Title : Ars Virgarum - De Floribus et AmicisAuthors : DracoCrescendo & Nuin
Pairing : Overall gen - implied pairings may occur.
Rating : Overall R/NC-17
Warnings : War-fic, dark stuff, angst.
Word count : 3063 so far.
Disclaimer : All HP characters and names are copyright of JK Rowling. We use them for our own pleasure, we do not make money out of this.
Feedback : Oh yes, hit us harder!
Beta : Essayel & Flosspyromaniac
Author notes : Ars Virgarum Art of the Wands; De Floribus et Amicis Of Flowers and Friends.

Prologue : De Floribus et Amicis

The desk was littered with gadgets of all kinds. There were small ones that glittered in the bright light from the large windows, square boxes filled with every sweet imaginable. A silver inkwell stood dust free on the edge of the desk and in between everything else were large stacks of papers propped up on the little place that was left. The circular room with all its portraits of snoring headmasters and headmistresses, with its rows upon rows of bookshelves and large objects occupying the floor, was quiet except for the slow breathing of the portraits and the odd shuffle of heavy robes against the floor.

Pacing slowly around the room, Minerva McGonagall came to a stop in front of a gilded frame, its white canvas nearly blinding her with its emptiness. It had simply appeared on a vacant spot at some point during the last few days with a small name plaque at the bottom of the frame. Every time she had been in this office since the barren picture had appeared, she had stood in front of it, willing its occupant to make his debut arrival.

"Albus…" She sighed and went over to the large chair behind the desk, sitting down. McGonagall kept her eyes on the frame for a few more minutes, until a soft melodic trill from her left side brought her attention to something else entirely. A small sad smile spread across her lips. "What will we do without him, Fawkes?"

She got another weak trill in response from the once vibrant red and gold bird. If any, Fawkes seemed to be the one taking Albus' death the hardest. Its feathers were lacklustre in their colour, now a dull, lifeless red with the odd grey streaks. Its eyes were dim with shadows and no longer gleamed with a keen intelligence. The once proud head hung close to the phoenix's chest in sorrow and its wings were tucked close to its body, wrapped around the thin form. Occasionally it would lift its head slightly and let out a small tune to let others know that it was still there for them.

Reaching out with one hand, McGonagall gently stroked Fawkes' head. "Everything is changing now and Albus is no longer here to guide us." She kept thinking back to the funeral, the only thing that had made it all real to her. He was truly gone. But the world still kept going and a war was brewing, parents were taking their children out of the school in fear of their lives and the Ministry wanted to close down Hogwarts.

That was not something she would allow. Thankfully it wouldn't come to that. The Board of Governors had voted against closing down Hogwarts, as had the teachers. And so the school would stay open, no matter what the Ministry wanted, and be open to anyone who wished to learn. Of course she would need to arrange for extra security, perhaps some of the Order members would agree to help secure the grounds and the castle. The children would need a safe place to spend their time.

McGonagall sighed and glanced once again at the empty frame, then she got up from the chair and began walking toward the door. The Hogwarts Express was leaving soon and she wanted to see the children off, but not before saying hello to Albus. She walked out of the office, closing the door quietly behind her.

Harry was sitting down in the grass, looking at the sun's reflection playing on the smooth surface of the lake. In a matter of days, everything had changed so suddenly. It was quieter in the hallways and at mealtimes, students and teachers alike. Even the Giant Squid and the Merpeople seemed to mourn over the recent loss of Albus Dumbledore. Harry glanced over his shoulder at his outer robe, which he had dropped about half a metre away from him, before his gaze was drawn to the white tomb again. A lump formed in his throat and he swallowed it with difficulty, before looking away from the grave and back at the lake. He heaved a sigh, stretching his legs out in front of him and leaning back on his hands.

"Everything's changed," he mumbled to himself.

"Indeed it has." McGonagall answered softly as she came to halt by Harry's side.

She had spotted him, sitting by the lake on her way down from the front step of Hogwarts' main entrance. Glancing at the tomb, wherein Albus' body was hidden by the white marble, she sighed. It had barely been days, since his burial and already she needed his advice more than anything. She needed him to be there and she wasn't the only one. Looking at the young man Harry had grown into, McGonagall reached down and rested her hand on his shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze before removing her hand and straightening up again.

"But the question is, what will happen now?"

Harry glanced up at her, noticing how much older she looked than just a few months ago. He slowly got up, picking up his robe in the process. He could barely look at her, his attention being drawn by the evident emotions readable in her eyes, so he stared straight forward instead while he remained silent. Noticing his silence, McGonagall crossed her arms and wished she had something to occupy her hands with. She turned her head away from him and gazed out over the lake, a small smile flitted across her lips, when she saw one of the many tentacles of the squid wave at them from below the water surface.

