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Kjkit - Harry Potter and the Marcello School
Chapter 41 - The return
Chapter 41: The return.
Barely a week later the Hogwarts students were filing into the Great Hall for their evening meal. As they entered, many of the Gryffindors automatically looked up at assess the moods of the professors sitting up at the head table.
"Nothing's changed." Ron muttered as he saw the serious faces of Dumbledore, Snape and McGonagall and the beaten face of Remus Lupin as the adults helped themselves to the food.
Hermione sighed. "We're just getting our hopes up again." She said, sitting at her usual place on the Gryffindor table. "He was gone for months last time. What makes anyone think that he would come back any sooner this time?"
"Because he was injured." Dean said from where he was sitting, and at the questioning looks of his friends he went on to explain. "It's a common fact that when an animal is injured, it heads for someplace it feels safe. Why would it be any different for Harry? This is his safe place, that why he ended up staggering in here the other day. He'll be back."
Hermione glanced down at the necklace Harry had made for her and gently rubbed it with her hand. She and Ron hadn't been able to find out anything about the strange liquid in the stone, but she couldn't help notice that Dean's words had a similar ring to the words Harry had included in his letter; a good luck charm…a homing beacon of sorts…
She looked up at Ron as he continued to argue with Dean, accentuating his words with his fork. "But he didn't come back here once he escaped from Voldemort." He was saying, no longer fearing the Dark Wizard's name, though a number of people on the table still flinched. "He went somewhere else when he was hurt that time. And look how long he stayed away."
Ginny pushed her plate away forcefully. "Give it up, Ron!" she said. "We all know how much you really miss him, and I don't believe for one moment that you really hate him for staying away."
Ron frowned sullenly, but looked down at his plate to avoid his sister's glare. Hermione noticed his hand reach up and rub at a small lump that rested on his chest under his robes. She smiled and gave Ginny a quick nod to show that she had gotten through to him. Ginny returned the smile as Ron mumbled something, unaware of the looks being passed around his friends.
"What was that, Ron?" Seamus asked politely.
"I said that he still has some explaining to do." Ron repeated a bit louder. "But, yes, I am worried about him. And I do want to see him come home."
The others returned silently to their meals, all pleased that Ron had finally admitted that he still missed Harry, but their heads rose again as they started to hear a soft melody echo around the hall. As the tune became louder Hermione felt a warmth around her neck and clutched at her pendant, noticing that Ron was doing the same with his.
"Is that music?" Neville asked, frowning as others along the table started to raise their heads, nervously glancing around the room to find its origin.
"I don't know." Ginny replied. "I can't work out if I'm actually hearing something, or just feeling it."
Ron nodded in agreement as the feeling became stronger, and within moments the great hall filled with the warm sound of phoenix song. Many of the students had never heard such a sound before and were looking around in confusion; the younger students looking to the older students and the older students looking towards the head table where the professors were glancing around the room in wonder. HG and RW
Hermione shut her eyes briefly, allowing the warmth of the phoenix song to penetrate every fibre of her body and a comforting shiver ran down her spine as the song increased in volume.
A shout of alarm from the Hufflepuff table broke through the song as the large oak doors of the hall flew open on their own accord, admitting a large gold/black phoenix soaring gracefully in all it's glory, followed closely by Fawkes.
"Harry's phoenix!" Ron said aloud in amazement and Hermione nodded in reply, not taking her eyes off the two phoenixes as they soared around the room.
Fawkes eventually broke off from the flight and settled himself on Dumbledore's shoulder, leaving the new phoenix to finish it's lap of the hall and hover in the middle between the Hufflepuff and the Ravenclaw tables, facing the head table. With a final note the phoenix ended it's song and instead began to produce a golden glow, enveloping the entire hall with such a bright light that all the staff and students had to cover their eyes.
When the glow had subsided and the occupants of Hogwarts were able to see again many gasped or shouted in surprise to find a half circle of twenty or more strangers standing at intervals around the four houses. Most looked to be in their late teens and were clothed in well-worn brown battledress, each with a different animal emblem emblazoned on the front. All were heavily armed, with fierce looking blades strapped to their backs or bows and quivers of arrows just visible from where they were hung on their shoulders.
However, it was not the weapons that suddenly rid Hermione of the warmth that the phoenix song had produced moments before, but the lack of friendliness on the faces of the young men stood around the hall. In fact, Hermione surmised to herself, it seemed unlikely that any of the young men had smiled for a long time.
