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Chapter 16

The Best Ride Ever


The next morning the youngsters were up early since they had to do some cleaning in the attic. They were all gathered at the kitchen table having breakfast when two owls flew in and delivered the morning paper. Hermione paid her owl for her copy of the Daily Prophet, while the other owl went to Mr Weasley. Hermione was having a conversation with Ginny at that moment, so she set aside the paper for now.

Mr. Weasley picked up his cup of tea and took a sip as he unrolled the paper. He jerked involuntarily as he choked on his tea and spit it out all over Fred who was sitting across from him.

“Dad!”

“Arthur! What is the problem?” Mrs Weasley asked and rushed to help him.

Mr Weasley placed the unrolled paper on the table for all to see as he coughed; he pointed to it unable to speak.

SAY HIS NAME! IT’S VOL-DE-MORT! Harry Potter is wiser beyond his years

The large headline read above a picture of Harry, Ron, and Hermione with a canvas covered object. In the picture, Harry was stone faced and glaring at the reporters, while everyone else looked shocked and fearful. Hermione picked up her copy and began to read aloud so everyone could hear.

On Thursday, August 29th, the Daily Prophet received an anonymous tip that the Boy-Who-Lived, and two of his friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, had been kidnapped by Goblins in an incident at the Wizarding Bank of Gringotts…

Hermione skipped ahead to the important stuff.

… When asked about the allegations that the Goblins had attempted to kidnap him, Mr Potter answered that it had all been a misunderstanding. “I was kindly escorted by the security guards into Mr Gomkak’s office...” Mr Potter told the audience of gathered spectators and reporters with a calm and collected voice. He also had to say about the incident that he “just wanted to clarify whole misunderstanding…”

Towards the end of the impromptu interview, Mr Potter was asked about You-Know-Who, which caused an unexpected reaction from the youth. His friendly smile faltered, and with strength of mind that is not common among people his age he replied: “Say his name!!! It’s Vol-de-mort!” It is indescribable the amount of palpable fear registered by the crowd as everyone expected that the mention of his name would summon the Dark Lord. To this reaction Mr Potter said the following: “I think it is about time people realize that fear of the name only causes fear of the thing itself!”
It appears that the 16 year boy does not have what has crippled the rest of the Wizarding community: fear. He fears not the evil that has been considered the most greusome and powerful Dark Wizard of all times. Mr Potter was asked if he had anything to say about said Dark Wizard now that the Ministry has officially recognized his return. “I have nothing to say about that git...” Mr Potter boldly told reporters.
For several weeks now, Harry Potter has been heralded as the hope of the world. The Wizarding world now believes (despite almost a year’s worth of slander from this newspaper under previous management and the Ministry of Magic) that if there is any wizard out there who will deliver us from the evil madness of Voldemort, it is he. After all, he did defeat the Wizard when he was a mere baby, and Harry Potter is rumoured to have encountered the Dark Lord four times in five years, and has escaped him with his life. It is only logical to question the reasons why the Ministry has been reluctant to side with Mr Potter, and has done a number of things to discredit his persona. With elections up for grabs, and Minister Fudge running for re-election, it is of importance that the Wizarding community questions the efficacy of our current government. We should unanimously support our young hero. He once already rid this world of this evil; perhaps he will do so again. Let us all begin showing our support by saying our enemy’s name: It’s Voldemort. After all, the path to victory begins by facing our greatest fears.


Hermione finished reading the article and there was a stunned silence in the room.

“I can’t believe it!” George exclaimed, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, it’s shocking,” Fred added.

“It surprises me the uncharacteristic truthful nature of the article. Nothing was embellished. Even the quotes are word for word!” Hermione exclaimed.

“The Prophet was sold to a private party a week or so ago. It no longer is under Minister Fudge’s control,” Arthur replied from his chair as he wiped his glasses. “I heard at work that several of the main reporters were fired or demoted. Apparently the new ownership has refused the Ministry’s supervision of the paper as well and somehow managed to have the last bill vetoed. If it had passed, the paper and any other news source would have been heavily censored. The Prophet has now promised to publish only the truth of events that have happened. I believe today’s edition is the first one published under new management.”

