One more chair at the table
"Good bye, Mother." Hermione hugged her mother and then turned to her father. "Daddy, take LOTS of pictures and send lots of postcards, won't you?" She threw her arms around him and gave him a hug also.
"Of course we will. You have a good time at the Weasley's and help out when you can, especially with the wedding preparations." Her father stepped back and smiled at her.
"Yes, Molly will need every spare pair of hands, I imagine," agreed Mrs. Granger. "It was nice of you to come up to London to see us off and take Hermione back home with you, Ginny...Ronald," she continued, turning to the two teenagers standing there in the airport terminal, looking around with wide eyed astonishment at all of the hustle and bustle.
"No problem; we've never been to an airport before," Ginny replied, knowing Ron was too busy, trying to see everything at once, to come up with any kind of coherent reply. "Couldn't pass up the chance, come to that."
"Yeah, no problem. Blimey, Dad would be over the moon, wouldn't he, Ginny?"
"That's why we didn't tell him we were doing this; can't have him running amok in Heathrow," Ginny agreed, giggling.
"Maybe we'll bring him here as a birthday treat," suggested Ron.
"Are you insane? Mother would skin us alive!" gasped Ginny.
"FLIGHT 1275, NOW BOARDING AT GATE D. FLIGHT 1275, NOW BOARDING AT GATE D."
"That's our flight, dear." Dr. Granger picked up his carry-on bag and kissed Hermione on the cheek. "Good bye, honey. Study hard and we will let you know our mailing address when we get settled."
"Right, Dad. Take care. Mother, have a great time." Hermione turned and hugged her mother again.
"Take good care of yourself, dear," her mother replied and then whispered in her ear, "We'll be fine, and you take care of Ron, and Harry, too." Pulling back, she winked at her daughter.
Hermione looked at her mother, then smiled and nodded. Leaning close, she whispered back, "Figured it out, did you?"
Dr. Granger nodded and looked around at her husband shaking hands with Ron and hugging Ginny. "Yes, and we've heard from Professor Dumbledore, too; sent a very informative letter. We'll be fine."
"Of course you will, and busy, too."
Hermione's mother then hugged Ginny and Ron.
"FLIGHT 1275, NOW BOARDING AT GATE D"
"Well, hurry up, you two, or they'll take off without you." Hermione shooed her parents on their way.
The Grangers shouldered their take-on bags and walked over to the security check point, turning to wave one last time after they had cleared through. Hermione, Ginny and Ron waved back and watched as the Hermione's parents turned and headed down the hallway. Ron put his arm around Hermione and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"They'll be fine, don't you worry." Ginny linked her arm through Hermione's and gave it a squeeze.
"I know. Gee, this must be what it's like to watch me get on the Express every year; how odd."
"This whole place is odd," commented Ron, looking around at the scurrying crowds of Muggles.
"I'm hungry. Let's go to Diagon Alley and find Fred and George and get some lunch, what do you girls say to that?"
"You just want to ride the train and the Underground again, Ron. You're as bad as Dad, sometimes," teased Ginny.
"Well, it is good practice, that. Anna told us to get comfortable using the Muggle transport system, so why not do it now? I'm not that good at Apparating, yet. But I'm going to practice when we get back to the Burrow."
"Right." Hermione had lost sight of her parents, so, brushing the tears from her eyes she turned and looked at Ron and then Ginny. "I think lunch sounds like an excellent idea. Shall we?"
"Yes, let's," agreed Ginny.
The three of them turned and walked away for the departure lounge, to be engulfed and lost from sight in the milling throngs.
The liner's whistle blasted, shattering the waterfront quiet, causing gulls to take wing. Quiet, that is, except for the shouts and calls from well wishers on the dock and passengers on the ship, throwing streamers and waving.
Harry stood with Tonks, in her disguise as the travel company lady, and pointed to where the Dursleys were standing at the railing. Aunt Petunia waved her handkerchief and Uncle Vernon raised his hand in farewell. Dudley looked terminally bored, but hungry.
