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 treacle tart, 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.
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