What a difference a year makes. Last Spring break was the luau at Briarwood. Now the D.A. needs the memory of that fun occasion to fight off the Dementors sent by Lord Voldemort. But are they ever really going to be safe? When you least expect it...expect it!
"I see Anna and Artemus made it back," observed Gwen as she rounded the hedge of rhododendrons and Greystone Manor came into view, the ambulance sitting to the side of the front terrace.
"Yes; that's one less worry. I see the light's on in the nursery, also, so I'll be able to hear all about her little 'adventure', before being allowed to get some sleep." Severus checked his watch. "2 o'clock feeding, it would seem."
"We made good time, then."
"You drive like a woman possessed!"
"I was doing the speed limit....or nearly. There wasn't any other traffic except the odd lorry, so no harm done."
"Right, I'll keep that in mind when I volunteer to accompany you on your next clandestine outing."
"Oh, go on with you, you loved every minute of this cloak and dagger episode." Gwen parked the van and turned off the lights and engine. "Admit it, Severus."
"Very well, I found it interesting to outwit the Muggle security devices, but I think bringing Fred and George Weasley with us was a bit much. Did we really need them as 'lookouts'?"
"Of course not, but would you rather they followed us, made too much noise and got caught, not knowing what we were up to? Worse yet, get us spotted?"
"That would have been most unpleasant. Very well, I suppose discretion was the better solution."
"Thank you. Oh, grab that shopping bag for me, will you."
Severus reached into the back, pulled out the large bag and handed it to Gwen as they walked to the front door.
"What did you purchase when we stopped at that store?"
"A few things for the children and something for Alice."
"Ah, well, that can wait until morning, then."
"Yes, Aunty Gwen brings presents to breakfast."
"I don't know who spoils them more, you or my Mother."
"Let's call it a tie for now."
"Agreed." Severus bowed her through the door and shut it quietly.
Severus stuck his head around the door and peeked into the nursery.
"Hello. I noticed the light was on."
Anna was just putting her daughter back in her crib. Christopher was fast asleep and Ellie sighed and closed her eyes. Holding her finger to her lips, Anna shooed Severus back into the hall, closed the door gently and then turned and walked into his arms.
"Finished with your life of crime?"
"Ah, yes; heady stuff, but I think it was a one time event."
"Wrong; don't forget, you have to return the samples."
'True, but now that I know where in the building to /Apparate/, I can pop in, replace the bottle and box and be gone in under 10 seconds. No problem."
"My, aren't we the glib James Bond wannabe."
"Never mind...although...007 is renowned as a ladies man; quite the lover, if the films are to be believed."
"Is that a challenge?" Severus leered at her.
"No; just a fantasy on my part."
Severus scooped her up in his arms and headed for their bedroom.
"Fantasy! I'll show you a thing or two about fantasy, my dear."
"So, the Weasleys are in residence at Hogwarts. Must seem very grand after that hovel we destroyed." Rodolphus laughed. "What else did you hear?"
He took a drag from his cigar, and regarded Peter Pettigrew through the smoke. He and Bella were having a small 'chat' with Pettigrew on the restored terrace.
"As I told our Master, Percy Weasley is going there this weekend, but the twins are not coming to Hogwarts until after the Spring break is over."
"That leaves that bitch Anna," spat Bella. "If she shows up, then she'll have left the Longbottoms unguarded somewhere. We must extract their location from her before we kill her. I will have my revenge on her for plucking them out of my grasp."
"I have no doubt you will succeed in getting the location from her, my darling," Rodolphus purred in her ear. "Perhaps, during the course of our triumphant conquest of Hogwarts we will also obtain the location of your sister as well. I believe our Master will reward you with that bit of revenge, also, don't you?"
"Yes, yes, I have been very patient, as he wished, so my time is coming! I will see them all dead!"