"Think they'll be safe?" Harry asked, waving back to his aunt and uncle.
"We've got two people on board as crew members: their room steward and their table waiter. And two as passengers, who are seated at their table and will be making the same trip, so I dare say they'll get to know each other. They're all from out of the country, so they won't be recognized. Your aunt, uncle and cousin are about as safe as anyone has a right to hope. Better off, safe on that boat..."
"Ship, whatever...than staying here and taking their chances. They seemed to enjoy the ride down here to the...ship, though, didn't they?"
"Are you serious? Being picked up by a chauffeur driven, stretch limousine was the cherry on top of the cake. I think Aunt Petunia had her doubts that the neighbors believed her story about winning a trip but that erased any lingering questions they might have had. And then when Mrs. Figg stopped by on her way back from the market and stood there to wave goodbye, well, it brought tears to my eyes." Harry pretended to wipe away a tear, grinning wickedly.
"Yeah, same tears I had; I was almost bursting with laughter, and it was all I could do not to explode," agreed Tonks, smiling and waving once more at the Dursleys.
Harry waved again, too.
"What are you getting up to then, Harry, with that lot gone?" Tonks asked, casting a sideways look at him.
"Well, I'm going back to the house and start getting ready to leave. I've got about a week to relax and enjoy having the telly all to myself, finish securing the place, tidy the garden of weeds one last time for Aunt Petunia and then, off to Headquarters. And Remus is going to pop in and out a few times to check on me, I think."
"I sneak a peek at the telly, once in a while, when I visit me Dad. It's my guilty Muggle pleasure. I like 'Changing Rooms'. Watching how it's done, without magic, is a real laugh, but it seems very rewarding to the Muggles, all that hard work."
Harry looked up and waved one last time as the cruise ship slipped away from its moorings. Turning, he and Tonks joined the crowd of well wishers leaving the dock.
"Yeah, they do really work hard but some of those colors they use...ugh!"
"Oh, I don't know, they're just trying to put some pizzazz into people's lives..."
"Pizzazz? That's what it is, huh?" Harry laughed and held the door for Tonks. "Call it what you will, some of those colors are vile!"
"Oh, now that's not fair..."
The door closed behind them and the dock area grew quiet, except for the cries from a circling gull.
Six days later, Harry locked the front door of #4 Privet Drive and turning, handed the keys to Mrs. Figg.
"There you are, Mrs. Figg. I really appreciate everything you've done over the years, and thanks for volunteering to check on Aunt Petunia's houseplants and garden." Harry looked down at the little woman standing in front of him.
"No problem, Harry. I love to putter in a garden and I'll keep an eye on things, as usual." She winked at him. He smiled back, nodding his head.
"Harry!" Remus Lupin called out, as he pulled into the driveway in Dr. Jones' Rolls. "Hello, Arabella!"
"Remus! How are you dear?"
"Just fine, thanks. And yourself?" he asked as he got out of the car.
"Never better, but, I must be off to the market. I need some food for the cats. Well, take care of yourself, Harry."
"You too, Mrs. Figg, and thanks again." Harry gave her a hug.
"See you two later. TA!"
As Mrs. Figg trotted off down the street in her house slippers, Remus put Harry's trunk and Hedwig's cage into the boot. Harry settled into the front passenger seat and took one last look at #4. He wondered if he'd ever see it again. Would it be burned to the ground, too? Maybe the Dursleys would be lucky and Voldemort wouldn't think them worth the trouble. He hoped so, despite how they'd treated him when he was young. They were his only family, after all. He heaved a sigh and looked over at Remus.
"Ready. Let's go."
Pulling into the garage at Anna's townhouse, Remus pushed the button that closed the big door and turned off the engine of the Rolls. He and Harry hadn't said much on the way to London and as he got out and opened the boot, he was watching Harry out of the corner of his eye. He'd seemed subdued and preoccupied and Remus wondered if there was anything he could do or say that would help him.
