Chapter Thirty-One: Goodbye Hogwarts
The rest of Harry's year at Hogwarts passed in a blissful gaze of parties and celebration. As the youngest person to ever achieve the Order of Merlin First-Class, he was receiving more and more fame by the week, and by the time the last day came, two biographies of him had been published and initiated onto the Flourish and Blotts best-seller list. All too soon, Harry's last ever day at Hogwarts had come. He spent it out in the grounds with all his friends, laughing and joking, sharing sweets, and getting ready for the Graduation Ball that night.
Harry was definitely looking forward to it. Traditionally at the Graduation Ball, a lot of students ended up drunk, though of course, the teachers never saw any alcohol and couldn't be bothered handed out detentions anyway. There was a rumour that the teachers often joined in on the festivities too.
After an evening picnic out in the grounds by the lake, Kainda and Hermione headed off up to the castle to get ready, leaving Ron, Draco and Harry to finish off the sandwiches. Ron was telling them all about the dress robes Hermione had said she would be wearing.
"And she says there's like a lilac sash thing around the waist. Satin or silk, I don't know which. Hermione says there's a high slit in the leg, but I don't know if she means high-high or Hermione-high."
"Most likely Hermione-high," said Draco idly. "Also known as low. You'll be going with Kainda, Harry?"
Harry nodded, trying not to smile. He hadn't seen Kainda's dress robes yet, but Ginny had told him privately that they were 'very nice'.
"Who are you going with?" Ron asked Draco, taking a few grapes and popping them into his mouth, so he resembled a hamster.
"Nobody," said Draco coolly. "Though it isn't like I didn't get offers. Millicent Bulstrode and Pansy both asked me this morning."
"And you said no?" said Harry. "I thought you liked Pansy."
"I did at one time," yawned Draco, stretching out in the grass. "But I don't anymore. I have higher standards. I shall, from this moment on, date women who are Aphrodite and no less."
"What about Snape's sister?" said Ron.
Draco's mouth twitched a little. "Well. Perhaps one or two exceptions."
Harry and Ron both smirked at each other, and continued to eat. The ball started at eight o' clock, and would be going on until finish. Judging by the usual length of Hogwarts parties, they would still be dancing and drinking when they were being shepherded onto the train the next morning. Harry had already packed his things up for the next day, as he had the sneaking suspicion (or perhaps hope) that he would be too hung-over in the morning to do it.
"Sirius wouldn't like that," said Ron vaguely.
"Oh? He wouldn't? And why?" said Draco, coldly.
Ron thought for a moment, and then started to explain, with a lot of hand gestures. "Sirius is your second cousin... and Andralyn is Snape's half-sister. So if you went off with Andralyn, then Sirius and Snape would be related."
"They already are, in a way," said Harry. Since the night of Voldemort's fall, Sirius, Snape and Peter had all been highly protective him, and he was rarely out of sight of at least one of them. Snape had explained the reason to him. Even if Voldemort was gone, a lot of dangerous Death Eaters were still out in the world, and would be targeting him, furious at the loss of their master. Snape had also given Harry some more good news, by showing him his left fore-arm. The Dark Mark was gone, as was Draco's.
Wondering which of the three was looking out for him now, he glanced up at the castle. On the steps, he could see Pebblebank, Sirius and Lupin sitting and talking. Pebblebank's glittery orange robes made her sparkle in the sun.
"Wonder what happened to Rookwood," said Ron thoughtfully, tucking into another sandwich.
"I know they raided Rookwood Manor," said Draco. "It was in the Daily Prophet. They found a few of his brothers, and his wife and daughter, but not him. Isabis has been taken to Azkaban. I think the child's gone to her sister, until they can find a proper home for it."
Harry lay back on the blanket, and stretched out with a yawn. It was a very lazy sort of evening. The sun was glowing just on the horizon, and everything was just dimming down, ready for night-time. He checked his watch. It was half-past seven.
"We'd better get going," he said. "It starts in half an hour and Draco needs to straighten his hair."
"I do not," snapped Draco. One of his hands shot up to his hair and started smoothing it between his fingers.
Ron chuckled. "Sure, Malfoy." He sat up, and stretched, getting to his feet and putting all the left-overs into the basket as Harry rolled up the blanket. Draco got their bags, and the three of them set off to the castle, talking enthusiastically about the ball.
By quarter to eight, all the Gryffindor seventh year boys were ready and waiting in the common room for their dates. Ron was naturally going with Hermione, Seamus was waiting for Lavendar, Dean and Parvati were going together, and Neville was going on his own. Draco had offered to set him up with Millicent Bulstrode, but Neville had declined. Harry would be going down to the entrance hall at eight to find Kainda, but for now, he was waiting with Ron.