"What will you do…Harry?" She asked, still keeping her eyes on the shimmering surface of the lake. "With the students being pulled out and those wanting to come back, which group do you belong to? Can we expect you back next year?"

Shaking his head slowly, he slung the robe over his shoulder. "No," he whispered, "I am not coming back. There's something else that requires my attention."

McGonagall turned her head around to look at him, her eyes questioning. "You are absolutely sure? And the Dursleys?"

"I promised Professor Dumbledore I would stay with the Dursleys until my next birthday. I intend to keep that promise." He paused, lowering his voice to a whisper again, "Yes. Even though Hogwarts has been my home for years and no matter how much it pains me, I've made up my mind."

She sighed, then nodded. "Hogwarts has been the home to many in its long life, but at some point everyone will have to leave it. I trust that you will take good care of yourself. Albus made you promise that you stay with your…relatives. And I will ask the same, no foolishness, Mr. Potter." McGonagall gave him a small smile.

Harry slowly turned towards her. "I don't believe there's any time for foolishness, Professor." He calmly answered. There was a short silence, before he spoke again. "Has the Ministry decided to keep the school open then? I thought they would... close it?"

"They have, thankfully there were enough teachers and parents willing to let Hogwarts stay open to persuade them. Even the Board of Governors agreed. In a time such as this, a safe haven is needed. Albus would have wanted it."

McGonagall answered as she bent down and picked up a small, flat stone, then pulled out her wand and waved it over the smooth surface of the rock. Murmuring a few words, she transfigured it into a bouquet of lilies. She put away her wand and reached into one of her pockets, taking out a handful of lemon drops, she had found earlier that day in her office from when Albus had joined her for tea once. McGonagall took a few steps toward the white tomb and placed her offerings on the steps, then moved back to Harry's side. Harry watched her from the corner of his eye, following her actions as he nodded at her words. It was true. Dumbledore would have wanted to school to remain open. It suddenly came to him that he wouldn't be here next year, within the castle's familiar walls. Folding the black robe over his arm, he plucked at the material. He would miss Hogwarts for sure, but there were other things that needed his attention. At least he wouldn't be alone...

As she came back to his side, McGonagall glanced at him quietly, before speaking. "You will always be welcome here, Harry. If you should need help, Hogwarts will aid you. Trust that. Have you thought about what you will do, once your birthday arrives, since you are not returning to this place?"

"I know, but thank you, professor." He gave a small smile. "I suppose I will be moving to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, since it's legally mine. Things have already been arranged to send Kreacher to work here, at Hogwarts. He doesn't like me very much, I'm afraid, but the feeling is mutual."

"How do you intend to get there?" She asked, her eyes searching his face for answers, not commenting on the fact that Kreacher being moved to Hogwarts. 'That house elf. Mercy on us all.' McGonagall thought.

"Not sure," Harry frowned, "First, I thought about Apparating, but I'm not allowed to before I get my license; so I figured I'd practice while living at the Dursleys, but I'm not allowed to perform magic before my seventeenth birthday. So I suppose I'll just use Muggle transportation."

McGonagall studied Harry for a while, her fingers tapping slightly against her bent elbows as she had crossed her arms again.

"And if I offer to pick you up on the night of your birthday? Then you wouldn't have to deal with that dreaded transportation system, the Muggles' favour."

Harry blinked, staring at her for a moment, before a smile spread over his lips. "That would be great, professor."

A smile of her own graced her lips and she nodded. "Then I will be at your relatives' house, when the clock strikes midnight on your birthday. No need to stay there longer than necessary." McGonagall said and looked one last time at the lake. "However I do believe you have a train to catch in a few minutes. I trust you've packed everything you'll need?"

"I will be looking forwards to it, professor." Harry nodded. "Yes, everything is ready."

"Good and remember, if you need anything… Hogwarts is just an owl away." She inclined her head toward the castle with a small jerk. "Now, run along and meet up with your friends."

Looking at the castle, he nodded. "I'll keep it in mind, Professor."

He glanced back at her for another moment, before starting to walk off in the direction of Hogwarts to collect his trunk and owl, before heading down to the Hogwarts Express, which was ready to take the students home.

His head was hanging half out of the compartment door of the Hogwarts Express and he turned it to look either way. Grumbling, when he didn't find what he was looking for, Ron retreated back inside and sat down beside Hermione. He settled back against the seat ran a hand through his bright red hair.

"Where the bloody hell is he?"

Hermione rolled her eyes at his display and continued to read the book she had in her lap. "I have no idea what you're so worried about, Ronald. Harry will be here shortly, I'm sure."

"Hermione!" He whined at her use of his full name and crossed his arms with a pout, his eyes still turning toward the now closed compartment door for any sign of his best friend. This time, she simply chose to ignore him. She really didn't feel like dealing with his childish behaviour right now. It seemed that everyone had been a bit tense the last few days and Ron's behaviour surely wasn't helping.