"Want to go round the corner for some Chinese take away, before we go to Grimmauld Place?"
"Do you think it's safe? Don't you think this place is being watched?"
"If they are, they just see me coming and going at odd times. I could pop out and get some while you relax, if you'd rather..."
"Nah, thanks for the offer, but I'm not that hungry, to tell you the truth. I'd rather just go on to Headquarters, Remus, and then to Hogwarts, if it's all the same to you?" Harry looked over at his friend.
"No problem; Headquarters it is!"
They carried Harry's trunk and Hedwig's cage up the brick garden path and into the lower hallway. It was quiet in the house as Harry wandered into the kitchen and gazed around. It seemed odd not to have Winky bouncing around, taking care of everyone.
He walked over to the archway into the conservatory and looked out at the garden. It had been snow covered when he was last here. Now, in mid summer, it was green and lush and full of blooming flowers and plants. He sighed and turned back into the house.
Remus had his trunk and the cage by the fireplace and was reaching up for the jar of Floo powder.
"How is Anna? Have you heard from her recently?"
"Yes, through Christopher. She's a horrible correspondent, but he's good at keeping tabs on her and letting us know the latest news. Actually, she and Gwen have been tending a little vegetable garden they planted."
"Anna? Garden? I thought she was hopeless at it; killed plants left and right." Harry smiled.
"Well, apparently what Anna lacks in gardening skills, Gwen makes up for, so, as far as Christopher can tell, everything is surviving and growing nicely. They're keeping busy and Winky sends her hellos, too, I'm told."
"What a difference six months makes, huh, Remus?" Harry looked around and shook his head.
"Indeed," Remus replied, holding out the jar.
With a huge puff of green smoke, Remus and Harry emerged from the fireplace in the kitchen of #12 Grimmauld Place.
Harry was flabbergasted! The entire room was packed with people, all smiling and wearing silly party hats. The Weasleys were there in full force, with Hermione and Luna in tow. Tonks, Kingsley, Mad-Eye, even Neville and his Gran.
The table was groaning under the weight of a pile of birthday gifts at one end and a huge cake at the other.
"Happy Birthday, Harry." Ginny came up and put her arms around his waist and kissed him on the cheek. He hugged her and looked around.
"But, my birthday isn't for another three days," Harry stammered.
"So?" said Ron, as he made his way over to his friend. "Today you're here. Three days from now, when you're at Hogwarts, if we throw a party, you'll miss it. Just being practical, mate; catching you as you pass through, so to speak. That's the surprise bit, get it?"
"I've never had a birthday party," Harry stated, to no one in particular, looking around and waving to Neville and Gran, who were across the room.
"Well then, Harry," Mr. Weasley replied heartily, as he worked his way through the crowd. "What better time to have your first than your coming of age birthday."
Clapping him on the back, he handed Harry a ridiculously embellished paper hat to wear as the guest of honor and steered him to a chair at the head of the table. Molly Weasley threw her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek.
"Happy Birthday, Harry!"
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley."
"Did we surprise you?"
"Yeah, I never, ever expected anything like this. I thought maybe Tonks or Mad-Eye might be here and we'd have lunch or something, but certainly not ...well..." He waved a hand at the table and the gathering of his friends, all smiling at him. "Thanks everyone."
"No problem, Harry." "Really fooled you, didn't we?" "Happy Birthday Harry." "Glad to see you, Harry, dear."
"Important birthday, Harry. Cause for celebration, a bit of fun and some cake, too." Molly was beaming at him.
Harry realized Mrs. Weasley was being overly enthusiastic, perhaps in an effort to make up for all of the other birthdays when he never got a present, much less a party. He gave her another hug.
"Thanks, I really mean it," he whispered in her ear.
