Fred and George are notified of what happened, Alice and Frank have visitors and Luna and Neville have a parting of the ways. Draco and Harry hatch a plot, while Severus is summoned. Neville take...
Disagreements, discoveries and destinations
After phoning Justin Finch-Fletchley, Colin and Dennis Creevey and Dean Thomas, Hermione and Tonks had Flooed to the Ministry to use the Auror office owls to alert other members of the D.A. as to what had happened at the Burrow. Those they contacted would know to pass the word around to their D.A. Housemates.
Returning to St. Mungo's, after leaving a message for Percy Weasley, who was in a meeting; they hurried back to the waiting area. Only a few minutes before, Neville and Luna had brought two trays down from the tea room, loaded with sandwiches and cups of juice. Hermione was glad to see both Ron and Ginny were eating. She picked up a sandwich half and took a bite, washing it down with a gulp of juice.
"Any word yet?" Tonks asked, reaching for a cup of juice.
"Dad was out here, for just a minute. He said Bill's resting comfortably and that they're working on his wounds."
"We left word for Percy. He was in a meeting and 'couldn't be disturbed', according to the secretary. Even when we said it was a family emergency! She asked if we were family and when we said no, she said she'd get word to him as soon as she could. Then the fat lump just sat there and looked at us. I asked her for her definitions of 'soon' and 'emergency' and she got all huffy, so we left. Stupid hag," Tonks related.
"Percy will skin her alive when he finds out! I know he's busy, but he'd want to be here!" Ron exclaimed.
Hermione tried to sooth Ron's indignation. "He'll come as soon as he DOES hear, you know he will."
Before the words were completely out of her mouth, Percy came hurrying around the corner.
"Told you!" Hermione smiled.
"Did you kill her, Percy?" Ginny asked.
"No, but she'll not be sitting at THAT desk any longer! I'll see to it, personally!"
"Whoa! We've got a lot of room to talk, what about Fred and George?" Neville asked.
"Bloody Hell!" Ron jumped up.
Ginny clamped a hand over her mouth and Hermione squeaked, "Oh, no, you didn't send word yet!"
"I'll go!" Neville volunteered. "You all stay here."
"Are you sure you don't mind, Neville?" Ginny asked.
"No, it's no trouble; makes me feel like I'm doing something to help."
"I'll go with you, Neville. Suppose I should tell Dad what's been happening," Luna added, swinging her backpack slowly, back and forth.
"Ok, then, we'll see you in a bit." Neville took hold of Luna's elbow and steered her down the hall.
"Thanks Neville." Ron waved.
Neville smiled and waved back.
The little bell hanging over the door of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes jingled merrily.
"How can we help you two this..." Fred started to say, but he stopped when he saw the look on Neville's face. "What is it, Neville?"
George looked over at him. "What's happened?"
"Bill. He's in St. Mungo's," Neville explained.
"Bloody Hell! /Katie/!" Fred shouted to the back of the shop.
"What happened?" George walked over to Neville.
"What?" Katie Bell emerged for the office at the back of the shop, a quizzical look on her face.
"We have to get to St. Mungo's. Bill's been hurt," Fred explained.
Katie gasped and then looked toward George and Neville. Neville took a deep breath.
"Death Eaters attacked at the Burrow. Two of them and Fenrir."
"WHAT!" "BLOODY HELL!" "Oh, no!"
"He was going to kill your mum, but Bill jumped him and they fought. Fenrir roughed him up pretty badly and..." Neville faltered, as tears welled in his eyes. "I'm sorry, guys, but he bit Bill."
"NO." "But was he...?"
"No, he wasn't transformed, but they don't know yet if Bill was infected."
"We have to get out of here," declared George, heading for the door. "Close up the shop, Katie."
"No problem. /GO/!"
Fred shook Neville's hand. "Thanks for coming to tell us, Neville."
"Yeah, thanks, Neville," called George as he opened the door and headed out.
Luna turned to Katie. "Anything we can do to help?"
"No, thanks, I'll just put the CLOSED sign in the window and lock up. I'll go over to St. Mungo's after I put the books away," replied the ex-Gryffindor chaser, turned bookkeeper. "Will I see you there?"
"Probably," said Neville as he followed Luna to the door. They heard the key turn as they stepped down into Diagon Alley/./ Then Katie hung the CLOSED sign in the window and dimmed the lights. She waved and headed to the rear of the shop.
