. students once a week.” When McGonagall had finished her list of the new professors, now the attention had gained a thin wizard with high forehead and glasses. The students applauded also for him, but perhaps the enthusiasm wasn’t so pronounced because the Alchemy was the rarest of all the subjects at Hogwarts, which took place only once in two years and also only then if the Alchemy course was chosen to study by at least ten students of the both N.E.W.T. years who were also chosen to study the Potions and Transfiguration. There were very few of them who met these requirements, and in previous years, Snape had taken care that the number of the excellent students in his course didn’t exceed much over the number of ten.

 

As Harry had sunk deep in his thoughts, McGonagall had yet warned everyone that the Forbidden Forest is going to be forbidden also this year, she read out a list of the most important items banned by Filch, as well as urged everyone to be cautious and careful in the places still being repaired. It was likely the repairs are going to last for the whole school year. She ended her statements, welcoming everyone to sing the School Song in honor of the peaceful times. Finally, the Headmistress introduced to everyone the Head Girl and the Head Boy. “This year, I hope to get support and to see a high sense of duty from our new Head Girl and Head Boy. Miss Hermione Granger and Mr. Draco Malfoy stand up, please.”

 

Both Hermione and Draco stood up, standing at their House tables. There fell a deafening silence over the hall. Then after a moment, suddenly, Dean called out shamelessly: “Headmistress, you really are going to put this Death Eater for the Head Boy? You can’t be serious!”

 

“Mr. Thomas, please, calm down. This decision has already been made and approved, although, after a special request by Mr. Harry Potter who voluntarily abandoned his Head Boy position. I propose it is too late today to discuss these circumstances in detail and we would all be happy to go to sleep. Have a good night everyone!” McGonagall strictly replied, determined to end the feast now. Harry looked at his wristwatch, whose hour hand was very close to the eleventh mark.

 

“But professor,” Seamus began.

 

“I don’t want to hear any “buts”,” McGonagall interrupted him. “At this point, I just want to urge the newly-made Head Boy and Head Girl, as well as all the prefects, to organize the moving of the mob of the students to their respective Houses. Have a good night’s sleep until tomorrow’s breakfast at half past seven.” Having said it, the Headmistress sat down in her seat, waiting for the prefects to take all the students to their dormitories.

 

Harry also stood up with Neville and Ginny, and as he went out of the hall, Dean and Seamus came to him, sounding incredulous as he asked him all about the matter with Draco Malfoy. Harry said to them the same he had told others earlier that he wanted to give Malfoy a chance. He had to repeat it again and again all the long way to the seventh floor until he had reached the Gryffindor Tower, as more of his classmates came to him to inquire about the truth of the McGonagall’s statement.

 

I hope tomorrow will be less tiring, Harry thought as he, dressed in pajamas, had fallen in the soft sheets of his bed, and after a moment he was already asleep.



Chapter 7: The Struggle of the N.E.W.T.s
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The morning of the following day, the Wednesday, had come and Harry woke up hearing the wake-up alarm of his wristwatch; he raised feeling sleepy and silenced the sound. He quickly dressed up and went into the small toilet room to wash his face. Clean and fresh, the young man went to raise Ron, who was still snoring in his bed. He was now much more joyous when the thought came into his mind that now he will be able to get on with the long-awaited thing – he had to find the Diadem!

 

Harry pulled off all the blankets from Ron’s body, exclaiming: “Rise and shine!”

 

“Meh, what time is it?” Ron growled, rolling in his bed.

 

“Soon will be half past seven,” Harry replied. “Let’s go for breakfast.”

 

“Where did you get so much energy?” Ron wondered. “After yesterday I would love to sleep until noon.”

 

“Come on, you’ll get your sleep when you’ll be old. The others are already downstairs,” Harry added after the joke, looking at the empty beds of Seamus, Dean, and Neville.

 

“Okay, okay, I’m going to get up. I wonder what kind of lessons we are going to have today.” Ron asked suddenly.

 

Harry said, laughing, “You sound just like Hermione. Haven’t you become friends with her lately?”

 

“Seriously, Harry, why are you so terribly happy at the very morning?” Ron wanted to know.

 

“It’s very simple – we are back again at Hogwarts and we really do need to find the Diadem! And maybe this year we are going to find out how a more or less normal school year at Hogwarts looks like – so, let’s go for breakfast! I suppose both Hermione and Ginny are already waiting for us in the Common room,” Harry explained as Ron started to get up. His friend looked like as if he was willing to give away anything for a few more hours of sleep.

 

“Alright, I’ll wait for you downstairs,” Harry said before he went out of the boy’s dormitories and stepped down the spiral staircase. There were other students, also waiting for their friends to go with them for breakfast. A huge amount – or practically all – of the freshly sorted first years stared at him with their mouths open. They didn’t even bother to turn away when he incidentally looked at them; he didn’t see Hermione and Ginny anywhere. Fortunately, Ron had managed to freshen up and leave the boy’s dormitory in record time – his hair was just sleeked, however, there was a possibility that he actually wasn’t able to see himself properly in the mirror of the toilet because of his swollen eyes. “Let’s go then,” he said as he had come down before the previously mentioned first years had made a song and dance about Harry Potter and his team.

 

“Let’s go then,” Harry agreed without hesitation and hurried to the hole, concealed by the huge portrait from outside. He was followed by Ron and as it turned out also by the huge crowd of admirers. As he went down the hallway, he noticed having a trail consisting of before mentioned first years, a bunch of second year and third year girls, and also a couple of boys who suspiciously loudly were discussing the performance of the Chudley Cannons during the Quidditch season this year. Ron was constantly yawning next to him and was reluctant to engage in any conversation, so Harry had gone down to the Great Hall with all his weird crowd of companions. Looking over his shoulder, he had to suppress a chuckle – to his group of followers had also joined several little Ravenclaw girls. Of course, they all were whispering vigorously as they cast a not so shy look at him, giggling and blushing. Or maybe they were looking at Ron?

 

“You know what, Ron? It seems to me half of these girls are following right after you,” Harry whispered to his friend, smirking.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Ron yawned as they both entered the Great Hall.

 

“Seriously, those girls just whispered something about you. They like your unruly tousled hair,” Harry explained, barely suppressing a laugh.

 

“Humpf, those little girls,” Ron chuckled; however, he instinctively put his hand in his short, vivid red hair and tousled them even more.

 

As the both young men got to the Gryffindor table, naturally, meanwhile being followed by all the pairs of eyes in the Great Hall, they soon found Ginny’s bright hair and Hermione’s bushy mane. Trying to do the impossible, that is, not to draw any more attention, they hurried to their girlfriends and quickly sat down. The table was already loaded with freshly prepared breakfast – as usual in Hogwarts, there were several kinds of omelets, pancakes, buns, piles of cheese and bacon, and also Harry’s favorite pumpkin juice.

 

“Hello guys,” Ginny greeted them.

 

„We did already come down here because we just couldn’t stand that incessant staring of those first years,” Hermione explained, half whispering.

 

„Aha, and all of them followed us all the way here, staring exactly like that. I was almost beginning to feel creepy,” Harry agreed, looking around. It seemed like there was a horrid amount of students who whispered to each other while watching them little bit too closely, especially the young ones at their own table.

 

„I wonder what kind of lessons there’ll be for us today?” Hermione thought out loud.

 

„Yes, I wondered exactly the same thing this morning,” Ron finally spoke, now appearing almost awakened and even in a rather satisfied mood.

 

So they continued with their breakfast, talking about the upcoming classes, and when there came the owls the greatest majority of the students stopped to stare at them like they were some kind of exotic beasts in the Zoo. However, it turned out that the attention of the young Gryffindors was attracted by Neville, who, of course, was now a legendary celebrity. Harry had learned how to live with all kinds of expressions of his fame for the past seven years, and Ron, as it seemed, quite well liked to be admired, whereas Neville felt anxious when he was constantly in the spotlight. Before his heroic deed he had always struggled when he was so often criticized and doubted for never being a good enough wizard, so the excessive amount of everyone’s attention made him feel very uncomfortable. He didn’t do a single thing in order to gain his fame, but he had rather done everything only in order to stand against the impossible Voldemort regime. As he had previously admitted to Harry – he thought that any Gryffindor would have done the same thing instead of him, so he didn’t think he had deserved the undying glory as a hero. Harry back then had argued that not every Gryffindor actually would have been able to do it, even though he would have wanted to, so there was a solid ground why Neville had actually deserved such an admiration.

 

„Good morning, friends,” Neville greeted them as he sat down next to them.

 

„Hello, Neville,” they all responded in unison as Hermione put down her copy of the Daily Prophet in which the most important news today told about the operations set by Aurors, which unfortunately haven’t been successful, and a concert of the Weird Sisters, and there was also an interview with the members of the Malawi team who had won the Quidditch World Cup.

 

„Did you go to Pomfrey?” Ginny asked.

 

„Yes, I did. I decided to listen to Hannah’s advice. Pomfrey quickly disinfected the wound. Of course, she huffed why I hadn’t come yesterday, but this little scratch is just a joke. Last year I had much more serious injuries,” Neville said, smirking, as he picked up a golden brown toast.

 

„But how did you cope with that? That day of the Battle, you looked like smashed with injuries and bruises all over your body, but now you have practically no scars left and everything is fine with your health,” Hermione asked, sounding interested.

 

„Well,” Neville began thoughtfully, „Hannah had then learned the very basic healing spells, so she was getting good at healing the smallest wounds. Terry started with the brewing of the disinfectants and the analgesic potions, and afterwards he learned to make other medical potions too – we just had to ask the Room of Requirements the potion ingredients – then we all smeared our bruises with them and everything was alright. And you already know that Terry was indeed very good at Potions, if he could get the Outstanding mark in his O.W.L.s, when Snape was our teacher.”

 

As they ate the breakfast and talked about the past year, Professor Sinistra, the new Head of the Gryffindor House, came to them a while later. Slughorn, Flitwick, and Sprout also had started to go around the tables of their respective Houses – they were dealing out the tables of the lessons for this school year.

 

“Harry, Ron, here you are – take your list of lessons for your seventh year,” Aurora Sinistra said as she tipped with her wand two parchment sheets and gave them to the both young men, then she moved forward along the Gryffindor table, giving the lists also to the girls and Neville, mentioning to Hermione that McGonagall had asked her to tell Hermione that she and Draco Malfoy will be waited at the Headmistress Office on Saturday at 9 AM.

 

“Just look at this,” Ron suggested, “today we have double Alchemy in the morning and then one Potions lesson. Oh well. It’s a pity I couldn’t snore a bit longer,” Ron said, smirking, as he looked at Harry. “Hermione, look, but you’ve got no lessons this morning; you actually didn’t have to get out of the bed this morning,” he said, chuckling. Hermione just rolled her eyes.

 

“But did you notice that we have a very few lessons in other days, too?” Harry asked, studying his quite scarce table of lessons. “Look, Monday – only the third lesson, Herbology; then on Tuesday – the second lesson, Charms; Thursday at the very morning – Transfiguration; but on Friday, all morning is empty – the Defence Against the Dark Arts is put just after the lunch.”

 

“So it means that Wednesday with those three lessons is going to be the busiest day of the Hogwarts school year for us,” Ginny agreed.

 

“I like this freedom in our schedule,” Ron commented. “Maybe at least this year we wouldn’t have to study while our hands get cramps.” He was satisfied with this thought as he put in his mouth a huge bite of fried egg.

 

“You aren’t serious, Ron. It’s the N.E.W.T. year and you do hope to have more free time and less homework? You’re so naïve at your age,” Hermione announced as she shook her head, grinning. Ginny, Neville, and Harry chuckled.

 

“For me the Wednesdays and Thursdays are even free of the lessons, but I suppose Hermione, as usual, is right – I think the professors will know how to give us a lot of work to do,” Neville agreed.

 

“Then let’s go get ready for the work?” Harry addressed Ron and Ginny. They nodded in agreement, and as they quickly finished with their breakfast all three of the young people stood up and went back to the Gryffindor Tower to get their school bags, textbooks, and stationery.

 

“In which classroom, we are going to have the Alchemy?” Ginny asked, standing in her place in the Common Room and studying her list of lessons. Meanwhile, in the Common Room, the students of the younger years was hurrying around, bringing things out of their dormitories and putting them in their bags.

 

“Here is said it’s in the East Wing in the Classroom number 9. I’ll look at the map,” Harry quietly said as he pulled out the Marauder’s map of his mokeskin pouch. He whispered, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” and a moment later he saw the lines twisting like black snakes over the parchment, and the little black dots began to pace through the castle.

 

“So, the East Wing, Classroom 9,” Harry began to look for their destination. Ginny stood to his side and pointed her finger at the fourth floor of the East Wing. “It’s here,” the girl exclaimed.

 

“The fourth floor – it’s at the very top of the East Wing,” Ron said, “Then the classroom should be full with sunlight.”

 

“The classroom is empty at the moment,” Harry added, as there wasn’t a single dot on the map in the classroom. However, a mass of tiny bubbles was flowing out of the Great Hall – other students have started to make their way to their classes, slowly pacing up to the first upper floors to follow their path to the Gryffindor or Ravenclaw towers, while other bunches of students went down to their Slytherin or Hufflepuff Common rooms in the dungeons of the Hogwarts castle.

 

“I wonder, where’s Hermione at the moment?” Ron asked, interested, as he had started to search through the Great Hall. “Oh yes, there she goes out to the Entrance Hall. But who’s next to her? Anthony and Tom?” Ron sounded surprised; then he leaned closer to the map and tried to read the full name of this Tom, squinting his eyes as the tangle of the dots was jiggling and wiggling. “Tom Marv… Tom Marb…” The fine letters were really difficult to comprehend, and there was a big crowd of other bubbles with student names coming by Hermione, so that all the inscriptions blended together as Ron could barely even make out the very name of Hermione.

 

“Ron, Hermione will be just fine, and after two hours you could look at her how long you wish,” Harry said, smiling, as he didn’t want to dwell on the actions in the Marauder’s map, so he removed the lines from the parchment. “Mischief managed,” there sounded a quiet whisper from the young man’s lips; although it was not true at all, the map instantly turned into an empty sheet anyway.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know that, but who was that Tom with whom together she was going out of the Great Hall? There isn’t such a student in our year,” Ron objected as he, his friend, and his sister started their way to the classroom of Alchemy.

 

“He could be a first year or any other student. She is the Head Girl after all,” Ginny simply said.

 

“I suppose you must be right,” Ron said thoughtfully. “It’s just – it seemed somehow suspicious that he actually was named Tom,” Ron tried to explain his idea, half stuttering, after they all had climbed through the exit hole of the Gryffindor Tower.

 

“Ron, I see you thought about Riddle right away, but it’s impossible that Voldemort could be at Hogwarts at the very moment, besides, the castle is full with people and now it’s a broad daylight,” Ginny said, listing the reasons to ground her argument. “In addition, Tom actually isn’t a very rare name. Didn’t we have at least two Toms just among the first years?”

 

“That’s right. I remember one of them was Tom Marble,” Harry added as they had gone down the hall to the huge hall of staircases, where in the seven story height, there were wide staircases built around the room, connecting West and East Wings of the castle as well as other towers, auxiliary buildings, and extensions. “And I totally agree with Ginny, because Hermione would definitely recognize the danger, if there is any,” Harry said, smiling soothingly at his friend.

 

“Okay, okay, the idea just struck me – you know – there was all this experience for us in our fourth year, and the first year was so crazy I don’t want even to mention it,” Ron growled.

 

“Ron, you’re doing it right – I think Moody would be proud with you. He always said that we need to be on constant vigilance,” Harry reassured his friend with a smile, also remembering the old, durable Auror. “I suppose it was that first year Tom or maybe somebody from Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. So, we’ve arrived at the fourth floor of the East Wing,” Harry said as they had gone around the enormous Staircase Hall, being greeted by several portraits. “Now we just have to go down at the end of the hallway.”

 

They went around the corner and saw that the door on the right side of the corridor had just opened, and the students were slowly entering the classroom. As they went inside, Harry, Ron, and Ginny saw a breathtaking room – they had been in a more amazing classroom only at Divination lessons led by Firenze. As Ron had hoped earlier, the room truly was full with light, with the sun shining over the rows of the tables placed together in pairs, making a desk of four seats. Since the classroom was in the corner of the castle, the large, wide, arched, mosaic-topped windows here were more than usual, as they made a row along the left side of the classroom and along the opposite wall. And on the right side of the room by the wall there were shelves and drawers full of various magic tools that apparently could be useful in any kind of Alchemy works – there were a wide variety of sticks: metal, wood, quaking and humming, and there were also chests, plain or inlaid, as well as other items, all as one reminding of different golden shades. But the most unusual of all was the setting of the corners of the room. There was a light shining out of them as if out of nowhere, and each corner was in a different color and texture at least three steps wide – one of the corners shone with white glow, like a swirling air, another corner was colored red, just like a flame, the third one looked like yellowish blue or green, waving like sea water, but the last one cast a brown shadow over the stone floor, however that brownness seemed to be full of life as if at any moment out of the stones there would break out the sprouts of the grass.

