*Disclaimer- While I'd like to own all of this, I don't. So there. And please review! It doesn't take long, and it really makes me feel like writing more when I know people are actually reading. So yeah. Cheers! -Boe Harry stood in King's Cross Station, staring at Platform 9 and 3/4. “Harry?” Mrs. Weasley called. “Harry, you’re going to be late if you don’t get a move on! The train’s going to leave in a few minutes!” One way or another, Harry always managed to get to the station much later than he had originally planned, thus resulting in him scrambling to get onto the school train. However, today, the first day of his sixth year, he could not have cared less. If truth be told, he did not want to return to Hogwarts. After the past spring when he had battled in the Department of Mysteries- DON’T THINK ABOUT IT, he thought to himself- he had hated seeing people, he despised seeing anyone who stared at him and thought, “this is the great Harry Potter, who went through so much hurt and misery! And now You-Know-Who’s back, oh dear, the poor child! If only I hadn’t been a jerk and believed everything the papers told me, I’m so horrible! Boo hoo! Meh meh meh!” and he much preferred remaining by himself, trying to come to terms with the death of his godfather, Sirius Black. The thought of going back to school and walking through the halls, seeing everyone stare at him and try to ask him about Voldemort in their irritating, blunt ways was more than he could bear. “Harry?” He looked up into the tired, lined face of Remus Lupin, a member of the Order of the Phoenix who had known Harry for years. “Harry, are you alright?” “Fine,” Harry automatically answered, moving to push his trolley through the barrier. Lupin held him gently back. Ever since the debacle last spring, Lupin had been much quieter, had laughed a lot less, and had kept pretty much to himself. “Harry, if you need someone to talk to, you know that I’m here, alright?” Surprised, Harry nodded. Squaring his shoulders, he walked through the barrier onto Platform 9 and 3/4, taking a deep breath as the squabbling of students reached his ears. Looking around, he went to follow his friends Ron, his little sister Ginny, and Hermione, who were, at the moment, still with the rest of the Weasley family. Mrs. Weasley gave them all hugs, and when she got to Harry, her eyes softened into a look of what Harry interpreted as pity. Clenching his jaw, he just nodded when Mrs. Weasley said, “Take care of yourself, won’t you, Harry dear?” Mr. Weasley also hugged them all, and then quietly said to Harry, “If anything fishy this year happens, anything at all, you tell us right away, you got that?” “Yeah,” Harry replied. “Yeah, I got it.” They hastily said goodbye to the other people there- Lupin, Mad-Eye Moody, and the auror Tonks. Then, they dragged their heavy trunks onto the train, panting with the effort. “Come on, let’s find a compartment,” Hermione said. They set off, opening door after door, but they all seemed to be full until they reached one towards the back of the train. For once, there was nobody in it. They set their things down and flopped onto the seats. “Sixth year,” Ron said, more to himself than to the others. “Can you believe it’s already sixth year?” “Hard to imagine, isn’t it?” Hermione replied. “Only yesterday we were here for the first time-” “And you were that obnoxious little girl that I couldn’t stand-” Ron cut in, grinning. Hermione scowled. “And you were that opinionated, egotistical brat- oh wait, you still are-” “HEY!” Harry smiled. “You guys have both changed a lot.” “So have you,” Hermione said. Harry could immediately tell that she was placing a lot of emphasis on those words. Sighing, Harry resigned himself to gazing out of the window as Ron and Hermione kept bickering, wondering what new troubles were waiting to fall onto his head at school. ************* The Welcoming Feast was not as it always was. The teachers were quietly whispering to each other, grave looks on their faces. The new DADA teacher was not anyone that Harry recognized. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, who usually had a twinkle in his eye and a smile dancing on his face, was uncharacteristically somber as he stared at his students. They ate their food without so much as a word from the teachers besides “Eat up, everyone!”, but as the dessert faded from their plates to leave them crystal-clean once more, Dumbledore stood up. “The beginning,” he said, “Of another year. A year destined to be full of triumphs and failures, of new friendships and betrayals, and of disillusionment and disappointment.” The students all looked at each other, arching their eyebrows. “While this year heralds the oncoming of a dark and treacherous time, I beg all of you to stand strong, for as you all know, in this upcoming battle, we all need to remain steadfast and united.” Dumbledore’s eyes flickered to Harry, who was numbly staring at the table. “New students should note...” Harry tuned