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Harry Potter and the Shadowed Light

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Previously

Gilderoy Lockhart was panicking. He was caught, trapped, and that senile old man could do nothing to help him. How it had come to this he didn’t know. He was beloved by all, a hero, cherished and adored. Actually, that was a lie, he knew exactly who to blame. He knew who’s fault this was and, if he had his way, he would get his revenge.

Harry Potter would rue the day he challenged the great Gilderoy Lockhart.

~

21th December 1992

Harry could practically feel the excitement pouring off him; it wasn’t just the actual event, but the knowing why that made him giddy. He hated Lockhart and, yes, he was a fraud, but even with his new, albeit looser, morals he just couldn’t see why he would actually feed the man to Aithusia.

He had enjoyed the man’s obvious distress brought on by being bound in the wards for the last few days—that added to his reactions to Rita’s articles had actually made his repeated second year slightly enjoyable. How he was going to cope with another five years he wasn't sure - perhaps he should consider skipping a few?

“What's got you so happy, Harry?” Neville asked. They were in Herbology and Harry had paired with the blond Gryffindor for the day.

“I'm not that happy.” Harry tried to play it off. The fact he wasn't occluding his emotions was showing just how comfortable he was with the young lion.

“Oh, I thought it was because we only have today until we break up for Yule.”

Harry blinked in shock when he realised Neville was correct; he had honestly forgotten about that in his build-up to today. He had owl ordered his gifts weeks ago but his mind had been completely focused on just how and why Gilderoy Lockhart would earn his wrath.

“Well, Yule is always something to be excited about,” Harry said. This Yule would bring him the best gift: he would be one step closer to having Tom back.

“It will be your first one with Sirius and Remus,” Neville commented.

Harry nodded and hoped that with everything going on the pair hadn't forgotten to get everything he would require for Tom’s ritual.

“I know. It will be my first proper holiday with them - my birthday doesn't count.”

Neville smiled. “I'm glad that you're happy, Harry. You deserve it.”

Harry sent the Gryffindor a look. “So do you, Nev. How’s your gran been treating you? And your uncle Algie?”

Neville shrugged a shoulder. “They're nicer to me now that I’m here and have friends. I swear gran almost cried when she saw my grades last year - not a single T, even in Potions.”

“That’s good. You know you could always come and spend a few days with me over the holidays, I'm sure Sirius and Remus would love having you. They could even teach you a few things!”

Neville’s smile widened. “I could write to gran and ask before we go to the feast.”

Harry nodded. “Do it.”

“Thanks Harry, you really are the best friend I could have ever had. Without you I would probably be a friendless Hufflepuff.”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t think there is such a thing as a friendless Hufflepuff but even without me you would have been a lion. You're brave Neville and you will be a great wizard. You don’t need me for that.”

Neville smiled bashfully making Harry smirk. “Now enough of this, show me how I'm supposed to make these things stop crying and trying to bite me,” Harry said, indicating to the baby mandrakes.

Neville nodded and fell into his instructor role, clearly showing his passion and skill with plants.

~

As the two second years approached the leaving feast, having detoured so Neville could send his letter, Harry was surprised when Luna didn’t attach herself to them. The small blonde was always waiting for them and would usually be outside their classes (how she managed to get to theirs from her own he didn’t know), but on the rare occasion she didn’t she would always find them by the time they reached the Great Hall.

Sitting at the Ravenclaw table, Harry looked around before pulling out the map. He had shown it to the group when the twins had given it to him so he didn’t feel the need to hide it as they covered him from the eyes of the rest of the hall.

“I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good.”

As the map came alive Harry scanned it until his eyes fell onto the name he was searching for.

“What's she doing on her own on the seventh floor?” Draco asked, looking over Harry’s shoulder to see the map.

Harry felt his eyes narrow. “I don’t know. Why don’t you guys wait here for us though? I’ll be back,” he said, standing to leave.

“We’ll come with you,” Hannah offered.

Harry, however, knew that whatever he found would be the reason he fed Lockhart to Aithusia and knew they weren’t ready for that. “No, I don’t want you guys to miss the feast. Save us something good, though!”

The group shared a look but eventually conceded.

Picking up the map, Harry wasn't surprised when he saw Lockhart not far from Luna. With a growl he closed the map and made his way to them.

“Mischief managed.”

~

Entering the room that he had seen Luna in, Harry felt his magic strain to lash out. Sitting bound to a chair with bleary eyes was his little moon.