"You're quite welcome," she whispered back and then disengaging herself, pointed to the table. "Harry, you've got a lot of presents to open!"
"So I see." Harry shook his head in wonderment as he sat down and surveyed the pile in front of him. "Where do I start?"
"Just grab one, Harry and start opening," Fred called to him. "We can't touch the cake until they're all unwrapped. Mum won't let us."
"So get a move on," added George. "We're starving!"
"Ha! As if..." laughed Harry, as he reached out and picked one at random and opened the attached card. It was from Hermione. Felt like a book, and a heavy one; no surprise, that. But, as he tore off the paper and flipped the book over to see the title, he was startled to read "The Tales of Sherlock Holmes - the /complete collection/". He looked up at Hermione, who shrugged.
"There're only so many books about Quidditch, Harry."
"This is great, Hermione," he laughed, nodding. "I'll enjoy reading these stories. Thanks." He grabbed her hand and pulled her down and planted a kiss on her cheek.
"Hey, watch it," Ron growled, then threw back his head and laughed, as did Harry and Hermione.
Ron gave him a new Chudley/ Cannons/ t-shirt and Fred and George presented him with a gift certificate to their store.
"It's special, though, mate, as it has no spending limit on it. You're never paying for anything in our store, EVER." George was grinning at him, with Fred standing at his side, nodding.
"Now guys, you don't have to..."
"Harry," Fred intoned with all seriousness, "if it wasn't for you, we'd still be blowing up our room at the Burrow. So, we won't hear any argument against it, understand?"
Fred and George crossed their arms and frowned at him, looking remarkably like their mother when she took that 'attitude' pose, laying down the law. Harry just grinned and nodded.
Harry spent the next ten minutes or so opening his gifts and then was dragged around the table by Fred and George to cut the cake. Taking the first slice, he turned the knife over to Mrs. Weasley and returned to his chair at the other end of the table. Ginny joined him, pulling up a stool and sitting down beside him.
He offered her a bite of cake, which she took, grinning at him. A bit of icing was on the corner of her mouth, so Harry took advantage, leaning over and kissing her.
"You had a spot of icing, just there." He pointed, smiling at her.
"Oh, well, in that case."
She stuck her finger in the icing on his slice of cake and reaching up, smeared it on his lips. Grinning wickedly, Ginny stood, sat in his lap, put her arms around his neck and gave him a big, long kiss, right in front of everyone. Wolf whistles, clapping and one "GINEVRA WEASLEY!" were heard by the two of them...and deliberately ignored.
"Well, take care, Harry." Ron helped him position his trunk in the fireplace.
"Tell Draco we send our greetings." Luna put Hedwig's cage down next to the trunk.
"Will do," agreed Harry, nodding.
"Here are your gifts, Harry," said Neville as he handed Harry a shopping bag, in which his gifts had been placed, shrunken down for portability, of course.
"Thanks, Neville. It was good seeing all of you. And thanks, everyone. This has been a great -almost my birthday- birthday party!" Harry laughed.
"No problem, mate." "Let's do it again, next year!" "Bye, Harry." "Be good, young man."
Ginny came up and gave Harry a kiss goodbye.
"I'll see you soon," Harry whispered, putting his forehead to her's.
"I know; Bill and Fleur's wedding is coming up quickly, isn't it?"
"Yeah, bet your mum's in her element."
"Isn't she just," giggled Ginny.
"Thanks for the bracelet." Harry raised his wrist and shook the new ID bracelet Ginny had given him, with I love you, Ginny inscribed on the underside, where no one but Harry would see it.
"You're welcome. Bye Harry."
She gave him another quick kiss, held out the Floo powder jug for him to take a handful and stepped back. Harry waved good-bye to everyone and threw down the Floo powder.
"HEADMASTER'S OFFICE!" /POOF/! And he was gone.
"The werewolf Lupin took him away in a Muggle car, Master, heading for London," Wormtail reported, kneeling at Voldemort's feet.
