Warning: If you have NOT read Half-Blood Prince (HBP) yet then I STRONGLY advise that you do not continue reading. This story contains major HBP spoilers so if that bothers you then don't read on. If you ignore this and keep reading anyway then that's your loss. I don't want to hear any complaints that I spoiled the 6th book for you. If you have read all 6 books then please, continue on and enjoy the story. If you haven't, you have been warned…

D.A.D.A: Defense Against the Dark Arts (To those who don't know what it stands for)

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in it. Harry Potter belongs to J.K Rowling and her alone.

It was the 20th of August and Hermione could be seen lying awake on her bed, her chocolate brown eyes gazing up at the twirling ceiling fan above her. Thoughts of her past year at Hogwarts began to flood her mind as they did every day of her summer.

The only man in the world who Voldemort ever feared had passed away, gone, leaving Hogwarts completely vulnerable to another attack from the Death Eaters, leaving her second home open to be destroyed. Sure they have jinxes, curses, hexes and all sorts of stuff to protect the school, but truth be told, Voldemort is not stupid. Sick, evil, hateful, low, but not stupid. He'd find a way to get back into the school, especially now that he has Snape back with him. After all, Snape was the one who helped think and put up most of those spells guarding the school. Surely he could take them down no problem.

Hermione went deeper into her thoughts and began to wonder if Voldemort really would attack the school again. Would he have a reason to? Of course he would. There are hundreds of "mudbloods" and "blood traitors" there that he would need to rid the world of and many of them are small, little first years without a clue of how to defend themselves.

The number of staff that works at Hogwarts isn't nearly enough to have an even battle with the Death Eaters if one were to break out again. Not to mention Snape also knows where all the house dormitories are and every twist and turn in the castle. He would no doubt lead the Death Eaters right to the students.

No matter how Hermione looked at it, the day Snape rejoined the Death Eaters was a very happy day for Voldemort.

And then there is Draco Malfoy. As much as Hermione despises Malfoy she could not help but feel a shred of pity for him. If what Harry had told her was true (and she knew it was) Malfoy really did not want to kill Dumbledore. He just wanted to ensure the safety of his family and who could blame him for that? Not to mention his life was at stake too. She knew he was nasty, selfish, and hateful, but evil? No. A killer? No. She felt sure of that.

Now days she can only wonder where he is at the moment: if he is ok, if he got his family back. Somehow she doubted it. After all, he was not the one who killed Dumbledore, Snape was. He failed to follow Voldemort's orders and she couldn't help but wonder if he was being punished for it or if he was even still alive…

Loud howls of agony rang out through winding dark tunnels in the interior of a large cave. Down in the dungeons the screams could be heard erupting from the throat of a young man who lay twisting and writing in pain.

His arms and legs thrashed violently about and his back kept arching up off the ground. His white-blonde hair that usually was kept clean and styled nicely now looked ragged and messy. His hair glued to his forehead as a result of the sweat that was running down his face.

Death Eaters stood against the walls and watched him twisting his body around and digging his nails into the soil beneath him. Voldemort stood a mere five feet away from the boy, his wand raised and pointed down at him.

"You will learn, Draco," Voldemort spoke quietly. "You joined my side last summer and you will learn to obey me. When I instruct you to kill I do not expect you to stand there and talk," he went on in a quiet, sinister voice just loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Draco's pale-blue eyes fell on one of the Death Eaters standing against the wall. It was the Death Eater he knew to be his father. He wanted to call out to him, to ask him to help him, help his own son, to make the pain go away. However, he could not turn his painful screams into audible words, but he knew he wouldn't have to. He knew his eyes were fixed with a look of excruciating pain and terror. He knew his father could see him. He knew he was meeting his eyes. He knew he was staring directly back at him.

Draco's heart gave a lurch with emotional pain to match the physical pain his body is going through when he realized that his father, his idol, was not going to help him. This was confirmed when Lucius turned his face away from his son and proceeded to strike up conversation with a Death Eater beside him.

It was then that another wave of pain crashed over Draco and made him feel ten times worse. However, this wave of pain was not physical pain. The second Lucius broke contact with Draco's eyes; realization struck him so hard that the pain in his head seemed to intensify by ten folds. It was like an invisible contract had been signed. For the first time in Draco's life he is alone. The turn of his father's face had made that official.

