Disclaimers: I'm gonna forego all witty commentary and say that it ain't mine. I'm neither JK Rowling nor Joss Whedon nor affliated with them in any sort of way. Although... if they are out there somewhere and they like my story...call me.
A/N Since I can't use Word, I'm reduced to writing this as a txt file. Novice me, * indicate thought processes. (sorry if there are still problems reading with funky punctutations.)
Blessed Be the Burdens We Bear
¡§Seems kinda dull, don't you think? Going back to school after the brilliant summer we've had?¡¨ Ron Weasley asked from his spot in their room at the Leaky Cauldron. He sat on a chair, balancing on the back legs, his feet up on the windowsill. He was tossing food pellets at his owl, Pig, who fluttered about trying to catch them in his mouth, only to get them constantly in the eye.
Resting on his bed, Harry Potter, stroking the feathers of his own owl, Hedwig, murmured non-committedly. After all, ever since he entered Hogwarts upon discovering his own wizarding heritage¡Xwhat was it, five, six years ago¡Xhe never really experienced anything resembling a dull school year.
Neither had Ron for that matter. *But what do you expect, being best mates with the Boy-Who-Lived-to-be-Hunted-by-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, * Harry thought snidely. He wouldn't mind having a dull year, especially after the hellish experience that was his fifth year. Harry shuddered, thinking about Dolores Umbridge and her tittering little cough. He flexed his hand, remembering her ¡§special¡¨ quill for detention. Harry did have to agree with Ron in stating that the last month, nearly the entire summer, was completely brilliant. *Well, maybe notcompletely brilliant considering...* There were¡Xare¡Xstill dark moments that no light would ever make right again.
¡§Yeah, the summer was pretty great, eh, Ron?¡¨ Harry ended up staying with the Dursley's for a wicked record short of two weeks. Two weeks of complete and absolute misery: Dudley's terror-filled glares and forced-upon diets, Uncle Vernon's maddening orders and insults. Mourning Sirius. Harry felt dark clouds enclosing him and quickly turned his thoughts away.
Strangest of all, however, was Aunt Petunia's absolute refusal to acknowledge his presence. He received no lectures, no sneering glances, no orders to cook, not even a pinched look about her mouth.
She cooked meals, met with her ladies' groups, entertained, and fussed over Dudley, but for him there was nothing. While Harry was relieved, it saddened him. She was his mother's sister¡Xit was through her blood that he had been shielded from Voldermort all these years. *She made a promise when she took me in and she hasn't gone back on it yet. Well, there was last summer, but even that was an extremecircumstance.* But while Uncle Vernon was certainly under no obligation to love him, didn't his mother's sister feel any affection for him? Did she really hate his mother that much? Was it only because she was under the watchful eyes of Dumbledore that she allowed him into her home, or could there be a possibility that he might find a real family in her after all? Harry wished for the millionth time that Sirius was still alive.
Harry shook his head doubtfully. He knew better than to hope that one day his life would be normal¡Xthat anything resembling a stable family was out of the question. Especially with Voldermort lurking about and the two of them pre-ordained to duel to the death.
¡§It was the stuff of dreams, mate.¡¨ Ron's voice broke through the storm cloud of depression building heavily in Harry's thoughts, shadowing over his heart. ¡§I mean, me, Ron 'Youngest Brother' Weasley at the Chuddley Canons' Quidditch Summer Camp. Not many who could claim that.¡¨ Ron sighed lightly, reminding Harry of a lovesick poet. ¡§Wish I could thank Sirius¡Xerm, I mean...¡¨ The red head blushed and stammered off with wide-eyes.
Harry stopped stroking Hedwig, who, having fallen asleep, hooted in irritation. She nipped Harry's fingers, waking him from his sudden stupor and relaxed when his fingers continued to brush over her feathers.
¡§S¡¦alright, Ron. I wish I could, too.¡¨
A day after Harry arrived at the Dursley¡¦s this summer, an owl¡Xmuch to Uncle Vernon¡¦s dismay¡Xhad flew past Harry on his way to thestore. In its possession was a letter, saying that Harry Potter and two of his friends were invited to the First Ever (& Hopefully) Annual Chuddley Canons¡¦ Quidditch Camp.