They heard a door open at the top of the girls' staircase. Ron's head whizzed round to stare at the entrance, as Hermione, Parvati and Lavendar all appeared at the bottom of the stairs. Parvati was wearing a very pretty gold dress, and a lot of well-chosen jewellery. Lavendar was in a rather lacey pink dress, her hair up in a bun with a sparkly butterfly clip fluttering on the side of her head. As Ron looked at Hermione, his eyes nearly fell out of his head. Harry had to admit she did look very pretty. She was wearing lilac satin to the floor, with a slit up the side, and a cream sash around her waist. She had pulled her hair back off her face, and there was a little jewelled tiara glimmering on top of her head.
Ron stood up, and went over to her. Hermione smiled shyly. "What do you think?" she said. Receiving no answer, she took Ron's chin, and moved his gaze up from her chest. "Ron."
Seamus took Lavendar's arm, and they left, followed by Dean and Parvati. Harry and Neville went after Ron and Hermione. Harry wasn't surprised to find Sirius waiting outside, grinning.
"There you are," he said. "Thought I was going to have to break in and come get you. Katie's waiting in the entrance hall for you."
"She's called Kainda," said Harry with a smile. "Are you coming?"
"Would I ever pass up a chance for a party?" said Sirius. He was wearing dark red dress robes, and his Order of Merlin was pinned to his chest. He'd been wearing it solidly since the ceremony and was now staying in Lupin's office with him. Harry had gone to see Lupin and Sirius one day, and had actually seen Sirius staggering out of the shower with his Order of Merlin pinned to the towel around his waist.
They all walked down to the entrance hall. It was full of seventh years, all talking excitedly. Harry soon spotted Kainda through the crowd, and hurried over. She smiled at him. She looked even prettier than Hermione, in Harry's opinion. Her dress was a shade of dark green moss, and made of a very slinky sort of velvet. An emerald pendant glittered on a thin silver chain around her neck.
"You look beautiful," said Harry, giving her a gentle hug.
"So do you," she grinned.
Draco came wandering over through the crowd. Harry wasn't surprised to see he was dressed rather grandly, in black silk robes over a dress shirt. His hair was tied in a sleek ponytail with a black ribbon. He gave Harry a small smile and a nod as he approached, and then leant down, muttering in Harry's ear. "I've got us a supplier."
"Of what?" said Harry.
"Firewhiskey," said Draco with another sly smile. "He says he can get us some wizarding wine as well. Taken from the kitchens earlier, meant for the End-of-Term Staff Party. I'm also selling these." He reached into his pocket, and showed Harry a small object, like a very shiny blue peddle cut in half. "It's a Privacy Protector. Just stick it on the back of the door, and there's not a locking charm on earth that will open it. Also activates a very strong silencing charm. Interested?"
"No thanks," said Harry, with a slight smile. "I don't think I'll get a chance to use it. Ron will have beaten us into the dormitory."
"Only five galleons," said Draco. "Nice offer. If you want, I'll sell Weasley a faulty one, so it actually draws attention, and activates a nice sonorus charm. I'll throw in a list of passwords to the dormitories too, if I have to."
Harry grinned. "If Hermione or Ernie find out about that..."
Draco snorted. "They already have. I promised Hermione I wouldn't sell any more and I'd give the list straight to McGonagall, and I had to give Macmillan a free Privacy Protector to shut him up."
The doors to the Great Hall were slowly opening. Harry put his arm gently around Kainda's waist, and they walked inside. The whole room was decorated in glittering white streamers, confetti falling constantly from the ceiling, and sparkling sparks all over the walls. A long table of food had been set up along the far wall, and a side door lead into the courtyard, where Harry could see tables for two lit by candles. The platform Professor Pebblebank used for Miscellaneous Magic was out, and as the seventh years walked in, a band seated in the middle started to play. Harry took Kainda's hand, and led her over to the dance floor. Ron was moving in the direction of the food, but Hermione pulled him over to Harry and Kainda. More people were joining them too, and they started to dance. Hermione, very cleverly, put her hand on Ron's shoulder to nudge him just that tiny bit further away than he currently was. Kainda, on the other hand, leant close to Harry. He put his arms around her.
"Is your stomach okay?" he asked.
She nodded, and smiled. "Of course I'm okay. Just because I'm wearing a dress doesn't mean I'm made of glass." She draped her arms around his neck, and leant against him. They danced like that. It was nothing quite as energetic as the other couples, but Harry didn't mind at all. Kainda's hair smelt strangely sweet, and the scent played under his nose while they danced.