After what seemed like an eternity, Voldemort finally lowered his wand, pulling the Cruciatus Curse off. Draco's body fell limp on the ground. His chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath. His burning eyes were still staring off at his father's cloaked figure. His very soul felt heavy with betrayal and he couldn't help but allow burning-hot tears to stream across the bridge of his nose and drip down onto the ground underneath the side of his face.

"You will learn, Draco," Voldemort repeated. "Until tomorrow," he said as he pocketed his wand and turned to leave the dungeons, his Death Eaters at his heals.

Draco's flooded eyes refused to tear away from the spot where his father had been standing just seconds ago. Even when Lucius had walked out through the dungeon door, he still stared unblinkingly at that spot. He barely heard the dungeon door boom shut and he was left completely alone, on the ground, in the blinding darkness.

It was around 2:00am when Hermione stirred from her slumber and sat up. It took her a moment to register what exactly had woken her up until a faint taping noise reached her ears. She turned her eyes onto her window and almost screamed when she saw a set of large yellow eyes staring back at her. However, she was just able to catch herself when she realized that it was just an owl.

The owl was pitch black in color, which caused it to blend perfectly with the dark sky in its background. The only visible feature she could see of the owl were its great amber eyes. He had a bigger body then most owls and he had two tufts of feathers growing from the top of his head that made him appear to have horns.

Hermione only knows one person who owns an owl like this and the thought made her smile.

She reached over to her nightstand beside her bed and switched the lamp on. After setting her feet on the floor she made her way over to the window. She quickly unlatched it and heaved it open to allow the owl to hop inside.

"Hey there, Balzar," Hermione said softly as she stroked the owl gently on his head. The owl hooted its greeting back to Hermione and then held out his leg so she could receive the letter that was attached. After relieving Balzar of his burden she quickly opened her letter and begun to read.

Dear Hermione,

I hope you are doing well. I am afraid I must write this letter quickly. I write to you to ask if you could please take Balzar to Hogwarts with you this year. I know this is an odd request, but please do it. You will see why when you get there.

Yours truly,

A frown was etched on Hermione's face and she looked over at Balzar. She felt a little taken aback to see that he was staring at her intently. Almost like he felt curious as to why she is frowning.

Hermione set the letter down on her desk and headed off to the bathroom to fill a cup up with water to give to Balzar. When she returned she set the cup down in front of him and he immediately began drinking greedily from it. She gently scratched behind his neck under his feathers, which caused an odd purr-like sound to emit from the owl's throat. A smile replaced her frown. Every time Viktor had sent Balzar to her to deliver a letter she always scratched him on the neck under his feathers and every time he would always make that unusual sound.

Hermione turned her attention away from Balzar and headed back over to her bed. She turned the light out and laid down on her back and stared up at the ceiling fan once again, now feeling wide-awake. She heard the quick, ghostly flutter of wings as Balzar flew across her room and settled himself on Hermione's headboard above her head.

Her thoughts were on Viktor's letter. He expects her to go to Hogwarts this year and to bring his owl with her for reasons that were beyond her. But she and Ron had already told Harry they'd accompany him on his search for Voldemort's last horcruxes. And while she wouldn't hesitate to stay by Harry's side even if the world were ending, she couldn't help but feel that it wouldn't be a good idea to look for them just yet. That maybe it would be best to get one more year of magical education under their belts before they go off and begin their search.

Voldemort will surely have difficult obstacles guarding his horcruxes that they will need to overcome and Harry and Ron can't deny that they learn new and important stuff every year. Surely learning new and more powerful spells will greatly help them out. Not to mention learning to distinguish good potions from bad ones, dealing with more dangerous magical creatures, and sharpen their transfiguration and charm skills will most definitely come in handy.

With this in mind she decided that she would write to Harry first thing in the morning and ask him what he thinks. It was just then that Hermione realized that a pair of large amber eyes were staring curiously down at her. She pressed the back of her head deeper into her pillow so she could meet the eyes of Balzar. Hermione smiled up at the owl.

Balzar has stayed the night at her house enough times for her to know that when he sits on her headboard and stares at her like that it means that he wants to come down beside her. Not that she minds though. It's just like having the feathery puppy she's never had and he has never once pooped in her bed so she saw no harm in it.

