Chapter Fourty: Finality and the Trip Home
It was a Saturday afternoon when Harry made his way alone to the Room of Requirement. Although Hermione had wanted to go with him, he knew, deep down, that that afternoon's meeting was one he had to prepare for on his own.
He didn't come empty handed, though. That morning, while going through his trunk to make sure he wasn't going to forget anything when they left in a few days' time, he had found a neatly bundled package at the bottom.
He hadn't recognised what they were at all, not even after reading the note that Lupin had attached to them. Apparently, his godfather had had them slipped them into his trunk at some stage recently - or, at least Harry hoped it had been recently, rather than face the possibility that they had been there for months and he hadn't noticed - because he had felt Harry may have a need for them.
Lupin hoped above and beyond all else that that need would never come true, but thought that advanced planning was only wise given the state of the wizarding world. The package was a set of neatly folded robes... ceremonial robes worn by the officiating wizard or witch during a rite of passing - a memorial service. Given Harry's capacity as the leader of the DA, that responsibility fell to him.
Wearing the robes, Lupin had said in the note, meant that Harry was willing to accept his role as leader of the group, and shows loyalty to those fallen as well as those still present. Harry wouldn't have even thought of finding different clothes, but it certainly explained the odd owl he had received during breakfast that morning telling him to look in his trunk.
If you are going to do something, you might as well do it properly, Harry said to himself in kneazle. He pulled the fabric out of the wrapping paper and held it up to get a closer look at it. The robe was actually in two parts, not counting the elegant sash and waist belt, nor the belt that would cross his chest. He shed his school robes easily and threw them onto the desk behind him with little thought as he pulled on the ceremonial clothing. It wasn't like anyone else would be coming for quite some time, anyway.
The bottom of the robes reminded him somewhat of a skirt, except the top of them came up to the middle of his ribs. They were black, as he had expected, and seemed to be made of a soft silk. All along them were markings in a fine silver thread, writing in runes that he couldn't understand. Rather than take the time he would need to try, he shook his head and pulled on the top half of the robes, which came down close to his knees, providing a large overlap. The top was black silk as well, but instead of fine silver runes, the cuffs of the sleeves as well as the hem across the front was decorated with tiny silver stars.
The waist belt was also made of silk, but was a pure white instead. There were no markings of any kind on it, and Harry paused for a second before tying it shut. He then eased the top of the robes open enough to slip his regular belt across his chest, hidden beneath the fabric. He wasn't about to even go through something like he was planning without his time wolf wand - his only remaining wand - and his dagger.
He then tied the chest belt firmly into place, noticing how the silver fabric seemed to sparkle more brightly next to the dark black of the top. He then pulled the sash over his head and let it fall into place. He picked up the dark green cloak that he had rarely gone anywhere without for quite some time, but then set it back on the desk with only a little hesitation, covering everything else up easily.
He then took a seat against the edge of the desk and bowed his head in thought, even as the door to the Room cracked open slowly, as though someone was testing to see if it was alright to enter. Harry didn't look up to them - he knew it was Hermione, Ron, and Luna, for there was no question that they would be first to arrive after he did - but waved in front of him to the rows of chairs that the Room had provided. He set one foot on the large wooden chest that was sitting before him and took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves.
It didn't take much longer for everyone else in the DA to arrive. He had expected those who knew what his robes were about to say something, but no one spoke at all - at least, not to him. There were a few whispers, but that was it until Harry finally looked up to the fourteen others in the room. Hermione stood from her chair when he met her gaze and came to stand next to him. He watched as Ron released Luna's hand, setting it gently on her leg, before standing to join the two at the front.
It had been a very long time since the trio stood alone before anything... but it felt right once again, while feeling wrong at the same time.
"I don't know what to do," he admitted in a voice that carried to the back of the room easily, even though he wasn't shouting. "I have never done a service quite like this before. Even a small memorial service was difficult enough... remembering Anthony Goldstein, Ernie MacMillian, Hannah Abbott, and Justin Finch-Fletchley."
