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Chapter 46: Back to Hogwarts

Thank you to my Beta's; Cateagle, Sparky40sw & Rictor.

The ride back on the Hogwarts Express was quiet, for once. There was no visit from Malfoy, although they knew he was there, somewhere. They were sure of his odious presence as they saw his mother, Narcissa, leaving as they were arriving. Her face was stalwart and her nose, as always, was firmly in the air, denying that she had anything in common with the rest of the filth that were bringing their progeny to the train for the return to school for another half year. Harry wondered about the love, or whatever passed for it, that would allow a mother to leave her child, however old, at the Express thirty minutes before it left. The platform was always packed with parents saying goodbye to their children until the train disappeared down the tracks. He almost found it sad that Narcissa had just dropped her son off and saw no need to see him off.

They received a visit during the trip back to Hogwarts from Bobby Sullivan, the first year that Bill and Harry had helped. He was shy, but managed to thank Harry for the help. Bobby assured him that Christmas had gone well at his Aunt's house, where they were staying after having to leave his childhood home abruptly. He hadn't heard from his father again after that night and didn't want to. Harry spared Bobby the need to tell others about his family with a restraining glance at his friends.

Harry found that he enjoyed eating the candy from the tea trolley with his friends as much as he had on his first train ride to Hogwarts. They had visitors occasionally, but none of note. They just discussed Quidditch, chess and the lighter side of what the heavier half of the school year would be like.

The spring term started with some school tuition additions for Harry and his classmates. Their first Transfiguration class was started, not with the introduction of a new transformation, but with Professor McGonagall passing around a sign-up sheet for Apparition Lessons, which would start the following week.

Harry started to wonder if Madame Bones asking about his studies on the subject was really at a random time. Perhaps it was just a coincidence. Of course, he really didn't need the encouragement to start studying a form of transportation that would lend him some independence and, perhaps, rid him of the need to travel by his hated methods of Floo Powder and Portkeys. Of course, with his luck, traveling by Apparition would be just as unpleasant as the other wizarding methods that he had experienced. Heck, even broom travel, his current favorite, took on a tarnish when it was taken over any distance. As he had found out last summer, even in the summer months, traveling at night left a person's bones cold to the core.

"Before any of you think that because this is voluntary," Professor McGonagall interrupted Harry's private thoughts as the form passed from student to student, "I will remind you that this is an essential skill for a witch or wizard. There are only around twenty buildings publicly accessible by floo in all of England, leaving a good amount of the British Isles inaccessible to the witch or wizard that is unable to make their own way, leaving them to the Knight's Bus or Muggle transportation."

Harry had forgotten about the Knight's Bus. He shivered lightly at the thought of the sliding from one side to another, not to mention forward to back as the three story purple monstrosity made its way, seemingly randomly, around Britain on its way to whatever the next destination was.

"Yes, Miss Patil?" Professor McGonagall called on a student with a question.

"What about Portkeys, Professor?" Padma asked.

"While they are another form of transportation, and a good one for families traveling to areas without floo," she answered, "Ministry regulation restricts their creation to licensed and bonded enchanters."

"Why is that?" someone blurted out, not waiting to be called on.

"First is the official reason," the Professor replied. "They must regulate the creation of Portkeys in order to assure that they are created by competent and scrupulous enchanters in order to provide that they are safe and accurate."

"And unofficially?" Harry asked with a smirk. He was really getting used to the many layers of excuses and reasons that ran the true motivations of government.

"Unofficially?" she asked. "So that they can make sure that they can collect their taxes. As I am sure that you are aware, Mr. Potter, each unauthorized Portkey has a fee of five galleons. Authorized Portkeys are taxed one galleon, and by having them created by authorized and licensed enchanters, they can collect their fee at the time of creation, rather than having to bill the user at the time of use, thus the higher fee. I'm sure that you have received your bill?"

"Yes, Professor," Harry confirmed. "A couple of days ago."

"Well," she said, "I'd recommend paying it. The Fees and Levies branch is one of the most effective in the Ministry."

The first week back passed without surprise. At the first Defense Association meeting, which the entire roster of members attended, Harry was able to confirm that no other pendants were used and no families of Hogwarts students were attacked over the Holidays.

Harry was glad that no one was hurt while away, but quickly moved into practical lessons, building on their work before the Holidays with the casting dummies.

"Wotcher, Harry," Harry heard from behind him. He was momentarily startled, as he hadn't heard the door open. In fact, the room had not warned him that anyone was entering. Strange.

Harry tried to conceal his surprise by not turning when he greeted his Defense Professor. "Evening, Professor Tonks."

Harry heard a light huff come from her as she came to his side on the platform. "You could at least pretend to be surprised," Tonks protested mistakenly. "How're they doing?"

"Good," Harry answered. "I thought the dummies were a bit tame for some of the more advanced, so I tried an automaton spell to make them respond with a bit of personality. Hopefully they'll differentiate between the ones that need aggression and the ones that need confidence."