"You sure are a strange owl," she pointed out as she slid under her covers but kept them held up to signal Balzar to get under. Balzar needed no further invitation. He hopped down beside Hermione's head and crawled under the held up covers. She let the covers fall as soon as she felt Balzar nest down at her side. She slid a hand under the covers to gently scratch Balzar on the back of his neck until she drifted to sleep and her hand fell limp beside the snoozing owl.

The next morning Hermione awoke to find Balzar sitting contently on her stomach and staring at her. She gently pushed Balzar aside and sat up. She then stretched her arms high over her head and yawned sleepily. Slowly and tiredly, she crawled out of bed and headed over to her dresser.

After picking out clothes to wear for the day she began to lift her nightshirt up and over her head. Her eyes unconsciously fell on Balzar who was sitting on her bed with his back turned toward her and his eyes were staring at the wall.

Hermione's expression contorted into that of confusion as she watched the owl. Now that she thought about it, she realized that every time she had dressed or undressed with Balzar in the room with her he always looked away. It was almost like he had shame. Hermione scoffed at the idea. Of course owls don't have shame.

"Did Viktor teach you to look away when a lady dresses?" Hermione asked as she pulled on her last article of clothing and began to make her way over to her desk. She sat down in her chair and pulled out a piece of paper from the desk drawer. She laid the paper on the desk in front of her then reached for a nearby pen. Balzar quickly fluttered over to the desk to join Hermione and took his place on the flat surface beside the piece of paper.

Dear Harry,

Hermione began but then stopped. She brought the back of the pen to her lips and began to chew on it whilst she thought of the perfect way to word out her letter best. She wanted it to sound convincing, but not pushy. Knowing Harry he'd want to leave straight away for the horcruxes. Not spend another year at Hogwarts.

I have been doing some thinking lately and- I know this is something you're not going to want to hear- but I think we should go back to spend our last year at Hogwarts. Before you get huffy! Please hear me out.

Hermione looked down at what she had just written and begun to think. Maybe she should write out the letter so no one would understand it if Balzar where to get intercepted. Of course he is only flying through the muggle worlds, but she decided not to take any chances.

You see, U-No-Poo

Hermione smiled to herself as she remembered the funny sign Fred and George had outside their joke shop.

-will obviously have dangerous and tricky obstacles guarding his horse crosses as you already witnessed when…you know. I think it would probably be best if we went back to Hogwarts for our final 

year to- you know- Sharpen our knowledge on dangerous creatures and potions and how to use more powerful spells and charms. You can't tell me that you haven't learned a new and important thing every year. I also heard that our new D.A.D.A teacher will be really good this year and I think that's the class that is most crucial for us to learn. You see, we finish up Hogwarts and then we set out to find them. With a whole seven years of training under our belts we'll be ready for anything U-No-Poo tries to throw at us. The seventh year is suppose to be the level when we learn all kinds of tricky but useful stuff that they can't teach us in the years below 7th. Please Harry. I know it won't be the same there anymore without Dumbledore, but It's only one more year and I've never felt more strongly about anything else. Please consider this letter Harry and send Balzar (Viktor's owl) back to me with your answer. And don't even think about ignoring this and setting out on your own because if I don't get a message back from you in three days I'll leave to find you and I won't come home until I do. It's a scary world out there Harry and I really don't want to be in it alone, but if that's what it'll take for me to find you then so be it. I'm just really not looking forward to having to do that.


P.S- If/when I get your reply and you agree with me I'll meet you in Diagon Ally on the 25th to get our school stuff. I already got the letter from Hogwarts telling us what we need to get. Even if you didn't get it yet we can go by what mine says. I'll also send a letter to Ron when/if I get your reply.

Hermione reread her letter three times to make sure she was completely satisfied with it. She then turned her attention onto Balzar and found him staring intently down at her letter at his scaly feet. If Hermione didn't know any better she'd say he was reading it.

"I doubt Viktor will mind if I use you to deliver this letter," Hermione spoke, which quickly caught the owl's attention and he looked up at her, the tufts of feathers lifting higher on his head. The owl hooted softly and obediently held his leg out for Hermione to attach the paper to.

Hermione quickly folded the paper up into a small square and secured it with a paperclip. She then took some nearby leather string and used it to attach her letter to Balzar's extended leg.

Hermione scooted her chair back and stood up from her desk and held her arm out. Balzar immediately flew up onto her offered arm and she carried him across the room to her window.

