Bang. The door swung open and a fully cloaked figure stepped into the dimly lit room. "I have it, master," the creature said with a tint of triumph in its voice. Slowly, a silver hand reached into the cloak and pulled out a sealed box.
"Good," a voice hissed, "give it to me." The figure crossed the room swiftly to another masked person and handed the box to him as if it were fragile porcelain.
"Yes," the voice continued in a low murmur. "Yes, this is just what I needed. Well done, Wormtail. Well done. Now my plan is foolproof. Harry Potter is mine now...he won't live to the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts..."
Harry stood in front of King's Cross. Another uneventful summer had passed and he was anxious to finally return to Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he had not been able to go over to Ron's house...mostly because Ron didn't want Harry and Hermione to get blown up by Fred and George's bizzare experiments. So Harry had stayed at the Dursley's and had a miserable time. But now, he was ready to go back to Hogwarts. Moody was gone, Wormtail didn't seem to bother him much anymore, Sirius was safe, what could go wrong?
"Harry! Harry! Over here!" He heard a voice shout. Harry glanced wildly around. "Oy! Here!" He looked toward the ticket booth. Ron was standing amist a family of redheads. He came running over. "C'mon! We're going to be late!" He gave Harry a bit of a shove toward the barrier.
"But wait- where's Hermione?" Harry asked.
"She said she'll meet us on the train. Now stop worrying and go!"
"Alright, alright." Harry ran through the barrier.
In front of him, the Hogwarts express blew its giant whistle as steam exploded through the pipes. They shoved their way onto the train and into the third compartment. Fred, George, and Ginny came along. Together, they waved at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley through the window. The compartment door slid open and they glanced up to see Hermione coming in, her cheeks flushed red. "Sorry I'm late, Krum came to say good-bye," she said, turning redder. Ron cleared his throat and coughed loudly, causing all of them to stare at him, except Hermione, who was still bright pink. She took a seat next to Ginny as Fred and George went off to find Lee so they could show off their new exploding tissue.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat talking while Ginny read a book, though often sneaking furtive glances toward Harry. As usual, the traditional plump woman with the cart rolled by. And as usual, Harry bought a seat full of snacks to eat. He was in a particularly good mood because nothing had happened in his summer...nothing bad at least. He had almost forgotten about Cedric's death, but part of it stilled haunted him and refused to leave his mind.
As Harry ate and talked, he glanced outside. Dusk was moving in. Neville strolled in, for once not looking for anything he had lost or forgotten. "Hey guys. How's it going? Can I sit with you?" Hermione smiled and patted the seat next to Ginny. "Sure. Go ahead. And help yourself to our snacks." Neville beamed at her and took a seat and a chocolate frog. Ginny looked up. In a minute, the two were engaged in a conversation.
Ron made sure they weren't listening and then turned to Harry and Hermione. "Something's wrong with Fred and George,"he said in a low voice. "I know they wouldn't do anything bad, but somehow they got hold of a huge sum of money. They even brought me this set of really expensive dress robes!" Ron said unbelievingly. Hermione frowned as Harry tried to hide his grin. "And what's more," Ron continued, "They're really starting to work on their joke shop. Maybe they stole the money." Ron's eyes furrowed. Harry snickered, but soon made it into a cough when Hermione's inquiring eyes met his. She looked apprehensive, "Well, I wouldn't think they would do something like that. I doubt they were THAT desperate for money...maybe Ludo Bagman decided to be honest and pay up." Harry shook with silent laughter and said, "I think they got it from a reasonable place. I can't see Fred and George prowling into someone's house to steal gold. Leave them be, maybe they earned it or something." Harry shrugged. "Or maybe it was a gift from one of their friends," he said carelessly.
Suddenly, something fluttered out of Ron's luggage. It was Pig and he flew around the room excitedly and stupidly, ramming into everything in sight. That provoked Hedwig, who, hooting indignantly, flew out to catch Pig. At that moment, Neville's frog jumped out of his arms and hopped wildly around the compartment. Everyone was in a jumble as they rushed to claim their pets. This excitement caused minutes to fly by, and before any student noticed, they were there. Hogwarts tall towers poked through the mist and fog. The lakes shimmering waters reflected the castle and made remarkable figures. Harry sighed contentedly. He was home at last.
Harry sat patiently through the Sorting, between Ron and Hermione's arguments and Fred's hoots, he could hardly hear a thing. Toward the middle, though, everyone had quieted down and were getting bored. George had fallen asleep. Harry didnt know any of the first years, so it was tedious and uninteresting to him. That is, until he heard a certain name. Professor McGonagall cleared her throat from talking too much. "Chang, Su". Harry's head snapped up. Chang? As in Cho Chang? Cho Chang's sister? He raised his head to have a look. Sure enough, a small girl with jet-black hair and a beautiful smile staggered up to the three-legged stool. He could hear Cho cheering for her little sister. The hat took its time, and people were getting anxious. Finally, it shouted, "Gryffindor!" Harrys table exploded in cheers. Harry clapped along with the rest.