 

With admiration for the strange illusions, Harry, Ron, and Ginny sat down by the desk pair on the right side of the classroom. The tables weren’t many in the room, so there was plenty of free space here. Soon the other places by the desks were taken by Harry’s schoolmates – he noticed among them also his friends Anthony and Terry, Hannah, as well as Draco Malfoy and two Slytherin girls, sisters – Daphne was from his year, and to his much surprise here was also Romilda Vane, sitting next to her friend.

 

Suddenly, the door closed, and a tall, meager wizard entered into the classroom clad in dark blue robes and slowly paced to the front of the class. Turning to his students, he pushed his glasses up on his nose closer to his high forehead and addressed the students who were gathered here.

 

“Good day, dear friends. I am Professor Philip Flamel, and this year we’ll have the pleasure of sharing these exciting Alchemy lessons all together, and I am so immensely happy that you have gathered here in a rather unusual large number this year.” The teacher smiled upon them gesturing with his hands as it truly would be his greatest satisfaction.

 

“Alchemy,” the professor continued with a somewhat stricter voice, “is the teaching on how to do the transfigurations with the help of potions in order to make them to remain permanent. It could even be said that Alchemy is the science of the permanent transfigurations,” he finally added half whispering as he bent slightly forward. However, Harry didn’t really understand what was so special about these permanent transfigurations; Ron and Ginny also seemed to be a little bit confused – after all, McGonagall had shown them countless times how to do the transfiguration that changes something or conjures something up from thin air, lasting for a long time. Looking around, Harry saw that the vast majority of the other students also hadn’t perceived the importance of this statement, whispering to each other in confusion; only a few Ravenclaws from his year sat with their mouths open and listened intently.

 

“Therefore, in order to learn the very foundations of the knowledge of this remarkably subtle and fine art, we are going to begin with the basics of the theory, then I’ll introduce you to the basic alchemical potions and the Element Symbolism, and finally you’ll have to learn to control one of the four basic elements of which we are going to talk about a little while later. And if you are going to be a diligent and obedient students, I promise you to reveal the most important wisdom of Alchemy,” the professor continued, slowly casting a glance all over his students. “Perhaps someone could say to me right away what this wisdom could tell?”

 

In the classroom, many hands were shot in the air instantly, including Harry’s, Ron’s, and Ginny’s – Hermione had shed the light upon them on this subject already in their first year at Hogwarts.

 

“Oh, I see the honorable Mr. Harry Potter has attended our simple lesson. Please, will you give me the answer?” meager Professor Flamel said, sounding truly intrigued.

 

“The main goal of Alchemy is to make the Philosopher’s Stone,” Harry replied. “It can make you live eternally and turn anything into gold.”

 

“It’s absolutely correct, Mr. Potter!” Flamel was pleased. “So, I promise you to tell the very essential knowledge that is needed to know how to produce this legendary stone of magic.” Then he looked at Terry and Anthony, who still listened in to the every word the professor said with open mouths, and added, “However, you Ravenclaws, don’t get too much excited, because then after I’m also going to tell you why it’s never possible.”

 

Terry immediately shot his hand in the air and objected, “But Professor, how can it be that the Stone is impossible to produce if it once had belonged to Nicolas Flamel?”

 

“That’s right, young man – what’s your name?” – “Terry.” – “Terry, you see, the creation of the Stone requires special conditions and even more special ingredients which can’t be found in public pharmacy stores. Besides, nowadays it’s forbidden by the strictest law to acquire the essential ingredient needed for the production of the Stone, as well as this ingredient is also extremely rare.” A wave of whispers flew over the classroom – the art of making the Philosopher’s Stone seemed so tempting that hearing about the forbidden component the first thought of everyone, of course, was – is it really impossible to find some loophole in this law?

 

“But may I ask one more question, Professor Flamel – where’s located the famous Stone of Nicolas Flamel now? I recall a long while ago in the Daily Prophet, there had been published the information about his death. Then, the Stone can’t be with him no longer since it is able to provide the immortality?” Terry wanted to know.

 

“You are one observant young man,” professor praised him with a smile. “It’s indeed true that my grand-grand-grand and a lot more grand-father, Nicolas Flamel, had once deposited the Stone to safe storage to none other than the former Headmaster of the Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore.”

 

In the classroom, the schoolmates were quietly murmuring to each other, “Yes, yes, I remember now – didn’t something happen to Harry in the dungeons seven years ago?”

 

“But what happened then with the Stone?” Terry was inquiring further. “However, Dumbledore actually had never had the Stone. He also died,” the young man of Ravenclaw House finished with a barely audible whisper.

 

“Actually, it is not very clear to me either. I suppose Harry Potter could be the best to give this answer. Am I right Harry?” Flamel asked, watching him closely and inquisitively. But his look through the glasses seemed to be full only with curiosity, without any reproach or condemnation.

 

“Well, there isn’t much secret about it,” Harry began, being hesitant of his explanation, “everyone knows that Dumbledore was fighting Voldemort back then, and since Dumbledore had heard from Nicolas Flamel that someone had tried to steal his Stone, the Stone had been hidden in Hogwarts so Voldemort couldn’t get it. Back then seven years ago, Voldemort had almost succeeded to access the Stone, but then I intervened and took away the Stone from Voldemort’s grasp. Then after Dumbledore told me that the Stone had been destroyed.” While he was telling his story, there was a deafening silence in the classroom, with everybody trying to catch every word of his – because this event had never been revealed to the public.

 

“Thank you for your response, Mr. Potter, but now I really want to draw your attention to a worldlier part of Alchemy.” As he saw dissatisfied faces, he smiled knowingly and added, “Of course, I understand very well that the Philosopher’s Stone is a temptation for every wizard, and that’s why I promise you to return to this topic before Christmas. On condition, if you are going to be good students. But now I would like to welcome everyone to get acquainted with all four basic elements of Alchemy.”

 

And for the next part of the lesson, the professor told about the fire, the water, the earth, and the air as the core elements of Alchemy, each time with a flick of his fingers making to surge up the element in the respective corner. He linked these elements with the number four, which in Arithmancy illustrates the meaning of stability, endurance and constancy. In the second lesson, the young people had to choose a corner and element, and try to affect it without using a wand. The teacher’s demonstration had seemed to look so simple when he had told about each element, but when Harry had to challenge the air it just kept only quivering as it had quivered all the time before. Ginny at least managed to get a tiny breeze that moved his hair.

 

Suddenly, there was a rush in the opposite corner – there in the corner of the fire, Terry had managed to summon a huge tongue of the flame. But in the corner of the earth element, Daphne had flowered a bloom of a tiny dandelion between the stones of the floor.

 

“Excellent, excellent,” the teacher praised his students, “I hadn’t hoped that even one of you’ll be capable of surging up these elements at the very first try. It took me a while to move even one of them, so don’t be upset if you didn’t manage to do it yet. I’m sure you’ll be able to reveal your talent on Alchemy later on. And now, as you’re being good students of N.E.W.T.s, I expect you to be prepared for the next lesson, in which I’m going to introduce you to the basic principles of the interaction between these four elements. And try to practice the controlling of the elements as much as possible. Goodbye until the meeting on the next Wednesday,” said Philip Flamel as he ended the lesson; then he flicked his fingers and the shimmering illusions of the corners vanished. Now here it looked just like any other ordinary classroom. It was indeed strange, this fine art of Alchemy.

 

Looking at the table of the lessons as they went out of the classroom, the young people started their way to the dungeons to attain the next lesson by Slughorn – Potions. Of course, there started the flood of talking about what had happened at the last two hours. One of the students said he had felt the wind, the other – the vibrations of the water, one felt like his feet had immersed into the ground, the other one had thought he had become hot like fire. Stepping down to the dungeons, the chatter of the seventh year students soon turned to the secret ingredient of the Philosopher’s Stone, where, naturally, sounded out even more wondrous ideas with each passing second. “Maybe there’s required some Pixie Dust.” – “Are you crazy? You can get those everywhere!” – “How about the Basilisk fang? The hatching of a Basilisk is forbidden nowadays.” – “I think this creature has to have more powerful transfiguration properties,” Hannah interjected the conversation of her Ravenclaw classmates; she had asked Slughorn to allow her to study Potions at the N.E.W.T. level this year in order to be able to pass the admission examination of the healer courses of the St Mungo’s Hospital.

 

Taking a place at the classroom door and waiting for them to open at any moment, Harry was standing next to a Slytherin girl. When she said her guess that maybe the secret ingredient is the tears of a poltergeist, he noticed something unusual in the girl’s appearance.

 

“Daphne, what’s that?” he asked the Slytherin girl, pointing to her ear.

 

She pushed her hair away from her ear, revealing a nasty, blackish outer part of her earlobe.

 

“This, Harry, is a proof that the Slytherins also had fought in the Battle of Hogwarts against You-Know-Who. Madam Pomfrey offered me to heal this injury after the Battle, but I wanted to keep it as a remembrance,” Daphne explained, looking intently at Harry with her pale blue eyes. She has always been one of those shy Slytherins who wasn’t yelling out all kinds of insults, she usually just sat quietly and learned and, as it turned out, had also fought on his side in the war. In addition, as she was born in the respectable Greengrass family of pureblood wizards, she was also a remarkably beautiful. Harry had never seen anyone with such crystal clear ice blue eyes.

 

“Um, I didn’t know that. Thank you for telling me this,” Harry felt awkward and didn’t know what he should answer to her. Fortunately, the classroom door was already starting to open and also Hermione had hurried over to them.

 

They all four sat down on the bench, taking their seat in the middle of the classroom. However, Ron still couldn’t finish his talking about the Alchemy lesson.

 

“But I think the idea of a non-transformed Boggart is the most accurate. It is actually impossible to capture it before the shape-shifting. And it’s got incredible transformation skills. Do you remember the third year with Lupin – that Bogart could practically change into everything,” he said, knowingly emphasizing the end of his talk.

 

Harry smirked as he remembered Snape in the clothes of Neville’s grandmother, while Hermione snorted next to him. Harry looked at her questioningly.

 

“Ron, you are talking about the ingredient needed for the production of the Philosopher’s Stone, is it right?” Ron nodded in agreement.

 

“Please, just don’t say that you’ve already read all about it,” Ron said, sounding incredulous.

 

“Read about it? Of course, the alchemists don’t write anything what this ingredient exactly is, but to guess it you don’t have to be a genius. Especially if you know something about Dumbledore’s achievement,” Hermione strictly said in one breath.

 

“Dumbledore – what’s the deal with him?” Ron didn’t understand.

 

“Wait a minute; Dumbledore had done some research with Flamel, right?” Harry began to remember something.

 

“Hermione, aren’t you thinking about those experiments with the dragon blood?” Ginny asked.

 

“Exactly, Ginny,” Hermione spoke in a very quiet, whispering voice, because Slughorn had already greeted everyone and was about to start the lesson. “How do you think why he had bothered himself so much with that dragon blood; it has long been known for its extraordinary magical power, including the potential for transfigurations. But I wouldn’t be very surprised if the dragon needed for the Stone very well could be extinct. And for now – shush – Slughorn’s beginning the lesson,” Hermione shushed her friends, now wishing to hear only the Potions Master.

 

Hearing her suggestion, Harry right away imagined a fantastic king of dragons in a height of a huge giant, clad with golden scales as armor and spitting fire high in the air with widespread wings…

 

“… and that’s why I have put only one Potions lesson for this year of N.E.W.T.s,” Slughorn said, and Harry suddenly woke up in the present and realized that now he should have been listening to the professor. “It means that I expect you to be very diligent in preparing for lessons. I’ll inform you at the end of this lesson for what you need to be ready for the next time, so you’ll have a whole week to get ready for the theory and brewing of potions. If it will be necessary, I’m expecting you to spend some additional time to prepare also the needed ingredients for the potions, therefore I no longer accept the reservations of the seventh year students that there wasn’t sufficient time,” he warned his students about the set order in the N.E.W.T. year and soon after smiled in his walrus-like moustache.

 

“But now, on a happier note, let’s get started with the theory of potions. This year, we are going to begin with the essences or extracts of different elements and substances; I think this might be particularly interesting for those who have chosen to study the subject of Alchemy. Today we could try to extract the Sleep essence out of the sneezing of the forest pixies. You could read about the extraction process in the Borage’s book on one hundredth and fifty-seventh page in more detail,” Slughorn explained as he lifted up from his table one of a few jars with a bluish-green pastel-toned substance.

 

“The sneezing of the forest pixies is well known among the magizoologists for their drowsiness; the leavings of the sneezing can then be collected in the form of the dust from plant leaves that have been sneezed by these forest pixies. I am very fortunate because Hagrid walking around the Forbidden forest had found a little nest of these pixies, but to put Hagrid to sleep, there’s needed something much stronger than this,” Slughorn chuckled quietly as he put his hand on one of the jars. Harry had begun to suspect that Slughorn truly may have become friends with Hagrid after the Aragog’s funeral. “That’s exactly what we are going to do today – our task will be to extract the component of Sleep from this sneezing powder, so that our resulting potion could be able to drowse even a… an elephant,” Slughorn slightly hesitated before he told the resemblance. “I will determine the quality of the saturation of the essence by looking at its spectral color – if you have managed to get rid of the green undertone, I’ll count this potion as successful; if you’ll be lucky enough to saturate your potion with the purple tone – then I will rate it with Outstanding. And now, everyone, get ready your mortar and pestle and come here to take the powder. Just don’t toss around with it – if you breathe it in, you’ll be sleepy for the rest of the day!”

 

Harry along with the others went with his bowl after the bluish-green powder. Everyone slowly and with a little crowding got a full pestle with powder using a spoon and then returned to their places and started to pour water in their cauldrons out of their wands. Harry looked at his new Borage’s book – the Prince’s book unfortunately had burnt in the Room of Requirements – and it said that to obtain the simplest essences the raw material had to be heated for half an hour on a slow, steady fire, stirring it counter clockwise, evenly and constantly.

 

Putting all the powder into his cauldron, he watched as it got wet and sank down, then the young man made a small fire under the cauldron and began to stir his mixture as Borage had told him to do. Harry remembered Prince once recommending to stir the potion every eight time in the opposite direction; maybe this time it might prove to be effective, too.

 

Casting a glance at Hermione at the other end of the double desk, he noticed that, of course, she had such a steady fire as no one else in the classroom; the flames of his fire sometimes were flickering to the one side or another under the cauldron.

 

The lesson was already slowly approaching to its end, and Slughorn had started to walk around to look at the work done by his students. Mainly he nodded and said that it was good enough for the first time, and then he made a remark for some Hufflepuffs of Ginny’s year that their potions lacked richness, but Malfoy hadn’t managed to get rid of the green undertone. Having come to Harry, the professor made a smile, feeling glad again that Harry had indeed inherited his mother’s talent – his essence had lost the undesirable green color as well had even got a purple tinge. In addition, after stirring the potion listening to the old advice of Prince, Harry had brightened his potion to the saturation of indigo color. Hermione also got an appreciative praise for her outstanding violet tone, although her potion was not as rich as Harry’s, however Slughorn seemed to be the most delighted as he reached the tables taken by the Ravenclaws.

 

“Terry, that’s an outstanding potion! You have outdone even the very Harry Potter. Look – do you see what a great essence he has! Ultraviolet, moreover fully saturated. Outstanding, it’s outstanding. Sure enough, I haven’t seen such a perfect essence since… well since a very long time ago,” Slughorn continued admiring Terry’s work, stuttering for a brief moment.

 

To the last remaining students he no longer didn’t give much attention, just looked at them with a nod, and then the professor returned to the front of the classroom and asked everyone to submit a vial of the potion made today, then he announced that for the next lesson they need to be prepared for extracting the Fire Essence, besides the raw material must be provided by themselves. Finally, the lesson was over and everyone went to the exit of the classroom. Soon Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione had come near Terry and Anthony. Hermione couldn’t resist herself from asking Terry how he had succeeded to make such a potion.

