Chapter 2

The sound of his own rapidly heartbeat rung in Harry's ears, not even Ron snoring in the bed next to him could drown out the beat. His breathing was ragged, his lungs unable to keep the pace that his heart had set.

"What was that," He had to wonder out loud, getting a snort from his snoring roommate. It was odd, for such a loud sleeper Ron was easily disturbed.

Not that it mattered, not when his mind was in such a buzz. He paid bare courtesy to the other boy as he stood and took off his sweat soaked nightshirt, the dream hadn't been that bad. Had it?

No, just intense. Too real.

And that sensation, that realism, it wasn't fading. What he felt and saw was lasting. It couldn't have been a dream. No, it had been as real as any memory he's ever had or whatever it was his scar had made him see just days ago.

He rubbed at the blemish absently though it didn't ache or hurt, he could still remember the splitting pain the scar gave him as he saw Voldemort and Wormtail kill that poor Muggle man. It burned and he hadn't been able to think for the rest of the day without a raging headache. This dream didn't leave him in pain but it did leave him aching, as if he had been missing something his whole life and just realized that he was incomplete.

That some part of him was hollow but he couldn't remember which part.

He shook his head, hoping to shake the feeling and failing, and finished getting ready. Faced washed, teeth brushed, hair failing to be tamed, and clothes changed Harry was ready for the day.

It was a relief to leave the room, he needed to think and all that noise Ron was making wasn't making it easy. He really did need to learn whatever charm was in the door, it'd be a lifesaver at Hogwarts.

The stairs of the Burrow, the towering home of the Weasley family, were always a bit of a challenge. The tower of a home was more of a stack of houses than one building and the stairs definitely reflected that. They didn't match, the different lengths and different depths of mismatching stairs from what seemed like random buildings made it near impossible for him not to trip.

He felt more than a bit lucky that he only stumbled twice on his way down, he usually stubbed his toe when he did. He was also a bit surprised when he got to the foot of the stairs when he heard the sounds of voices and a bustling kitchen.

It wasn't even dawn yet and already half the Weasley family was up, apparently sleeping in was a habit they grew out of.

Bill was the first one to see him, "Morning Harry." He greeted with a smile, long hair still wet from an early morning shower and likely driving his mother mad.

Charlie, sitting next to his brother with his freckled cheeks stretched from food, raised his glass in greeting. Percy, on the other hand, paid Harry no mind, his nose so deep in some parchment that his glasses were starting to slide down his nose.

Mr. Weasley sat at his usual place at the head of the table, his hair just a bit disheveled and his eyes forming bags. His clothes, which always looked a bit worn, were rumpled and if Harry recalled right was the set he wore the day before. Still, despite his obvious exhaustion, the man put on a winning smile as he greeted Harry, "Morning Harry, sleep well?"

"Better than you, I think, sir." Harry said even as Mrs. Weasley forced him into a seat at the table, a plate of sausage and eggs soon floating itself down in front of him, "Is she okay?"

"She's fine, really," Mr. Weasley assured, "Molly's just a bit frazzled over the other night, we all are I think." He gave Harry a rather pointed stare.

All Harry could respond with was a shrug, taking a mouthful of eggs so wouldn't need to say anything. But Mr. Weasley was a father of seven, "A bit early for you isn't, Harry?" He asked, concern plain in his eyes.

He shrugged again, "Just couldn't sleep, Ron's snoring didn't help much." He half-lied before trying to turn the question around, "How about you guys? You're up early too."

Charlie snorted, "We work for a living, Harry. This was sleeping in for me." Charlie started to go in his time in Romania and the Dragon Sanctuary there. He loved talking about his work there and Harry would usually love to listen but, much like his two other brothers, he kept alluding to something at Hogwarts. All of them would share looks and give out little hints about an exciting year to come, especially Percy who kept talking about all the work the Ministry was putting in for whatever it was.

"You know, everyone else is asleep. You could tell."

Bill actually laughed at him, "Like you could keep a secret from Ron or Hermione too long. You three are attached at the hip you are." Harry was about to protest when Bill raised his cup towards the stairs, "Speak of the devil."

Coming down the stairs was Hermione, dressed in her muggle clothes and giving a buck toothed smile to all. Her morning greeting stopped in her throat as she caught sight of Harry. She blinked once, then twice, and then she sat next to him, "Harry, what are you doing up so early? Are you feeling well? Did you have a bad dream?"

She put more emphasis on the word 'dream' then Harry would have liked. After the incident at the World Cup Harry had told her and Ron about the dream he had about Voldemort, how it burned at his scar. Both of them got on him, demanding why he didn't tell them earlier and how he needed to go to the Headmaster about it all. They only backed down when he told them he had written to Sirius about the dream.