"Balzar, I need you to take this letter to my friend, Harry Potter. It's important and I need you to hurry there and back. Make sure he writes back. Pester him nonstop if you have to, ok?" Balzar hopped up onto Hermione's shoulder and affectionately nibbled her ear as his way of saying, "anything for you". This caused a smile to spread on Hermione's face and she reached up to her shoulder to perch the owl back on her wrist.

"Off you go then," she said cheerily and stuck her arm out the window. There was a brief second of pressure on her wrist as Balzar launched himself off and took to the sky.

Hermione stood at her window and watched him until he became no more then a dark speck that was quickly swallowed up by the clouds. She began to wonder to herself if she should have told Balzar how to get to Harry's house. Those thoughts were ceased when she realized that if he could fly hundreds of miles from Bulgaria and find her house and Hogwarts he could surely find Harry's house forty miles away.

For the next two days Hermione waited in anticipation for Balzar's return. Whenever she left her room she always made sure to leave her window open. It wasn't until late that night on the second day when she heard a tapping noise on her window.

Hermione looked up at her window and her heart leapt with happiness to see the familiar large, amber eyes of Balzar staring back at her. Hermione jumped up from her chair and hurried over to her window to pry it open. Instead of hopping down onto her windowsill, Balzar fluttered up to Hermione's shoulder and gently nipped her ear affectionately.

"It's good to see you too. I'm glad you made it back safely," said Hermione as she lifted the owl off her shoulder and carried him over to her bed where she set him down.

"I trust that you made sure he wrote back?" Hermione asked as she eyed the folded piece of paper tied to Balzar's leg. Balzar puffed up his dark-feathered chest proudly and held out his leg. The smile faded from Hermione's face as she untied the folded piece of paper and opened it up with bated breath. She flopped down on her bed and began to read the letter quietly to herself.

Dear Hermione,

I don't want you wandering around looking for me, so if it means that much to you then I'll go back to Hogwarts. I just got a letter from Moony and he wants me to stay at Hogwarts too. He, and two other aurors will be patrolling Hogsmead again this year and he wants us to keep an eye on things at the school and alert them if we notice anything suspicious. I guess since we're of age now they want us to help them out. I guess we're playing spies this year Hermione. But we can't tell anyone other then Ron. Moony couldn't have made that clearer in his letter. I'll write to Ron now and tell him what's going on. I'll see you and Ron on the 25th.

Hermione grinned as she crumpled the letter up and tossed it aside. She reached her hand out to scratch Balzar gratefully on the back of his neck, which he seemed to greatly appreciate.

The thoughts in her head made Hermione's grin grow brighter. They are going back to Hogwarts. Once again she can wonder around the corridors and ancient hallways of her second home. Once again she can shop for school supplies with her two best friends. Once again she and Ron have to patrol the train together, this time as head boy and girl of Gryffindor and then meet up with Harry later. Once again she and her two best friends can sit in the hall and wonder who their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher would be for the year.

Hermione swung her legs over her bed and settled her feet on the floor. She moved her feet toward her dresser and pulled her pajama drawer open. She then extracted a large shirt and began to strip her clothes off. Her eyes fell on Balzar who, once again, had his back turned on her and he was staring at the wall in front of him.

Hermione, though weird as she thought it was, decided to brush the owl's odd behavior away.

'Viktor probably just taught him to do that as some stupid joke,' she thought to herself with a shrug.

After dawning the oversized shirt she headed back to bed and slipped under the covers. Balzar did not hesitate to waddle over to her pillows where he nested down beside Hermione's cheek and it wasn't long until the pair drifted off to sleep.

True to her word, Hermione met up with Harry and Ron in Diagon Ally. She had left Balzar behind in her room, which he didn't seem to mind. He had taken his place atop her headboard and dozed off with his head tucked under his wing by the time she had walked out her bedroom door.

Her time in Diagon Ally with her two best friends was extremely enjoyable as usual. However, she wouldn't admit it aloud, but she had been secretly keeping an eye out for Draco Malfoy. Although, she did not feel surprised to see neither eye nor ear of him. She looked at Harry and knew that he was doing the same thing. Hermione knew he wouldn't admit it, but she had a feeling that he wondered about Malfoy too.

When they had collected all their necessities for school, Harry went off with Ron to spend the rest of the summer at the Burrow. They had invited Hermione to come along as well, but she thought it best to spend the rest of the summer at home with her parents. She couldn't quite explain it, but she had a strange hunch, a gut feeling that she would not be seeing them for longer then a year.

