Chapter Twenty-Four


Next morning, Harry awoke late, and in a cheerful sort of daze. He stretched lazily, his eyes still closed, head still buried in the pillow. His mind's eye was replaying the events of the last forty-eight hours.

He recalled with a sleepy smile his performances with his roommates, and then his fellow Captains. Then he remembered the chats with Draco on the Main Staircase, and then in Snape's classroom. And finally, his smile spread wide across his face as he relived the awards ceremony from the night before, ending in his winning not one, but two trips, one to London and one to wherever he and his newfound friends chose. And that huge grin of Draco's danced before him. The grin directed at him. Harry sighed contentedly, rolled onto his back, and stretched again. He sat up, yawning and finally opened his eyes to look around the room.

It seemed he was the last of his roommates to rise that morning. Harry glanced at his watch and saw it was nearly eleven. Startled, he hopped out of bed and began getting dressed and ready for his day. He grinned as he did so, knowing that in a couple short hours, he, Draco, Terry, and Ernie would be planning their big trip. The excitement this thought brought him made Harry get dressed even faster.

After lunch, Harry stood and bid Ron and Hermione a good afternoon, saying that he'd see them after everything for his trip with the Captains was set.

Harry met Draco at the doors to the Great Hall and smiled warmly at the Slytherin. "Hey."

"Afternoon, Potter." Draco inclined his head, a smile in his eyes.

"We're back to surnames again, hmm?" Harry smirked as he opened the door and motioned Draco through.

Draco nodded in thanks. "Old habits die hard, I guess. Also, we've not actually agreed on the use of given names. I wouldn't dare assume. But if that's the way you'd like things, I wouldn't be adverse to it." He shrugged as the two of them moved off toward the Library. Harry grinned. "Draco it is, then."

Draco nodded again, looking quite lost in thought. They moved in silence for a while. Eventually, Harry's nosy side got the best of him. "What're you thinking about?"

Draco shook himself out of his reverie and glanced sideways at Harry. "Just… We've got quite the story, you and me. Quite the history."

Harry nodded. "That's true. Who would've thought that the bratty little boy I met at Madam Malkin's that reminded me of my jack-arse cousin Dudley would turn out to be not too bad and, in fact, a friend of mine?"

Draco raised an eyebrow. " 'Bratty little boy,' hmm?" He smirked. "I didn't think you'd remember that."

Harry glanced over at Draco as they walked. "Of course I remember. You were the very first kid that I met that was a wizard like me." Harry's lips twitched at the corners for a second. "But, like I said. You were just like my cousin. I was just praying that not all wizards were as impossible as you."

Draco made a face at Harry. "How was I supposed to know that you were not only raised by Muggles, but you were the Harry Potter. I'm sure I would've been at least slightly more tolerable."

Harry laughed outright then. "I'm sure."

They reached the Library then. Draco pulled the door open for Harry. Harry gave Draco a lopsided grin and stepped into the Library.

When Harry and Draco walked into the Quidditch section of the Library, Terry was already waiting. Though, if the boys hadn't known any better, they would have thought he was studying. He was so engrossed in the book he had in his hands that he didn't notice Draco and Harry sit down across the table from him. Draco had to kick his shin under the table to pull the Ravenclaw's nose out of the book.

Before he got the chance to tell off whoever it was that kicked him, Terry looked up and realized who it was. His face looked as though it was trying to figure out whether he wanted to grin or grimace. "Ouch," he muttered, rubbing his shin. Then he looked around. "Where's Ernie?"

"Right here, mate. Right here," Ernie said, hurrying up to the table. " 'Ello, chaps! How goes it?" The other three answered with vague responses along the lines of 'just fine.' "Good, good." He pulled out the chair facing Harry and next to Terry and sat down. "So, gents, where're we off to? Any ideas?" He grinned around at the others.

Harry shrugged. "I'm up for just about anything. Just, no London. I think we've all been to Diagon Alley enough, don't you?"

Draco nodded. "Besides, you and I are already off to London ourselves."

"I agree." Terry glanced around at the others. "Let's just agree now… Nowhere in England or Ireland or Wales, okay? No United Kingdom at all. Yeah?" The rest nodded in agreement. "Right," he continued. "We've got that settled. So where will we be going then?"

"Well, we could go to France, or Germany… Italy…" Ernie was ticking off a finger for every country he mentioned. "The States. Spain…" He switched his attention to the other hand and was about to start in on more countries when Harry leaned forward and clapped a hand over Ernie's.