Attached to it was a letter from Sirius.
¡§It was supposed to be an early birthday present,¡¨ Remus had said the day before Sirius¡¦ Last Rites, as they prepared for the ceremony.Sirius knew that this year had been increasingly difficult for Harry and, with Dumbledore¡¦s permission, secured Harry with a placement at the camp, along with his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
*Which,* Harry reflected ruefully, *only shows how little Sirius knew Hermione.* He recalled Hermione¡¦s reaction to the news, which had been less than appreciative...
The camp lasted about five whole weeks out of the summer. Five whole weeks of no one knowing who he was¡Xand he loved it. The Order thought it best, not wanting to deny Harry this opportunity, that he be placed under a guise-spell so that his location would not be known to everyone in the wizarding world. The glamour he wore changed his eyes green to brown and his hair from pitch-black and messy to short, curly, and blond¡Xto Ron¡¦s eternal amusement¡X and his scar had been changed to a faded birthmark, as the magic within the mark had not allowed it to disappear completely. And for one glorious summer, Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, ceased to exist while Evan Russell James could live without the fate of the wizarding world threatening to cave his head in... a nice illusion to cling to for as long as it lasted. And one that shook every time he noticed aurors carefully positioned around the camp.
¡§Precautions,¡¨ Mr. Weasley had told them before seeing them off. Now that Voldermort¡¦s return had been realized, the Ministry was taking no chances. While Fudge reluctantly trusted the care of Harry with the Order, he was determined to make the public aware that he held their safety and the safety of their children at heart. For that reason, he had aurors working overtime, patrolling all populated wizarding areas and public and private functions. If Voldermort and his followers were foolish enough to try what they had attempted at the Ministry, Fudge swore they would be ready.
But Harry knew Voldermort was no fool. He would be biding his time. Waiting to strike when he felt the time was right. Harry knew that it was inevitable before someone else he loved would be hurt. The image of Sirius, his eyes closed drifting away in a small ceremonial barge to disappear in the mists of Avalon, as was the traditional funeral for most wizards and witches, burned in his memory. This honor was granted to Sirius, finally being cleared as a criminal by the ministry after his death.
*Too late*, Harry thought bitterly.
¡§You reckon Hermione¡¦ll show up tonight?¡¨ Ron asked Harry quietly.
Harry blushed shamefully. ¡§I don¡¦t know. Haven¡¦t heard from her all summer, you know,¡¨ he mumbled.
Ron nodded, replying inaudibly, ¡§Yeah.¡¨
Tomorrow they would be heading to Hogwarts and Harry was dreading having to face his other best friend when they eventually boarded the train. She had refused to come to the camp and Ginny had taken her place instead. But prior to his going, she and Harry had an awful row that ended with him and Ron taking off for the summer without any words exchanged between them and Hermione.
¡§I¡¦ll probably have to tell her about Luna,¡¨ Ron said softly, a blush colouring him even redder than his hair.
¡§Probably.¡¨ Luna Lovegood had also come to Quidditch Camp, as her father was the editor of the Quibbler and garnered some special treatment¡X Luna was to do a special report on the experience. Surprisingly, Luna proved to be quite adept at playing Chaser and her knowledge of world teams nearly rivaled Ron¡¦s. Harry imagined Ron must have revised his initial opinion of ¡§Loony¡¨ Lovegood when she saw the potential behind the Canon¡¦s new lineup but insisted that France was the team to beat in the coming season. Harry smirked. Ron would fall for the girl who could trounce him in a Quidditch debate.
¡§We kissed, you know.¡¨
¡§Well, Ron. I didn¡¦t think you spent all those stolen moments in the equipment room discussing the existence of aliens.¡¨
¡§Never mind,¡¨ Harry laughed.
¡§Harry.¡¨ Ron seemed seriously anxious and Harry stopped laughing. ¡§I meant Hermione.¡¨ Harry stared at him in disbelief.