A hiss escaped him, whether it was English or Parseltongue he didn’t know. “Luna!

Her unfocused gaze strayed towards him and a half smile appeared on her face. “Hello, my Lord.”

Harry walked forward and, with a flick of his wrist, unbound her from the chair. He couldn’t see anything wrong with her, but he knew with magic sometimes the effects were hard to find.

“Are you okay, little moon?”

“I feel a bit dizzy, my Lord. Did you know that you did that without a wand? Also my head hurts, it’s very dark in here.”

Harry felt his anger rise. “I know, Luna. Lumos,” he said. Lifting his wand, he allowed the spell to light up the large, empty room.

“Harry Potter, I knew you would come if I took your little girlfriend,” came a voice from behind him.

Harry allowed his occlumency shields to rise and killed off any emotion he might have felt. “Lockhart,” he greeted tonelessly.

Gilderoy felt a shiver race down his spine at the voice of the child in front of him, it held no emotion whatsoever. That alongside the glowing green eyes and unnatural stillness of the boy made him question himself for a moment. However, he quickly shook off his fears - he was Gilderoy Lockhart after all. “You should have never chosen to go against me, you mere child!”

Harry felt his magic crackle and wondered if the fool was smart enough to back down, but he didn’t hold much faith in the thought.

“I may not have done all of the things I have claimed but I am still a wizard of great skill, skills you could never dream of reaching. You're just a school boy with a pretty face and fame you don’t deserve. You're nothing compared to me, Harry Potter. Nothing.” Gilderoy pulled out his wand in a flourish and pointed it at the boy.

Harry took a moment to check his shields before answering, his voice conversational but emotionless, like he was talking about the weather. “If you tell me exactly what you wished to accomplish here I promise you will not find a painful end. An end yes, but it will be painless.”

Lockhart felt his mouth go dry at the boy’s reaction. There was no fear, no pleading, it was like he was void of all humanity. He hadn't even glanced at the wand pointed at him.

“You think you can threaten me? Admit it Harry, you’ve lost!”

Harry tilted his head for a moment. “Lost?” he asked.

Gilderoy felt a moment of satisfaction, thinking he had won, before it quietly died. Harry allowed his magic to slowly fill the room, the darkness seeping and growing.

“You're a foolish man. You should have targeted me - yes, I would have retaliated, but I would have been swift. However, instead you chose to target somebody I love.”

Harry heard Luna let out a small giggle and turned to her to find that her eyes were now on him and she was smiling. She wasn't bothered by the darkness he was radiating nor the power that was now making the air around him vibrate. Nodding to her, he turned back to face Lockhart who now stood dumb in the middle of the room, his wand limp in his hand and eyes starting to dart around in panic.

“My friends, my family… you don’t get to touch them. Nobody gets to touch them,” Harry said, his voice quiet and chilling yet somehow managing to fill the room.

In his now growing panic Lockhart sent a stunner at Harry, but the spell died before it reached him, sizzling out with his lack of power and overwhelming fear.

S-s-stupify!

“I shall give you one last chance. Tell me what you had planned!” Harry demanded, his voice filled with power.

Realising he had made a mistake, Gilderoy turned and tried to run. But before he had taken a step, he was frozen.

“I asked you a question, professor. It would be rude of you to run away without answering me.”

Harry turned his palm and watched as the frozen man mimicked his movements until he was on his knees in front of him, their eyes almost level.

“If you don’t wish to tell me professor, I think I shall find the information for myself.”

Harry knew he wasn't the best legilimens around. He had studied occlumency almost religiously but his study of breaking into people’s minds was limited. However he had read all of the theories behind it and, in the present circumstances, he didn’t fear leaving lasting damage like he would have had he been attempting the mind magic on somebody else.

Legilimens.”

Harry met a surprisingly strong resistance before his magic flared and crushed the barrier, bringing a shocked gasp from the man bound before him. Suddenly images swarmed him: pieces of broken conversations, dreams of a child, actions of a man, lost thoughts and hidden desires. Overwhelmed, Harry felt his body tremble slightly as he focused on slowing the information, on viewing it and searching through it for what he wanted until something finally caught his attention.

~

The Hag’s Lair, Knockturn Alley, ~5 years ago 

Harry looked around the memory, viewing it from Lockhart’s perspective. The pub, which he recognised from his own wanderings in the dark alley, was hardly visible in the torrential rain, the few street lamps blown out by the harsh winds.

