Harry finishes the summer, and heads back to Hogwarts
Kings Cross Station
The next week in the DA concentrated on small groups. Harry set people up in groups of two, back to back. The defender's job was to put up shielding spells, and watch for enemies behind the pair. The couple would select one direction to be "noon" and become familiar with using clock directions to let each other know where their attention was needed, as well as letting each other know when they had to switch roles. Once again, Harry used animated balloons to represent enemies, but also had other members of the DA sending hexes at the practicing members to give them more experience with the shields. He gave out the wrist holsters to whoever showed up, and owled the rest to the members who couldn't be there.
He also had Luna and Firenze, surprisingly, work with whoever was interested in meditation, for eventual use with occlumency. Harry specifically asked that Susan and Hermione learn it, to protect their minds at least a little from legilimency; about half the DA joined in that effort. Luna reported to Harry that Hermione was getting to the point where she could cast some spells while maintaining a meditative state. Harry was surprised at how no one else was even close to that skill, since it came easily to him.
He cast the Legilimens spell for the first time on Susan and Luna, after they had been meditating. Susan had virtually no defense, but Harry quickly learned the difference between a subtle look and a violent attack. He once again shook his head at Snape's failed attempt to teach him to shield his mind.
Attempts to look into Luna's mind failed spectacularly. He would see images, but they were always wrong or distorted -- upside down, colors changed, concave and convex parts of images reversed, and combinations of them. Similarly with sound, but he didn't have the background to understand all the ways sounds could be distorted. Any attempt to direct his mental intrusion was guaranteed to fail. He shook his head and gave up. Luna, for her part, enjoyed the meditation, so she continued practicing it.
Harry worked all day with whoever showed up, whenever they showed up. Since not everyone was there all the time (except Luna and Susan) he was able to talk more one on one with the members, get to know them, and become friends with them. Even Zacharias Smith, who had been reluctant to join the DA, turned out to be an interesting person, although Harry realized they would never really be friends. There were no house boundaries, and Harry often changed who people partnered with.
He also tried to have some one-on-one time each day with Susan and Luna. He still didn't like the idea of being forced to marry, but he had grown to like both girls and, at times, to look forward to the prospect. But when he was honest with himself he knew that a lifetime commitment based on just liking someone was dangerous. What if they found that they didn't like something about each other? Hermione was still mad about Harry being bound to Dobby. She hadn't said anything since she found out that house elves died if they didn't have a wizard or witch to be their source of magic (or a magical place, like Hogwarts), but she still glared whenever the enthusiastic elf served lunch or drinks. Harry could imagine a lifetime of that sort of thing souring a marriage.
He made sure Luna got away for some quiet time, often with Laurel. That seemed to help keep her mind from wandering when she was talking, and she too developed friendships with members of the DA. Luna would go to bed with a smile, wondering how she had lived so alone for years.
The last official meeting of the Defense Association was held on Friday, August 27. He gathered everyone who came and informed them of the pending attack on Platform Nine and Three Quarters. He refused to tell them how he knew, but did say that it didn't matter if his information was wrong.
"After all, if we're out there guarding the platform, and no one shows up, then we're fine. We've done nothing except stand around, visit, and watch. No harm, no fuss. If my information is accurate, then we might just save some people's lives."
"We'd be putting ourselves in danger, though, wouldn't we?" Padma asked, which got her a reassuring hug from Neville. The two paired up whenever they had the opportunity and the fact that they were a burgeoning couple was no secret amongst the DA.
"Yes. But if you happened to arrive at the same time as the attack, then you'd be in danger anyway, wouldn't you?" Harry asked. "I'm not telling anyone to do this. I am asking you. You are not under any obligation."
"Except to ourselves," Fred, (or was it George?) said.
"And you're not even going back to school!" Harry fired back.
"But we're closing the shop that morning, and we'll be on the platform, to see our family off, say hello to old friends, and maybe sell a few Skiving Snackboxes."
Harry smiled. "Thanks, guys. I do appreciate it. The attack is supposed to happen between ten thirty and eleven. I will be there at ten."
"As will I," Luna said.
"Me, too," Susan put in. The three had refused to talk about their relationship, but everyone knew something was going on. They just couldn't figure out what. Harry had talked about their tactics in the Ministry of Magic, so they knew Luna had been with him (he pointed out her ingenious use of what was available in the planet room), and they knew they were friends. The friendship between Harry and Susan seemed like more like a boy-friend/girl-friend thing, but what was goning on whith him and Luna? None of the three answered any questions about it. The most common theory was that Harry was going to chose between them for a marriage contract.