¡§Hermione. I kissed Hermione.¡¨ Ron stood from his chair and flopped on his bed opposite Harry¡¦s.
¡§Wh¡Xwhen was this?¡¨
¡§In the infirmary... after the fight. We were both awake and we started talking and, well...¡¨
Harry was amazed...he always suspected something between his two best friends, but he thought they were both too thick to realize it. Harry¡¦s heart ached at the thought of them keeping it a secret from him.
¡§Wait, wait... Are you not with Luna?¡¨ Ron nodded. ¡§And Hermione?¡¨ He suddenly felt a surge of rage directed at his friend.
¡§No!¡¨ Ron shouted in defense. ¡§No. It was one kiss... then we decided that we couldn¡¦t. Our friendship meant too much.¡¨ He sat up and looked at Harry. ¡§You meant too much.¡¨ Startled, Harry¡¦s eyes widened.
¡§That came out wrong,¡¨ Ron flustered. ¡§What I meant to say was that, neither of us thought the timing was right. I like Hermione. I liked her lots. Just didn¡¦t think about it till she was lying in the infirmary bed. She is the scariest but most fascinating girl I know¡Xbesides Luna, that is¡Xbut we both thought that it¡¦d be too weird for you, for all of us, if we¡Xyou know...¡¨
¡§Yeah, I know¡XI just... I don¡¦t know what to say.¡¨ Harry looked at Ron, and was shocked to see how¡Xwell¡Xmature Ron sounded. ¡§Why are you telling me this now and not before?¡¨
¡§Don¡¦t know why I didn¡¦t tell you... probably because you and Hermione, well, you know, aren¡¦t exactly happy with each other right now. I just¡XI don¡¦t know how she¡¦ll react when she finds out about Luna and I want to make sure that someone¡¦ll be around to talk to her. I mean, I know there¡¦s Ginny and the two of them talk about things that we¡¦ll probably never know about, but the three of us¡K We got history. You know?¡¨ Harry did know. He felt bad that he was always caught up in how the events of his life would physically affect his friends that rarely thought about what his friends might be feeling.
¡§Me liking Luna¡Xthat just sort of sprang up on me.¡¨ Ron sounded as though he was already justifying his relationship and Hermione wasn¡¦t even in the room.
¡§Don¡¦t worry about it, Ron. It¡¦ll be alright.¡¨ He hoped.
A knock sounded at the door.
¡§Ron? Harry?¡¨ It was Ginny.
¡§Come in, it¡¦s open,¡¨ Harry called to her.
¡§We¡¦re all having supper soon, so come downstairs if you want to eat.¡¨ She rolled her eyes as Ron jumped up as though he had been bitten in the arse.
¡§Yeah, we¡¦ll be down in a bit.¡¨
¡§Well, hurry up then. Charlie, Bill, and Fred and George are already here. Though, I think you¡¦d better be careful, Ron. George was carrying something green in a vial. They might be experimenting on your meal as we speak.¡¨
¡§Bloody hell, those two¡X" Ron was out the door before he could finish his sentence. He and Ginny snickered.
¡§Are the twins really planning something?¡¨ Harry asked.
¡§When are they not?¡¨ she replied flippantly before going out the door. ¡§See you in a bit, Harry.¡¨
* * *
As Harry made his way across the hallway, delayed when Pig had landed in one of his shoes and was franticly flying about the room, he heard raised voices coming from one of the rooms.
¡§You are not coming with us tonight,¡¨ one voice muffled past the door. ¡§I want you to stay and keep an eye out for any activities here. You never know...¡¨ Harry lost the rest of the sentence as the speaker lowered their voice. *It was probably aurors,*` Harry decided. There were a few students here tonight and he wouldn¡¦t be surprised if Diagon Alley was swarming with people patrolling the streets.
¡§There you are, Harry,¡¨ Mrs. Weasley cried as Harry made his way down the stairs. ¡§Come on then, come on. Eat.¡¨ He smiled at the Weasleys, taking a place between Ron and Charlie. Ron refused to touch the beef and barley soup, claiming it looked a bit green.