Walking in, Harry noticed Lockhart was afraid of the sparse occupants of the old pub and soon found himself settled into a corner with a warm mulled cider for comfort while he waited out the storm. Harry, from the memories he had stolen from the man’s mind, knew Lockhart needed to pick up a book from a nearby shop - that was the reason he was seeking shelter and waiting. Soon, however, the reason why Harry had his interest piqued walked in. Harry felt the memory of Lockhart look up, shocked when he recognised the old man under the dark cloak. The rest of the rooms occupants didn’t look up, used to looking the other way, so Dumbledore's entrance was only noted by Lockhart.

Dumbledore was dressed in a way Harry had never seen before. Gone were the bright and garish robes and in their place was a dark cloak, the colour of which he couldn’t make out in the poor lighting. Harry watched as the professor looked around with shrewd eyes before walking towards the stairs with purpose. Harry felt Lockhart’s interest spike as he rose to follow the man; he didn’t fear being found as everybody knew the headmaster was the beacon of Light in the magic world.

Following the old man, Harry noted how Lockhart's excitement grew, the fool thinking he would find out some juicy gossip or perhaps some important secrets. Letting Dumbledore enter the room, Harry noticed how it took Lockhart four fumbled attempts to cast an eavesdropper charm and overhear the conversation going on inside.

“The world needs to know what you did, Albus! Who you were!”

“They were the mistakes of a child. I am a different man now, a better man.”

“A man who has never paid for his crimes!”

“Would you really destroy all I have worked for?”

“When it is built on lies and deceit? On the suffering of others? Yes!”

Lockhart had heard enough and with a flourish, he opened the door, his wand raised.

Obliviate!” he shouted, pointing the wand at the surprisingly young woman.

Harry was fascinated as he watched the memories of her discoveries disappear as they were removed with the spell and her eyes go glassy. He didn’t recognise her from this life or his last, but he studied her features and vowed to himself he would find her and find out what it was she knew. After a while he turned his attention to the headmaster, who had turned and drew his wand when the door opened.

“What is the meaning of this?” he asked Lockhart.

“A debt, headmaster,” he said almost gleefully. Harry picked up on his thoughts of a mutually beneficial agreement.

Harry watched as the headmaster looked between the woman and Lockhart. “A debt?” he asked.

The memory faded then as Harry lost interest in the terms. However, the two came up with an Unbreakable Vow and agreed to help one another.

Pulling out of the memory, Harry allowed himself to filter through the man’s thoughts once again, only catching glimpses of them but not delving in fully like he had just previously. Another thought quickly caught his eye, but unlike before, it wasn't such a mystery as he was in it. After a few moments Harry felt his smile become almost feral as he realised he had found what he was looking for.

~

The Great Hall, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry, once again, found himself viewing the memory from Lockhart's perspective. This time, however, he knew exactly where he was and even when he was as he was watching himself. Viewing yourself was quite a disconcerting experience; he was actually rather fascinated seeing how he walked and interacted. Looking at the memory of himself, Harry realised just how different he was from the old Harry Potter—not just his looks, but his mannerisms and his confidence: Gone was the lost little boy.

However, Harry soon focused again on why he was here and allowed Lockhart's thoughts to filter in. Gilderoy had watched the boy for days; he and his little friends didn’t understand just who they were messing with. He was the Gilderoy Lockhart: Order of Merlin Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League, and five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile award! He was what mere wizards aspired to be yet Harry Potter thought he could take him on and win? On no, he would make the boy pay for humiliating him.

He knew he was done for - even Albus couldn’t get him out now. The DMLE was coming for him thanks to the brat. How he had known, Gilderoy didn’t know. He was careful when covering his tracks, yet Harry bloody Potter hadn't bought his act from day one. He had set his murderous godfather on him and that pompous Death Eater then that evil wrench Skeeter. He knew he would be caught, but he refused to go down without taking that brat with him!

Looking back at the group, he clenched his fist. The boy had everything Gilderoy wished for: money, fame, friends, looks, charm—yet he didn’t even try! He didn’t deserve any of it. Looking at them, he noted how the small blonde girl seemed to gravitate to Potter and how the boy allowed her to drape over him with no concern. He had taught her a few times - she was a Ravenclaw like Potter. Linda? No, Lucy? Not quite... Luna. Yes, Luna Lovegood.

Staring at the pair, Lockhart started to plot. What better way to destroy Potter than to go through the person he clearly loved the most?