“I’ll say. This is definitely a different sort of reporting,” Hermione added as she flipped the pages to see what else of intrigue was inside the pages. Definitely the paper was something completely different than what she was used to for the last five years.

“I just wish they would stop calling me a hero,” Harry huffed annoyed. He was rather pleased that his words had not been twisted to discredit him again, as was the norm with the newspaper but he felt a bit self-conscious about the hero worship. He shuddered as he pictured hundreds of little Colin Creeveys running after him.

“Ids beder den cawlimew am mliar,” Ron argued amidst mouthfuls of food.

“Ron! I can see your stomach from here! Close your mouth when you eat! Eww,” Ginny reprimanded him disgusted.

Ron glared at her while he attempted to close his mouth. It was too full of food.

“HEY Look! There are funnies in this paper!” Fred said as he snatched Mr Weasley’s copy that George was flipping through, and effectively dissipating the serious mood in the room. The Daily Prophet had eliminated the funnies several years ago when they had published a satirical comic strip about the Ministry and Minister Fudge.

Harry sat down on his chair again and picked up his spoon. He was about to take a mouthful of porridge when his scar burst into pain. It wasn’t the blinding pain that rendered him useless, but it was sharp enough to make him hiss with pain, drop the spoon and reach his hands to his forehead.

“Harry, what’s wrong!?” Molly exclaimed alarmed as she rushed to his side. Everyone else had asked the same things in different ways. They had all been startled by Harry.

Harry grimaced, and had his eyes shut tightly. He concentrated on making his mind blank, hoping to sever the connection with Voldemort. After a few seconds the pain dulled away, and he opened his eyes to look at the concerned faces around him. He surprised them all by grinning broadly, and he had a satisfied and smug look on his face.

“What is it?” Hermione asked puzzled.

“Voldemort has just read the article.”

****

After the morning’s commotion to get things ready on September 1st, Mr and Mrs Weasley took everyone to Kings Cross. As they began to pass through the barrier, Harry waited for the others to go when he felt a prickling weird sensation all over his body. His heart began to beat faster, and he felt a little dizzy for a moment. He felt also a slight warning, as if he was on alert.

“Are you all right Harry?” Hermione asked noticing him pale a bit.

“Erm, yes… just felt strange there for a moment,” Harry replied feeling his head clear up.

“Come now Hermione, you and Ginny go next,” said Mrs Weasley and encouraged Hermione to go through.

Harry watched Hermione and Ginny disappear through the barrier, and then suddenly he felt the same dizzy feeling. His body was tingling all over. He looked around for the source and his gaze was drawn to a young woman walking nearby. She had dark blonde straight hair, her pale complexion glowing under a large brimmed hat she was wearing. Harry felt a sense of… familiarity with this girl and he watched her as she walked. When she neared, the feelings in his body intensified and he began to feel hot, and sweat glistened on his palms. To Harry’s surprise, the girl began to look around, as if she suddenly felt something or someone nearby. Her pale blue eyes met Harry’s gaze and the two stared at each other for a fraction of a second. Their gaze was interrupted when a young man, cloaked in all black took the young woman by her arm and they disappeared in the crowd. The feelings coursing through him slowly decreased and altogether stopped.

“Harry? You should go through now,” said Mrs Weasley catching his attention.

“Right,” Harry said and disappeared through the barrier.

The group said their good-byes to the Weasley parents and the twins. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny boarded the train.

The group walked down the corridor looking for an empty compartment. They stopped as they reached a compartment with Neville in it.

“I saved you a spot,” Neville said enthusiastically greeting his friends.

“Hi Neville,” Harry replied. The four of them stowed some of their things away.

“Hello Ginny,” Neville said shyly and blushing.

Ginny smiled at him, and answered him with a giggle as she noticed the crook on his nose. It wasn’t funny how he got it, but it did look cute on him. “Hello Neville.”

“Come on Ron, Ginny, we have to go to the prefects meeting,” Hermione said and headed out with Ron following suit.

“I’ll see you guys later,” Ginny said and stood leaving Harry and Neville in the compartment and followed after Ron and Hermione.

“Hey, I read in the paper what happened a few weeks ago at the Weasleys’ joke shop,” Neville said and grinned at Harry. “You were brilliant. You three are so brave,” Neville said, full of admiration for Harry.