Harry was also pleased to hear that Charlie and Bill would be teaching at Hogwarts this term, but before he could ask what they wereteaching, Harry felt a sensation at the back of his neck. When he turned around, two hooded figures were making their way down the stairs.Harry could not recognize either, both masked by their hoods. One had stopped, and his or her attention was focused at him and the Weasleys.The other figure, directly behind, had their hand on the first one¡¦s shoulder. The second obviously said something, as the other shook their head and continued down the stairs as though guiding the person following. Harry¡¦s eyes trailed them as they made their way out the door and into the night.
¡§Harry?¡¨ Charlie called to him. Harry returned his attention to the family before him.
* * *
¡§Did you hear about the vampire sightings last night?¡¨ Harry heard a parent say to another as he rushed by them on his way out thebarrier at platform 9 3/4.
¡§Oof. Ouch. That hurt Harry.¡¨
¡§Sorry.¡¨ Harry had crashed his trolley into Ron before he could stop.
¡§I swear-- every year. Are we ever going to get you lot here on time?¡¨ moaned Mrs. Weasely.
¡§There's always next year, Mum.¡¨ Ginny grinned.
¡§Oh, you. Such cheek. Have you all got your tickets?¡¨
¡§Yes,¡¨ they all chorused.
¡§I hope Hermione got here all right,¡¨ Mrs. Weasely fretted under her breath.
¡§What about Hermione, Mum?¡¨ Ginny questioned.
¡§Nothing, dear. Just hoping these two will patch things up with her, poor girl.¡¨ She glared at Harry and Ron, both looking a bit shame-faced. Then she smiled brightly. ¡§Alright then, give your mother a hug. Yes, that means you, too, Ronald. Come on now, Harry.¡¨ Harry felt comforted by the crushing embrace. ¡§Good. Now off you go. And be safe.¡¨ They entered the train as Mrs. Weasley was still calling to them. ¡§I don¡¦t want to hear that you¡¦re all off having adventures or such nonsense. I¡¦m holding you all responsible if one of you manages to get yourself killed before Christmas. Bye! I love you!¡¨
If Molly Weasley had continued speaking, none of them heard her as the train whistle blew and slowly started to move.
¡§C¡¦mon, then, this is probably the last empty one,¡¨ Ginny stated, opening one of the compartment doors near the end of the train.
¡§Where¡¦re Charlie and Bill?¡¨ Ron asked.
¡§Around somewhere, I guess. They had to come early for a meeting on the train. Didn¡¦t you listen last night, Ron?¡¨Ginny said, rolling her eyes.
Harry stood up suddenly. It just didn¡¦t feel right. With the exception of first and second year, they had always shared a compartment with...
¡§Hermione!¡¨ Ginny waved out the door and into the corridor. She rushed out to meet their friend. Harry and Ron reluctantly followed.
¡§Hello, Gin.¡¨ Hermione¡¦s voice was muffled as Ginny embraced her. ¡§How¡¦ve you been?¡¨ As Ginny chatted on for a bit, Hermione avoided Harry¡¦s eyes with her own and instead, looked at Ron. She blushed. Harry cringed.
¡§Hello, Ronald,¡¨ a soft voice came up from behind Harry and Ron.
It was Luna.
In a moment of silence, Luna placed her hand in Ron¡¦s and laid her head against his shoulder. Ron sputtered incoherently. Hermione blinked in surprise. Harry cleared his throat. Ginny saved the day.
¡§Merlin, Hermione! I can¡¦t say why, but you look so different.¡¨ Ginny tilted her head to examine Hermione, who denied knowing what Ginny was talking about. Harry looked at her and, too, saw that something was indeed different. Her hair was still bushy and brown, though tied in a high pony-tail. Her features were still plain, her eyes still brown, and her figure...
*Ok*, Harry thought blushingly. * There¡¦s a slight change there.* Hermione had filled out a bit more in certain places this summer, but that was to be expected, right? No. Something else was different. *She¡¦s thinner,* it suddenly struck him. Her cheekbones looked hollow. And there was a guarded glaze in her eye that hadn¡¦t been there when he last saw her. There was an overall hardness in her that was not familiar to him at all.