Peter and Rodolphus watched as Bella paced the stone floor, noting the wicked, wild gleam in her eyes; one seeing his own opportunity because of her tunnel-vision determination for revenge and the other feeding his own blood lust from her enthusiasm for murder and mayhem. Both smiled, realizing how truly dangerous this woman was. Pity the fools she targets.
"Missy Anna, we is having breakfast in the dining room, they is too many for the kitchen, Miss."
"Good thinking, Winky. Have you told everyone?"
"Yes, Miss, and Dobby told Mister Artemus. Missy Gwen says she'll be down as soon as she's awake, Miss."
"Winky, if she was asleep, how did she tell you that?"
"Her is mumbling under the covers, Miss, but Winky is understanding her," giggled the house elf, as she tidied up the bedroom.
The shower shut off and in a few minutes Severus emerged from the bathroom, tying the belt of his bathrobe.
"Good morning, Master Severus."
"Good morning, Winky. How did everything go yesterday with Frank and Alice Longbottom?"
"Oh, Mister Frank is liking the conservatory, and Missy Alice plays with Missy Lyn. Them was giggling a lot."
"Frank Longbottom? Giggling?"
"No, no, Master Severus! Missy Lyn and Missy Alice is giggling, not Mr. Frank; him is just smiling and humming."
"I see. So, no problems?"
"No, Master Severus, they is mostly very quiet, but I think they is happy here."
"Indeed, well, that is very good news."
"Winky, will you check on the babies for me and I'll be there in a minute." Anna smiled at her little friend.
"Yes, Miss, I can hear Master Christopher fussing."
The house elf trotted out of the room and Anna walked over to Severus, slipping her hands into his bathrobe and around him, pulling him to her.
"Hello double O."
"NO! I will not be known by some foolish fantasy nickname."
"Be that as it may. Go see to the children while I dress and I'll be there in a few minutes. I imagine there'll be some explaining to do over coffee this morning."
Stepping back and heading for the door, Anna waved her hand, dismissively.
"Done; stories all told yesterday. Sorry you missed it, too; I made you out as quite the hero."
Smiling, she winked and walked out, closing the door behind her.
"Good morning, everyone," called Anna cheerily as she and Severus entered the dining room, each carrying one of the babies. Placing them in their sling swings, Anna headed to one end of the long table, as Severus proceeded to the other. Artemus stood and gave Severus a hearty handshake.
"Good to see you are still alive and well, Severus. Bit of a surprise to hear that news, I'll tell you."
"Believe me when I say I was fairly pleased to hear it myself," Severus replied. "Although, coming from the ghost of my own Mother was a bit disconcerting...downright confusing, come to that. But we sorted it all out and," waving his hand, "here we all are, safe and sound."
"Does any one else know, Professor?" Penny asked, as she helped Alice with her toast.
"Please, Miss Clearwater...Penny; we go on a first name basis here, so as I am no longer your teacher, you may drop the title, also."
"Very well, although I will probably slip up, one or twice." Penny answered, blushing.
"Quite understandable, old habits...but to answer your question, yes, there are a few at Hogwarts that are aware that I survived the attempt on my life. I understand you heard the story?"
"Indeed, Anna and Cissa filled us in last evening." Artemus nodded, passing the scrambled eggs to Cissa.
"Good, I wasn't looking forward to rehashing that episode again," Severus sighed, looking relieved.
"You'll have to tell the D.A. when we meet with them; the ones that don't know."
"Unavoidable, I suppose?"
"Yes, no excuses, just the facts." Anna smiled, a wicked gleam in her eye.
Severus cocked his head, looking closely at her.
"I've learned to recognize that look, dear wife of mine, what do you have up your sleeve?" he asked.
"Pay attention, Artemus, this will get good," Cissa whispered, earning her a dirty look from Severus. She stuck out her tongue at him, and then turned to feed Lyn a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
"Actually/," drawled Anna, "there /is a meeting, /tonight/, to discuss the train ride to London and their plans for repelling the /Dementors/."
