Chapter 22: Coming and Going

Harry was able to spend the next few days with Tonks and the rest of the students working on apparition. He'd thought the Dursleys would be ready to leave the day after they signed for their new home, but apparently the thought of being "popped" across London by Dobby was a sticking point. Harry knew there was no other way. Asking an Order member to help meant someone would have to see the home and even worse question why the Dursleys were being taken there. And it wasn't like he could summon a taxi to an unplottable mansion. Besides, Harry wasn't all that upset about getting to see his uncle squirm for a bit. Indeed the man had invented new shades of pink and purple as his desire to be out of Grimmauld Place fought with his loathing for magic – particularly any sort that was to be used on him.

It was better for Harry that the Dursleys were stalling. The time had given him the opportunity to improve his apparition skills, as well as practice the anti-wizarding wards. So far he had managed to conceal several items he conspicuously placed around living room. He even went so far to ask Ron and Hermione about the trunk next to the fireplace. To which he received a pair of long stares, and Hermione asked if he was hearing voices in the walls again. Of course the trunk was warded, and the odd looks from his friends were worth it, because it helped give him confidence that he could manage the wards. He just hoped that doing so on an entire house would work just the same.

On the fourth day practicing apparition, Tonks got her much sought after splinch. Ron, of course, was the unhappy victim, though everyone had expected he would be. Tonks continued to raise the bar on their training, and the current exercise took the form of apparition races. Ron, being the competitive person he is, was trying a little too hard to win each race. Eventually it cost him his head, which he apparated across the finish line without the rest of his body. Tonks gleefully anointed him the winner by just that length, but not until she had her fun toying with his separated head and body. It took Ron a good bit of screaming before the Auror was convinced to fix him, and even then she took her time explaining the variations of the spell to fix a splinch to all the students.

Later that evening Dudley approached Harry to let him know that his father had finally been convinced to travel by magic. It took almost a full bottle of aged brandy, which Dobby had found in the cellar at the request of Petunia, for the man to concede. But with the aid of his liquid courage it seemed Vernon was now very eager to leave. When Harry heard his Uncle bellowing various profanities about "wand toting freaks" and their fatherless roots, he understood just how eager the man was.

Harry bolted up the stairs to fetch his invisibility cloak from his trunk, and found Ron there in his room, "…have to take the Dursleys to their new home," Harry said between breaths. "…need you to make sure that no one knows I'm gone!"

"What? What new home, and why are you taking them anywhere?" Ron said.

"…don't have time to explain, my uncle's pissed drunk and yelling like a madman." Harry took a deep breath and then spoke clearly. " It's something I worked out with Gringott's in order to get them out of here. I'll tell you about it when I get back, just make sure that no one knows I'm gone. Especially Order members, I can't have them chasing after me while I do this!" Harry said in a hurry.

"I'll come with you!" Ron said and stood up to join Harry out the door.

"You can't, they'll know for sure if both of us go missing! Besides, who's going to cover for me?" Harry pulled Ron out of his bedroom. "Just tell anyone who asks that I've locked myself in my room again and don't want to be bothered."

Ron looked disappointed but agreed nonetheless. "Fine, but don't get into any fun without me!"

Harry sprinted back down the stairs and started yelling for Dobby over the slurred shouts of his uncle. Fortunately the elf was already attending to Vernon by the time Harry got to the bottom of the steps. "Dobby, I need you to take all of them straight into 11 Dravis Lane! It's only a few blocks away from where you visited me over the summer!" Harry said as he looked around for anyone who might hear his belligerent uncle.


"Dobby is knowing how to find Mr. Dudley's new house." Dobby said ignoring the insults. "But Dobby can only be taking one person at a time sir."