"There could be up to twenty four Death Eaters. . . ."
"There are only nineteen of us," Lavender pointed out.
"True, and even fewer available because I want some people on the train. I expect some Death Eater children to already be on the train by that time; I don't want them joining in. Hannah, Lavender, Katie, and Parvati? I'd like you four to make two teams to be on the train. There are six cars, but I expect most of the Death Nibblers to be together. I'm also going to talk to Minister Scrimgeour this evening and ask for a few aurors to accompany the train. However, I can't ask for too many. I doubt we're get all the Death Eaters, and if they get away and report that aurors were there and ready, then my spy could be discovered and killed, and that source of information will dry up.
"Which brings me to my last point -- your parents. Feel free to warn your parents. As a matter of fact, please do. As Lavender pointed out, we'll be outnumbered. Parents ready to fight back will be a big help. But I can't emphasize this enough -- do not, not, not tell anyone else about the possible attack, and plead with your parents to not tell either. As long as we have a spy in Voldemort's camp, we have a secret advantage."
The official meeting broke up, and it turned into a party as Neville and Padma announced their engagement. Neville had talked to his grandmother right after the first meeting, and she had initiated negotiations with Mr. Patil.
Hannah and Ernie Macmillan also announced their engagement, which brought more cheering. Susan and Luna watched from the sideline as couples seemed to spontaneously form.
"I didn't think Terry and Lavender were going to hit it off. The big boobs may have drawn him, but her mind couldn't hold him. She's not half bad as a witch, though," Susan commented.
"I think Ron and Lavender will work out, though," Luna replied. "He and Hermione disagreed too much, and while he has a nice body, she wants mental stimulation."
"I agree; wouldn't have guessed Parvati and Tony, though."
"She hangs out with Lavender, but there's some of her sister's brain behind that giggle. I've seen them study together. She's smarter than she lets on."
"She'd almost have to be."
"Don't be mean."
"Uh, oh." Susan, pointed Luna towards Angelina Johnson casting spells at a running Fred Weasley.
"What he'd do?"
Susan said, "He said something about how glad he was that his family wasn't controlled by the marriage law and I think there was something about a ball and chain."
"They've been going out for over a year, haven't they?" Fred yelled as one of the hexes hit him.
"Yes." Fred was hiding behind a tree, trying to apologize.
"He didn't realize his ball and chain would object."
Susan looked at Luna. "Are we Harry's balls and chains? That sounded dirty."
"In one respect we are. Left to his own devices he wouldn't marry anyone right now. I think he'd even avoid having friends until after he defeated the Dark Lord. But he doesn't think of us as burdens. We're more problems to be solved, and he's frightened he won't figure it out."
"What do you mean, /problems/? And why /frightened/?"
"To him, being a good husband is a task like defeating the Dark Lord, or passing a test. He wants to succeed. He's frightened that he'll hurt us if he fails to be a good husband. He doesn't even consider that we are obligated to work at it too. If we were other sorts of people, we could make this situation hell for him. But I think we'll be trying to work with him instead of against him. At least I know I will." Luna pointed out an encounter occurring a little ways from the crowd. "Hermione and Terry. What do you think?"
"Too early to tell. And I'll be trying to make this work with Harry, too."
Luna turned to Susan again and said, "I just realized something. None of us have very good role models for this. Your parents were killed when you were a baby, and you were raised by your unmarried aunt. Harry's were too, and he was raised by people that he can only use as examples of what not to do. As for me, I've been raised by my father, who, despite being a good person, has . . . . issues. Of course none of us even know of anyone who had two wives at the same time."
Susan saw Ginny coming over and changed the subject. "Oh, Hermione and Terry seem to be in a deep discussion. That's a start. Alicia looks like she's pining for George, who's at the store now. Hello, Ginny."
"Hi, Susan. Hi, Luna. What are you two talking about?"
"The various couples. The current topic is Hermione and Terry."
"They're in different houses. That will work against them," Ginny pointed out.
"True, because they won't have a contract holding them together like Neville and Padma. But they are in several of the same classes, and Hermione is a Ravenclaw at heart."
"She's also a Gryffindor," Ginny said, defending her friend.
Susan quickly said, "True. We weren't disputing that. But she and Terry will have a lot to talk about."
"You mean, unlike Ron and Hermione."
Luna said, with a distracted air, "Well, we already talked about them. How are you and Dean?"
