CH31: Train Rides

Harry was shaken out of slumber by the slight vibrations of the seat beneath him. He blearily opened his eyes and smiled at the scene before him. Fred and George sat over in the corner, whispering excitedly to each other as Hermione rolled her eyes at them. Cho and Draco were opposite them, Cho beating Draco exponentially at Exploding Snap. None of them noticed he was awake.

He leaned back against the window and remembered.

One day earlier ...

"Ready, Harry?" Hermione asked, clutching his arm tightly. Harry smiled exasperatedly.

"I'm fine. Really," he added at her skeptical look.

"You almost died."

"Key word: almost."

"She's right, mate," said Draco, walking up beside them. "Are you sure you are up for this?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Not another one. Between the two of you and Madame Pomphrey, I'm surprised I don't have to spend the rest of my life wrapped in foam padding."

"You know," Draco mused, sharing a look with Hermione. "That might not be such a bad idea." Harry whacked him on the arm.

"Alright, alright." Hermione grinned. "Let's go in. Everyone is waiting."

The three pushed open the Great Hall doors and the talking in the room stopped. Silence. Then whisperings broke out.

Hermione gave Harry's hand a squeeze before separating from them and heading to the Gryffindor table.

Harry and Draco slid into their spots across the table from Cho. "How are you feeling, Andy?" she asked, giving him a concerned look. Draco hid a snort in his napkin.

"Never better," Harry answered shortly, elbowing his friend in the side, causing the blond boy to crack up with laughter. Cho gave him an odd look, but ignored it.

"Anyway," she continued, changing the subject. "Have you talked to Fred and George yet?"

"No, Madame Pomphrey wouldn't let them into the ward after they brought that toilet seat by. Why?"

"You'll never believe what happened after they got back to the Tower that night."

Harry raised an eyebrow and Cho launched into her story. When she was done, Harry was gob smacked.

"Neville Longbottom did what?"

"Hey, you're awake," Hermione said, moving over to sit at the end of Harry's seat. He bent his knees to give her more room. "Have a nice nap?"

"Yeah, I'm just thinking about the Feast," Harry replied, a faraway look on his face. He gazed over at the Twins. "I still haven't heard this story from your point of view yet."

George smirked. "And what a story it is."

"Gather 'round, children," Fred said, mimicking a wise voice.

Three days earlier, 1 a.m. ...

"But I don't want to sleep," Hermione protested. "I want to see how Harry is."

"Dumbledore said he would be fine and that we could visit him tomorrow." Fred tugged on her arm, dragging her through the portrait hole.

"And you need rest," George added, pulling her other arm.

"I'm not tired." She was betrayed a minute later by the large yawn she let out. "Okay, maybe I'm a little tired, but – "They stopped at the scene before him.

Ronald Weasley was laying propped up against the couch, frozen in place. His eyes darted back and forth, terrified. A nervous looking Neville paced before him. He looked up when he heard them enter.

"Thank Merlin someone came!" He wrung his hands. "I can't remember the countercurse."

"What – what happened here?" Fred asked, trying to control his chuckles. Ron shot him a dirty look as that was really the only thing he could do at the moment.

"He ... he was trying to follow you," Neville explained. "He wanted to know where you were going. He said he thought it was unfair that you guys got to sneak out all the time and never got caught. I didn't know what was going on, but ... the way you left so quickly made me think that maybe whatever you were doing was really important. I told him he should just leave you alone, but he insisted and ... well, this was the only way I could think of to get him to stop! But I don't remember how to undo it!"

Fred and George collapsed to the floor, roaring. Hermione undid the charm, trying to hold in her laughter as well. Ron glared at each of them in turn, Neville the longest and hardest, before stalking up to his dorm room.

The compartment echoed with snickers. Harry wiped tears away from his eyes.

"I wish I could have been there."

"Neville really deserved what he got," Cho said, smiling. "Where is he anyway?"

"A bunch of Gryffindors pulled him into a compartment down the train," answered Hermione. "Everyone wants to hang out with the hero."

"Well, everyone except Ron," said Draco, mischievously.

The Feast again ...

"Ah, the end of the year," Dumbledore said, standing and addressing his students. "The only way for us to start a new one. I hope that all of you have a wonderful summer and look forward to the start of next year as much as I do.

"Now, it is time for one of my favorite Hogwarts traditions. The awarding of the House Cup." The room shook with applause and Dumbledore smiled. "In fourth place, Gryffindor with 360 points. In third, Ravenclaw with 375. In second, Hufflepuff with 430. And, finally, Slytherin in first, with 475!"

