Chapter 14: Sakura's Goodbye to Hogwarts
Another year done. Not only that, it was Sakura's last year, barring unexpected and exceptional circumstances.
Without any exams to punctuate a finale, the school year simply coasted to a slow and gradual end. Several classes recapped everything they had covered throughout the year; a couple of professors opened their last class to be about anything the students wanted to discuss; and then it was all over. The only thing left was the end-of-term feast. Everybody looked forward to that. After that, there would be one last night at Hogwarts Castle, and then everybody would re-scatter across the country and around the world.
The vast majority of the students would be leaving via the Hogwarts Express. Sakura and Syaoran would not be, though. They would be departing with Kaho via floo again. All of Sakura's friends already knew that. She had left that way the previous year, but just in case she had made it a point to tell them all again.
Sakura was taking the opportunity of the light final school day to spend as much time as she could with her friends. There was still the secret party in Hufflepuff Basement in the evening, which Wayne had once again invited her and the others to, but that was no reason to squander any of her remaining time at Hogwarts. She wanted to make every minute count. After all, it would very possibly be the last time she would ever see them.
Unsurprisingly by this point, Sakura had been unable to locate Anthony. He had continued to avoid her ever since Halloween. Most likely he was spending time with one of his new friends, like Terry or Michael. Gloria was easy to find, though. Lisa too, along with her constant companion Wayne. Keroberos was a given, along with Syaoran. Roger and Giles tagged along with Syaoran as well, as they tended to do. Luna was there too, taking advantage of the implicit acceptance rather than an explicit invitation.
"No fair. Just because we can't use them," Gloria complained as Syaoran easily floated in circles around the group on Sakura's skates as they loitered around one of the numerous hallways of Hogwarts. The skate's perky color scheme looked a bit silly on his feet, but his robes covered most of the pink and white.
"It's not my fault you got no magic power," Syaoran said. He slowed down only the slightest amount to address the girl as he spoke.
"No, really, when are you going to show us how they really work? Today's the last day," Roger said from right beside Gloria.
"We already told you. You can either use them or you can't. There's nothing to teach. Just look at Luna. She can use them just fine," Keroberos said, easily floating backwards as well.
"You'll tell us, right, Luna?" Giles asked the girl who was sitting on the floor.
"Sure," Luna said. She looked upwards airily. "You need to find the biggest secret in the world, and then make it bigger, and bigger, and bigger."
"Sure..." Wayne said skeptically.
Sakura quietly sat back and enjoyed the companionable atmosphere while it lasted. She had problems and worries, but those were for another day. She just soaked up the ambiance of contentment while she could, knowing for the moment that there was nothing that needed doing.
In this un-distracted state, it was easy for Sakura to feel Eriol's and Kaho's approach. The signature of their magic was obvious, even in the magically drenched Hogwarts Castle. Much like Syaoran, their presence cut through the background like an island on the ocean, both stalwart and unmistakable. She didn't even bother turning her head to confirm her perception.
"Nice bit of kit there, Syaoran. Did you make them yourself? Hogwarts must have changed quite a bit," Eriol said several seconds later, confirming half of Sakura's feelings.
"That kid? No way he could pull something like that off," Keroberos said before Syaoran could answer.
"Hey. I helped," Syaoran cut in. Sakura could just imagine the stares the two of them were throwing at each other, each trying to cut the other down to size by glares alone.
"Then it must have been you, Sakura. Very nice. A bit rough, but it works. Good job," Eriol said. Sakura opened her eyes and sat forward, turning to face the boy as decorum demanded. Beside him stood Kaho, confirming the other half of her earlier perception.
Eriol looked basically the same he did the last time she had seen him about nine months prior. He was a bit taller, a bit older looking, but still appeared to be an average carefree boy surrounded with an aura of mystery. The only real difference she noticed was the sword strapped to his hip.
"Thanks, Eriol," Sakura said. She stood up so she was closer to eye-level with him. She felt the warmth of pride at his declaration of acceptance. The skates could be improved, as she well knew, but his overall approval mattered more to her than she had expected it would.
"I heard you had a bit of trouble a few weeks ago. Sorry I wasn't around to help. I came as soon as I heard," Eriol said. He actually did look a bit more tired than usual. It wasn't anything too extreme. Sakura doubted she would have noticed without him having mentioned it.
"Trouble?" Gloria asked, looking to Lisa. Now that Sakura thought about it, nobody had ever told Gloria about the cards going missing and their later recovery.
Lisa shook her head, motioning slightly to the various Slytherin boys.
"It's okay. I'm all better now," Sakura said.
"If you're sure. Do you mind?" Eriol asked. A large staff appeared in his hand as he spoke. Roger and Giles took a step back at this, while Lisa and Gloria looked a bit surprised themselves. Luna didn't react at all.
Sakura wasn't sure what what Eriol was asking, but trusted he wasn't asking anything too outlandish. She said, "No."
Eriol lowered the tip of the staff to just barely rest on Sakura's head. It was held so lightly that she hardly felt it on her hair. She could feel him doing something, although she didn't see any visible effect. She did see Syaoran slowly moving to a more cautiously ready position.
This went on for a bit of time. After almost a minute, Roger quietly asked Syaoran, "What's he doing?"
Nobody answered the open question. The group fell silent and motionless, watching the immobile pair.