"But like Harry said," Ron offered quietly. "This is different. Those four died on their own, trying in vain to protect their homes and their families." He knelt down and opened the wooden chest slowly, pulling out four large pieces of parchment. He turned to the front of the Room and held all four of them up. Before he could figure out just how he was going to manage it, the four squares left his hand as of their own accord and hovered before them all, behind the three standing at the front. "Dean and Cho..."
"Dean Thomas," Harry said clearly when Ron trailed off. "Sixth year Gryffindor student, leader of the Dark Warriors... his strengths really didn't lay with healing and protection, but he tried his best so the rest of his group would stay strong."
Harry stopped and turned to Hermione as he noticed she was fishing around in her pockets for something. A minute or two later, she pulled out two parchments rolled around two pieces of wood - obviously wands. Without a word, she handed one of them to Harry, and he took it hesitantly.
Looking down at the offering, he slit the wax seal that had been placed upon it and unrolled it slowly and carefully. Holding the wand loosely in one hand, he read the title at the top out loud. "Last Will and Testament of Dean Thomas." He swallowed hard and looked to Hermione quickly for an explanation.
"Everyone in this room was prepared," she said softly. "Check the other page."
Harry looked back down, only then noticing that there were two pieces of parchment, and not just one. Pulling out the other one, he found that it was a letter from Dean's father, addressed directly to him. Despite this fact, he decided it would be best to read it out loud.
To Harry Potter:
I wish I knew how to properly start this letter... it isn't one I ever expected I'd have to write in the first place, so I'm sure you can understand my shock when Dean owled his mother and I with what sounded like an odd request. We had never heard of any dangers in the wizarding world, but looking back now we were foolish to think everything could be perfect all the time.
We both wish we had known earlier... not so we could have stopped our son, but so we could have cherished our time together that much more.
I'm not writing you this letter at your Headmaster's request, even if you might have assumed otherwise. He has spoken to my wife and I for several days now about what happened to our Dean, and was actually quite good to us, which was comforting. We both found it a little disturbing, however, when he mentioned your name several times. He seemed concerned, and it wasn't hard to guess why.
We don't blame you, Harry. Nor do we blame anyone else in your defense group - what you are doing is worthy of high praise, not belittlement. Our son would never have gotten involved with your group if he didn't believe in its cause above and beyond all else.
I can't say I'm not sorry or disappointed, but I know where the blame actually lies. I understand that the one who killed our son is already dead, but the leader of these dark wizards is still alive. We wish you only the best of luck, and pray that you never have to read another letter like this one - it was hard enough to write, but I can imagine how it must feel to read it from your end of things.
Please keep an eye open, and continue to do everything you can to help others. It is a truly commendable calling.
Harry rolled the letter up again slowly and bowed his head, trying in vain to keep the tears from rolling down his cheeks. Even if Dean's parents didn't blame him, he couldn't help but feel at least partially responsible. Deciding to keep going before he wouldn't be able to any longer, he unrolled the first page again. It explained why he had Dean's wand in his hand - he had asked that it be given to the leader of the DA without any question involved.
Finding his words escaping him, Harry reached down to the large chest again and pulled out a blank square of parchment and the gryffin quill that was resting on top. With a flourish, he wrote Dean's name across it in large letters and then started it around the room. Nothing was said by anyone as it went around, and when it got back to Harry in the end, he added the lightning bolt marking at the bottom, at which point it floated off the desk and into the air behind him, to join the other four already hovering there.
"During the service after Christmas holidays, everyone was welcome to say anything they wished about those departed," Harry said softly. "If anyone has something to say about Dean, I guess now would be a good time."
"He was a true friend, and a loyal Gryffindor," Colin offered.
"The common room won't be the same without him... classes won't be the same, either," Lavender admitted. "We might not have always gotten along - he seemed to have the same opinion of Divination as Hermione does, but was more vocal about it - but he was a good friend."