out of the speech at that point. Unwelcome thoughts were racing around his head... memories that he had been trying to bar from consciousness for months now. However, he dreaded going to sleep that night. He knew that he would wake up in the darkness, his heart thumping madly as he tried to grab ahold of Sirius and save him, and instead grasping only air. He fell back to Earth as he realized Dumbledore was finishing his speech. He gravely stared around at them all, and then quietly said, “I know what you all have heard. I can only guess what rumors are flying about at this point. However, I ask you... take my words to heart. Stand together. Now, off to bed!” Automatically, Harry stood up. He walked after Ron and Hermione, who were yelling at the first years to follow them, and headed up to Gryffindor Tower. “First years!” Hermione called. “First years, follow me!” “You heard the girl, shorty!” Ron snapped at an impish-looking first year who stared at him in terror. “Get moving!” “RON!” “Sorry, Hermione...” After bidding Hermione goodnight, Ron and Harry trudged up to their dormitory. “In a right state, isn’t he?” Ron commented, and Harry immediately knew he was referring to Dumbledore. “Yeah,” Harry replied. “Didn’t exactly look too happy, did he?” “Nope,” Ron said. “It’s something Trelawney would love, wouldn’t she?” Harry looked at him. Professor Trelawney, the Divination teacher, was known for her love of horrible news and prophecies. “What do you mean?” “I mean she’s going to have a field day in class, now that everyone believes you and all. We’ll be seeing about seven death predictions a day. Look at how miserable the years have turned out when Dumbledore looked HAPPY at the start of term! Now he looks so upset that I’d bet anything that something’s going to happen in the first week.” “Yay,” Harry sarcastically retorted. “Lovely.” “You know I didn’t mean it that way, Harry,” Ron said. They climbed into their four-poster beds. They said goodnight, and when the lights were turned off, Harry rolled onto his back, staring into the darkness. Was Ron right? Would something happen with Dumbledore looking so worried? It had to mean something... maybe Voldemort was quickly on the rise and was even more threatening than he had been before. Maybe he had something else planned... Firmly closing his eyes, Harry fell into a troubled sleep, dreaming of a towering Arch that was a black hole, sucking his parents, Sirius, Ron, Hermione, everyone he knew, into a crushing, black oblivion... *********** After yet another night of restless sleep, Harry pulled on his robes, brushed his teeth, and headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Hermione and Ron were waiting for him, and Ron was holding what looked like Harry’s schedule while he shoveled down incredible amounts of bacon. “Here you go, Harry,” Ron said, passing it to him. Harry stared at Ron, grinning. “Ron, you’ve eaten two plates of bacon.” “I’m a growing lad,” he retorted. Harry glanced at his schedule, still confused over the results of the previous year’s O.W.L.s. Somehow, he had managed to get an “Exceeds Expectations” in both Transfiguration AND Potions, something he had most definitely not been prepared for. He had gotten the requirements for the classes he needed to be an Auror. The question of “how” was still a mystery, as he had been half-unconscious at the time of taking the exams. Nevertheless, he wasn’t about to complain. “Hey, Hermione, how many classes do Ron and I still have with you?” Harry asked, for Ron had also managed to scrape through to get the Auror requirements. Hermione furrowed her brows, examining her schedule. “Um... well, Potions, Transfiguration, Charms... mostly all of the same ones.” “Excellent,” Ron exclaimed. He turned to Harry. “You know, if it wasn’t for the fact I really want to be an Auror, I’d wonder what the bloody hell I was thinking... voluntarily taking Snape’s class. AGAIN.” “I know,” Harry replied. “I almost died when McGonagall told me that was a class an Auror needed. I don’t think I can stand him for two more years, honestly.” Just then, the Owl Post came. Hermione craned her head around, staring for her usual “Daily Prophet” owl, which came swiftly. Harry did not bother looking up, because he knew that Hedwig was sleeping in the Owlery anyways. With Sirius- STOP THINKING ABOUT IT, he thought- with... his last Non-Hogwarts contact gone, there was nobody he really cared to write to, save for the Order, or possibly Remus Lupin. Hermione grabbed her paper, thanked the owl, and then tore it open and began reading almost feverishly. “Uh, Hermione?” Ron slowly asked. “Why do you look so freaky when you read?” “Because nothing’s been happening,” she snapped back. “Now that the Ministry knows Voldemort- oh, GOD, Ron, I thought you’d grown out of that- now that they know he’s back, I thought for sure the war would start up fast. But he hasn’t done anything.” Then, she stopped, her eyes resting suspiciously on one