 

“Oh, it’s quite simple – I just put out the fire under the cauldron for a little while in each ten minutes, so the powder sinks down at the bottom of the cauldron and then the essence is released much faster,” Terry explained as if anyone could have thought about that. Hermione thanked for the answer, but then cast a confused look at Harry – where did he get such knowledge from? Harry just shrugged as he confirmed that he had only used the old recommendation of Half-Blood Prince to change the direction of stirring.

 

So they slowly climbed up to the Great Hall speaking about their potions, and soon there on the tables should show up the dishes for the lunch. Also other students came to sit by their plates, and Neville joined their group as the endurance of the tables began to be challenged by the mountains of fried potatoes and pieces of mashed meat as well as a battalion of the juice jugs. There began the tinkling of the plates and cutlery, but Neville wanted to know how they had done in their first lessons.

 

“Can you imagine – in Potions, Terry surpassed Harry and even Hermione!” Ron exclaimed right away to his friend.

 

“Oh, I’m not very surprised about that. Last year, Terry was our Potions Master in the Room of Requirements, but Hannah practiced healing spells more. Then, they both healed most of the injuries. In any case, I definitely have to thank them a lot as well as the Room of Requirements for the providing of the necessary literature, otherwise now, I might not have a half of my face,” Neville explained.

 

To Hermione and Harry it sounded credible, but Ron wanted to know something else while he was eating up the cabbage and carrot salad.

 

“Listen, Hermione, but who was that Tom with whom you walked out of the Great Hall this morning?” Ron asked as soon as he had swallowed his mouthful of the salad and then after instantly put in his mouth a huge pile of potatoes.

 

“Who’s Tom? Why are you asking me such a question, Ron?” Hermione inquired, sounding confused as she leaned back and narrowed her eyes.

 

“Hermione, it’s very simple. Harry took out the Marauder’s Map to look where exactly we have our Alchemy lesson, but then Ron, of course, went instantly – oh, where’s Hermione, where’s Hermione,” Ginny explained, at the end beginning to mock her brother acting as if she was searching for something very carefully on her napkin. Harry restrained himself not to start to laugh out loud and saw that Hermione also put an effort to not make a wide grin as she had tightly set her lips, while Ron’s ears had turned bright red.

 

“It was just that next to you, there was that dot with the inscription ‘Tom’, but we don’t actually know any Tom,” Ron murmured so quietly that the end of it was barely audible.

 

“Maybe it was Tom Marble? I recall we had such a first year. As I went out of the Great Hall, I was constantly surrounded by lost first years. It took me all morning while I managed to take them all to their classes,” Hermione told them, thinking back about her actions in the morning.

 

“Ginny already told him the same,” Harry confirmed with a nod.

 

“Ron, you see? You just need to listen to Ginny more often,” Hermione joked, but Ron only rolled his eyes, “Anyway; I didn’t have time to go to the Trophy Room this morning.”

 

“Neville, we’re going to the Trophy Room after the lunch,” Harry began, “to search for – well, you know – the Diadem,” he muttered the end quietly, leaning closer to his friend. “You can also come to help us. And you could also tell it to Luna.”

 

“Yes, of course, with the pleasure,” the young man replied cheerfully, as he drank his pumpkin juice, but then he remembered something. “Only I think that she had Divination class right after the lunch. Then she won’t be able to join us if we now go straight to the Trophy Room.”

 

“Wait a minute, the fourth lesson ends at quarter to 2 PM. Do you really think we could manage to find that Diadem so quickly?” Ginny argued wisely. “Let her come to the Trophy Room after her Divination class.”

 

After eating the last morsels of potatoes and drinking empty their glasses, the young people were ready to go on the search for the Diadem. Neville took his time as he went to the Ravenclaw table and told about their intention to Luna. Then the five of them headed for the Trophy Room on the fourth floor of Hogwarts, going their way up the magnificent marble staircase to the first floor, where a little distance further was the incredibly huge Staircase Hall with wide winding stairs all around the hall. As Hermione knew to tell, the Hogwarts History says that in the ancient times the stairs had moved all around here, but due to too many victims they had been soon rebuilt motionless with rigid railings.

 

“We’re already at the Trophy Room,” Ginny announced, gesturing with her hand to the hall in front of her, as the young people on their way had lively discussed their thoughts about how to start the search. They all right away went inside in the never locked room full of cups, medals, and honor badges. There were no people here, but in the middle of the room they saw something new that hadn’t been there in the previous school years. There was a statuette depicting a boy with the glasses and with a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead, who had raised his hand in a victory, holding a wand with a dim light shining out of its tip. Underneath the statuette which was in the length of about the half of a human hand, there at the foundation, was a flat square with the inscription:

 

Harry Potter

the Savior and the Bearer of the Light

not only to Hogwarts,

but also for all the Magic World.

May 2, 1998

In the memory of those who have fallen.

 

Everyone looked at the newly created glazed figure with amazement, except for Harry himself – he immediately turned away after reading the inscription. He didn’t want to look at anything that praised him for the job he hadn’t actually done yet. This made the young man very glum.

 

“Let’s get started with that Diadem,” he hissed to his friends a moment later.

 

The others flinched from Harry’s angry order, looking at him, but they nodded right away and turned their attention to the glass cases. They arranged between themselves, which shelves and cabinets each of them are going to check. So they examined everything very carefully, looking at countless medals and plaques, as well as at the lists of Captains of Quidditch teams or lists of Head Boys or Head Girls.

 

“That’s interesting – Snape even hadn’t appointed Malfoy for the Head Boy in the previous year, but instead of him it was Ernie,” Run suddenly spoke up, examining the list of the Head Boys where the last entry for the 1998/1999 academic year told ‘Draco Malfoy’.

 

“That’s right,” Neville confirmed. “Although, there were rumors going around here that they just wanted to get him on their side because he is one of the few purebloods. At first, they tried to recruit me too, but I didn’t allow them to get me.”

 

“But, if we think about it now, it was more likely that Snape just wanted to have as little terror in the castle as possible. Ernie would never hurt anyone,” Harry said thoughtfully, telling his suspicion.

 

“You meant to say – couldn’t hurt any innocent child. He kicked several Death Eaters in their asses,” Ginny added, tilting her head lower and looking through her forehead.

 

“Who needs to be kicked in his ass?” Smiling, Luna came into the Trophy Room.

 

“What? We’ve spent here already almost an hour?” Neville was in shock. “We haven’t even looked at anything yet.”

 

“I told you we wouldn’t have found anything so soon,” Ginny objected.

 

So it took another hour for them to examine closely all the trophies. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything that looked even remotely similar to the Diadem, nor was there anything else suspicious – there were only completely common cups and medals with as much as common names or achievements. Nothing suspicious at all.

 

Then Luna suggested that they should check also all the panels on the wall because if the Diadem is here somewhere, it will likely be hidden somehow. Naturally, Accio Diadem! also failed to work. So they took a look at the wooden panels at the bottom of the walls. For a moment, it seemed to them that they have found something. Ron excitedly called everyone to tell he had found some kind of void behind the wall. As everyone went over to him and investigated it more closely, they actually found a loose board and with their hearts pounding they shone a light in there to see what there’s inside. However, to their disappointment, there were only tufts of cat wool – apparently Mrs. Norris used to nap down here, perhaps even quite often. Hermione even dared to touch and feel through the cat’s nest, but there was nothing more than some chewed mouse skeletons. After spending a few more hours of exploring the panels, their first day at Hogwarts was closing to the evening. They felt tired and frustrated.

 

“It’s ten to 6 PM. Let’s go to the dinner?” Harry suggested, looking at his wrist watch.

 

“Ok, let’s go. On the way, we could think about more ways how to search here everything,” Ron agreed.

 

“We haven’t checked the traces of magic on the panels and elsewhere yet,” Luna added.

 

“I was more thinking about that Voldemort would’ve hidden that Diadem of his just like his other treasures,” Hermione thought out loud.

 

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, going down the large staircases with his friends.

 

“I mean he could have hidden it more likely behind some Parseltongue key,” Hermione explained.

 

“Perhaps your Sneakoscope could be useful?” Ginny offered. “It may detect the Dark Arts too, as something forbidden.”

 

Thinking about all these options, they came in the Great Hall, where most of the students had already gathered for dinner. As they decided to return to the Trophy Room tomorrow with the Sneakoscope, the Extendable Ears, and Hermione’s Revealer, they sat down at the long table – Luna took her seat at the Ravenclaw Table – and they all turned their attention to food.

 

The meal passed without any incidents, only one or two girls or first years were looking suspiciously dreamily at them. The five juniors went back to the Gryffindor Tower, discussing again their failure of today in the Trophy Room. As they arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady in her enormous pink dress, Hermione gave her the password, “Victory.”

 

“Cheers to you too,” the Lady in pink replied as she opened the door to their Common room. The room was already half full – the children were sitting in chairs and around the tables talking and playing Exploding Snap, and then there was a bunch around four chess players, and somewhere in the middle of all these chattering students, were napping some cats, including Crookshanks. As they stepped through the hole behind the portrait, suddenly, it seemed as if the Common room had become mute. Although, their classmates didn’t seem to pay much attention to them, but the younger ones, especially the first years, were looking at them with their eyes like saucers glistering under their hats of Hogwarts uniform. Among the children there immediately started the chattering, and they hurriedly vacated the seats they had occupied in front of the fireplace.

 

Harry actually didn’t know how he should feel about this. That was the last thing he wanted now to sit among these intrusive first years, besides this year they really were so awfully many, and he didn’t have even the slightest liking to discuss his great feats. Harry glanced at Ron, who had always liked to shine a little bit in the spotlight, but also the expression on his face told that his friend had no desire to be in the middle of the first years who were looking at them as if they were ready to devour their heroes like hungry wolves.

 

“I swear they are like tiny, starving Erklings,” Ron sighed, “Really gives me the creeps.”

 

They saw several unoccupied sofas near the door of dormitories and quickly hurried there. Seated, the young people hoped to be able to talk and laugh and, most importantly, to discuss carefully their next plan for the inspection of the Trophy Room, but there didn’t go by more than ten minutes as the members of younger years had slowly started to make a crowd around them. Soon enough, they were no longer too shy to ask some questions being overly interested in to the last detail of their adventures, dealing with Voldemort and his Death Eaters. However, at the onset of the crowding questions Hermione said she wanted to go to the library and left her friends in the hold of the first years who were hungry for adventure stories.

 

Soon Harry allowed Ron to speak mostly, because he was more willing to rethink again carefully what had happened today. There could be more things he would like to have, but even more glory he needed the least. Lately, he quite often had the urge to just sit and think. He wondered for a brief moment whether it’s a thing that happens to all people as they grow up – that they simply need some moment of silence and reflection, or is it so because he had gone through so many worries and dreads, and it all had to slowly filter through his mind? As he continued to dwell on his reflection, Harry could hear Ron telling the first years about the Sword of Gryffindor and Neville confirming that he had actually cut off the snake’s head with it and that the Sword indeed had truly once belonged to Gryffindor. Naturally, the eyes of the little listeners lit up like rubies – it was obvious that each of them wanted to prove that they could be true Gryffindors as well. At that moment, Harry’s dislike for the obtrusive little children vanished – because they wanted only one thing, they wanted to know how it’s like to be brave. It was just a pity that they were too little to understand what this braveness actually costs. Right now they were listening as if everything Ron and Neville were telling was some kind of fascinating hero story about knights at ancient times.

 

As Ginny felt her boyfriend to dwell on gloomy thoughts, she took his hand and smiled at him.

 

“Listen, if you feel tired and want to be alone, go upstairs. We’re going to deal with these little pests here,” the girl whispered in Harry’s ear, leaning closer to him.

 

Harry nodded and excused himself that he needs to go upstairs to the boy’s dormitory. Most of his admirers cast sad glances after him, but they didn’t dare to object to him. Harry had run seven floors upstairs on the winding stairs and now stood in front of the two doors labeled with “Seventh Year”, and he entered through the ones where below was his name in the list along with Neville, Ron, Dean, and Seamus.

 

Closing the door behind him, Harry entered the empty and peaceful room. Dark red curtains hung down the windows, making a dim twilight in the room, and outside behind the windows, the sun was just touching the treetops. At least here he could lie down in his own four poster bed and think everything over carefully. His mind turned to Voldemort, the Trophy Room, Neville, and, of course, Ginny; he thought about Malfoy and Skeeter and other rather common but unpleasant things until the room had sunk into deep darkness. He had been lying in bed like that probably for several hours when suddenly, Ron and Neville entered the dorm room, both smiling and chatting happily. After them soon came also Dean and Seamus, ready to go to sleep.

 

“Oh, Harry, I see you ran away from those savages on time,” Dean said, smirking.

 

“Yes, I did,” Harry confirmed, still thoughtfully.

 

“They were sticking to us all day long. We couldn’t even eat breakfast properly,” Seamus added. “When they got to know we had also participated in the Battle of Hogwarts, they started to bombard us with questions – How was it? How dreadful were those Death Eaters? Did you really have to fight against the Dementors? I’ve heard that Hogwarts had been surrounded by a whole bunch of You-Know-Who basilisks, is it true?” After this question the guys laughed as they sat on their beds.

 

“Oh well, and one of them even wanted to know if Harry had really flown here on the back of a dragon and had burned You-Know-Who alive, because, you see, his father has a job at Gringotts, so he had told him that you had got the dragon out of there,” Dean told what he had heard this morning, barely suppressing his laugh.

 

“Actually, this isn’t very far from the truth,” Ron stated, “we really got here with a dragon.”

 

“Is that really true? I didn’t even know that,” Seamus admitted in surprise.

 

Harry and Ron both quickly explained to their classmates how they had done it four months ago. Although, they had concealed the fact of breaking into the Gringotts to the Daily Prophet, so it was not known to the wider public of wizards, nor had they told anything about the Horcruxes, except mentioning that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had put on himself some kind of protection that had to be destroyed before he could be defeated.

 

“But why did you have to get into that vault at all?” Dean didn’t understand.

 

“You see, Voldemort had provided himself with extra security, such as, as the saying goes, amulets; so we needed to find and destroy them,” Harry revealed to his classmates so much that he didn’t have to go into details about the Horcruxes. Of course, Seamus and Dean wanted to know what kind of amulets they were.

 

Hesitating for a brief moment, Harry looked in his mokeskin pouch and soon took out the Slytherin’s Locket and the Hufflepuff’s Cup. His classmates gasped as they saw them.

 

“The Founders’ treasures,” Neville breathed. “It’s a pity they’ve been destroyed,” the young man stated as he took the ruined and ulcerated relics.

 

“Thank God, he didn’t get our Sword,” Seamus said, happily as he grinned at Neville.

 

“And the item of Ravenclaw,” Dean said, “I guess that monster must have found it. Then that’s what you were searching for that night, Harry?”

 

“Exactly, but the Diadem got burned in the Fiendfyre when Crabbe burned down the Room of Requirements,” Harry confirmed, feeling a thorn of guilt pricking into his stomach, because it had hardly been the real Diadem that got burned. “Actually, what’s going on with the Room of Requirements? Does anyone know something about it?”

 

“This morning, feeling nostalgic, I walked down the sixth floor before breakfast, but McGonagall had insulated the part of the hallway along the Room of Requirements. Besides, as you get closer to the Room of Requirements, it becomes unpleasantly warm,” Neville told his observations of today.

 

“Probably McGonagall wouldn’t dare to open it alone and especially now when the castle is full with students,” Ron reasoned. The others nodded in agreement.

 

After a while of talking, they began to feel tired and called it a night. There will come a new day tomorrow with new impressions, duties and talks.

 

It seemed to Harry that the night had passed in an instant, and it was already Thursday morning. Dressed and washed his face, he put on his glasses and went down along with Ron. As he got downstairs in the Common room, there was full with the younger Gryffindor students. Exactly as it was yesterday, they were accompanied by a bunch of enthusiastic fans, but this time they didn’t hesitate to ask a constant flood of the questions – Harry had truly no doubt that this was the reason why they hadn’t met Hermione and Ginny also this morning.

 

“Harry, were you scared when you fought in the Battle?”

 

“And what about the dragon – did you really stand against You-Know-Who riding on the dragon?”

 

“I heard there was a whole army of the giants, is it true?”

 

“Does You-Know-He really has huge teeth with venom like snakes have?”

 

“I was told he had all kinds of dark creatures with him – huge spiders, Dementors, then those huge orange snails that spit venom, and there also had been a horde of Swooping Evils raiding the battlefield from above, but the castle was surrounded by three-headed snakes and basilisks that can kill with a single glance.”