"And thence to Hogwarts. The first sheep into the fold; excellent. More will follow him, shortly. That is all, Wormtail."
Peter Pettigrew backed out of the room and closed the door softly. He knew it was useless, to say nothing of dangerous, to try and listen at the keyhole. He would have loved to been able to remain and hear what the Dark Lord had planned, but that bitch, Bella, seemed to be the only one the Master trusted to any degree at the moment.
"We'll give Potter a few weeks to settle in and relax his guard before we strike again." He paced the floor and then sat down in his chair. "I need to talk with Fenrir, Bella. See that a message is sent to him. Have him come to me at week's end; Friday night, after sundown."
"Perhaps the three of us can spend a pleasant evening Muggle hunting? Would you enjoy that, Bella?"
"Oh, /yes/, Master." Bella looked up at him, her eyes glistening.
Voldemort smiled, although there was no warmth in it. He knew just how to keep Bella in line, how to play to her base instincts. And Fenrir...all he needed was a target, a warm blooded target to be unleashed upon. How would Potter and his friends react? And Twigg-Jones? Would she stick her nose out of her hiding place, after hearing the news of the next attack?/ 'We'll have to wait and see. Patience, ah, patience.'/
Harry emerged from the fireplace in the Headmaster's office and looked around. Professor Dumbledore was out, apparently, but several of the portraits of the former Headmasters greeted him.
"Thank you, it's good to be back," he replied, smiling at them.
Spinning, Harry saw Christopher Jones waving at him from the portrait that had previously hung at the back of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
"Christopher! What a pleasant surprise. And I've had my share of those, today," he added.
"I heard there was to be a party. Really caught you off guard, did they?"
"Totally! But it was great seeing everyone and I had a wonderful time. Got some terrific presents, too; my first, you know," he commented, as he hefted the shopping bag to show Christopher.
"Well, what did you get, then? Let's have a look." Christopher rubbed his hands together in anticipation of seeing the bounty. "We'd all like to see, wouldn't we?" he added, glancing around at the other portraits, who nodded and craned their necks for a peek in the bag.
"Well, first..." Harry reached in and started showing his new possessions to the watching group.
Dumbledore walked into his office to find Harry holding up his new Chudley/ Cannons/ t-shirt.
"Hello, Harry. I am sorry I wasn't here to greet you properly. Ah, a present from Mr. Weasley, I'm assuming?"
"Hello, Professor. Yeah, Ron's trying to convince me to cheer for them. How are you, sir?"
"Fit as a fiddle. And your good self?"
"Full of cake and happy as a clam." Harry smiled at Albus, who chuckled.
"Splendid. Well, why don't you pop down to the Great Hall, as I do believe Mr. Malfoy is waiting to greet you and welcome you back to Hogwarts."
"Excellent! Just let me get this stuff..."
"Oh, I'll have the house elves put it all in your dormitory room, Harry; not to worry."
"Right. Oh, but not this," Harry said, bending over to pick up a box. "This I have to show to Draco."
"Very well, I'll see you in a bit, when we gather for the evening meal."
"Right, Professor," replied Harry, who then turned to the wall where Dr. Jones' portrait hung. "Bye, Christopher. Oh, tell Anna I made it safe and sound, will you?"
"No problem, Harry, I'll just pop over and give her the news. See you later."
"So long. See you downstairs, Professor." Harry headed for the door.
"Yes. In a while, Harry." Professor Dumbledore watched him leave.
"How do you think it will go, Albus?" Christopher leaned on the edge of his portrait frame.
"They'll get along splendidly, now that they share a common cause."
"I think they will, too." Christopher nodded, then pushed himself straight. "Ok, I'm off. TA!"
Professor Dumbledore waved and smiled as Dr. Jones left his frame to go speak to Anna. He walked around the desk and sat down, leaning back, humming to himself.
"It's a what?"
Draco circled around Harry and reached out and spun one of the handles.
