Year of Changes

Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me and I am not making any $$$ off of it. This world belongs to the talented JKR, I am just playing with it.

Note: This is a continuation of my story Summer of Independence which began at the end of book 5; therefore this story is AU to HBP and DH. I do not have a beta, I spell checked as best I could… but please no flames for spelling, punctuation or grammar errors. I am an engineer not an editor so forgive me ahead of time. I will attempt to update every week or two, as time permits in my hectic life.

Warnings: This story will contain Dumbledore and Weasley bashing. So this is your warning in case this is not the type of story you like to read. There will be nothing graphic or explicit as it is a PG story.

Continuation of Summer of Independence…

Recap of last chapter: Winding Down

Harry, Neville and Hermione helped Dudley get everything into his trunk. The four friends spent the rest of their summer vacation just relaxing and having fun. They went to a movie one night but the rest of the time just stayed inside and talked about everything that had changed that summer.

Hermione had to leave for a few days, accompanied by Moody, to visit the Temple. She was quickly learning about her new faith and responsibilities. She was also able to spend some time with her mum who had filed for divorce already and was living in a nice flat Hermione was paying for.

Dudley was sad he would have to go back to school but determined to learn as much as possible while he was away in the muggle world. He couldn't believe what a great summer it had been. He went from despising his cousin to him being his best friend. He just wished his parents had been as cool as Remus describes his Aunt Lily and Uncle James to have been. If his parents had welcomed Harry into their home he could have grown up with a brother in Harry and could have perhaps found out about the wizarding world much earlier.

Neville was having the best summer of his life. He had friends that really cared about him and he didn't feel stupid or left out. He was looking forward to their next year at Hogwarts. It would prove to be interesting and he was planning on helping Harry in any way he could.

Harry thought it was an interesting summer. He was finally free of the manipulation of Dumbledore. He had effectively taken him out as the leader of the war. He had enough evidence to get him kicked out of Hogwarts and into Azkaban if he chose to use it. He would see how the school year went but he would no longer be his pawn. He wondered what the year would hold… who the DADA teacher would be… and just what adventures awaited him and his friends once they boarded the Hogwarts Express.

The End of Summer of Independence

Chapter 1: Train Ride Back

For the first time ever Harry was early arriving for the train back to school. Since he could legally use magic there was no mad rush of packing at the last minute. As he had kept the majority of his things in his trunk anyway he had very little to pack up. He, Hermione, Neville and Dudley had just passed through to Platform 9 ¾ and were giving Dud his first look at the gleaming scarlet steam engine of the Hogwarts Express.

"That is the coolest train I have ever seen," Dudley declared, trying to hide his sadness at the fact that he would never get to ride it or go to Hogwarts.

Harry could see the sadness and longing in his cousin's eyes and wished he could take him with them to school. Dudley would not have been safe at Hogwarts, there was no place for a squib cousin of Harry Potter with the current fights going on. The Slytherins would tear him to pieces and the so-called light side wouldn't be much better. One of the things he hoped to change about the magical world someday was the awful prejudices of the people. Harry firmly believed that there was no good or evil magic, just the intent of the caster. There were no such things as good and evil creatures either. Vampires and werewolves were not inherently evil, just widely misunderstood. Additionally there were the prejudices against those with less magic like muggles, squibs, house elves and goblins. He hoped that with the seats he and Hermione held in the Wizengamot he could eventually make some changes.

"We'll miss you Dud and I'll write as often as I can and send it through Harry's Gringotts box." Hermione told Dudley and gave him a huge hug which made both of them blush.

"Stay safe Dud and write if you need anything. Dobby would probably respond if you called him if it was an emergency as well as Fawkes." Harry said and the two cousins shared a very brief hug as neither had been raised to value positive physical contact.

Neville shook his hand and then led them onto the train to find an empty compartment. The three friends put their trunks into the compartment and settled down to wait for the train to take off.

"It's kind of nice not having to worry about the prefect meeting this year," Hermione told them. "We'll all find out who made prefect once we get to school and there will be a meeting then." She had received and owl from Professor McGonagall the day before with that info. "I wonder who they will choose for prefects. I heard the Board of Governors' had to get involved again and that's why it took so long."

"I'm sure your badge will be reinstated Hermione," Neville told her with a smile. "You have the highest grades in the year and have one of the best records as you have only ever had one detention and that was in 1st year."