After a few more minutes, Sakura felt Eriol stop whatever he was doing. He then lifted the staff before letting it vanish from sight as quickly as it had appeared.
"Do we need to call you Dame Kinomoto now?" Luna asked, being the first to break the silence. She actually pronounced her name correctly, being one of the handful of people in the castle who did so.
"Hoe? I don't think so," Sakura said. She wasn't familiar with what a dame was, but she was relatively sure that if she hadn't been one before then she wasn't one now.
Kaho gave a light laugh, and said, "No, Luna. Sakura hasn't been knighted."
"Hey, don't just stay quiet. Is everything okay?" Syaoran asked the more practical question.
"For the most part. There are a couple of things," Eriol said. A lump of worry appeared in Sakura's gut.
"Be nice, Eriol," Kaho said. "I'm sure he means that there's just some minor residual effect of the memory charm. Everything will be fine in a few days."
"Eriol," Sakura protested, feeling both relieved and annoyed.
"Isn't that what I said?" Eriol asked mischievously.
Another feeling caused Sakura to turn around. Syaoran turned at the same time, she noticed. Approaching from the other side of the hallway was Professor Dumbledore. He was walking at a sedate pace, much less fast and determined than she knew he could. His magic also stood out against the background of magic in Hogwarts Castle. It was enough to be noticeable, even if it wasn't as prominent as the wizards and witches from East Asia.
"Hello, Professor Dumbledore," several people said at the same time.
"Hello," Professor Dumbledore said. "Mr. Hiiragizawa, I had heard you had decided to visit Hogwarts Castle. It looks like a bit of a party here. I hope I'm not interrupting."
"Not at all, Albus. I was just saying hello to Sakura and the others," Eriol said. His reaction completely took Sakura by surprise. She was already somewhat taken aback by the fact that Professor Dumbledore seemed to know Eriol. That Eriol was on a first name basis with the headmaster was just one step too far for her.
"You two know each other?" Sakura asked.
"Only briefly. We met last summer," Eriol said.
"Yes, which brings me to the topic at hand," Professor Dumbledore said. "My offer still stands, Mr. Hiiragizawa. I hope you've reconsidered joining us here."
"I'm flattered, but I'm afraid I still can't join Hogwarts at this time. There isn't a place for me here. Maybe in a few years, once everything's settled and if I like the direction the school is taking," Eriol said.
"You're turning down an offer to come to Hogwarts? The premier magical school in the country?" Gloria exclaimed. She wasn't the only one. All of the British students stared at Eriol as if he were crazy.
"That's a shame. I fear I yet again find myself in need of a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. I was hoping that you might be able to fill the position," Professor Dumbledore said.
"What?" all of the British students shouted. They turned to stare at Eriol as if he had grown a second head, and then at Professor Dumbledore as if he had grown a third and a fourth one.
"For that position? In that case, you'll need to wait for the curse to be lifted too," Eriol said impishly.
"A professor? He looks younger than we are," Roger whispered to Giles.
"Eriol knows a lot. He taught me lots of stuff," Sakura said. There was the differences between Eastern and Western magic, and wands, and the cards, and the basis of charms, not to mention everything Eriol had done for her in Japan. She had learned at least as much from him as from any professor in Hogwarts.
"Of course. You're from Japan," Giles said. It earned him a smack from Syaoran.
"Very well. If you change your mind, you know where to find me. Until then, good day," Professor Dumbledore said, addressing the last to the group as a whole. He then left.
"A professor?" Roger asked again, this time louder and to Eriol.
Eriol looked at him, appearing far wiser than his apparent age would allow. He said, "You shouldn't judge things by appearances. Haven't they taught you anything useful here?"
"If you started teaching, you could change that," Kaho said.
"We've talked about this. Maybe in a few years, after..." Eriol said. He then trailed off. Sakura could easily fill in the blank. After the whirlwind of prophesy had come and passed, as Kaho had described it.
When it became clear Eriol wasn't going to finish the sentence, Gloria asked, "After what?" This only earned her a shrug from Eriol.
Sakura decided to change the subject. The question had nagged at her since she had first caught sight of Eriol. She asked, "What's that sword?"
"What? This?" Eriol asked. He pulled the sword out and then took a flick and swing with it. Giles took a step back while Luna let it slice through the air in front of her without reacting. "It's something I had to carry around in my last school. It's versatile, but a bit too much if you ask me. Truth be told, I had forgotten all about it."
"School? You're still going to school?" Syaoran asked.
"We're always learning things throughout our life," Eriol said.
"You had to carry a sword around there?" Sakura asked.
"I had to play by their rules for a bit or I would have been forced out before I learned what I wanted. It doesn't really matter," Eriol said.
He flicked the sword a couple more times before throwing it high up in the air. It tumbled upward, flipping end over end, out of control. It reached an apex and then started to fall, on perfect track to land on his head. Somebody screamed. Even Sakura, who had the utmost confidence in Eriol, felt a stab of worry jolt through her.
Kaho reached out and deftly grabbed the sword by its hilt, at which point the weapon vanished. With a hint of reproach in her voice, she said, "If you are quite finish scaring them, we should get going. I have some last goodbyes to say to everybody."
"Spoilsport," Eriol said. He stood aside and said, "After you. Good day, everybody."