"Enough," said Harry, releasing Ernie's hands. "I think we get the point. How about we do it this way… Do any of you know another language? I don't know anything more than English myself. The Muggle school I went to didn't teach us anything." He looked at his fellow Captains. Ernie shook his head.

"I know a few choice French words, but that's about all," said Terry, grinning sheepishly. "I don't much think being able to call a French man an ugly old bastard would really help us get around France much."

The others laughed. Then Harry looked at Draco, who had gone a bit quiet. Draco glanced back, turning slightly pink under Harry's gaze. He muttered something, looking down at his hands. Harry leaned closer and asked softly, "Could you repeat that, please?"

Draco sighed, flushed more, and spoke up. "I'm fluent in French and Italian. My father forced me to learn them."

Harry threw an arm around Draco's shoulders and grinned at Terry and Ernie. "Well, it looks like our choices have been narrowed down considerably…" Harry smirked. "Unless we all want to learn a language from scratch." He looked over at Draco. "Would you mind tutoring the three of us in basic French or Italian, mate?"

Draco looked at Ernie's and Terry's enthusiastic faces, and then at Harry's. "Well, er-" He looked at Harry again. How could he resist that look on Harry's face. "I- Well, I guess so…" He bit his lip. Then he sighed. "What the hell. Why not." Terry, Ernie, and Harry cheered, and were shushed quickly by a grumpy Madam Pince. They quieted down, and Harry, his arm still around Draco, squeezed Draco's shoulder briefly and then dropped his arm. "So." He grinned again. "Where to?"

Ernie leaned forward. "I've heard Venice and Naples are fabulous and all, but Pompeii. I've heard Pompeii is just incredible. Everybody who's anybody in the magical part of Italy goes to Pompeii. Plus," Ernie paused for effect. "It's not too far from Rome. Maybe a couple hours' ride. And you know what's in Rome?"

"Loads of things," said Terry shrugging. But Draco was sitting forward anxiously.

"The Coliseum!" he cried excitedly. He turned to Harry and grabbed his forearm. "It's where the Italian Quidditch team plays!"

"Exactly!" crowed Ernie excitedly.

Harry was staring back and forth between Draco and Ernie, trying to concentrate on the conversation they were having, and not the tingling skin where Draco's hand was still resting. "Wait- but… Pompeii? That's the city that was destroyed centuries ago, isn't it? All the place is, is rubble- Isn't it?" Harry turned a questioning gaze toward Draco. "How can that be a big wizard city, unless-"

Draco nodded. "A Concealment Charm. An incredibly strong one. An incredibly old one. Plus Muggle Repelling Charms, and things like that."

"Okay, but- What about the Coliseum, though!" Harry was still a bit thrown from the revelation that Pompeii wasn't more than a few piles of rubble. "It's been a crumbled-down mess for hundreds of years… how can it-"

But Terry was nodding enthusiastically. "You're thinking like a Muggle, mate! The Romans knew how to build things. I mean, just look at the tower at Pisa. Don't think that's just held up by sheer architectural genius, do you?"

Harry still looked incredulous, but he laughed. "Wow. I've never thought of that." He chuckled again.

"Anyway," said Ernie, turning their attentions back to their trip. "If we time it right, we could go see a game… Maybe even England or Ireland or someone." The other three were nodding, excited again.

"Sounds great, Ernie," Terry said with a grin, clapping Ernie on the back.

"Great idea," said Harry. "So when are we going to go?"

"I think we've got to discuss our trip with Dumbledore. Tell him where we want to go and all that. Then he'll probably tell us when we can go," said Draco, a thoughtful look on his face for the second time that afternoon. "I wonder…"

"What, Draco?" asked Harry, cocking his head to the side.

"Well," Draco started, "I was just wondering. Are there going to be chaperones, or are they going to just set four teenagers loose in a foreign country?"

Terry scratched the back of his head. "I guess that's another thing we need to ask Dumbledore."

Everyone nodded. Harry stood up. "Well. What are we waiting for? Let's go have a spot of tea with the headmaster."

Terry, Draco, and Ernie grinned up at him, and then each rose to his feet.

"Let's go," said Ernie.

Terry patted Harry on the back. "Good idea."

Draco grinned. "Lead the way, Oh Holy Potter."

Harry pulled a face at Draco. But then they all laughed and walked out of the Library, chatting loudly and gaining another nasty glare from Madam Pince as they passed the front desk.