"To Dean!" Denis suggested, lifting his wand up to point it into the air in a form of salute. There was a flourish of wands as everyone in the DA drew theirs quickly to join in the motion.
"I'll read Cho's, if that would be easier," Ron offered as the wands lowered. Harry nodded quickly, not so much because it would be easier for him, but because Ron almost never spoke out to people anymore, and he figured that this would help at least a bit in that regard. Hermione handed him the rolled parchments, but gave Harry the wand.
To Harry Potter:
Speaking strictly as a parent, I have to say that I wish I never hear your name again, Harry. But that wouldn't really be fair, would it? My husband was actually the first to understand what happened... it took me a lot longer to come to terms with the loss of our eldest daughter in her last year at Hogwarts. She was Head Girl, and had jobs lined up and everything... but all that's gone now.
The last time our daughter was home over the Christmas holidays, we knew something was going on. She wouldn't tell us what, exactly, but it wasn't hard to guess a bit of it. Did you know that after her sixth year she spoke about you a lot? She was confused, and didn't know if she should be upset with how generous a person you are or pleased... after all, if you were a cold hearted person, then Cedric wouldn't have died, now would he?
Again, that's not really fair of me, but a lot of life isn't fair, either. Our daughter settled on seeing you as a friend, though for quite some time she was confused about that and was wavering between something more as well. But the last time we saw her, there was an edge about her everytime we asked about you. Now we understand why - she thought we were trying to get her to avoid you at all costs, and our daughter has too strong a will for that.
We're proud of her, Harry. Her father and I are both proud of her... even still. She made a powerful, difficult choice - the choice to fight in a war to protect other people. Not many people are capable of putting their life in danger to protect others, and although we wish it had ended differently, we are still proud of her.
Just like we're proud of you. You and the rest of the Defense Association. Even in difficult, impossible times, you seem to be able to stand strong and tall, fighting for what you believe in.
Never stop, no matter what anyone tells you.
Ron looked up to Harry for a moment before looking back to the letter again. "There's more on the back... this part from Cho. She must have written it, and asked her mother to include it if the worst came true," he added as he flipped the letter.
You were right all along, and I hope you are aware of that. It wasn't about protecting others, not for me. I should have listened to you... but I was only a part of this group for one reason. If you are reading this, then there's a good chance that reason did not succeed - I want to avenge Cedric. I want the one who killed him dead.
I know it isn't fair of me to ask this, but if I failed, can you please see it done? Somehow, somewhere... the one that you named as Wormtail, who's real name is Peter Pettigrew... can you make sure he dies before this is over?
Thank you, Harry, for everything you have done for me and for everyone else.
Again, Harry couldn't find his voice, so he simply pulled out the large piece of parchment and wrote her name across it as well before passing it around the room. He added the lightning bolt again, and watched as it joined the others behind the three of them in the front of the room.
"Cho was an amazing person," Julia offered before anyone else could speak. "Truth be told, a lot of us in Ravenclaw were a bit jealous of her, because she never seemed to have to work at being beautiful, but even still, she was a good person. She was easy to study with - an important point in Ravenclaw, anyway - and..."
"A wicked good seeker against anyone but Harry," Ron interrupted.
"But next to Harry, even Victor Krum doesn't look good," Colin pointed out. Harry glanced quickly at Hermione at that comment, and bit back a smile as he caught her eye. "She was good."
"Cho Chang, seventh year Ravenclaw and Head Girl of Hogwarts," Hermione offered quietly to bring the service to a close. "Second in command of the Dark Warriors, and quite good with her charms. Her last wish was also granted, as with her death, Wormtail also met his end."
There was a few minutes of silence then before Harry clapped his hands, making everyone look up in surprise. "Well, let's end the year reviewing our Patronuses," he suggested. "Because if we can summon one now, then dementors don't stand a chance!"