"See you later, Eriol. Professor Mizuki," Sakura said.
"Later," Syaoran said.
Kaho and Eriol started walking down the hall, looking more like a mother leading her son around her workplace than their actual relationship.
Giles and Roger exchanged a look, and then ran after them shouting, "Wait up! How'd you do that?"
"So, that was Eriol?" Gloria asked, leveling a flat gaze at Sakura.
"Yes," Sakura said.
"You have some weird friends," Luna said.
"You don't know the half of it," Syaoran said, shaking his head.
"You said he was just a normal boy," Gloria accused Lisa.
"He did not act like that last summer," Lisa said.
The whole exchange bemused Sakura. It was just like Eriol. Wherever he poked around, chaos was sure to follow.
The end-of-term feast was fine. It might have even been amazing. It had splendid food. It had wonderful drinks. It had an inspiring speech by Professor Dumbledore. Overall it was quite the memorable event.
Yet somehow it still proved to be anti-climactic.
The awarding of the house cup was a foregone conclusion. Professor Dumbledore's awarding of 400 points to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley had cinched the victory for Gryffindor. The only thing which could change the result would be another last minute surprise by Professor Dumbledore. The students in Ravenclaw secretly hoped for one, but didn't honestly expect it would happen. They weren't to be surprised. The cup was an easy victory for Gryffindor by dozens of points.
Except for the awarding of the house cup, which had been entirely predictable, everything else in the feast had been completely overshadowed by the impromptu and unscheduled party held just a few weeks earlier. Professor Dumbledore's inspirational speech to never forget the lessons learned at the school and to depend on the lifelong friendships forged through years of late-night studying and gaming couldn't hope to compete against the simple declaration that a giant basilisk had been defeated in the legendary Chamber of Secrets and the commensurate sense of relief and celebration that that statement had brought with it.
The food was good as well, but it was certainly no better than the feast that had graced the table a year prior. Sakura was still tempted to gorge herself, but forced herself to exhibit restraint. There would be more snacks at the Hufflepuff party, and Sakura didn't want to overindulge herself.
The feast ended sedately, leaving plenty of time for students to finish any last minute packing in preparation for the trip home on the Hogwarts Express.
After dinner, Sakura spent a bit of time in the Ravenclaw Common Room in the miniature social gathering which had formed there. Partway through it, she met Lisa's eye and they jointly agreed to head back to their dorm room. Officially they were going to pack and to go to bed for an early evening. Instead Sakura deliberately checked around to make sure everything was in order, and then pulled out the book which held the Sakura Cards.
"Key which hides the powers of stars, show your true power before me. Under the contract, Sakura commands you. Release," Sakura quickly chanted in Japanese once she was sure that she and Lisa were alone in the room. She then pulled out the appropriate card and said, "Illusion, create a barrier to mask our passage. Illusion."
The image of a tapestry appeared and settled around both her and Lisa. While both of them could see the other, past experiments had proven that they would be basically undetectable to everybody else. However the effect wasn't exceptionally wide, so Lisa had to stay fairly close to Sakura as they traveled.
The Ravenclaw Common Room still had a fair number of students enjoying their last evening together. Sakura didn't pay it any mind, excepting to avoid knocking into anybody. She had to give her fellow students a wide berth. She'd been caught off-guard by in the past by how unexpectedly people moved when they thought nobody was near them.
The presence of The Illusion let Sakura open the main door of the Ravenclaw Common Room without fear. Despite the number of spectators, the door's movements were masked just as effectively as Sakura's and Lisa's movements were as they slipped out of Ravenclaw Tower. From there, it was a quick journey to Hufflepuff Basement. As they went, Sakura occasionally turned around to see if they were being followed. Luna was frightfully perceptive and intuitive at times, if a bit ignorant and gullible. Despite the fact that Wayne and Lisa had pointedly not invited her, Sakura half-expected her to find a way to tag along as she always did. While Sakura couldn't feel her presence nearby, it didn't hurt to be careful.
The trip went without incident. They had to be a bit cautious as they passed Mrs. Norris, but the cat was just as susceptible to optical, olfactory, and auditory illusions as humans and ghosts were. They passed without being detected. It was only when they drew close to Hufflepuff Basement that Sakura and Lisa ducked into a small alcove out of sight of any passing people, ghosts, and portraits. Sakura then released The Illusion. This left her and Lisa plainly visible. Then, after one last turn in the corridor, they were in the Hufflepuff dormitories.
"Lisa," Wayne greeted almost immediately upon entering.
"Hello, Wayne. Thank you for the invitation," Lisa greeted back.
Sakura took a look around the cozy room of the Hufflepuff Common Room. It was filled to the brim with yellow scarves and badger badges, although there were enough raven, lion, and even the occasional snake badge to catch the eye. In a word, it was exactly what she had been expecting, except for one thing. Syaoran hadn't arrived yet, nor was he close as far as she could tell.
"Of course. Glad you could come. Help yourself to a drink. There's lots of butterbeer," Wayne said, leading both Lisa and Sakura in. While he said that to both of them, Sakura knew he was primarily addressing Lisa.
"Thanks," Sakura and Lisa said, both helping themselves to a bottle on a table near the side of the room.