"It's kiwi-scented shampoo," she said, correctly answering his question, before he had even asked. She smiled. "I guess you like it."
"Mm-hmm," he said, smiling into her hair. "You won't believe what Draco offered me earlier."
"Privacy Protector?" she said.
"How did you know?"
"He offered me one too," she laughed softly. She kissed at his cheek. "I think Ron's bought one."
Harry grinned. "I thought he would." He spun her round gently and slowly, still enjoying the scent of her hair and how warm she was. "Hey, Kainda?"
"Tomorrow, where are you going on the train? I mean... you'll be heading home, won't you? Back to your mum and dad..."
"I should be," said Kainda with a sigh. "But I really don't want to. It's only so long before they work out that my parents were Death Eaters, and then I'll just get kicked out anyway. But there's nowhere else I can go..."
"Sure there is," he said, smiling. "You can come to Grimmauld Place, with me, Draco, Sirius and all the Weasleys."
"Honestly, Harry?" She looked at him, with hope and gratitude shining in her eyes. "You're so sweet," she said, tracing her fingers through the hair over his temple. "Thankyou..."
He grinned. "It's no problem. It'll be nice to have you there.
"Is it still your house, or has Sirius Black taken it back? Seeing as though he rose from the dead and all."
"We're both going to own it," said Harry. The song ended, and he put an arm around her waist, gently leading her over towards the food. "It should be fun, over this summer. I mean, we're all back together again."
"Where's Professor Snape going?" she asked.
Harry felt a minute pang in his chest. "He's staying at Hogwarts." This was an issue he hadn't really come to full terms with yet. Severus was staying at the school where Harry would probably never be going back to, and their meetings would be very sparse. The workload of a professor and an auror was huge. There weren't even any Order meetings from now on. Harry knew that they had their telepathic link, and the bond would somehow continue to pull them together every now and then, but they would never be quite as close anymore.
Snape was at the table of food when Harry and Kainda walked over. He gave Harry a fleeting smile, and handed him a plate. Harry, whose happy thoughts had been smothered by the prospect of never seeing Snape again, took the plate and added just a few small pieces of food.
"I'll go and get a table near Ron and Hermione," said Kainda, and she went off across the dancefloor, leaving Snape and Harry alone. Harry had the feeling she had done this purposely. He was extremely grateful to her.
"Um," he said, by way of greeting.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Everything alright, Potter? Not drunk yet, I see."
"I... want to talk to you," said Harry. "About... leaving."
"Yes, I thought this would be cropping up fairly soon." Snape was adding some garlic to his plate of salad. "You've been panicking as you will never see me again. Correct?"
"Correct," said Harry. There was no pointing in beating about the bush.
"Then I have to disappoint you," said Snape. "You will be seeing me again. Aurors need to do several years of courses and training before they can be known as that, and surprisingly enough, I teach the Defence Against the Dark Arts courses. I will be tutoring you for the next three to five years."
Harry tried not to look too happy about this. "At Hogwarts?"
"No," said Snape. "At the ministry's headquarters. There is a lecture room, and the classes normally take place in there, on dates that I choose to fit around my schedule at Hogwarts. They begin in September, but until then, you will be pleased to know that I will drop in every week, to check up on you and assess the damage Black has caused in my absence."
"Every week? Always?"
"Always." Snape's black eyes glittered, ever so slightly. "You aren't escaping that easily, you know."
Harry laughed. He got some food, left Snape talking to Professor McGonagall, and made his way out to the courtyard. Everything was glittering with the soft lights of fairies, flittering around the ivy-strewn wall, and all his friends had brought several tables together. He took his plate over. They spent a long time chatting and eating, just enjoying each others' company, before Draco got up and went back into the hall. A few minutes later, he came back with a black bag over his shoulder. Hermione watched him with a frown as he brought it over.
"And what's that?" she said, shrewdly.
Draco sat down in his seat, opened up the back, and took out about six red and orange bottles. "Firewhiskey," he grinned. He twisted the lid off one bottle, and took a swig. He shivered. "Beautiful."
Ron took the bottle off him. Hermione opened her mouth to complain, but he had already taken a drink, and coughed, spluttering. Draco hit him on the back and laughed.
"Soft touch," he said. He offered the bottle to Harry. "Come on Harry. Last night at Hogwarts."
Harry took it, and had a drink before he could think better of it. It burnt down his throat, not the warming feeling of butterbeer, but far more powerful and peppery. He managed to muffle a cough, and handed the bottle back to Draco with a grin. "Ow."