“You are just as brave Neville,” Harry said but didn’t mention the incident at the Ministry. That was when he had lost Sirius.

“I… I am sorry Harry,” said Neville to him.

“For what?” Harry asked.

“About Sirius,” Neville replied sadly. Harry was glad he didn’t say anything more.

“Thanks.”

The two of them stayed silent for a while. They both looked up when the door to the compartment opened.

“Fred! George!” Neville exclaimed, while Harry just stared at them with his jaw hanging open.

“What are you doing here?” Harry finally asked. The twins grinned at them.

“Well, it seems that—

—Now that Umbridge is gone—

—We thought better about not—

—Finishing our studies… so we came back—

—To finish our seventh year.” George and Fred finished together.

“Besides, Mum begged us to come back this year and Dumbledore asked us to return as well,” Fred added.

“Not to mention that we learnt Gringotts will only lend large sums of money to Wizards who have finished at least their seventh year education and we have plans for expanding our shop,” George interjected.

“And we also need funds to pay for the repairs to the shop. We can’t just keep coming to you for money, Harry,” Fred added, “and we want to have to resort to other sources for money as a last option,” Fred finished and smirked.

“I don’t mind lending you some money; I know you guys would pay me back. But who’s taking care of the shop?” Harry asked as he pulled out his Quidditch game that he had received from Professor McGonagall for his birthday.

“Lee’s managing it. Besides, we can Apparate now; we can sneak back into town if we have to, we just need to get out of the school boundaries,” the twins grinned mischievously and winked.

“And being members of the Order so you can keep an eye out for me didn’t influence your decision as well?” Harry asked raising an eyebrow.

“Nah, that’s just a side bonus,” Fred said as he sat down.

“Why didn’t you say anything before?” Harry asked smiling at them. It was going to be great to have the twins back at school. Harry was already thinking about Quidditch.

“We couldn’t make up our minds and we actually didn’t agree until the train was about to leave,” they said in unison.

“Mum will send our stuff directly to Hogwarts,” Fred added. “She didn’t want us going back home for our things lest we change our minds.”

The four of them chatted amiably for a while, then Fred and George began to talk about some new idea they had, while Harry showed Neville the game.

“How does it work?” Neville asked intrigued.

“You pick a team then you pick a player on the team to command. You can play against another person’s team or just a team by yourself. Here, I’ll show you,” Harry said as he picked the black team, while Neville picked the blue team.

Two miniature sets of Quidditch teams, one clothed in black uniforms, the other in blue, came out to the little miniature pitch.

“See these controllers?” Harry showed Neville a pad to be held on the hands with buttons on it. In Harry’s mind, he compared it to the Muggle video games console with controllers, except this was the magical version. His cousin had a PlayStation at home, and Harry once had played a game on a Nintendo 64 which Dudley had left on while they had been gone.

“With this button you make your players fly, this one is for the direction. This is the action button, so if you are a chaser you catch and pass the Quaffle with this button, and a Beater swings the bat if you press the button, and so on. This button will let you switch from player to player,” Harry began to explain but he saw the puzzled look on Neville. “Let’s play a practice game. I think it’s easier to learn that way,” Harry encouraged and the two began to play.

Both Ron and Hermione returned to the surprise of the Weasley twins going back to school. Ginny also later returned with Luna, and she too was dumfounded at their return. Luna simply smiled in her dreamy way and said, “I think that the Wipelsies will be happy that you are back. They had never had so much fun since the last pranksters had been at Hogwarts years ago.”

Everyone just stared at her, and then Hermione turned to the twins. “You better not be causing problems or I’ll have to report you to Dumbledore,” she threatened. “And no testing new items on first, second, third, or fourth years,” she added.

“Soooo, fifth, sixth and seventh years aren’t off limits?” Fred asked grinning madly, while George exclaimed, “Excellent,” as he rubbed his hands together.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “They are old enough to make their own mistakes, the others, on the other hand, can be easily influenced by a seventh year student,” she replied.