¡§There you are.¡¨ An older male voice drifted down the hall from behind Hermione. Harry glanced past her to see a couple heading their way. One, a broad shouldered male with short dark hair wearing white shirt sleeves and black trousers, and the other, a dark haired woman of average height, wearing black robes over a gray dress, had her arm looped around his. Harry couldn¡¦t help but stare. The man had an eye-patch over his left eye, giving him an odd pirate look.
¡§Hermione?¡¨ the woman called out.
¡§I¡¦m here.¡¨ Although Hermione was nearly standing right in front of her, the woman turned her head a bit as though she were still looking for her. It then dawned on Harry that the woman was blind.
¡§Crickey,¡¨ he heard Ron whisper.
She turned her blank stare in their direction and Harry had to stifle a gasp. The woman had on her right cheekbone a scar in the shape of a cross lying on its side. But beyond the scar was an even stranger feature. *Her eyes,* Harry thought horrified. *Her eyes aren't normal.* Indeed, for the woman¡¦s two irises were the colour of faded roses¡Xnot pink, but not quite red, and her pupils...her pupils were Gryffindor gold.
¡§Aren¡¦t you going to introduce us?¡¨She asked Hermione.
¡§Oh, sorry.¡¨ Hermione appeared apprehensive. ¡§These are our new professors. Professor Alexander Harris.¡¨ She pointed to the pira¡Xman.
¡§Hiya!¡¨ he said cheerfully. ¡§It¡¦s Xander, really.¡¨ He was American.
¡§And Professor Valancy Renada.¡¨ The blind woman smiled.
¡§Hello.¡¨ Harry paused at the sound of her voice. There was a slightly British twinge to it, but a mix of something else too...
¡§Professors, these are my... friends.¡¨ Harry tried not to bristle at the slight pause.
¡§I¡¦m Ginny Weasley.¡¨ Ginny went up to shake their hands.
¡§I¡¦m Ron¡¦s girlfriend, Luna Lovegood.¡¨ Ron groaned and the blushed.
Harry stepped forward before anyone could say anything. ¡§Harry. Harry Potter.¡¨ He offered his name and waited in tired anticipation for whatever reaction to his Boy-Who-Lived fame was to come. But none did.
Professor Renada smiled in a rather, it seemed to Harry, coy blankness while Professor Harris looked at him, then Hermione, questioningly. Harry¡¦s disbelief must have been painted directly on his face for Harris¡¦ expression became one of sudden understanding. He opened his mouth, but whatever he was about to say was cut off by a familiar and oh-so-unwelcome, smarmy voice.
¡§Oh, do wipe off that pathetic, hang-dog look off your face, Potter. Just because your over-exposed self and fictitious exploits of heroism have garnered special treatment at Hogwarts, does not make you a global world wonder.¡¨
*Damn,* Harry swore inwardly. What awkward situation wasn¡¦t completed by the untimely interruption by the world¡¦s biggest prat? In this case, Draco ¡§I¡¦m a Pureblood Bastard¡¨ Malfoy. Unfortunately, good first impressions, which one tended to need with new professors when one wasn¡¦t the best student and had a knack for getting into trouble, could not be made by blasting one¡¦s fellow student into oblivion. Even if he was a git.
A sentiment at least one best friend shared.
¡§Soddin¡¦ git,¡¨ Ron muttered under his breath. If the new professors heard him they chose to ignore him. Hermione on the other hand, maintained the mask of indifference she adopted when Luna first arrived to slip her hand into Ron¡¦s.
¡§Claws in, little man. You¡¦re ill-concealed malice is showing.¡¨ Harry saw Ron and Ginny¡¦s jaw drop in time with his at Professor Renada¡¦s dismissal of Malfoy¡¦s, well, Malfoyishness, and blatant disregard for the apparent respect¡Xalso known as ¡§fear¡¨¡Xthat the Malfoy name was supposed to be regarded with. Surely, she had to know the rich and powerfully evil Malfoy family?
