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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, it all belongs to JK Rowling. Nor do I own Pride and Prejudice and the characters from that story, all credit for that goes to Jane Austen.




Chapter 4 – Back to Hogwarts 

The soft glow from the light of a candle flickered out into the dark forest through a cracked window in the abandoned cottage. Within, inside the damp kitchen, two wizards in dark cloaks sat at the small table beside the sink.

‘You understand why you must do this,’ asked the tallest, Snape, looking right into the dark eyes of the blonde haired boy sitting in front of him.

Draco Malfoy nodded, his face pale and thin.

Snape looked serious and worried. ‘I would do it myself, but the Order will not trust me after what I had to do, even if I explain that it was on Dumbledore’s orders. But the new information Voldemort has told me today must get to Potter somehow, and Voldemort thinks you are dead, so staying close to Potter and his friends at Hogwarts will keep you safe.’

Draco grimaced, but nodded once more.

‘You are sure Potter will trust you?’

‘Yes,’ insisted Draco, bitterly. ‘He was there when I failed to complete my task; saw me unable to kill, and almost be tempted by the idea of the good side hiding me. He will see the best in me, even after our bad history.’

‘Just like Dumbledore…’ muttered Snape.

‘What?’ asked Draco, wondering if he had heard right.

‘Oh. Nothing. That is good; I was worried he may not, given how incapable he is in seeing past his angry emotions towards his enemies.’

‘Well you’ve never exactly given him reason to ever want to like or trust you,’ said Draco, understanding the former potions master’s meaning, and thinking how strange it was to hear him speak wistfully about both Potter and Dumbledore.

‘No, well, why would I? I despised his father, and he is just as arrogant and big headed as him,’ spat Snape, trying to regain his sneering attitude. ‘Now, you must leave tonight if you want to stay ‘dead’ to the Dark Lord, so listen carefully.’

He leaned across the table towards Draco and lowered his voice. ‘This is what you must tell Potter…’

*** 

Voldemort clutched the horcrux locket to his chest, as if it were his own life. Stepping carefully off the laptop keyboard and onto the desk, he made his way across the vast wooden surface to the shelves full of books. With great difficulty, he pulled himself up onto the narrow ledge in front of the many books and made his way to one in particular, Pride and Prejudice. Then he stepped straight up to the book spine and walked through it as if it were air, merging into the pages and becoming part of the story’s world.

The country of Hertfordshire was beautiful, and it was lovely weather for walking. Putting himself under a charm to give him a young man’s normal features, and clothes of a regiment officer’s uniform, he made his way along the dusty country lanes towards Longbourn, and to the house where a certain young lady of considerable beauty, Elizabeth Bennet, would be sure to fall for his charm and manner, and be persuaded to wear his locket upon herself at all times.

***

Harry, Ginny and Remus arrived back at The Burrow that afternoon after a pleasant lunch in a little café in Godrics Hollow. They were surprised to find it silent and empty. Mrs Weasley should have been there, she didn’t normally go out alone without plenty of warning these days.

‘Something’s not right,’ muttered Remus, looking around him. ‘Wands out, and follow me.’

They entered the kitchen through the back door, which was unlocked. There seemed to be no signs of struggle or attack, and nothing left out of the ordinary.

‘Strange…’ he said to himself, while moving cautiously out into the hallway to search the upstairs rooms.

Harry went to look in the pantry, but finding nothing out of the ordinary, returned back to the kitchen and moved over to the table. ‘Remus!’ he called, spotting a folded over piece of parchment which had been left in full view.

At the sound of his shout, Ginny hurried back from searching the sitting room, and Remus appeared hurriedly in the doorway, both getting to Harry at the same time. He picked up the note, and the other two looked over his shoulder as he unfolded the parchment. It was addressed to Ginny and Harry, and scribbled hastily. The faces of all three grew pale as they read what it said.

Harry, Ginny,
There’s been a death eater attack in Devon. They targeted the Granger's house. Ron, Hermione and her parents are in St. Mungoes. Come as soon as you can.
Molly and Arthur.


***

‘Lucky she didn’t die, a nasty bump to the head like that,’ a voice said, floating into Hermione’s dreams and coming as if from afar.

Another voice answered, sounding concerned. ‘How long has she been asleep?’

‘Three days.’

‘And what of her parents?’

Something stirred in Hermione’s memory, causing her to try to open her eyes as flashes of the battle passed through her mind; someone screaming, Ron on the floor, her parents injured…She needed to wake up, find out what happened, if they were all ok! And with that thought of urgency she opened her heavy eyelids.