"A Foosball table - it's a game. Remus gave it to me for my birthday. We played it a lot at Anna's over the Christmas holiday. Want to have a go?"
Draco looked up and opened his mouth, but stopped, looked down at the strange 'game' and shrugged.
"Sure, why not? How hard can it be?"
"That's what I said before I tried it for the first time. You'll learn."
Severus, heading to dinner, emerged from the stairway to the dungeons and heard shouts and laughter coming from the Great Hall. The sight that greeted him, as he entered, made him stop in his tracks.
Harry and Draco were jumping left and right on opposite sides of a small table that had handles projecting out of the sides. They were grabbing various ones and twisting and spinning them, seemingly at random.
Around them, observing, sitting on high stools were Professors Flitwick, McGonagall, Sprout, Madame Pomfrey and Albus Dumbledore, with Hagrid and Mr. Filtch standing to the side, watching also. All of them were shouting encouragement and cheering.
Advancing toward this odd assembly, he could see small figures suspended above the table on the middle of the handles. A tiny white ball was careening back and forth, hit by the spinning figures. Suddenly, the ball was knocked into an opening at the end of the table. Draco threw his hands in the air in triumph and Harry shook his head. The spectators applauded.
"Well done, Draco!" "Excellent reflexes, Mr. Malfoy!" "Tough luck there, Harry." "Bravo!"
"What...is this?" Severus asked when he arrived beside the table."
"Foosball, Professor," Draco answered. "I just scored!"
"That much I surmised. Hello, Mr. Potter. Welcome back."
"Hello, Professor Snape," Harry turned and greeted him, grinning. "I think it was a mistake, teaching Draco how to play. He's a maniac!"
"Right," Draco countered, "who's only scored five goals to your, what, thirty?"
"But you're getting better quickly. I had to work for those last, oh, dozen or so." Harry grinned at Draco.
"Mr. Modesty!" Draco laughed, as did the teachers.
"Where did you obtain this...game?"
"Remus gave it to me for my birthday."
"You should try it, Professor," Draco enthused. "Good for hand-eye co-ordination."
"I see. Later...perhaps." Severus turned and walked toward the dining table.
"Goodness, is it time for dinner already?" Professor Flitwick checked his watch.
"Yes, it is. Shall we?" Professor Dumbledore ushered the staff to the table.
"Sit here, Harry." Draco pulled out his chair and pointed to the new place setting and chair that had been added at the table.
"Thanks, Draco." Harry sat down and looked around. "This seems a bit odd; I've been alone for a week and now I've got all of you to talk with."
"We're glad to have you back, Harry." Dumbledore smiled at him. "With both you and Draco here, I dare say our table conversations will be a bit livelier. So," continued the Headmaster, as he took his napkin and spread it on his lap, and then clapped, so that dinner appeared on the table. "Tell us what other gifts you received at your surprise birthday party." He reached for a bowl of vegetables and began spooning a serving onto his plate, all the while smiling at Harry, waiting to hear what had happened at Grimmauld place.
And the cake was delicious," Harry told them, wiping his mouth with his napkin. "I don't know if Mrs. Weasley baked it or not, but it was really good."
"Actually, it was baked here, by the house elves, and delivered this morning, in time for the party," Albus informed him.
"Oh. I'll have to go down and thank them, if that's the case."
"Yes, they'd appreciate that, Harry."
As everyone was finishing their desserts, Severus turned to Harry.
"Tell me, Potter, what do you and Draco plan to do with your time, for the remainder of the holiday?" Severus looked at Harry and raised one eyebrow.
"I understand Draco's been doing all kinds of things around the school, so I'll be helping out, too. And we'll spend some time on DA stuff, to get him up to speed. Maybe a little Quidditch; we'll figure it out. To be perfectly honest, Professor, tonight I'm too tired to make any kind of decisions about that. The last week I haven't slept too well, being alone in the house, which was a very odd feeling. All I'm thinking about right now is falling into bed."