When the Sorting finally ended, Dumbledore made a speech and informed all the students that they were completely safe within the Hogwarts walls, and no revived Dark Lords could harm them as long as they remained on school grounds. Many students looked frightened and the first years were shaking. The Slytherin table was grinning. Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged looks, they knew no one could harm them at Hogwarts. After Dumbledore had said all of his speeches (Humblenut, Crat, Pikernuss), the feast finally started. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all ravenous and ate quickly and silently, unable to talk through their stuffed mouths. As they began to slow down, they checked out the teachers. Suddenly, Harry felt Hermione tug at his sleeve. "Harry!" she exclaimed, "Harry, look at the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher! The one next to Snape! Look! It's Professor Lupin!" Harry looked and saw that Hermione was right. Ron let out a whoop. "Alright! Lupin's back!" Professor Lupin saw them and waved. Harry grinned back. His year was off to a great start.
The three friends climbed up the stairs with the rest of the Gryffindors after what seemed like an exhausting day. They bid each other good night and Harry followed Ron into the boy's dorm. Both fell immediately fell asleep, and neither noticed Neville's constant sighs that eventually turned into sobs.
Sunlight seeped through the windows in the boys dorm and shone on Harry's eyes. He woke up startled and stared into the ray of light. Still groggy, he got dressed and went downstairs.
In the great hall, most students were up already. While they ate breakfast, Harry, Ron, and Hermione examined their new schedules. "What do we have first?" Ron said through a mouthful of toast that sprayed crumbs all over his schedule. Hermione tutted at his manners and answered in a-matter-of-fact voice, "Herbology, Ron. Herbology with Hufflepuff." Harry groaned. Hermione patted his arm. "Don't worry, Harry. They won't give you a hard time, I'm sure of it. After all, Hufflepuffs known for its kindness and loyalty. They would understand. They know what happened wasn't your fault."
"No, they wouldn't. They hate me. Everyone hates me. Especially Cho," Harry said miserably.
"Of course they don't. I don't hate you. No one hates you. You know that. Now eat some toast."
"I do too," Harry said in a whining voice and picked at his bread, "It's obvious."
Ron said, "C'mon, why would they hate you? It wasn't your fault. Besides, Cedric wasn't some special person that they really cared about anyway, so I'm sure they'd have forgiven you by now." Hermione nodded fervently at his side. Harry nodded to get them off, but he knew inside that they hadn't forgotten. Who could forget a thing like that?
Ron and Hermione led that way to Herbology and Harry trailed behind. As soon as they entered the room, the class went quiet. They walked to their desks among such a silence it was deafening. Harry hung his head. Suddenly, someone spoke. Gradually, the class began to talk again. The class began and Professor Sprout raved on about how exciting the year would be now that they could enter the third and most dangerous greenhouse. Neville looked anxious, but glanced happily toward the plants. The class was divided into groups of four. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were with a Hufflepuff called Kyle. He and all the other Hufflepuffs talked to them and Harry normally when needed, but for no other reason. Kyle worked with them and occasionally spoke, but not if unnecessary. When the class ended and nothing bad had happened, Harry was grateful and satisfied. Hermione looked at Harry, "See? It wasn't that bad, was it?" Harry nodded, "But they don't talk to me for regular stuff. You know, like they used to."
Hermione shook her head. "Harry, you're asking for a bit much. Sure, they're nice people and forgive easily, but don't forget, they just lost their best friend." She tugged at her heavy bookbag.
Ron grimaced. "Let's hurry up," he said grimly. "We're going to be late for Care of the Magical Creatures. I'm sincerely hoping Hagrid doesn't have some new attacking animal that's looking for prey. I'm not particularly in the mood to be eaten."
Together, they hurried off to Hagrid's hut. In the middle, Harry stopped short and said sharply, "Oh no. I just remembered. We have Care of the Magical Creatures with Slytherin."
Ron groaned while Hermione tried to comfort Harry. When they arrived, they were greeted by twelve sneers and a loud drawling voice, "So, Potter, ready to kill off someone else?" He smirked as the rest of the Slytherins laughed hysterically.
Before Harry could answer, Hagrid rushed over. "Don' mind that great Malfoy prune, Harry. Ev'ryone knows it ain't yer fault. C'mon, I want to show yeh my new pet."
Ron winced. "What is it this time, Hagrid? A baby dinosaur?"
Hagrid grinned,"Well, actually..."
Ron's eyes widened. Hagrid laughed. "Jus kiddin' Ron, jus kiddin'."