As everyone broke off into their groups - with Ron and Luna joining Harry and Hermione - Susan and Padma both came up to Harry. "We both have the same question, so don't worry," Susan said quickly when she saw how tired Harry looked suddenly. "A few of the other students in Hufflepuff have asked me if they can join the DA, and some Ravenclaws have asked you, right Padma?"
"Right," the Patil twin replied. "Everyone knows about the DA now, even if it is still a secret club. I told them I'd ask you."
Harry looked to Ron briefly, who looked to be in thought for a moment before nodding. "We'll talk next year," Harry suggested. "When we fix the teams, we'll see how many extra we need, and contact people who have asked then, alright?"
Both Susan and Padma seemed fine with that, and went back to their groups to start summoning the silvery creations again. By the time the meeting had come to an end, the group had gone through a good deal of chocolate, but was feeling better than they had beforehand. As Harry sealed the wooden chest again with the six pieces of parchment and two wands inside, he picked up his clothes and walked out of the Room of Requirement, letting it fade from existence for the summer.
"Is it really too much to ask to go through a full day without a professor coming up to me?" Harry muttered under his breath as he turned around at the Gryffindor table. "Yes, Professor?"
"You have a detention to serve with me still!"
"But Professor Snape, today's the last full day before we all go home!"
Snape looked down his nose at Hermione's comment, but didn't answer. Instead, he looked back to Harry, who nodded after a moment. "Right. Now, then?"
"I would not waste my time walking over here if that was not the intention."
Harry winked to Hermione as he stood up, reassuring her that he did, in fact, know what he was doing before following the head of Slytherin out of the Great Hall. When the large double doors closed behind them with a bang, Harry looked up to Snape. "Did you know that Dumbledore didn't know?"
"I had no idea," Snape said. "I assumed that he knew what the crystal could be used for, but would not take the risk to stop it."
"You were wrong."
"So were you." Silence fell in the halls again, broken only by their footfalls, until Snape stopped next to his classroom, not going inside just yet. "You did well, Potter."
"Thank you, sir." The odd relationship between himself and Snape still didn't make any sense to him, but Harry wasn't about to look a gift hippogryff in the mouth.
"I'm sure even your feeble mind has figured out that this detention is a shame, Potter," Snape said, still not opening the door. "I was going to let it go with nothing, but certain things have changed, and others have come to my attention that requires your attention inside this classroom. You are not to get angry, and must be willing to listen without fail. Am I clear?"
"I'm walking into a trap."
"Here." Harry took the offered object, and found it to be a wand. He took a quick moment to inspect it, and found the initials DM on the handle. "I have searched him myself, both his robes and his mind... he will not attack you right now." He didn't give Harry a chance to respond before pushing the door open and ushering him inside. When the door closed behind him, leaving Snape on the outside, Harry felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.
He paused for a minute and looked around the classroom, assuming he would find something of note - obviously someone was there who wanted to speak with him, so they must be there.
"Malfoy!" Harry leapt away from the door, finding Draco Malfoy to have been standing behind it. Harry had his wand in his hand in an instant, pointing right at his enemy within Hogwarts.
"Oh, put it away, Potter! Didn't Snape tell you what was going on?"
"I'm sure you'll forgive me for being a little uneasy here!"
"Forgive?" Malfoy said with a bark. "Odd word coming from you right now, or did you forget?"
Harry felt the bottom drop out of his stomach as he took that in. He had a point. "Look, Malfoy, I'm..."
"Save it," Malfoy snapped, turning and starting to pace down the classroom. "You know, I'm honestly not sure if I should be cursing you or thanking you!"
"Don't you know anything about the way the wizarding world works, Potter? By Merlin's sake, I thought that's why you had shacked up with that mudblood, for her brain!"
Harry pushed the anger he felt at that statement down with more than a little difficulty. "Call her that again, and I'm walking out of here without hearing whatever it is you wanted to tell me."
"Let me fill you in with our world, Potter. Now pay attention, because I'm not saying this twice. My father was in charge of the Malfoy properties. Follow?"