"Gloria's here, and she's off talking to... some Quidditch person. I haven't seen Syaoran yet, but I might have missed him," Wayne said.
"You go ahead. I'm going to wait for Syaoran," Sakura said.
"Suit yourself," Wayne said.
"See you later," Lisa said.
Both of them took their leave.
Sakura took a quick glance at the large selection of foods and drinks set out before making her way away from the line of tables near the side of the room. There would be plenty of time to come back once Syaoran arrived. She only helped herself to a quick cauldron cake before heading back to the entrance.
While her first impression of the room was that it was like the party at the end of her first year, as she wound her way through the crowd her opinion of that subtly changed. Unlike the only other experience she had had with the secret Hufflepuff party, this one was much less uniform. Last time, the only thing on everybody's lips had been the story of Harry Potter, the strange adventures of the Gryffindor students, and the unprecedented awarding of 170 points at the feast just hours prior. While the Chamber of Secrets might have filled the same role, it was old news by this point and no longer dominated the gossip circles. Everybody already knew, or thought they knew, what had happened: the parseltongue password to the Chamber of Secrets, Moaning Myrtle's bizarre involvement, the fraudulence of Professor Lockhart, and the enormous basilisk. There were still some minor questions, such as whether Harry had hypnotized the beast with his voice before immolating it, but they were only minor questions. The Chamber of Secrets was still a major topic of gossip at the party, but it was far from the only one.
Indeed there seemed to be another rumor passing through the crowd, albeit only to the Hufflepuff members of it. Every time Sakura drew near, the topic would abruptly change. She only heard bits of fragments, with a name like "Herbert" and the occasional mention of something about a vampire. It severely piqued her interest, but she doubted she would be able to find out more. Maybe Gloria or especially Lisa would be able to learn the story from Wayne in the privacy of the Hogwarts Express during the trip home from school, but Sakura doubted she would ever know what had happened.
It happened again as she took a seat near the entrance to the Hufflepuff dormitories. She heard the trailing end of, "...forest shack. And... uhh..." before there was the inevitable subject change, "... can you be believe Professor Dumbledore? The second year in a row. It must have hurt Ravenclaw the most. Oh, hey. You're in Ravenclaw, right?" The last was directed to Sakura. The stocky boy with sandy hair talked past his companion to address her. "What do you think about it? My name's Philip, by the way."
"Edward," the other Hufflepuff boy said, turning to include her in their conversation as well.
"Sakura," Sakura introduced herself.
"Yeah, so what'd you think about Professor Dumbledore handing Gryffindor the win again? It must have been a real punch in the gut," Edward repeated.
Sakura let out a sigh. It had been the talk of Ravenclaw Tower ever since the day after Professor Dumbledore announced the defeat of the Heir of Slytherin, once the initial feeling of euphoric relief had had a chance to run its course.
"It's... it's... it's rubbish," Sakura said, giving up on trying to think of a polite way to phrase both her opinion and the general consensus of Ravenclaw. "What's the point of the competition if Professor Dumbledore's just going to give Gryffindor the house cup every year?"
"I agree," Philip said. "On the one hand, a basilisk, but on the other hand, the whole thing is pants. Gryffindor wasn't even close until Professor Dumbledore gave Harry and Ron all those points. I don't know about you Ravenclaws, but I don't think anybody in Hufflepuff will give a toss next year."
"Don't tell anybody, but Professor Sprout was livid. We do the right thing all year, and then those prankster Gryffindors come in and steal the cup. She almost gave us 400 points right there," Philip said.
"Professor Flitwick too," Sakura said. "I heard that Professor Snape was furious as well."
"Yeah. My heart really goes out to Professor Snape, you know," Edward said sarcastically. "That slimy git rigs the competition almost as much as Professor Dumbledore did."
"He's not a slimy git. He's a nice person," Sakura protested. It'd been a long time since she had heard that accusation, especially from a non-Gryffindor. Among her friends, only Gloria and sometimes Wayne complained about Professor Snape, and neither of them had done so within earshot of Sakura for months.
"Sure he is, if you're in Slytherin," Philip said.
"He is," Sakura insisted in what she knew was a pointless protest. She had yet to convince any student who didn't already like him that Professor Snape was a good person.
"Sure, sure," Edward said, dismissing her assertion. "I can just picture him next year, giving out points by the dozen to his Slytherins. Slytherin's up by 500 points by the end of the year."
"Not that it'd do any good. All the other professors would notice and start giving out more points too," Sakura reasoned.
"And then Professor Dumbledore would have to give out even more to hand Gryffindor the victory yet again," Philip concluded. "I can just hear it now. 'For stopping an attack on the Ministry of Magic, I award Harry Potter 1000 points, giving Gryffindor the house cup.'"
"Not that he wouldn't deserve it. Just don't expect me to give a toss about the house cup anymore," Edward said.
Sakura stayed silent. She knew everybody in Ravenclaw, including herself, was upset, but she was surprised by the extent the sentiment was shared with the other houses as well. Hufflepuff hadn't even been in second place prior to Gryffindor's point leap.
The house cup, and any changes to it, were beyond her caring, though. It would never affect her again. It would have been nice to have won, as they had been expected to for most of the second half of the school year, but there was nothing that could be done about it now.