"We're doing alright. We need more time together. We haven't seen each other much this summer. I'm glad he could make it the few times he came here."
"You'll get time in the common room."
"What about you and Harry?" Ginny asked, not looking at either girl.
"We'll just have to see," Luna answered.
Ginny jumped on that.
"Ha! So you are going out with Harry!"
"I've been coming here to see Harry every day, if that's what you mean."
"Me, too," Susan added, following Luna's lead.
"Are you dating him or not?"
"Which of us are you asking?" Luna replied.
"Either of you."
Luna shook her head. "I'm sorry, Harry's my friend, and he wouldn't want me talking about who he's going out with."
Susan added, "He's very private that way."
"Which of you is he dating?" Ginny almost yelled.
Harry appeared next to them. "Ginny, if I were to say who I'm dating, it would be like putting a large target on the person. I'm not going to do that, and I don't think anyone here wants to do that, either. So, please don't ask."
The party broke up soon after that.
Dumbledore made his way through the Ministry of Magic. There seemed to be a lot of activity for a Saturday. He grumbled to himself as he made his way to the Minister of Magic's office. He didn't pay attention to the assistant who let him into the office.
"Rufus," he said as greeting. "Is there a particular reason you needed to see me the final weekend before a new school year starts?"
"Yes, Albus there is. I have a question for you. Are you interested in fighting this war with the government, or against the government."
That caused Dumbledore to stop. He wasn't expecting this. He was expecting some sort of interference in his school again.
"What are you proposing?"
"I'm not proposing anything. I'm asking. Are you going to cooperate with the Ministry's war effort or not? I'm not Fudge. I know the Dark Lord is out there. I probably know more than you, as I have to keep the muggle government informed of our activities, and get their help."
"Help from the muggles? What can they do?"
"They can help us keep the Statute of Secrecy when criminals intent on killing muggles don't bother to observe it when they do kill them!"
"But what are you offering?"
"I'm offering a single front against the Death Eaters. We can't be at cross purposes. And we can't have loose groups interfering with the battles. Are you in or out? If you don't want to work with me, fine, but I'll toss you and your whole order in Azkaban if I get even a hint that you're keeping secrets vital to the war effort from me, or interfere in any way with the war.
"So what will it be? In or out?"
"You aren't equipped magically to fight Voldemort." If he was expecting Scrimgeour to cringe at the name, he was disappointed.
"Then you better explain quickly, or you'll be a wanted criminal again. Oh, I realize that my aurors wouldn't be able to arrest you, but you'd be holed up somewhere and your Order would be closely watched. I don't need this during the war, and I don't believe you care so little about the wizarding world to do that. So I ask you, what do you know that makes you say I can't fight Voldemort?"
Dumbledore presented a calm exterior, but inside he was in panic. He could eventually engineer a vote for a new minister, even if he was on the run, but it would take too much time and he didn't want to have to fight the ministry as well as Voldemort. Damn, he knew there was a reason he left Fudge in office all those years. At least he could be ignored.
"There is a prophecy," Dumbledore said.
"No. You can arrest me, but I won't reveal it. It's fragile and it doesn't guarantee that Voldemort will be defeated, only that he could be. If he learns anything more about it, he'll turn all his efforts into making sure it doesn't come true, and in that case we're doomed."
Scrimgeour nodded. "And what are you doing to make sure it will come true."
"I'm working on the weapon that will defeat Voldemort. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be ready for a few more years."
"Very interesting plan. Can I help in any way?"
"No, but thanks for the offer."
Scrimgeour looked at the old headmaster. Well, time to move on to what Potter had told him.
"You have a spy in Voldemort's organization?"
Dumbledore looked surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Weak, Albus, very weak response. At the Triwizard, you had Snape show Fudge his dark mark. Is Snape a spy for you, or for Voldemort?"
"Both. He passes information we deem mostly harmless to Voldemort, and he lets me know what Voldemort is planning."
"Well, here's the first test of your agreement to work with me. The information I'm going to give you, you will not tell Snape. Is that understood?"
"I understand what you're saying, but. . . ."
"But nothing. You let Snape know this, and you're through. I'm fighting this war to win. . . ."
"Is that why Stan Shunpike is in Azkaban?"
"Despite what you might believe, he was questioned under Veritaserum and admitted to passing on information to his cousin, who is marked. Once the war is over, he'll be out, but until then, he's a risk I won't take."
Dumbledore seemed to slump. "So what do you want me to do?"