"Well, with my mother missing right now - in other words, in the Dark Lord's ranks and not able to come forward to Gringotts to sign the appropriate forms - I am the next in line for the Malfoy Estate." At Harry's semi-blank stare, he shook his head and kept going. "That means I'm in charge of my family's money, got that?"
"So you're thanking me for taking out your dad?"
"I would never call him my dad,"Malfoy spat. "He was my father, that is all."
"There's a difference?"
"I should have expected such dull wits from you, Potter. Thank you for living up to my expectations."
"What do you want, Malfoy?"
"The money's great, but that's not why I'm here. Obviously you didn't know what you were doing, and Snape told me that you barely even knew that you killed him in the first place, so you get nothing for that."
"This is my last day in the school for the year, and I'd be much happier getting back to the common room, so is there any chance you could just get to the point?"
"This is hard enough for me as it is!" Malfoy snapped. "Part of me wants to strangle you, part of me wants to ignore you completely, and a very, very, small part of me wants to give you a hug."
"My sister told me what you did for her."
"Sister?" Harry repeated, thinking hard. His mind struck gold as he remembered the little girl that Kailyn had found in the Malfoy Manor. "She's your sister?"
"Who'd you think she was?"
"It didn't matter at the time," Harry admitted. "She was obviously an innocent stuck somewhere dangerous, and I wasn't about to let her die if I could help it."
"That bloody saving people thing?"
Harry shrugged but didn't answer. Instead, he finally returned his wand to the sheath on his belt and nodded. "I wasn't going to leave her."
"I'm not on your side, you know."
"After all your not-so-veiled threats? I had no idea, really."
"Sarcasm will get you everywhere, you know."
"No where I need to go, thanks."
Malfoy shook his head and walked over to the door, running a hand through his silver-blonde hair slowly. "Look, I owe you one, alright?"
"Yeah, I know."
"I've never been indebted to anyone, and I don't like it now."
"I know." Harry paused for a minute before pushing passed the Slytherin Prefect, and then stopped at the door. He flipped the wand that Snape had given him out of his pocket and tossed it down on the ground. "See you next year, ferret."
Harry met Hermione in the hall just outside the Fat Lady portrait on their way down to the farewell feast. After he had returned from his so-called detention, he had filled her in on everything that had happened, but she didn't know exactly what it meant any more than he did, so they both decided to put it behind them for the time being and simply enjoy their last day at Hogwarts for the year.
Harry rolled his eyes discretely to Hermione and turned slowly to find Colin and Denis Creevey both running up to him. "Did you hear the news, Harry?"
"What news?" he asked. He knew it wasn't bad news - the two brothers had reverted to previous years' behaviour, so it couldn't be that serious.
"Some third year in Slytherin just lost 300 points!"
"Can you repeat that?" Hermione said before Harry could even begin to process that strange information. "300?"
"Yup!" Denis said gleefully. "And everyone on their Quidditch team lost another 50 points each!"
Harry looked to Hermione briefly as though he half expected her to understand what had happened, but upon seeing her confusion, he looked back to the two brothers who were on the Gryffindor team. "What happened?"
"Malcom Baddock." The four turned to find Ron and Luna walking towards them in the corridor. "You know you're going to be late if you don't get moving, right?" Ron pointed out. "Feast starts in about ten minutes, and I, for one, don't want to miss any of the food!"
"What did Malcom Baddock do?" Harry asked. "Better still, who's Malcom Baddock?"
"My new best friend," Ron quipped with a grin. "Slytherin third year who decided that the Slytherin Quidditch team should win no matter what."
Harry frowned at that, and then a thought flashed through his mind. "He's the one who..."
"Yup," Ron replied quickly. "His parents own a manticore farm - not that hard for him to pull it off. He won't fess up to how he got it into your broom, but I heard Dumbledore reckons that someone on the Quidditch team did it during the match. That's why they lost points, too."