She quietly edged her way away from Philip and Edward as a familiar presence approached. The last thing she heard from the two boys was speculation about whether Harry and Ron had actually asked for the points, or if it had been purely Professor Dumbledore's and possibly Professor McGonagall's idea.
Sakura arrived at the door just as Syaoran appeared. He was alone. She had had this idle wonder if somehow Roger and Giles would come too. There was no way Syaoran would have told them, and they were far less tenacious than Luna was, but it had been a thought despite that.
"Hey there," Syaoran greeted, quickening his pace a bit upon catching sight of her.
"Syaoran-kun," Sakura greeted, moving forward to take his hand. She pulled him forward. "Come in. Are you thirsty? They've got a lot of drinks."
"Now that you mention it. What're you having?" Syaoran asked, pointing to the bottle Sakura had in her other hand.
"It's butterbeer," Sakura said.
"Butterbeer? What's that?" Syaoran asked.
"Here, try some," Sakura offered, handing him her half-full bottle.
Syaoran took the bottle and took a drink. He handed it back, saying, "That taste's good. Where'd you get it?"
"Over here," Sakura said, leading Syaoran deeper into the party and to the drinks table.
"I'm serious," Sakura said. "I want to hear all about your new school."
"Oh, of course," Gloria said. "So I guess that's it, then."
"Yeah. It's been fun," Syaoran said.
"Have a safe trip," Lisa said.
"You too," Sakura said.
With that, Gloria, Lisa, and Wayne turned and left the Great Hall. They turned and gave a last wave before disappearing through the large doors leading to the entrance of Hogwarts Castle.
"Whew. What a year. I'm going to miss it. It's not like I can just fly around in Tokyo like I do here," Keroberos said.
"You've survived there before. You've got to be used to it by now," Syaoran said.
"I'm going to miss it, too," Sakura said, still in English. Despite the fact that all of the British students had left, after all her time in the castle it felt more proper to be speaking in English to match the setting.
"I won't. All those people always looking at me suspiciously, and all those supposed accidents. The only place I could really relax was in the Slytherin dormitories, and even that had far more prats than natural," Syaoran said.
"Sorry," Sakura said, as she had the past several times Syaoran had mentioned how life in Slytherin had been.
"It's not your fault. I was the one who decided to come here," Syaoran repeated his normal reply. "I'm just glad it's all over."
"Sakura, Syaoran," Kaho called out, catching the attention of the only two students still visible in the Great Hall. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah," Syaoran said, picking up his luggage.
"Sure," Sakura said, following suit.
Suifui naturally pecked sharply towards Keroberos. The cage prevented Syaoran's owl from actually reaching Keroberos, but it still caused a sharp rap to echo around the empty room. His owl had grown a bit throughout the year, but any increased intimidation from its larger size was ruined by the sturdy bars which surrounded it. The Guardian Beast responded by blowing a raspberry back at the caged bird.
Kaho led the group onward along the long familiar path to her office, where they would use the floo to return to Clow Manor. From there they would take a portkey back to Hong Kong, and Sakura would then catch the relatively short flight back home.
They could have taken the portkey directly from Hogwarts Castle, but Sakura wanted to say her goodbyes to Eriol, Ruby, and Spinel. With any luck, she would be able to get Eriol to explain a bit about where he had been over the past year too. Based on the show from the day before, that was a story at least as exciting as her own.
As they walked, Sakura felt increasingly sentimental. It hit her harder than the previous year, when she had only spent a single school year in Hogwarts and when she hadn't been sure whether or not she would come back. This time she was sure. She wouldn't be. This would be the last time she would see Hogwarts Castle. Ever. The place where she had spent almost two years of her life. The place where she had learned so much. The place where she had had so much fun.
She wasn't quite ready to leave yet.
"Do... do you think we can take one last look around the castle? Just to kind of say goodbye," Sakura asked as they reached Kaho office. When she actually verbalized it out loud, the idea sounded kind of silly.
"If you want to," Syaoran said, although he didn't look particularly enthusiastic.
"I'm in no real hurry. Let's drop your things off in my office first," Kaho suggested. It was an obvious suggestion as her office was right in front of them.
They left their luggage just inside the room, and Kaho closed the door behind them.
"So, where to first?" Keroberos asked.
Sakura thought a bit. What would be the most appropriate place? It was hard to say. The most obvious place was Ravenclaw Tower. It was the place where she had slept, studied, and generally just lived throughout the years, but she had just been there in the morning. The Great Hall was the second most obvious place, what with two Sorting Ceremonies, two end-of-year feasts, one-and-a-half Halloweens, countless informal gatherings, even more meals, and other general miscellaneous activities. However it suffered the same problem as Ravenclaw Tower.
She ended up pointing in a direction at random and declared, "That way."
The group had only taken a couple of turns, selected more or less at random, before Sakura passed what was otherwise an ordinary fork in the hallway. It was a place Sakura would never forget. It was where she had had her confrontation with Peeves when he had stolen Syaoran's White Day gift. That had been a remarkably satisfying day, although it had led to other problems. Peeves was barely in sight down the corridor, but he disappeared at the sight of the four of them. She reflexively looked to Syaoran, who looked back but didn't say anything. Sakura hesitated only briefly, reminiscing momentarily, before turning and moving on without comment.