Ron seemed to think it was a brilliant idea, something about Sirius coming from a Dark family and should know everything about cursed scars. Hermione was just glad he told an adult.

Though, he wasn't sure how they'd take him having another weird dream. Have him go to Dumbledore sooner? Think he was a loon? They almost did in second year when he had heard whispers in the wall.

"I'm fine." He said, feeling a bit put upon that he needed to repeat himself. "Just didn't feel like sleeping."

"Okay," She said, after a moment of scrutinization, "But why are in your uniform already? We usually change on the train."

"I just wanted something that fit." He said and that was a complete truth, almost everything he owned was a hand-me-down from his cousin Dudley who could generously be called a baby whale. The clothes he wore at age ten still fit Harry at age fourteen and they were still baggy. He just wanted something that he didn't need to roll up to fit.

So, he wore his Hogwarts uniform, minus the robe. The blacks slacks and white button down fitting him perfectly, as did the grey vest with red and gold lion emblem to match his tie. It fit him, it was comfortable, so of course, he wore it.

"I hear that," Charlie said, sending a mock glare at his older brother.

"What?"

"I had to wear your skinny shirts for years." Charlie complained, "You got the fresh stuff and I had to stretch it out just to fit it."

"And then gave it to me where it sagged at the shoulders, always." Percy said, speaking for the first time as he rolled up his parchment, "Morning Harry, Hermione."

"Morning Percy,"

Hermione, thankfully, started to talk to Percy about what he was reading leading to a conversation that was honestly boring Harry to tears. Something about all the Howlers the Ministry was getting and how some fires started from the unopened ones, they apparently explode if the messages weren't yelling in poor employees face.

Off in the family den, the fireplace suddenly lit itself with a roar as green flames licked out against the iron gate as a voice echoed a greeting, "Hello!? Hello!? Is anyone there!? Hello!?"

"I'll get that." Mrs. Weasley, hand stopping Mr. Weasley from standing as she passed, "You lot just keep on eating."

"Thanks love," The tired man said, his hand lingering on hers as she walked away. He let out a relieved sigh as he went back to his breakfast, barely touched, and jumped as his wife yelled out his name.

"Arthur! Arthur! Emergency at the Ministry!"

He was up and out of his seat before she finished her last word, nearly knocking over the last of his children as they were finally making their way down the stairs. Mrs. Weasley scampering passed him as she returned to the kitchen, digging into the various drawers in an apparent hunt for a quill.

"What's that about?" Ron asked

"Can't you hear Ronniekins?" Fred asked while George finished, "She said there was an emergency at the Ministry."

Leaning back in his seat to look in the den a bit better he saw Mr. Diggory, or at least his head, talking to Mr. Weasley. He looked like a large bearded egg as his chin rested on a log in the fireplace. "-is going crazy over nothing, Probably just some muggle's cat sneaking on his property again but he's making a fuss. We need to get him on a minor charge, if someone from the Improper Use of Magic gets their claws on him, well, you know his record. He'd have it."

"Where is he?" Mr. Weasley asked, jotting down the address as soon as his wife gave him a quill and parchment. "And he didn't actually attack anyone, did he?"

"Arthur, it's Mad Eye. He sprung out of bed jinxing anything that moved, But no one is injured so they'll have a devil of a time proving anything." Mr. Diggory said, "Arthur we've got to get ahead of this before the press. Especially that Skeeter woman."

Mr. Weasley gave a nod, shoving the note down in his pocket, and sprung up, "Alright, I'm off."

"Be careful," She called after him as she said a few words to the head in the fire, shoving a piece of toast in his mouth as they exchanged goodbyes. Meanwhile, Mr. Weasley was fastening on his cloak and saying his goodbyes to his family, he even ruffled Harry's hair as he passed.

"Molly? Are you going to be alright getting everyone to King Cross Station?"

"Of course I will," She said, waving him off towards the door, "You just take care of old Mad Eye." They shared a kiss and then Mr. Weasley disappeared in a swirl.

"Did you just say Mad Eye? As in Mad Eye Moody?" Ron asked, a bit of wonder in his voice.

"Isn't he that nutter?" George started to ask but paused at his mother's stern glare.

"Your father respects Mad Eye Moody, he thinks very highly of his work and you should too." AS she walked away Fred started to mutter something about spark plugs which got him his very own glare.

"Moody was a great wizard in his time," Bill said, voice just as firm as his mothers.

"He's an old friend of Dumbledore's too, you know?" Charlie chimed in.

"Well, Dumbledore isn't exactly normal either, is he?" Fred started, "I mean, sure he's a genius and all but…"

"Who is Mad Eye Moody anyway."

