Disclaimer – I solemnly swear that JKR owns everything Harry Potter. Whether or not I am up to no good with her characters is for you to decide.
Author's Note:This story, The Fourth School, follows Harry, Hermione and co.'s fourth year of magical education. Please note that The Fourth School follows on from their first year in The Cupboard Under the Stairs, their second year chronicled in Hermione's Book Nook,and their third year in Potter Haven. I caution you that without having read the three previous stories, some of this story may not make sense. Enjoy.
The Fourth School
Harry Potter, boy wizard and no longer student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, shuffled deeper into the shadow of the pillar that he was standing beside. It wasn't that he was hiding so much that he was trying not to be noticed. But when you're classed as a celebrity in the wizard world with a ridiculous hyphenated name, it's generally best to stay out of the spotlight.
Not that he ever could really seem to manage it.
Take the past year for example. It started out with him being called a hero, one of the greatest wizards alive and being praised in every wizarding home, business and newspaper, all because he'd managed to get lucky and survive being kidnapped and murdered. Of course, that actually entailed fighting and then killing a sixty foot long basilisk that had been roaming the halls of Hogwarts, petrifying students and staff (if Filch, the caretaker, and his cat, could be classed as such) alike.
And then, within the space of a week, everything changed. And it was here, less than fifty metres away where it all happened. Exactly one year ago today.
That was when he, along with his classmates, had returned from their year away at the castle in Scotland, arriving at King's Cross Station in London. He'd passed through the barrier that led from the magical platform into the muggle side of the station and, after greeting a few parents and friends, he'd pulled Hermione, his best friend in the entire world, aside for a private conversation. Not that it'd stayed that way.
No. Before they could finish and he could tell her … what he'd wanted to, they'd been interrupted by Albus Dumbledore, their Headmaster. Apparently, he was there to take Harry back to his relatives for the summer holiday. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but when you've cast a magical vow stating that you'd rather lose your magic than every spend a single night with said relatives, as Harry had done nearly a year previously, it was a big problem.
As a consequence, Harry's magic had reacted. Violently. It'd erupted in such a way as to knock everyone around him to the floor and to send Dumbledore crashing into the nearest concrete pillar, knocking him unconscious in the process. Seeing what he'd caused and knowing that he'd not only performed underage magic but in the presence of muggles to boot, he'd understandably panicked and fled.
That had led to an eight month time where he was in hiding and the wizarding world, or more precisely, the Ministry of Magic, was hunting for him and calling for him to be arrested and to have his wand snapped and his magic bound. Understandably, Harry'd ignored their directives to turn himself in.
Instead, he'd gone to the one place that he knew that he'd be safe: Potter Haven.
Potter Haven, the valley that he owned in southern Scotland, had been set up as a retreat, a place where he could stay undetected and continue his magical education by himself. It had the best goblin wards that money could buy, augmented by the ones that Dobby, his house-elf, could add to them. The manor was vast, with ten bedrooms, a series of classrooms, a potion lab, a massive, two-storied library and even had a telescope in the retractable roof. Greenhouses and a massive domed area set aside on the grounds to contain magical animals ensured that he could cover every topic that he wanted to learn.
It'd taken six months before anyone had even found out where he was hiding and even that was a complete fluke. Colin Creevey, his friend from Hogwarts, had inadvertently stumbled upon his location when his parents had taken him and his brother on a tour of Scotland for Christmas. That had inevitably led to him telling his best friends, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom, who in turn shared the secret with his other closest friends.
The group of twelve had surprised Harry by sneaking away from the castle on a Hogsmeade weekend to visit him and to spend the day with him. As startled and initially angry as he was, Harry simply couldn't deny how happy seeing them all again made him. That's why he agreed to a second clandestine meeting the following month.
Unfortunately, this one went a little differently. They'd been followed by Lucius Malfoy, the uppity Lord who once owned and severely mistreated Dobby. In order to give his friends time to get back to Hogwarts, Harry had engaged Malfoy in a duel. As outclassed as he was, Harry found that he was able to distract the man well enough, that was until Malfoy targeted Dobby with a killing curse. In his panic to save his friend, Harry did the only thing that he could think of – he dove in the way of the killing green beam of light, pushed Dobby out of the way and took the hit himself.
That, of course, led to his death. And, after a short talk with his parents in what he guessed was some Limbo-like state, he came back to life.
Malfoy, of course, got away, while Harry was arrested by the DMLE who'd responded to the magical discharges that they'd detected and was on-hand to witness the end of the 'battle'.
Less than two weeks later, he was put on trial. Because of that vow that he'd made, combined with the fact that the King's Cross Incident was instigated by Dumbledore, Harry was found not guilty. Ignoring the directives to surrender himself to the DMLE, though, was a completely different matter. As was the fact that he'd been truant from formal education for so long. By the time that the Wizengamot had finished with him, he'd been fined nearly twenty thousand galleons.
