The first time Madam Rolanda Hooch swore that night, it was in muttered tones as she drank a glass of wine outside the hut of Rubeus Hagrid. The wine had been provided by the only other member of staff she truly got along with, Astronomy Professor Aurora Sinestra. As neither of them had duties on the first night of term, they often found themselves enjoying one last peaceful night under the late summer sky.

Hagrid, having spent much of the day preparing boats and carriages and thestrals, was dozing in an oaken chair nearby, his hand on an ale and his boots on a log. The small campfire cast the three in a warm glow.

It had been Professor Sinestra who broke the silence.

"The Ravenclaws are at it again this year, I see," she said with an amused smile.

Madam Hooch looked up at Ravenclaw Tower, and saw the soft flashes of light that indicated the casting of spells. Several of the windows were lit up in this way, most of them near the bottom of the tower. Since the older students had rooms at the base of the structure, this made sense. Trust the 'claws to practice their spellcraft early, she thought.

It was the rapid flashing from a second year window, almost at the top of the tower, that drew a reaction from Madam Hooch.

"Oh, for fuck's sake."

Sinestra's eyebrows raised at her friend's language. She almost turned to ask about it, but a crash from the castle ended the conversation before it started.

The flashing window on the second year floor, high upon Ravenclaw Tower, had smashed open. From this distance, it looked to Sinestra as if someone had thrown a trunk through it, taking out the surrounding stonework in the bargain. As the trunk rotated in the air, she caught a glimpse of blonde hair, and gasped.

She was on her feet in an instant. Even with that quick reaction, her friend was quicker.

"Up!" Rolanda Hooch shouted as she broke into a run. Her right hand stretched out behind her, but she did not look back. She didn't need to.

Her broomstick, a larger referee's model, nearly jumped away from its place against Hagrid's hut. It flew straight toward its owner, not bothering to avoid the half-giant. Hagrid sputtered as he fell backwards, his feet kicking nothing but air as he tried to right himself.

Sinestra was already sending a patronus to Filius Flitwick, telling him to get to the second year floor as quickly as he could.

The broom gained speed as it raced to Madam Hooch. When she sensed it's approach, she reached further to the side, and angled herself as best she could. As she felt the wood slap into her hand, she jumped forward and mounted the broom, guiding it underneath her. The maneuver was one she had taught for years, since referees at quidditch matches could not always stop play to issue a penalty or deal with an injured player.

She had never had to use it, however. Not for real.

Once airborne, Hooch gained height and speed as she raced the student to the ground. If she could get close enough, she could slow the boy's momentum with a spell. There was no chance of hitting a falling target all the way from Hagrid's hut, so she needed to be closer. If she could, she'd get as close as possible to get the best shot. Even with the height of Ravenclaw Tower, she likely didn't have time for more than one try at this.

Her eyes were moving rapidly, checking the distance between herself and the boy (and she was certain it was a boy by now, though she wasn't sure how she knew), herself and the ground, and the boy and the ground. Without realizing it, she adjusted her broom to go higher.

She sighed to herself in relief - the boy had slowed himself down somehow.

Then she frowned. Pretty advanced magic for a second year, she thought.

As she approached the falling boy, a pale white light passed overhead. Probably a patronus, she thought. Then she caught sight of the boy, and gasped.

In the light of the patronus, she could clearly see the bleeding, angry visage of one Draco Malfoy.

oOoOoOoOo

Draco was already casting a charm to slow his fall, even as he tried to clear his head. He would later wonder how he managed to get the spell off at all, in his condition.

He rolled over in the air, to see if Flitwick had chased him into the night. The professor was barely visible, looking down from the ruined window. From the rapidly increasing distance, Draco could not see the look of shock on the former dueling master's face.

A soft glow drew his eye away from the tower. It was a patronus, taking the form of a pair of sea creatures. They moved as one, even though he could see two distinct animals. The patronus passed above him, stopping in front of the tower.

The light also illuminated Madam Hooch, approaching rapidly. Realizing that he wouldn't be able to simply run to the edge of the wards as he had planned, Draco reached for his shrunken broom. With a word, the silver Firebolt sprang into his hand, and he sped into the night.