Harry got on the Hogwarts Express only mere minutes before it was supposed to leave. He sauntered through the corridor, peering into the various compartments for any sign of his friends. When he spotted Hermione reading and Ron pouting, he couldn't help but shake his head with a sigh, before sliding the door open.

Hermione looked up from her book at the door opening and gave Harry a small smile, before giving Ron a pointed look. "See, Ronald? I told you he'd be here."

Ron looked at Harry with a smile, then glanced out of the window as the train whistle blew, signalling that they were ready for departure. "About time you got here, mate. Where were you anyway?" He frowned.

Harry gave a shrug, not having the heart to return both of his best friends' smiles. "The lake. Just something I had to do."

He settled himself down beside the window, leaning his chin on his hand as he watched the landscape outside starting to fade as the train began to gain speed.

Ginny walked past the compartments full of teachers and students, some were laughing and joking, while others were more sombre, reading or talking in low tones. She sighed, when she couldn't find a single free spot anywhere, until she came to one of the last compartments. Her brother, Hermione…and Harry was in there. She swallowed. Great. She could have gone further down to see if there were other free spots, but she just didn't feel like it. So with a deep breath, Ginny opened the door and looked at Ron, purposely refusing to look at Harry.

"Got room for one more?"

Ron looked up at Ginny and then at Harry. With a shrug, he got up and sat down beside Harry.

"Umm, sure. You can sit by Hermione and talk or do that girl stuff I don't understand." He didn't think Harry, or Ginny for that matter, would be up to sitting right beside each other for the time being.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but did put her book aside. She looked at Ginny, noticing her slight discomfort. Sighing softly, she wondered what this trip was going to be like and she wished she was home already, something she hadn't wished in years.

Harry glanced over his shoulder as someone else entered their compartment. When he saw it was Ginny, he felt a chill running down his spine, but tried to hide it by going back to staring out the window. 'This is just great.' He thought to himself, 'Just what I needed.'

Ginny nodded and sat down beside Hermione with a sigh, opening the book she had brought. Her brother was such a dunce sometimes. Still she refused to look at Harry, she just couldn't deal with seeing his green eyes and that black hair of his and not being able to be with him. Suddenly this seemed like a very bad idea. She shouldn't have come in here. She couldn't wait for the train ride to be over.

Tapping his foot against the floor, Ron shot glances at the other three people in the compartment noticing the awkward silence that now filled the space. He wished he had something to do to take his mind of things, but he certainly wasn't going to be reading a book like either of the girls and Harry didn't look like he would be up to playing a game. And so he remained silent.

Harry thought back about the night Dumbledore was murdered, about how he had almost killed Malfoy himself and how he had let Snape get away. He clenched his hand into a fist, leaning his forehead against it. 'How could I have failed like this? How could I have let it come this far?' Heaving a sigh, he closed his eyes.

Hermione watched all of them from over the page she was reading. It seemed like they were all afraid to say something. She pursed her lips and closed her book with a slam.

"This is absolutely ridiculous. Ginny, stop trying not to look at Harry; Harry, stop looking out of that bloody window and Ronald... Stop tapping your foot! We are friends... We're not supposed to sit here like this, afraid to say something wrong!"

Ron nearly jumped, when Hermione's outburst came, he grinned sheepishly and shrugged. "Umm, so… Hermione. What are you going to do this summer?"

Ginny rolled her eyes at her brother's behaviour and almost did so at Hermione's words as well, but the other girl did have a point. They couldn't just sit around like this, it would only make things more awkward.

Harry turned around to face Hermione, a rather cool look in his eyes. "I just don't feel like talking, okay? Right now, I have other things on my mind."

Hermione nearly fumed at Ron's question. "Ronald," she ground out between clenched teeth, "Are you really that thick?" But before Ron got the chance to interrupt, she was already glaring at Harry. "Don't you think we all have got things on our mind, Harry? We're your friends, we're supposed to help you. You're not the only one mourning, you know."

Harry let out a derisive snort. "You think you have the faintest clue of how I'm feeling right now, Hermione? You have no idea what it's like."

Ron kept glancing between his two best friends as they snapped at each other, only to have Hermione stop for a moment and turn on him, before ripping into Harry again.

"Hey, stop it both of you. We're all mourning, we just show it differently, but it's not a reason to yell at each other…" Ron sighed.

Hermione ran a hand through her hair. "Ron's right, Harry. We shouldn't fight."

Harry heaved a sigh and looked away. "I know," he muttered, "but nothing's ever going to be the same again."

"Umm… well, good." Ron nodded a bit surprised that they had agreed so readily.

Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose as she felt a headache come on. She didn't want to fight with Harry. She wouldn't forgive herself since things were already hard enough. Things were not going to be easy the next months. There were a lot of emotional issues that needed to be dealt with and of course, they would not simply be solved in a matter of days. It would take time. Everything would take time...