Then again, she didn¡¦t seem so impressed with the name Harry Potter, either. She probably didn¡¦t even recognize him as a Malfoy. But, it wasn¡¦t as though the blond wanker could go and complain to father, could he? A wanted Death Eater and all.
¡§I¡¦m taller than you, you silly old bint.¡¨ Was it just Harry, or did Malfoy seem to lack the usual acidity in that strangely fond insult?
¡§I could still beat you black and blue,¡¨ was her response. ¡§Do they use the strap anymore, Xander?¡¨
¡§No, I believe that went out with the introduction of dodge ball and bitter gym teachers to the Phys. Ed curriculum.¡¨
¡§This is a magic school, love.¡¨
¡§So, no dodge ball?¡¨
¡§No Phys. Ed curriculum.¡¨
This was getting confusing.
¡§I should have a mind to report you to those Muggle child and services people,¡¨ Draco smirked. Didn¡¦t he have any other facial expressions beyond petulance and smirking? *Wait. Did he just say Muggle?* Harry gave Hermione an incredulous look that the prat could stoop to make any Muggle references in passing. Hermione met his eyes, hers becoming rich chocolate with mirth and tantalizing secrets¡Xonly to have them fade. She looked away from him.
He looked towards Ron and Ginny, but the scene before them fascinated and enthralled them. Luna, strangely enough, was also focused. But her attention was solely on Renada. She looked away from her perusal for a moment to give Harry a smile.
¡§Oh, I suppose I really shouldn¡¦t threaten bodily harm to the miscreants if I¡¦m a professor, should I? When can I start deducting house points?¡¨
¡§I think that¡¦s a privilege not granted until after the grand feast of welcome, O Sadistic One,¡¨ Professor Harris deadpanned.
¡§Oh, come on now, Val¡X¡§
¡§Uhn-ah, Malfoy. You are to address me properly.¡¨ She turned to Harris with a frighteningly cute look on her face. ¡§See, Xander, my first professorish duty.¡¨
¡§Yes. Very good. Don¡¦t let the power get to your head, though, Val. I¡¦d hate to kill you. Having my nearest and dearest going evil not of the experiences repeatable kind.¡¨
*These new professor are completely nutters,* Harry decided.
¡§Yessir, Cap¡¦n. No Uncle Ben speech?¡¨
¡§You¡¦ve heard it before. If it hasn¡¦t sunk in yet, then you¡¦re hopeless.¡¨
*Yes. Absolutely around the bend these two are.*
¡§Oh, and you know I don¡¦t really care for the pirate eye patch references, Helen Keller. It somewhat lessens the respectable and intimidating professor image I¡¦m trying to exude.¡¨ Harry was startled to see Hermione and Draco look at each other and laugh.
¡§I would say the both of you are at risk of that occurring if you continue this completely ridiculous attempt at witty banter,¡¨ a smooth and darkly dry voice cut in.
*Wonderful,* Harry groaned again.
Everyone, save Professor Renada and Luna, stiffened and sobered at the arrival of the dread Potions Master. Renada turned her strange eyes to the direction of Snape¡¦s voice. ¡§Well, good afternoon, Severus,¡¨ Snape¡¦s left eyebrow twitched, in what Harry could only assume was irritation, at Renada¡¦s address. ¡§I thought all the senior staff would be at the castle.¡¨
¡§The Headmaster thought it prudent to have some extra supervision on the train ride this year,¡¨ a new voice explained from behind Snape.
¡§Bill! Charlie!¡¨ Ginny hurled herself at her brothers, as though she hadn¡¦t just seen them this morning. They smiled rather cheekily at Ginny.
¡§Well, as much amusement as I garner from standing in an overcrowded corridor, I suggest that we retire to our compartments before I am overcome with your stimulating conversations.¡¨ Snape turned on his heel and walk away, his robes billowing behind him.
Professor Harris whistled. ¡§How come I can¡¦t get my robes to go all flowy like his?¡¨
¡§They¡¦re probably charmed to hide the stick up his a¡K¡¨
¡§Ahem,¡¨ Hermione coughed loudly to interrupt Professor Renada¡¦s not so discreet muttering.