He hoped that the flying instructor would stay behind. He needed to get away, and being chased to the safehouse in Hogsmeade was not going to do him any favors.

A glance to the rear told him that Madam Hooch was in hot pursuit. Frowning, Draco leaned forward, coaxing every ounce of speed he could from the broom.

oOoOoOoOo

Madam Hooch had not bothered to attend the welcoming feast, seeing herself as a referee more than an actual professor. What little teaching she did at Hogwarts could be handled by anyone, really. During the holidays, she taught quidditch referees in the British League and at the international level, and it was that work that she thought of when someone called her 'Professor'.

So, to Rolanda Hooch, she was not chasing down a former student. She was chasing down a player. And a good referee never allowed the players to get away with anything.

She didn't know what had happened at Ravenclaw Tower that night. She didn't need to. If Draco Malfoy was (somehow) the wronged party, then he wouldn't be fleeing. He wouldn't be hiding in another house.

And he definitely wouldn't be firing spells at her.

Madam Hooch slid to the left and right, dodging the simple stunners fired by Draco. It was an easy spell to cast while flying, of course, but any player knew what a fall from this height would mean. Whether Draco had meant it or not, he had just tried to kill her.

Her only option was to respond in kind, just as she would for any other out of control player.

Draco was rolling his broom even before he realized why. The conjured bludger, glowing red, shot through the space he had just occupied. His seeker's instinct served him well again, and he immediately - still inverted - dipped his broom toward the sky. Looking toward the ground, he saw a second bludger speed past. With a tight grip on his wand, he returned fire.

It was Madam Hooch's turn to roll her broom as she saw the curses coming from above. The first missed left, but the second struck the weak shielding on the underside of her broom. Like most referee's brooms, she had some protection from curses - but not much, and that little bit of protection was now exhausted.

"Fuck fuck fuck," muttered Draco, as he righted himself. Once again, he angled his broom downwards, hoping to gain some speed. The portkey he still carried was heavy in his pocket, waiting to be used - but only once he had escaped the wards of the castle. Surely, he could outfly a single professor, he thought to himself.

Part of him realized that he didn't even know whether Hooch was a pureblood or not. Then another conjured bludger missed him, and he decided that he didn't care.

oOoOoOoOo

Madam Hooch had one last trick up her sleeve, something she hadn't had to use since the World Cup Semifinals in Dubai, 1978. As she wove the complicated transfiguration, she smiled to herself.

The crowd of angry fans had quieted down rapidly, when she brandished a twenty foot long beater's bat at them.

The idea here wouldn't be to strike at Draco. That would be nearly impossible, coming from behind and going at the speeds they were reaching. Placing the bat in his path, though, was a much easier task.

A few spells to distract him, and he wouldn't even see it coming.

She had to act quickly - the pursuit had passed the quidditch stadium, and was closing on the ward line. With one final flick of her wand, she sent the bat forward. It slid through the air, passing underneath Draco.

Three stinging hexes followed. To her shock, one of them actually connected, eliciting a yelp of pain from Draco. The boy reached back to return fire, anger on his features.

"Got you," Hooch said to herself.

Draco plowed into the beater's bat, splintering the conjured wood. The impact sent him catapulting over the broom like a high jumper. His broom kept much of its speed, before smashing into one of the trees below.

Hooch dove, wondering if the boy was still awake and aware as he fell. Then she heard him shout a word, just as he passed out of the wards.

With a flash of light, the portkey activated, and Draco Malfoy disappeared.

Madam Hooch came to a stop, hovering at the edge of the wards. The look on her face was one of shock, for she had understood the word Draco shouted as he vanished.

She had no idea what had transpired in Ravenclaw Tower. She had no idea why Draco Malfoy had fled, why he had attacked her, why he had been so desperate to escape. All she knew is that he had been there for a reason.

Whoever had set the portkey to activate at the word "Failure." And with that, Madam Hooch found herself wondering if Draco Malfoy's night was just beginning.

oOoOoOoOo

Filius Flitwick was not at breakfast the next morning.