 

“Their imagination really doesn’t cease to surprise me,” Ron murmured, smiling beside him.

 

Luckily, their route wasn’t too long, so after listening close to a hundred fabulous versions where Harry barehanded faced a hundred of Voldemort thugs, the young men finally came to the Great Hall at the Gryffindor table and could breathe out a sigh of a relief as they sat down across to the girls.

 

“They didn’t leave you alone either?” Hermione asked. “It seems the most pressing topic right now is whether the dragon was just for you or for each of us.” Hermione chuckled after she had told them.

 

“Aha, and each of us had also the Sword of Gryffindor and the Philosopher’s Stone in our pockets,” Ron laughed, luring out a smile on Harry’s and the girl’s mouths.

 

“At least here at the table, we can have our breakfast in peace,” Ginny said with appreciation.

 

Harry nodded in agreement and put an omelet on his plate and poured pumpkin juice into his glass. As he ate breakfast and chatted with his friends, there soon arrived the post owls as usual in every morning. A simple, brown owl landed next to Harry, stretching its leg towards him with the envelope tied to it. It wasn’t a big surprise for him to receive a letter – in May, he had almost drowned in the rain of the thank-you letters, but now fortunately, they were sent to him in reasonable quantities. Then, many had wanted to thank him for being able to come out of their hiding places and for meeting their loved ones again, and for returning to their homes. Once there was a letter seeming suspiciously heavy and it was strangely humming, so Arthur took it to the Auror Office – as it had turned out, it was indeed a nasty Flesh-Eating Curse, presumably sent by some Death Eater or his relative.

 

However, now, only some Mrs. Gwyneth Gladys still regularly used to send him an encouraging word, but though, he remembered her owl looking different. But it didn’t seem to him that this letter could be dangerous in any way, so Harry untied the letter from owl’s leg curiously and opened it.

 

Dear Harry Potter,

 

I sincerely congratulate you on the last four months since the victory over the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

 

I hope you still remember me, once glorious and outstanding Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award, and Oder of Merlin, Third Class, Gilderoy Lockhart. I feel overwhelmed with proud because the very knowledge I have provided to you has ultimately turned out to be essential in gaining the victory over the darkness and had made such an important contribution in saving the whole Magic World.

 

And thanks to the young, responsive healer apprentice here at St Mungo’s who had also once studied in the brilliant Ravenclaw House, I have this unique opportunity to send you my autographed photo, Harry, so the invaluable contribution I have made in your education never leaves your memory. Thanks to you for the rest of my life, I am able to say with the pride that I have been your Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

Forever yours,

 

Gilderoy Lockhart.

 

Having read the letter, Harry just barely restrained himself for not laughing out loud. And just look at it – in the envelope, there really was another piece of paper, thicker than the letter. It was a photograph autographed by Gilderoy Lockhart, in which he winked with his eye as flirty as he used six years ago; only the signature on the photo was not as curly as he remembered it. With a grin on his face, the young man gave Ginny and Hermione the picture of the handsome blond across the table.

 

“Who would have thought it!” Hermione said, chuckling.

 

“Judging the letter, it sounds like he’s going to be fine soon,” Ron concluded, grinning. The girls also agreed with Ron, after reading the letter.

 

While the owls were still flying in and out of the Great Hall, the usual owl with the Daily Prophet descended next to Hermione. After paying five Knuts, she browsed the newspaper, but there wasn’t anything noticeable, just that Malfoys were planning to open a new pharmacy store on the Diagon Alley.

 

“So let’s try to inspect the Trophy Room again after Transfiguration? We still have to try the Parseltounge and maybe in addition to Sneakoscope, Extendable Ears, and Revealer we’ll be able to think of something else. If we wouldn’t discover there anything, then let’s go to the kitchen next?” Harry summarized his intentions, wanting to get the agreement of his friends to his plans.

 

“And maybe we could visit Hagrid tonight,” Ron suggested. “Who knows, perhaps he accidentally tells some kind of idea.”

 

“It’s not a bad idea,” Hermione agreed as she put aside the Daily Prophet and drove a knife over a block of butter to smear a thick yellow fat layer on her toast.

 

“But we can’t actually ask him anything. It’s better that nobody knows anything aside us and Neville and Luna,” Ginny stated.

 

“You’re right. Besides, you already know how chatty Hagrid is,” Ron said knowingly as he ate the beans he had put next to his omelet. Harry smirked – Hagrid really liked to talk much, and the young people from their friendly giant had gotten to know a few things they shouldn’t have, but once Hagrid had blurted out important information to very Voldemort. Therefore, they couldn’t be too careful with this matter.

 

Soon the breakfast was over and other students were slowly lifting up their school bags and going to their classes. And they did the same – leisurely walking and chattering, the friends strolled to the ground floor of the East Wing of the castle, where there had always been the Transfiguration classroom.

 

“Hello,” as they arrived, their classmates greeted them, gathered here and waiting for the door to open. Harry glanced at the wristwatch, which indicated that there were still fifteen minutes before the lesson.

 

“Listen – do you know anything about this professor?” Ernie asked after he had greeted the arriving Gryffindors.

 

Harry, Ron, and Ginny shook their heads, but Hermione started telling that he was the successor of the famous Emeric Switch, who had written their Transfiguration books, as well as their new professor was certainly very skilled in Transfiguration since he is doing research and publishing his results in the Transfiguration Today. Seamus knew that Emerald Switch was a classmate of McGonagall, and Anthony confirmed that Switch indeed had researched Transfiguration very seriously and had regularly published in scientific magazines his articles on his experiments of partial transfiguration – an extremely sophisticated and ultra-modern, unexplored subject. Terry agreed the statement of his fellow Ravenclaw, vigorously nodding his head.

 

“It sounds like he is an ace professor,” Ron commented.

 

“Actually, why we couldn’t have a great teacher? Nobody wants to be the professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts anymore, but teaching the Transfigurations could be a matter of honor,” Ginny said wisely.

 

The classroom door soon opened and all the gathered students went inside and took the seats as they like at the double seat benches. Of course, Harry chose to sit next to Ginny, but Ron and Hermione took their seats behind them. The classroom looked like usually with its high ceiling and its slender, tall, roman windows with diamond grid pattern, casting a warm and pleasant sunlight over the room.

 

At 9 AM, the door closed and their current professor of Transfiguration came through the side door of the classroom. He was a man with a brown hair freckled with few gray threads, and he wore on his angular face a look exactly as stark as McGonagall.

 

“Good morning, my dear Hogwarts seventh years, who have come here to learn the final subtleties of Transfiguration before you are going to take the one of the most important examinations of your life – the N.E.W.T. exams,” the professor spoke expressively as the students listened to him intently without making a noise.

 

“May I tell you an anecdote?” the professor of Transfiguration asked, but then continued didn’t even noticing them to nod. “Do you know what a N.E.W.T. student has to know?” Not expecting anyone to answer, Switch immediately went on, “A N.E.W.T. student must know everything that is written in this book,” professor said as he lifted up the copy of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration. “But what does the assistant of the professor need to know? – The assistant needs to know how to find this book. And what does the professor need to know, you may ask? – The professor actually needs to know where to find his assistant,” the teacher finished his joke with a grin on his face. There were few students who chuckled softly; however, Harry had a rather terrible feeling that the professor didn’t tell this joke just for the sake of fun.

 

“And this is going to be the joke we are going to do this year – you’ll have to show in all seriousness that you’re capable of demonstrating skills at the N.E.W.T. level and this is what is going to be required at the end of the academic year – to know everything,” Switch said with a stern face, but then he made a small smile and added, “But don’t worry too much, because you have had the pleasure to study the fine art of Transfiguration with the great Professor McGonagall, who, of course, had proven to have excellent knowledge and skills in this subject being herself just a student. Therefore, I have no doubt that for most of you the task set by me to be prepared for the N.E.W.T.s wouldn’t cause any difficulties at all.”

 

Although, Harry had some doubts about this statement, especially after a skipped academic year he thought it might be actually difficult to turn the beetles into buttons, let alone demonstrating something more complicated.

 

Meanwhile, the professor went on, “I suggest we could dedicate this lesson to repeating general knowledge, and leave the requirements of N.E.W.T.s to the next lesson?”

 

Everyone nodded in agreement, and the teacher began with the most common Switching Spell, asking his students to turn a pencil into a spoon. Luckily, Harry still remembered how to do at least that, but the next task – turning the same spoon into a lizard – was actually a challenge for most of the students. Ginny’s lizard had a tale with metallic gloss, but Harry had only managed to turn the bowl of the spoon into the lizard’s head and it oddly writhed on his table.

 

It wasn’t new to him that his wand was excellent in battle and responded well in crucial situations, but when he needed to maintain constant, focused attention, he couldn’t do it always. Perhaps that’s why Potions and Transfiguration seemed so difficult to him, because these subjects demanded the understanding of the whole process, and he had to be able to hold on his will until the spell was finished. Harry concentrated, but this time he didn’t succeed the tail which looked like a handle of the spoon. Meanwhile, Professor Switch had come to his table.

 

“Oh, Harry Potter, I see you have to practice it more. The summer hasn’t been good for your transfiguration skill,” he said half-jokingly. “Great job, Miss Weasley, just when you finish the transfiguration, try to rotate your wrist more to get a really neat finish.” Then he went two steps further to Ron and Hermione and exclaimed with delight, “Excellent! Miss Granger, right?” Smiling shyly, Hermione nodded in approval. “Your transfigured lizard is flawless and besides of an extremely rare species – it’s the fire lizard or Salamander.” Then the professor bent his head closer to it to look at the fiery glowing creature more carefully. “And indeed – do it really seems to me that you have added the Fire Words to it?”

 

Now the whole class was looking at Hermione with admiration. “Yes, I thought it wouldn’t be a good Salamander if it didn’t have the properties of the Fire element,” Hermione replied, lightly blushing at the admiration she received from the teacher.

 

“But when did you cast those words? I didn’t hear a single word from you – did you really do it without saying it aloud?” the professor was truly pleasantly surprised. Hermione answered with a weak yes.

 

“Outstanding, outstanding, you’ve definitely earned ten points to Gryffindor for this,” Switch rewarded her. But then someone spoke nearby.

 

“Professor Switch, wait a minute! But wasn’t the task to turn the spoon into a lizard? If I remember correctly the theory of magical creatures, then the Salamander technically is actually an amphibian, not a lizard.” This objection was said out loud by Terry Boot of the Ravenclaw House.

 

Harry heard Ron scowling behind his back that Terry had found something so absolutely unimportant to argue with – Hermione’s work was undoubtedly perfect.

 

The professor thought about the question for a brief moment, slightly tilted his head. “I accept your objection – please, tell me your name!” – “Terry Boot.” – “Terry, you are actually right, but it doesn’t change that Miss Granger has performed absolutely perfect transfiguration, therefore I’m going to forgive her this tiny detail that a Salamander is rather a frog with a tail than an actual lizard. And now, please, show me how you have done your own transfiguration?”

 

Switch walked over to Terry’s and Anthony’s desk and lifted up Terry’s lizard to show it to the whole class as he widened his eyes with surprise. There was a tiny dragon sitting in his palm and sneezing fiery sparks. “A dragon! Indeed, a winged, fire breathing lizard. Outstanding, outstanding, Mr. Boot! You’ve definitely also deserved ten points to Rawenclaw. I’m so happy to work with such talented students,” the professor exclaimed about his students, being obviously delighted. As he went further to the rest of his students, he didn’t’ see anything more remarkable than those two works, although Ernie also got praised for his lively lizard, who, though, looked like the most common little reptile, which usually is warming in the sun in the gardens.

 

They ended the lesson as soon as they had repeated Vanishing and Conjuration spells; for the most part of the students they had no difficulty with it. “I had forgotten completely everything,” Ron sighed as he went out of the classroom, walking next to Harry, “At first, I had a hard time since I could just conjure up legs to my spoon and nothing else. Thank you, Hermione, for your help. What would I do without you?” He smiled gratefully at his girlfriend. Hermione smiled back to him and after the lesson seemed to be in a rather good mood; just a few times she murmured to herself as they went to the Trophy Room, “Oh, an amphibian, right? What’s the difference!”

 

After arriving at the Trophy Room, the young people were ready to indulge again in their quest for the finding of the Diadem. It turned out that Neville was already there, who had been searching the room alone during the first lesson. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell anything delightful to his friends. So they decided to try the Parseltounge; maybe it could open some kind of a secret passage.

 

The friends worked hard together as they searched over and over again through the room all the way to the last gap in the walls and floor, but it seemed that the Trophy Room truly was nothing more than a room full with only trophies and the nest made by Mrs. Norris. The searching after the lunch was no success, though they did it with a replenished strength and enthusiasm; so Harry felt quite frustrated as at half past four o’clock he offered to finish the inspection for today. The others also agreed with him. Neville and Luna had their own business, but the remaining four friends decided that it was time to visit Hagrid.



Chapter 8: Huge Surprise
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The four of young people – Ginny, Hermione, Harry, and Ron – sat comfortably with Hagrid, drinking late afternoon tea and trying to avoid eating Hagrid’s rock cakes as discreetly as possible.

 

Sitting in his chair and holding a big cup of tea, Harry thought back about the last hours how they, together with Neville and Luna, had searched the Trophy Room from top to bottom with the Sneakoscope, how they had knocked and listened in to every corner with the Extendable Ears, and Hermione had rubbed her Revealer all over the surfaces until it had shrunk only to half of its size. For a moment their hearts and breaths had almost stopped as Harry’s Sneakoscope had begun to whistle when Harry went past the Riddle’s Honor Award, but after investigating it with all the spells known to Hermione and Harry using the Parseltounge, it still had remained only the solid piece of metal with just an inscription. They were disappointed to conclude that the Sneakoscope had just likely detected the fraudulent way in which the prize was obtained. The following search hadn’t succeeded even in such a tiny excitement, and when Ron was starting to get especially grumpy, because as he said they were just wasting their time here, Harry announced that it was time to end the search, and everyone agreed with him, and they all decided to go for a rest. For the starter it might be good enough – one of the Hogwarts rooms had been searched through; they had almost a whole year to search the other rooms. If that Diadem was located here, then it has to be somewhere.

 

“Well, my dear children, hows yer first two days?” Hagrid asked, smiling, when everyone had finally grabbed at least one rock cake.

 

“It was alright. Though, we’ve only had a few first lessons,” Ginny objected.

 

“That’s nice. Now, and how do yer feel back again at Hogwarts?” Hagrid inquired again. Having spent several hours in searching for the Diadem, the young people felt more like disappointed than tired – the first guess, which had seemed very plausible, was wrong. As a result, now they didn’t have wits to do much talking, and they had already agreed before that they shouldn’t mention even a single word of this to Hagrid.

 

“Great, I feel like at home again,” Harry replied with a smile – and it was absolutely true. Whatever had been the situation here he had always felt like at home at Hogwarts.

 

“I’m so happy to hear yer feelin’ good, Harry. Yer’ve endured so much then at least now yer can finally be happy,” the giant said, smiling benevolently at the young man as he cast a glance at Ginny.

 

“Yes, now the times are incomparably better, and people around us are much happier,” Hermione confirmed.

 

“But tell us what did you do all summer, Hagrid?” Harry asked.

 

“Oh! I got loads of work,” Hagrid said as he waved his huge hand. “Yer may have noticed that there’re some patches all over the places in Hogwarts, so I had to get the materials here. I took logs from the Forbidden Forest, then McGonagall transfigured them in the right places so there’re no holes an’ the school is safe.”

 

The young people nodded that they had seen such patches here and there at Hogwarts; including the ceiling of the Great Hall, the railing at the Entrance Hall and some walls of the fourth and fifth floors.

 

“Had to work until late at night. So now them pesky whatacrows are roamin’ in the Forest; they made that creepy feelin’ when I had to go after those logs,” Hagrid said as he shook his head.

 

“Whatacrows?” Ron wondered. “What are they?”

 

Hagrid smiled. “They are somethin’ like crows.”

 

“What are they doing then?” Ron asked again.

 

Hagrid’s smile spread wider. “It looks like we’ve got one of those fer us, too.”

 

“What? Where?” Ron didn’t understand, why Hagrid had started to smile at his questions, as he looked around warily – in the hut, there was everything as usual as the old hunting dog, Fang, was lying on the giant’s bed, of course, after he had slobbered them from head to toe so that Hermione had to use a cleaning spell.

 

“Ron, you just began your last questions with ‘what’,” Hermione explained, “The whatacrows are like ordinary crows except they tend to shout out ‘What? What?” during the daytime, but at night they softly whisper to each other.” Ron’s ears turned red.

