Chapter 62 - Out of the Dark

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The last two weeks of term flew by. Snape and Draco had come up with the excuse that he and Snape were being required to stock up the Hospital Wing with potions, now that Voldemort was on the move, hence their new meeting twice a week. Harry was along by default. So far everyone was buying it and Snape was being extra offish with people as if he hated the idea. Not too far from the truth really.

Draco thought Harry had made remarkable progress already. Harry was able to affect the Dark Mark without needing the regression technique any more, but, of course, it wasn't enough for his terribly Gryffindorish soulmate. Draco was letting it lie for now, at least until they had the end of term out of the way.

Everyone was nervous. It was the first train ride home after Voldemort had shown his hand and every person from first year to teachers knew the Hogwarts Express had a huge target over it. That was why all the assistant teachers had agreed to assemble on the platform early.

Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick and two Aurors were also in place. No one was willing to take any chances.

"Okay," Harry said as they all stood around waiting, "the whole student body is going to be on edge, so we have to be as relaxed as possible."

"Relaxed, with You-Know-Who breathing down our necks," Seamus complained.

"Just pretend you're back in first year trying to explain to Professor McGonagall why you exploded water, again," Pansy suggested, which made a few people smile at least.

"Harry's right," Draco decided to step in, since there were still some doubtful faces. "It's going to be a long journey. If everyone is tense it will be even longer and it won't do any of us any good."

"But we're supposed to be keeping an eye out for danger," Susan pointed out.

"No we're not," Hermione countered. "There are two Aurors on the platform and there will be four more on the train when it gets here. It's their job to spot trouble. We're the second level of protection. We're there to get as many kids to safety as possible if anything does happen."

"Yeah, and if we look confident, everyone on the train will be too," Ron added.

"What you're saying is grin and bear it," Neville said.

"And laugh if you can," Harry said with a small smile at his friend.

"Act like it's any other train ride home," Draco said. "Channel your inner first year and imagine all the sweets waiting for you at home."

"It's going to be a nightmare," Pansy said, rubbing her temples before straightening and plastering a smile on her face, "but look sharp, people, here come the students."

Draco couldn't help feeling a little proud as their anxious little group suddenly visibly relaxed. Justin told an amazingly rude joke, which shocked everyone into laughing.

[We might even get away with this,] Draco told Harry, allowing his expression to go to mildly amused.

[We all learnt to act a long time ago,] Harry replied, and wasn't that just a comment on their generation.


Good actors they might be, but Draco was sure Harry was about to vibrate apart by the time they reached London. They had played the relaxed, confident guardians of the pupils on the train, but Harry had been tense every last second of the way. No matter what Hermione said, Harry had been on the lookout for trouble the whole journey and Draco had spent his time making sure Harry didn't over tax himself.

There was the usual chaos on the platform as everyone disembarked. The added layer of worry was palpable over the top of the usual excitement because every parent was aware how vulnerable their children were, but at least the charade all the assistant teachers had put on seemed to have calmed their offspring.

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