No one had witnessed the confrontation between the polyjuiced Draco Malfoy and the Ravenclaw Head of House. Even in his anger, Flitwick had had the presence of mind to seal the other second years in their dorms. Cho Chang and Michael Corner had arrived just as Flitwick's blasting curse sent the infiltrator through the wall and out into the night.

Professor Sinestra's patronus of twin humpback whales only added insult to injury, when they warned him that someone had fallen from the tower. She had not known he was on the scene until it was too late.

So it was that, despite there being no official story, the entire castle knew much of what had happened.

Slytherin House came to breakfast as a group, in a rare display of solidarity. No one was brave enough to ask them if they were showing support for their former housemate or simply assuming that the rest of the school would blame them for his actions.

Likewise, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor had each come down in one large group, though that was closer to the norm for the house of badgers. It was impossible to miss the fact that no students entered alone - everyone, from the wide-eyed first years on up, walked in pairs.

All eyes turned to the Ravenclaws when they finally arrived, the last of the four houses to come to breakfast. At first glance, their entrance was normal - and, for the first years, it may as well have been. The prefects had done an excellent job of sheltering the first years from the events of the previous night, and so their first morning at Hogwarts was almost routine. Almost.

It was the tense looks from the older Ravenclaws that told the tale. They looked tired and wary, almost as if they expected an incident. Fully half a dozen nearly jumped when one of the badgers accidentally knocked a plate off the table.

Luna Lovegood was sitting with her house, as was expected of her. Via the coin, she had told Harry and the others what she knew. Professor Flitwick had had a confrontation with Draco that had quickly escalated into spellfire. She did not know who cast the first spell, just that Flitwick had cast the last one.

The end of the fight was not a surprise to Harry - he had seen Draco's name fly past the outer wall of the tower, before disappearing from the map. It had been frustrating, but understandable - after all, why would the map extend into the sky?

If they were going to get answers, it would not come from the Headmaster, for he was not at breakfast. The other professors were, but they did not seem inclined to make any sort of announcement. They did not even hand out schedules, as was traditional for the first breakfast of the term. Instead, a stack of parchment was given to the seventh year prefects for each house, and it was left to them to sort everything out.

Harry focused on his breakfast, doing his best to ignore the speculation around him. He knew that the group would learn the truth from Luna before the end of the day, and he was content with that. Instead, his eyes wandered to the head table.

Flitwick was absent, he had already noticed that. Professor Sinestra, too, was missing. That was a bit more unusual, for the Astronomy professor usually treated breakfast as her dinner, given her unusual schedule.

The school's newest professor, Lily Potter, was gone as well.

"Not a great look, that," Harry remarked.

"What," asked Neville. "Skipping your first morning on the job?"

"Yeah," Harry replied. "Wonder what was so important?"

Neville shrugged. "Maybe she's setting up her classroom?"

"How much work could the potions classroom need, really?" said Harry. "Say what you will about Snape, but he did keep the space organized."

"Professor Snape, Harry," Hermione corrected, without heat. She hadn't even looked up from her schedule.

"My biological mother's esteemed predecessor, then," Harry amended, formally.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Prat."

Neville snickered at the exchange, as Harry accepted his schedule. Then he looked down at his own.

It was Neville's sharp intake of breath that caused both Harry and Hermione to look up.

"Nev?" Harry asked.

Neville shook his head. "Your mother isn't teaching potions, Harry." He offered the parchment, which Harry took.

Ron set his schedule down on the table, sliding his empty plate out of the way. "Who is, then?" he asked.

Hermione, however, was reviewing her class list. When she got to potions, her eyes grew wide.

"Oh, shit," she whispered.

oOoOoOoOo

"Welcome to NEWT level potions. Please take your seats, everyone."

Neville and Hermione walked into the potions classroom in the middle of the group of sixth and seventh years, wanting to be neither first nor last. They did not look up at the professor as they entered.

For possibly the first time in her Hogwarts career, Hermione Granger sat in the back of the classroom. The other students noticed, but said nothing. The whispers started only when Neville Longbottom joined her.

Trevor Longbottom sat in the front row, against the far wall. Some had expected Neville to join his twin, and were surprised when he did the opposite. Others had heard the rumors surrounding the Longbottoms, including an account of a heated exchange between the newly returned Lord Longbottom and his son Neville.