And he was back to being the darling of the wizarding world again. Even his hyphenated name was added to. Now, he was The-Boy-Who-Lived-Again. Plus, the newspapers had decided that the villain of the day was the Minister for Magic himself. Fining an under-aged wizard such a ridiculous amount and threatening said boy to gaol time if he failed to pay was not kosher as far as the wizarding population was concerned.
How Cornelius Fudge had survived the vote of no confidence against him a month later was anyone's guess. All that could be said was that he managed to scrape over the line by a single vote. And since then, he'd been doing his utmost to keep his head down and not doing anything to attract any hint of negative publicity onto himself.
Harry, too, had done all that he could to avoid the spotlight, thus why he was currently secluded from view behind the pillar on Platform Nine and Three Quarters waiting for the Hogwarts Express and his friends to arrive – friends that he hadn't seen for more than three months.
Peeking around the pillar, Harry swept his eyes over the platform. He'd never seen it like this before, filled with only parents, the occasional grandparent and the younger siblings of his classmates.
They were clumped together, not unlike their children would be gathered around their friends. Some were talking animatedly, gesturing wildly around them with their hands; others had their heads bent together, speaking in hushed tones. One or two stood off to the side by themselves. But the one thing that they all seemed to have in common was the fact that every couple of seconds, a head would turn to look towards the left, directly towards the direction that the Hogwarts Express was to come.
As he looked, Harry began picking out faces that he knew: there was Madam Longbottom, her ramrod straight back making her tall, vulture topped hat stand out even more prominently above the crowd; there, chuckling together in a small group was Cyrus Greengrass with his wife, Penelope, and a tall, thin man with a close cropped light brown beard; and standing off by himself, looking up into a corner of the platform with the most intense expression that Harry'd ever seen on the man, was Xenophilius Lovegood.
Glancing down at his watch, Harry noted that it was almost exactly five o'clock. As though that was the cue that it'd been waiting for, a clattering rumble of an approaching locomotive heralded the arrival of the train that everyone was waiting for.
Harry saw smiles break out on dozens and dozens of faces as the great scarlet engine materialised into view. Parents began waving as the first of the passenger carriages came level with the end of the platform and the young ones waiting for their siblings began to run along, keeping pace with the train.
Heads and arms began to appear from the windows and doors of the Express itself, waving and laughing and calling out to the ones waiting for them. Mostly, Harry noted, this behaviour was confined to the first and second year Hogwarts students. He smiled wistfully at it, daring to dream for a second of what it must be like to have a parent waiting to welcome you home.
As the train came to a stop, it released great gusts of steam, allowing the light grey cloud to billow throughout the platform, burying everyone to their knees.
Harry's eyes roved over the train doors slamming open as he eagerly searched for the ones that he'd been waiting for.
The dirty blonde locks of Luna Lovegood was the first that he saw. She'd paused momentarily in the doorway, her head turning this way and that until, with a grin so wide that it threatened to split her face in two, she hopped down and began skipping off in the direction of her father.
Harry was in two minds. He could either follow Luna or he could wait until he saw the one who he was most eager to see. With a sigh, he decided to use his fame to his advantage for once. It took only three steps towards Luna and Xeno before the whispers started up.
"Is that Harry Potter?"
Ignoring them all, Harry kept his face fixed on his goal.
As tempting as it was, he ignored the cries coming from all around him but they did have the effect that he was hoping for. Long before he'd reached them, word of his approach turned Luna's head around. And then, with the loudest, most piercing squeal that he'd ever heard her use, she bounced through the crowd and jumped into his arms.
"Harry! Why didn't you tell us that you'd be here?" she asked, pulling back to stare at him with her large grey eyes seeming to see directly into his soul.
"I wanted to surprise you all," he smiled.
Grabbing onto his hand, Luna tugged him back towards her father.
"Hello, Harry. Still no crumple-horned snorkacks in your hidden place?" Xenophilius greeted.
"Daddy! You know that crumple-horned snorkacks love heat and there're no volcanos anywhere near Potter Haven," Luna interjected.
"Of course, my apologies, Harry," Xeno replied with a small bow.
Just as he was placing his hand into his pocket, Harry felt himself hit from behind by what felt like two big bodies.
"Old boy …"
"Old chum …
"What brings you here …
"To this lovely place?"
"Would you two hooligans let me go?" Harry asked, trying to squirm out from under the arms of Fred and George Weasley who were continuing to ruffle his hair.
"The-Boy-Who-Lived-Again has spoken," one intoned solemnly.
"We must obey," the other agreed before both stepped back.
Harry looked up at their identical grins. "It's good to see you two as well."
Hearing his name, he turned to find a group of girls advancing on him.
"Hi," he managed before he was engulfed in the first hug.