Harry continued to survey the living room, "That's fine Dobby, just get my Uncle Vernon out of here first." Harry turned around to see Petunia's face pale with fear. "Then take her next before she does anything stupid as well." Dobby nodded anxiously and snapped his fingers right away. Instantly the elf and drunken uncle were gone. "I'll meet you there shortly to put up the wards." He said to Dudley. "If anyone comes out here you and your mum get back into your room at once. The more people that know you're gone, the harder it's going to be for me to make sure that no one knows where you are." At that Harry concentrated on the spot Tonks had first trained them to apparate to in the training corridor and was there with a loud crack an instant later. Quickly he threw the invisibility cloak over him and closed his eyes to focus on the empty lawn outside of Number 4 Privet Drive. Concentrate on being there, on what it looks and feels like in front of Number 4. Feel your whole body standing there, don't forget the cloak…DON'T FORGET YOUR CLOTHES.

He felt the push of air against his face, and then heard the echo of a loud crack resonate down Privet Drive. Quickly he checked that all appendages, clothing, and cloak were accounted for, and then scanned his surroundings for signs of anyone who might have heard his arrival. Not seeing anything suspicious a big smile grew over Harry's face and he took off apparating down the street, leaving a succession of loud cracks echoing behind him as he went.

He arrived outside of 11 Dravis Lane just in time to see Petunia and Dudley trying desperately to corral a stumbling Vernon back into the house. "SNOT DRIVET PRIVE MANYORE!" Vernon howled down the street. "NOPE! DA DURSLEYS ARE MOVING ON UP! He stumbled and nearly fell on his side as he turned his stare in Harry's direction. Harry knew there was no way his uncle could see him through the invisibility cloak, still it seemed as if the man was staring straight at him. "SEEDINGS AND MALMUTATIONS…er…FEELINGS AND PERMEATIONS…no, no…GREETINGS MY SALUTATION AND WELCOME TO DRAVIS LANE." Vernon fumbled toward Harry but stopped short to hug the mailbox between them. Cuddling the top of the cool, black, aluminum mail receptacle Vernon whispered, "You won't let any of those freaky wizards here will you Tommy…won't let them ruin my new house..."

Harry watched his delusional uncle drivel senselessly to the mailbox when a wicked smile broke over his face. He stepped closer to his uncle who was starting to close his eyes as the mailbox strained under his weight. "Get off me you fat ogre!" Harry said in a high tone as he opened and shut the lid of the mailbox. Vernon snapped immediately from his stupor and stared incredulously at the mailbox.

"Whatsa…whodda…" He flustered.

"The only freak around here is the fat loaf talking to his mailbox!" Harry squeaked. That was all it took for Vernon to lose whatever self-composure he had left. After falling face first into the grass he got up and ran as fast as a drunk, fat man could straight for the front door. His mistake was not turning the handle when he the door, which was confirmed by the two loud thuds that echoed down the street; the first from Vernon running into the door; and the second from him collapsing onto the porch in front of it.

"Now that's funny!" Harry said as he lifted the front of his cloak to reveal himself to Petunia and Dudley.

"VERNON!" Petunia screamed. "Harry, you insolent child! What are the neighbors going to think?"

Right, your husband is drunk and talking to a mailbox, but I'm to blame for the neighbors' bad opinions. Harry thought.

"Dudley get your father into the house, and pray no one saw what happened!" Petunia screamed and followed her son as he heaved the fat man through the front door.

"If they didn't see him they damn sure heard him." Harry laughed once more as the front door shut behind Petunia. He lowered the invisibility cloak and after another amused shake of his head, went to work rooting the anti-wizard wards around the house. The spells were rather simple, the trick was to find objects that weren't likely to be disturbed; a streetlamp in front of the house, the fence posts behind it. It took over an hour, but eventually the house was encompassed in the wards. All that was left was for Harry to check his work. Standing in the street in front of the house, Harry used his animagus sight to inspect the green and yellow wards. To his amazement there were no holes, and everything appeared to be firmly set in place.