"You realise what this means, don't you?" Hermione asked, looking up after a moment of thought. When no one answered, she broke out into a large smile. "Slytherin has a new record low points at the end of the year - I don't think they even have 10!"
"Uh, Mione, remember last year and Hufflepuff?" Harry asked.
"With that cow and the Inquisitorial Squad? Last year doesn't count to anyone but the Slytherins!"
"Fair point," Harry agreed, holding out an arm to Hermione with a smile. "Shall we, then, my Lady?"
"But of course," she replied with a grin of her own as she accepted his arm. Colin and Denis shot into the Gryffindor Common Room first, but the four friends didn't wait for them as they started down towards the Great Hall.
"So you're coming to the feast this year, Luna?" Harry asked as they rounded a bend and started down the last set of stairs to reach the main floor. Although still not entirely sure how she could move around as easily as she did - despite the fact that Hermione had explained to him that she could see, just with sight that was quite different from everyone else's (he didn't quite understand, but after she tried to explain it for the forth time, he pretended he did). All he knew was that it was thanks to the dagger that he had given Hermione that Luna now carried.
"Of course I am," she said easily, looking back to him quickly as though trying to warn him away from something. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Uh, because this time last year you were putting up posters so your dorm mates would return your things?" he pointed out. When Luna winced and looked away, he knew he had just stepped in it.
"What?" Ron demanded in a loud voice. "Someone's stealing stuff from you?"
"No, Ronald, no," Luna said urgently, shooting a quick glare at Harry - a glare made all the more effective with her odd white/green eyes - before grasping at one of Ron's arms. "I'm not missing anything."
"They what's Harry talking about?"
"Nothing mate, don't worry about it," Harry said quickly. "You smell that food? I think the house elves went all out tonight!" he added, shooting an apologetic glance to Hermione.
"They probably even made loads of dessert, Ron," Hermione said. She obviously understood at least a little of what was going on.
When Ron refused to take another step, Luna sighed and turned back to him. "Every year before this one, the other students in Ravenclaw thought I was odd - remember, Loony Lovegood? They stole my stuff every year... but I always got it back before the end of term!"
"And they didn't take anything this year?" Ron asked slowly. It wasn't clear if he was upset at the thought that they did steal stuff from her before, or was upset that they might not have this year.
"I've got everything, don't worry," Luna said, not exactly answering his question in hopes of convincing him to let it drop.
"Yes or no, love..."
Luna hesitated for a brief moment before nodded. "Nothing."
"So now they're treating you differently because of..."
"What happened at the end of last year," Luna cut in before Ron could say anything else. "All year, they've been treating me like one of them because of my part in the trip to the Ministry of Magic last year, not for any other reason."
Harry and Hermione took a couple of steps away from their friends to give them a bit of space, and then looked to each other. "Looking forward to the feast?" Hermione asked.
"Sort of," Harry said slowly. "It does mean that we're leaving here for another summer, and this year I'm actually not going back to Privet Drive. How can I not be a little excited about that? But still... it means leaving Hogwarts, too."
"I know what you mean," Hermione said. "But don't worry - all of our teachers gave us loads of homework for the summer, so it'll be like we're still here." Harry couldn't help but chuckle a little at her enthusiastic reply. Trust Hermione to treat homework as a bonus. "Besides, with my parents staying at Grimmauld Place, that means you and I get to spend the summer together, too."
"Ron, Ginny, and the rest of the Weasley's will be there too, remember," Harry pointed out. "Not to mention Remus, probably a few other Order members, and Talisien might be there for a while. It won't exactly just be the two of us, Mia."
"I know," Hermione replied, pulling herself closer to him to wrap her arms around him. "But I'll be a lot closer to you this summer than I have been before, and we'll still be together at nights if nothing else, right?"
"Mrs. Weasley isn't about to stop that, no matter what she thinks."
Hermione smiled and leaned up to give him a quick kiss before pulling away. "I love you," she whispered.