"Let's go up to Dad's office,"
"Right; he's probably wondering what's happened to you." Neville followed Luna up the steep steps to the offices of /The Quibbler/.
"I doubt it. I didn't even see him this morning; I just left his lunch with his secretary."
"Oh. Well, we still have to tell him what happened at the Burrow and make arrangements and..."
"Arrangements? For what?"
"For the two of you to stay somewhere else; it's not safe at your house, in Ottery St.Catchpole."
"Why ever not?"
"Because of the attack; the Death Eaters could come back."
"Don't be foolish, Neville, what would they possibly hope to find in our little village?"
"You...and your father, for starts."
"But there's no reason for them to want to harm me or Dad. I've got to go home and start dinner, pretty soon, anyway. You want to come and eat with us?"
Neville looked at her, mouth open, not believing what he just heard.
"NO...thank you And stop changing the subject. We're talking about people trying to kill you. Luna, I'm just thinking of your safety."
"Neville, I'm safe at home." Luna sighed and shook her head. "You're over-reacting, just a bit, don't you think?" She absently played with quill that she'd picked up off of her father's desk."
"I am not. I'm just being cautious and realistic."
"Death Eaters are not going to try and kill me in my sleep, Neville. Dad and I are staying at home tonight, and that's that."
Luna crossed her arms and stuck her chin in the air. Neville had never seen this side of her before and he didn't quite know how to deal with this sudden stubbornness.
"It's just...I'm worried about you."
"I can take care of myself and Dad; I have for years, now."
"I don't know, I...don't want anything to happen to you, that's all. I like you ...a lot," stammered Neville, ducking his head.
"I know you do, Neville, and I like you a lot, too, but I will not go running away just because the Weasleys were the victims of an attack."
"No." She shook her head. "Go home, Neville, relax and enjoy the rest of your holiday. I'll see you on the Express."
"Luna..." he pleaded.
"Neville." She shook her head again.
"Ok, fine, be that way!"
Neville turned and stomped down the stairs and out into Diagon Alley. He stopped at the curb and took a deep breath.
Turning, he headed for the Leaky Cauldron. Luna watched his progress along the crowded alleyway from the window of her dad's office.
Neville arrived back at St. Mungo's, just as Bill Weasley was being transferred to the "Dangerous" Dai /Llewellyn Ward/, where his father had been two years earlier. Bill was waving to everyone, but his face was heavily bandaged and swollen. Fleur walked by his side, holding his hand, smiling bravely.
Hermione was the one to notice Neville standing next to the wall, looking slightly lost.
"Neville, are you alright? Where's Luna?"
"At her dad's office."
"Oh." She peered at his closely. "Did you two have a fight?"
"Fight? No. Disagreement? Yes."
"Don't worry, it happens." Hermione smiled and gave him a hug. "I should know."
"Think I'll go upstairs and visit my Mum and Dad."
He turned towards the stairs.
"Can I come?" Hermione asked quietly.
Neville stopped and looked back at her.
"You want to come?"
"Yes, I'd really like to. Maybe your parents would like to see a new face, too. Especially if you tell them I'm a friend of yours from Hogwarts."
"Ok, sure." He shrugged. "Why not."
"Ron?" Hermione called.
"I'm going to go upstairs with Neville to see his parents. I'll catch up with you,"
"Oh, ok. Or I'll come find you, if the ward Medi-Witch throws us out. Too many Weasleys in one place gets a bit...well, you know."
"Yes, I do know. See you later."
When Neville and Hermione arrived at the door of the Janus Thickey Ward (aka ward 49), Neville reached out and pulled the bell cord. The ward matron's face appeared in the window and she smiled in recognition. Opening the door, she stepped back to allow them to enter.
"Master Neville, I wasn't expecting to see you until next week."
"I was downstairs...with friends, and decided to pop up. Oh, this is a classmate of mine, Hermione Granger."
"Oh, yes, I remember you, dear," said the matron. "You were visiting Gilderoy when he was here with us, weren't you?"
"Yes, that's right. How are you?" Hermione responded, surprised at being recognized after two years.
"Tolerable, dear. Welcome back."
The matron closed and locked the door. Neville had already started off down the ward, so Hermione excused herself and hurried after him.
Rounding the screens that were set up to shield the far corner of the ward, they found Alice and Frank Longbottom sitting in two comfortable armchairs. It looked as if someone had fashioned a little sitting area for them, near their beds and facing the windows.
