Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ AN UNEXPECTED MESSAGE ( Chapter 6 )
Harry Potter walked through King’s Cross station, not wheeling a trunk or an owl in a cage, but carrying a small red leather suitcase. The station looked unfamiliar to him. Instead of groups of wizarding families, it was full only of Muggles.
The last time Harry had been in King’s Cross he had been returning from Hogwarts. It had been a sad journey. Many of Harry’s friends had died in the last great battle against Lord Voldemort, and the school itself had nearly been destroyed. Harry had never been able to bring himself to return. The former head of his house, Professor McGonagall, was now the headmistress, and she had several times invited him to visit. He had always politely refused.
Now, however, things were different. Harry had received a message – an impossible message. It was a message that he couldn’t possibly refuse – so he was taking the train to Hogwarts, with an ancient suitcase borrowed from Arthur Weasley, into which he’d thrown an assortment of clothes. It had the initials J.H.W.W. engraved in faded gold. Some Weasley cousin or uncle, no doubt.
He'd debated whether to simply apparate to Hogsmeade, but he still didn’t feel confident in his abilities to go that far. He could use his broomstick, but it was a long way to fly, and he didn’t want to arrive exhausted. The train remained the traditional way to travel to Hogwarts, and as with so much in the Wizarding world, tradition outweighed convenience.
He strode towards the metal barrier that stood between platforms 9 and 10. He remembered what a shock it was the first time he had walked through it to platform 9¾ on the other side – or the equal shock when he and Ron Weasley had tried to pass through the following year, and smacked into it. He wasn’t entirely sure that it would work this time either. He’d never attempted to get to platform 9¾ except to catch the special school express, and this was the summer holidays.
He swung his suitcase forward just before he reached the wall and it passed through, with Harry following. He found himself back on platform 9¾ – but it too looked very different. Back then, Harry could hardly move on the platform for shrieking children, anxious mothers and pleading little brothers and sisters. Now, it was entirely empty. Not even a single porter could be seen. It felt eerie, ghost-like – almost like the experience Harry had had when he’d been halfway between life and death, and had seen Professor Dumbledore in a dream like vision of the station. Professor Dumbledore, who had died two years previously.
The train was there, though. The Hogwarts express, looking the same as ever – except that as Harry walked beside it looking through the windows, each carriage was completely empty. But up ahead the engine was puffing out smoke and steam, as if ready to depart. Harry quickly glanced at his watch. He had had so many different wizard watches, but each of them seemed to do something other than tell the time. The watch that Molly Weasley had given him for his seventeenth birthday was one of his most precious possessions, but Harry had never properly understood what its many hands and dials actually indicated. In the end, Harry had bought a second-hand Muggle watch. It was clockwork – Harry had found that electrical devices tended to malfunction in the wizard world. It was nearly time for the train to depart. Harry chose a carriage at random, and climbed aboard, dragging his suitcase after him.
A few moments later the train departed. Harry wondered if someone would pass by with the sweet trolley. After an hour or so, he realized that they probably wouldn’t. He had had a large breakfast, which Mrs Weasley had forced on him, and had felt quite bloated – but he was glad of it now. The train journey would take most of the day, and he hadn’t brought any food with him.
Staring out at the countryside, he gradually dozed off. He found himself dreaming that he was back at Hogwarts, walking to the headmaster’s office. Usually he’d looked forward to seeing Dumbledore, but for some reason he had a terrible sense of dread. He was his real age when the dream started, but as he walked through the corridors and up the moving staircases, he reverted to his eleven-year-old self. The scar on his forehead was burning.
He reached the gargoyle and wanted more than anything to run away, but found himself saying “sherbet lemon”. The gargoyle swung away, and he stepped onto the moving spiral staircase. It swept him up to the familiar confines of the Headmaster’s study. There, standing behind his desk, was the figure of the man he most admired in the world – Albus Dumbledore. He smiled at Harry, and then his expression changed to one of alarm. “Go back,” he seemed to be saying, though Harry could not hear anything.