"I know," he replied with a soft smile. He turned at the clearing of a throat, and found Ron and Luna both looking to the two of them expectantly.
"Would you mind going in ahead with Luna, Hermione?" Ron asked in an almost forced voice. Not entirely sure what was going on, she figured that she might as well grant his request - it wasn't like he and Harry were going to be long, after all.
"Sure," she said. "I'll save you a seat, Harry."
"You better," he replied with a smile as he watched the two girls walk down the last of the stairs and into the Great Hall. "What's on your mind, Ron?" he asked, looking back to his best mate with just enough time to duck beneath the punch that was headed his way. His mind instantly back to his training with Kailyn, he pulled in on himself and ducked backwards to get some distance between himself and Ron. "What's the deal?"
"I thought you said you told her!" Ron said in a surprisingly chipper voice, moving towards him again. "Now get back here so I can knock some sense into you!"
"Oh gimme a break!" Harry said, shaking his head and holding up his hands. "I have told her several times, Ron."
"Oh yeah? Then what was all that about?"
Harry frowned. "All what?"
"Our mutual best friend of five years just told you that she loved you - as she has many times this year, in case you've somehow forgotten - and you replied with your bloody 'I know!'"
Ron let out a loud laugh - the first Harry had heard from his friend since the rescue mission - and shook his head, clapping Harry on the back. "First, it's garble wayho," Ron explained as they started down the stairs themselves. "And second, what's that got to do with you telling Hermione?"
"That's your and Luna's thing, right? Well, 'Mione and I have our own thing. Look, it's too complicated to explain, and I don't really feel like trying right now anyway, okay?" Harry said. "Just trust me - I've told her. First time was in the hospital wing while Dumbledore and Pomfrey were going over you and Luna, right after I had woken up again."
Ron looked like he was suddenly caught off guard, and rubbed the back of his neck as he avoided Harry's gaze. "Er... right then. Sorry about that."
"Let's just go join the girls, you great git."
"Yeah, yeah. You don't think Dumbledore's put the food on already, do you?"
The first thing Harry and Ron noticed as they entered the Great Hall were the decorations - as with many of their years at Hogwarts, it appeared that the colour scheme coincidentally matched that of Gryffindor House, telling them just where the points had ended up in the end.
The massive piles of food were not missed either, and it was with great joy that the two joined their girls at the Gryffindor table for the farewell feast as Dumbledore began the end of year speeches.
"Wisdom through the ages is never clearer than after the fact."
Harry whirled around just before getting on the Hogwart's Express behind Hermione and found their Defense Against the Dark Arts professor leaning against one of the Thestral drawn carriages, apart from everyone else. He wasn't sure what the elf had meant by that, but he was sure that it had been meant to get his attention.
"Professor Talisien," Harry said with a smile, waving his friends on and walking over to him. "I was hoping I'd see you again before leaving for the summer."
Talisien nodded and lowered his hood, even as he lowered himself to the ground to sit on the stone. Harry sat down as well, wondering just what his Professor was up to. "I will be by your home in two weeks' time to begin your training," Talisien said calmly, as though discussing something as mundane as the weather. "So I would suggest you make good use of your relaxation while you can."
"Then I passed my NEWT?" Harry asked.
"Passed?" Talisien asked in surprise. "I hardly think pass is the proper term. Harry, you achieved an Outstanding NEWT in Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"So that means you're willing to train me, then?"
"Exactly. You will not have an easy time ahead in your life, I'm afraid."
"You may be, but I've grown to expect that," Harry replied easily. "You realise what Hermione's going to say when I get on that train, right?"
"She is not to know you are training with me until I arrive," Talisien reminded the sixth year Gryffindor. "Though I am sure she will be pleased with your results."
"And upset that I didn't tell her earlier."
Talisien nodded the truth in that fact, and then sighed as he leaned back. "Has Ron told you what is going on, yet?"
"Ron?" Harry repeated. "Going on with what?"