Conversations flowed easily in the compartment, and other people stopped by to visit. Seamus Finnigan and the Creevey brothers stopped at some time. Padma and Parvati Patil joined them for a few moments as well. At some point or another, all of the members of the DA had called by their compartment, with the exception of Marietta. Zacharias Smith had paid them a visit, although Harry had the impression that he hadn’t really wanted to be there. Even Cho had come to say hello, but it had been an awkward moment. She informed Harry that she no longer dated Michael Corner, and Harry had been stumped trying to find a reply. Harry didn’t bring the subject of the DA up, although he could tell that many were itching to ask.

Ron had glared at Dean who seemed to be getting too chummy with Ginny. He had grinned in a satisfied manner when Fred and George threatened him (while Ginny had been distracted, of course). The Quidditch game had been a success with most of the boys, and a few of the girls who played Quidditch had given it a try.

Soon it was only Ron and Harry playing their second game of chess, while Hermione read a book. Ginny and Luna had gone somewhere, whilst Fred and George were at another compartment getting acquainted with the 7th years. Everyone from their year had left school, but they still had some friends from sixth year last year who now were 7th years. Neville had left searching for his toad again, and the rest had returned to their own compartments.

As Harry’s bishop overtook Ron’s knight, Harry began to feel that weird sensation in his body again. This time, there was also a soft ringing in his ears, as if little bells and whistles were going off inside his head, but the noise was not unpleasant. The sensations felt as if they were getting stronger, and he had the distinct feeling that someone was approaching. As the feeling in his body intensified, the door to the compartment opened. Harry expected to see the same young woman he had seen in the train station earlier that day. However, it wasn’t her, it was Fred. Harry’s tingling sensation began to diminish. Harry blinked twice when he looked over at Fred.

“You should have seen it! It was bloody brilliant,” exclaimed Fred, his hair was dishevelled, one of his arms had grown a thick pelt of hair, and he was actually missing one eyebrow.

“What was brilliant?” Ron asked without looking up, knowing that anything that made his brother this happy either involved a new joke or prank or a Slytherin had been hexed.

“Fred! What happened to you?” Hermione exclaimed noticing his appearance. Ron’s head snapped up to look at him.

“I was over in the third rail car with Becky and Bertie when we heard this bang, so, we go out into the corridor to see what was happening, and there was this girl hexing Malfoy. I’ve never seen her before, so I thought maybe I was seeing things, or maybe I had fallen asleep and she was some sort of golden haired goddess sent to rid of Malfoy for good,” Fred said in a dreamy way, “so I, of course, prostrated myself at her feet to worship…” Fred laughed., “But Crabbe and Goyle came out of their compartment and they started hexing people left and right, and well… all hell broke loose! I lost track of the girl when Goyle tried to hex me, but I thought she came this way, I really wanted to get an autograph or something… anyway… I think the head boy asked that the Prefects go over and help. It seems that by the end of the fight, there were quite a few people from each house that took part in it. I barely escaped…”

Hermione slammed her book shut. “We better go and help,” she said standing up. Ron groaned as he too stood up. Harry grinned, he was glad since Ron was beating him at chess (as usual). He also really liked the idea of Malfoy and his goons being hexed.

“Did she at least get him good?” Ron asked as he made his way past Fred.

“Oh yes, that’s what was so bloody brilliant! I don’t know how she did it exactly, but Malfoy sprouted long ears, and his face stretched out. He looked like an ass! And to top it off, there was a little pointed hat that flashed the words ‘Dunce I am’, then he tried to hex her but only a loud ‘WHEEEE HAWW’ escaped his lips!” Fred said amidst guffaws of laughter.

Not even Hermione could help the fit of laughter that overtook her. After they laughed, Hermione wiped the tears from her cheeks.

“Thanks, I needed that…” Ron said to Fred as Hermione began to pull him along to go up to the front of the train and see if they could help. Hermione turned before she left the compartment.

“You ought to look into doing something about that,” she said pointing to Fred’s arm. “I am sure it will be quite obvious that you were in the fight once anyone sees you… there’s a book in my bag with simple cure spells,” she said and smirked before she closed the compartment door.

Fred sniffed and pretended to wipe a tear from his eye, “Our own Hermione covering up for a guilty transgressor, I’m so proud of her…”
Harry laughed. This had definitely been one of the best train rides back to Hogwarts.

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