 

“You are right, Hermione. You said everythin’ correctly as usual,” Hagrid praised the girl. “But that feelin’ is creepy as hell when you happen to be in the woods at night, where it’s full with them whatacrows. Just imagine that it’s already dark and a bit scary, and then the whole Forest begins to whisper. Yer feel exactly like the dead is watchin’ yer.” The giant shook his head and drank a big sip of tea out of his teacup which was more like a small bucket.

 

They all shivered unintentionally. “I read that the whatacrows typically dwell in the places of the battles where many people had fallen dead – like ordinary crows do. Due to their talking and whispering there have been originated the legends and stories of whispering forests being obsessed with the souls of dead warriors,” Hermione told them a piece of information from her vast knowledge.

 

“Yeah, those whispers are quite terrible. Listen, what happened with me – one night I could no longer stand it anymore and I went to scare them away,” Hagrid began. “I had already driven them well away, but it happened to me that I had gone rather deep into the Forest.”

 

All four young people were all ears, for as far as their experience showed, being deep in the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night never ended well. “Hagrid, what happened? Isn’t the Forest full with spiders now?” Ginny exclaimed fearfully.

 

“That’s right. So I slowly go out when I hear somethin’ like a click. I just ignore it and go out of the woods. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, they are all around me. I look around – at the front, at the back, there’s spiders everywhere. Can yeh imagine, these are tellin’ me that this is their Forest now and I’m not allowed to enter it anymore,” Hagrid continued, grinning.

 

“And what happened next?” Harry asked, frightened of his friend’s safety and perhaps also of his sanity.

 

“I told them that such bugs aren’t goin’ to tell me what to do. Naturally, them got angry and began to rise to their legs and clack their pincers.” As Hagrid told about his adventures, Ron’s face started to turn green – he still had great fear of the spiders, especially from those gigantic ones who could devour a whole human.

 

“I tell them – what’s going to be then, do I really have to take my crossbow and have to knock down a few of yer from yer legs? These are actually beginning to get closer to me. I take my crossbow, drop a few of them dead, but them are swarmin’ around me like a black cloud. Who knows how the hell them could be breedin’ themselves so fast.”

 

“And how did you get away?” Hermione asked worriedly.

 

“Well, then I dropped another row of them dead, but them were already gettin’ very close to me; then I was lucky that those stargazers, centaurs, was passin’ by. Them shoot a half of that spider crowd, and then those cowards of spiders took flight and was gone in a blink of an eye. Just think of it; they wanted to take over all the Forest just for themselves,” Hagrid finally said, sounding incredulous. “At least now I and them centaurs brought everythin’ in order there, so there’s safe again.”

 

“Safe?!” Ron asked in an unusually high-pitched voice.

 

“Well, yeah; everythin’ is clear fer me in the woods. I could say that I’m more afraid of the school castle now,” Hagrid objected.

 

“Please, don’t scare us, Hagrid. What’s so dangerous at Hogwarts now?” Ginny asked.

 

“Well, it’s not true that it isn’t safe at Hogwarts – Hogwarts is always safe. At least more or less,” Hagrid added as soon as he saw Ginny’s face twisted with doubts because the girl obviously didn’t think that the last school year and especially the end of it could be called safe.

 

“In short, it was like that. We were repairin’ the hall on the ground floor, where Firenze has his classroom. It was late evenin’ when it’s gettin’ dark. I had gone after the logs to the Forbidden Forest, and now I carried them inside the castle, and then in the hallway, there suddenly someone comes closer to me. I look at him – he definitely isn’t McGonagall – he’s got such a long, black cloak with a hood. I stop in my place and call over to him for what he’s lookin’ for here. He’s not answerin’ anythin’. I start to get scared, and he’s also slowly comin’ closer; I see his long, white hand. I firmly ask again, who is he; but he’s ignorin’ me. Then he lifts his eyes and I see him – oh God, oh blimey, I wish the Manticore would swallow me up – he has red eyes with narrow pupils, I’m wet with sweat all over my back, all logs fall out of my hands; I see You-Know-Who is risen from his grave,” Hagrid’s voice faded into a quiet whisper, as he apparently seemed to be afraid of these memories.

 

“Voldemort; right here at Hogwarts? It can’t be!” Harry exclaimed, feeling as a whole bunch of ants would have travelled down his spine, and he almost started to shake with fear. If Hagrid had already seen him and he was well alive in his own body…

 

“It wasn’t that bad,” the giant reassured his guests, smiling at them benevolently, but the young people just widened their eyes in horror. “Fortunately, McGonagall had come to see where I got stuck with them logs, and she cast the Riddikulus and my Boggart vanished. It turned out it was just a foolish Boggart, but I was standin’ there and shakin’ from fear, because I really thought he’s risen from his grave. But then McGonagall reminded me correctly that yer, Harry, defeated him for good, and we don’t have to be afraid of him anymore. McGonagall will be a good Headmistress fer us, as I’m sayin’ to yer.” Hagrid smiled at Harry, full with kindness and happiness. “Just don’t tell anyone about this, alright? That I was so scared of one little Boggart.”

 

“No, no, of course not, Hagrid,” all of them said instantly.

 

So they discussed a few more things about Hogwarts until they had drunk their tea and it was time for dinner. The young people said a sincere farewell to Hagrid as they filled their pockets with his rock cakes, and they started to go back to the castle in a stroll. The sun was already floating just above the treetops, indicating that the autumn was slowly approaching with its dark evenings, but at the moment everything was calm and the air still smelled like summer.

 

“Did you think the same?” Ron asked as they went back to the castle.

 

“That Hagrid did really see Voldemort?” Harry asked back and, when Ron nodded, he added, “Yes, I also thought about it right away. But it was scary anyway.”

 

“At least they have dealt with that Boggart,” Ginny concluded.

 

“Only, I don’t believe that all the Boggarts are banished from Hogwarts. I don’t think that was the only one, because the Boggarts usually occur in places where there had been intense and strong emotions. I suppose after the Battle, they were everywhere all over this place,” Hermione told her opinion. “Maybe now, all those remaining Boggarts have crawled somewhere in the dark or in the Dungeons.”

 

Ron chuckled suddenly.

 

“What’s up with you, Ron?” Ginny asked.

 

“I just imagined Malfoy peeing in his pants when one such a Boggart is coming right at him on his way to the Common Room,” he explained with an evil laugh.

 

The rest of the friends also grinned. “You could be very well right, Ron. The bad thing is just that the Boggart would like to scare anyone, not just Malfoy,” Hermione objected as they had already reached the huge double door. Upon entering the Entrance Hall, there was a loud chattering coming from the Great Hall – the dinner had already begun.

 

At dinner, they each ate a portion of a lamb stew and discussed whether the Boggarts could haunt people in their dreams, although without getting to any specific conclusion, and then Harry, Ron, and Ginny had returned to the Gryffindor Common Room, whereas Hermione had headed straight to the library this time. She excused herself that she had no desire to know the current version of their feats in the talks of the first-years.

 

Harry had been hoping to think about what else to do in the Trophy Room – they had tested a lot of things, but if they were really dealing with Voldemort, he might have actually come up with something extraordinary cunning, so they couldn’t already jump to the conclusion that they had investigated and tested everything. There had to be some more things to try out. At that time there at the cave, Dumbledore could trace magic, perhaps Hermione knew something similar? And what if there was made some special arrangements or tasks for gaining the Diadem, which you couldn’t just simply guess or think out? But on the other hand, they had been looking for the Diadem for only two days; they have to try searching for it also tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. If then there’ll be no more ideas, then maybe they have to move on.

 

Luckily, the first-years were now swarming around the sixth-year girls, so the friends could sit quite peacefully without being disturbed.

 

“I wonder when did that Terry get so smart?” Ron asked as he glanced around, seemingly making sure that Hermione really isn’t sitting next to him. “I suppose Hermione wouldn’t like to admit it, but I don’t think this is going to be easy for us to deal with her, when there’s someone who gets the marks as good as she.”

 

“However, you must take into account that Hermione has missed one academic year, and if Terry had already learned all this stuff, it’s just a repetition to him, and there was no shortage of books in the Room of Requirements as well,” Ginny said wisely.

 

“Besides, Terry was pretty good at Potions before, but on one thing you could be right, Ron, that Hermione might have a hard time when someone is surpassing her in the academic achievement,” Harry concluded, sounding rather gloomy.

 

“Well, let her struggle for a bit. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad after all, if she ever makes any concessions to someone,” Ron thought out loud. “I just hope it doesn’t mean that she’s going to think only about that Terry.” Harry and Ginny laughed, but Ron remained as serious as he was before.

 

“Stop it, Ron. Hermione really does love you; you don’t have to worry about her,” Harry reassured his friend.

 

“That’s right – she wouldn’t be together with you, when you’re such a grump, if she didn’t love you,” sister teased him, winking.

 

“Well, that was when we lived all together in the Burrow. But there’s full of guys, and she’s Hermione. What if she does find someone more interesting than me?” Ron expressed his fears. This time, Ginny was looking at her brother rather gently.

 

“It just means that you always have to be the most interesting, Ron. If you’ll be less grumpy about all the nonsense and more will love her, why should you be afraid to lose Hermione? She’s a serious girl and she doesn’t chase after every handsome or interesting face.”

 

“You mean that I’m ugly?” Ron asked in shock, widening his dark blue eyes. Ginny chuckled.

 

“If you’re going to wear your shirt like this, when it hangs out of your pants, it does look pretty ugly,” his sister pointed out, prickling with her finger in his stomach where the unbuttoned robe of the Hogwarts uniform was open and there could be seen a wrinkled piece of a white shirt slipping out from his pants. Feeling annoyed, Ron closed his robes, putting one side far over the other, as he didn’t reply anything to her.

 

Neville came up to them and mentioned that he’s got one more idea of how to search for the Diadem – perhaps they could use the Locator Spell. Luna had reminded him that Flitwick had wanted to teach them this spell in the previous school year. Such a spell may be able to locate the Diadem. Surely, the idea wasn’t bad, but none of them knew how exactly it has to be cast. So now Ron, Neville, Harry, and Ginny decided to go to the library to find Hermione and ask her opinion about this spell.

 

As the young people entered the library, they soon found the girl they were looking for, deeply reading a book.

 

“Oh, hello!” she greeted back her friends. “Did you also have a feeling to come to the library, too?”

 

“We actually came here to find you,” Ron said.

 

“Neville has an idea how to find the Diadem,” Harry added as all of them sat down on their chairs next to Hermione.

 

“Luna advised me that we should search for the Diadem with the Locator Spell,” Neville explained, feeling slightly shy. They were ones of a very few visitors of the library, so they had to speak with special caution.

 

“The Locator Spell. Ah, actually your idea is really good. The Locator Spell or the Searching Spell could be more suitable for finding people, but maybe the Diadem is so special that we may be able to find it using this spell,” Hermione confirmed. Ginny offered to go look up for the books on the Locator Spell, but Ron wanted to know what Hermione was doing here in the library.

 

“Oh, I was just reading here about the extract brewing,” Hermione replied as she stretched out her arms over her head. Meanwhile, Ron glanced knowingly at Harry. “I’ve looked through several books until now, but I still don’t understand how Terry could have known that the extract had to be periodically cooled during the extraction process. Here, in the Potion Mixing for N.E.W.T. Students, which is about seventy years old, is even said that to gain the better intensity of the extract it is advised to stir once in the opposite direction after every seven times to add more Fire element, but I find it nowhere, nowhere at all, that the extract should be cooled periodically,” Hermione was lecturing them in her research.

 

“He must have read it in one of the books of the Room of Requirements,” Neville reassured her.

 

She just murmured, “I suppose.”

 

Ginny had also returned shortly, carrying three books she had found after her quick search, and she put the books on the table in front of Hermione with the titles The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7, Lost Thing is not the End of the World, and Book of Spells and Charms. Hermione gathered her bushy hair behind her head and took the textbook required for Charms.

 

“So, the Locator Spell, the Locator Spell,” she muttered under her breath as she looked through the table of contents. “Ah, page 325.” The moment she opened the page she was searching for, Hermione quickly read through the information in the book, silently moving her lips.

 

“But let’s do this tomorrow, alright? I haven’t really tried this spell yet, and I’m suspecting that the Locator Spell requires a very intense concentration on it,” Hermione explained, rubbing her eyes.

 

“I wonder what could be written in these books?” Harry said, opening the second book, and then spoke after studying it for a while. “No, this probably would be no use for us. There is said that it’s easy to find missing things, if they had previously been charmed with the Tracer Spell. That’s impossible for us to do now,” Harry concluded, flipping pages to see what’s there more in this book, but then closed it. Ron, too, hadn’t found anything useful in the Book of Spells and Charms.

 

Anyway, they had a new plan for tomorrow’s search. All they had to do was to get a good sleep at night and then they could try out their new idea at the very morning.

 

So they carried on with their plan. When they had eaten breakfast and flipped through the pages of a morning newspaper, where wasn’t anything more important than some complaints of Diagon Alley shopkeepers about the unfair aid payments of the Ministry for the prevention of the consequences of the You-Know-Who terroristic regime, the friends rushed up to the Trophy Room after they had escorted Hermione to her Arithmancy class. They could now start afresh the search. However, Harry, Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Luna were just standing in the middle of the Room, looking at each other without knowing what to do.

 

“So, what else should we inspect?” Luna simply asked.

 

“We’ve inspected carefully all the panels of the wall, every last one of the awards, and we have also prickled even the narrowest gaps in the floor,” Ron summed up.

 

“And both you and Harry had tried to speak all over here in Parseltongue,” Neville added.

 

“Then it seems to me that there’s only ceiling left unchecked,” Ginny joked. They all had agreed that they will let Hermione test the Locator Spell.

 

Harry laughed at first, but then his eyes widened, because Ginny was actually right – they really hadn’t inspected the ceiling. They had just to figure a way how to get closer to it.

 

After a moment, when they had discussed this matter, they conjured a chair, and Harry climbed up on it, so the others with the Levitation Charm lifted him up in the air as he stood on the solid wooden furniture. Hanging in the air, Harry touched every beam and board and spoke in Parseltongue, but so far didn’t find anything. About forty minutes later, Hermione entered the Trophy Room, saying hello to everyone.

 

At that moment, Ron got distracted by her, so the chair tilted and Harry almost fell to the ground.

 

“Hey, be more careful, mate!” Harry exclaimed.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Ron apologized, turning red, and he and Ginny lowered Harry safely down, and then Harry vanished the chair.

 

“Hi, Hermione,” he replied to her greeting.

 

“It looks like there’s nothing on the ceiling either, but we’ve still got to try the Locator Spell,” Harry didn’t lose his optimism. It was odd – the more they searched and the more hopeless everything started to seem, the more he wanted to dig through it again and again. Maybe it was because he wanted to be one hundred percent sure that the Diadem truly isn’t located here, or maybe he was punishing himself with this struggle that somehow seemed to be strangely pleasant.

 

“You were flying near the ceiling on a chair?” Hermione said incredulously and half-amused. “I would just have used the Knocking Spell or the Revelio Charm, they both work form a distance.”

 

“Harry just wanted to be closer to it all,” Luna said with a smile.

 

“Maybe let’s get started with that Locator Spell?” Harry asked.

 

“Of course, I’ll try to recite the correct incantation right away,” Hermione agreed as she took out her wand. The girl put it on her palm and just looked at it for a moment. Nothing happened.

 

“I suppose the nonverbal version of this spell isn’t going to work,” she said dissatisfied. Then she began to whisper softly under her breath, and this time her wand moved. All of them held their breaths and looked at her wand, but it was oscillating in a very wide range, then pointing to the North, then after a short moment it showed West, then – South, then – it completely turned around a full circle. There couldn’t be distinguished a specific direction of the wand movements, besides as Hermione tried to follow any direction the wand shifted from its own weight, beginning to rotate in complete circles on her palm. They tried this searching method everywhere in the Trophy Room, at various heights along the wall, everywhere near the floor, but nowhere did the wand point to a clear direction. Going down for the lunch, Hermione told them that there could be several explanations for this behavior of her wand.

 

“First, we have to take into account that we haven’t mastered the Locator Spell in our Charms classes, so it’s possible that I’m not casting it correctly.”

 

“Yeah, right, and I’m a bat,” Ginny objected right away with a smile. “Hermione, please come up with something more credible.”