The two people sitting beside the hospital bed gasped as they saw Hermione stir.

‘Sweet Merlin she’s awake!’ exclaimed Minerva McGonagall. ‘Molly, go alert the healer!’
Mrs Weasley rushed off, dabbing at her eyes.

Hermione tried to sit up, and felt a pain in her head.

‘Sssh now Miss Granger, lie back down, you mustn’t try to get up yet,’ McGonagall said gently, pushing her back down onto the pillows.

But Hermione shook her head and the pain lessened. She sat up once more, feeling much clearer. ‘Professor McGonagall! What happened? Ron…My parents! Are they ok?’

The headmistress was about to answer when Mrs Weasley returned with the healer, who hurried to Hermione’s side to check her over.

‘She’s been lucky,’ she said, ‘the crack in the scull’s healed and the bruising has mostly gone. Now that she’s awake she should heal fully within the next few days.’

‘What about my parents?’ asked Hermione again.

The three adults looked at each other. Then Mrs Weasley answered.

‘Well, dear, they were both injured in the attack; your father was hit by the cruciatus curse and your mother that illegal dark spell that gashes you open. They were in a very bad state. We got them here to the hospital as soon as possible. Your father just needed rest and a calming potion to heal his shock and aches, but your mother had lost a lot of blood, dear.’

Hermione’s face turned white. ‘Is she going to be ok?’ she whispered.

The healer smiled and quickly reassured her. ‘Luckily, yes, she’ll be alright now. We healed up the wounds as best as we could, and gave her a blood-replenishing potion. She’s still feeling a bit weak and needs to rest, and will have some bad scarring on her chest, but other than that she will be absolutely fine.’

Hermione still looked shocked, but relieved all the same. ‘And Ron?’

Mrs Weasley smiled. ‘He was hit by a stunning spell as well, but unlike you had a safe landing when he hit the floor. He’s absolutely fine now, except worried about you. Hardly left your side since you were brought in!’

Hermione smiled. ‘Then where is he now?’ she asked curiously.

Mrs Weasley chuckled. ‘In the tea shop on the fifth floor with Harry and Ginny. Should be back any minute.’

She had barely finished speaking when the door to the ward burst open and the three rushed in, beaming. Hermione barely had time to acknowledge the arrival of her friends before she was engulfed in a bear hug, and from amidst the blur of short red hair heard the words:

‘Hermione! You’re awake!’

***

Professor McGonagall sat at her desk in the office that had previously been Dumbledore’s. She was pouring over one of the many stacks of papers on the desk, frowning in frustration.

‘Trouble, Minerva?’ a voice asked into the silence.

McGonagall sighed. ‘I still have to appoint a head boy, the letters must be sent out today.’

The voice chuckled. ‘Well, why is it such a problem to do that? I’d have thought it would be obvious.’

‘But Who? Surely not Potter? He’s got enough responsibility on his hands, and too much to deal with this year as you very well know. If the circumstances had been different…well he’d have the badge in a click of the finger!’

‘No, not Harry, Minerva! You think I’d suggest him after not making him a prefect for the same reasons? His responsibilities are so much more now.’

McGonagall was starting to look annoyed. ‘Well how about Ronald Weasley then? He was a prefect after all, and is a very capable student.’

This time it was her advisor’s turn to frown. ‘Yes, he would do the job adequately, and I think very high of him…but I am going to advise you not to appoint him. I think it is enough that one of Harry’s closest friends will be a head student. Imagine what it would be like for him if they both were! He’d hardly see them.’

His predecessor nodded. ‘I suppose that is true…but who else is there?’

The voice lowered and said a name very quietly.

McGonagall looked surprised. ‘Sorry?’ she asked, not quite sure if she had heard right.

But the name that had just been suggested, when announced a little louder, was exactly what she’d just heard.

***

Hundreds of school owls winged their way across the country, delivering the school letters. A large, speckled brown owl flew east to the outskirts of London, into a village sprawled out across checked fields, and to the kitchen window of a large white house.

A boy with dark brown hair and a round face sat at the table eating a bowl of cornflakes. He looked up when the owl tapped, then moved to open the window, and untied the letter from the owl’s foot. Once relieved of its letter, the owl gave a hoot and flew away.

Closing the window again, the young wizard glanced down at the parchment. Seeing it was the annual Hogwarts letter, he slit the envelope open, wondering why it was slightly fatter than usual.