"He was an Auror for the Ministry, one of the best," Charlie started, pausing only for a second at Harry's blank expression, "It means he was a Dark Wizard Catcher, they say half the prisoners in Azkaban are there because of him… Though, rumors have it that he's a bit paranoid nowadays. Sees Dark Wizards around every corner and considering the enemies he must have made over the years, the families of all the people he caught mostly, I can't say that blame him."

Bill and Charlie decided to come with them, Percy decided to head into work early. "The Ministry is still busy for the… Incident. I should go in and see if Mr. Crouch has any need of me."

"And someday Percy, with all this brown nosing he'll eventually remember your name," George said seriously, receiving only a sniff as Percy swirled away in his own bout of appraration.

Apparently, again because of the mess at the World Cup, Mr. Weasley couldn't borrow any of the Ministry cars as they usually did for his large family. So, with a flick of her wand in the air and some patience, she called the Knight Bus.

It was a horrifically purple triple decker bus that slide from the air with a stretch and a pop. The doors slammed open and a thin pimple faced man leaned his head, "Well this is a big group ain't it. All for Kings Cross?" The man asked, Harry just barely remembering his name being Stan.

"Yes, we are, enough seats for nine please."

"Might be a bit of a squeeze but we should be able to fit you all, most are heading that way anyway." Mrs. Weasley fanded over a handful of Galleons to get her family on and they were all quickly loaded on, Stan professionally placing the luggage setting the luggage away with a little help from Bill.

The inside of the Knight Bus didn't look much like how Harry remembered it. The last time he was on it, just before the start of his third year, the bus had been lined with brass framed beds with candles burning within the curtained room. But now there were just lines of chairs, some high backed but most were simple house chairs along with a few rocking chairs here and there, and all were noticeably loose from the ground.

True to Stan's word most on the train were Hogwarts students, Harry even recognized a few enough to wave. Though, none of them seemed ready to relinquish the death grip they had on their own chairs.

"Alright," Stan said, tying down the owl and cat cages with one last tug, "Let's be off then!"

And without another word, except a maniacal laugh from somewhere in the front, the bus sped away from the Burrow.

What followed next had to be the third worse car ride in Harry's life, maybe second. The less said about the trip the better but Harry had never gotten out of a vehicle so fast in his life. From the way everyone else was running off with their trunks Harry was sure they all agreed that no one liked playing bumper cars with chairs.

"Thank you for choosing the Knight Bus! Please come again!" Stan called from behind them, the bus disappearing with all the fanfare of a popped balloon.

"I can't wait to get my apparition license," George mumbled, dragging his trunk along with a hurried grunt, and got a hardy agreement from near everyone in earshot.

Getting to Platform 9 ¾ was actually relatively easy, one just needed to know where to walk. To step through the illusion of a fake wall between platforms 9 and 10. The real trick was doing it without the muggles noticing, some from their bus group did unconcerned. Simply rushing forward without a care or second glance, as if they were in a rush to get to their train which was true in a sense. But the number of rushing students caught the eye of more than one curious muggle.

Harry's group decided to have a bit more tack in their approach, leaning against the fake wall in pairs and sets. Talking casually as the eased their way onto the magical platform.

The Hogwarts Express materialized in front of them, it was a large and gleaming red steam engine that was already letting out a steady stream of white clouds. Through the steam, Hatry could just make out the dark shapes of students waving to their parents as they boarded the train, the sound of their pets hissing and hooting near deafening. Ron's new owl, Pigwidgeon, was making a scene of itself as it bounced around its cage, trying to respond to every call by itself.

"Shut up Pig," Ron muttered, as they waited for the rest of his family to make their way through. Bill and Charlie shared secret smiles as they hugged their sister and clapped their brothers on the shoulders.

"Don't look so sad, you all might be seeing me sooner than you think," Charlie said, grinning so wide his freckles ate away at the last of his pale skin.

"Why?" One of the twins askes, eyes squinting.

"You'll see," he said, finger to his nose.

Bill sighed wistfully, hands shoved in his pockets, "I wished they did this back when I was in school."

"But why? What's going on?"

"Oh, you'll find out." Bill said, smile returning, "I might even take time off from work to come and see a bit of it."

"But see what?" Ron demanded, the warning whistle stopping Bill from giving a teasing answer.

"You lot best get on before the train leaves without you," Mrs. Weasley said as she tried to shoo them away. "Be sure to write on Christmas!"

"Why would we need to write?" Ron asked confused, eyes narrowing, "We come home every year. What's going on?"

"Oh, I'm sure Dumbledore will explain when you arrive." She said, dismissive and eyes a bit tear filled as she waved them away. "Now behave this semester, won't you? Won't you FRED? Won't you GEORGE?"

"Mum, what's going on?"