 

Hermione also smiled at her friend’s firm conviction. “Secondly, maybe the magic of Hogwarts itself is interfering with the Locator Spell. Technically, the spell is pretty complicated. Thirdly, if the Diadem is somewhere very far away from here, we won’t be able to detect the exact direction due to the Hogwarts own magic,” Hermione explained.

 

“At the beginning, your wand was pointing to somewhere there, right?” Harry said as he showed a wide circle from South through West to North. Hermione confirmed that it’s true with a nod. “But what if it’s really far, far away? That is, we know the Diadem is hidden at Hogwarts, but we actually don’t know if it is hidden in the very castle. What if it’s hidden in the lake or in the Forbidden Forest?” Harry was suddenly becoming aware of other possibilities where the Diadem could actually be, if Voldemort had tried to hide it with a great care.

 

“I would like to suggest that we need to wait for the Charms lesson by Flitwick and ask him more about the Locator Spell. Harry, those things you just said, they sound even very plausible, and in that case we may be searching for that Diadem forever, but if we could use the Locator Spell, we would at least get to learn the vaguest knowledge of a place, where we should be starting our inspection from,” Hermione explained.

 

“However, the guess that You-Know-Who saw the Diadem as a trophy sounds the most plausible version to me,” Ron stated, “At least since we haven’t mastered other techniques or thought about anything else yet.”

 

“Hermione, you said something about the Knocking Spell, maybe we could search the ceiling with it?” Luna suggested.

 

“That’s right,” Harry agreed. “We could try it after the Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson.”

 

“Alright, we don’t know if there still isn’t anything left in the Trophy Room,” Neville agreed. “And what do we have for the lunch today?” the young man asked as they all entered the Great Hall and took their seats at their respective tables.

 

After the lunch, they went along with other seventh-years to the well-known classroom on the third floor, where they had always attended the lessons of Defence Against the Dark Arts. On their way, Neville told some things what Harry could put only as a pure horror. Last year, there wasn’t Defence what Carrow had taught them, but it was actually the very Dark Arts. So they were introduced with a lot of things, but the best they got to know the Cruciatus Curse. Of course, it was none other than Neville, who had repeatedly writhed in pain on the floor due to his disobedience.

 

“Meh, those Slytherins, like Pansy or that same Malfoy, Nott, or Zabini, you know, their elite, they didn’t know how to cast it properly or maybe they didn’t want to. I could barely feel a tickle by their curses. Only those Malfoy trolls were a bit more skillful to my surprise. However, when Carrow unleashed his curse, though, then I had a feeling that I’ll be torn in two pieces. But then after, you gather yourself and get up and look straight at him as nothing would have happened, and you could see how he’s boiling with anger. Naturally, I had to clench on that floor, even up to five times until I could barely stand on my feet afterwards, but the look on their faces when someone is not obeying them was worth every moment of the agony.”

 

Ginny shuddered involuntarily. “Neville, please don’t remind me that. It was so terrible when you back then came back still to the Gryffindor Tower being half-alive. It took a while for me and Ritchie to get you to full consciousness again.”

 

Harry didn’t like to hear it either. He and Hermione, and also Ron at the beginning of their tour to the woods, had been aimlessly sleeping in the tent and growling at each other, while the people at Hogwarts, including his beloved Ginny had been fighting day by day with the evil that had been dwelled in here and had protected each other as well as the littlest first-years who had been very little – just over thirty in all the Houses together, half of which had been sorted in Slytherin. But considering the remaining sixteen non-Slytherins, they had to keep their eyes peeled for them; especially often they had to protect the Hufflepuffs. About that – respect to Ernie, he had countless times saved the little Hufflepuffs from many hours of painful suffering. Such people are beasts, not human – and they are postulating to be better than others? In Harry’s point of view, even the most common house elf is a nobler creature than someone who can relish in the torment of a weak, innocent child. As they entered the classroom, they all sat down behind the long benches in a long line. Luna and Hannah and Ernie also joined in their group, sitting next to them.

 

There had come also others from Harry’s and Ginny’s years as well. Harry, glancing around, saw that students of Ginny’s year seem to be surprisingly several, because, unlike Potions or Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts was chosen by practically all of the N.E.W.T. students. So he began to wonder why all the rest of them aren’t already here because the class is going to start just after a short moment. Suddenly Harry realized the reason of it – and he just wanted to bang his forehead into the wall – he was such an idiot! Why they aren’t already here? Because they are dead, not late! Most of them have been resting in peace under the ground and feeding worms for four months. Like the poor Creevey. And the other half of the group of Ginny’s former friends – except for Ginny, only Ritchie had survived; as well, students of Ginny’s year of the other Houses had suffered great losses. Because it was the very first part of the Battle when also Fred died, in which had fell the most of Hogwarts students – they were full of courage, but they hadn’t experienced actual battles, so, of course, the Death Eaters had killed them like cutting the grass.

 

“Good day, N.E.W.T. students!” to the class spoke a slightly hoarse voice, pulling Harry out from his sullen thoughts. On the day of the Battle, he had seen those fallen fifty, but now, with so many obvious gaps in the crowd of the living, he saw it very clearly that so many had fallen in the Battle due to him; only because of him, because Harry wasn’t able to find that damn Diadem on time… And he not only hadn’t been able to find it on time, but it was very likely that he hadn’t found the right Diadem at all, so he actually hadn’t even done his job, and the fallen schoolmates had lost their lives for nothing…

 

In response, Harry heard all around murmurs of students as they greeted back the professor, who had clad in simple dark blue robes.

 

“For the starter, I’m going to introduce myself – I’m John Dawlish, the current Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts and the Auror of Ministry,” the older wizard said, sounding rather strict. “I’m not going to deny that I’m here not only to teach you, but also to protect you in case if there will arise such a need. Though, let’s hope that nothing like that is going to happen,” the Auror finally added after a short moment. As he looked over all the N.E.W.T. students, he asked, “Could you, please, raise your hand those, who have participated in the Battle of Hogwarts?”

 

In the classroom, most of the students raised their hands, only those were very few in the far corner where the Slythernis had sat down.

 

“Look at it, that ferret has raised his hand,” Ron groaned as soon as he had noticed Malfoy’s hand in the air, “He claims that he had participated in the Battle, phe – if standing in the way and making shit moves counts as the participating in the Battle.”

 

“But he was on the battlefield and didn’t fight us afterwards,” Harry objected.

 

“So, very good,” the professor said, so Ron didn’t get a chance retort back, “I see the most of you already know what a battle is. Unfortunately. And even more sorry I am for those companions who had fallen as heroes in the Battle four months ago,” Dawlish said, finally making a sad sigh.

 

After a short moment of silence, he said again, “And now, could you please raise your hands those who are now enjoying the happiness of the victory.”

 

Although, Harry knew and even felt it that he had done an almost impossible thing in the fight against Voldemort, and so many people, the fighters of good side as well as the Death Eaters, had died in this battle in order to make everyone’s lives become much better as it was, let’s say, half a year ago, Harry still couldn’t bring himself feel like a winner. Not even mentioning the recent suspicions that he actually hadn’t won anything at all, but perhaps he had only managed to provide a brief respite and peace, which could have been utterly deceptive. Pondering, he looked around, but only few ones had shyly raised their arms in the air – some Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs he didn’t know well. The Slytherins sat with their eyes on their tables all as one, but the Griffindors, Rawenclaws, and Hufflepuffs from his year mourned over their lost schoolmates.

 

“And, behold,” continued the professor after a pause, “now you know what a war is.” The mood in the classroom had become utterly sorrowful and grave. For some unexplainable reason, sadness seemed to spread all around, seeping in everyone and as Dawlish spoke again even those few hands in the air were immediately lowered. “In a war, even after the victory, the joy is short-lived; it comes and it passes, but in the end remains only the pain because it is impossible to achieve victory without a sacrifice or loss. And right now, I can express my condolences that you had to sacrifice your beautiful days of youth for something so dark and gloomy. To be honest, it is rare for any person to endure such suffering for their whole lives that each of you has endured over the last year. Here, most of you have lost someone close to you – a mother, a father, a dear classmate or any other kind of friend.”

 

Harry felt tears welling in his eyes, thinking back first about Hedwig, then – Moody, Dobby… And also Fred… And the Lupin family… They all had deserved a long, beautiful life. And the Lupins should have seen little Teddy growing up…

 

The young man looked up at the ceiling, hoping the tears wouldn’t start falling down above his cheeks – it was the first lesson in front of a professional Auror, and he would already cry as a little child – it was hardly the best impression he wanted to make. As he tried to dry his tears with his fingertips secretly, Harry noticed Hannah crying uncontrollably as she tried to wipe her tears with her sleeve of her robes, until Ernie conjured a fine lace handkerchief out of thin air and handed it to her.

 

“That is how a war looks like; it always brings pain and misery. And that’s why there are we, the Aurors, to do the possible and impossible in our power to spare such pain and hardship to anyone in the world, both wizards and Muggles. Is there anyone who considers engaging his or her future with the career as an Auror?” Dawlish asked after his monologue.

 

Harry immediately raised his hand, and Ron followed him right after, and there were about dozen more hands raised in the air in the classroom.

 

“That’s great, that’s great,” Dawlish said, now softened his grim face with a little smile. “It looks like for the next academic year, to the Auror training there will apply as many students as for the last ten years taken together. Ah, and Mr. Potter has also raised his hand. I had already thought that you would have seen enough of the pain and blood for the rest of your life, but, of course, I am glad that you’re feeling like joining in the Aurors,” the professor added, for a brief moment making a wide smile.

 

Harry just nodded and slowly lowered his hand.

 

“Anyway, those who are serious about becoming an Auror should be aware that such events are going to happen, maybe not exactly every day, but with the pain and loss you’ll have to deal on a regular basis and definitely more often than you would like. You have an advantage in this regard – you have gained more than enough insight into what is going on during a wizarding battle and the dangers you must face while there isn’t occurring active collisions. I hope that none of you here have those great dreams that when you’ll train yourself into an Auror, you’ll end up having the glory as a superhero, gaining a fame and fortune. I have had to meet such young lads in the training courses, and unfortunately, when they had to face with a real struggle and its downsides, those dreamy poor guys broke like sticks. So keep in mind that you should only become an Auror if you truly feel like it is your calling, because you have to keep in mind that you’ll have to deal with the loss, the pain, and, above all, the failure that could wait for you behind every corner. That’s why this job requires not only a tremendous amount of knowledge, skills, and good physical condition, but you have to have a strong mind. In addition, wizards tend to be even very eccentric, so an Auror can never know what kind of mind-blowing surprises or even horrors he may face in a seemingly simple task. And that’s why the very first lesson for the Aurors or anyone who comes across Dark Arts or anything unusual at all is… Maybe there is someone who can tell me this already?” the professor asked strictly.

 

Harry heard in his mind a well-known but long unheard, harsh voice. “Constant vigilance!” he immediately announced it to the class, expressing it at the same time as Ron.

 

“It’s correct, young men,” Dawlish praised them. “And you would be Ron Weasley, right?”

 

Ron nodded, murmuring approvingly.

 

“Exactly, nothing is more important than constant, unwavering vigilance. Because the enemy never sleeps. He, too, is constantly attentive and able to use magic, so the Auror must be awake and in his best form,” the teacher explained.

 

“But you don’t have much to worry about,” Dawlish added when the class had become silent and grave. “This year, our task is not to confront the dark wizards, but only the exams of the N.E.W.T.s at the end of the academic year.”

 

Next the professor told his students that in his lessons first he is going to introduce them briefly with a theory and then it is going to be followed by extensive practical training to master the skills of the performing curses and counter-curses, defensive charms – active and passive, as well as knowledge of dark creatures, conjuring of Patronuses, and at the end of the year – if there will be enough time for that – the use of potions for purposes of protection or revealing a malevolence.

 

“Taking into account the plan of the school year, you’ll have to work hard. And since you’re seventh year students, you’ll mainly have to study the theory by yourselves. I’m going to expect you to come to my classes being already prepared so that we can devote enough time for practice,” Dawlish said. “So, for the next lesson, you should read about the different types of curses. Then we will start with the performing of curses. It would be great if you would try to remember the simplest curses of the previous school years. Then for now, we could finish our first lesson. Does anyone have any questions?” the professor asked at the end.

 

Of course, there were questions, but they weren’t about how to perform the Leg-Locker or the Treasure-Guarding Curse. The questions were, for example, about whether the underground werewolves were caught – asked a girl from Ginny’s year. Dawlish replied that there is a progress with this case and they had already got enough clues where the werewolves are dwelling, they just need to get through the protection of their headquarter building.

 

“And is there Rowle captured?” wanted to know Lisa, a Ravenclaw girl from Harry’s year who was a good Quidditch player.

 

“We’re working on it, too; we know with whom Rowle is staying together, it is only a matter of time before he will be captured together with Lestrange, just the same as the Selwyns was caught,” Dawlish confirmed.

 

“And how about the Lestrange?” Ron asked bitterly next to Harry.

 

“Lestrange, though, is still free, but as I just said we have traced Rowle about which we know he is staying with Lestrange. I think once we have got tied up all the henchmen of Lestrange, we’ll be able to get to him too, and your mother could feel safe again,” Dawlish said, smiling sympathetically.

 

There sounded few more questions about other Death Eaters who haven’t been captured yet, until a bell rang and announced the end of the lesson.

 

As Harry walked out of the classroom, Neville shook his head next to him, “Grrr, this was such a gloomy and terribly sad lesson. But in the end, at least I realized that I don’t want to fight the darkness for all my life. I’d rather do something happier, like herbology. But I truly respect you, Harry, for choosing to continue with all that. What would we do without you?” Neville smiled sadly at him.

 

Harry felt as if a ball would have struck in his neck that blocked all the words so he couldn’t get any sound over his lips.

 

“The lesson is over. What are we going to do with the Trophy Room? Are we going back there?” Hermione asked, pulling out Harry from his sad thoughts.

 

“I think we should try the Knocking Spell you suggested. Did you want to do something else?” Harry asked her.

 

“I see the homework is starting to build up in a huge pile. I haven’t done with Potions yet, I still have to repeat for Transfiguration, then this morning in Arithmancy we were told to calculate our course of life until Christmas, and now Dawlish wants us to read the theory about various types of curses, and tomorrow I have to go to the meeting with McGonagall,” Hermione told her long list of her works to be done. Harry could understand her – of course, she wanted the best in the academic meaning and, unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time for everything.

 

“Look, you’ve actually helped me a lot. I think we’ll be able to deal with the Knocking Spell without you,” Harry reassured his friend.

 

“Really, you could manage without me? I really should start preparing for next week’s classes,” Hermione seemed to be a little pleased, but then suddenly a thought came into her mind. “Actually, you should also start thinking about when you are going to do your homework.”

 

“We still have Saturday and Sunday left for that,” Ron reassured her.

 

“Then I’ll go to the library. If you think of something else where you need me, then you know where to find me,” she stated, winking to her friends. Neville and Luna also decided to accompany Hermione this time, so the three of them turned down in an adjacent hallway, but Ron, Harry, and Ginny continued their way to the Trophy Room.

 

Four hours later, after knocking on the ceiling and all other surfaces, they met Hermione and Neville again at the dinner table.

 

“Did you manage to find anything?” Neville asked.

 

“Completely nothing,” Ron replied bleakly.

 

“We only made some noise,” Harry stated as he put a pile of mashed potatoes on his plate.

 

“Oh, right, as we came here Nearly Headless Nick already asked us what we were doing all the time in that Trophy Room,” Hermione said.

 

“And what did you answer?” Ron asked, and only then put a huge mouthful of stewed carrots in his mouth. Hermione smiled to herself – at last she had managed to stop Ron eating and talking at the same time. Or at least he didn’t allow himself to do that in her presence.

 

“We said we were going to admire Harry’s statue,” she said with a soft laugh. Though, Harry didn’t find it funny at all. He just ate his food which tonight also tasted great. Maybe the delicious food really was Kreacher’s merit; maybe he should visit his servant in the kitchen soon?

 

As the conversation continued, the girl told them what she had accomplished to do in the library and advised her friends to start doing their homework as well. After the dinner, the five of them started on their way up to the Gryffindor Tower in order to pick up some parchment and stationery needed for the homework doing.

 

As they were discussing whether there has been left anything more untried in the Trophy Room, on their way in the first floor, they turned in their usual path behind the tapestry that led up to the stairs. Thinking about the trophies, Neville suddenly stumbled.

 

“Damn, it’s that joke step again! I’m getting stuck in it all the time,” Neville said angrily as Ginny and Harry managed to grab him by his hand, since they was walking next to him.