Neville's Dad was gazing out the window, his eyes following the fluffy clouds as they drifted across the blue sky. Alice Longbottom looked up at Neville and a bright smile lit up her face. She turned to look at Hermione and tilted her head as if to say, "And you are?"
Neville walked over and bent to kiss his Mother's cheek.
He put his hand on his Dad's shoulder and bent and kissed him on the cheek, also. Frank Longbottom swiveled his head to look up at his tall son, so Neville crouched next to his chair.
"How are you, Dad?"
Frank looked blankly at his son, then nodded and looked back out the window, but he put his hand over Neville's, where it rested on the arm of the chair, and his fingers tightened, ever so slightly. Neville looked up at Hermione, who smiled and nodded.
"I'm glad you're enjoying the weather Dad."
Neville patted his father's hand, and then stood, turning to Hermione. He gave her a brave smile.
"It's too bad Anna couldn't continue with their therapy, Neville," said Hermione, watching Frank Longbottom tracking the clouds. "They seem so much more aware, than I remember, anyway...if that's any indication of improvement."
"Actually, they've regressed a bit, as Anna said they would, since she had to stop working with them."
"But that means that there is hope, with continued therapy. Keep that in mind, Neville."
He nodded, looking down at the floor and then brought his head up and straightened his shoulders and smiled at Hermione.
"Yes, thanks for saying that. The good news is; now that I'm of age, I can give permission to Anna to work with them full time. Once she's not in hiding, that is."
Alice got up from her seat and walked over to Neville. He looked down at her, eyebrows raised.
"Hi, Mum. How are you?"
Alice took Neville's hand, pulled him over to the side of her bed and pointed at the mirror hanging on the wall. He looked at the mirror and then at her.
"What is it, Mum?"
Alice pointed to the mirror and then at herself. She smiled and put her finger to her lips.
Smiling and humming, she went back to her chair and settled down onto the plump cushions.
"Hermione, did you see that?" asked Neville, as he looked from his Mother to the mirror to Hermione and back again.
"Yes, do you think she knows who it is she sees in the mirror? Does she recognize herself?"
"I don't know. I've never seen her do that before." Neville was frowning and trying to decide what it all meant.
"Maybe she thinks it's a window and she sees someone else looking in at her, like the window in the door."
"But she said 'Shhhh.', deliberately."
"I know," agreed Hermione. "I heard."
"Like she was sharing something with me, a secret."
"Secret? Secret! Oh, Neville, you don't think...?"
"That's she's Anna's Secret Keeper."
"Mum?" Neville turned and looked at Alice, who was sitting there listening to the two of them with mild interest, smiling sweetly. "But...how...Anna...oh, she wouldn't...do you think?"
"I don't know how or when, but...why not?" Hermione smiled back at Alice.
"Actually," mused Neville, "it would be a bloody brilliant idea, if she did. Who would ever think of Mum? No one visits except the staff and Gran and me."
"But why would your Mother tell you?"
"Maybe she truly knows who I am and that I'd keep the secret."
Neville turned and looked at Alice. He knelt down, level with her, smiled and nodded his head.
"Ok, Mum, it's our secret."
He put his finger to his lips and shhh'd, as did Hermione, who was nodding in agreement. Alice nodded back and sighed. Then suddenly her eyes went out of focus and she looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap and started humming, tunelessly. Neville, looking shocked, glancing up at Hermione.
"That must have taken a lot out of her, to stay focused long enough to get her point across to you, Neville," Hermione whispered.
"Yes, I think you're right." Neville stood, shook his head and then leaned over and kissed his Mum and then his Dad. "Let's go, Hermione."
"Ok. Goodbye, Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom."
There was no response. Neville heaved a sigh but smiled at Hermione and they walked out with their arms around each other's waist.
Ron met Hermione and Neville halfway up the stairs as they were coming down from the long-term care ward. He could hear them chatting before he saw them and they stopped abruptly when they turned a corner and saw him leaning against the wall waiting for them.
"Ron! Hi." Hermione looked surprised. "Get chucked out of the ward?"
"No, but I thought I'd come and find you two. I was getting antsy. How are your parents, Neville?"
"Oh, about the same, I guess." Neville shrugged. "Mum was smiling a bit, though."
"Yes. And Neville's folks have a lovely little seating area for themselves now. Cushy armchairs. It's very nice and cozy," Hermione enthused.