Susan, who'd he'd managed to briefly recognise before she'd grabbed him, deftly passed him along to Hannah, who passed him on to Lil, who then spun him around until Tracey and Fiona gave him a three-way hug before he finished up with Daphne.
Eyes whirling a bit at the way that he'd just been tossed around from arm to arm, Harry smiled at the group.
"I take it you guys missed me?" he asked.
"Of course, we did, Harry," Hannah told him.
"But don't think that we've forgiven you yet for not coming back to Hogwarts," Daphne groused, only the twitch at the corners of her mouth indicating that she wasn't serious.
"Or for taking us away with you instead," Lil added.
"Speaking of which," Harry said, once again putting his hand into his pocket, "I've got something for each of you."
He'd managed to get the pile of cream coloured envelopes out of the pocket of his robe before he found himself blinded by a flash of light.
"Colin! What have I told you about taking pictures of people without asking?" Harry blinked.
"Sorry, Harry," the younger boy replied, not sounding apologetic in the slightest.
"Here, guys," Harry said as he began handing out envelopes according to the name on the front.
Fred and George, predictably, were the first to rip theirs open.
You are invited to an end of term party.
Where: Potter Haven
When: Saturday July 2, 1994
Time: 10am til Late
Bring: your bathing gear (the loch is lovely this time of year)
This invitation will act as a two-way portkey, taking you and your family to Potter Haven
and returning you to the place you left at a second tap of your wand.
"Wow, Harry, this sounds like fun!" Lil grinned.
"And it's for our families as well? You mean I have to bring Astoria?" Daphne asked.
Harry grinned back at her. "Well, that's up to your parents, I suppose. I thought that it'd be nice to catch up and you can spend time at the manor without worrying about getting back to school undetected."
"You better have one of those invites for us," a voice stated from behind him.
Spinning around, Harry found the two who he'd been most looking forward to seeing standing there. Neville was smiling broadly at him before looking pointedly at the envelopes the other's hands.
"Sure, Nev," Harry replied, "here you go."
Somewhere between handing it to him, Harry and Neville ended up quickly embracing and patting each other on the back.
"It's good to see you, Harry," Neville said, stepping back and beginning to open his invitation.
"You too, mate," Harry replied and then his eyes turned to the one standing beside him. "Hey, Hermione."
Her chocolate coloured eyes were shining brightly at him with a distinctive sheen to them that he thought meant that she was about to cry. Instead, she launched herself at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his body as though she was trying to squeeze the life out of him.
"I missed you too, Hermione," he whispered into her ear, making her arms tighten even more, a feat that he didn't think was possible.
Finally, after the snickering of their friends began to register, they let go, although Hermione only ventured to his side, standing close enough to ensure that their shoulders remained in contact.
"Here you go, Hermione," Harry said, handing over the last envelope.
"Thank you, Harry," she beamed, making her front teeth protrude slightly from her mouth.
"We'd be delighted to come, Harry," Luna said, waving a hand at her father.
"Us, too. We'll see you Saturday," Fred and George replied, although Harry noticed that their invitation disappeared before they waved the group farewell and went to join the cluster of red-heads a little way down the platform.
"I'm sure my parents and my brother, Dennis, would love to come, too," Colin chirped.
"We'll be there," chorused most of the group around him.
"Perhaps I can drown Astoria in the loch," Daphne mused as she eyed her sister and parents ambling up the platform towards them.
"I'm sorry, Daphne, it's no good," Tracey laughed, "you simply can't fool us. We all know how much you love your sister. Even if she is a pest at times."
With a sniff of annoyance, Daphne winked at Harry before putting her nose in the air and stalking away from her best friend. Tracey, of course, humphed before turning to follow her.
"You've invited everyone who came to Potter Haven to see you?" Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. "And their families. And Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick and Remus. They all helped me with my studies this year, so I thought that it'd only be fair to show them where I've been doing my learning."
Hermione nodded. "Will anyone else be there?"
"Sirius, of course, and Beth and Mickey if she can get someone to watch Hermione's Book Nook for the day," he replied.
"Sounds like quite a crowd," she remarked.
"Yeah," he grinned back. "Should be heaps of fun."
"Do you want to come with me to see my parents? They'll be just outside the portal," Hermione offered.
Harry eyed the crowd that still lingered on the platform warily. There was no way that he wanted to go through that unless he really had to.
"I think I'll pass. I'll see them on Saturday, but say 'hi' to them for me," he replied.
Taking out his wand and a small stone from his pocket, Harry made ready to touch them together.
"It was really good to see you again, Hermione," he said.
He watched as she momentarily seemed indecisive, biting her bottom lip as she thought. Then, moving faster than he thought was possible, she lifted up to her toes and pecked him on the cheek with her lips. It was so unexpected that Harry accidentally let his wand tip droop. Right onto the stone. And, with a feeling like being hooked behind his navel with a giant fish hook, was whisked away home.