Done with his work, Harry walked into the house. "Everything is done, no witch or wizard besides me…and well Dobby too, can see or will know that this house exists. Dobby can bring over whatever furniture is left in Number 4, and you can ask him to bring over anything else you might want from there. Just don't ever go yourselves. I doubt Voldemort has left people to watch the house, but your better off not trying to find out." Harry watched his aunt and cousin stare back at him blankly, "…Right then, well, I guess I'll be going."

"Will we see you again?" Dudley called as Harry reached the front steps.

"I don't know Dud, but I won't be back anytime soon. At least not until all of this is over." Harry said.

"Be sure to come by when it is." Dudley said casually.

His cousin made it sound so simple. "I guess that depends on whether I live through this or not." he said and apparated away.

Harry got back to Grimmauld Place that night with as little problem as he had leaving. Which made him realize just how good it felt to be free of minders. With the Dursleys set up in their new home, and Harry the master of his own, suddenly it felt more than good – it seemed right. A notion that was only remarkable to him because of how obvious it was. Every day of his life had been under the edict of someone trying to shun him from the world. Before Hogwarts it was the Dursleys who sought to keep him out of sight from the neighbors. Once he got to Hogwarts he was instantly constrained by the auspice of being "The-Boy-Who-Lived". By the time he was old enough to manage the first two, Voldemort returned, and the wizarding world he was prophesized to save, wanted to condemn him to the same house he was trapped in for the first eleven years of his life. There might be irony in that, but if so Harry didn't see any humor in it.

Grimmauld Place was a different for Harry after the Dursleys left. It's not that they were missed, but after his epiphany the night they moved, the manor, particularly without Sirius, didn't seem like the place of confinement it had the summer before. He found himself wandering out night after night, at first with the invisibility cloak but eventually without it. More often than not Ron went with him, and even though they really didn't do anything in particular, it felt good enough just to be free.

Tonks continued to visit, offering them new challenging ways to improve their apparition. After a couple weeks, it was apparent that the only level of apparition she wasn't going to teach them was coordinate based. No one pretended like they didn't know why this was being left out, it was obvious. If the students were actually taught how to apparate anywhere in the country it would be kind of hard to keep a constant watch on them. It didn't matter to Harry though, he understood what they were trying to impose, but knew it had no chance of working.

When the students weren't practicing with Tonks, they focused their time on trying to enjoy the last few weeks of summer. For Hermione this meant reading, Neville spent time in the garden behind the house, classifying the plants and looking up the ones he didn't know. Ron, Ginny and Harry took to their brooms and practiced Quiddich as best they could in the limited space behind Grimmauld. However, all of these activities mostly served as distractions from the larger share of time they spent practicing in the training corridor. Though none of the students considered as work. The room was their spot to be away from everyone else, the practice was their distraction from the reality of the world above them.

Grimmauld place had maintained a constant buzz of people through it ever since Voldemort's first attack. There hadn't been any official Order meetings; instead a constant flow of information from certain groups to others came through the house and traveled by way of Remus Lupin. Since Remus was the only person without a job, he sort of inherited the responsibility of full time Order member. For Harry and the students this had its benefits. As Remus wasn't the least bit reluctant to tell the students, particularly Harry, all that they knew Voldemort was doing around London. Lupin would not however, disclose what the Order was doing in return.

Harry knew that Voldemort hadn't been complacent since his first attack. There were several restless and pain filled nights that could attribute to that. Not that the Death Eater attacks had been constant, but they were often enough to ensure that no wizard in all of Britain made it through a day without wondering if they might be next. Remus explained that fear was the only purpose of these attacks, that they weren't calculated, or contrived to directly weaken the ministry and the Order. It was terror for the sake of it. Regardless of what Fudge and the Daily Prophet would have them believe.

Were Fudge's administration worth half as much as it paid to maintain the perception of being in control, the scene at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters would have been very different on September 1st. Nearly every member of the Order of the Phoenix could be seen posted somewhere around King's Cross. Half the Hogwarts professors were on board the Hogwarts Express while the other half waited at Hogsmeade Station, and an Auror team was posted at each station. Dumbledore himself was greeting students as they boarded the train, and Moody was surveying things closely with his Mad-Eye – his best look of constant vigilance in place. In all it made for a solemn mood at the station, the usual carryings on to a minimum as parents saw their children directly onto the train and then left straight away.