Ron looked back and forth between the two of them. Something wasn't right, but he decided to let it go, as there were other pressing matters to consider. Besides, he trusted both of them.
"That's nice...Hey, we have to go and find out what to do."
"Go where? Find out what?" Hermione asked, confused. "What are you talking about, Ron?"
"Talk with Dad, big discussion going on about where we're going to stay. I think we're going to Headquarters, as Mum really doesn't want to go back to the Burrow, just yet, anyway."
"I'm staying at the Leaky Cauldron; you could all stay there. It's closer, too," offered Neville.
"Too pricey, considering we don't know how long we'll be out of the Burrow. Naw, it's Headquarters, even though it's not as close to St. Mungo's. And I think Dad would prefer Mum to be someplace safe. Once she stops concentrating on Bill and realizes it's her life that was in danger, I think she'll agree. After all, she would be dead now if it hadn't been for Bill."
"But I don't think she will want to hide; that's not your Mum, Ron." Neville smiled. "She was a Prewett, after all."
"Yeah," agreed Ron, nodding. He frowned, scratching his head. "I don't like that place. Headquarters, I mean; it's too gloomy by half, but," he continued, "it's only a week until we go back to school, anyway."
"Why are you staying in London overnight, Neville?" Hermione turned to look at him and cocked her head.
"I was going to go to the botanical gardens tomorrow but I think I'll spend the day riding the train home, see a bit of the countryside. Just for practice, instead of Apparating. That's the easy, fast way, but you miss the scenery, don't' you?"
"You can Apparate all the way to Yorkshire?" Ron gasped. "Blimey, I was lucky I landed where I wanted to in the kitchen today." He looked shocked and then shook his head. "Was all that just /today/?"
"Yes, it was," said Hermione as she slipped her hand into his. "And I haven't had the chance to tell you how brave you were and how proud I was of you." She kissed him on the cheek, which made him blush beet red.
"Yes, that was a very good tactical move, Ron. I meant to tell you that," Neville added. "Aunt Anna will be very impressed."
"She'd be more impressed at your Apparating abilities, Neville," Hermione noted. "But, if you're taking the train, have you got the route all picked out?"
She turned and started down the stairs, the two boys falling into step with her.
"Yes, I plotted that out the first week of holiday - and alternate routes - just for my own information. I even went down to the station nearest our house and looked around, watched a few trains come and go. I doubled checked with the station master and he told me all about using the BritRail passes. I told him it was a prize from school, for use over the holiday."
"Really? Excellent, Neville."
"I never thought about it much," admitted Ron, holding open the door into the hallway on the floor where Bill's ward was located.
"Didn't you? Why ever not?" questioned Neville.
" 'Cause I'll be with Hermione and she's Muggle born and there's nothing our Hermione doesn't know about the Muggle world."
"That's right, Ron, stick with me and I'll teach you everything you will need to survive," Hermione snorted. "And what if I'm NOT with you and something happens? Then what? Huh?"
"Oh, well, I'd just...I'd...well...I'd think of something," he answered, grinning sheepishly.
"I can just see you now, Ron," Neville grinned. " 'What would Hermione do? What would Hermione do? What would Hermione do? Think! Think! What would Hermione do?' " he squeaked, running in a little circle, looking around wildly and ringing his hands.
He stopped abruptly and then started laughing, joining Hermione who was leaning on the wall giggling and nodding her head. Ron had the good grace to look totally embarrassed.
"Yeah, yeah; very funny, Longbottom. HA! HA!" Then Ron started laughing, too.
"Don't let her out of your sight, mate, or you're a goner." Neville clapped Ron on the back.
"My thought, exactly," Ron agreed, grinning, pulling Hermione off of the wall, he draped an arm around her shoulder.
"Let's see what's going on, shall we?" Hermione managed to gasp.
Neville went around to the other side of Hermione and put his arm around her waist and the three friends started off down the hall.
An owl arrived at the breakfast table the next morning, circled and landed on the back of Harry's chair. Harry untied the letter and the owl took off.
"Ah, it's from Hermione," Harry told the group. "Five, six pages, front and back, this will take a while,
so everyone get comfortable," he suggested, as he leaned back and glanced around the table, grinning.
"It'll take you longer to read about what happened then it took to happen," Draco said, pouring himself some more coffee.
Harry snorted. "No doubt, but you know Hermione; details and accuracy."