"Yes, isn't it," piped up Cissa, smiling.
"What are you grinning about?" Severus asked her, eyebrow arched.
"I am going to come along and see Draco."
Severus opened his mouth to reply when Gwen shuffled into the room, hand outstretched to Winky, who handed her a mug of coffee. Dropping the shopping bag she had been dragging behind her, Gwen stood and took a few good swallows and then opened her eyes and surveyed to group around the table.
"Morning," she croaked, then lowered herself onto a chair and propped her chin up on one palm, using her other hand to direct her coffee mug to her mouth for a couple more gulps.
"Good morning, sunshine," Artemus replied cheerfully. "Have a good time in London? How are the Weasley twins? Any problems at the Zoo? What drug did you nick?"
"Artemus...please...slow down...my brain can't process that fast, this early." Gwen moaned, eyes closed, mug hoisted in midair, while a floating coffee pop refilled it. "Thank you, Winky."
"You is welcome, Missy Gwen."
Alice Longbottom was looking at Gwen with her head tilted to one side. Gwen noticed her and smiled slowly. Alice smiled back.
"I've got something for you, Alice."
Putting down her mug, Gwen leaned over and pulled the shopping bag to her. Rummaging inside, she pulled out a stuffed doll. It was Po. Standing, she brought the bright red, chubby character's likeness around the table to the silent woman. Alice's eyes grew wide. Squatting down to be on Alice's level, Gwen held the doll out to her. Reaching, tentatively, Alice grasped the doll and then hugged it.
"Big Hug!" Po voiced sounded.
Alice looked down at the doll, startled, and then squeezed the plush form a second time.
"Uh 0h...giggle, giggle."
Alice regarded the doll for a minute and turned to Gwen. She smiled, and then nodded. Sitting the doll down on her lap, she held it firmly with one arm and turned back to her breakfast, picked up her toast, offered a bite to Po and then took a bite herself.
"I think that was a hit, Gwen," Penny laughed, "Where ever did you find it?"
"Toy store on the outskirts of London; I have smaller versions for the little ones."
"Will they know what they are?" Severus asked.
"It won't matter; it's just a small person they can hug. They'll recognize it's a human shape and will see the smile; that's all that counts to infants, a friendly face."
"Ah...well...getting back to the matter at hand, when is this D.A. meeting?" Severus turned back to his wife.
"Tonight after dinner, around 8:30, I believe, I'll just have time to get the children bathed and into bed, before we have to go."
"WE? And just who constitutes 'we', if you don't mind sharing." Severus asked as he sliced his smoked kipper.
"You, me, Gwen and Cissa. Artemus and Penny should stay hidden for the time being, so as to protect Alice and Frank."
"Agreed," Artemus nodded, "The fewer people who know where we are, the safer we /all /will remain."
"I have to go over and talk to Hagrid and Grawp early this afternoon," Gwen added, "So I'll just meet you there; say in the hall outside Albus' office entrance? I'll have Anna's Invisibility/ //Cape/, so you can wear it to the meeting, Severus. If they see Anna, Cissa and me walking down the hall to the meeting it'll raise some eyebrows, I'm sure, but the sight of you would cause a riot! No offense."
"For once, your perception of the situation jibs with my own." Severus replied, smiling at the thought of the students reactions.
"Alright," Anna answered, "that'll be fine, say 8:15?"
"I'll make sure we are on time, Gwen," Cissa assured her.
"I'm going to stay hidden until the meeting, don't worry about that. Only Hagrid and Draco will know I'm at the school."
"What are you and Draco up to?" Cissa wanted to know, motherly concern kicking in.
"We're getting together with Buckbeak to try a few test flights; to see how it'll feel and how hard it is to balance, aim and shoot without hitting Buckbeak in the wing, or anything. Also, we'll fly around Grawp to see what it'll be like with the giants; attack angles and stuff."