"Find some seats before the train leaves!" Was all she said, still waving as the whistle blew again. Frustrated Harry, Hermione, and the Weasley's boarded the train, their group breaking up as the migrated to their years and friends.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione started searching for an empty compartment, Ron grumbling the whole way. "What's the point of teasing us like that? It's just cruel is what it is." He said, peeking into another compartment and tsking as he saw it occupied.

"It is strange," Hermione admitted, "Maybe there's a new class at Hogwarts?"

Ron snorted, "Only you would think school work would be that exciting, Hermione."

"Well, it could be!" She said, indigent and a bit defensive, "It is a school after all."

"I bet it's something to do with the Quidditch season," Ron said, a bit gleeful at the idea, "Maybe we're going to have pros visit or something."

"I highly doubt that Ron."

"What, the seasons over. They have a bit of time before they have to go back and train. Though the British and Scottish should get started sooner rather than later. What do you think Harry?" Ron asked, peeking over his shoulder at his silent friend only to pause. "Are you okay there mate?"

He wasn't, it was just so damn cold. He was shivering where he stood. His teeth clacking even as he started rubbing at his arms. "Just cold," He said, surprised he wasn't seeing his own breath, "Aren't you?"

Both shook their heads, "A bit warm actually."

Hermione put her hand on his forehead, "You don't feel warm, I don't think you have a fever." She said, half guessing as she turned to Ron, "Do you think someone jinxed him?"

"Probably that prat Malfoy. Let's find a cabin and try to dispel him."

The two started to frogmarch him down the train passage, and Harry would be embarrassed to admit that he needed the help. The cold was getting worse, it felt like frost was trying to form across his face and his legs were starting to get weak.

Shivering, he looked ahead and saw a face smirking at him from down the hall. The man was strange, tall and overly dressed and hair an unnatural violet. He wore a bright red scarf over a long trench coat, a hooded grey white mantle resting over his shoulders. There was a black fedora in his hands that he gestured with grandly as he bowed at Harry.

Who was he? And why did the sight of him made him clench his shivering teeth?

"Who's that?" He asked his friends, hoping they recognized him. Was he the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher? If he was Harry already hated him.

There was just something slimy about him that got under Harry's skin.

"Who's who now?" Ron asked, trying to track Harry's gaze and completely missing the smiling man even as he walked towards them.

"Him, right there," Harry said, trying to point and failing. "The creep in the hat."

"Harry…" Hermione said cautiously, "No one's wearing a hat."

"Him," Harry said, not quite a yell but loud enough to get a few glances, "That guy, the only adult in the hall."

"Harry, there's no one but students here."

The man's smile seemed to mock him, even as he faded from sight. Harry swore he hear him laughed as he blinked away. "Where'd he go?" He asked, voice getting a bit weak from the cold.

"Is he going mental?" Ron asked and getting a short glare.

Hermione had her wand out and cast a spell on him. She frowned and cast it again, enunciating the words more just to be sure it was casts right. "That should have dispelled it but he's still shivering." She cast another spell and it did as much as the first, "I put a warming charm on him, let's hope that helps until we can get him sitting."

They kept on marching him down the train, the strange man always seemed to be in the corner of Harry's vision every time they entered a new car. His head snapping to him every time, the mocking laughter always there.

The found an empty compartment about halfway down the train, where they all but threw him onto the bench. Ron secured Harry and Hermione's trunks before he started to dig through his own. He came out with two robes, one his plain black one that he passed to Hermione and the other the ugly mauve one with frills.

He glared at the garment for a moment before scoffing at it and using it to cover his owl's cage, muffling the sound somewhat when he did. "At least that ugly thing has some use. Why did mom even buy this thing?" He grumbled before turning to Hermione, "How is he?"

"Still shivering." She said, "He was fine on the Platform, right?"

Ron nodded, "Seemed fine around then," He agreed, "Was getting just annoyed as we were over all that vague rubbish."

"Maybe we should get a Prefect?"

"And what are they going to do about it?"

"They are older than us Ron, they probably know a better way to help with," Hermione waved her hand at Harry, "Whatever is going on."

"'M fine," Harry protested, "Just need to rest for a bit."

"Harry, your obviously not fine." Hermione grossed, "Something is wrong with you."

"Just need to sleep it off." He said, eyes heavy but just catching the sight of the man passing their cabin, "Or just to take it easy for a bit."

Ron and Hermione shared a look over his head, a silent debate. A debate that ended with Hermione letting out a heavy sigh, "Fine, but you're heading to Madame Pomfrey as soon as we get to the castle. Do you understand me?"

Harry just nodded, head resting against the seat, relieved that he wasn't about to become a spectacle before the year starts. Again.

He was starting to wonder if his First Year was going to be the only time he had a normal trip to Hogwarts.

AN:
I forgot how repeat-y Harry Potter fanfiction can get at times...