A familiar voice shouted from behind Harry. “Avada Kedavra!” There was a flash of green light, and Dumbledore was flying through the air. It wasn’t Dumbeldore’s office, it was the Astronomy Tower, and Dumbledore was hurled backwards over the battlements, crashing to the rocks below, dead before he hit them.
Harry turned around and saw what he knew had been behind him all the time, waiting for Harry to say the password and let him in. Lord Voldemort leered at Harry, his hideous noseless face even more snakelike than before.
“No!” Harry shrieked. “You’re dead! You’re dead!”
Voldemort gave a hideous black smile, and raised his wand – the Elder Wand that Harry had taken from him. “Oh, Harry. So were you, and so was he. Nothing really dies. Avad…”
Harry’s scream woke him up. He looked around, and the carriage was dark. He felt relieved that there was no-one around to hear him. When he’d shared a dormitory with Ron, Seamus and Neville, he’d always been embarrassed when his nightmares had woken the others. This dream, at least, was only a dream, and not a vision of Lord Voldemort’s thoughts.
The train was almost at Hogsmeade station. Harry stood up and collected his case from the rack. He opened it, and donned his wizard robes. The clothes he wore in King’s Cross Station would be as out of place in Hogwarts as his robes would be in London.
The station looked no different from before. There had been no battle there.
There was a carriage waiting outside the station, drawn by a Thestral. There had been a time when only Harry, Luna Lovegood and a handful of others could see the Thestrals. That wasn’t the case on that last morning, when weeping, shattered children were brought to the train to return to their families. They could all see the Thestrals, because they’d all seen death.
Harry could make out almost nothing through the darkness as the carriage made its way up to the castle. He was grateful. He didn’t want to see what had happened to Hogwarts – the one place he loved more than any other, the only place he’d ever felt safe and secure – but the place on which he felt he’d brought down death and destruction.
The carriage stopped at the gates. Harry could see the Hogwarts coat of arms in its normal place – but there seemed to be something different about it. He reached for his wand. There was the faintest of cracks just visible where it had been shattered, before he had repaired it.
“Lumos,” he said, and directed a thin beam of light at the coat of arms. It looked slightly different in some way that Harry at first couldn’t identify. The same four animals were there – the lion of Gryffindor, the badger of Hufflepuff, the eagle of Ravenclaw, and the sinister snake of Slytherin. He couldn’t tell what the difference was – and then it came to him. The yellow cross which divided the four symbols was gone. What could it mean?
He could hear a creaking from the gate. He looked down, and met the hostile gaze of Filch, the caretaker. The man turned his head and spat on the ground. “So, you’re back,” he said, coldly. “Bet you didn’t expect to see me again. Thought I’d been killed, a squib in the middle of a wizard battle.”
“I knew you weren’t,” said Harry. “I saw you at the end, clearing up.”
“That’s when you left. You was never one for clearing up after your mess. I thought you was dead, but you always let me down.” The gates were open now, and the carriage passed on to the castle.
Professor McGonagall was waiting for Harry at the main door. “Potter! Potter! I am so pleased to see you. Please, come in.”
He clambered awkwardly out of the carriage, dragging his case, and held out his hand. Professor McGonagall moved towards him and for a terrible moment Harry thought she was going to give him a hug, but at the last minute she grasped his hand firmly.
“Potter! I am so pleased to see you! You look… you look so well. So much better than when I saw you last. Come in, come in. You must be hungry. Come to my office and we’ll see what we can rustle up for you.”
She tapped Harry’s case with her wand and it vanished. She strode away down a dark corridor. Harry raced to keep up with her. “You’re looking well yourself, headmistress,” he said, but it wasn’t true. McGonagall was looking far older than when he’d last seen her. There were new lines etched across her face, and her eyes looked distant and watery.
