Harry Potter and the Serpent's Coven
Chapter One - The Boy Who Wished
It was on a late foggy evening in July that the sound of pondering footsteps broke the silence on Privet Drive. The streetlamps had been lit for a couple of hours in the surrounding area, but for some reason, Privet Drive remained in almost complete darkness. The footsteps had stopped abruptly upon rounding the corner, and their owner, a teenage boy with untidy black hair and spectacles, now proceeded with caution.
As he came within about twenty yards of number four, he noticed the faint silhouette of something perched atop the garden wall. He slowly drew a wooden wand from inside his jacket and pointed it towards the ground a little way in front of him.
"Lumos" he muttered under his breath, and the wand lit up his path like a torch.
He slowly raised it, not wishing to attract any attention, until the light reflected off what could only be the unflinching eyes of a cat As he looked closely at the animal sitting so stiffly on the wall and following his every movement, he realised where he had seen the cat before.
"I should have known" he chuckled to himself.
The cat gave a slightly twitchy nod as the boy approached.
"Good evening Professor" he said, and with that, the cat leapt from the wall and made a rapid transformation into the shape of a very earnest-looking witch, but never once removed her eyes from the boy. She walked up to him, her expression lessening in severity, and spoke.
"Harry Potter, you of all people should know how dangerous for a young wizard to be walking around openly and alone at night."
Harry shrugged. He had been expecting rebukes like this to be coming thick and fast since he last left Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry where he had spent the last six years of his education.
"Professor McGonagall, I'll soon be enjoying the last day of the protection Dumbledore left on my home, but where am I really safe at all now? Where is anyone safe?"
The very mention of the late headmaster's name had brought an almost tangible sadness down on the two of them. Harry scratched the back of his neck in the awkward silence, and McGonagall settled upon a brave smile.
"Walk with me a while, Potter".
They continued slowly past the house, both now more aware of the slight chill in the air. Harry was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with each step he took until the new headmistress spoke again.
"The Burrow was actually my last port of call, and as you may imagine, I had a great deal to discuss there."
Harry's heart began weighing him down as if it were now made of lead. Although he knew he would be returning to face them before long, he had done his utmost to forget about the Weasley family. Just the thought of the dark times ahead, and the suffering that he could well bring to them by his very existence was too much for him to bear. He could be as brave as he wanted, but over the past week, he had lost count of the thoughts that began with "I'd give anything…". He'd have given anything to have back those he had lost, to see his parents or Sirius, his godfather, if only to hear what they would've done in his situation. He'd have given anything for all to be right with the world of magic into which he had been pulled at the age of eleven, for the evil to be undone, and to worry about nothing more than life with the Dursleys or captaining the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Within the bounds of this last wish, he would have given anything to be with Ginny, the beautiful daughter of the Weasleys who had invaded his heart and mind at every turn. Harry had ended their romance to keep Ginny safe, now that he himself was most definitely in harm's way. It was something of which he had to often remind himself, in a weak justification of the heartache that remained.
"Though it may surprise you to know that much of my time was taken up with your friend Ron and Miss Grainger," she continued, "who, I might add, seem to be presenting a far more united front than in times gone by."
"Really?" Harry replied.
Seeing a nod from McGonagall, his spirits rose a little. He had often felt over the past few years that Ron and Hermione, his two best friends, were a little too blind to the truth that there was something a lot more than simple friendship between the pair of them. It had been a long time coming.
"But it was a different matter I wished to discuss with you" she went on, following Harry's train of thought, "I refer to the rumour that you are not planning to return to Hogwarts this year".
Harry paused. He had not thought about how he would reply to this, but then again, he had not thought that anyone other than Ron and Hermione would have found out so soon. Feeling a little betrayed, he tried as best he could to explain.
"I have something I must do that's more important than my N.E.W.T's," he said, already feeling that, being unwilling to divulge his quest even to McGonagall, this explanation sounded a bit pathetic, "and I heard that the school might be closing anyway."
She sighed derisively.
"Potter, I may not be the gifted Legilimens that my predecessor was, but do not take me for a fool" a look of grave severity had returned to her face "The wizard you seek to destroy is feared by even the greatest of aurors and even by those in his service. Feared by those who have excelled in their pursuit of magical knowledge and pushed themselves to their furthermost limits, for good or ill. We have lost the only wizard who recognised the Dark Lord's weaknesses and had no fear of him!"
Professor McGonagall took a deep breath and composed herself. Seeing the unwavering resolve in Harry's eyes, she smiled gently.
"Harry, you are every bit the perfect student of Gryffindor. Brave and unyielding in the face of danger, fiercely loyal to the end. I have no doubt that Godric himself would have been proud to teach you. But whether you like it or not, there are lessons that you have still to learn. And has Hogwarts not provided you with knowledge that has kept you alive so far? This is not about receiving a piece of parchment displaying your academic achievements, but about giving you the tools you will need to survive and do what you were born to do".
"But Professor – "
She raised her hand to silence him and continued.
"The appointment of Professor Snape to teach you Occlumency in your fifth year was somewhat ill-advised," Harry shuddered with rage at hearing the name spoken aloud, "but it is just one of many magical elements that you must be taught. I'm sure Professor Dumbledore told you many times that perhaps your greatest weapon is to have a heart that can love so deeply, but to be forever wearing it on your sleeve is the terrible weakness that accompanies it."
Harry was now staring in silence at her.
"I will be personally escorting you to The Burrow tomorrow afternoon. There is still much to be said, and much you must hear from those who wish to help you."
She straightened her hat and pulled on a small pair of black gloves. Harry then found his voice.
"Professor, I know there are things I still have to learn, but I can't just go back to school. Even if you kept Hogwarts open, and there were enough parents letting their children go back there after what happened, my being there would just put everyone in more danger."
Professor McGonagall fixed him with a very earnest look.
"Harry, you don't understand. Hogwarts has now become the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, and I have to say that many of them are now as bloodthirsty as any Death Eater. The enchantments placed in and around the castle are such that prepare us for war. These are dark times for all of us, of that there is no question, but more than ever a time to stand united."
Harry returned to a silent look of bewilderment as she readied herself to depart.
"Now I may not know every particular of what passed between you and Albus Dumbledore, but unless Lord Voldemort himself is sitting in my study as we speak, you will be returning to Hogwarts!"
And with a small 'pop', Professor McGonagall disappeared into thin air, leaving Harry Potter alone in the middle of Privet Drive, almost wishing that he was just a muggle who didn't know about any of this.