"Makes sense," Anna replied. "Did you find your crossbow?"
"Yes, /finally/, at the bottom of my 'junk trunk', of course. I was loath to have to purchase a new one and break it in. My old one just feels right, know what I mean?"
"As it should," Severus agreed, "much as Witches and Wizards get used to their wands. Could I ask whatever made you take up such a hobby as crossbow shooting?"
"Ah, that would have been my 'medieval' period, at university, when it was all the rage to be proficient in the 'ancient' arts and sports. This was suited for women, so I took it up as a lark, but got really into target shooting and was damn good, even if I do say so myself!"
"Merlin help the giants," Cissa laughed.
Draco walked into the Great Hall for the evening meal, looking slightly weather beaten. Harry, who was chatting with a few of the D.A.s, walked over to talk to him.
"How'd it go?"
"Hagrid's brother is bloody big, and he's still not full grown, Harry! I hope this plan works." Draco shook his head, looking worried.
"I know; I've met him a couple of times. How'd the flying on Buckbeak go?"
"Oh, that part's fine; he's keen to help, it seems. He understands what Gwen is trying to do and followed my instructions when we were zooming around. Grawp even let us swoop down and fly right past him so we could get an idea of how it's going to look and feel."
"And the crossbow, did it work?"
"That's the really scary part; Harry, Gwen it dead accurate, even as fast as we were moving. I think it just might work, if we can get the drop on the giants and hit them before they realize what's happening. Grawp co-operated, but they won't just stand there; they'll have clubs and bad tempers"
"Don't worry Draco, if you and Buckbeak can get Gwen close enough, she'll take care of the giants."
"Well, we're going to try our best."
"That's all any of us can do, Draco. See you at the meeting."
The Defense Against the Dark arts classroom was full, not only with the D.A.members but Tonks, Remus, Mad-eye, plus Professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout. Tykey and Oscar were present to represent the house elves and the ghosts of the different houses were floating near the bookcases. Even Peeves, who was being uncharacteristically quiet, was in attendance. 'Gran' Longbottom and Madam Pomfrey were sitting in the back of the room, chatting, when the door opened and the Weasley contingent arrived: Arthur, Molly and Percy, with Hagrid following them, closing the door behind.
After sorting themselves out among the extra benches that the desks had been transformed into, everyone turned and focused on Professor Dumbledore.
"Good evening, everyone; just one more group is expected."
"Who might that be?" asked Mad-eye, his blue orb swiveling to check the hallway. "Oh. I should have guessed."
The door opened again and Anna, Gwen and Cissa entered. Most of the students gasped and then the questions started flying, until Anna held up her hand for silence.
"All in good time, friends. Let me just say, for myself and Gwen and Cissa...Hello! Good to see you all again!"
The three women proceeded toward the front of the classroom, getting as occasional hug and kiss from various students and adults. Draco walked over to and embraced his Mother.
"They're really an understanding group and I've told most of them everything, so relax," he whispered in her ear.
"Oh, alright then."
"Except that you were with Anna."
"Oh, well, cat's out of the bag now, isn't it?" she smiled.
Draco grinned and nodded, leading her to a seat by the desk.
Meanwhile, Anna and Gwen had greeted the Senior D.A.s and the professors and taken their seats. Professor Dumbledore raised a hand for silence.
"As you can see, Draco's Mother, Narcissa Malfoy..."
"Very well, Narcissa Black, a classmate of Professor Twigg-Jones..."
There were gasps and open mouthed stares.
"What!" "But...you and he..." "When?" "Isn't he...dead?"
"Dead? No, not yet!" came a deep, familiar voice from the back of the classroom.
Severus whipped off the Invisibility/ //Cape/ he'd been hiding under and walked down the room to join the ladies. While standing inside the door, he had anticipated the reactions to his re-appearance with sadistic glee. He was not disappointed, as there were several screams and multiple gasps and not a few 'Bloody Hell!'s. He turned, put his arm around Anna's shoulder and for the first time in most people's memory...grinned happily.