¡§Well, he does have a point and you kids should get to your compartments,¡¨ Bill suggested, his eyes twinkling with merriment.
¡§Actually, Harry,¡¨ Charlie whispered to him, ¡§there is something that we need to talk to you lot about in private.¡¨ Harry¡¦s eyebrow piqued in curiosity.
¡§Oi! Hermione!¡¨ Harry turned when Ron called out in a horrified voice to see that Hermione was walking off with the two new professors and...
¡§Where¡¦re you going?¡¨
When she surveyed Charlie and Bill with cool features, they looked away.
¡§What is going¡X" Harry began.
¡§Prefects meeting, Ron. Remember?¡¨
¡§Hermione, that¡¦s not for another half an hour,¡¨ said Ginny, who¡¦d been made a prefect this year. Hermione blushed and pursed her lips.
Harry stepped forward and reached out to touch her shoulder, but she hastily moved back, her chin going up an inch in the air and her jaw clenching. Harry¡¦s heart broke when she gazed at him, her anger and hurt written plain on her face.
¡§Hermione,¡¨ he pleaded, ¡§aren¡¦t you going to come with us?¡¨ Clear and sharp, one word had the power to pierce him like a shard of glass.
He stood there stunned. She took another step back and he grabbed her elbow to stall her. ¡§Herm¡X¡§
¡§She said no, Potter,¡¨ Malfoy spit out, his hand already pulling out his wand. Harry had forgotten that the ferret was still there. He registered the presence of Professors Harris and Renada before him, Harris moving to place his hand on Malfoy¡¦s arm, Harry assumed, to restrain him gently. Renada stood behind Hermione, her stance deceptively relaxed, her blind eyes eerily settled on his own person. Harry shivered.
¡§Bugger off, Malfoy. This doesn¡¦t concern you,¡¨ Ron spat back.
¡§Ron,¡¨ Bill warned in a commanding tone. But Ron ignored him. ¡§Hermione, we know you¡¦re angry and with good reason. Me and Harry¡X¡§
¡§Oh, it¡¦s always about you, the bloody boy wonders, isn¡¦t Weasel?¡¨
¡§Shut up, Malfoy. What do you care anyway? Trying to lure her away for Daddy Dearest?¡¨
¡§Ron!¡¨ Bill and Charlie both bellowed. Compartment doors started to open and curious eyes peeked out. Harry ignored them.
Malfoy, he could see, was gripping his wand tightly, his upper lip curled nastily. Harris had placed another hand on the boy's shoulder and whispered something in his ear. It sounded like, ¡§Stand down.¡¨ Harry frowned. Is one of our new professors a supporter of Voldermort? A Death Eater? Could Dumbledore have been so foolish? Harry remembered Lockhart. And Quirrel. And the Mad-Eye Moody impersonator. What about Renada? Would she prove to be an enemy? Her easy and happy manner a mask to cover a more sinister agenda?
¡§What happened to your lackeys, Ferret Boy? Finally grow brains of their own and realize you¡¦re not so powerful without Daddy?¡¨
¡§Ron, stop it,¡¨ Hermione interjected tersely.
¡§What, Hermione, you can¡¦t be serious.¡¨Ron sounded incredulous while Harry was slowly losing grip on the situation.
¡§Let it go, please.¡¨
¡§Forget it, Granger. Poor sods only see black and white anyhow. Nothing you say will change it.¡¨
Malfoy lowered his wand and brushed Harris off. He walked past Renada towards Hermione. Harry had enough.
¡§Don¡¦t touch her, Malfoy,¡¨ he hissed, whipping his wand out. He heard a girl shriek, but ignored her.
¡§Acting the hero, now, Potty? Saving Granger from the Big Bad Pureblood?¡¨ Malfoy mocked, his arms up in the air.
¡§Draco,¡¨ Hermione groaned.
¡§Let¡¦s go, Hermione,¡¨ Harry ordered, not leaving his watch on the blond Slytherin.