The line of thought had Harry snarling silently before he calmed himself down and let Lockhart’s thoughts filter back in.

Potter thought he was untouchable as the Heir to a Noble House. Well, I’ll show him.

Harry watched as the plans were built. Lockhart targeted Luna because of how close they were, though the thought made Harry tilt his head. While Luna was probably the closest of his friends simply because she knew so much, he loved them all equally.

He had given Luna detention and forced her to come to his office where he had stunned her and moved her to the classroom. He had planned on using a blood ritual, on sacrificing her and her magic, and blaming it on Harry. The thought made Harry scoff slightly as he doubted Lockhart would be able to actually draw the correct runes required for a successful ritual, especially for something that complicated. Runes was an extremely complex concept, after all. The next part of his plan was that he was going to give Harry a detention, stun him, and force him to watch as she died before planting false memories in his mind.

He had planned to make Harry believe he had done the ritual.

Lockhart knew he would still be caught for being a fraud, but this way he would drag the Potter brat down with him! The memories would make the child think he was guilty and, even if he tried to hide it or cover up the crime, he would be caught, blamed, and thrown away just like he was about to be. It was perfect—not only would the brat suffer seeing his little girlfriend die, but he would end up in Azkaban as well.

With the plans found, Harry violently pulled out of the man’s mind, hoping to cause him the maximum amount of pain when doing so.

~

Harry felt his magic straining to release once he pulled out of the man’s mind. How dare he?! Wordlessly, he thrust his hand out and knocked the man out, but not before locking him in a nightmare. Lockhart would be trapped in his version of hell until Harry woke him up.

“I think I understand why rabbit and peacock go together so well, little moon,” he said after taking a deep breath.

Luna giggled. “I knew you would.”

Harry turned to the girl then and saw she was looking a lot better. “Did you know he would target you?” he asked, concerned with how she allowed herself to be hurt.

Luna tilted her head. “I didn’t not know,” she said softly, knowing Harry would be upset.

Harry prayed to Merlin for strength. “Luna…,” he said, drawing her name out.

“I knew he would try something but it wasn't clear until today! And I knew you would come for me, my Lord. I knew I would be fine.”

Harry sighed. “I will always come for you Luna, but promise me that you won’t put yourself at risk next time.”

Luna smiled a blindingly. “I can’t promise that. If putting myself at risk helps you then I will do it. I think we would all do it for you, my Lord.”

Harry tutted and walked towards the smaller girl. “I would never ask that from you or anybody else.”

“I know! That’s why you're so special, Harry.”

Pulling her into a hug, Harry turned and observed the slightly twitching form of their current Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

“How do you suppose we’re going to get him to the chamber?” he asked.

Luna giggled. “The map, silly.”

~

Levitating and disillusioning Lockhart’s body from the 7th floor to the 1st floor girls’ bathroom was actually easier than Harry had first anticipated. Luna held the map and directed them so they didn’t encounter a single person or ghost on the way.

Yet their luck didn’t hold out as they were greeted by Myrtle. The ghost girl stared at them before narrowing her eyes at Harry.

“What are you doing in here? This is a girl’s bathroom! Have you come to make fun of me, to bully me for my glasses?” she cried, not pausing for breath between her accusations.

Then again,’ Harry thought, ‘she doesn’t need to breathe.

Before he could respond, Luna spoke up with a bright smile and a tilt of her head. “Hello again, Myrtle.”

“Why have you brought a boy in here?” she asked Luna, her tone on the word boy making it sound like an accusation.

“This is the boy I was telling you about, Myrtle. This is Harry.”

Harry watched their interaction with fascination. He knew the old Luna got on with most of the ghosts, but he hadn't known she also spoke to Myrtle. Harry had been lucky so far in all of his visits to the Chamber he had yet to meet the dead girl.

“Oh, you're Harry,” Myrtle said, getting closer to him. A lot closer than he was comfortable with, actually.

Hiding his discomfort, he smiled. “Hello Myrtle, it’s nice to meet you.”

The ghost giggled and blushed. “Hello,” she said.

“Would you mind standing guard for us, Myrtle? We have something that needs disposing of,” Luna asked.

The ghost nodded, still giggling whenever she looked at Harry. “Of course, Luna! Anything for you and Harry.”

Harry held back his groan. Even in this life he was doomed to be stalked by the ghost.

“Thank you,” he said and watched as she disappeared with another giggle.

Sighing, he looked at Luna, who was also silently giggling.

“It’s not funny, you know,” he said.