"BOO!" he said and then turned to Anna and gave her a brief kiss.
To say that bedlam ensued for the next few minutes wouldn't do justice to the noise, confused questions, joyful greetings and outright shock that followed his 'unveiling'. FINALLY, order was restored and Anna, Severus Gwen and Cissa spent 20 or more minutes giving a thorough but succinct rendering of the events of the previous eighteen months.
Those who knew most of the story sat with satisfied smirks and watched the goldfish imitation competition going on amongst the rest of the crowd. However, Severus' accounting of the events on the terrace had everyone listening intently.
"So, that catches everyone up to date, except to meet the children, which will come after all of this is finished," Anna concluded.
"And, to finally ruin my reputation beyond any possible redemption, I'll have you all know I'm an expert on changing nappies and crooning my children to sleep," Severus declared.
There was a fair bit of snickering at that announcement.
"Personally, I think that bit of information, alone, would do old Tom a mischief - massive stroke would be my guess," ventured Neville, grinning and shaking his head.
"We should have it so easy," replied Gwen.
"Which, conveniently, brings us back to the reason for this meeting; so, if we could refocus on the business at hand," added Albus, as he stood to start the meeting.
Everyone nodded and their smiling faces slowly faded to looking serious and thoughtful. Professor Lupin stood and turning to the chalk board, waved his wand. Lists started appearing, outlining the defenses and who was assigned to do which job and where everyone would be stationed.
"Ok, everyone, for Anna, Severus, Gwen and Cissa's benefit, let's layout our defense plans and if any of you four," said Remus, looking at them, "see any weak points or can suggest any changes to improve these lists, speak up. I know I'd forgotten about the teams guarding the Common rooms, but I'm getting a little crossed eyed, reading and re-reading these names."
"No doubt," laughed Anna. "I have every confidence this will be a splendid matching of abilities to assignments.
They listened intently as Remus explained each group's purpose and location, why the various members had been put into the different groups and what the house elves and the ghosts would be doing and how Peeves had been given special permission to create as much havoc and rain down whatever ammunition he saw fit to drop on the Death Eaters.
"After all, Miss, Hogwarts be my home too, you see," he cackled in Anna's ear.
"Right you are, Peeves, and I, for one, am glad to have you on our side. This is your home, by Jove, and you have as much right to fight to defend it as any of us, if not more. Bravo, Peeves." Anna applauded him.
"Thank you, Miss, you is very welcome Miss. Peeves will make them regret the day, yes, I will."
"I must say, Headmaster, Remus, that this is all very well thought out," said Severus, looking down the lists. "I'm also glad to see Mister Nott, Mister Zabini, Miss Greengrass and Miss Goodnite helping out, as well."
"We did a quick evaluation of their strengths and a crash course in D.A. methods. They fit in without much difficulty," Remus replied.
"Might I make a suggestion?" Cissa asked, raising her hand. "I believe Daphne and I should have the job of guarding the Slytherin common room and dorms."
Daphne looked perplexed. "Me?"
"Yes, dear, I've got a plan to discuss with you. That would free up Tonks and," Cissa checked the list, "Michael, to join one of the other main groups, where they could better be used."
"Very well, if that meets with everyone's approval?"
"Fine with me," said Tonks. "Michael?"
"Ok by me."
Daphne was still looking a little uncertain, but Cissa leaned over and whispered, "Trust me, once a Slytherin, always a Slytherin."
"I'm going to join Filius' group on the battlements and bridge," Severus spoke up, cocking his head to the diminutive Charms professor.
"Excellent! Glad to have you, Severus!"
"And I'm going out to assist Gwen and Draco and their group. This is going to be good!" Anna grinned wickedly, and then frowning, turned to the group. "By the way, we also want to hear your plans for the Hogwarts Express."
