Disclaimer: Alas, I am not JK…it would be nice though, wouldn't it?

Chapter Thirty: A Long Ride Home

"So what really happened?"

"I'm sorry Drake, I can't tell you. I swore to Dumbledore."

"Aw, c'mon. You can't leave me out in the dark like that Harry. The whole school's going on about how you murdered Quirrell but I know it can't be true. What really happened?" If Draco Malfoy was anything, he was persistent. In the two days since the Gryffindor had gotten released from the hospital ward, the blond was close by.

"Maybe someday I'll tell you but in the meantime, Dumbledore's asked me to keep it quiet. Honest, I'd tell you if I could." Harry smiled. It was actually sort of fun to watch Draco's cheeks go red in frustration.

Draco blew out his cheeks in an angry sigh and then laid his head down on his arms over a book to sulk. "But I want to know now."

"Cheer up; we get to go home in a few days. No school or Snape for two whole months." Harry pulled the book away from Draco and clapped it shut. "And what are you still studying for, exams are over. You really are a Ravenclaw, aren't you?" There was a rather large stack of books next to the blond, who claimed they were summer reading. Madam Pince had agreed to let him take them over the summer when Draco had complained the orphanage he lived at didn't have good literature.

"So I like to read." Draco shot back defensively. "If you told Ron and Hermione, why can't you tell me?"

Harry shrugged. "Ron and Hermione were with me, they knew mostly everything anyway, and I couldn't leave off the ending. I owe them a lot."

"I suppose." Draco muttered, still looking sore.

"Tell you what; I'll buy you a case of Sugar Quills on the train if you let the whole thing go." Harry promised. Sugar Quills could get you almost anything when it came to Draco.

Draco raised his head slightly and quirked one platinum eyebrow, the end of his mouth curling into a smirk. "Do I have to share?"


"Then you've got a deal."

It had gotten quite annoying really. No, not the stares and whispers every time Harry walked by a group of students in the corridors, he was used to that. It was the fact that Hermione couldn't stop hugging him.

Worse yet it was giving the twins ideas. Harry's personal space had evaporated to nothing.

"Mione, for the last time. I'm perfectly fine. Everything is fine. Happy ending for everyone." Harry wrenched Hermione's arms from around his neck for the third time that day and sat down on a couch in the common room.

"Everyone except Quirrell of course." Ron pointed out, plopping down onto the cushions next to his best friend.

"I can't help it Harry. You have no idea what those hours were like. I was just sitting in the hallway, Ron was hurt, I didn't know if you were alive or dead or if I would ever see you again and honestly Harry," Hermione looked away embarrassed. "It was the scariest moment of my life."

"Scarier than the troll?" Ron asked in astonishment.

"Yes. You see, I've never had real friends before. And now that I do, it would seem tragic to go back to how I used to be. All books and no fun."

"She calls that fun." Ron looked at Harry with his eyes wide.

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I heard."

Ron looked at Hermione. "You've got to get your priorities straight." Ron's eyes suddenly went very round and he looked at Harry. "My parents have written me, they want to know if you and Sirius and Remus want to come over this summer for a fortnight. They said they'd add on a bedroom for you."

"What kind of question is that? Of course we'll come. We don't get a decent meal during holiday unless your mum's cooking it." Harry grinned.

"Hermione, the invitation's open to you too." Ron said quickly.

"It sounds like fun but I already have plans this summer. My parents want to visit my great aunt in France and then spend a week in Greece." Hermione shrugged apologetically.

Ron nodded and gulped. "Yeah, that sounds like fun too."

"I'll write you both tons. Promise me you'll write too?" Hermione looked at both boys hopefully.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Again, what kind of question is that?"

Harry made his way to the end of the year feast alone, actually grateful for the solitude. His shoes clicked quietly on the stone floors as he journeyed along, the torches just springing into life above his head. It was nearly eight o' clock but the summer sun set late so the halls were still lit with by a grayish hue coming from high windows.

It was Harry's first time alone in days and before he could stop it, what ifs were springing around his mind. Life wouldn't be the same after this year, not for Harry.

Voldemort was back and looking for ways to re-establish his power at any cost. If the madman was willing to attack Hogwarts itself, who knows what else Voldemort might do?

Harry sighed and blew his straggly black hair out of his face. Harry would be getting a haircut when he got home; he always did before summer holiday so he would be cooler in the warm weather. A personal rule of Remus' that applied to everyone in the household.