"Ronald does not need to speak for me, Talisien," a dreamy voice said from behind Harry. He spun around quickly and found Luna walking slowly towards the both of them. "You are about to miss the train, Harry."
"What about you, though?"
"I am not going on the train," Luna replied easily enough. "Talisien has offered to bring me to the forest, where I can learn how to see again with this gift from Hermione," she added, motioning to the dagger that was tucked into her belt without a sheath. "There are elves there who have training with such a thing."
"And you're okay with that?"
"And so is Ronald," Luna said with a nod. "I'll see you again before too long, I'm sure."
"Odd words, coming from you now, Luna."
"Odd words seem to have a habit of coming from me anyway, Harry, so that should not come as a surprise to you."
"I'll make sure I write to you over the summer, then, alright?"
Luna nodded again and then smiled. "Please try to keep Ronald out of trouble, too. Maybe with Hermione's help you can manage it."
Harry shook his head and laughed. "With the three of us, it's more likely that trouble will find us!" He stood up slowly and held a hand out to Luna. She ignored the gesture entirely and pulled him in for a brief hug. "Take care of yourself, Luna," he suggested. "That forest is a tremendous place, though I'm sure you'll discover something new that no one else has ever seen before."
"Don't forget to have fun this summer," Luna suggested to Harry. "After all, you won't have to see your relatives at all, right?"
Her words hit Harry hard, and he frowned briefly before putting a mask up to hide that fact. "Good point," he said as he released her. "Hermione and I will have a good time, don't worry."
"Tell Ronald that I'll be thinking of him?"
"I doubt I'll need to, but I will."
"Thanks," Luna said. she then paused for a moment before breaking into a smile. "Harry?"
"You'd better start running. The train's about to leave."
"What?" Harry said, startled as he turned around. Smoke was billowing from the pipes and he could hear the straining of metal working against metal as the shiny red Hogwart's Express started to slowly pull out of the Hogsmeade Station. "See you later!" he shouted over his shoulder as he started off in a dead run for the train. He could see Ron with his face plastered against a window laughing at him, and caught the hand Hermione was holding out from the closest doorway as he pulled himself onto the train.
"Nice going," she said with a smile as he leaned into her and worked on catching his breath. "Almost missed the beginning of your summer vacation."
"I don't think so," Harry said with a smile of his own. "Miss the best summer of my life? No way I'd let that happen."
He released Hermione as he slid open the compartment with Ron and Ginny waiting for him, and held it open as Neville slipped inside as well before following suite, sitting next to Hermione comfortably.
"She... uh... say anything, mate?" Ron asked after a collective sigh as the village of Hogsmeade disappeared from view.
"Luna?" Harry asked, feigning indifference for a moment before swatting the hand that Ron was threatening him with. "It is never so much a goodbye, as a simple farewell. It is not as though you will never see each other again." Alright, so maybe she hadn't said that, but it was a fair message anyway, one he had learned from the elves quite some time ago.
"That's deep," Neville said sagely, Ginny nodding her agreement.
"No, you know what's deep?" Harry asked, a grin on his face as he turned to look to Hermione carefully.
"What?" she asked cautiously, catching the glint in his ocean green eyes but not commenting on it just yet. "What did you do?"
Harry sighed and leaned against the window - carefully putting a little distance between himself and his girlfriend in the process. "Nothing much," he replied casually. "Just found out I got an Outstanding on an exam, that's all."
"An Outstanding?" Hermione repeated shrilly. "Harry, that's great! I always knew you'd do great in Defense Against the Dark Arts! Did he tell you..."
"Not just an exam, either. My NEWT level exam," Harry added, cutting off her question by sticking that out there. The incredible silence in the compartment was broken after about a minute by a distinctly catlike growl of exasperation as Hermione launched herself at Harry, who burst out laughing at the same time.
Summer was looking like it was going to be interesting, to say the least.
Until the sun sets upon a broken world, I will be watching from within...