“I keep going, Potter. After all, if I don’t, who will? You’ve been staying with the Weasleys, I understand. How is Molly? The rest of them?”
“Molly is… she’s fine.” He thought about the way Molly had wept when he’d left that morning, clinging to him and begging him not to leave. “It’s just that… it’s not just Fred, though that was terrible. George and Bill are both scarred, really badly scarred. Physically, I mean. We’re all… Ginny was possessed. Arthur nearly died. Ron disappeared for months, and Molly thought he was dead too. She had that terrible quarrel with Percy. And then – she killed Bellatrix.”
He shook his head, trying to think of what it all meant. “She just wants everybody around all the time. She keeps looking at that clock they have, just to make sure that they’re all safe. And they can’t be around now. Well, Arthur lives at home, but he’s at work so much of the time. Bill is away with Fleur, Charlie with his dragons – he’s in South America now. George comes home when he can, and Ron…” He sighed.
“Ron still can’t take it all in, and he’s… he tends to just get in a mood and go off in a sulk. He’s angry, very angry about everything that happened. They’re still poor and he didn’t take his NEWT’s. We’re friends, but…” he shook his head.
Professor McGonagall took a key from her pocket and opened her office. “I asked Miss Granger – tactfully, of course – what the – hem – situation was with the two of them. She equally tactfully told me to mind my own business. Sit down, Potter.”
“I don’t know what the situation is, and I don’t think Ron and Hermione do either. I think – I think he feels guilty for being Hermione’s boyfriend.”
Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows.
“I know, I know, it’s ridiculous. But they were here for six years and never… you know. Then at the last minute, with everything collapsing about them – they were in love. Then a few moments later, Fred was killed and Ron’s first girlfriend – Lavender Brown – she was torn apart by a werewolf right in front of them. He feels guilty and angry and won’t talk about it.”
Professor McGonagall nodded. “I wish them all well. I just can’t blot that terrible day out of my mind. Every morning when I wake up there’s a fraction of a second when I think it isn’t real, and then it all comes back to me. I keep looking out for Charity Burbage in the corridors. She always looked a little confused. I even miss Severus, occasionally.”
She gestured to her desk. “There are sandwiches, Potter, and a flagon of Pumpkin juice. I, on the other hand, will be having a glass of firewhiskey, and you are welcome to join me.”
Harry nodded. “I think I will. I’ve been doing well, Professor. I know I always say that, but I really mean it now. Oh, before I forget, while we’re talking about the Weasleys – me and Ginny…”
“Perhaps we could discuss that later,” Professor McGonagall interrupted. “I always liked Ginny Weasley. Such a … Gryffindor girl. The best of them are always a little troublesome – like you, Potter.”
Harry smiled. “I tried to be good, Professor, but sometimes… things ran away with me.”
“And you’re an Auror now? I’m so pleased. I always thought you would be ideal.”
Harry nodded. “I think I have you to thank for it, professor. They had to waive most of the requirements to get me in.”
Professor McGonagall waved away his thanks. “You showed your qualifications to battle dark magic time and time again, Potter. I merely assured them that you had the theoretical background to be able to cope with all aspects of the job. Quite frankly, after defeating he who… Lord Voldemort, you could have had any job you wanted, from Minister of Magic to mine.”
“I wouldn’t want either,” said Harry fervently. “Being headmaster… actually Professor, may I ask a question? Why did you keep your old office? You must be quite cramped in here?”
“Oh, no,” said McGonagall. “This room is quite adequate for my purposes. Somehow it didn’t seem right to move into the Headmaster’s office. Even Professor Snape felt the same way. It’s as if Albus were still with us.”
“It’s funny you should say that, Professor,” said Harry. “I’d like to show you a message I received by owl last night.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a strip of paper. “It reads, ‘Harry, if you would be so good, please make your way immediately to Hogwarts by the Express. There are matters which I wish to discuss with you. Your affectionate friend, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, former Headmaster Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.’”