The early boarding of the train made it difficult to find an empty compartment to sit together in. Luckily Ginny spotted Luna Lovegood in a spot near the back of the train, alone as usual. Call it a fringe benefit of bearing the title 'Loony' Luna Lovegood. The girl was wearing a bright orange baseball cap that had two brown embroidered squirrels chasing each other on it. She had on white pants and a green button down jersey that had one side tucked out in the front. It gave the appearance of someone who might be "loony", but that all depends on what side of the fashion curve the judgment is made.

"Hey guys, I found this empty compartment. I was beginning to worry that you wouldn't make it in time before other people filled up. Guess you got lucky." Luna said.

The five students looked at each other as they gathered into the compartment. "Yeah, it must've been luck, maybe that's a lucky hat" Ron deadpanned.

"Hello Ronald." Luna replied whimsically. "My dad got a sponsor for the Quibbler who makes these. They gave me the hat and jersey as a gift!"

"It's very…er, colorful Luna." Hermione said.

"You like it, I can get some more if you want. Dad thinks it'll be the next craze in London." Luna replied.

"Oh it's crazy alright!" Ron smirked. "OUCH! What'd you do that for?"

Ginny smiled at Luna after stomping on her brother's toe. "It's good to see you again Luna. How was the rest of your summer?"

"Well it's been really busy since the attacks. Dad's been working round the clock trying to cover all the stories. We even hired another writer."

"Sounds like things are doing well then." Harry said.

"Yeah, I just hope dad's able to keep up with me gone. He was lining up another advertisement deal before we left today. It's a lot of work, but he's been really pleased with all of the new subscriptions."

"Harry we should head to the prefects compartment, it's better we get there early in case the professors have extra assignments for us."

"Oh yeah…I guess we should be going then." Harry said as he looked guiltily over to Ron.

"Don't sweat it mate. I'll get you something off the trolley if you're not back in time." Ron said dismissively.

Harry and Hermione walked out of the compartment and Ron watched the door close behind them, "I'm so going to make him fly laps at our first practice." Ron said with a smirk. "OUCH! Damnit Ginny if you kick me in my toe again I swear…"

"You'll what?" Ginny challenged.

Ron reached down and rubbed the top of his foot, "Worse than bloody Tonks I tell you…"

Harry and Hermione walked down the empty passageway together, both noticing how quiet and empty the train seemed. The same somber looks peering back at them through the compartment windows as they looked in at the inhabitants. As comfortable as Harry was being with Hermione, the unusual silence felt awkward. "So…had any more luck with your animagus?" Harry said casually.

"Harry!" Hermione scolded. "Are you out of your mind?"

"What'd I do?" Harry asked defensively.

"It's not like we're at Grimmauld Harry, people could overhear. And last I checked being an unregistered animagus is still illegal." She said with a quiet disapproval.

"Well it's not like you've managed to become an animagus yet, now is it? And last I checked, just learning to be an animagus isn't illegal." Harry said resolutely.

Hermione gave him a hard stare out of the corner of her eye before opening the door to the next passageway. "I've made some progress, mostly changing my hands and…"

"Well go on, what else?" Harry prodded.

"my tail." Hermione mumbled. Harry's face turned a slight shade of red as he held in his laugh, still it was enough for Hermione to notice. "Ha ha, very funny. How about you, have you made any progress on your Occlumency training with Ginny?" she quipped.

"It's going kind of slow but…how did you know that Ginny was practicing Occlumency with me?"

"Honestly Harry, don't you know by now that girls talk about everything. Ginny told me only a week after she got you to agree to it." Hermione said.

"But she made such a big deal that I not tell anyone…"

"It was more that she didn't want Ron to find out, or any of the rest of her family for that matter." Hermione interrupted.