"The reason they had to redo everything was because of people like Ron and Malfoy who never deserved their badges to begin with and then abused them." Harry reminded her. "I'm guessing that you and Neville will get it for our year and that Colin will be the new 5th year prefect but I don't know any of the 5th year girls to determine who deserves it."

"I am sure that Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff will all stay the same," Hermione said and they agreed. "Except they may decide to choose Justin over Ernie as he gets along much better with the rest of their housemates. Slytherin will be Blaise Zabini and Millicent Bullstrode if they go by grades and who doesn't get in trouble."

"That's why Nev here will get the badge before me. I mean really I cause the most trouble in our year and I don't plan on stopping this year if Dumbles keeps acting like he does." Harry said with a smirk and the other two laughed.

They were joined a few minutes later by Luna Lovegood who came in dragging her trunk. "Hey Luna! Did you have a nice summer?" Neville asked and helped her put her trunk up.

"Yes, daddy and I went hunting for Crumple Horned Snorkaks but were not able to find any. We did find a few Nargles and even managed to get a few pictures of mating Hoozlewickets. I just got back yesterday and barely had time to pack for school." She told them as she sat down next to Neville with the latest issue of the Quibbler.

"What classes are you taking?" Hermione asked her, trying to push aside the strangeness of the girl since both Harry and Neville liked her.

"My current classes are Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, DADA, Divination, Herbology, Muggle Studies, Potions, and Transfiguration. I decided to drop History of Magic and just take my OWL at the Ministry. Then I'm adding some of the new classes. I'm going to take Healing & First Aid, Art and German. I already am fluent in the other languages so I hope they add some other choices for next year or maybe I'll try Flying." Luna told them with her normal dreamy look.

"Are you nervous about your OWLs?" Neville asked her. He was taking Charms, DADA, Herbology, Transfiguration, Healing & First Aid, Dueling, Warding, Politics & Law, Flying, Mermish, Centaurian and Elvin as his classes.

"No, I just hope we get some good teachers this year." She said and they all agreed.

"It should be interesting to see who they got to teach all the subjects." Harry commented.

The train was almost full when Dean Thomas popped his head into their compartment. "Where's Ginny?" He asked them with a confused look on his face. "Her last letter said she would meet me once we got on the train. I haven't seen her or Ron, do you think they are running late?"

"Do you not get the Daily Prophet over the summer?" Hermione asked him with a shocked expression on her face.

"Nah, I never read it anyway so why bother?" He asked beginning to get worried.

"Ginny was arrested and has been expelled and is in a muggle juvenile facility." Hermione told him, wondering how many others would be asking the same questions. "She was arrested for having Amorentia as well as for admitting under truth serum to plan on using it to get Harry to fall in love with her once school started."

"Ron was arrested as well but the charges were dropped for the moment," Neville told him. "He was stealing from Harry so we don't really care where he is."

Dean just stared at them as if expecting them to tell him it was all a big joke. "But… but…" he couldn't come up with anything to say about learning that who he thought was his girlfriend was arrested for trying to drug someone else with a love potion.

"I'm sorry you had to find out like this Dean," Harry told him. "I didn't realize you were that close to Ginny. Ron will be in our dorm still though as he didn't get expelled."

"We were supposedly going out," Dean told them and they all were surprised, having assumed Ginny's comment on the train ride home had just been a lie to get Ron mad and Harry jealous. "I can't believe she would be capable of something like that. Are you sure she knew what she was doing?"

"We were there for the questioning," Hermione told him gently. "She knew exactly what the potion was, what it does and how illegal it was to use. She admitted to a lot of other things we never thought her capable of as well. Ron and his mum were involved in a lot of it as well and all three have been disowned from the Weasley family."

Dean just nodded and headed off silently back to the compartment he was in with Seamus, Lavender and the Patil twins.

"Hi Harry!" Colin Creevy said as he entered their carriage after the train had left the station. "A bunch of us were wondering if you were going to start the DA again?"

"Kind of Colin," Harry told him with a smile at the energetic 5th year. "I am going to start a dueling club where we can all learn new spells as well as practice dueling outside of the new dueling class. I'm calling it the Dueling Association so we can still call it the DA. It's going to be open to anyone but I'm going to run it with help from the new Dueling professor."