Shaking his head, he began to read aloud to the attentive audience. Hermione had, to her credit, kept the tale from being too lurid or dramatic, without sounding totally clinical. There were gasps and head shaking as the story unfolded, with not a few 'here, here's and 'bravo's at Ron's involvement and the final rout of the Fenrir.
The reports from the hospital and Bill's Healer, plus the addendums about what Artemus Pye and Remus Lupin had contributed were absorbed with great interest.
'Actually,' wrote Hermione//. 'Bill feels pretty good, but seems to have developed a craving for rare steak. Fleur is happy about that as she is appalled by British cooking. HA! HA! The Weasleys are staying in //London/ at Headquarters for the time being, to be close to Bill. AND the wedding is still on for this weekend, according to Bill and Fleur, even if it means getting married at St. Mungo's!'/
The letter finished with greetings to all from Hermione, Ron and Ginny. Harry laid the pieces of parchment on the table and took a gulp of juice.
"Bit parched, Harry?" Dumbledore peeked at him over the rims of his glasses.
"Just a bit." Harry smiled. "That was a /note/, from Hermione, so I should thank my lucky stars for small favors, huh?"
"Indeed, Harry, indeed."
An almost identical letter had been delivered to Anna and Gwen that morning, also. Although they'd heard most of the details from Christopher and had received an owl from Remus late the night before, it was good to hear how the D.A. members were handling their first attack.
"I think they are realizing that they reacted just as you taught them and it was, as you told them, 'instinctive and second nature'," Gwen noted, sipping her coffee.
"Just so they don't get cocky." Anna sat, stirring her second cup, deep in thought. "How can I tell them 'well done but don't get too confident' without dampening their enthusiasm?"
"Just come right out and say it! Give them the praise that's due and then make some suggestions as to what to do next time, reminding them, subtly, that there will be a /next time/!" Narcissa injected, before taking a bite of toast.
"Point taken, Cissa. Ron really didn't panic, did he? Knew just what to do and where to go; good tactician, our Ron."
"And the shots from Hermione and Ginny must have been wicked accurate. Bet those Death Eaters are going to have some major bruises as reminders," giggled Cissa. "Let them explain that to their Master."
"Well, I better sit down and draft a reply. I want you two to read it before I send it, so I get it worded right."
"No problem." Gwen nodded.
"Do we grade on punctuation and grammar?"
"Don't even go there, Cissa!"
The three giggled and then raised their mugs.
"To the D.A.'s first attack, at least THAT'S over with!"
"Here, here!" "Amen!"
Draco and Harry stood, broomsticks in hand, in the front door of the school. It was pouring rain and the thunder and lightning were having a contest to see which could be more impressive.
Draco looked over at Harry. "I'll be buggered if I'm going out in that!"
Harry nodded. "Sod it. Let's flake out somewhere until we can think of something else to do."
"How about if we go to my common room; the noise won't penetrate as badly as it would in yours."
"Sounds like a plan."
They turned and headed down to the dungeon territory of Slytherin House. Laying their brooms on the table by the entrance, the two boys headed for the black leather sofas in front of the massive fireplace. Draco flipped his wand and the wood blazed up, immediately warming the room.
Harry had to admit that the tufted leather furniture may have looked expensive, which is undoubtedly was, but it was also very soft and comfortable. The puffy, cushioned sofas and chairs in the Gryffindor common room were also very comfortable, but they were...what had Hermione called it?...oh, yes, 'shabby chic'. Nice way of saying 'second-hand grandmother'. The Slytherin dÃ©cor was very masculine and Harry had to admit, he liked it. They flopped down and put their feet up.
After a few minutes, Draco sat up and looked over at Harry.
"How about a drink?"
"We just finished breakfast, Draco. Bit early, don't you think?"
" 'Sod it', as you said; we've got nothing better to do."
"Agreed. Second question. How did you smuggle butterbeer into the school?"
"Merlin's beard, Potter! I said/; do...you...want...a...DRINK? Drink/, not light refreshments!"
Draco stood and walked over to a cabinet set into the wall to the right of the fireplace and opened it to reveal a fully stocked bar.
"Merlin's Beard yourself, Draco! How'd you get that set-up in here?"
Harry heaved himself up off of the sofa and ambled over to check out the cabinet's contents. Draco pulled a stopper and poured each of them a finger of whiskey, then setting the decanter down, handed Harry one tumbler and held his up for a toast.