From several corridors away Harry could hear the feast, shouts, laughs, and the general ruckus of hundreds of students met Harry's ears like a wave crashing on the beach. Slow at first, then rising in volume until it hit a crescendo. A brief thought flashed through Harry's mind of skipping the feast altogether but he shoved it away forcefully. What he needed right now was a decent laugh.

"Going in Harry?" A tall third-year boy in Hufflepuff walked by him and smiled warmly. "I was talking with Flitwick about my exam grade." The boy explained as way of being late. As the two approached the door, the awkward silence between them implied that Harry should explain why he was also late.

"I was just thinking about something." Harry pushed open the doors to the Great Hall and walked in, heading for the Gryffindor table.

The boy nodded his farewell and headed towards his own table, waving at friends.

Nearly everyone was already seated and eating but a few stragglers like the Hufflepuff were filtering in with Harry. The voices dimmed slightly as Harry walked over to the Gryffindor table and sat between Ron and Neville. Soon enough, everyone had forgotten about him and went back to their conversations. Already, talk of Quirrell and Harry's hand in the whole ordeal had faded to a gossipy tidbit.

"Hiya Harry." Neville greeted warmly around a mouthful of potato.

"Hey. I'm not too late am I? Is there still some chicken left or did Ron get it all?" Harry asked, grinning.

"No, here, there's even a drumstick." Neville passed the platter and Harry took it, rolling his green eyes at Ron slightly who laughed. He had only been joking with Neville, the platters refilled themselves constantly.

"Perce, c'mon then, pass the biscuits. Percy, Percy pass them already!" Fred was stretching across the table for the dish, upsetting several goblets of pumpkin juice. Percy lifted it and held it out of the reach of his younger brother, still talking pointedly with the seventh year sitting beside him.

"Don't be a prick. It was all in good fun." George insisted, crawling across the table, one knee in the vegetable dish.

"Thanks a lot George." Angelina Johnson groaned. She had been in mid-selection of some carrots. Percy handed the plate down the table at a request and ignored the roars of protest from the twins.

"What did they do now?" Harry asked Ron.

"Snuck some of their latest into his juice. Turned him green and silver, so he could celebrate with the point winners. Only just turned him back." Ron's mouth twisted bitterly and Harry's eyes went heavenward. Green and silver banners were draped across every available inch of the ceiling. Slytherin were the House Cup winners for the seventh year in a row and they weren't being shy about it. Even Snape looked slightly jollier than usual at the Head Table.

Harry felt his own mouth twist into a scowl. It wasn't fair, with everything that had happened, Slytherin still came out on top. Speaking of which…

"Where's Wood?" Harry asked. He hadn't seen the Quidditch captain in a few days.

Fred and George stopped yelling at Percy and turned to Harry looking sullen. "Well, after we lost to Slytherin…" Fred started.

"…when you were in the hospital wing." George added.

"…and lost the cup, we think he tried to drown himself in the shower. Me and George had to drag him out, isn't that right George?" Fred turned to George.

"Right, couldn't tell if he was crying or if his face was just wet form the spray. He's been in a right state since. The sniffling makes me think he was crying. Poor bloke."

"Moping around, says he's locked himself in the dorm and he'll come out tomorrow to avoid the how did he put it George?"

"Humiliation of Marcus "the Bloody Brute" Flint laughing at him from across the room if I recall."

"Yeah, that's it." Fred turned back to Harry. "There you have it."

Harry frowned. "I really wish I could have played. I told Madam Pomfrey I was well enough."

"Ease up mate." George clapped Harry on the back. "We'll mend the problem."

"George, I think our captain is in dire straits and needs to be rescued. Let's go harass dear Oliver into joining us for dessert shall we?" Fred got up from the table.

"We shall." George followed his twin out of the Great Hall and up the stairs to drag Wood down to dinner.

Ron shrugged. "A man's got to eat after all."

Harry smiled. He had missed this. Witty banter wasn't allowed in the hospital wing.

The dinner plates were cleared and desserts took their places, brightly colored pastries and puddings adorned each table and the eager students dug in, grabbing at cupcakes and spoons to get their fill.

When most of the talking had subsided, replaced by a pleasant lull of that after dinner laziness, Dumbledore stood from his place behind the Head Table and made his way towards a large podium that had been placed at the front of the little dais. The headmaster raised his arms for attention but the movement was unnecessary. Every eye was already on the elderly wizard and a hush had fallen over the crowd.