The clapping of the other tables was drowned out by the tumulus noise of the Slytherins. Harry clapped, slightly depressed. He had been in the Hospital wing for the last match of the season and Ravenclaw, one player short, had been trampled. He blamed the low number of points on himself. Over at the Gryffindor table, Harry could see Ron Weasley looking down a bit himself.

"Yes, yes," Dumbledore went on. "Congratulations. However, I still have some more points to award." The grins of the Slytherins drooped somewhat and, up at the Head Table, Professor shot the Headmaster a very nasty look. Apparently, he knew what was coming next. "First, to Misters Fred and George Weasley. For amazing musical talent and a sense of humor that increases with every passing day, I award you 30 points each to Gryffindor!"

Fred and George stood up and bowed dramatically, before embracing and sobbing on each others shoulders.

"Next," he said, when the Hall quieted again. "For amazing analytical skills and wonderful chess playing, 30 points go to Ravenclaw for Mr. Draco Malfoy!"

Draco turned a shade of red that could rival any of the Weasleys, but smiled anyway.

"For having enough compassion to stay and help a friend, Ravenclaw receives another 30 points for Miss Cho Chang!"

Cho grinned at Draco and blushed.

"Next, to Miss Hermione Granger, for quick thinking and a brilliant mind I haven't seen the likes of in many years, 30 points to Gryffindor!"

"And, to Mr. Evan Andrews." The room quieted and several people craned their necks to see Harry, but he only focused on Albus. He knew the wild rumors that were circling the school and how nobody knew exactly what had happened down there. The entire student body wasn't sure what was coming next, but they were on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

"To Mr. Andrews, for pure courage because courage isn't just the absence of fear, but doing what you have to do even when you are afraid. 40 points to Ravenclaw!"

The noise in the hall almost blew out Harry's ear drums. There were several shouts of, "We are tied with Slytherin now!" from around the table and cries of "Congrats!" from the other Houses who had not wanted to see Slytherin win.

"Yes, yes. I'm sure this comes to quite a shock to some of you, but I am not done yet." The Hall calmed down immediately. "No one can achieve greatness by themselves. We all need friends by our sides. For being a great friend and helping even when he wasn't even sure why he was, I award 30 points to Mr. Neville Longbottom!"

Harry jumped up in his seat, followed by all of his friends, clapping until his palms bruised. Neville looked shocked under the praises of his fellow students and Ron slid down in his seat, trying to hide under the table.

"We are pulling into King's Cross Station now," came a disembodied voice. "Please collect your trunks and exit the train."

Harry smiled at his friends as they stepped out the door. Fred and George were immediately engulfed by a mothering Mrs. Weasley.

"Oh, my babies! I missed you so much! I almost had a conniption when I heard what you were up to at that school!"

"We'll see you next year guys!" Fred called over his mother's shoulder.

"Make sure to write!" George's voice was muffled by the arm across his face.

The rest of the group waved as they forced themselves through the throngs covering the platform. Many others called their names as they headed by, wishing them good luck and still celebrating from the feast the night before. Along the way, Cho got dragged off by her rambunctious younger brother and, laughing, she said good bye.

"Hermione!" A woman with very familiar bushy brown hair started walking up to them. Hermione ran over as soon as she saw them. "Mum! Dad!" She hugged her parents tightly, gushing over her exam scores. Harry and Draco rolled their eyes.

Exams had come out the day before and Hermione was proud of her grades. They topped the class, tied only by Harry. The girl was slightly disappointed at not being the best, but cheered up when Harry reminded her that he had all the information of the universe in his head and, of course, he would do well on exams.

Hermione let go of her parents and pulled Harry and Draco into her arms. "I'd better get lots of letters from both of you two," she said sternly, tears filling her eyes.

"It's only a couple of months, Hermione," Draco said, squeezing her arm.

"Yeah, after a week or so, you'll see how much better off you are without our terrible influences around," Harry joked. Hermione kissed them both on the cheeks and reluctantly pulled away.

"Mum said you might be able to visit this summer," Draco said as they watched Hermione go. "You can come right?"

"Of course. I'll see you, mate." He clapped Draco the back and walked over to the group near the entry way.

"Har – Andy!" Manda shouted, grabbing Harry into a bear hug. 'This seems to be happening a lot today,' he thought wryly.

"We missed you!" Elle said, ruffling his hair. Miss Weston stood behind them, smiling fondly at the boy she watched grow up.

"I miss you guys, too." Harry smiled. "Boy, do I have a story to tell you."

A/N: Well, that was it. The last chapter of Corkscrews. Stay tuned for the second installment of this series, 'The Voices In The Walls', coming soon to a theater near you.