The inhabitants of The Burrow were seldom used to punctuality in their household, and they were, in fact, a rather tardy bunch. However, at the particular point where our story begins, The Burrow's inhabitants were quite restless by the lateness of one particular letter, or, indeed, four almost identical letters from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that would acknowledge the continued place of Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and Ron & Ginny Weasley at the school. Usually nobody (except perhaps Hermione) would be bothered by a letter that had not arrived when expected; it was easy enough for an owl to get blown off course or for one to misjudge the number of days a particular journey would take, but this time it was different. During the final battle at Hogwarts the previous May, the building had been greatly damaged by all matter of dark curses, so much so that many had feared that Hogwarts, like George's ear, would never be repaired.
As Ron and Harry sat playing wizard's chess - Ron grasping Hermione's hand under the table, and Ginny playing absentmindedly with the hair on Harry's neck - it was obvious that even the laid back ginger was anxious.
"Do you think they will come?" he asked the others, his concentration slipping from the game at hand. "Of course it will, they can't close Hogwarts. I need to get my N.E.W.T.'s!" said Hermione, but her usual confidence was not present. Her voice held a desperate tone.
Suddenly, Harry heard a loud thwak at the window, and jumped up to see Erol slam into the window, just as three Hogwarts owls arrived, hovering at the window. "There here." whispered Hermione, relief clear in her voice.
The promise of a return to peaceful school days hung in the air. Little did they know that their last year at Hogwarts would be just as eventful as their previous ones.
Ginny's eyes opened slowly, embracing the light from the sun cascading through the windows. It also happened that she was embracing Gregory Goyle, who was lying asleep shirtless in her arms. Surprised, and slightly abashed, she pulled back the covers just to check that she hadn't done what her mother had once referred to as 'The dirty deed'. She hadn't, and she breathed a silent sigh of relief. She couldn't remember what had happened last night, but knew one thing for sure: she loved Gregory Goyle more than anyone could imagine, more than life itself. Goyle stirred restlessly in her arms, no doubt aroused by the sweet aroma of my voice, she thought. 'Good morning darlin'. he croaked suggestively in the alluring toad like voice of his. 'H-hi Gregory,' Ginny said, confused but excited by his suggestive tone. She noticed a small bit of drool on the edge of his heart shaped mouth, red with red lipstick, giving away a small hint of what happened the night before. Feeling too awkward to ask what happened the night before, she simply lay there, staring into his wonderfully mud coloured eyes as she wiped a small amount of drool from his chin (it had now dribbled onto his second one). 'What happened last night?' Gregory asked, stroking Ginny's nose. 'I'm not sure,' said Ginny, 'We'll just have to wait and see if anyone else knows.'.
Hermione stepped into the great hall which was great because it was a great day and the ceiling was sunny. However, when she sat down, she stuck her nose up at Ron when he greeted her with his regular salutation, and turned away. ''Ermione, what's ong?' he asked, his mouth brimming with food.
'Oh, I don't know, Ronald. Do I look angry?' she said icily, shooting him a cold look.
'Well, your hair is all bushy like it is when you get angry. Kind of like a cat.' Ron replied bluntly, taking a gulp of his pumpkin juice.
"A WHAT?" Hermione spat, ruffling up like an angry crow. "MY HAIR IS NOT BUSHY YOU TWO FACED TOAD! AFTER LAST NIGHTS EVENTS YOU SHOULD BE GLAD I'M STILL SPEAKING TO YOU!" she yelled, crossing her arms and facing away from him.
'Well, um...Hermione? What actually happened? Ron ventured tentatively, placing his arm on gently on Hermione's arm. She shook it of, flustered. 'I wouldn't tell you if force fed me Veritaserum. What Professor Dumbledore would think of your behaviour last night... I... Urgh!' She huffed, stalking out of the great hall to potions.
Ron turned to Harry, eye brows raised, and Harry shrugged, a bewildered expression on his ugly face. "Girls are messed up!" Ron mumbled, grabbing his book bag and following Hermione to Potions.