Without saying a word, or even intending to do so, Neville had confirmed those rumors just by sitting with Hermione.

All eyes turned to the front of the room when the professor began speaking.

"Good morning. My name is Alice Longbottom. You may address me as Professor or Lady Longbottom."

And so it begins, thought Neville. Hermione, sensing his tension, placed a comforting hand on his arm.

It would be a long morning.

oOoOoOoOo

Harry and Ron joined Hermione and Neville after lunch, for what would be their first session of NEWT level Defense against the Dark Arts. Given the name listed as professor for this class, Harry was understandably nervous.

He made a point of asking Neville about his potions class.

"That's just it," Neville had replied. "She didn't say a thing to me, directly. All she did was comment on our potion, the same as everyone else." He sighed, shaking his head. "I almost wish she had said something out of line, but she didn't."

That wasn't what Harry had expected to hear. "And Trevor?"

"He stayed behind after we were dismissed," answered Hermione. "But during class, she didn't show any sort of favor towards him. Or anyone, really."

Harry frowned, taking that in.

Ron saw the look on his friend's face, and knew what it meant. "You're expecting trouble."

"One way or another, yeah," replied Harry. "Either she's here to coddle Jamie, which he doesn't need, or she's here to try and bring me on side."

"That doesn't make sense, Harry," Hermione said, with a concerned tone.

Harry shook his head. "It doesn't have to make sense, Hermione." Then he smirked, and looked back at her. "And really, do we need to go over everything that's happened over the last few months and make a list of things that don't make sense?"

Ron chuckled at Hermione's reaction. "He's got you there," he said.

oOoOoOoOo

No one really knew what to expect from the new DADA professor.

On the one hand, Lily Potter's intelligence and clever use of charms and wards was well known. She had already had a reputation before the attack at Godric's Hollow, and her legend had only grown in the telling over the years.

Unfortunately for her, the revelations of the past month had soured that reputation. Now, she was not known as the mother who died for her son, but as the mother who abandoned him.

From the whispers among the students, it was clear that opinions were divided.

Harry and Ron sat in the back of the classroom, as they had the previous year. This time around, they each took a table, leaving an open seat each. These were quickly filled by Susan and Hannah, who arrived with the other Hufflepuffs. Hermione and Neville sat one row forward, preferring to stick together.

The remaining members of the DA spread out, as if to cover the entire room. No one noticed, except for the DA members themselves. If the Professor herself noticed, she said nothing.

Susan was the first to notice that a few seventh year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were also present. Katie Bell was the only seventh year Gryffindor who had planned to take NEWT Defense, but she had decided to drop the class - it was not something she would need for quidditch, and she couldn't participate for a few weeks anyway due to her arm.

Having seen the roster of students, Harry knew exactly why there were no seventh year Slytherins present. There simply weren't any, really, except the one.

After a brief introduction, Professor Potter began taking attendance. To her surprise, several students had not arrived for this all-important first class. Cho Chang was missing, though that could easily have been due to her duties as Head Girl. A couple of the seventh year Hufflepuffs were also absent, something for which Susan had no explanation. From Slytherin, the absence of Pansy Parkinson started the whispers anew.

Harry and Susan shared a glance as the list of absent names grew longer. Just as it had been noteworthy that Professor Potter skipped breakfast on her first day, so too was it notable for a student to skip the very first class of the term, and a NEWT level class at that.

Once the class list was complete, Lily Potter began discussing her goals for the class. Harry tuned her out as he thought over the missing students.

"Not what I expected to see," Harry whispered.

Susan nodded. "Nothing has been what we expected since we got on the train."

"Five points each from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff," Lily Potter said, grabbing their attention once more. She had not even stopped writing at the board, but just shouted over her shoulder. "May we continue the class, Mister Potter?"

Harry simply nodded, not trusting himself to say anything else.

oOoOoOoOo

Despite the fact that the DADA class covered no magic that day, Hermione was impressed. Professor Potter had laid out a course of study that would take them all the way to the NEWT exams, and included practice tests and mock practicals led by outside instructors.