Harry, Draco, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Theo and Ginny stood silently inside the gates. They had 'Disillusioned' themselves and made their way, on the grass, to wait for the carriages to pass through on their way to Hogsmeade station.
Wearing their D.A. glasses, they could see each other, but more importantly, they could see Scabbers lurking in the bushes.
Ron had nudged Harry and pointed and then pantomimed grabbing the rat. Harry shook his head no. Ron shrugged.
Hagrid approached and swung the gates open as the carriages rumbled down the drive, pulled by the /Thestrals/. Hermione grabbed Ron's arm and pointed; with the glasses, they could see the skeletal winged horses.
"Bloody Hell," whispered Ron.
Hermione tilted her head, observing the strangely beautiful animals as they passed. One looked toward them and whinnied and nodded its head in greeting.
"They can see us!" she gasped.
"Come on," Harry whispered back, "Let's go."
They went through the gates, following the carriages at a jog, the noise of their footfalls covered by the crunch of gravel under the carriage wheels. When they arrived at the station, the usual confusion of bustling students, shouting, steam, smoke, luggage and pet carriers was in full swing.
Harry stood by the engine while Neville and Draco slipped through the door into the baggage car. Ron, Hermione, and Theo entered the first passenger car and stood at the back of the vestibule, waiting. Theo was going to 're-Illusion' himself and join the other 7th year Slytherins for the trip to London, just to be with Daphne and help with the younger kids during the Dementor attack. He and the rest of the 'invisible' D.A. members were going to Portkey back to Hogwarts from Kings Cross. Mad-eye was meeting the train and would bring the 'key' to send them back. Ginny went to the second car, and also waited in the vestibule for the train to start.
Remus was talking to the driver, who nodded and got on board.
"Come on, Harry," Remus said to a spot about two feet to the left of where Harry was waiting.
Taking a big right step sideways, Harry smiled. "After you, Remus."
They climbed into the cab and watched as the last of the students clambered onto the train. With a loud blast on the whistle, and a goodbye wave from Hagrid, the Hogwarts Express pulled away from the station platform and headed south to London and King's Cross Station.
"Ok, Harry,' Remus said.
The charm faded away and in a minute Harry was shaking hands with the Driver.
"Professor Lupin told me what's gonna happen on this trip. Them Dementors scared everyone, including yours truly, pretty bad last time, so if you can keep 'em away, I'd be grateful, Mister Potter."
"It's Harry, please, Mister..."
"Smudge...Sam Smudge...everyone just calls me Smudge, don't 'ya know."
"Glad to meet you, Smudge." Harry smiled and shook the little Wizard's hand. "I've always enjoyed my rides on your train and I'm really feeling a bit of a thrill riding up here in the cab with you!"
"It's great to have someone up here to share the trip with me. You and Professor Lupin..."
"Remus, please, Smudge."
"Oh, well, alright, then, Remus. You and Harry are the only ones I've had up here for years! Bit lonely at times, but busy, too, watching out for Muggle trains and such. You'll see. I'll try and remember to point out some of the sights, too."
Halfway to London, the D.A. members saw the telltale darkening of the skies. They left their compartments and joined the re-Illusioned members at their assigned posts, waiting and talking about the luau at Anna's the previous year, getting their happy memories firmly in focus in their minds.
Tonks was in the first car, Percy Weasley in the middle one and Arthur Weasley was in charge of the last. While the D.A. members were guarding all of the entrances to the cars, Tonks, Percy and Arthur were going the length of their assigned hallways, telling the students to stay in their compartments and in some cases, shifting older students to stay with the younger ones.
In the first carriage, Tonks yanked open a compartment door where the 7th year Slytherins were sitting.
"Come on, you lot, I need you to sit with the younger ones, keep them calm."
"I'm not going to..." Millicent started to protest.