"Secretly -- and that is an important part of this -- secretly get the Order of the Phoenix who don't have children going to Hogwarts into Hogsmeade on September 1st. We have heard rumors of a Death Eater raid. It could come as early as 10 AM, or at any time during the day. We don't know. But that is your first order: get your people in there to protect the town."
"I have several aurors in the Order. Do they go?"
"Shacklebolt, Tonks, and Jones can all go to Hogsmeade."
"And other auror backing?"
"Not available. Hogsmeade is your job. Protect it. They'll be looking to create terror, so be prepared."
"And the townspeople? What do I tell them?"
"Nothing. We want no word of this getting back to Voldemort. If it does, he changes plans, and our source of information dries up, if it survives at all. Do you understand?"
"But the lives that could be lost. . . ."
"And you've never held back information to protect your spy that cost some innocents their lives?" Scrimgeour glared at him. Dumbledore turned away. "I thought so. You want to save lives? You make sure your people do a good job!
"We'll talk more, and you will tell me about your weapon, Dumbledore. And it will be sooner, rather than later. We can't afford a war that lasts years."
In the waiting area outside the Minister's office, he encountered his temporary replacement from the previous school year. Delores Umbridge glared at him, while he gave her a smile.
As Dumbledore left, Scrimgeour appeared at the door of his office and said, "Delores, hope we didn't keep you waiting. Come on in. And you're early Smythe, but we might need you to arrest someone, based on Delores' information, so you should come in, too."
Dumbledore left, wondering who was being arrested. He wasn't convinced that Shunpike was guilty. He briefly considered staying to find out, but decided that one of the Order aurors would be able to get that information. Then he considered what Scrimgeour had said to him.
Dumbledore seethed as he left the Ministry. He collected his broom; it always annoyed Fudge when he flew to meetings, Fudge would have to include the travel time. But Scrimgeour was a different kind of person. Scrimgeour was the kind that did what had to be done to get his objectives; very Slytherin. Dumbledore floo-ed back to Hogwarts. How to get the order to Hogsmeade without letting anyone know what he had heard? If Scrimgeour had an accurate spy, then he wanted the inside information as much as the minister.
And where was his weapon? He might need to use the Ministry to keep Harry under control. Blast that boy!
Harry waited until Dumbledore's meeting with the Minister, then apparated Firenze and Laurel to Hogwarts, separately. Actually, he got them to the gates, and they all three walked on to the grounds. Harry had the Marauders map with him, and watched carefully to avoid any encounters. He made his way to Myrtle's bathroom, and called for the ghost.
"Hello, Harry!" she said, happily floating through a wall.
"Hi, Myrtle. I was wondering if you could do me a favor?"
"What's in it for me?" she asked with a smirk.
"My gratitude," he answered confidently.
With a great sigh of the taken-advantage-of, she answered, "Very well, what do you need."
"There's a female centaur who has moved in with Professor Firenze. I was hoping you could sort of watch over her. I don't know how ghosts and Centaurs get along, but I'd appreciate it if you could make sure that the students don't hassle her. She's rather innocent, and I don't think she could defend herself if they teased her or worse. I know you know how awful it feels to be teased, and she's in a strange place with only Firenze around, and he has to work. So if you wouldn't mind?"
She asked suspiciously, "Are you sweet on her?"
"Worse, I'm responsible for her. So would you help me watch out for her?"
"Responsible! You didn't get her in trouble, did you?" she asked with an angry glare.
"Trouble?" Harry asked innocently, until he realized what she was really accusing him of. "NO! Never! We're not even the same species!"
"All right, Harry. But you owe me."
Harry wasn't sure what would be involved in owing a ghost a favor. "I know. Thanks. And if she does get in trouble, please find me or a teacher as quickly as possible."
"I'm not going to watch her all the time."
"I'm not asking you to, but I know you know more about what goes on around here than most teachers, and you'll know when the trouble makers are likely to attack."
They talked a little longer; then Harry took the secret passageway to the Chamber of Secrets. Once there, he called Dobby.
"Harry Potter sir has work for Dobby?" the elf asked after an enthusiastic greeting.
"Not at the moment, but I was wondering -- you can apparate yourself here, even though it's in Hogwarts anti-apparation wards; how is that possible?"
"House elves do not apparate, Harry Potter, sir, they pop. House elves do not pay attention to wards when they pop."
"Is there any way of stopping a house elf from popping into here?"
"No, Harry Potter sir, the house elves can always get to the house elves master when the master calls the house elves."