She was still wary of the professor, of course. All of them were. But Hermione could at least admit that she seemed to be a competent teacher. Certainly, not something she had expected to see in this classroom.

At the end of the class period, one of the sixth year Ravenclaws walked up and handed Professor Potter a note. The professor frowned at the note's contents, and then handed it back to the girl.

"I can't approve that, Miss Moon," said Professor Potter.

Lily Moon frowned. "It wasn't a request, Professor," she replied.

As the professor argued quietly with the Ravenclaw, Harry stepped over to Hermione.

"What do we know about Lily Moon?" he asked.

Hermione frowned slightly. "She's a pureblood, keeps to herself mostly. Good marks in most of her classes, I believe."

They watched as Lily Moon turned on her heel and walked out of the classroom, leaving Professor Potter with the note in her hand and an angry expression on her face.

"I wonder what that was about," Susan remarked.

Hermione saw Harry's eyes tracking his mother as she stormed out of the classroom.

"I suspect we'll know soon," he said, almost to himself. His expression was unreadable.

oOoOoOoOo

After only a few minutes, Professor McGonagall was growing annoyed with the new Defense professor.

"Professor Potter," she repeated, keeping her formal tone. "Students are free to rearrange their schedules as needed. You know this, since you did exactly that in your seventh year. You sat in that very chair and arranged for advanced studies in Potions."

"That was different," snapped an increasingly irritated Lily Potter. "I wasn't dropping a NEWT class!"

"No, you were not," McGonagall agreed. "But students can do that as well, so long as they remain enrolled in at least two NEWT-level classes." She gestured at the stack of parchment on her desk. "All of these students meet that requirement."

"And Baker?" Lily snapped back, tapping a finger on the top parchment. "How does a fourth year get out of a core class?"

McGonagall sighed. "Geoffery Baker was withdrawn from Defense by his parents, who have elected to hire a private tutor in the subject."

Lily fumed at that. "Did they offer a reason?"

"Yes, they did. Their letter stated that the current DADA professor presented a tangible risk to the safety of their son, and that they did not wish for him to take any class with that particular instructor."

Something in that phrasing did not sit well with Lily, and her eyes narrowed. "When was that letter sent?" she asked.

McGonagall's face was unreadable as she replied.

"July 7th."

"Aha," replied Lily. "So, that letter was about Professor Umbridge, then."

"So it would seem," McGonagall agreed. "Which is why I wrote the Bakers when you were hired, to give them the news." She pulled another letter out of her desk. "They replied that the same concerns applied to you."

Lily was now seething, and barely kept herself seated. "What happened with Harry has nothing to do with my ability to teach!"

"Nobody cares!" McGonagall replied angrily. "Defense against the Dark Arts is one of the most dangerous courses we teach, and you bloody well know it!" She stabbed a finger at the stack of letters from students, every one resigning from the class. "How can you expect anyone to set foot in that classroom when they don't trust you?"

Lily sat back in her chair, her eyes wide. This was quite possibly the angriest she had ever seen her former Head of House. Before she could come up with a reply, there was a knock at the door.

McGonagall, still glaring at Lily, unlocked the door with a wave of her wand. "Come!" she shouted.

The student that walked in was none other than Lily Moon. She looked from one professor to the other, and then paused in the doorway.

"I can come back later if this is a bad time…" she began.

"No bother, Miss Moon," McGonagall said. Her tone had returned once more to that of Deputy Headmistress McGonagall, and both of her guests noticed the shift. It was an obvious calming exercise, and the mere fact that it was necessary told Lily Potter exactly how angry her colleague had been.

Lily Moon's eyes again shifted to Professor Potter, and she hesitated.

"Ah," sighed McGonagall, knowingly. "I take it you need to make a change to your schedule, Miss Moon?"

The Ravenclaw nodded.

"Would I be correct that you wish to drop your Defense NEWT?"

Another nod.

"Right, well, that should not be a problem," McGonagall said, as she made a note of the change. "Do you have a replacement course in mind?"

Lily Moon nodded once more. "I'll be working on a project with Professor Flitwick. We're going to update the charms on the Ravenclaw library."