"Don't be a cow, Millie," Silvia said, yanking her up and out the door. "We have to help protect the kids." She dragged the protesting girl down the carriage and shoved her into a compartment with a bunch of 1st year Slytherin girls. "Stay there! I'll be right next door."
Daphne had pulled Tracie to her feet and gone in the opposite direction. "You sit with this lot and I'll go to the next," she instructed, shoving her through the compartment door. "And stay quiet and don't let anyone out!"
Blaise and Theo had split up and each took a compartment with 1st and 2nd year Slytherin boys. Tonks winked at Theo and headed to the end of the car to check on Ron and Pavarti.
"Ok, remember Remus jumping in the pool with Anna."
Smiles appeared on their faces. Tonks gave them the thumbs up and ran to the other end where Hermione and Colin stood, facing the doors.
"Yes, Tonks." "I think so."
"You'll do fine, Colin and I'll be right here if you need help. Just holler, Ok?"
"Remember, shoot your Patronus at the Dementor like...like you're trying to shove a giant lollipop down his throat!"
Colin smiled broadly and nodded his head.
Percy, having been Head Boy during his time at Hogwarts, was in his element, with the compartments all sorted out and under control. Luna, Ginny Seamus and Padma had the doors covered and the older students were with the younger ones.
"Yes, Percy." "Got it covered." "Yes." "Percy, stop fussing!"
"Wait until they get close and blast them ass over ashcan!"
"Percy!" exclaimed Ginny, and then she and Seamus exchanged looks and burst out laughing.
The D.A. was doubled in the last car as a precaution against the Dementors trying to catch up to the Express and boarding from behind. Arthur was encouraging them and calming the other students as he walked the corridor.
"We can do this, you've all been practicing and I'm confident this will be a serious surprise for those Dementors and a real set back for old Tom."
"Don't worry, Mister Weasley, we'll hold them off. I bet we get another trip to Briarwood as a reward for a job well done, don't you think, gang?" Justin asked the others at the end of the train.
"Oh, that would be so much fun!"
"Remember that movie we watched," asked Hannah. "It was SO funny."
" 'Igor, help me with the bags.' " Terry said.
" 'Certainly. You take the blond and I'll the one in the turban.' " Justin answered, doing a fair imitation of Marty Feldman.
They dissolved into gales of laughter
Harry and Remus were watching the swiftly approaching thick, grey clouds. The temperature was dropping rapidly.
"Smudge, when the Dementors stopped the Express the last time, did they come to the cab first?"
"Ay, they did, and then went to the coaches."
"We'd better be ready, then. I wonder what they'll think about our little surprise?" Harry questioned.
"We'll soon find out, there they are!" Remus pointed.
Indeed, four Dementors had flown down out of the clouds and were streaking straight toward the train. Another two dozen were following, at a distance. Harry and Remus stood, one on either side of the cab at the open doors, wands poised.
"Right smart, them Dementors, this next section of track is a slight uphill climb and we slow down a fair bit, right after this next turn, lads." Smudge called to them, as he checked down the track ahead.
"Smudge, when we shout the spell, you hit that whistle, long and hard," Remus instructed.
"Righto! Them Dementors are in for a shock," Smudge laughed and Harry and Remus exchanged looks.
"Ready!" Remus asked, with a slight sense of dÃ©jÃ vu.
"Yeah, let's do it." Harry answered determinedly.
Harry leaned out of the door and looked back down the side of the train. He saw Neville stick his head out of the baggage car door and spotting Harry, give a wave. Harry nodded and waved back.
'Good,' he thought, 'everyone's ready.'
Two of the Dementors flew down toward the right side of the engine as the other two started descending on the left.
"Ready, on the count of three," Remus said over his shoulder to Harry. "One...Two..." The Dementors were heading straight toward them. "THREE! /EXPECTO PATRONUM/!"
"/EXPECTO PATRONUM/!" Harry echoed the cry.