"Cool! I can't wait to start! The new classes are great; I'm taking Dueling, Healing and Art!" He told them and hurried out so fast they didn't even have time to say bye.

"It's like he has a permanent caffeine high," Hermione said with a shrug. "It won't take long for word to spread about the DA now at least. I bet a bunch more people stop by before we get to school to ask you about it."

She was right as people stopped in throughout the ride to say how they did on their OWLs or to ask about the DA. They were rarely alone in their compartment with how many visitors they had.

"So Potter you finally ditched the blood traitors I see," Malfoy drawled from the doorway. Harry rolled his eyes at Neville who was trying to hide a smirk as Harry had just commented on how nice the trip was going without their annual visit from the ferret.

"Blood traitors no, traitors yes." Harry said calmly. "But at least Ron is not in prison like your dear old dad." Harry had wondered why Lucius was still in prison. It seemed that he was either incapable of buying his way out or Voldie didn't care enough about him to rescue him.

Draco flinched at the mention of his father and turned and left them be. The friends all traded looks at how he just left and wondered what it was about. "Do you think his dad is out and he's not supposed to brag or do you think maybe he's glad his dad is still in jail?" Harry asked looking thoughtfully out the door.

"Well if his dad is anything like mine then maybe he is just relieved to be rid of him." Hermione said quietly. She was slowly coming to terms with how her father treated her and was even able to speak of it to those she trusted.

"Maybe he's not as loathsome as we have been led to believe. He never has really done too much more than harmless name calling and tattling. We should give him a chance and see if he really is a junior death eater or if he has just been acting like his daddy expected him to." Harry said and they all agreed.

"We should invite a few Slytherins to the first DA meeting," Neville suggested. "Start working on house unity and winning them away from Moldyshorts."

"The girls in my year would probably be interested," Luna said and offered to invite them when she was in class with them. There were 4 girls her age and none of them were ever too mean to anyone so they would be a good choice.

"We should invite whoever is chosen as prefects as well," Hermione said and they all agreed that it was time to try and put an end to the almost war between Gryffindor and Slytherin Houses.

They had just finished changing into their school robes when Dean and Seamus walked in. "I saw Ron. I guess his name is Ron Grant now. He was being all smug and saying how he was of course going to be prefect again and how Dumbledore had promised him that he would be Quidditch captain as well." Dean told them with a grimace.

"He was acting like none of us had any idea what he had been caught doing to you and pretending that everything was just the same as before. I just wanted to punch him when I finished reading what the Prophet wrote about him." Seamus told them. "I'm sorry what he did to you Harry and I'm even sorrier that I was such a prat to you last year as well. Do you think you can forgive me?"

"Sure thing," Harry said with a smile. "I understand that you would believe your mum over me so no hard feelings. Just please next time get the real story from me first ok?"

"Deal," Seamus said and they waved and headed back to their compartment and the gossip center of the train.

"So Ron and Molly chose a new last name," Harry said. "I wonder if he'll choose to get re-sorted since he has a new name and family?"

"I doubt it," Hermione said. "I would bet a fortune that if he chose to he'd be sorted into Slytherin and there is no way he'd want to go there."

"Yeah, we're probably stuck with the jerk." Neville said. "Too bad we can't kick him out of the dorms."

"It should be interesting to see if he can even pass any of his classes without Hermione helping him with his homework." Harry said.

"No one else will be likely to even talk to him after everything he did to you Harry," Luna told them. "He'll be an outcast among the school. The Slytherins will pick on him and the other houses will either help or ignore it."

"He deserves it though so I won't stick up for him. Maybe after all of that he will realize he was wrong and eventually become a good person." Harry said and they agreed that they would not be doing anything to protect Ron from any pranks or taunting.

The train rolled into the station and they headed out to the carriages. Hermione was the only one of their group that couldn't see the thestrals; the other three each gave the ones pulling their carriage a pat before climbing in. The ride up to the castle was quiet as they thought about the changes that would be occurring that year.

Harry smiled in contentment as the castle he considered home came into view. He always loved the first look at the castle each year. He had never felt as safe and content as he did in the old school. This summer had almost come close but that was more for the company he was in and not for the location. He just hoped this year would end better than the last and that he wouldn't have any trying adventures. He knew there would never be a normal year inside the magical castle, but he was hoping for a calm one.