McGonagall's eyebrow raised. "He's been wanting to do that for years." Despite the tension in the room, she smiled at the student. "If he can convince Madam Pince that your new scheme is superior, I will support an update to the Hogwarts library as well."

Lily Moon's eyes widened. "Professor, that's… wow."

McGonagall chuckled. "Indeed, Miss Moon." She looked over her spectacles at the Ravenclaw. "So make sure you do your best work, am I understood?"

"Of course, I mean yes Professor, thank you Professor," the now flustered girl replied.

"Very well, then. Your schedule change is approved, Miss Moon. Off you go."

Lily Moon nodded once more. "Thank you again, Professor."

As she turned to leave, Professor Potter spoke up.

"Wait," she said. "Why exactly are you dropping my class?"

Lily Moon paused, her hand on the door. She seemed to deflate at the question. When she turned back to the office, it was clear that she did not want to answer. But answer she would, because ignoring the nundu in the room would not make it go away.

"My parents named me for the bravest woman they knew," Lily Moon replied, her brown eyes meeting the green eyes of her now former professor. "Two purebloods, naming their daughter after a muggleborn. But there they were, raising me on stories of a brave woman who looked death itself in the eye, who was told to move out of the way, and answered 'No.'"

She chuckled softly, to herself. "The hat considered putting me in Gryffindor, you know. My head was full of stories of bravery and courage, all thanks to your sacrifice."

The Ravenclaw shook her head. "And now, every time I sign my name, I'll remember what you did that night, and what you didn't do." She turned to leave, not caring what response Lily Potter might offer.

"And unlike you," she continued. "I can't go hide for decades to avoid it."

oOoOoOoOo

The exodus of fourteen students from Defense against the Dark Arts was the only hiccup in an otherwise routine first day of classes, and soon Hogwarts had assembled in the Great Hall for dinner.

Without the formality of a grand feast, students were free to mingle as they wished, and so Susan and Hannah had joined the Gryffindor table for the evening. Luna Lovegood had not yet arrived, but that was not unusual.

Harry, as was his custom, sat with his back to the wall, leaving a space on his left for Susan. Across from him sat Neville and Ron. Ron had an empty space of his own reserved for Hannah, while Hermione had taken the seat next to Neville. Luna, when she arrived, would sit between Harry and Ginny.

Dani Diggle, despite knowing some of the other fifth years, had become fast friends with Ginny. Sharing classes helped, of course, and the schedules for both girls were nearly identical. But the truth of the matter was that Ginny simply got along with the raven-haired transfer.

It was odd to have the new girl sitting near such an established group as theirs, but no one present thought to question the arrangement. Dani just seemed to fit in.

Her fellow transfers, Jamie Potter and Trevor Longbottom, were not present. Nor was Professor Longbottom. The Potions Professor's empty chair was a glaring sign highlighting her absence. Nor did it do Lily Potter any favors, for she was seated at the end of the table. The empty seat to her left made her look that much more isolated.

The Headmaster was seated in his customary seat, with his deputy on his left. Curiously, there was no professor on his right. Instead, that seat was occupied by none other than Dedalus Diggle, who seemed to be in an intense conversation with the Headmaster and Professor Sprout.

"Of course he'd sit there," Hermione remarked. "Professor Sprout was his apprentice when she pursued her mastery."

"I didn't know that," Harry replied, thoughtfully. "I wonder why he never taught."

"He gets distracted easily."

The group's eyes went to Dani Diggle, who hadn't even realized that they heard her. With her fork halfway to her mouth, she turned slowly toward the others. Her eyes grew wider.

"I mean, uh," she stammered nervously.

Harry chuckled. "Relax, we don't bite. No one's going to hex you for joining a conversation."

She looked from Harry to Hermione, to Neville and the others, before eyeing Ginny. "Even though you're the cool kids?"

Ron sat his fork down beside his plate. "We're the what now?"

Dani blinked at him, and glanced at Harry again. "I mean, in muggle school there was always a table where the popular kids sat." She shrugged. "I never really bothered them."

"Let me get this straight," Susan said, in as calm a voice as she could manage while trying not to laugh. "You're under the impression that this one," at this she hooked a thumb at Harry, "is one of the cool kids?"

