After going to the toilet Harry and Neville re-entered their compartment just as a girl stood up to leave. She had large pale blue eyes that were heavily lined in black, her eyelashes curled with a mascara wand. In her hands were several copies of the fashion magazine ‘Witch Outfit?’ As Harry looked her face, her dirty blonde hair scooped up into a clasp he noticed some familiarity. It however needed to be pointed out to him before he realised who it was that stood before him. ‘Harry, Neville,’ said Luna from her seat in the corner, ‘this is my sister Helia.’ Helia merely smiled and nodded before she made to leave the compartment, leaving Harry pleased that she didn’t hound him to tell her about being famous. As she put down her magazines so that she could slide open the door Harry noticed an issue of ‘The Quibbler’ amongst the rest, he suspected that even though she looked so different from her sister they probably had very much in common. * ‘Firs’ years!’ A familiar voice echoed throughout the station as Ron and Hermione stepped out as the first students on to the platform. They had spent the remainder or the journey together, talking, laughing, at simply keeping each other company. ‘All right there, Ron, Hermione?’ called Hagrid to them before more students had the chance to leave the train. ‘Do you mind findin’ the others n goin’ back to the train? I need a word, like.’ Hagrid winked very indiscreetly. Ron looked baffled as Hermione pulled him back past the students who were trying to vacate the train. She waited and watched the crowed past until she finally saw her friends and then one by one Hermione pushed Harry, Ron, Ginny Neville and Luna into the nearest compartment. No one said anything for what seemed a long time they all just stared at Hermione wearing confused expressions. Finally when the last student left the train Harry spoke up. ‘Hermione what the-’ he was cut of by a plea for silence from Hermione who was pacing the compartment up and down occasionally looking out of the windows and the sliding door into the aisle. ‘But Hermione, what was Hagrid talking about?’ asked Ron timidly, Hermione was the only one except his mother that made him feel that way. She threw him a sharp look. ‘Ron must I spell everything out for you? Do you not realise that there is a war happening? And since our trip to the ministry we’re Voldemort’s six most wanted people? It’s unsafe for us to travel with the rest, with Draco and his clan; I’m actually very surprised they didn’t disturb us on the journey. The thestrals are strong but they couldn’t protect us from an unexpected attack! Do you not realise that we have to be prepared for almost anything now? When we get back to school there are going to be extra Defence lessons, just for us. We are going to have to work twice as hard as everyone else because Ronald, we need to be ready, or I am almost certain we’ll be dead and I for one am not ready to lose you just yet.’ Hermione sat down in shock, she had scared even herself by her outburst. Ron sat down next to her and took the hand that Ginny wasn’t already holding onto, ‘Hermione, we’re not ready to lose you either,’ he whispered firmly. ‘Touching, touching, well done Miss Granger you got it right once more.’ The six looked up, as they heard a slimy sarcastic voice, they saw Professor Snape turning the corner and enter their compartment, all six at once scowled. ‘I have been given the unfortunate task of escorting you insolent students back to the school and let me say that this is not the way I wanted to start the term. But then again with the Dark Lord back, we all have to make sacrifices like losing that ‘Black’’ Snape spat the last word. Harry felt someone next to him gently squeeze his hand and his anger at once appeared to deflate. At once four of his friends stood up before him ready to follow Snape hoping to get to the school as soon as possible. Ron and Ginny both had glowing ears that now matched their hair and both Neville and Hermione looked flustered. Harry looked towards his side and smiled, Luna once again squeezed his hand and together they stood to follow Snape. They had been walking for nearly fourty minutes, passing the edge of the lake before they reached the forest edge. Harry could just make out the top of the tallest turrets of Hogwarts, above the mass of trees in front of him. He followed Snape further, Luna still clutching his arm, shivering, until they stopped at a particularly wide trunk of what seemed to be an oak tree. Snape drew out his wand and circled the tree until he stopped in front seemed to be a tiny hole in the bark. Here he entered his wand and whispered something that none of the others could make out. ‘Although I wouldn’t say I’d care what happened to the six of you,’ Snape muttered inclining his head slightly in their direction, ‘ I am obliged to warn you to stand back.’ Harry quickly moved back, the others around him. Snape then too followed and stood in front of the group, the bark of the tree began peeling off. Harry craned his head to see what was happening, his mouth dropped open as he noticed the topmost layer of bark on the nearest side of the tree had disappeared to make an archway, chips of bark shot in all directions. Snape hurried forward the others having to move fast to keep up with him. They followed him down what appeared to be a dark passage way, where they walked uphill for almost another hour. Harry could feel dampness on the walls around him, the hair on his back stood on end. He jumped as Snape suddenly drew to a halt. Harry saw what looked like a wooden board, in the metal outline of a frame. ‘Ok, after going through this wall you will find yourselves on the fourth floor corridor, from there you will need to make your own way to the Great Hall for the feast.’ Snape said without looking at them, ‘I will need to place a ghost charm on each of you, this will allow you to simply drift through what you will see as a mirror. I warn you that if you decide to attempt to leave the school premises in your arrogance Potter, this passage will cave in leaving you trapped. I trust that after seeing you through this wall, you will be alright on your own. You are to go nowhere but the Great Hall.’ At this, Snape grabbed forward Harry pointed is wand at him and muttered something under his breath. It was a peculiar sensation: Harry lost all feeling of his body as he was pushed through the mirror doorway, but gained it back immediately after his left elbow, the last part of his body, had passed through, leaving him to fall to the floor. Harry’s bones creaked as he landed on the solid stone, he could already feel bruises beginning to form shape. He had only just managed to stand up before Luna came falling through the glass. Harry caught her in the nick of time and pulled her out of the way, he looked down to see her smiling up at him before turning her head to perform a cushioning charm for the others. * Harry must have kissed Ginny three times before the evening was over. They both found it easier to deal with attention by laughing at those who believed the stories about them, this way it seemed that they weren’t alone but fighting together, it seemed a better option then simply ignoring each other as they had done through the holidays. By the time they had reached the Great Hall the sorting was long over. As they stepped in half way through the feast all heads turned and watched as they made their way inside. After walking Luna to her table the others made their way to the table on the far end of the hall, were they managed to find seats. As Harry sat down he saw Ron and Hermione jump to either side of him and Neville and Ginny make for opposite, it was as if they were circling themselves around him so that others left him alone. If this was their idea, it did not work too well as throughout dinner students, many of which Harry didn’t even know approached him to apologise for their attitudes the previous year. Jealous girls glowered at Ginny, resulting in her simply reaching over the table to hold Harry’s hand leaving Ron and Hermione with shocked looks on their faces. No one noticed an angry Dean sitting a few seats away. It wasn’t until later, that the secret passage leading to the fourth floor corridor was brought up in conversation. It seemed that everyone was avoiding the topic and when Harry brought it up Hermione simply answered with: ‘I don’t know Harry, I mean it must truly be a secret and dangerous if not even Fred and George found away around it.’ She then turned to speak to Ginny, closing the conversation. * After sending the first year students to their dormitories Harry, Ron and Hermione took a quiet corner in the common room. They were far away from the fire but didn’t mind as they were also far from the centre of attention. As they settled Hermione looked to the window not wanting to look at Harry as she spoke. ‘What did you think of what Dumbledore said today?’ she asked trying to sound absent. Harry looked at Ron as he usually did when he did not know what Hermione was talking about, this time however; Ron didn’t look back. ‘It was more about what he didn’t say Hermione, we need to know about what’s going on, he can’t just try and phase us out and pretending it’s not happening. He didn’t even say anything about the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, there has to be one because we bought new books, but I saw no one new did you? Like you said we need to be prepared!’ Hermione was shocked at Ron’s analytical response; maybe what she had said to him on the train had finally got through. Harry too was shocked, why hadn’t he noticed any of this? To be honest he thought he didn’t have a clue about anything that had happened since Dumbledore had started talking to the school. He seemed to have phased out. ‘What did you think of Luna’s sister? He asked trying to change the subject. ‘Helia Lovegood? She’s different that’s all I can say. I mean; a Gryffindor for one’ said Ron smirking, ‘You wouldn’t know she was related to Luna by the way she looks.’ ‘Ron you didn’t actually look past her make up and hair did you?’ asked Hermione ‘she’s pretty much identical to Luna! I suppose they’re different inside though.’ ‘No Hermione, I think I agree with Ron, they do look so different, I mean Helia isn’t much compared to Luna – even if she did have a copy of the Quibbler!’ Harry grinned. Ron looked at him and laughed, he was right, one Luna was definitely more than enough, an younger seven year old version could never be good. * As Harry lay in bed he reflected over the day he had, had. He hadn’t taken in a word Dumbledore had said and he hadn’t even noticed that there was no new Defence teacher. He turned over and began to snore as he heard Ron come in; he wanted to be on his own for now. In a few minutes Ron too began snoring leaving Harry to his thoughts once more. Harry had been thinking a lot recently, it wasn’t good for him, he needed to clear his mind. As he tried to close his mind he saw different faces flash in front of him: his mother and father, Sirius, Lupin, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna…. Their faces whirled through his mind as he remembered all the times they had fought together. Harry’s memories were punctured as he saw a man standing by a mirror unravelling a purple turban from his head, red fiery letters in the air spelling out: ‘I am Lord Voldemort.’ Peter Pettigrew was transforming into a rat, and a man with the red eyes, the white skin, the snake fingers. Harry began to shake furiously. He saw him go, a woman –‘Bella’ in his arms apparating away together apparating to a freedom they didn’t deserve. The images circled a shivering Harry’s mind, it wasn’t usually until he was asleep when memories haunted him, it had never happened when he was awake. Voldemort was mocking him. Harry again tried to clear his mind; he had to rid Voldemort’s presence from his brain, his body.
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