"To the death of Voldemort - may he rot in hell!"
They clinked tumblers and Draco watched as Harry lifted his to his lips. Taking a sip, Harry's eyebrow went up.
"Oo, the good stuff." He grinned, and took another sip.
"You surprise me, Harry. I didn't know you drank, besides butterbeer, of course." Draco took his own sip and felt the familiar burn down his throat. "This was some of Father's 'good stuff', as you call it."
"Ah, sometimes being the heir has its better points."
"As to my drinking, Draco; remember I told you I was in charge of my uncle's after work drink." Harry shrugged. "So, I'd sample a bit, from time to time. I did a replenishing spell on the bottle, so he never knew."
Draco laughed and walked back to sit on the sofa, Harry following him, regaining his seat, opposite.
"Hey, Draco, seriously; are you allowed drinks here in Slytherin House, or did you just install this for the summer?"
"It's not mine, it's always been here. I just put in some new bottles from my supply. If you're of age, you're allowed...on weekends. It's locked during the rest of the school year, but since I'm the only one here, it's unlocked." He thought for a moment. "Oh, and birthdays or special occasions; like winning at Quidditch, that sort of thing. Why? Thinking of getting one for your common room?"
"No. BUT, /maybe/, if Crabbe and Goyle and the others in your group are expecting to use this cabinet, this could be our opportunity; we could somehow rig their glasses; slip them a dose of Veritaserum without them knowing."
"AH! A 'sneaky plot'...I like it! Continue, Harry, this is getting good."
Draco put his elbows on his knees and leaned forward to listen, glass held casually between his fingers.
"Well, do you think they'll go for a drink the first night back or hold off until the weekend?"
"Actually, seventh years always have a drink the first night; a toast to their last year and all that. So, it's something we can definitely count on happening."
"Yes. I had planned on having us all raise our glasses in a toast to Pansy." Draco hung his head for a moment, but looked up, eyes bright. "Why? What's going on in that strangely devious mind of yours?"
Harry smiled and moved forward to sit on the edge of the sofa cushion.
"I've got an idea of how we can get your 'friends' to spill their guts. But it'll take a bit of acting on your part. I think you can pull it off though. However," continued Harry, holding up a finger. "We really need to ok this with Professor Snape and maybe the Headmaster, too."
"What do you plan to do, spike their drinks?" Draco laughed.
Draco snorted. "And how will I be able to do that without someone seeing me?"
"New glasses, with their names engraved on them and have the Veritaserum in the glass, ahead of time, dried, on the bottom, so when you pour in their drinks...better yet, let them pour their own...it'll reactivate the Veritaserum and they'll be none the wiser. Down the hatch! Then, if you get 'drunk'." Harry put quote marks around the word with his fingers. "AND get them truly drunk, then there's no telling what they'd say. Plus, they probably won't remember half of what happened the next morning; especially if you swear you've got the world's worst hangover and don't remember anything yourself."
Harry sat back, grinning, looking very pleased with his plan. Draco opened his mouth, then closed it, took another sip of his drink, looked into his glass and then set it down on the low table between the sofas. He stood up.
"Come on, it's time we got a professional opinion."
Harry downed his drink, stood and with a sweep of his arm, ushered Draco out of the common room, heading for Snape's office.
Following the early morning crowds, Neville wound his way down into the Tottenham Court Road Underground Station. Neville liked the Muggle Underground. It wasn't that he disliked Apparating, in fact, he'd become extraordinarily good at it, once he got the hang of the basic spell.
It amused his Gran no end that instead of taking ages to run little errands for her, Neville would 'pop', go retrieve whatever it was she wanted and 'pop' be back before she'd finished telling him what it was she needed. Well, nearly that fast.
But Neville enjoyed watching the Muggles bustling around, hurrying to where ever it was they were going. He stood on the platform, waiting for the next train, amused that nobody paid one bit of attention to him. It was interesting to him to listen to passing conversations and hear the way life was in the Muggle world. From the snatches of talk he had overheard, they seemed to have the same day to day problems as Witches and Wizards did, more or less. Work problems, money worries, someone being sick, kids and school, where to go on holiday.
The train was gliding into the station and the crowd surged forward. Neville didn't hurry, he knew the route, and that if this train was too crowded, he could catch the next one and still have plenty of time. It did bring home the fact that the Muggle world was considerably larger than the Wizarding world, but this was good practice, getting to know your way among Muggles...literally.