article. “What is it?” Harry immediately asked. Hermione read aloud- MINISTRY WORKER CONTRACTS STRANGE DISEASE Department of Magical Catastrophes Director Mitchell Dorian Flagnahue was transported to St. Mungos late last night after collapsing during work hours. The Department had been working on their new, top-secret project when Flagnahue began coughing and choking. As nobody could do anything for him, Flagnahue, who was by then coughing up blood, fell to the floor. Whether or not this is due to the Department’s new project or the mysterious disease remains to be seen, as St. Mungos healers are still baffled. The worries surrounding this new illness, which as of now is unnamed since nobody has ever seen the likes of it before, are now escalating, as a cure has yet to be found. “They’re still baffled?” Harry mused. Hermione looked up. “I’ve been reading this all summer... this would be the seventh case of someone getting this disease.” She frowned. “The effects are horrible... they wouldn’t even publish all of them, but they’re coughing up blood, eyes filming over, skin inflaming-” “Hermione!” Ron exclaimed. “Some of us are TRYING to eat!” “Sorry! Harry asked!” “No, I didn’t!” “I wonder what it is, though?” Ron asked. “Dad told me, it’s only Ministry workers who are getting it. Mum’s made him use the Bubble-Head charm at work. Everyone’s doing it.” Harry looked up at the Staff table. Dumbledore was also reading the newspaper, and while his face remained neutral, Harry could see the horror in his eyes as he read the same article that Hermione was reading. “Look at Dumbledore,” Harry quietly said. Hermione and Ron both looked up, and Ron looked confused. “Why’s he look so worried?” “Does he know Mitchell?” Hermione asked. Ron, however, was screwing up his face in concentration, as though trying to remember something. “Mitchell...” he repeated. “Mitchell...” “What?” Harry asked. “Trying to see if I heard Dad or someone mention him...” “Oh no!” Hermione exclaimed. “Come on, we’re going to be late for class!” She stuffed the newspaper into her bag and jumped up, Ron and Harry following. “What’s our first class?” “Transfiguration,” Harry groaned. “Great, first thing in the morning...” With that they ran out of the Great Hall, Hermione fretting about class, Ron still trying to remember something that the other two had no clue of, and Harry trying to understand the look on the headmaster’s face. ************* As Harry Potter ran to class, many miles away something was slowly transpiring. In an old house, in a high, straight-backed chair sat something that used to be a man, and now simply was. He drummed his abnormally long, white fingers on the armrest of his chair, staring down at the man kneeling before him. This game, which had taken so long to create, would get boring soon. That he knew. However, at the moment, the foolish Ministry was breathing down his neck and he could not operate in the open without starting an all-out battle royale. So, he did what he did best... worked in secret. And while he was playing this game, he would use every aspect of it to his advantage. “Is it all prepared, Lucius?” he asked, his thin voice high and cold. Below him, Lucius Malfoy shivered. “Yes, my Lord. The newest batch is ready.” “And you will be bringing him here tonight?” “As soon as I can. I told that idiot Dumbledore that I was having a family reunion and I needed to take Draco home for the weekend.” “A weak excuse, but I do not doubt he believed it.” Voldemort sat up straighter in his chair. “Bring him here. Tonight. He will not make a fuss, I presume?” “Never, my Lord. He knows his place.” “Good,” Voldemort hissed. “Good... this pleases me, Lucius. You may go.” Trying to hide the fact that he was all too pleased to leave, Malfoy got to his feet, bowed, and strode out of the room. Voldemort stood and slowly walked to the window. Below him was a sweeping landscape, rural and wild. Scotland had never suited him before, but now that he and his Death Eaters were brewing something, it somehow seemed more satisfying than before. Black clouds were forming in the sky. “So, Harry Potter,” he quietly hissed, “You think that you can just keep escaping, do you not? Not with this, dear boy, not with what my Death Eaters have planned... for while you keep running, your friends remain unprotected and unaware of their danger... I shall have my revenge on you, foolish boy. And it shall be sweet.” Voldemort smiled and turned away from the window. ******** Harry, who was sitting in Transfiguration, felt his scar prickle irritatingly. Rubbing it, he tried to listen as Professor McGonagall explained Human Transfiguration. However, the prickling grew more insistent, until it felt as though someone was running a knife along his scar. “Is there a problem, Mr. Potter?” McGonagall suddenly asked. Harry shook his head, trying to get rid of the stars winking cheekily at him. “No, Professor... nothing.”
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