"But she felt comfortable telling you?" Harry asked doubtfully.

"Well I might have pressed her a bit about it. It was just that she was so upset with us the night before she talked to you, and then all of sudden she started acting like nothing was wrong at all. I thought maybe something…um…happened with you and her."

"Happened? What would you think happened?" Harry asked.

"Oh honestly Harry, you and Ron really do deserve to be best friends. You've got to know by now that Ginny fancies you." Hermione said.

Harry wasn't sure what to say to that, but he could feel Hermione's incredulous stare burning into the side of his head. "Well it wasn't necessarily something that I thought on with my every moment." Harry said sarcastically. "I guess I always new that she had a crush, but that was years ago."

Hermione stopped staring at Harry, "Well how do you feel about her?" she asked.

"I don't know." Harry cried. "It's not like I've been thinking too much on that sort of thing. Somehow my minds been occupied with these other little things – like dark lords, Dementors, and Dursleys." Harry smiled teasingly, "Though I could really do without the Dursleys in that equation."

"Very funny Harry. Have you ever considered that it might do some good to think about things besides your troubles?" Hermione said in a serious tone. "You always make out like you hate being thought of as "The-Boy-Who-Lived", but then you're always worrying about all the hardships of being him. How can anyone get to know you else wise?"

"You know that's not fair." Harry said flatly.

"Yes Harry, I'm perfectly aware how unfair that is, and you should know that I didn't mean it at all like that. All I'm saying is that you have to try to find other things in life besides being 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' – if that is what you really want."

They had reached the door to the prefect compartment as Hermione finished speaking. Harry pulled the door open and held it for Hermione, but as she passed she put her hand on his chest and gave him a comforting smile. "Just think about it." She said.

The two were the last students into the crowded compartment which went completely silent as its occupants realized that Harry was there. "Look at that, Scar-head's made prefect this year. What's the matter Granger? The Weasel couldn't take your endless complaining anymore?" Draco Malfoy chided as he stepped out of the crowd.

"That'll be enough Mr. Malfoy. Perhaps first patrol on the train will help to calm your misguided enthusiasm." Professor McGonagall said from the back of the compartment. Draco spun on his heel with a sour face at the Deputy Headmistress. "Oh really?" she said challengingly, "Well then maybe you should retain patrol on the train until we reach Hogsmeade? Yes, I think that will do wonders."

"You can't do that!" Draco whined.

"Well if that is your opinion Mr. Malfoy, I think it would be best for you to relinquish your prefect badge now and save yourself any further confusion regarding what I may or may not do." McGonagall intoned.

Harry's turned his attention from Malfoy once the Deputy Headmistress began her first of the year speech to the prefects. He listened as the lady explained how the patrols would be shared amongst them, as well as any additional responsibilities that would be required of them this year. Still he noticed Draco watching him, and whenever Harry stared back at the boy Malfoy would glare hatefully and cross his arms tighter across his chest. Soon enough the meeting was over and Harry was waiting for Hermione to finish talking with McGonagall before he left the compartment. Harry could tell by the look on McGonagall's face that she was trying to hurry Hermione along in her conversation, but the effort must have been lost on the young Gryffindor witch.

"Hermione, I think we should be getting back to Ron before he eats everything he got off of the trolley." Harry said, earning a polite nod from McGonagall. Hermione hesitated, but followed Harry out of the compartment. They were halfway down the passageway when they heard someone coming up behind him.

"Thought that was amusing eh Potter?" Malfoy snapped and then motioned to Crabbe and Goyle from behind him.

"Well it would have been better if she bounced you around as a ferret, but it's only the first day, there's still hope." Harry said as he took a step back to distance himself from Malfoy.

Malfoy took a step closer to Harry backing him near the edge of the passageway. "Haven't lost any muggle relatives over the break have you Potter? Dangerous thing to be these days you know." He scowled.