Smudge hit the whistle and a long blast ripped through the air. Remus' wolf Patronus and Harry's stag burst from the ends of their wands and hit the Dementors full force, blasting them, tumbling, away from the train.
Draco and Neville, along with Zach and Ernie were watching from their posts in the baggage car, directly behind the engine. They cheered as the Dementors tumbled away in the trains slip stream, but quickly realized, as the remaining Dementors closed on the Express, that this fight was just starting.
"Wait until they get really close, guys, we want to really hit them hard." Neville called to the other boys.
"Sounds like a plan, Neville. Here they come!" Ernie yelled back, pointing.
Harry and Remus were watching the main group of Dementors and saw that they seemed to have overcome their initial surprised confusion and were reorganizing. Sure enough, the Dementors started streaking toward the train, obviously thinking to fly in the doors and board the Express without bothering to stop it.
"Steady, steady," Mister Weasley cautioned.
"Ready!" Percy called.
"Ok, this is it!' Tonks shouted.
"Hit the whistle again, Smudge!"
The blast was heard, loud and clear, through the length of the train. The D.A. members took deep breathes, focused on their memories and ignoring the biting cold, held their wands firmly, pointing out the open doors.
Twenty two shouts of "/EXPECTO PATRONUM/!" echoed thru the train and Patroni of all shapes and sizes burst from the train and collided with the Dementors. Yelling encouragement to their particular animal the D.A. watched as the Dementors were chased away by the gleaming white shapes.
The Dementors disappeared into the clouds, which faded away as quickly as they had roiled into existence.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah! They're gone!"
"Who cares! We did it!"
"They're really gone!"
"We did it! We did it!"
The D.A.s shouts and laughter echoed down the corridors causing the other students to stick their heads out of the doors of the compartments. Pretty soon it was one long rolling celebration, heading south through the sunny spring afternoon.
The Hogwarts Express slowed and glided the last few yards into King's Cross Station and came to a halt at Platform 9 Â¾.
"'bout time, too," grouched Mad-eye Moody, as he watched the anxious parents milling around.
The doors flew open and the students emerged, waving and smiling, greeting their families, chattering excitedly about how the D.A. had successfully chased off the Dementors. Some parents were outraged about the attack, but most were amazed that the D.A. members had been able to keep the other students safe and they were thanking them with relief and expressions of gratitude.
Draco was standing in the door to the baggage compartment, with Neville, Ron and Hermione. Harry and Ginny were talking with Remus. He scanned the crowd, looking for any signs of Death Eaters, but saw no one suspicious....except....Theo's Mother, who was walking slowly down the platform toward her son, a blank expression on her face. Theo had his back to her as he said his goodbyes to Daphne, Silvia and Blaze.
"Something's wrong," Draco muttered. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
Neville turned and followed Draco's gaze, and then started moving quickly toward the group of Slytherin friends.
"/Theo/!" Draco shouted, causing his classmate to turn and look at him. Mrs. Nott was reaching into her handbag, pulling something out...her handkerchief?
Neville broke into a run and shot past some of the milling students, Draco following right on his heels.
"What?" Theo looked at them streaking toward him and spun to see what was happening behind him. "Oh, hello Mother."
Mrs. Nott silently extended her hand, clutching the handkerchief, from which was dangling a chain with a signet ring swinging back and forth on the end.
"What's that?" Theo took a step closer to her, starting to reach for the ring.
"NO!" Neville yelled, as he lunged forward, trying to reach Theo.
"STOP!" Draco called, coming around the other side of Daphne, arm extended.
Just as Mrs. Nott dropped the chain into Theo's outstretched hand, Neville and Draco both tried to yank the chain and stop the ring from touching Theo's palm.
There was a flash of blue and the three boys disappeared.
Daphne screamed and Mrs. Nott blinked, looked around, confused and then fainted dead away, into a heap, as everyone converged on the now empty section of the platform.
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