She passed by the Transfigurations classroom, which housed one of her favorite classes as well as one of her favorite teachers. Sakura gave a quick knock on the door before poking her head into the room. Nobody was there, but the tables were all lined up in preparation for a class which would not arrive for months yet. The chalkboards in the front of the room had various complicated diagrams and pictures Sakura could make no sense of. They were probably left over from the last class of the school year. As there was nobody around, Sakura quickly led the group away.
The ever changing stairs and corridors led Sakura next to the Astronomy Tower.
"It's a lot nicer here during the day," Syaoran said, as much to himself as to Sakura, Keroberos, and Kaho. They were all alone up in the tower. To the best of Sakura's knowledge, Professor Sinistra never went up there during the day.
"Too bad Astronomy class is always at night," Sakura said. It was much better during the day as compared to when they had classes, in the middle of the cold and dank Scottish nights. The view of the forbidden forest, the lake, the Quidditch pitch, and Hogsmead were amazing.
Sakura walked to the edge of the Astronomy Tower and leaned over to get a better view. She held no fear of the height, confident in her ability to handle things if she improbably fell off the tower. She was trying to trace the path she had taken to follow The Jump on that day it had gone rogue. She was able to determine the route she must have taken to run from the Quidditch pitch back to the castle, but the scenery looked so different from above that she didn't recognize it at all. In contrast, it was easy to see the direction she had flown from Ravenclaw Tower back into the forest. She lost track once she traced her path past the tree line. She had no chance of determining the exact path she had taken underneath the forest canopy.
"I should have come up here more often," Kaho idly commented from beside Sakura, standing slightly farther away from the edge.
Sakura took one last look around the entire tower, trying to burn the image of beautiful Scotland into her memory. Ravenclaw Tower was higher, but the openness of the Astronomy Tower made it more scenic.
"Ready to go?" Sakura asked. A few nods later and Sakura headed back down the Astronomy Tower with Keroberos, Syaoran, and Kaho.
Sakura passed by Professor McGonagall's classroom again, continued onward, and stopped at the Grand Staircase. Granted it wasn't intentional, but it was appropriate. She had been delayed countless times here, and as a result had been late to class more than once. As the stairs maneuvered through the air, Sakura's eyes glanced over to the particular flight of stairs she had flown off of before landing unceremoniously onto Luna. Not this time.
Once the stairs had settled on a configuration, Sakura continued onward. The particular path she was taking would eventually bring her to the Potions classroom, but not before she passed by Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. She could still remember screaming and running away from the equally screaming ghost. Back then she had thought Myrtle was just another Peeves. How wrong she was. Who could have guessed back then that the ghost and her bathroom had hidden such a big secret.
"I wonder what's going to happen to Myrtle now," Syaoran asked as they passed by.
"I don't know. I hope she'll be okay," Sakura said.
"I'm sure she'll be fine. Hogwarts treats its ghosts well," Kaho said.
As Kaho spoke, they approached one ghost Sakura would have preferred hadn't been treated so well. She had to suppress a reflexive yawn as they neared the History of Magic classroom. She credited that class as much as anything for her overcoming her old fear of ghosts. However, that didn't mean she wanted a reminder, let alone a meeting with Professor Binns. She pressed onward.
"Come on. Let's go. I want to see if Professor Snape is still around," Sakura said. She hurried onward to the Potions classroom.
Much like the Transfiguration classroom earlier, Sakura knocked on the door frame before poking her head into the Potions classroom. Unlike Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape was in the room. He was hovering over three simmering cauldrons and was in the process of dicing some plant. From the door, the plant looked like nightshade.
Professor Snape briefly glanced up, and said, "Kinomoto. If you've missed the Hogwarts Express you should go see Professor Flitwick or Professor Dumbledore." He then turned back to his cutting.
"We're quite all right, Professor Snape. We're just doing one last tour of the castle," Kaho said.
"Ah, Professor Mizuki," Professor Snape said, without looking up. He dismissively said, "I'm sorry I missed your going away party. Prior engagement, you understand." He spoke in a flat and uninterested voice, as if declaring what he had had for breakfast.
"That's quite understandable. I'm sure it was very important," Kaho said.
"I just wanted to say goodbye, and thank you for all you've taught me," Sakura said. "I'm not coming back here next year, you see."
Professor Snape whipped out his wand and waved it over the cutting board. He then mounted his wand on a stand to the side such that it was being held over a cauldron. He looked up again, and said, "I had heard about Li, but you too?"
"Yes, sir," Sakura said.
A bit of a glower came to Professor Snape's face. On anybody else it could have been a frown, but certainly not on Professor Snape's face. He said, as much as asked, "I take it your both leaving at the same time is related?"
"Yes, sir," Syaoran said.
"That's a waste. You both have talent. Talk to Li, Kinomoto. I've already given him a list of books you can use to develop yourself in the wastelands of Asia. Now if you'll excuse me, my Displacement Draught is in a critical phase," Professor Snape said. He then picked up his cutting board and flipped it over, dropping its content, knife and all, into the left-most cauldron.
Sakura departed without a word, following behind Kaho and Syaoran. She knew better than to distract Professor Snape unduly when he was in the middle of brewing something. That he spared a few seconds in the middle of a critical phase of crafting a potion already spoke volumes. His providing advice to her and Li about ways to continue studying Potions also meant much more than it might seem to somebody who didn't know the terse Potions-Master's personality.