¡§Bloody hell, Hermione, we¡¦re sorry already about the summer. You don¡¦t have to punish us.¡¨ Harry silently agreed with Ron. More students had opened their doors to witness this confrontation. It was humiliating to have their private fight argued in public. He could see the headline¡X "Potter¡¦s Golden Trio on Skids Due to Slimy Slytherin."
¡§You-you¡X" Hermione sputtered. She took a deep breath and clenched her teeth. ¡§Not everything is about you.¡¨
¡§I don¡¦t know what the hell is going on Hermione, but we both know Malfoy isn¡¦t to be trusted. So let¡¦s go,¡¨Harry seethed through his teeth.
¡§She said no, Potty.¡¨
¡§Ron! Harry! Stop it.¡¨
¡§You¡¦re just going to get us in trouble.¡¨
¡§Gerrof me, Ginny!¡¨
¡§Bill! Charlie! Do something!¡¨
¡§Everyone calm down.¡¨
¡§Draco. Harry. Let go!¡¨
¡§Ohmigod¡Xare they going to fight?¡¨
¡§Leave me alone!¡¨
The corridor went absolutely still. Silence the only sound but for the whirring and clattering of the train. All eyes converged on the upright form of Professor Renada. The unassuming and jovial young woman who bantered happily with her colleague, the silent and stoic figure who said nothing as tempers escalated, had melted away to reveal a power and presence that nearly rivaled that of Dumbledore¡¦s, it seemed to Harry. Or at least that of any normal witch.
¡§I think that¡¦s plenty of excitement for the rest of the afternoon. I¡¦m sure it¡¦d be best if everyone would go back to their compartments and shut the doors. Snacks and refreshments should be arriving soon.¡¨
Students scrambled back inside to their seats.
¡§As amusing as I¡¦m sure this exchange of testosterone filled show of male dominance appears to be, Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy, please release Miss. Granger from whatever bind you¡¦ve put her in. Professors Weasleys, I suggest you escort your siblings and Mr. Potter and Miss Lovegood to their compartments.¡¨
¡§But, what about¡X¡§
¡§I may be blind, Mr. Potter, but I am not deaf.¡¨ She mumbled, ¡§Unlike Helen Keller, Xander.¡¨ She addressed Harry again, ¡§Miss Granger has declined your gracious invitation. Which suits me fine, because I have things to discuss with her and Draco. Lay your fears to rest. No harm will come to her.¡¨
Harry and Ron exchanged glances and glared alternately between Renada and Malfoy, ignoring Hermione, who was doing the same.
¡§You needn't chose to see with blind eyes,¡¨ a vague voice stated, interrupting the awkward pause.
Startled, Renada¡¦s piercing eyes widened. But she recovered, tilting her head and moving towards Luna¡¦ s voice.
¡§My blind eyes were a consequence of my choice, Miss Lovegood,¡¨ she said softly. ¡§Now, off you go. Let this be a relatively peaceful trip, shall we?¡¨
She turned, an arm around Hermione's waist, and then walked towards Professor Harris, who murmured quietly, ¡§Now that is what will be known as your first 'professorish' duty.¡¨
¡§Shut up, Xander.¡¨ They all disappeared down the train.
¡§Come on, Harry,¡¨ Ron mumbled to him.
¡§Right,¡¨ he replied absently.
Yes. What a wonderful start to the year.
@! A/N !@ Thanks to those who reviewed. I love my dream prologue-- but if some people are still a bit fuzzy about things and people Hermione encounted, please ask away. My friend read it and didn't know who one of the "guides" was. Also, a warning for those wanting to invest in my story-- I find myself inclined to writing really longer chapters than what I see people usually write here so there may be long periods between updates (I'm a student on the verge of graduating and that must come first, you see.) For this I apologize.
Other warnings-- This story will contain violence, slash (I'm still deciding), character deaths, OC's, funny time-lines, and depending on my mood when I write, strong language. I haven't decided on the inclusion of sex scenes-- they wouldn't be graphic, but hopefully I can move beyond writing metaphorical sex...don't ask.
Feed me input.