 

“Such a tiny mouse hole, but there’s enough place for a foot to get stuck,” Ginny agreed.

 

Suddenly Harry was hit by a thought. “If there’s enough space for a foot, maybe there’s enough room for something else?”

 

Ron and Hermione, also seeming a little excited, looked at Harry, then at the so-called joke step.

 

“But was Voldemort such a prankster to hide his precious piece of soul under a step of the stairs? You know, everyone would be stomping it with their feet,” Hermione said, skeptically, rushing over to the strange disappearing step.

 

“But it would be stupid not to inspect it,” Ron objected, joining the others as well.

 

Lumos,” Harry said and tried to look under the step, but it didn’t let the light through, so he couldn’t see anything under it, and it looked just any ordinary stair step.

 

“Actually, who needs such a disappearing step here?” Ron asked grimly.

 

Harry tried to put the shining wand inside the step, and that was easy because there was a void and free room underneath, but he couldn’t see anything. Then, Harry tried to put his hand in there and feel the area. While he was doing it, a few moments later the girls asked him whether there is something in there.

 

“I can’t really understand what there is. It seems there’s like a stone floor underneath and then there’s something like a step going down, but touching further, there’s just emptiness,” Harry replied, sweated, as he pulled out his hand from the hole – the cobwebs had stuck all over the palm, and he quickly shook and rubbed them off his hands.

 

“So the Diadem wasn’t under there,” Hermione concluded.

 

“But what if there’s something else in that void?” Ginny asked, thoughtfully.

 

“Just how we’ll be able to access it?” Neville pondered.

 

“Alright, let’s try to figure out what might be hidden there,” Hermione said determinedly, pulling up her sleeves.

 

At that moment, the tapestry was shifted aside, and a bunch of younger Gryffindors wanted to climb up the stairs. They greeted the young people in the middle of the stairs shyly and hurried up the stairs further on their way.

 

“Just do it fast, Hermione. The time after dinner perhaps is not the best to stay and do magic here for a long time,” Ginny urged her friend.

 

“Yes, of course,” she replied and then tried her favorite charm Alohomora. Nothing happened. “Opengates!” Also, no reaction. Similarly, Revelio and Flipendo didn’t succeed. Harry, feeling intrigued, tried the counter-spell for Disillusionment Charm, but that too was to no avail. Neither did help Accio Diadem. Soon a bunch of students came again, going their way leisurely to the Gryffindor Tower on the seventh floor.

 

The five young people didn’t want to attract too much attention so they left the step be, whispering to each other as they went along with their schoolmates from younger years to the Common Room of their House.

 

“Harry, but what exactly did you felt there when you touched the room under the step?” Ginny asked him softly.

 

“That’s the thing. I don’t really understand it myself. It seemed to me that I couldn’t reach the other end, but maybe it wasn’t very far away. And most likely Hermione is right that Voldemort wouldn’t want his soul to be constantly stepped on,” Harry replied, half whispering as he shrugged.



Chapter 9: Unmatched rivalry
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

On Saturday morning as they had gone down for breakfast, the friends were smearing the raspberry jam on their bread slices and were contemplating the plans for the day.

 

“Well, what are we going to do – have you got any other idea how to search the Trophy Room?” Harry asked. His friends shook their heads in denial. “Then we should try to go to the Trophy Room again, and if being there nothing comes to mind, then let’s go to the kitchen?”

 

“It’s just that I’ll soon have to attend the meeting with McGonagall,” Hermione said, “and I have no idea how long it could take.”

 

“And I need to catch Alicia to reserve the Quidditch Pitch for the next week,” Ginny told about her task of today.

 

“Are we going to bring Neville with us to the searching works?” Ron asked, for a brief moment, gazing at the guy who ate breakfast with their other roommates this morning.

 

“Humpf, lest Neville rest; it’s Saturday after all,” Harry just said.

 

After the breakfast, Ron and Harry went up the stairs as they left their girlfriends. Arrived at the Trophy Room on the fourth floor, they gazed around, but, also standing in the middle of the room, they couldn’t imagine what more they should check out here. Spending some more time digging around here and there, the guys started to become grumpy as they didn’t get any success. This occupation seemed like a complete waste of time; in any case there wasn’t any chance of finding something more than common awards or lists of prefects.

 

Eventually, they finished with the searching and went out into the hallway. Then a moment later, two anxious first-years came towards them.

 

“Thank Merlin, you are Prefect Weasley. We are lost; we’re wandering around here for about an hour,” said a short Gryffindor boy with dark hair and square glasses nervously. Of course, in addition to their current anxiousness, they studied Harry and Ron with their big eyes full with adornment.

 

“Tell me what happened; where do you exactly want to get?” Ron asked the little boy.

 

“We were on our way to the library. We wanted to start doing our homework by Professor Slughorn on potion mixing. On Monday we’ll have to brew our first potion. We don’t want to fail,” the other boy explained.

 

“Don’t worry; I’ll take you to the library. It’s on the first floor, but you’re now on the fourth floor. Let’s go then,” Ron glanced at Harry and began to take the two young Gryffindors towards the library. Meanwhile, Harry nodded as a signal for Ron telling him that he should go and do his prefect duties; he’ll go to the kitchen alone.

 

He slowly stepped down the stairs, greeting the upcoming students from time to time. The breakfast was over long ago, and now Hogwarts students were going to a lot of different places where they had their business – some took their way to the library, others went outside in the yards to enjoy the warm weather, some strolled to their extracurricular classes or activities. Ron, as a prefect, had made a special effort not to become a leader of the Chess Club or the Gobstones Club, or any other acceptable club of leisure activities; he had previously had enough occupied with Quidditch and its trainings. And Harry could easily understand him – with all the lessons and Quidditch training, and D.A., they always had too many things to do, so he didn’t want at all to worry also about some kind of chess games or meetings at the Wizard Card Collectors’ Club.

 

As he grasped the rough surface of the railing at the Entrance Hall, Harry noticed that it was indeed made of wood to replace its stone counterpart, and it was skillfully rendered to fit perfectly into the broken space. Apparently, it was McGonagall’s flawless work. He had never succeeded in transfiguring anything with a lasting effect – transfigurations required extra careful concentration, so the easy ones were, of course, the Switching Spells. But such as this – long lasting transfiguration – you had to be a really skillful wizard to be able to persistently bind your magic power to the transfigured object. Respect to McGonagall.

 

As he climbed down the large, wide stairs, suddenly there popped a thought into Harry’s mind. Such a powerful witch like McGonagall could transfigure, for example, a log into a part of the railing for a long time; but what if Voldemort had thought about something similar – to transfigure the Diadem in a completely different look? He could have put it in front of everyone, and no one would be able even guess what it really was. The Diadem could be not only hidden in the castle or its surroundings, but it could even have taken any kind of shape! Searching the castle and the territory for every inch may take years or even decades.

 

Harry’s gloomy thoughts were suddenly distracted by sounds and thuds coming from the Dungeons.

 

Harry wanted to check out what was going on there – he carefully went through the doorway into the Dungeons and slowly moved forward. Descending a few turns of the stairs carved in a dark stone, he already heard noises becoming louder as well as some vague shouts. Stepping out into the wide hallway which led to the Potions classroom and Slytherin Common Room, Harry saw the cause of the disorder and yelling. There was a bunch of Slytherins in the hallway, few of them holding wands in their stretched out hands as they protected themselves with the magic shield of Protego. Meanwhile, they were faced by at least thirty very young students standing with their backs to Harry. Now he could hear what they were exclaiming to each other.

 

“Just come out and fight, you cowards,” a young boy close to Harry yelled, firing a red bolt. Harry guessed it could be Stupefy, but it was so fragile and shaky it barely flew to the opponent’s shield, where it poured to the ground in a form of a few red stars.

 

“Will you leave us alone for once? We haven’t done anything to you. Let us just go,” one of the Slytherins replied.

 

“Haven’t done anything? Damn Slytherins, servants of You-Know-Who, you should be expelled right away. My sister fought in the Battle of Hogwarts, but what did you do back then, eh?” yelled another one of the crowd next to Harry. When Harry came closer to the back of the pack, he noticed that it consisted mostly of the Gryffindors, and maybe there were a few students of Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.

 

“Why are you talking all the time about your relatives who fought in the Battle of Hogwarts? Neither did we say them to do it, nor did we hurt anyone in that Battle! Just wait until we tell this to Slughorn,” replied one of the Slytherins as the shield was touched by more of shaky colorful spells – it looked like they were cast by inept first-years. Harry could see that this blockade had lasted quite a time, so he decided to intervene in order to put an end to this nonsense. He raised his wand and whispered, “Sonorous!

 

A loud bang echoed in the hallway, and suddenly both warring parties turned to face the source of the sound.

 

“What’s going on here?” Harry demanded in a harsh tone. He felt as an actual grown up, standing among the small children.

 

When they saw Harry, the Gryffindor first-years seemed to look ashamed.

 

“We… we came here to deal with the Slytherins,” a boy with blond hair replied.

 

“They’re keeping us here for no reason and they aren’t letting us go!” immediately there came an answer from the Slytherins as a complaint, accompanied by an affirmative murmur.

 

“For no reason? Yesterday, when there hadn’t passed even the first week, you already started planning again your Slytherin villainies! Our brothers and sisters didn’t fight in May in order to such Slytherins could ruin our lives like that,” now replied a black-haired girl harshly.

 

“Well, so, everyone must calm down now!” Harry said firmly, trying to speak as loudly as possible. “If I understand it correctly, you’re now holding the Slytherins here as captives. I would like to know why?”

 

“We had the Potions class yesterday together with them, and then already at least one of them put something in our cauldrons, so that all the water we had to heat spilled all over our cauldrons,” she replied.

 

“And why didn’t you tell anything to Professor Slughorn? Anyway, what’s your name?” Harry still didn’t comprehend, where the problem was.

 

“I’m Primula and he’s Henry. Professor Slughorn said we had overheated our cauldrons! But Henry saw them pouring something into our cauldrons,” she claimed as she gazed for a brief moment at the blond boy. Although, he appeared to look ashamed and his cheeks turned pink. Harry thought he could hear him saying something like, “I suppose I saw them doing it; though I’m not really sure; maybe I mistook something…”

 

“But I don’t understand why you didn’t go to Professor Sinistra and didn’t tell about the whole incident to her?” Harry asked, puzzled. Meanwhile, the Slytherins were grumbling about Gryffindor illegality and that they are being detained for no reason. Then the little Gryffindors blinked at Harry with their big doe eyes. Apparently, this idea hadn’t come to their minds. Remembering his own trouble in his early years and the reprimands of Professor McGonagall, he just barely suppressed a laugh.

 

“That didn’t came into our minds, Harry,” the blond-haired boy Henry replied.

 

“Henry, he’s a grown up and due to respect you have to call him ‘sir’. Hasn’t your mom taught you any manners?” Primula chided her friend quietly, prickling in his side with her elbow.

 

Henry blushed shamefully. “Um, sir, and you recently told us about the Battle of Hogwarts; and my brother Michael was killed in that Battle; and then we all decided together that we must come here to tell those Slytherins…” the boy’s voice faded until it became barely audible as he was feeling more ashamed about his excusing which was sounding even sillier and wrong.  Harry couldn’t help himself so he just stood there and blinked his eyes – of course, Hermione was right: these little ones really had ideas. And the fact, that he had to be addressed as sir, was something Harry was wondering about – should he start laughing or not.

 

“Now, listen to me, you all – these Slytherins have done nothing to you, at least not in the Battle of Hogwarts,” he added quickly as he saw the frustrated expressions on the faces of the children. “And, if there is any disruption during a class, you must tell it the professor of the class or you must go to Professor Sinistra. Her office is on the seventh floor, near the Astronomy Tower. The conflicts aren’t resolved like this in Hogwarts,” Harry added, reproachfully. The Slytherins had lowered their magic shields and now asked him for permission to leave.

 

The Gryffindor first-years seemed ashamed as they split up to let through the Slytherins. Although, Harry noticed that a handsome, brown-haired boy with sea-green eyes was smirking cunningly as he strode past him. It was possible that there was a reason for this confrontation, but anyway Harry was a little bit surprised that the fights between Gryffindor and Slytherin had occurred so soon and to such extent.

 

When the Slytherins had gone away, Harry gave another reprimand to his younger housemates, “Also, this kind of action – surrounding a few opponents in a flock – it is not at all worthy of a Gryffindor. You should fight for justice and defend the weak instead of attacking a couple of pranksters in a large pack.”

 

“We just wanted to discipline them… teach them a lesson… punish them…” here and there sounded some murmurs from the crowd.

 

“The punishing in Hogwarts is done by prefects, the Head Boy and the Head Girl or the professors. Besides, you are extremely lucky that I’m not one of them, so I can’t take away any House points, but if anything like this will happen again, I promise I’ll inform the Headmistress that our first-year Gryffindors aren’t behaving properly and are shaming our House. Therefore, I don’t want to ever hear that such a confrontation has happened again. Everyone deserves to study at Hogwarts, regardless of the purity of his blood or the doing of his siblings,” Harry harshly instructed the young children. He couldn’t say that Harry himself would have never wanted to take part in such an ambush, but now such a hostile encounter was far from desirable, and majority of the captured Slytherins was completely guiltless. “And now all you hurry away from here.”

 

He didn’t have to say it twice to the children as a group of younger students turned and headed for the stairs. When the most of them had disappeared behind the dark stone walls, a girl with a Hufflepuff badge on her chest and blonde braided hair, looking a little bit similar like Hannah, spoke up to him, “Harry Potter, we thought before that you are on the Gryffindor side. After all, the Death Eaters killed my mom and my aunt, and we had heard that you had fought against them very bravely.” Then the girl turned and ran after her classmates with tears in her eyes.

 

Harry felt too shocked by this incident so he didn’t answer anything to her. And what he should say? Of course, in the Battle against Voldemort there died many people and apparently all of them had grieving relatives who, once they had seen the Slytherins, had again felt their pain and anger. Just as Dawlish had said yesterday – after the victory of the war, the joy soon passes and only the loss and the pain remain.

 

Once again sinking into grim reflection, Harry climbed back up to the Entrance Hall and pulled out his Marauders’ Map, hoping to find Ginny as soon as possible. She was in the Gryffindor Common Room and Harry had hurried upstairs to the Gryffindor Tower following the indication of the Marauders’ Map. He needed to meet his girlfriend, or at least Ron or Hermione; he felt as all his insides were boiling, as he could blow something up at any moment. He had fought exactly for the peace and happiness for the wizarding society, but look – it was just the fourth day at Hogwarts, and there were already occurring major encounters between Gryffindor and Slytherin students and he was accused of betrayal and injustice.

 

“Oh, there you are,” Harry exclaimed relieved as he saw his girlfriend sitting on the couch at the far end away from the rest of the students. “You won’t believe what just happened to me…” he began, but then stopped as he came closer to Ginny and looked at her face. It was swollen and her eyes were full with tears and both sleeves of her robes were stained with wet spots. “Gin, what happened?” Harry asked frantically.

 

“It’s nothing serious. Don’t worry, Harry,” she claimed, smiling a tearful smile, and for the last time she determinedly wiped her eyes with an edge of her sleeve.

 

“Ginny, dear, I see something is bothering you. What happened? Please tell me – did anyone insult you? Did Slytherins something do to you?” Harry tried to guess why his girlfriend was so upset. “It can’t be that Alicia didn’t allow you to recruit players for the Quidditch team?” suddenly there came in Harry’s mind an entirely different horrible thought.

 

“No, no, everything’s alright with the Quidditch team,” Ginny said laughingly as the tears in her eyes were beginning to dry away and she waved in the air a piece of paper which, though, was stained all over and illegible.

 

“What happened then?” Harry still didn’t understand the cause of her sorrow.

 

“Harry, I caught Alicia after the breakfast, and we went to her office, you know, which is located near the North Tower on the other side of the Middle Courtyard. I applied the Quidditch Pitch for us in the morning of next Saturday. Then we talked about some more things and then I started to head back here in order to placard the announcement, but then…” she paused, starting to fight the streams of tears again.

 

Harry sat next to her and hugged her, but he still had no idea why she was so sad. She leaned her head against Harry’s chest and a moment later when she was calm enough, she continued, “But then I left the Alicia’s office and started to head back here and on the way I met… Colin.” Harry could just barely hear the last word.

 

“Colin?” he asked to be sure. “Who’s Colin?”

 

“Creevey,” Ginny answered.