His blue eyes widened in shock and his mouth dropped open in disbelief as the shiny gold badge fell out onto the table.

‘Gran!’ he called out in excitement, ‘Gran, I’m Head Boy!’ 


*** 

‘…Mr Voldemort, I must object! Under no circumstances will I wear your locket as a token of our love, as I most certainly don’t feel anything for you! You are the last man in the world I could ever love, and I am convinced that your love for me is feigned! Your cool arrogance and false charms has not helped in the slightest. You know absolutely nothing of love whatsoever, and if you think that I would love you after such a short acquaintance, then you are very much mistaken.’ Elizabeth stopped speaking, her cheeks now flushed in anger, and she threw the locket down on the table and strode haughtily towards the dining room door, leaving Voldemort feeling very angry and perplexed and disgusted that a woman could have got the better of him.

He made no effort to call her back, but took out his wand, his eyes now red and gleaming, bursting with the evil desire to cause death. However, he had no sooner pointed it at her back and prepared to say the words, ‘avada kedavra’, when some invisible force knocked the wand out of his hand. Seething, he picked it back up, and re pocketed it, remembering with regret that this was not real life, and that it was impossible for him to go around killing the characters in fiction as the Authors had set up rules on all completed books that made it quite impossible to change anything of the plot.

His anger was short lived, however, as the door opened and Lydia, Elizabeth’s youngest sister appeared in the room. ‘Oh Mr Voldemort, how kind of you to pay us a visit!’ she squealed. ‘Don’t mind Lizzie, she can be very high and mighty sometimes…Oh what a beautiful locket that is!’ She had noticed the locket, still on the table where Elizabeth had dropped it, and was in raptures over the shininess of the silver, and the beautiful ‘S’ engraved on its front.

Voldemort, taking advantage of Lydia’s attentions and naivety, was immediately all charms and smiles. ‘Well, would you like to have it, Miss Bennet? I have no need for it now, for it suits a lady better than a gentleman, and would go on your pretty neck beautifully!’

Lydia gasped in pleasure. ‘Oh Mr Voldemort, I couldn’t!’

Voldemort stepped closer to her, and held the locket out. ‘Oh but I insist,’ he said, causing her to giggle. ‘May I?’

And young, pretty, naïve Lydia Bennet allowed ‘Mr Voldemort’ to put the cool silver chain around her neck.

***

In their usual compartment at the back of the Hogwarts express, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were sat comfortably as the train gathered speed through the city of London. After a while Hermione reluctantly stood up, then took out her golden shield shaped badge out of her trunk, and pinned it lovingly to the front of her robes.

‘You look wonderful!’ commented Ron, grinning at her.

‘Thanks, Ron honey,’ she replied and kissed him on the cheek. ‘I’d better go now everyone, I’m supposed to go to the Heads' compartment at the front of the train and meet the Head Boy.’

Harry and Ginny looked up at her, interested.

‘Who is the Head Boy?’ Ginny asked curiously.

‘No idea,’ smiled Hermione. ‘It’d better not be a Slytherin though!’

She kissed Ron once more, then stood up and waved to her three friends. ‘See you in a bit!’ she called, opening the compartment door as the train began to move slowly out of the station.

‘Bye!’ they chorused together, Ron looking slightly disgruntled.

Hermione made her way down the train. The compartments were mostly empty, and the full ones crowded with groups of friends who wanted to stick close together. Not many had returned for the new school year, as could be expected, and there was a major shortage of Slytherins as far as she could see. A few of her fellow class mates hailed her as she passed, congratulating her on becoming Head Girl, but the general atmosphere was quieter than usual.

She reached the front of the train, and stopped at a door that had the words ‘Heads’ Compartment’ engraved over the doorframe. Through the tinted glass she could just make out comfy cushioned seats around a low table, and someone sitting in the corner.

Smiling, she slid the door open, ready to greet whoever was inside, and gasped at who she saw.

‘Neville!’

Her friend grinned shyly at her and stood up. ‘Hey Hermione, I thought you’d be Head Girl!’ he said warmly.

Hermione recovered from the initial shock at seeing Neville wearing the Head Boy’s badge and smiled. He wasn’t the first person that came to mind as suitable for the appointment, but now she thought about it, Neville was a good choice for the badge and thoroughly deserved it.

‘Hey!’ she said back, and hugged him. ‘Congratulations!’

