The rest of the journey was relatively uneventful.
The first-years in Harry's carriage consumed about thirty Chocolate Frogs between them before they started feeling normal again. The dementors may not have had the chance to get beyond the front of the train, but their collective presence had still been disquieting. One little boy ate so many Chocolate Frogs that he became sick at his stomach; Hermione barely got him to the carriage loo in time to prevent him from inadvertently redecorating the walls of his compartment.
The dimpled lady with the cart came by and served out lunch; soon, the resilient first-years were munching away on cauldron cakes and pumpkin pasties, their experience with Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle already half-forgotten. Ron and Hermione taught them to play Exploding Snap, and before long the sounds of chattering and laughter filled the carriage.
Lucy kept on her invisibility cloak, even after Crawford ended the Red Alert. She didn't prowl about the carriage, but instead sat in the Three Musketeers' compartment and reported in to Crawford every five minutes on her cellphone. There was nothing further to report, other than that everything was under control.
Crawford, on the other hand, had things to report to her, things that had to be told to Harry, Ron and Hermione.
"When the train stops at Hogsmeade Station, make sure none of the first-years goes anywhere near the front of the train," Lucy said. "Hustle them up the path and over to the boats as soon as possible; we'll be taking them over ourselves. There's nothing dangerous up there now -- not anymore -- but it's not a pretty sight. Not something they should have as their first memory of Hogwarts."
"We'll be taking them over the lake ourselves?" cried a surprised Hermione. "Where's Hagrid?"
"He and Madame Maxime haven't returned from visiting the giants just yet," Lucy said in a carefully controlled voice.
Harry wished Lucy-Clarice wasn't wearing the cloak, so he could see her face. She was hiding something from them, he was certain of it. "Any word from them?", he asked, trying to sound as casual as he could.
"I don't know," Lucy said in a similarly casual voice; Harry was sure she wasn't telling all she knew. "I haven't heard, myself. But in any event, we'll be there to take the kids across. I'll uncloak as soon as everything is in hand at the platform, and join you all in the boats after I check in with Jack and drop off Malfoy and his buddies with him. We're going to be unloading the carriages one at a time, starting from the rear, and loading up the boats as we go; with luck, by the time we get the last of the carriages emptied, they may have had enough time to hose off the front of the train with Scouring Charms. It seems that dementors don't die very nicely," she finished, in a tone that made Harry and his friends shudder.
By this time, the sun had set; the carriage lights came on, and Harry thought he could almost smell the lake off in the distance. The Ministry must have grabbed onto every competent wizard they could find to fight off the twin attacks, Harry reckoned, if they were so short-handed they were going to rely on Lucy and a trio of fifth-years to guide the boats.
Soon they were at the platform in Hogsmeade Station. Their carriage was in the middle of the train, so it took a while before they were finally given the signal to depart via cellphone.
When Crawford finally cleared them to leave, Lucy finally doffed her cloak. "Saddle up, everyone," she said, wand in hand, as she exited the compartment she had shared with Harry, Ron and Hermione. "Let's get these dogies rolling."
Carefully avoiding the front of the train, they herded the students, gently yet quickly, along the darkly wooded path and into the waiting boats; as she said she would, Lucy stayed behind to dispose of Malfoy, Flint, Crabbe and Goyle.
Once all the Death Eaters had been hauled away, Lucy came to join Harry, Ron and Hermione. A wizard was with her, one that all three of them immediately recognized.
"Remus!" they shouted together, and ran to gang-tackle their beloved, smiling Professor Lupin.
"Easy, now, easy!" Remus cried out as the Three Musketeers nearly smothered him in a group hug. "I'm a delicate old man prone to having the vapors, you know," he said laughingly as he brushed himself off. He was wearing elegant new robes and towed behind him a new trunk very similar to Harry's own, which led Harry to make a quick deduction:
"I take it you know Lucy and Dr. Reader, Remus?"
Remus broke into a broad, warm smile. "I do indeed, Harry. They've been most kind to me, as I see they have been to you." He stood back at bit, taking in Harry from head to toe. "You're becoming a fine figure of a young man, Harry. Your parents would be proud of you."
"Are you coming back to teach, Remus?" asked Hermione eagerly.
"I certainly am," beamed Remus. "The once and future Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," he announced as Ron and Harry pounded him gleefully on the back.
Remus suddenly straightened up. "Well, enough of that. We've got work to do. Ready, Lucy?"
"Then away we go," said Remus, leading them off to the boats and the start of a new term.
(....Here endeth Part Two of Harry Potter and the Memory Palace. Part Three, The War, will start sometime this weekend. Take care! Catherine Cook)