With obvious effort Luna managed to straighten her face and curb her laughter. “Of course not, my Lord.”

Harry shook his head before muttering about stalker ghosts and evil Seers. Approaching the sinks, Harry opened his mouth and hissed, “Open.”

Luna let out a slight squeal at the used of Parseltongue—not one of fear, but one of delight. Turning to look at her, she looked completely unashamed and beamed at him.

Stairs,” he said and watched at the slide transformed. Harry turned to Luna and said, “Follow me.”

Luna nodded and followed Harry down the stairs into the Chamber, keeping at a slight distance as the disillusioned body of Lockhart was floating behind him. Just before entering the main chamber, Harry flicked his wand and lit the torches. “Stay here for a moment while I tell Aithusia about you, I don’t want her to accidently harm you.”

Luna nodded and bounced on the spot. “Okay,” she said, her excitement obvious.

Harry shook his head. Most people would have a small amount of fear meeting a legendary Dark creature like a basilisk yet Luna looked like all of her dreams were about to come true.

Aithusia,” he called out.

“Hello, youngling,” the snake said, appearing from one of the antechambers.

“I've brought you a present but first, I have a friend with me. She’s waiting outside, would it be okay if I called her so she could meet you?”

“Yes little one, bring in your friend. I will judge to see if they are worthy for being a speaker’s friend.”

Harry nodded and called out to Luna to join him.

Turning back to the snake he saw that her yellow eyes were focused on the still disillusioned Lockhart. With a wave of his hand the body became solid once again and Aithusia hissed.

Is this my present, youngling?” she asked, the tongue scenting the man.

“Yes.”

Luna appeared by his side, her blue eyes wide. “She’s beautiful, my Lord,” she said, any hint of dreaminess in her voice hidden by her sheer awe.

Aithusia hissed in pleasure. “A smart friend, youngling, clearly she has great taste. You’ve picked well.”

Luna looked at Harry. “What did she say, my Lord?”

“She says you're a good friend, little moon,” he said, finding it funny that it took a simple compliment to win over a 1000 year old basilisk. Then again, she could probably smell Luna’s emotions and knew she was pure-spirited.

Little one, why have you brought me a man as a present?”

Harry turned his attention back to the great snake who was still staring at Lockhart with unblinking fascination.

Quickly telling the snake what the man had done, Harry had to take a step back as she began hissing in fury; some of the words even he couldn’t make out. It was the first time the snake sounded anything less than human.

Stupid man, eat him, crush him, poison him! Thinks he can hurt my youngling? My speaker child?”

“I take it she doesn't like peacock?” Luna asked from her position hidden behind him.

“Shall I awaken him for you, Aithusia?”

“Yes!”

Harry almost felt sorry for the man. Almost.

Flicking his hand again, Harry watched as the man turned and grumbled about being bald and fat, making Harry snort as that must have been his nightmare. The man quickly gathered his bearings and he shot up after a few seconds. His blue eyes first focusing on Harry and then Luna, who was poking her head around him to get a better look at what was about to happen.

“Potter!” he growled before a loud hissing filled the air. Turning, he wasn't prepared for the sight that met him.

Harry watched as the man turned around and blanched. He had never seen somebody go so white so quickly and feared the man would pass out. Gilderoy looked at the giant snake in front of him and felt his bladder give, before blackness took over.

Harry wrinkled his nose at the scene and sent a Rennervate at the man.

Pathetic creature,” Aithusia hissed.

Lockhart blinked twice before letting out a high pitched shriek and scrambling back. Reaching for where he kept his wand and panicking when he came up empty, he continued to scramble away. Seeing this, Harry whistled to gain his attention and pulled out he man’s wand.

Lockhart locked eyes on his wand and screamed, “Potter! Save me! Kill it!”

Harry laughed lowly. “Why would I kill her? She’s my friend.”

“It’s a bloody monster! Kill it, boy! Now!”

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t like it when people call me boy and she is not a monster. She is a beautiful basilisk, the familiar of Salazar Slytherin himself. Aithusia, don’t listen to the fool, you're not a monster.”

Lockhart stared incomprehensibly. “Y-you're a parselmouth?” he whispered, horrified by the discovery.

“Yes,” Harry said plainly.

“You're a freak! A Dark monster!”

Harry felt his magic strain to let out. “Aithusia, I'm tired of his words; enjoy your meal and have a great Yule. I've asked some house-elves to make sure you’re brought some rabbits and other things to eat while I'm away,” Harry said, his voice strained even though he was talking in Parseltongue.