***

It was strange being at Hogwarts with no white bearded, elaborately dressed, smiling Dumbledore to greet them at the start of term banquet. Professor McGonagall now sat in the throne like chair at the centre of the staff table surrounded by her fellow teachers. There was a certain subdued atmosphere to the school, although the usual buzz of voices had started up while waiting for the first years to arrive. Harry looked at the staff table, and noticed a few changes. Snape of course, was no longer there, but Slughorn had returned to teach potions again, and Hagrid sat beside him, easily noticeable by his big size. Most of the other teachers had also returned, but there were a couple of empty seats. One, presumably, for Defence Against the Dark Arts, and the other possibly for Transfiguration, as he doubted McGonagall would teach on top of her Headmistress duties.

‘D’you think they couldn’t find anyone?’ asked Ron, who was sitting beside him.

Harry knew he meant a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and shrugged. ‘Dunno, possibly…’

‘I know who it is!’ announced Ginny from on the other side of Harry.

They both turned to her. ‘Who?’

‘It’s a surprise, you’ll see soon enough!’ she answered with a sly smile.

‘Tell us!’ demanded Ron. His sister stuck her tongue out at him in reply. He was about to retort, but Hermione nudged him.

‘The first years are coming!’

Harry turned to face the main doors and grinned in surprise. The woman leading them was Tonks, complete with tomato red frizzy hair! She put out a hand to stop the thin line of first years, then walked up to the stool, knocking it slightly sideways in the process, and placed the sorting hat upon it.

Ten minutes later the twelve new students were seated at their house tables. There were four new Gryffindor’s, three Ravenclaw’s, three Hufflepuff’s, and two Slytherin’s. McGonagall stood up to welcome everybody and make announcements.

‘Hurry up,’ moaned Ron, who wasn’t listening. ‘I’m starving!’

‘…I’d like to welcome Professor Tonks, who will be taking my place this year as Transfiguration teacher and Head of Gryffindor house,’ the Headmistress announced. There was polite clapping which was most enthusiastic from those who knew her. From her place at the staff table beside Professor Flitwick, Tonks grinned and waved at Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny.

‘Lastly, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Professor Lupin will be returning to us this year to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.’

A roar of noise greeted this announcement as many of Lupin’s old fans burst into cheers and applause. Harry shared a delighted look with Ginny, who’d known all along.

Even McGonagall smiled slightly. ‘He will be joining us tomorrow in time for classes.’

‘Must have his furry little problem!’ muttered Harry.

‘Now, let the feast begin!’ announced McGonagall, sitting back down, and the plates filled with delicious, steaming food.

Harry grinned. Despite the absence of Dumbledore, it was good to be back.

***

The first week of school passed in the usual fast blur as everybody settled back into the routine and got used to new professors or new classes. Quidditch was being held this year, despite the security dangers, so Harry, who was still captain of Gryffindor, had to hold house try-outs as was expected every year. It was a great success, and he managed to keep the same players as last year, replacing only one chaser, Katie Bell, who had left Hogwarts now, with a talented fifth year who had somehow missed out on try-outs in previous years.

Despite Harry’s dislike for the Half-Blood Prince, a.k.a. Snape, he decided to retrieve the book that had earned him top of the class in potions, as he knew Slughorn would be suspicious if his work level suddenly dropped. They had had only one potions class in the first few days back in school, in which they were luckily only revising past work, and so he had no need for the book. But there was a double lesson coming up at the end of the week, and he knew he would definitely need it then. So one evening he went up to the seventh floor with Ginny to find it again, using the invisibility cloak to dodge Hermione and Neville, who were on their head boy and girl duties.

They reached the corridor, which was luckily empty, and Ginny waited while Harry walked up and down in front of the wall three times, muttering, ‘I need to get my potions book,’ over and over again. On the third walk past, a door appeared and they entered, finding themselves in the huge room packed with shelves upon shelves of hidden items from generations of Hogwarts students. While he attempted to find the book, Ginny wandered around looking at the stuff on the shelves by the door.

She was rummaging through a pile of biting Frisbees, false teeth and old bottles full of the leftovers of illegal potions, when an ancient looking, golden covered book caught her eye. It was covered in a thin layer of dust, which concealed the title, but Ginny brushed it down with the palm of her hand, and a curly lettered title was revealed.

‘The World As A Story: a theory and exploration of the Realms of Fiction, by Vevarius Kendor.’

And reading these words sent a shiver down her spine.

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