On the first of September Hermione found herself pushing a trolley through platform nine and three quarters, Balzar perched on her shoulder. Saying goodbye to her parents seemed harder to do then it had ever had before. For some strange reason Hermione just could not shake the nagging feeling that she would not see them again for a long time and it wasn't because she was leaving for school.

After crossing the barrier, she immediately caught site of Ron's standout red hair and then saw Harry at his side, both holding the handles of their trolleys. A smile spread across her face and she hurried over to them.

Before long Hermione, Harry, and Ron had stowed their luggage away in an empty compartment. Harry agreed to keep an eye on Crookshanks as Hermione opened his cat carrier and let him loose. She then set off with Ron to do their usual patrolling of the train (Balzar still remained perched upon Hermione's shoulder).

"Hermione, why couldn't you have left that ruddy bird back in the compartment with Harry?" Ron asked when they had made it halfway down the train.

"Why, what's wrong with him?" Hermione replied.

"He's creepy that's what's wrong with him," Ron retorted. "Don't you see the way he's glaring at me? And those feathers sticking up on his head looks more like devil horns if you ask me!"

"Oh honestly, Ron. You're making a big deal over an owl. You see them every day and I assure you this one's no different," said Hermione as she poked her head into a compartment full of nervous first years.

"I don't know, Hermione. There's something weird about that owl. I don't trust it," Ron said as he passed a wary look at Balzar over his shoulder. Hermione sighed exasperatedly.

"Balzar's harmless. Look he's as sweet as a kitten," Hermione pointed out as she stroked Balzar's feathery tummy in an attempt to prove her point.

"Yeah, real sweet," Ron muttered sarcastically. "Whose owl is that anyway?"

"He's Viktor's owl," Hermione stated firmly, knowing full well the kind of response she'd get from Ron.

"Krum?" he snarled.

"How many Viktors do you know?" Hermione responded.

"What are you doing with his owl?" Ron demanded.

"If you must know," Hermione began, clear annoyance laced in her voice. "He asked me to bring Balzar with me to Hogwarts."

"Why?" Ron blurted.

"I don't know. He just asked me to in his last letter. Besides, Balzar isn't a burden on me. In fact I kind of like having him around. Why do you care anyway?" Hermione snapped. She could feel her patience running thin.

"You only like having that bloody owl around because he reminds you of your dear Vicky, doesn't he?" Ron retorted with a glare. Hermione stopped dead in her tracks and stared coldly at Ron, her hands placed firmly on her hips.

"Maybe he does," she said coolly before she strode forward and past Ron. It may have been Ron's imagination, but he could have sworn that the black, great horned owl turned his head around to pass a cold glare at Ron before Hermione disappeared amongst a crowd of 6th years.

When their patrolling job was through, Hermione and Ron headed back to the compartment that they had left Harry in. Neither Ron nor Hermione had said another word to each other since their most recent argument.

Ron enclosed his hand around the brass handle of the compartment door and slid it open.

Harry could be seen sitting opposite of Neville and Luna Lovegood. Neville was eating sweets that Harry had no doubt shared with him (he was eating sweets too) and Luna, as usual, was reading an issue of The Quibbler upside-down.

Ron and Hermione entered the compartment and Hermione took the empty seat beside Harry.

Hermione found the rest of the train ride fairly enjoyable and even a little relaxing. She had quite a few laughs with Harry and even Ron, after he stopped complaining about Balzar being "creepy".

The ride, for the most part, was pretty uneventful. Not counting the moment Harry tried to scratch Balzar behind his neck like Hermione had demonstrated. Apparently Balzar doesn't like to be touched by anyone other than Hermione. For the owl screeched angrily before whirling around and latching onto Harry's finger with his sharp, hooked beak.

After Harry had shook the owl from his bleeding appendage, Balzar swooped up onto the luggage rack above their heads and stared down, particularly at Harry, Ron, and Neville. When he wasn't sitting up on the luggage rack, he was making himself comfortable on Hermione's knee. Although, wherever he sat, he seemed to make sure to keep Hermione within his sight.