"Congratulations to you all. Another successful year has come and gone. Hopefully your heads are a little fullers than they were, don't worry you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts." Harry snorted into his juice. "Now I understand the for House cup needs rewarding. The points are: in fourth, Gryffindor, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and fifty-two; second is Ravenclaw, with four hundred and twenty-six points, and in first, with four hundred and seventy-two points, Slytherin."

A tremendous roar went up from the Slytherin table. They banged on the table with cutlery and stomped their feet, all while shooting victorious looks at the other tables.

"Yes, yes well done Slytherin." Dumbledore smiled. "However, recent events must be taken into account." The cheers from Slytherin died down a little in confusion. The tables started whispering amongst each other furiously. Harry flushed, could it be?

"I have some last minute points to deliver myself. Let's see, to Mr. Ronald Weasley I award fifty points." Dumbledore looked down kindly at the blushing Ron. "For the best played game of chess this school has ever seen. McGonagall applauded loudly.

Percy was cheering loudest, screaming at anybody near him, "That's my little brother!"

"Secondly, fifty points to Hermione Granger, for the use of cool logic in the face of fire." More cheers from Gryffindor. Now Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were joining in as well. The grins 

were fading fast from Slytherins's faces. Hermione buried her face in her arms and her back shook with sobs. Lavender Brown was laughing and patting Hermione on the back at the same time. They were a hundred points up!

Eventually the cheers subsided and Dumbledore began to speak again. "And lastly, to Mr. Harry Potter. For pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor house, seventy points."

The noise that erupted from the Great Hall was deafening. Ears rang for hours afterward. They had done it, as impossible as it was. Gryffindors leapt to their feet and surged to Harry. Gryffindor had beaten Slytherin by ten points! They were House Cup winners for the first time in years.

"Which means," Dumbledore went on over the tumult although not many were still listening, "a change in decoration is needed." He waved his hand in a half-arc and the green and silver banners morphed, melding into burgundy and gold banners and flags. A lion roared majestically from behind the head table.

The Slytherin table was the only quiet table. Each face looked pale and aghast, some of the first years looked ready to cry.

Draco shoved his way through to Harry and threw and arm around his neck. The twins were holding Ron in the air on their shoulders traipsing up and down the rows with their brother aloft, red-faced and smiling. Even Oliver Wood was laughing, a giddy I-can't-believe-this-is-how-it-turned-out laugh…but a laugh nonetheless.

It was the best moment in Harry's young life since that day long ago in a courtroom when Sirius had been acquitted. He would never, ever forget this night.

In all the celebrating that went on, Harry nearly forgot that the next day was the day he would leave Hogwarts. His trunk was packed, Hedwig secured in her cage, and addresses exchanged with all his housemates.

"And promise me you'll write?" Dean scribbled down his street name. "My mum's a little nervous about magic."

"O' course I will mate, we'll talk about football, who do you have winning the European cup this summer?" Harry took the scrap of parchment and lodged it into his shoe so it wouldn't fall out.

"Netherlands look good. Captain's the greatest free kicker in the league." Dean explained and looked away over Harry's shoulder.

"I should have you write my friend Asher. He's being looked at by scouts from Chelsea and Birmingham. No one's crazier about football. But, uh, he's a muggle so mum on the magic and use their postal system."

Dean laughed. "I'd love to talk with him. Oh, Seamus is calling me. See you on the train Harry." Dean hurried off down the platform.

"Harry! Harry wait!" Harry turned at the panty, bellowing voice. Hagrid came barreling up behind him through the crowds of students, gasping for breath.

"I…was looking all day fer it…didn't want ter miss ya." Hagrid reached into his many-pocketed overcoat and pulled an envelope from its depths.

"What's this?" Harry smiled and took the envelope.

Hagrid grinned and mopped his massive forehead with a handkerchief. "Just something I thought you'd like ter have."

Harry opened the envelope. There was an old yellowed photograph inside. Harry held it in the afternoon light and smiled hugely. It was his parents as teenagers, in their school robes down by the woods. They were smiling and laughing, James twirled Lily in his arms every now and again. In the very back, Sirius was chasing Remus around and they fell over a tree root. Harry laughed and tucked the photo back into the envelope gingerly. "Thank you Hagrid. I love it."

Hagrid blushed. "It's been in me hut for ages. Glad you like it."

The train's whistle blew loudly.

"Better get on Harry." Parvati and her sister passed by him as they boarded the express.