"Pompeii. An excellent choice, gentlemen." Dumbledore smiled at them all, the old familiar twinkle in his eye as usual. "A favorite spot of mine..."

"Yes, sir." Harry jumped in, hoping to catch him before he started reminiscing about some trip of other. "We've got a few questions, if that's all right."

"Go right ahead." Dumbledore relaxed into his chair, taking his tea with him.

"First thing," started Draco, glancing at the other boys, "Are we going to have chaperones with us, or are we going to be on our own?"

The headmaster sat quietly for a moment, obviously thinking through his answer before he gave it. Finally, after a dozen sips of his tea- yes, Harry counted- Dumbledore responded. "I believe that I speak for most of your professors when I say that we are impressed and proud of you four for your maturity, and for the courage to stand together without being asked. That effort on your parts has gained you the respect of your fellow students, your professors, and me." He took another sip of his tea- number thirteen... Harry was worried that all this was precursor to a "but," and frowned, impatient. "All that being said," Dumbledore continued, "we have all agreed that the four of you should probably be safe together, without chaperones."

Four grins shone at Dumbledore, one from each boy's face, and they all let out celebratory whoops of joy. Dumbledore smiled back warmly, holding up a hand to calm them. "If I might finish..." The boys quieted down, hoping their bubbles weren't about to be burst by the headmaster. "You will be without chaperone, but not without contact with your professors. Each of you are to be in contact with your Heads of House every day of your trip. Your Heads of House have agreed on allowing you to firechat with them either once you rise and are about to begin your day, or before you retire for the night. This is to ensure your safety for our own consciences and for your parents' piece of mind. If you all of you do not happen to contact your respective House Heads, they are likely to show up when you least expect it, and I am quite sure that if they have to Apparate all the way to Italy, they are not going to be all that pleased with you."

The boys glanced at each other and grinned. That wasn't a problem. A firechat apiece daily, and no chaperones? They were ecstatic. Draco nodded, a grin wide across his face. "That sounds acceptable."

Dumbledore chuckled. "Glad to hear it. Any other questions?"

Ernie spoke up. "Yeah- D'you think we might be able to go at a time when we could stop at the Coliseum for a Quidditch match?"

Dumbledore smiled. "I believe that could be arranged."

The boys grinned around at each other again. This was going to be one fabulous trip. Harry sat forward in his seat, eager for the trip. There was one last thing...

"So, sir," started Terry, reading Harry's mind. "When can we go?"

Dumbledore chuckled again. "Whenever you please, gentlemen. As long as it does not interfere with your studies, you can go any time. I suggest you acquire tickets to a match and plan your trip around that." He took another sip from his teacup and smiled at them. "Anything more?"

"No, I don't believe so, sir," said Harry, glancing at the others for confirmation. There were shrugs and heads shaking, so Harry took that to mean they were finished. "I think we're set for now."

"Well then. Why don't you go and enjoy the rest of your Sunday afternoon?" He smiled and finished off his tea.

Terry, Ernie, Draco, and Harry took that as their sign to go, and all four of them stood and made their way out of the office. They all went their separate ways once they arrived at the Entrance Hall. Before they left, Draco caught Harry by the arm.

"Hey, Harry..." He smiled at Harry and Harry grinned back, turning to face him.

"What can I do for you?" Harry tipped his head to the side, curious.

"We've still got our trip to plan," Draco reminded him.

Harry snapped his fingers and pointed at Draco, just remembering about their own trip. "Yes! That's right! When do you want to?"

Draco checked his watch and then shrugged. "After dinner?"

Harry checked his own watch. Almost dinner time. "Sure. Sounds good. Meet at the doors to the Great Hall like we did after lunch?"

Draco nodded, grinning. "All right. See you then, Harry."

Harry grinned back. "See you," he said. Draco started off toward the Slytherin dormitory as Harry watched. Harry waited, wondering if Draco was going to turn. "If he turns around, he fancies me," muttered Harry, starting to walk backward toward the main staircase. "Come on... Turn around," he whispered.

Draco was about to disappear down the hallway, and Harry's heart sank until- Draco turned, saw with surprise that Harry was still watching, and he gave Harry a little wave. Harry's heart soared and he waved back. Simultaneously, the boys turned and scampered off to their respective Common Rooms, each grinning broadly. Harry knew from then on that their trip to London was going to be a very, very good trip.