 

“Colin Creevey?” Harry was rather surprised. “But Colin Creevey is dead. Ginny, how could you -” suddenly he fall silent, he finally understood. Colin Creevey was dead, and there was only one possibility how Ginny could have met him here at Hogwarts – if Colin had returned as a ghost. Now, he too felt tears welling up in his eyes as he imagined the fragile young Gryffindor boy with the heart of a lion. He had fought in the Battle for a better world, for Harry Potter, but now he will be wandering through the corridors of Hogwarts alone as a ghost. His only comrades will be other Hogwarts ghosts for the rest of the eternity.

 

“He said he came back here because he wanted to fight with the enemy at all costs, because he wasn’t ready to succumb even to death. And now he is wandering around the castle as a ghost, and he says he is very hap-happy since Vol-Voldemort has been defeated,” she sobbed, unable to speak clearly anymore.

 

For a moment, the young couple sat in their seats embracing each other as they pondered the fate of the poor little, but brave boy. Eventually, they calmed down and wondered what they should do next. When the tears had stopped on Ginny’s cheeks, she took a new piece of paper and re-wrote the notice for the potential Quidditch players to come to the Quidditch Pitch at 9 AM on the morning of next Saturday. When she went to put the piece of paper to the notice board, the portrait hole opened and Ron entered the Common room, eating an éclair.

 

Saying hello to his sister and his best friend, he sat down on the couch and just started to ask them why they both look like as if they had eaten a whole bag of Pepper Imps, but then the portrait hole opened again and Hermione stepped through it. Ron raised his hand to welcome her and shoved the rest of the éclair in his mouth with his other hand. He offered éclairs also to his friends as soon as Hermione had come closer to the three of them.

 

“At last the meeting with McGonagall and Malfoy is over,” she fell down on the couch with a sigh, but waved off the éclair. “I see you’ve been in the kitchen for a while,” she said, with a slight dislike looking at her boyfriend’s fingers smeared with chocolate.

 

“Of course, I went to the kitchen – these éclairs are just perfect,” Ron said with pleasure. “But where did you get lost, Harry? You went to the kitchen ahead of me,” Ron wanted to know.

 

Harry quickly told his friends about the incident near the Slytherin Common room. The girls looked shocked, but Ron seemed to be more like ashamed, sitting in his place with his eyes on the floor.

 

“I suppose this is my fault,” his friend admitted. Getting the inquiring looks from his friends, Ron explained in more detail: “Remember that night when I and Neville stayed here and talked to the first-years – we were discussing what each of us had done at the Battle and when we were leaving we told each other that those Slytherins had done nothing good. And I said to Neville with a laugh that they should get what they’ve deserved. I suppose those little ones would have heard it and had taken it seriously. But when I said it, I didn’t mean it literally.”

 

“This means, Ron, that in the presence of the first-years, you have to be more careful about what exactly you are saying. Because they regard you as an authority,” Hermione explained knowingly.

 

“As an authority?” Ron echoed the Hermione’s words, incredulously as he couldn’t believe his own ears, but he also couldn’t help himself as the corners of his lips curved up into a smile.

 

“Of course, the little first-years see you as an authority; they take us all as the role models and listen to every word we say, so we have to think what we are saying,” Hermione instructed, gazing at Ron.

 

“An authority – but I didn’t do anything much, both you and Harry did all the hard work,” Ron began murmuring softly.

 

“Ron, you would be a very amiable person if you could learn for once to appreciate what you’ve done. It was you and no one else who saved Harry getting him out of that lake, it was you who stabbed the Slytherin’s Locket -” Hermione listed her boyfriend’s feats, but meantime he just interrupted her with, “And I left both of you like a cowardly ass.” Hermione didn’t pay much attention to him and simply kept telling his feats, “It was you who had the idea to get those fangs from the Chamber of Secrets, and it was you who could open it again so we could destroy the Horcrux in the Hufflepuff’s Cup, not even mentioning that you fought bravely in the Battle of Hogwarts and together with Neville defeated Greyback. For this alone every witch and wizard should feel grateful to you forever,” Hermione finished her song of glory for Ron and looked at her boyfriend partly with pride, partly with pity, as he was sitting there with pink blush on his ears.

 

“Say,” Hermione added with a grin, “you try to praise him – he starts to feel shy and murmurs all kinds of nonsense; you try to chide him – he fills up with the annoyance like a strawberry mousse.”

 

Ginny chuckled at Hermione’s remark. “Oh, ‘a strawberry mousse’ could really be the most accurate description – he huffs and puffs until his face gets big and red.” Now also Harry and Hermione laughed.

 

“Maybe you could stop laughing about me? You better tell what happened to both of you here, why you had blushed so red?” Ron asked as the corner of his lip curled up mockingly. But then the thought came into his mind that perhaps he actually didn’t want to know that. “Um, of course, if it wasn’t something very intimate.”

 

Harry hugged Ginny tighter for a brief moment and she acted boldly and told her friends about Colin. Upon hearing it, the amusement instantly disappeared from the faces of both Ron and Hermione.

 

After a moment of reflection about Colin, the friends realized that there’ll be noon soon, so they had to go downstairs. On the way to lunch, Hermione told them how the meeting with McGonagall had gone, where she and Malfoy were mostly instructed about their standard responsibilities of the Head Boy and the Head Girl. McGonagall also had said that the Room of Requirement has been confined this year and that they must report immediately if anything suspicious starts going on the proximity of it, and that the cleaning of it has been planned during the winter holiday. She and Malfoy are also assigned to check the lower floors of the castle once a week to get rid of the last Boggarts, and the next meeting is going to be after a month, when she and Malfoy are going to be appointed to the night duty once a month on Saturday nights.

 

When he had sat down on the bench and had started to eat fried potatoes with chicken, Harry remembered that Ron had gone to the kitchen alone. “Listen, you had gone downstairs to the kitchen – did you find out something there?”

 

“Nothing important. Kreacher has really taken the lead in cooking. I asked them about the Diadem, but they said that they only know about the one which is on the head of the statue in the Ravenclaw Tower,” Ron told him about his research.

 

“That one I’ve seen for myself – it’s made of stone and is carved on the head of the statue. And how does the Diadem look, we already know it more or less,” Harry said as he drank a sip of a glass of juice.

 

“Then they told me something interesting – McGonagall had asked them to report everything to her that seems unusual to them,” Ron said in a whisper.

 

“Do you think they know something about what we’re searching for?” Harry asked, feeling slightly frightened.

 

“I don’t know,” Ron said, eating mashed potatoes with bacon sauce.

 

“I rather suspect,” Hermione said, “that McGonagall simply is smarter than most people.”

 

“I suppose she knows that all the things hadn’t calmed down yet, so there still might start some kind of disorder,” Ginny added.

 

“Good appetite,” said a voice as someone had come close to them. It turned out to be Lavender – she sat down next to Ginny, opposite to Ron. One side of the girl’s face looked oddly smooth, and further down her neck, there could be seen scars that she hadn’t been able to cover properly with make-up. “It’s a pity there’s no bloody steak at lunch for today again,” she said sadly. “When the full moon is approaching, I have a special desire for it. The day after tomorrow is going to be absolutely crazy.”

 

“How are you when it’s full moon? My brother also was bitten by Grayback, and then he couldn’t sleep at full moon nights,” Ron added.

 

“The fact that you can’t sleep – that would be an understatement. The feeling is like all your body is itching close to hurting, and as if your legs and arms are slowly tugging out of your body,” Lavender told them with a flinch as she bent her fingers awkwardly, then clenching them into a fist.

 

“And isn’t there any medicine for it?” Ginny asked, really feeling sorry for the girl. She remembered how Bill had suffered at the beginning after being bitten, so she could imagine how Lavender’s symptoms made her feel.

 

“Technically, I could use the same Wolfsbane Potion, but it is practically unavailable at Diagon Alley’s pharmacy stores, or at least it is beyond my means,” Lavender stated, sighing sadly. “I heard the Malfoys are now going to focus on the apothecary business, maybe then I could hope of getting the Potion at their store by a reasonable price.”

 

“Really, are the Malfoys going to open their own apothecary?” Ron asked with a smile.

 

“They’ll have to do something since they are banned from any position at the Ministry or any other boards,” Hermione explained. “I suppose with their connections, it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to import some rare ingredients for some even rarer potions so they could sell them for a pretty penny here.”

 

“Listen, but what’s up with those little ones today? They keep whispering and staring at us,” Lavender noticed. Harry quickly explained to her what had happened this morning in the Dungeons near the Slytherin Common Room.

 

“Oh, I see. Well, they aren’t letting their eyes off especially of you, but also the rest of us, the members of the D.A., they are bothering with questions about the Battle and the Room of Requirement and they are ready to follow me on every step I take,” Lavender complained. “So there’s no wonder they might have thought to portray some kind of heroes,” she concluded grimly as she drank a sip of pumpkin juice.

 

“I guess, the time will pass and eventually they’ll calm down,” Ginny simply stated.

 

“By the way, have you met Peeves now?” Lavender asked with a smirk. The friends shook their heads. “I happened to meet him on the second floor. Can you imagine he had become almost obedient; he helped Filch change the candles in the chandelier there.”

 

“What?” Ron asked with a laugh.

 

“Yes, I heard McGonagall had approved of Filch’s request to banish Peeves if he is going to continue to ruin Hogwarts inventory,” Lavender explained. “So now he is trying to behave very well. At least as far it considers the school property.”

 

“But he could tantalize those first-years a bit more,” Ron added, grinning. Hermione exclaimed, indignantly, “Ron!” Ginny and Harry just smiled.

 

* * *

 

The young people were still sitting in the library, doing their homework. After lunch, Harry and Ginny had been strolling around Hogwarts, chattering about nothing serious, and then they had headed out and walked around the territory. Partly, he had wanted to wander around the castle, hoping that he could notice something truly unusual that could help in his search for the Diadem, but mostly he had just wanted to spend some time with Ginny. After all of them had finished dinner, they had started to do their homework.

 

Harry was now working on how to accomplish Slughorn’s task to find a Fire Element which he needed to sublimate into a Fire Essence. No potions book actually told how to get one – only how to use it. And Hermione just said with an enigmatic smile that this time he had to figure it out by himself while she was calculating large charts.

 

“Yuck, a three,” she said, wincing.

 

“Sounds bad. What does it exactly mean, Hermione?” Ron asked.

 

“Now I’m calculating the numbers for the course of our and the school’s life until Christmas, and I got number three. In numerology, it has a meaning of instability,” Hermione explained.

 

“Instability really does sound bad,” Ginny agreed with Ron gloomily, reading A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration.

 

“Actually, I ascertained it for today; though, I suppose this collision between Gryffindor and Slytherin students of today won’t be the last one,” Harry added, foreseeing that this trimester actually wouldn’t be so calm and carefree.

 

* * *

 

By contrast, Sunday had passed quite peacefully, only Hermione and Ron had to separate an arguing pair of third-years, who had started to brawl in the Common room, but Neville had to constantly stay with Harry and Ginny all day long, otherwise Romilda was following him everywhere, then asking to borrow his quill – she had lost her own – then wanted to get help with her Herbology homework, then she begged him to defend her against some Hufflepuff guy, who had been bothering her all the time.

 

“Ironically,” Ginny smirked, “and she thinks she isn’t bothering you at all. So then who are you going to ask for help now?”

 

“That’s why I came to you,” Neville chuckled. “Now she says she can’t distinguish the Snargaluff pods from the Bubotubers.”

 

“That’s one crazy girl, eh?” Harry stated.

 

“It’s a complete madness with someone like her! Please tell me what to do with her?” Neville asked desperately, sitting on his chair opposite the couch Harry and Ginny had seated on.

 

“As I said to you during the Start-of-Term Feast, she might be leaving you alone if you start seriously dating another girl,” Ginny advised, tilting her head slightly to the side. Neville turned away his gaze.

 

“Isn’t there a girl you like?” Harry asked.

 

“There is, but…” Neville began to stutter, slightly blushing.

 

“But what’s the matter then?” Ginny asked. “Does she have a boyfriend or there’s some other reason why you can’t be with her?”

 

“I guess no, but… But I’ve never asked out any girl. That is, if I don’t count the Yule Ball on my fourth-year when I asked you,” Neville admitted, feeling very shy as he gave Harry a worried look for a brief moment.

 

“You just have to be brave like Gryffindor, Neville. It’s not that bad with those girls,” Harry stated as he looked at Ginny, smiling.

 

“What if she doesn’t want to go on the date with me? I’ll go to her and ask her out, and what if she says no? Then I could only wish the ground would swallow me up,” Neville expressed his fear.

 

“And what if she says yes? Perhaps she’s just waiting for you to act bold and ask her out?” Ginny suggested.

 

“After all, you’re a hero now. And look, some of the girls are chasing after you day and night. I don’t know if there is a single girl who wouldn’t like to go out with you – all you need is to get enough courage up. And if you’re thinking of asking out Luna, then I think she’ll definitely agree,” Harry encouraged Neville, nodding.

 

“I guess you both are right; but fighting with the Sword definitely is easier than asking girls on a date,” Neville murmured shyly and fall silent.

 

Meanwhile, Ron had returned to the three of them, falling into his chair next to Neville. “Hermione took them to Sinistra. They said they had quarreled over whether you, Harry, had used all your Deathly Hallows in the Battle, or whether you had defeated You-Know-Who with your bare hands. They were actually ready to start dueling. To come to you and ask it, it was too much for them, eh?” Ron chuckled as he rolled his eyes. Hearing it, Harry also laughed.

 

“Actually, one of them earlier did come to me and asked if I had all the Hallows when I fought Voldemort, and I said to him – yeah, right, like I defeated him with my bare hands. I suppose he had really taken it seriously.” Harry shrugged.

 

“People really don’t understand jokes anymore,” Ron concluded. “Hermione will not like it – she already remarked me that these little ones take it overly seriously everything we say.”

 

“Oh, yes – now one bad joke is enough to start a war,” Harry concluded gloomily.

 

* * *

 

“It’s a pleasure to see you all again in such an abundance!” Professor Sprout said cheerfully with a smile, beaming like a sun. “Oh, indeed! And you all are ready to learn Herbology. I’m even more pleased about that. This year, I’ve prepared for you the plants included in the N.E.W.T. tests and we are going to start our list with the Venomous Tentacula,” said the professor, a short witch with a leaf green hat, as she turned to a purple-red plant with long vines. It definitely didn’t look very friendly.

 

“You’ll need to split into groups of three. Your task will be to feed the Tentaculas with these little mice. These are just youngsters, I grew a new bunch of Tentaculas again over the summer because, unfortunately, the Death Eater diet hadn’t ended well with my dear friends in May,” Sprout explained. “When you’re feeding them, just don’t forget to put on your gloves – keep in mind they are actually the Venomous Tentaculas!”

 

“Oh, but before we get started with the feeding, I’ll give you ten House points if you tell me what this is,” Professor, a moment later, lifted in the air a small pot with something like a twig with needle-like leaves. It seemed to Harry that this twig was slowly twisting, or maybe it was standing still – it was hard to tell from a distance. To Harry’s surprise, Hermione hadn’t raised her hand, but instead she was deep in thoughts, gazing at the ceiling. Meantime, Neville’s eyes widened and he quickly shot up his arm in the air.

 

“Yes, dear?” Sprout invited Neville to give his answer.

 

“Professor, it’s a Strangling Fir!” Neville exclaimed excitedly.

 

“Correct! You’ve earned ten points to Gryffindor. The exact name of this plant is the Estonian Strangling Fir. Now it doesn’t look very dangerous, but just you try to get closer to it,” Sprout put a wooden stick close to the twig, “and it will instantly start to grab you – look, look, the longest branches have already grasped around the stick. Therefore, the Strangling Firs usually plant around the perimeter of the property. They can catch any thief with their twigs. Not even mentioning the fact that such hug of needle-like leaves must be very painful.”

 

“Professor, wasn’t there recently written somewhere that these Firs were also planted around the new open-air concert site where the Weird Sisters performed in the summer?” Neville asked curiously.

 

“That’s right, Neville. Actually, all the last year you were only tending the Tentaculas here, maybe now you would like to grow the Strangling Fir? Just take into account that the care of this plant will be quite tricky,” Sprout offered. Neville, of course, couldn’t refuse such an offer.

 

“And now, my dear students, let’s get our attention back to Tentaculas. They are waiting all morning to finally have their breakfast,” the professor said to all students and began to show them the hungry plants.

 

As Hermione, along with Ron, had chosen a Tentacula next to Harry’s and Ginny’s plant, she muttered to herself, “I can’t compete with Neville in Herbology anymore; he’s surpassed me in this subject.”



http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com