Harry dug both his hand deep into Malfoy's chest as he pushed him forcefully away from him. "Well I guess it couldn't be much worse than being an escaped convict on the run from the Ministry. Tell me Malfoy, how is daddy holding up these days."

Draco regained his balance only a few steps away from Harry and caught Grabbe and Goyle by the shoulders before they could launch an attack on Harry. Hermione already had her wand trained on the two goons should they have gotten any closer to Harry. "Hiding behind Granger again? Then that is all you are capable of." Draco again stepped so he was right in Harry's face. "You're time is up Potter. I swore to it last year, and I intend to see it through this year."

Harry visibly let his guard fall. "Malfoy please. I'm about as worried over you as I am that Crabbe or Goyle could form an original thought. Do you really think after all I've been through, that your empty threats are going to bother me? You haven't the skill or the stones to take me on. So take your friends, and your bad breath, and get – out – of – my – face!" As he finished he pushed Malfoy away again and stepped next to Hermione.

"My father told me you'd be even more arrogant this year." Draco paused and gave a smirk to his Slytherin goons. "He also told me that your little prophecy isn't going to save you like you think!" Malfoy sneered.

Harry felt all the blood leave his face and noticed immediately that the same had happened to Hermione. Almost reflexively the girl let her mouth fall in disbelief but Harry quickly reacted, "Stop wasting my time Malfoy." He hoped he'd been quick enough to throw the boy off from noticing her response. But it was obvious that he had seen the recognition in Hermione's eyes as another small smirk showed on the corner of his lips.

"You have so little time left Potter, it would be a shame to waste any of it." With a raise of his eyebrows at Hermione Draco turned and walked away.

Harry and Hermione watched the three Slytherins exit the passageway and then Harry started back towards their compartment.

"Harry!" Hermione called. He stopped but didn't turn around. "Harry what are you doing?" When he didn't answer Hermione walked up and turned him by his shoulder. "Shouldn't we do something about this?"

Harry stared silently at Hermione a moment longer. "I should have never said anything to you all this summer." He said through gritted teeth.

"What…what are you talking about?"

"Don't you see what just happened here? That was a bluff, and you fell for it completely!" Harry said, his anger inflecting in his voice. "There's no way he can know the prophecy, no one but Dumbledore and me knew before this summer."

"Then we need to go tell Dumbledore what's happened." Hermione urged.

"WE DON'T NEED TO DO ANYTHING!" He yelled and then calmed himself. "We've done enough damage already." Harry turned once again and started walking out of the passageway. Hermione stared for a moment at the back of her friend's head, torn between following him and going to find the headmaster. But once Harry got to the passageway door, she hurried to catch up with him.

Harry walked into the compartment amidst Ginny and Neville sharing Ron's naked apparition story with a very giddy Luna. He didn't even try to mask his frustration as he sat down next to Ron and everyone looked to Hermione for an explanation. "I think maybe I made the right decision not to choose being a prefect after all." Ron joked cautiously.

When Harry didn't react Ginny took up after her brother, "What happened?" Still Harry didn't answer, instead he just stared blankly out the window. "Hermione what happened." Ginny repeated.

Hermione hesitated but with everyone staring at her she felt obligated to say something. "It was just Malfoy." She said hoping they would leave it at that.

"Malfoy!" Ron scoffed. "What the hell could that arse do to get Harry in such a twist?"

Hermione looked over at Harry hoping that he would say something, unsure of what else she could say. "He just…gave us a hard time."

Harry snorted loudly at this. "Oh go on Hermione, tell them what really happened. Tell them how you just got blindsided by friggin Draco Malfoy!"

"You know what Harry, this not is all my fault!" Hermione screamed at him. "It's not like you gave a set of guidelines this summer when you told us you know! How the hell was I supposed to react?" The passengers in the compartment watched as Harry spun angrily to face Hermione.

"How about trying not to react, how about you throw a curse and hex his bloody mouth off his ferret face, how about you smack him across the gullet, how about ANY OTHER WAY THAN WHAT YOU DID!"