Throughout the ride, Hermione would throw quick glances at the sliding door every now and then as if expecting, almost hoping, it to open and reveal the snot-nosed, blond-haired Malfoy as it usually does on just about all their train rides to Hogwarts. He would come in to start trouble with Harry and Ron or to just make his existence known or something, but not this time. The door remained shut the whole ride and wasn't opened by anyone except the sweets cart lady. This, though Hermione wouldn't admit out loud, disturbed her a little bit.

When the train came to a full stop in front of the Hogsmead train station, Hermione and Ron quickly set to work on helping the many first years off the train. Balzar went along for the ride on Hermione's shoulder.

While weaving in and out of the crowd of students, Hermione noticed that Blaise Zabini had taken Malfoy's place as head boy of Slytherin and he was just as rough with the first years as his good friend was.

Hermione decided to have a word with Blaise about his behavior toward the first years. Not that she thought it would do anything, that she is sure of, but she couldn't just stand around and watch him shove them around and not say anything.

"I'll be right back," she said to Ron before she began to make her way down the crowded lane toward Blaise. To Hermione's great surprise, as soon as she passed by an open window, Balzar spread his wings and swooped out, leaving Hermione behind and out of his sight for the first time in hours.

Hermione watched with confusion etched on her features as Balzar flew away and out of sight. His black plumage blended perfectly with the night sky.

Figuring that he would probably come back to her later that night, she shut the window and continued down the lane toward Blaise who, to her slight relief, had left the first years and had disappeared amongst the crowd. Hermione jumped back into her Head Girl element and proceeded to help the now even more startled first years.

After Ron and Hermione had made sure all the first years had made it to Hagrid for their traditional trip across the lake, they met up with Harry who was standing out of the way of the train exit and craning his neck above the crowd in search for their faces.

"What happened to that owl?" Ron asked in a voice that was anything but concerned.

"He flew out a window, but I'm sure he'll be back," Hermione replied.

"Oh, great," Ron said sarcastically, but Hermione ignored him.

The trio stepped off the train and turned to walk alongside it, heading for the thestral-drawn carriages that would take them to Hogwarts as they do every year.

"I wonder who our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher will be this year," thought Harry aloud as he walked along Hermione's left side.

"Can't be anyone worse then Umbridge or Snape," commented Ron, but quickly regretted it when Harry's jaw noticeably tightened at the mention of Snape's name.

"Oh I bet it'll be someone brilliant. After what happened last year McGonagall will want someone good," said Hermione excitedly.

"Hopefully," was Harry's only reply. The thought of the events last year still troubled him greatly.

"It'll probably be someone really cool. Someone who knows their stuff. Someone who knows every dark arts spell in the book. Someone who is like-"

"-Viktor!" Hermione shrieked, cutting Ron off of his sentence. Before Ron or Harry could respond, Hermione was off in a whoosh of black robes and was dashing through the crowd, carelessly shoving past people and ignoring the annoyed looks she was receiving from them.

Sure enough, when Harry and Ron looked ahead of Hermione to see whom she is running to, they saw none other than Viktor Krum standing underneath the light of a lit lamppost.

He was standing amongst the crowd, but he stuck out like a sore thumb and it wasn't just because he was the only one not wearing robes like everyone else. He stood taller then most of the people around him and, to Ron's silent annoyance, buffer. His upper body reminded Harry faintly of a wrestler. His hair was cropped very short and he had a distinct glint in his eye.

Harry noticed that the scowl he had always worn on his face the last time they met was completely unknown now and in its place, a broad grin. His muscular arms were stretched out, welcoming Hermione to a great bear hug.

Those strong arms enclosed around Hermione's much smaller frame when she reached him and effortlessly swept her off her feet. He twirled her around once in a circle, his smile only growing brighter before he set her back down on her feet. Hermione's cheeks were now noticeably pink and she was smiling from ear to ear.

"Krum…" Harry heard a hissed voice and turned his attention onto Ron who looked anything but happy.

"Oh it's so good to see you!" Hermione exclaimed as she circled her arms around Viktor's neck for another hug, which he instantly returned, this time keeping her feet on the ground.

"It is good to see you too, Herm-own-ninny."

Harry was not surprised to hear that Krum's accent had not wavered very much at all since the last time they met.

"I can't believe it's you. What're you doing here? I thought you were training to apply for a job," Hermione rushed breathlessly as she touched the palm of her hand to Krum's cheek as if to make sure he were real.

"Vell, I did. And I got that job," Viktor replied, his smile never faltering. "I vork her now. I am the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year. This is the job that I vrote to you about," Viktor went on. Hermione looked stunned.