Dani blinked owlishly at her. "You mean he's not?"

"I doubt that is what Heiress Bones meant to imply, Miss Diggle," Harry said, in a mock formal tone. Then he winced as Heiress Bones elbowed him in the ribs, earning laughs from the others.

"So as I was saying," Hermione continued, rolling her eyes at their antics. "What does Lord Diggle do, if you don't mind me asking Dani? If he doesn't teach, I mean. Research?"

Dani nodded, sipping her pumpkin juice. "Yep, and that's why he doesn't teach. If he gets a question in his head, he has to answer it. He used to do projects for the Ministry, years ago. Not so much recently, I don't think." She shrugged. "He also made potions for my mum, when she was sick over the last few years."

"So, a bit of everything then," Neville remarked. He looked up at Hermione with a smirk. "No wonder that sounded familiar."

Then it was Heir Longbottom's turn to get an elbow to the ribs, courtesy Miss Hermione Granger. Again, laughter broke out.

Much of the tension in the group had lifted by the time Luna Lovegood came over. As she approached, she saw the eight of them laughing and joking, almost as if it were a normal evening. Even if she was new to the school, Dani Diggle was already well on her way to becoming a part of this group of friends that had somehow formed around Harry Potter.

It was a sight to see. Luna was grinning when she slid into her seat.

oOoOoOoOo

After dinner, Ginny and Dani went back to Gryffindor Tower with the other fifth year girls. Hannah split off as well, to head back with the other Hufflepuffs.

Susan gave Harry a brief kiss on the cheek as she parted. She also confirmed that she had written to her aunt about Draco's flight the previous evening, but hadn't heard back yet.

"I've told Sirius as well," Harry replied. "If he tells the Colonel, then your aunt might hear about it that way first."

Susan smiled at that - she had already told her aunt that she approved of her newly found relationship with the muggle soldier.

Once the Hufflepuffs were gone, Harry turned to see if anyone else wanted to go to the Room of Requirement. Before he could ask, he saw Professor McGonagall approaching.

"Mister Potter," the Deputy Headmistress said. Then she looked over to Neville, and nodded. "Mister Longbottom."

"Professor," the boys replied.

She offered each of them a small note, one in each hand. "I've been asked to give these to you. You'll be expected tomorrow." Her message delivered, McGonagall turned and walked away.

Harry watched her go, as Neville opened his note.

"Expected by whom," Hermione wondered, as she stepped closer to Neville.

Neville sighed as he read the short note. It's not like he hadn't expected this, but it was sooner than he would have liked.

Seeing his friend's reaction, Harry opened his own note and read it. Then he read it again.

"Well?" Ron asked, concerned.

"We've each been summoned to a meeting," Neville replied, having seen that Harry's note was the same as his own.

"Yeah, but who summoned you? The Headmaster?"

"Worse," Harry said, closing the note. "Our godmothers."


A/N: Welcome back. I'm on my own schedule these days, and by that I mean I'm subject to the whims of a global plague, higher-than-average drama at my day job, and oh yeah my hand is still fucked up. I've tried writing with text to speech, and that is... not an adequate alternative, suffice it to say.

So, updates may remain slow for a while. But there will be updates. Have faith, y'all.

Thank you all for the kind thoughts, in reviews and messages. Replies have, unfortunately, been shuffled below writing in the list of things-to-write-before-I-need-pain-meds, so apologies if I have not gotten back to you directly. As always, know that your messages are seen and appreciated. (And if your message was "We demand updates you jackass!1!" then... thanks? I guess? And also if I'm not quick enough, refunds are on offer thataway. Ta.)

This chapter's title was chosen long ago, when this chapter was very different. But it fits the format, and I just want to get this thing posted, dammit, so there. I guess there were questions asked, so I'll allow it.

I'm hoping to do NaNoWriMo this year, but as with anything worth doing I'm cutting it off whenever I need to. So, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I'll see you in November.

Feedback, as always, is welcome.

Edited to add:

Yes, Sinestra's patronus is the duo of George and Gracie. Glad someone caught that right away. They Boldly Go where she sends them, one might say.