Harry deciphered the repetitious statement and asked, "So, if the master can't call -- because he's magically stopped from speaking, the house elf couldn't get to him?"
"That is right, Harry Potter sir."
"Thanks, Dobby! Oh, one more question? Can you carry someone when you pop?"
"Oh, yes, Harry Potter sir. Dobby can pop with someone."
"Would you pop me to Firenze's classroom?"
"Yes Harry Potter, sir. Dobby is happy to carry you!"
He didn't really carry Harry, he just touched him. There was a popping sound, and Harry was traveling through walls and rooms and arrived at the fake forest that was Firenze's classroom, and went tumbling as the magical transportation stopped.
"Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is so sorry! He will punish himself for throwing you on floor!"
"No, Dobby, I'm alright. I'd rather you just help me up."
Laurel and Firenze came over to him.
"Hi. I was wondering if you'd like me to help get a hut built for you, so you have some privacy," Harry told them. They were interested, and using a combination of transfiguration and the building charms that Mr. Weasley taught him, he created a hut very like the one on the Bones' property. He furnished it and was about to go, when the Centaur's stopped him.
"It is traditional to bless a dwelling after it is made," Firenze told him. "I would do it, but you created the whole hut without help, so it is not my place. And you are stallion to the herd."
Harry felt nervous as he asked, "How do I do this?"
"You give your blessing and invoke the powers of nature to bless the house and all who dwell in it."
"I'll try, but please don't be mad if I mess this up. I've never done anything like this before."
The Centaurs just waited patiently for him.
He raised his arms and aimed his palms at the hut -- he wasn't sure why, but it felt right. "I bless this hut, and , er, call upon the powers of nature to bless it and it's inhabitants. May their lives here be happy and fruitful, safe, and healthy."
He brought down his arms, and turned to the Centaurs. Laurel's eyes were wide.
"Did you mean that?"
"Uh, yes. Yes, I did." Harry wasn't sure what was going on. She leaped at him, and lifted him in a hug, turning her human torso from side to side, she half spun him.
"Oh, my stallion! You have made me so happy!"
Firenze gently lifted Harry from Laurel's arms.
"Thank you, Harry Potter. You are a good stallion to follow."
"Well, I have to be going. I'll see you in a few days. If you need anything give Dobby a call."
He noticed they were kissing, and quietly left the room. He checked the Map and used a door near the greenhouses to leave the building and avoided meeting Dumbledore. He entered the Forbidden Forest and apparated away.
Harry looked around the Platform Nine and Three Quarters. The place was filling up. He had noticed a number of Slytherins arriving early, including Draco., but fewer than he expected. Perhaps Bellatrix didn't choose many Death Eaters who had children still in school. As he expected, they congregated in one car. It was the one right behind the prefects meeting car. That would make it easier for the girls he assigned to watch it.
After Draco had shown up, he reversed the normal train meeting by barging in on Draco, rather than the other way around.
"Hello, pure-crud," Harry said, as Draco head swung round to see who had opened the door to the compartment. Harry noticed something from Draco when he did -- something undefinable, but there.
"Potter! Get out!"
"What? Only you can barge in on someone during the train ride? Or is it just that your body guard isn't here yet? What are you objecting to?
"I'm objecting to being near you!" Draco was going to go on, but Harry interrupted him.
"Fine, unlike some mental deficients, I know when I'm not wanted." He left. But on the floor was a bit of string, disillusioned, that Harry had dropped. He closed the door, and played it out to the next compartment. Carefully placing it under the door here, he handed the other end to Katie Bell.
"Draco being here so early means he's probably been warned of something, if not asked to help. I'd like you and Pavarti to listen in to his conversation and try and let us know if he does know when things will be happening."
"What is this?" she asked, holding the virtually invisible string.
"A little something Fred and George thought up. Extendable ears. Stick that end in your ear, and it's like you're in the other room. Good luck."
"You too, Harry."
Harry returned to the platform, and wandered around, like the other DA members. It wasn't even ten O'clock, and very few people were there yet.
After ten, the platform became more and more crowded. Harry signaled the DA members and they got into their groups of two and moved to their assigned areas. Fred and George, true to their word, had a box full of wheezes, and spent time selling and demonstrating them. Harry noticed that only one of them did, though. The other kept a sharp eye out.
As it got close to 10:30 Parvati came rushing up to him.
"It's going to happen soon. Crabbe and Goyle have shown up, Malfoy and company are getting ready to attack through the window. He's targeting you."
"Thanks, Parvati. They're not going to go into the train, are they?"
"Not that they said."