Youngling, his words are meaningless. You are not a freak! You are a wizard beyond the dreams of many and he is nothing. Don’t let him affect you.”

Harry nodded. “Thank you. Enjoy your peacock.”

Luna seemed to understand what was going on even though she didn’t know the words and hugged Harry. “My Lord, the peacock is a fool. Like the old goat, his mind is full of nifflers.”

Harry laughed. “I know, little moon. Come on, let’s go, I think the rest will have probably sent out a search party by now.”

Luna hummed and skipped away. “Bye, Aithusia, have a great Yule and I hope you enjoy the peacock!”

Lockhart seemed to realise they were leaving him and tried to stand. “You can’t leave!”

Harry turned and sent him a cold look. “Watch me.”

The last thing he saw was Aithusia’s lunge before he led Luna out of the chamber.

“I still think ginger would have been a great starter for her,” Luna said, twirling around next to Harry, not bothered that she had just witnessed a man’s murder.

“Perhaps that shall be the summer feast?” Harry said eventually, barely holding back his laughter at her innocent viciousness.

~

By the time they reached the hall dessert was being served.

“And where in Morgana’s name have you been?” Draco demanded when they sat down.

Harry and Luna shared a look. “Did you know snakes like peacocks?” Luna asked.

Everybody paused and sent her confused looks.

“What?” Neville eventually asked.

Harry just laughed. “Sorry we took so long. It took us slightly longer to get back, but at least we made dessert.”

The rest still looked confused but nodded.

“Well, at least that’s something, but pudding isn’t a proper meal,” Hannah said, showing them two plates with actual food from the feast.

Sending the Hufflepuff a grin, Harry picked one up and tucked in. “You're a star, Hannah Abbott,” he said seriously.

“Oi, we helped!” the twins said in mock outrage.

Harry smiled and looked at his mismatched group of friends. “You guys are great.”

Draco paused in his eating and sent him a look. “You're being surprisingly nice.”

Harry smirked. “I'm always nice, Drakie.”

Draco looked horrified. “No, not again, please! I've only just gotten Blaise to stop.”

Hearing his name, the Italian looked up. “Stop what?”

“Calling our dear friend here Drakie.” Harry laughed.

After the feast, Harry returned to Ravenclaw tower with his roommates. All of them gathered their things and made sure their trunks were more or less packed; nobody wanted to rush in the morning before the train.

Getting done quickly, Harry pulled out his cloak and the map. He had one final thing he needed to do before going home for Yule.

~

22nd December 1992, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

The next day the group all met at the station. All of them were going home for the holidays.

“Are you excited for Yule, Harry?” Susan asked as they approached the train.

“Yes,” he said, and he was. He was mere days away from the first stage of the ritual that would bring back his soulmate - the thought that he would finally be able to meet Tom properly was nearly overwhelming. He had collected the diadem last night and even though it was locked in his trunk under heavy wards, he could still feel its energy pulsing.

“What about you guys? Are you excited?” he asked.

Always,” Blaise said. “Mother wants to spend the season in Italy with my grandparents, so I won’t be around but you will all receive your gifts.”

“I can’t wait to go home, it feels like forever since September,” Pansy said.

“What about you, Drake? Do you have any plans?”

“Other than the annual Malfoy ball, no.”

“Ball?” Harry repeated in horror.

“Oh yes, we hold one every year - it’s the social event of the season. You’ll be there, of course. You're family and I swear mother likes you more than she likes me,” Draco joked, not realising he had lost Harry at ‘oh yes’.

“Morgana save me,” Harry said, his reaction making everybody laugh and drawing Draco’s attention.

“What's that face for?”

“I hate balls,” Harry grumbled. “The dancing and everybody staring at you.”

“Well you’ll love ours, mother will be devastated if you don’t.”

“It’s okay Harry, I’ll be there,” Susan said finally, after her laughter stopped.

“And me,” Hannah agreed.

“Same here,” Pansy said.

Harry nodded and looked at Neville. “What about you, Neville? Got any plans other than spending a few days with me after Yule?”

They had decided to have Neville visit from the 27th until the 31st, meaning they would have already completed the ritual for the start of Tom’s return.

“Gran never attends the ball so I doubt I’ll be there. Other than Yule and seeing you, I've not got a lot on.”

Eventually the group settled in for the long journey back to London, Harry lulled into a doze by their peaceful chatter.