She was broken out of her thoughts by a nudge from Ron who gave a quick nod to the centre of the half-circle where one of the strangers stepped forward, his face hidden from view by his cloak and flanked on either side by two more of the armed young men. The Gryffindors noticed that each one of them had a different animal emblem on their chest as the central figure reached up to lower his hood, revealing an older man with a beard and dark eyes. With a final call, the phoenix stopped hovering and flew to land on the man's shoulder.
"What is the meaning of this?" Dumbledore's voice carried clearly through the silence of the shocked hall. "Who are you? And why are you here?"
Hermione's eyes darted between the three figures who now stood in the centre of the hall where the phoenix had hovered moments before, the threatening postures of the twenty young men flanking the walls, and the head table where all the staff had their hands on their wands. Her mind worked double time as she tried to make sense of the situation.
"Harry?" Ron whispered under his breath, but Hermione shook her head.
"I can't see him." She replied in the same tone of voice. "He's not here. Maybe something has happened…"
"How did they get in here?" Neville interrupted from the other side of the table. "I thought you couldn't apparate into Hogwarts?"
Hermione shook her head amazement. "You can't." she replied in a broken voice, flummoxed at what she had just seen. "And even if a phoenix could, it wouldn't be able to apparate so many people with it. Its just not possible."
"Well, I hate to break it to you." Seamus spoke up from Hermione's right side. "But it did, and they're here."
Hermione just shook her head again, and silence fell as the older man turned and lifted a hand to gently stroke the feathers of the phoenix on his shoulder. The phoenix gave a small nod of his head, as if answering a tacit question, and they both looked up to the head table.
"I am Leo." The dark-clad stranger spoke with a soft but clear voice, and the whole hall stayed silent to hear him. "I am a Master at the Marcello School of Opportunity..." A ripple of recognition ran through the expression of the teachers at the head table and Ron noticed a number of the Slytherins suddenly start to whisper amongst themselves. But a quick glance at his girlfriend revealed that she had never heard of it. "I understand that some of you have heard of us." The dark skinned boy on his left started to smile but the other two remained impassive.
"That school is a myth." Snape blurted out from the head table. "Nothing more than an excuse people use when their troublesome children leave home and disappear."
"Indeed." The boy on the Master's right said. "So how do you explain the sudden appearance of so many students?"
The grinning boy unsheathed his sword with practised motion and there was a sudden movement on the tables next to him as the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff students sought to place as much distance between themselves and the blade as possible.
The phoenix resting on the man's shoulder gave a small cry and raised his wings slightly, almost as a warning before the central man continued to speak. "Marcello specialises in combat..." The school watched as the boy ran his thumb down the edge of his blade. "…of both the magical and physical sort. As you can probably guess that this goes against many of your Ministry's rules, particularly regarding our methods of teaching…"
"What has this to do with your being here?" Dumbledore interrupted as the phoenix gave another small cry and the boy slowly replaced his blade.
The Master looked up at him. "A short while ago a new student came into our midst. He opened our eyes with the remarkable abilities he possessed and even more so with the level of control he had over these powers..." There were a number of coughs from the students lining the walls and Hermione observed the two young men flanking the Master sharing a couple of wry smiles.
When no one spoke for a few moments she looked up at the head table to see a look of understanding cross the headmaster's face.
The three strangers gave a nod when Dumbledore sent them a questioning look. A small smile crossed his face and the twinkle returned to his eyes as he looked over the young men lining the walls of the hall, frowning slightly when he failed to recognise the young man that he sought.
"I believe a more private discussion is in order." He announced. "Ms Chang, Mister Bishop, if you could escort our guests to the largest defence room and ensure they are made comfortable whilst they wait? Prefects, once everyone has finished eating I would like you to lead you houses back to their common rooms where you shall stay until further notice. Master Leo, if you would kindly make you way to my office where you can talk more privately with myself and some of my staff." He hesitated for a second before saying. "Ms Granger. Mister Weasley. You may wish to join us."
A/N I realise now that this chapter is a bit short, so I might try and make the effort to post the next chapter sooner, as it is really long. But I'm going to make no promises due to the work-load (and celebrating) I have to do over the next couple of days. Something should be up by the end of the week though!
As for the reviews… I couldn't believe it when I had 64 REVIEWS in my inbox! I nearly passed out! Thank you all so, so much. (I feel like I'm winning an Oscar!) – and I hope you continue to review on future chapters. I have tried to reply to as many of you as possible. But I shall apologise now if I've missed anyone out! Thanks again. Kit. Xxx
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