"Maybe lock their door, just to be on the safe side."
She nodded and went back to the train.
Harry quickly moved to the other DA members, many of whom had their parents nearby, and warned them. Even the Weasleys were there early for a change. Harry had spoken to them briefly, but had not told them yet. He had an idea, and went over to them, and Hermione and Ron.
"Hello, mates. Better get your wands ready, Parvati's been listening to Malfoy's compartment, and something is going to happen very soon."
"Harry," Mrs. Weasley asked in a concerned voice, "Do you think there will be an attack?"
"Actually, yes I do. If Death Eaters appear, shoot first, shoot to kill, please, because they will be doing the same thing."
"Oh, Harry, it hasn't come to that. . . ."
"It has, Mrs. Weasley. Don't hesitate." He moved off.
"If there's going to be an attack, you better get on the train, Ron. You too, Hermione. And we need to find your sister."
"Sorry, Mum, but this is our assigned spot. You can help by keeping an eye out."
It was strange, as Harry stood in the middle of the platform, slowly turning, wand in hand. It could have been the eight groups of people who had their wands in hand, and seemed to be waiting for an attack, but the noise level of the platform started dropping. The aurors standing with the old guard who was stationed at the magical entranceway became suddenly nervous and pulled out their wands.
The minutes ticked by, and the noise restarted, but the unspoken warning had been given -- parents were getting their children on the train as quickly as they could.
Then it happened. Despite every preparation, when the Death Eaters appeared, about half the DA were shocked. Harry started casting explosive curses at them as soon as they appeared. Luna and Susan joined them. The Death Eaters apparated all over the platform -- there were Death Eaters everywhere.
And then it was over. Just like that, they apparated in, and apparated out. There was screaming and yelling and crying and traumatized people who had guts and blood on them, and families who had been killed with the killing curse. Fourteen Death Eaters lay dead, the rest, whole or damaged, had apparated away. Six families had lost someone that day, including two parents of Hufflepuffs, two parents of younger Gryffindors, Mr. Patil, and, the youngest to die, Harry's dorm mate Seamus.
Dean was holding a shaking and crying Ginny. Harry ran over to them.
"The bastard saw Seamus bring up his wand and killed him. Seamus didn't even get a spell off," she was saying with variations, over and over. The Death Eater was in two pieces, both Dean and Ginny having hit him with explosive curses in the chest.
Harry gave Ginny a pat on the back and a few words to say it wasn't her fault, and went to join the Patils. Parvati and Lavender had come out of the train to be with Padma, Neville, and Mrs. Patil. Neville had an arm around Padma as she cried.
Harry noticed that there was a wall in front of the window to Draco's compartment. He learned later Katie had conjured it the moment trouble appeared. She thought it would keep the Slytherins from joining in the attack. Harry went into the train to find that no one had apparated into it, and Katie and Hannah were in the "Slytherin" car holding them all in their compartments. He let them know what had happened outside, and thanked them for the wall.
A few minutes later a group of aurors showed up. Harry noticed that they were, to a man and woman, older, or limping, or overweight. He realized that these were held back from Diagon Alley to assist with the aftermath here. They took statements from most of the adults who were still there, looked at the Death Eaters, of which Harry only recognized one as being a former Slytherin student, and got the train on its way. Padma, Parvati, and Neville didn't get on the train, in the end. The DA gathered around the Patils and let them know they had friends.
Seamus' body was removed with the others. His mother couldn't be reached before they took it away. Harry felt that the woman who had considered removing Seamus from Hogwarts would spend the rest of her life regretting not doing just that. Harry knew how it felt to have made a decision that got someone killed.
While most of the DA went to the Prefect meeting, and Harry, Susan, Luna, and Lavender sat in silence in a compartment.
Harry looked at his friends. "I had a really good summer. I went on vacation. I did what I wanted to do. I wasn't watched and locked up. I enjoyed myself with my friends. I avoided talking to Dumbledore.
"It wasn't supposed to end like this. We were supposed to have stopped them, not get ourselves killed."
Susan and Luna each took one of his hands, ignoring Lavender's unspoken questions.
Susan answered him, "We did stop them, Harry. There were twenty of them, and we got over half of them. A lot more people would be dead if we hadn't done what we did. A lot more people! So don't you go blaming yourself! You were a hero."
He shook his head. "It was such a good summer. It wasn't supposed to end like this."
- - - - - - - - - -
Author Note: There will be about a months delay before I start posting the next book in the series, "Autumn of Discontent."