They were only halfway down the corridor from the Potions classroom when a loud bang sounded throughout the hallway. And suddenly Sakura had a face full of pie. She automatically scraped the pie off and wiped her eyes and mouth clear.
"What was that?" Syaoran asked.
"Probably one of the twin's jokes," Kaho said.
"Ick," Sakura said. She raised her wand in preparation to cast a charm to clean her face.
"I wouldn't," Kaho stopped her. "The Weasleys are tricky. It's safer to wash it off the muggle way, preferably at a muggle washroom. Who knows what they charmed the pie to do against magic? Don't eat any, by the way," Kaho warned. She handed over a small handkerchief to Sakura as well.
"Aww," Keroberos complained, flicking away the piece of pie he had obtained.
Sakura wiped the majority of the pie clear as they walked, but she could still feel the remnants of it left over on her face. It was perfect in a way. They had moved on and were passing by the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. That class had been wonderful her first year, excepting for the fact that Professor Quirrel had been possessed the entire time. It had been mostly useless her second year. Between that and how Professor Lockhart had attacked her, she couldn't help but feel as if the class had been similar to the pie on her face, if not substantially worse. She didn't bother stopping as they continued.
"It was here, you know, where Professor Lockhart attacked me," Sakura explained, two turns later. She didn't really want to remember the attack. However, she didn't want to not remember it either. After all, the attack had robbed her memories, and not remembering it had been the problem. It felt weird.
"Don't worry. He's currently in St. Mungo's. It's doubtful he'll ever be in a position to hurt anybody ever again," Kaho said.
"That's no help. What's to stop him from recovering his memories too?" Syaoran asked.
"Well, Sakura has a lot more magic power than he does, for one," Kaho said. "But even if he does recover, enough people know the truth about his actions that he'd be sent straight to Azkaban if he ever recovered enough to stand trial."
"Azkaban? What's that?" Sakura asked.
"It's a wizard prison. It's not a very nice place," Kaho said. She didn't provide any other details, and nobody asked for more.
As they walked away, Sakura wondered who the next Defense Against the Dark Arts professor would be and if he or she would be any good. She would need to ask Lisa or Wayne a few months into the next term to see what they thought. She was also wondering if that new professor would be able to last for more than a year.
Sakura passed by the corridor where she, along with Keroberos and Syaoran, had spent a great deal of time experimenting while trying to discover her own magic. She exchanged a quick glance with those two. She didn't dwell, though. It was also the place where they had been attacked by that basilisk. The basilisk was dead and would never threaten anybody ever again, but the area still made her anxious.
Equally brief was the glimpse of the entrance to Professor Dumbledore's office. She had seen the headmaster infrequently and had only been to his office once. It was back when she had tried to learn more about Clow Reed, not that she had been very successful in that effort. However, the sight did remind her that she needed to have a talk with Eriol about Clow later. She was sure he would have some interesting stories about the enigmatic creator of the cards, and she had been in ignorance of the man who had had such an influence on her life for far too long.
Sakura did take the time to dwell in the library a moment, though. Even without any other students, the towers of books all around the room still imposed a solemn atmosphere of silence. She almost shouted out for Gray Lady, just to see if Madam Pince was around and would shush her, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She also doubted Gray Lady would appreciate it. The ghost had never quite warmed up to Syaoran and had always been agitated whenever she saw Sakura with him. Sakura had never been able to figure out why. It was yet another Hogwarts mystery she would never learn the answer to in a castle full of mysteries, both known and unknown.
She also paused at the Charms classroom. Sakura knocked at the closed door, and heard Professor Flitwick's muffled voice a second later. The door then opened on its own, revealing the half-goblin sitting at his desk.
"Sakura? Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but hasn't the Hogwarts Express already left? What are you still doing here?" Professor Flitwick asked.
"I'm actually taking the floo with Professor Mizuki and the others," Sakura said.
"Are you?" Professor Flitwick asked. He didn't give her a chance to answer, following up immediately by saying, "Right, right, you told me that. So, how can I help you?"
"It's nothing. I just wanted to say goodbye to everyone before I left," Sakura said.
"That's right. You're not coming back next year, are you? I'm sorry to see you leave. You've made a lot of progress this year, especially in the last few weeks. I'm sure if you keep it up, you'll be quite the Charms-Mistress when you grow up. Just remember; practice, practice, practice," Professor Flitwick said.
"Thank you, sir," Sakura said.
"Take care, Sakura. You too, Kaho. Syaoran," Professor Flitwick said.
"Bye," Syaoran said.
"Take care," Kaho said.
They were nearing the end of their path. The last main stop was the hospital wing. Sakura didn't even have a chance to knock before Madam Pomfrey was on her feet, exclaiming, "Good heavens. What's happened? Is somebody hurt?"
"Hoe?" Sakura asked. "I don't think so. Is something wrong?"
"Well, everybody should have left for the Hogwarts Express by now. I thought you were here because something happened," Madam Pomfrey said. She put the bag she had clutched back down.
"No. We were just saying our last goodbyes," Syaoran explained. "Thanks for taking care of me back in February."
"Think nothing of it. It's my job, after all. I'm glad it's all sorted itself out, although we never did figure out what was wrong with you, did we?" Madam Pomfrey asked.