Draco laughed and took a few more gulps, before Kainda snatched it off him and downed some. Harry was careful not to drink too much of the firewhiskey, because he was curious to see just who could withstand the effects longest. Draco was still perfectly calm and cool, even when three out of six bottles were gone, but Ron was turning a wonderful shade of magenta, and kept laughing for no reason at all. Kainda was talking rather loudly, and after just a few swigs from the bottle, Hermione was rather giggly.
Draco was waving one of the bottles in Harry's face. "Come on... you've hardly had any. Last chance before we leave school and become responsible adults."
Harry took it, and opened the lid. He drank it. He was careful to just take the odd sip, so it didn't burn out his throat, but before long, he was used to the fiery feeling it left. He was almost enjoying it. He listened to the others laughing about completely silly things, and gradually, he started to see just how funny they were. Ron did such a wonderful impression of Professor McGonagall. Draco kept giving him more, and then Ron tried to dance and fell over. Some more things happened, that just blended together in a blur of laughing and joking, and then Sirius joined them. Draco went away, and came back with more alcohol. Some more blurry, happy time passed by, this time with Sirius, who was roaring with laughter so loud that birds in the Forbidden Forest were flying from their nests. Finally, it was very dark, and they were all still out in the courtyard. The only thing that brought Harry out of his drunken blur was the door opening. He didn't turn to see who it was. He took another long drink, and then noticed everybody going quiet. He looked up, one of his eyelids drooping down, and the bottle still in his hand. Everything seemed to be swaying pleasantly from side to side, but he could make out the figure of Snape standing before him, with a disapproving frown in place.
He tried to hide the bottle under the table, and even managed to suppress a burp, but it got out next second in a loud hiccup.
"I'm not drunk," he said, with another hiccup.
Snape's frown darkened. He turned to Sirius. "And this is your idea of keeping an eye on the boy?"
Sirius, who had consumed at least twice as much firewhiskey as Harry, was too busy laughing to answer. Eventually, he toppled off his chair and just laid on the floor, laughing like mad.
A hand gripped Harry's neck, and he tilted his face up. To his surprise, Snape was standing next to him. He had moved fast, without catching Harry's attention either. Harry dazedly wondered how he had done this, before trying to put on his innocent expression again. His left eye was now practically closed, and he was aware of his hair being even more messy than normal. He hiccuped again.
And a smirk curled Snape's face. "Very well. Malfoy, go to Boot and get some more alcohol." He dropped a handle of gold into Draco's hand. "I'm going to teach Potter how to handle his drink."
Everybody cheered. Draco returned with more firewhiskey, and Harry and Snape started to drink.
The first sensation that Harry became aware of when he woke the next morning was lying on something hard and painful, and in a funny shape. Steps, he dimly recognised. He also had a headache that would kill a buffalo. He groaned, and opened one eye. Everything was so painfully bright that he shut it again. How much had he drank last night? He vaguely remembered some sort of drinking game, and being dared to dance on a table. Judging by the pain in his right shin, he had also fallen off the table. He groaned, and just snuggled closer to whoever it was he was holding.
Then the significance of that action hit him, and his eyes snapped open. He stared around. He was lying on the front steps of the castle, wearing the sash of Hermione's robes around his neck like a scarf. He was also sporting what looked like Kainda's high heels. He blinked, and then looked up. Ron was cuddled up to him, wearing Hermione's dress robes, and full make-up. Harry just stared at his cousin in absolute horror, before Ron made a sleepy grunt, and came round with a jolt.
He stared at Harry, who stared back. There was a moment's pause, and then Ron said, slowly, "I think this is one of those, "now let's never mention it again" moments."
"Agreed," said Harry.
"Um... have you any idea why I'm wearing a dress?"
"No. Why have I got Kainda's high heels on?"
Ron sat up with a groggy groan, and rubbed his eyes. "I remember... something about a dare... we had to run to Hagrid's, but they locked us out..." He looked at his hands, smeared with red lipstick and eyeliner. "Uhh..."
Harry felt as though he had recently been run over, but he managed to stagger to his feet, and lean against the castle doors for support. "What time is it?"
Ron squinted at his watch. "I think that's a six."
"Come on," said Harry, sleepily, fighting the throb in his head. "Let's get to Gryffindor Tower and wash off your make-up before the whole school sees..."
He pushed open the doors, and they both almost fell into the entrance hall. Harry's legs didn't seem to want to move. After nearly breaking his ankle trying to walk in the high heels, he took them off. Ron was shuffling along in his dress, and fiercely ignoring the sniggers of the portraits. When they turned into the corridor where the Fat Lady hung, they saw Sirius lying face-down and spread-eagled on the floor, snoring like a pig. Harry went over, and pushed his godfather in the side. Sirius grunted at him and swatted him away.