Hagrid knelt down and Harry hugged him, then grabbed Hedwig's cage and jumped up the steps two at a time, stopping at the top to wave good-bye with his free hand. Hagrid waved back and then waved to the train conductor. The Hogwarts Express moved forward with a lurch and Harry ducked inside.


Harry looked behind him. Draco was standing there, arms crossed, and foot tapping impatiently. "Oh right, let's go find the trolley lady and I'll get you some Sugar Quills."

"Now that's what I want to hear."

"Harry J. Potter?" The head boy stuck his head into the compartment, head bowed as he riffled through papers.

Harry looked at Ron and Hermione confusedly. "Yeah?"

"Exam grades. First and second years get 'em now." The head boy held out a stack of papers to Harry and looked up. "Weasley and Granger I presume?" He gave them their papers too and left.

Hermione practically ripped the papers in half in her hurry to read her grades. She sat back in her seat with a small smile of satisfaction. Ron leaned over and groaned. "Bloody hell, nearly an 'O' on all of 'em. 'Cept for Defense, you only got an 'E' in that one."

Hermione flushed and snatched Ron's grades. "As compared to you, with one 'O' in Defense, two 'E's, and what's this?" Hermione grinned. "A 'T' in Potions?"

"I got a 'T' in Potions too Hermione." Harry said slowly. "But one more 'E' than you Ron."

"What's this?" Hermione pulled out another sheet from the stack.

"That would be Hogwarts' lovely little reminder not to use magic outside of school." Fred explained, sticking his head into their compartment, George was close behind.

"I always hope they'll forget to hand them out." George sighed and the two moved on, pockets stuffed with sweets.

For the rest of the ride, Harry played Exploding Snap with Ron and Hermione, helped Neville find his toad Trevor who had escaped (yet again), and Draco popped in to play chess with Ron.

"I think that's it then." Draco murmured, the end of a Sugar Quill sticking out of his mouth, looking intently at the board.

Ron nodded and folded his arms across his chess. "Stalemate. Want to play again?"

"You'd better not." Hermione said, looking out the window. "I can see London. We have to change."

Draco got up and stretched, his back popping noisily. "My robes are in the other compartment. I'll see you when we get off."

Hermione left to change in the bathroom and Harry and Ron threw on their jeans, t-shirts, and trainers. Harry was tying his left shoe when the train screeched to a halt and the loud garble of parents and siblings, as well as the hiss of the train came rushing through their open window.

"Must be here." Ron smiled.

Exiting the train proved to be a difficult endeavor as all the students had to juggle pets, trunks, as well as maintaining conversation with their friends and trying not to ram anyone in the nose.

The crowd outside the train was deafening. Everyone was shouting and jostling. Harry, Ron, and Hermione paved their way to a wall and set their things down.

"There you are, been looking everywhere for you Ron." Bill exploded out of the crowd and swept Ron into a hug, mussing Harry's hair at the same time.

"What do you mean, I only just got off the train." Ron protested, blushing furiously.

"Well, me 'n Charlie got the week off and he's looking for the twins, mum and dad are looking for Charlie, and Ginny and I were looking for you." Bill explained quickly.

Ron looked behind Bill and shrugged. "So where's Ginny?"

Bill looked behind him at the torrents of people. "Oh bugger. Wait here."

Harry and Hermione giggled as they watched Bill run off again. Ron just sighed and shook his head as if this sort of thing happened all the time.

"Harry!" Remus shouldered his way through the crowd. "How are you, haven't been waiting long have you?"

"No, not at all." Harry hugged Remus. "Where's Sirius?"

"Outside with the car." Remus shuddered a little. "He's insisted on driving."

Harry grimaced. Sirius didn't know how to drive. "I'll see you then." Harry hugged Hermione quickly and patted Ron on the back as Remus shrunk Harry's trunk and put them in his pocket. Harry grabbed Hedwig's cage and started out into the crowd.

"And don't forget to write!" Hermione called.

"Never!" Harry yelled back.

Author's Note:

Yes, I realize this is late. Later than usual rather because I don't set deadlines for myself. Anyway, this chapter was really hard to write but now this story is over. Thank God. I'll start work on year two as soon as I get back from vacation, give or take. I'm going to Israel for a month next week so that's another reason I really wanted to get this out of the way.

That random Hufflepuff...yeah...that was supposed to be Cedric. I just didn't get around to introducing him. Oh well. He pops up later anyway.


Year Two with a soon-to-be-determined-catchy title coming to a computer near you.