Ron put his hand on Harry's chest which caused Harry to stare down at it menacingly. "Relax mate, I don't think whatever it is your upset about requires you to scream at Hermione like this!" Ron said calmly.

"Is that so mate? Well maybe you should explain to me the proper way I should be acting now that Malfoy found out Hermione knows the effing prophecy!" Harry said and threw Ron's hand off of him. Everyone in the compartment fell silent.

"Did I miss something?" Luna asked sheepishly. "What prophecy?"

Harry turned his stare to the girl, "No Luna, as usual you've gotten the point precisely. What prophecy? As far as anyone here is concerned that's SPOT ON! There never was a prophecy, convincing yourselves that's the truth is the best thing you can do." Harry threw himself back into his position looking out the window. Everyone stared silently at his back until the sound of the compartment door slamming shut disrupted their observation. Hermione had left the compartment. Ron quickly got up to follow her, "I don't know what happened Harry, but some of this is your fault regardless." He said before exiting the compartment.

Harry didn't acknowledge the comment and no one else in the compartment had the courage to add anything to it. Instead they sat there in silence for some time, until Luna broke the silence about some irrelevant topic of Four-toed Frackledbeasts, and how her father had spotted them off the coast of Portugal earlier that summer. Harry tuned her out as soon as he realized the conversation wasn't about the prophecy.

Ron and Hermione weren't seen again until the train reached Hogsmeade, when Harry noticed them walking towards an empty carriage. They made no indication that they were waiting for someone to join them and Harry didn't bother to find out if that was on purpose. It was easier thoughtlessly follow Luna, Ginny, and Neville to whatever carriage they chose. Harry heard the familiar boom of Hagrid summoning the first year students towards the lake that finally caused him to look around. But the sight of the half-giant smiling and waving his direction only reminded him of the happiness this moment once held.

As the carriage pulled them towards Hogwarts Ginny dared a few glances at Harry, but whenever he returned her stare he would turn away before she could get a word out. She also tried reaching for his hand, but he pulled away as soon as she touched him. "Well I 'm glad to see the year starting off on a high note." Luna said casually. Harry was almost able to summon a chuckle at this.

Ron, Hermione and Harry sat next to each other as usual at the Gryffindor table inside the Great Hall, though it was more out of habit than anything else. When Dumbledore stood from his seat and approached the podium, the three quiet students shared an ominous look between them. Having spent nearly the entire summer together, sharing all of the events that had happened during that time, they all recognized how different Hogwarts felt to them this year. When Dumbledore began his opening speech it did little to change that feeling. There had been too many arguments, too much revealed, and too great a change in perception. Listening to the Headmaster recite the opening of his speech suddenly seemed more like watching the man perform a monologue in a play.

From one speech to the next, the wooden stool was brought forth and the ragged old sorting hat set upon it. Professor McGonagall nodded at the Headmaster, who retook his seat, and then she stepped away from the stool to allow the sorting song to begin.

It was a time long ago,
Hogwart's forbearers made me so.
To sort you based on your traits,
Despite the problems this creates.

It is a story many know well,
But is a waste of time to tell.
A silly tale to pass the accord,
Instead I warn you mind my word.

The home you know, the school you love,
The friendships that grow, cherished memories there of.
All are lost if you do not heed,
Each other as brother in this time of need.

I warned before what was to come
I told you then what must be done.
Yet divided, remain you still
And so this way, fall you will.

Little hope lies with the few,
Who fight this feud for all of you.
Because this battle is not about just one,
But about the many who stand for none.

Concerned only with self or ancestry,
Resigned to stand aside and plea.
Apathetic to a world gone wrong,
One corrupt, divided for too long.

I watch you each pass through your youth,
Learning to ignore this truth.
Our values still remain unchanged
From four founders who were deranged.

In Courage, cunning, keen and kind
They judged the students, and paid no mind
To separate you with injustice,
In a school built from prejudice.