"Understandable. I'm sure you two will find plenty to occupy your time. We're glad to have you back, Potter. If you will all excuse me, I have a potion brewing that I must tend to. Headmaster."
"Of course, Severus. Good evening." Dumbledore waved his Potions Master on his way.
Leaving the Great Hall a bit later, Draco and Harry stopped at the base of the marble staircase that led to the upper floors.
"I'm glad you're here, Harry. It's been a bit lonely, as much as everyone has tried to raise my spirits and keep me busy and all."
"Yeah, I understand. We'll have to sit and try to figure out what to do first, tomorrow at breakfast, ok?"
"Right. Well, goodnight, Harry." Draco stuck out his hand.
"Good night, Draco." Harry shook his hand and then turned to head off to Gryffindor Tower. "Oh, damn, I don't know the password!"
"Don't need one." Draco turned back. "You're the only one there, so you get to pick it yourself," Draco told him, grinning.
"Really? Let's see, what would be easy to remember?" Harry looked puzzled as he tried to decide.
"Look, I'll tell you my password, in case you have to come looking for me for some reason. It's 'Tom Riddle's a Mudblood'."
"HA!" Harry laughed. "Ok, well, in that case...I'll make mine..." Harry looked around, grinned wickedly and leaning forward, whispered to Draco, " 'Severus Snape sleeps with a teddy bear'."
"He does not! Does he?" Draco looked thoroughly shocked, until he saw Harry smile. "Oh, it's a joke."
Harry and Draco laughed at the picture that password brought to mind.
"He'd strangle me if he heard, so I better think of something else by tomorrow. I don't want to look at him at meals and just crack up," Harry said, then snickered.
"No, that wouldn't do at all," Draco agreed, chuckling. "See you tomorrow, Harry."
Draco waved and heading down to the Slytherin Dungeons.
"Yeah, see you in the morning, Draco." Harry turned and started up the stairs, still smiling.
The next morning found Draco and Harry walking down toward Hagrid's hut, chatting away. Draco had told Harry, in great detail, about Narcissa, her accident and the treatment of her wound, while they had breakfast. He was eager to show her off, as today Hagrid was going to turn her and her mother loose to return to their herd, somewhere in the Forbidden Forest.
"There she is, Harry."
Draco pointed to the pair, standing at the other side of the paddock. Starlight whinnied and Narcissa's ears pricked up. She turned and trotted over to greet the two boys. Draco stroked her neck and smiled at her.
"Narcissa, this is my friend Harry. Harry, this is Narcissa." Looking up, he added, "and this is her mum, Starlight."
The mare had walked over, too. She looked at Harry and bobbed her head.
"Nice to meet you two, at last. Draco's told me all about you, of course. How are you feeling, Narcissa?"
The foal turned and showed off her side where the wound had healed and there was just the faintest redness. Her coat was growing back and soon the area would be totally hidden.
"I'm no vet, Draco, but that looks well healed to me," Harry said, petting the little unicorn.
"Oh, yeah, compared to the first time I saw her, it's a total recovery. Ah...what's a vet?"
"Muggle animal doctor...Healer."
Narcissa was poking Draco with her muzzle and he looked down at her.
"What? Oh, right."
Digging in one of the cargo pockets of his pants, Draco pulled out a small apple, which he split, giving the smaller half to the foal and the remainder to the unicorn mare.
"Gee, Draco, it looks as if she's got you well trained," Harry observed.
"Shut up, Potter," Draco replied, giving Harry a little shove. "Oh, alright, I've seen spoiling her a bit."
Harry laughed and rolled his eyes. Draco snorted and shook his head, grinning sheepishly.