"You see, after the Tri Vizard… tournament-" he spoke a little slowly, obviously trying to make sure to keep his sentences clear "-I began to study the… requirements for teaching. I vas vanting to spend time vith you and I know that you are busy vith school. So, instead of vaiting for you to finish vith school, I decided to go to school to you".

"Krum," Harry heard Ron hiss again.

"I have past all the tests and… Mc-Gona-gall-" he had to say her name a little slowly to make sure he'd said it right. "-approved of me for the job and vell… here I am".

"I'm so happy for you! This is great, Viktor! I mean-" Hermione stopped, her smile had overcome her stunned expression. "-Professor Krum" she corrected herself.

Krum's smile faltered slightly and he waved his hand dismissively in the air.

"No, Herm-own-ninny, I vood like you to still just call me Viktor. Only call me 'Professor' in classes," said Viktor.

"Well, alright then. But promise me you will grade my work like you would grade any of the other students in the class. If I deserve a D on my papers then give me that D, Ok?" Hermione firmly stated.

Viktor's smile brightened again and a small chuckle erupted from his chest.

"Herm-own-ninny, I vill not accept any less than your very best in my class".

"Thanks. Oh!" It had just dawned on Hermione that she has two other friends that are still walking toward them. She seized Krum's hand and gently towed him toward Harry and Ron.

"Krum," Ron hissed again before Hermione and Viktor got too close to hear him.

"Viktor, you remember Ron," Hermione began. Krum's cheerful expression faded back into his usual scowl and he simply nodded at Ron.

"Krum," Ron hissed in response, clearly trying to make his voice friendly but it didn't work too well to say the least. Krum didn't seem bothered by it though.

"And Harry, of course," Hermione finished. Viktor's scowl lightened slightly when his dark eyes fell on Harry. Viktor then extended his hand out to Harry, which Harry quickly seized in a friendly handshake. Harry felt satisfied that he and Krum now stand at about the same height.

"How's the Bulgarian team going?" Harry asked. Krum carelessly shrugged his broad shoulders at this question.

"I quit the team a vile back," Krum said nonchalantly, clearly not caring too much about the team.

"Other things had come up that I vas needing to vork on and had no more time to practice vith them. But I do miss playing seeker, I am thinking. I have not played quidditch in a vile," Krum sighed as he finished his sentence, clearly missing the days of chasing the golden winged ball. Harry took notice of this and gave Krum an approving look.

"If you want, you can come down to the fields and practice quidditch with me and my team. It'd be great to have a training partner," Harry offered sincerely. What better training partner could there be for the seeker position then a world famous, professional seeker?

A small, but sincere smile returned to Krum's features at Harry's offer. He had always liked Harry and respected him even though they're four years apart and he was his top competitor in the Tri Wizard Tournament. His respect for him only grew after he found out that Harry had actually dueled with the Dark Lord himself and lived to tell the tale.

"I vood like that," Krum answered truthfully.

"I brought your owl, but he flew away from me while I was on the train. I'm sorry," Hermione explained. She, Viktor, Harry, Ron, Neville, and Luna had found an empty carriage and had all piled into it. Viktor shared the seat with Luna and Hermione across from the seat that held Harry, Ron, and Neville.

Neville looked a little star-stricken to be sitting in a carriage with one of the world's greatest seekers. Ron looked angry, Harry looked nonchalant, and Luna was too busy reading her magazine upside-down to pay very much notice to Krum at all.

"It is alright. I am thinking he vent off to hunt. He vill come back. He alvays does," he assured.

Hermione nodded and proceeded to grow deep in conversation with Viktor, much to Ron's annoyance. She had missed talking to him in person. She found him to be very easy to talk to and she hardly even noticed his accent anymore.

The time seemed to fly by and before Hermione knew it, the thestrals had pulled their towed carriages up in front of the Hogwarts steps. The passengers climbed out and Harry was sure to give the thestral a thankful pat on the neck before he, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, and now Victor mounted the stone steps to enter the castle through the massive oak doors.

A/N: "guarding his horse crosses"

If you're confused about the "horse crosses" thing I did that on purpose. The trio doesn't want Voldemort to know that they know about his horcruxes and that they will be looking for them. So Hermione deliberately spelled "horcruxes" out to be, "horse crosses" incase Balzar got intercepted.