He boarded the train, and looked around, then decided to just stand and hold onto the pole. Some things still mystified him, though, but, he could always ask Hermione or Harry or Dean...
Neville spun around to see his dorm mate making his way down the swaying car to join him.
"Dean! I was just thinking about you."
"What are you doing in London, on the Underground?"
"Came to get my books, putter around a bit, but got caught up in the Bill Weasley incident yesterday."
"Yeah. Hermione called. Bit of a dust up, that."
"So, where are you off to then?"
"St Pancras, to get the train home. Thought I'd take the train, for a lark and a bit of practice, if you know what I mean," said Neville, looking around at the other passengers, only to realize they couldn't care less what he was saying or where he was going.
"Really? I'm heading to Liverpool, from Euston, to meet Seamus. He's coming over on the ferry this morning on Tut and then we're going to ride around for the next week and wind up at school, in time for term. Hey! Come with me and we can give you a ride home in the sidecar. Skipton isn't out of our way. We hadn't definitely decided where to start, come to that. We'd have our first destination; your house!"
Neville thought about it for all of five seconds, and then a wide grin spread across his face.
"Why not? My original plans have been totally messed up, as it is, so, I think I'll take you up on your offer, Dean. I'm just going to wing it! When does your train leave?"
Dean laughed. "10:20" Checking his watch. "We've lots of time; what say we walk to Euston from Warren St?"
" 'Sounds like a plan' as Aunt Anna would say," Neville agreed. "Here's the station now."
Grabbing their backpacks, the two Gryffindors got off the subway train, rode the escalator to street level and started down the road to Euston Station, chatting about what they had been doing over the holiday.
"Draco could buy new tumblers with all the seventh year's names etched on them, Slytherin coat of arms on the other side, maybe; his 'gift' to his classmates, a souvenir of their final year at Hogwarts."
"And how is he going to shop for these tumblers, if he's here at school?" Severus Snape asked the practical question, certain that Harry hadn't thought that far into this 'plan' of his.
"I'm going to London for Bill and Fleur's wedding this weekend. I can pick them up and Draco can pay me back later. I have to shop for a wedding gift, anyway, so, two birds with one shopping trip."
"I see. And how did you plan on getting the Veritaserum into their drinks?"
"Put three drops into each glass, let it dry, rewrap the glass, so they have to open their gift, so it's brand new, never been used, and everyone can pour their own drink. That way, Draco never touches the glasses, and he's innocent of doing anything. No tricks."
Harry was trying to contain his enthusiasm, but was sitting on the edge of his chair, leaning toward the Potions Master. Severus sat back in his chair. He was almost enjoying himself, a bit too much, actually, watching these two former enemies working together on an 'ethically dubious' scheme. However...
"We will, of course, consult with the Headmaster on this plan of yours. First, though, perhaps we should run some tests and at the least..."
Suddenly, he stopped and grasping his forearm, stood abruptly. Harry and Draco jumped up, too.
"You two will have to excuse me."
"He's summoned you." Draco wasn't asking; it was a statement.
"Be careful...Severus." Draco put out his hand.
Taking it and giving a quick shake, he turned and shook Harry's proffered hand, also. Severus marveled at what changes had occurred in recent months, causing him to shake his head.
"As I can be, Draco...Harry."
"Professor. Do you have a gate coin?" Harry asked suddenly, as Snape was walking around his desk.
"Gate coin?" Severus stopped.
Harry dug into his pocket and pulled out a Galleon.
"In case of emergency, tap it twice with your wand and someone will meet you at the gates, should you need help for any reason."
"I see...and you don't need this?"
"Give it back to me when you return. Meanwhile I'll make one for you, but I'll need to get the spell from Anna."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Severus put the coin deep in his pants pocket.
"Just don't spend it on fish and chips," Draco instructed with a straight face.
"I hardly think I'll have the opportunity to indulge myself, Draco."
Both boys grinned and Severus headed out of the door.
"Could you inform the Headmaster what's happened?" he called over his shoulder.
"Right away, Professor," Draco called after him.
As Severus footsteps faded, Draco and Harry walked out into the hall.
"Think he'll be alright?" asked Draco.
"He's made it this far." Harry shrugged. "Depends on Voldemort's mood, I suppose."
"Humph!" Draco heaved a sigh. "Well, let's go see Dumbledore."