"Seriously, Harry, I've learned a lot from Hagrid, I'll admit it. I'd probably know even more if I'd paid attention in class instead of always looking for ways to get him in trouble...so I could brag to my father." Draco sighed. "I was such a prat."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Draco. It's all in the past. You've realized you had a chance to change your life and you took it. That's what counts, mate," Harry said, as he scratched Starlight behind her ear. "How is your mum, by the way?"
"Fine. Seems happy; enjoying the garden where she's staying, wherever that is. She's due the beginning of October, so in a bit more than two months, I'll be a big brother." Draco cocked his head and smiled. "That still sounds strange to me."
They stood leaning on the railing, watching Narcissa running around the paddock, kicking up her heels.
"Who's going to deliver the baby?"
"What? I...ah...blimey, I don't know. I never even thought about that bit."
"I didn't mean to upset you. It just popped into my head." Harry tried to reassure Draco. "I'm sure she's got it all planned out."
"Oh, sure she has, probably. I'll have to write and ask her, though, for /my /peace of mind."
"Hold on, I just thought of something. I know one of the healers at St. Mungo's who's a good friend of Gwen's. Maybe he'd agree to help, if she needs someone," Harry offered.
"Or, maybe she's contacted the Headmaster and plans on coming here to have the baby, with Madam Pomfrey helping. He did offer her sanctuary." Draco scratched his head, thinking.
"I don't think she'd leave her hiding place to come here. Using the Floo Network or a Port Key doesn't sound like such a good idea when you're getting ready to have a baby." Harry shook his head.
"No, I doubt it would be the way to travel in her condition, and I don't think she'd leave her hiding place and travel by any other means, like the /Knight Bus/, either."
"Look, I've been on the Knight Bus and it was rough on me/, much less a pregnant woman!" Harry told him. "No, you're right; she'll stay where she is. Let's not get crazy; you just write and ask her. She's probably way ahead of us on this and has everything set up already, whatever /that involves."
"Right." Draco nodded, but he still was frowning, a bit worried. Then he shrugged and looked around at the sound of footsteps.
"Morning, Hagrid." "Hey, Hagrid."
"Come to say g'bye to Narcissa and Starlight?"
"Yeah. She's looking fine, isn't she?" Draco smiled at the foal, which shook her head, agreeing.
"She is, indeed. Right and tight! Well, let's go and let 'em out."
Hagrid went into the paddock, followed by Harry and Draco. They walked across to the far end that reached just into the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Hagrid unlatched the gate and swung it wide open. Starlight came up to him and nuzzled his arm. He petted her, gently.
"Take care of this wee one of yours, now, Starlight. I'll be seein' 'ya."
The mare bobbed her head and walked through the gate, then stopped to watch as her foal went up to Hagrid. The big man bent over and shook his finger at her.
"And you, young lady, stay outta them briars, 'ya hear?"
Narcissa shook her head up and down. She then went over to Draco. She looked up at him and blinked her big blue eyes.
"Shameless flirt, that's what she is, Draco." Harry grinned and clapped him on the back.
"Isn't she, just?" He bent down to be level with her. "Goodbye, Narcissa. Don't forget me, ok?"
She shook her head, but her ears pricked up and her nostrils flared. She lowered her head and sniffed at Draco's pocket.
"And she's greedy, too." Draco dug into his pocket and brought out a sugar lump. "I forgot about this. Here, sweety." The foal gobbled the treat down.
"Spoiled rotten," Harry muttered, looking up with great interest at the overhanging branches.
"Shut it, Potter."
"HE! HE! HE!" Hagrid chuckled.
Starlight whinnied and Narcissa trotted off, looking back one more time before they were lost in the deep, dappled shadows of the Forest. Hagrid pulled the gate shut and latched it firmly. The trio walked back toward his hut.
"Think we'll ever see them again?"
"Oh, sure; the herd isn't that far away and they come by every so often. Plus, I bring some of 'em in for classes during the year. I'll let you know when, so's 'ya can stop by and say hello."
"Thanks, Hagrid, I'd like that." Draco smiled up at him.
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