"I thought it was magical exhaustion," Syaoran said.
"I meant the real source, not that old wives' tale," Madam Pomfrey said.
Sakura was about to protest, but felt Kaho rest her hand on her shoulder.
"Well, all's well that ends well," Madam Pomfrey said.
"Very true," Kaho agreed.
"Anyway, we're just dropping by to say thanks for all your help," Sakura said.
Of the things in Hogwarts she would miss, the hospital wing was probably the one she would miss the most. Somehow there didn't seem to be a muggle equivalent. She had seen more strange maladies treated here, including her own injuries such as the breaks and burns from an exploding broom, than she could imagine being dealt with in a more traditional hospital. Without the safety net of Madam Pomfrey's hospital, she would need to be much more cautious with her experiments going forward.
A sudden thought struck Sakura, and on the spur of the moment she asked, "Actually, do you know any good books on healing magic, or other things to learn about it?"
"Hmm..." Madam Pomfrey turned her head in thought. "There's a few books, but they're pretty specialized. Let me think what what would be a good one for you. Maybe 'Drafting Drinks,' but that's pretty advanced. I like 'The White Light Within,' but you really need to understand at least N.E.W.T. level Charms first. Can I think about it a bit?"
"Sure. Why don't you owl a list to me. I should be around for a few more months before I leave the country," Kaho said.
"I can do that," Madam Pomfrey said.
"Thanks again for all your help," Sakura said before she and the others took their leave.
Sakura continued to lead the group on a meandering path through the winding corridors of Hogwarts Castle, trying to reach a door on the ground floor to cut across the courtyard and loop back to Kaho's office. As she walked, Keroberos flew out of her pocket and said, "Hey, this is that room that I scared Gloria and Lisa in."
"It is?" Sakura asked.
"What'd you do?" Syaoran asked.
"They were asking all sorts of questions about the cards, and saying I couldn't do any magic or anything," Keroberos said.
Sakura poked her head into the room Keroberos was pointing at. It looked just like any other disused classroom. It had random abandoned pieces of furniture in different states of disrepair strewn about. Maybe it had a couple more scorch marks on the walls. She couldn't remember the incident Keroberos referred to, but she had no reason to disbelieve him.
"I should have known, bullying a bunch of girls," Syaoran teased.
"What'd you say?" Keroberos retorted.
Sakura left the two of them to banter and continued on her way. They caught up with her and Kaho before they reached the end of the hall, as she knew they would.
Eventually Sakura found a door to the courtyard. When she opened it, she was almost blinded by the sunlight. It took several seconds for her eyes to adjust to the increased light. The warm June day was so different than the cold, snow-covered days throughout winter that it was hard to imagine it was the same place.
The courtyard was open and clear, uninhibited by moving stairs and winding hallways. The direct path passed right by the greenhouses. It was the place she had had that battle with The Song. It was hard to imagine that that had only been a year prior. It felt longer. Luckily no other cards had run rampant since that day. Even for the few days Professor Lockhart had had the cards, nothing untoward had happened. If she had her way, a card would never run rampant again ever again. She hated for anything bad to happen to the cards, and she would do her best to make sure they would never again be in a position to be hurt or abused again.
"There's a lot of greenhouses here. I don't think we'll be able to find Professor Sprout," Sakura said.
"It's just as well. It's starting to get a bit late. Eriol probably has lunch waiting for us already," Kaho said, taking the lead.
As Sakura followed Kaho back to her office, she reflected on her time in Hogwarts Castle. A lot had happened over the years there. It was a shame she was leaving. There were still so many unexplored parts of the Scottish school of magic, no, the entire Western world of magic. It was a world she was leaving for now. Maybe not forever, but for now. Maybe one day, years from now after she had graduated and had more firmly established herself as an adult, she would be able to return. Until then, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had given her an invaluable foundation and starting point, but she knew she had her own path to chart and her own magic to discover.
This seems like a good stopping point, for now and possibly forever. Everything is fully compliant with canon and all the loose ends are wrapped up. Kaho has left Hogwarts, to be replaced by a new Muggle Studies professor. Anthony is no longer spending substantial time with Lisa and Wayne, instead choosing to spend his time with Terry Boot and some other minor characters. Gloria has left Hogwarts for a different school. Sakura and Syaoran are on their way back to East Asia, paving the way for the reunion when Syaoran once again travel to Japan and joins Sakura in school. Everything is on track to fit right back into canon for both universes.
And so we have it. Another story which can finally be marked "Complete."
Much like this story's precursor, there could be a sequel to this story. It's a bit less likely, as reflected in the narration itself, but it's not impossible. I have a few more firm ideas now as compared to when I had first finished "Sakura and the Scottish School of Magic," both for a sequel as well as for a potential spin-off or two. However, I don't have any immediate plans to write them. Then again, I actually hadn't planned on writing this story yet either. There are two or three other ideas I had, but this one kind of forced itself to the front of the queue. So who knows what will happen? Regardless, if there is a sequel, spin-off, or something else, don't expect it in the near future.
In any case, this story was fun to write. It has had its high points and its low points. It was certainly very interesting to revisit an existing world, with the benefits and drawbacks that that entails. I hope you enjoyed returning to this world as much as I did.
Last Updated: September 6, 2014