"This semester you will be having a very unique experience," smiled Slughorn once the class had settled, patting his fat belly. "This term you will be concocting your own original potion, in pairs." he continued. Ron and Harry looked at each other, silently agreeing to be partners. He spent the rest of the lesson explaining that they would have the entire term to invent a potion, and at the end of the term it would be marked on its effectiveness. "What do you want to make?" asked Ron at the end of the lesson as they walked to Transfiguration. "Dunno," said Harry "How about a poison? That sounds easy enough. We can test it on Malfoy."
"No, Slughorn would know all we did was chuck some tentacula venom in the cauldron."
"Yeah, I suppose so." said Harry as they arrived at Transfiguration, finishing the conversation, lest they enter the silent transfiguration classroom and draw attention to themselves.
However, on this particular day, the classroom was not silent. It was filled with whispers. "McGonagall must be away." said Harry. The volume of the whispering increased as the boys walked in. Glancing at the front of the classroom, Harry saw that McGonagall was in fact not away, but busying herself with a long piece of parchment. One of their classmates wolf-whistled at their arrival, and Harry noticed that everyone seemed to be looking at him and Ron as they took their seats. "What's going on?" whispered Ron, referring to the abnormal state of the classroom and the whispers. Even if their was some succulent gossip going around, the strict Transfiguration teacher would not usually tolerate it. "Dunno," said Harry, glancing up to see Dean quickly look away from him. "Must be about us... and McGonogall." Harry said, his voice a mixture of confusion and anger about the new gossip. "Maybe it's about last night?" said Ron. Harry hadn't considered this, but it seemed to make sense. What had happened last night that even McGonogall was embarrassed about, and possibly involved in?
"TROLOLOLOL" Screeched Pansy Parkingson.
"Hush Ms. Parkinson!" Chastised the professor, "Today you all have silent bookwork, page 239! No arguments and no talking, despite ANY rumors going around, I deny them all!" The professors eyes were shifting around and she hurriedly buried herself in a book, not un-reminiscent of Hermione.
Harry looked at Ron, shocked at the teachers uncharacteristic behavior, "Something's definitely up."
"Weasley, Potter." snapped McGonogall, "I said no talking!". Although McGonogall gave a piercing glare to Harry, he noticed that she didn't meet Ron's eyes, turning bright red before burying herself back in her book.
"LOLOLOL, what a nudnic!" Ronald exclaimed as they exited the class, "She's worse than my mother!".
"Well of course she is Ronald, she is Professor McGonogall! When has she ever been anything but a nudnic, with all her nagging and pestering!" Harry responded, "Actually, she reminds me a fair bit of Hermionie, who is still not speaking with us!".
"Yeah. I wonder if it has something to wi-" Ron was cut off by a wolf whistle
"Look, it's Weasley, the new ladies man of Hogwarts." laughed Malfoy sarcastically as he passed them in the corridor. "Wha-," said Ron, half turning, but Harry cut him off, dragging him along the corridor. Ron started to protest, but Harry's expression cut him off. "You can't confront him, Ron. He obviously knows something we don't. It sounds like you hooked up with someone last night... Or failed to." Ron flushed, embarassed by the possibility. "No wonder Hermione's mad, she probably caught me in a broom cupboard with Eloise Midgeon or someone..." said Ron dejectedly.
Ron and Hermione had been going out ever since the Battle of Hogwarts, but had been bickering more and more lately, and not in the way the couple used to. There arguments had been filled with angry glares rather than mock angry looks, and Harry had sensed a real breakdown in the two's relationship. Ron getting really drunk on a bottle or two of firewhiskey the previous night seemed like a possibility to Harry; he had overheard a particularly big argument the couple had the previous afternoon, just before Ginny's 17th birthday celebration in the Gryffindor common room. It had been a surprise organised by Harry. The thought of his feisty girlfriend sent shivers down his spine as he sat down in the Great Hall for lunch. She was the love of his life. He wished he could say the same for Hermione and Ron.