"Sirius," Harry groaned. He flipped Sirius over. "C'mon... wake up..."
Footsteps came down the corridor after him. Harry looked around groggily, and saw Snape there, bright-eyed and perfectly awake. "Ah," he said crisply. "Good morning. And how was your sleep?"
Harry just groaned in reply.
Snape snickered. "And you will be pleased to know that I managed to buy Mr Malfoy's roll of film from his camera, for ten galleons. A very interesting set of photographs it is too. Perhaps you would care to have a look sometime."
Harry covered his face with his hands, and just left Sirius to lie on the floor and snore. "Oh, what did I do last night? Just tell me it now, get it over with."
Snape smirked. "Ah, plenty of things, Potter, though I daresay you will find out in due time. By the way, Weasley, Granger will probably want her underwear back. I suggest you retrieve it from the head of the gargoyle in front of Dumbledore's office fairly soon before the first years have a chance to see it."
The journey on the Hogwarts Express was a very emotional one for Harry. None of them really wanted to see the castle growing smaller in the distance, as the train headed away over the horizon, as it was putting an end to a very happy part of their lives. Though as Hermione reminded them all, it was the start of an even better one. It was still hard to keep this in mind, as Harry realised it was the last ever time he would sit on the Hogwarts Express. He had said goodbye to all his teachers in the entrance hall, and they had all wished him luck in life. It was particularly hard to leave Lupin, Alrister and Dumbledore. He knew that Lupin would be visiting over the summer, and Alrister said he would drop in for dinner a few times, but ultimately, Harry was facing the prospect of never really seeing them again. Goodbye was a painful thing to say.
The sun was setting as the Hogwarts Express snaked around a corner, and Platform 9 and ¾. The talk had turned to what they were doing next in life.
"Mum and Dad have given me a little money, so I can get a little house somewhere in Hogsmeade and start looking for a job," said Hermione, brightly.
Neville shrugged. "I think I'm just going back to Gran, at least for the moment. I want my own house someday though."
"And everybody else is coming to my house," said Harry.
"Um," said Ron. Harry looked at him. Ron moved a little closer to Hermione. "I'm moving in with 'Mione, soon," said Ron with a smile. "You know, in Hogsmeade."
Harry grinned. "Great! You've got to come and visit though, at least every week. And have us all over for dinner."
The train came to stop at Platform 9 and ¾, and smoke billowed from the engine. Harry and all his friends got their luggage, climbed out, shut the door, and then stopped to watch the Hogwarts Express move out of sight. Harry felt an odd feeling. It was like sadness, but also pride and independence. Seeing the school train go for the last time was almost a sign that he was grown up now. There was a whole world waiting for him now.
Ron put an arm around Hermione. She hugged him, and gave him a kiss. "I'll see you soon," she said, with a smile. She then hugged everybody else, wished them luck, and wheeled her luggage away through the barrier into the muggle world. Neville waved and called goodbye, and went off with his grandmother, and then Luna's father came walking across the station. He was a lot like Luna, with rather bulging eyes, and a very dazed look about him.
To Harry's great surprise, following behind him was Professor Feather. Luna hugged her father, and then the professor. She greeted her with, "Hello, Auntie..."
"She's your auntie?" said Harry, surprised. "Why didn't you tell us?"
Luna shrugged mildly. "You never asked."
"Wait," said Ron, as Luna turned to go. He hurried over, reached into his pocket, and took out Sneezy. "He wants to say goodbye to Bucket."
Luna held Bucket around the middle, and presented him to Sneezy. Sneezy petted Bucket's nose. "G'bye, cak." Bucket mewed and pawed at Sneezy. All of them waved as Luna went off across the platform with her father.
"Well," said Harry, turning to Ron, Ginny, Kainda and Draco. He smiled. "Shall we get home then?"
Kainda took his hand, and they all nodded. Together, they walked through the barrier, into King's Cross. Harry felt another pang, as he realised it was probably the last time he ever went through that wall. He glanced back, wanting just one last look, but he was too late. The barrier was sealed over.
Oddly enough, it wasn't the last time he saw Platform 9 and ¾. For at that moment, in the ministry building, a representative was writing out the NEWT results, and looking for an owl to send them to Hogwarts. About halfway through his scroll was the name "Harry James Potter", and when his grades arrived on Professor McGonagall's desk, he would be receiving a rather unexpected surprise.
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