And for my part I am ashamed,
But if it's me who should be blamed
Then right down to my very stitch,
I intend to scratch this itch.

If sort I must, the choice not mine,
Then sort I will, but redefine
Hogwarts' houses as I see
To right the wrongs of history.

No one in the room moved, even the first years understood that utter silence was the only acceptable reaction to what they had just witnessed. Harry and Ron stared incredulously at each other before both turning their stares towards Hermione. When she shrugged her shoulders all three students looked up to see Dumbledore twinkling in a way that he hadn't for quite some time. "Well, it seems we have much to look forward to this year." Dumbledore announced, "Professor McGonagall if you would please begin the sorting."

"William Adelsby." A large boy confidently stepped to the chair where McGonagall placed the hat on his head.


"Theresa Averton…" no one stepped forth, "…Theresa Averton" McGonagall repeated. Each of the first year students looked at each other in search of the individual being summoned. Eventually McGonagall recognized a small brown haired girl who was staring at the floor with hunched shoulders and her arms crossed protectively in front of her chest. "Misses Averton." She said as she stepped up to the frightened girl. "It's time to be sorted young lady." McGonagall took the child by the hand and led her onto the stool.


Harry could have sworn he saw the hat smile.

Cogan Barnaby…Slytherin! Charles Chaversly…Hufflepuff! The names went on, and slowly it was becoming clear what the sorting hat intended to do. When "Tabius Flint", a spitting miniature image of his older brother Marcus, was sorted into "Gryffindor!" there was absolutely no doubt what the sorting hat was doing. There were a few other familiar names, Alicia Jordan…Slytherin! Bert Macmillan…Gryffindor! Roger Turpin…Ravenclaw! Anna Zabini…Hufflepuff! At which point Blaise Zabini actually stood from the Slytherin table and screamed, "HUFFLEPUFF?" in a most disbelieving voice.

If things hadn't been exiting enough, suddenly a very small Asian man appeared from behind Hagrid and took a seat in the empty chair reserved for the Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Fittingly, it was at that moment when the Headmaster retook his position at the podium, "I am very pleased to announce the placement of Master Xi Szou Lin to the position of Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Xi Szou Lin has held several titles throughout the world, but as a faculty member at Hogwarts he shall be addressed as Master Lin, not professor."

Harry, along with every other student at Hogwarts stared intently at the small Asian man. He looked to be in his mid-thirties with long, straight, jet black hair that was pulled tightly into a pony tail. Sitting next to Hagrid it was possible that the man appeared shorter than he really was, because everyone next to Hagrid looked like a dwarf. However, on his left sat Professor Flitwick which should have provided a counter perspective. As it was, he sat at best a head's length higher than the tiny Charms professor. Without even the slightest change in expression, Master Lin bowed his head slightly to the students, acknowledging the Headmaster's introduction, and then folded his hands in a deliberate motion on the table in front of him.

Dumbledore nodded politely towards Master Lin before speaking again, "We find ourselves upon difficult times as we start another year at Hogwarts. Many of you have lost friends and family over during the recent months, and all of us have lost members of our school houses, and the Hogwarts community. During such times we find it is the most difficult to continue with the routines our lives once held. School, work, and even our remaining relationships can begin to seem irrelevant as sorrow fills our hearts. But it is in these things that we find purpose, and to lose sight of that is to reward a greater achievement to those who would harm us more than any victory from an attack could ever provide. For when they take our lives we are at a loss, but when we allow them to take our livelihood we have admitted defeat. Despite our grief we must strive to continue, and we must look to each other to aid us on our way. Solidarity, love, trust, and understanding will be our foundation as we journey through this school year. Together we will find our way, and not lose purpose."

Updated: 7-31-04

AN: Again the anti-wizarding wards were an idea borrowed from FullPensieve's, Harry Potter and the Year of Rebellion. See review section for other Author's notes and reviews to responses.

Thanks for reading!