Tonks surveyed the huge group of students, and had to wonder how the castle was able to accommodate such a large room as high up as the seventh floor. As with all castles, and, really, most buildings everywhere, the higher you ascended, the less space that was available, or in the case of modern Muggle structures, at least the size didn't generally increase as a building reached for the sky. To have such a large room this far up in the castle, expanded with wizard space charms or not, was something impressive to behold. There couldn't be more than thirty or forty feet between the hallway and the outside wall in reality, and here she was staring over a room two thirds the size of a Quidditch pitch. Truly amazing.

"They seem to be doing well," Tonks commented. "How'd you give the dummies their control?"

"Just a spell for now," Harry said. "I haven't figured a way to make them advanced enough to challenge the more advanced students, but they're good enough to be a vigorous workout for all but the better sixth and seventh years. The biggest problem is in response time. The charms just aren't fast enough to take cues from their opponent and counter. They're just not as fast as the natural mind."

"Hmmm," Tonks hummed, rolling the problem over in her mind. "Are these permanent or did the room make them?" she asked.

"That one," Harry replied, pointing to a red tarpaulin in the corner covering a vaguely human shape, "is the real one that Hermione and I have been working on. The room can copy it as many times as we need, including the enchantments, but we keep it over there so it doesn't get damaged and have to be rebuilt."

"Good thinking," Tonks admired. "I don't know of a way to make them better off the top of my head, but I'll let you know what I can dig up."

"Thanks," he responded. Smoothly, he started to move down from the platform and out into the rows of practicing students. Every so often the invisible shield would flare as a student missed the practice dummy and their spell splashed harmlessly before it could strike someone in the next row. He took the opportunity to praise those doing well and help correct those that needed improvement. Occasionally, across the room, or in the next row from him, he would see Tonks moving amongst the students, offering the same sort of help. He wasn't surprised to see each of his friends from the ill-fated Ministry trip helping students in surrounding lanes with their spells and movement. They had all come into their own well last year.

With the first weekend back from the Christmas Holidays, came the first Quidditch practice of the new term. Harry and Ginny debated shortly about how Ron had managed to secure the pitch for the first half of Saturday, but figured that this would be the one thing that he could remember to do enough ahead of time to get what he wanted, unlike his gaff from fourth year.

"No, no!" Ron screamed, "Chasers, form up tighter. And hold the Quaffle to the inside of the formation so the Keeper can't see who it's coming from."

Harry was sure, from his search pattern over the pitch, that the Chasers would be grumbling at Ron's new found zeal for a strict play book. He seemed to be taking a page from Wood's habits and pushing his players to learn new methods. He had even started to do the unthinkable, and coach Harry on his seeker skills. The Beaters and two of the Chasers were mortified that Ron would question, in any manner, Harry's innate seeker skills. Ginny, however, found the whole spectacle to be more than entertaining.

"Harry," Ron yelled, "You're not watching! Watch for openings in the chaser pattern where you can disrupt the enemy or help our chasers!"

Now, instead of purely looking for the Snitch, Harry was being coached to look for the opportunity to take some few seconds here and there to break up an opponent's play or to aid the Chasers by distracting the Keeper or others on the opposing team. Harry tried to keep an open mind. It seemed distracting to his normal duties, and he hoped that the forays into a more active role in the game wouldn't allow the other seeker to end the game on the opponent's terms, but Ron assured him that this was a tactic used by professionals to great effect.

Seeing his opportunity, Harry shot down at an angle, intercepted the Chaser formation and threaded the needle through the center of their loose formation. Harry's speed pass upset the formation in a spectacular fashion, quickly halting the practice, but leaving everyone securely on their brooms.

"Bloody hell, Harry," one of the Chasers screamed. "Be careful! This is just practice. And if you're not careful, you'll get called for Blatching, or worse, touching the Quaffle."

Harry grinned sheepishly, but with a hint of satisfaction at getting just the result that he wanted. He had managed to disrupt the Chaser pattern and halt their assault. This new plan of Ron's might not be all that bad, if it worked out in games as it worked in practice.

Pulled from his inward satisfaction, Harry saw the gold glint of his main objective and tore after it like a bat out of hell before he had time to think.

Monday of the second week heralded in the first session of the class that each and every sixth year student had signed up for, Apparition.

Harry entered the Great Hall with his friends around two hours before the normal time to start dinner. Many of the students were dismayed that the Apparition class, which would last for the second and third weeks of January, was scheduled at the exact same time that the Defense Association was supposed to meet all throughout the week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Hermione's solution was for Harry to ask Tonks to supervise free form practice in the Room of Requirements for those two weeks. Professor Tonks agreed, but insisted that Harry or Hermione set the room up for the practice sessions before anyone arrived. This, of course, fell to Harry with his lighter schedule.

After setting up the room, Harry traveled quickly by school crest to the entrance hall, startling a group of sixth years with his sudden arrival.

"Where in the bloody..." Justin Finch-Fletchley.

"Justin!" Susan Bones scolded. "Language!"

"Where'd you come from?" Michael asked.

"From the seventh floor," Harry said. He just realized that using the crests without discretion was not one of his smarter moves.

"So you really do know how these things work?" Michael asked, gesturing to the stone crest in the floor. "They really do more than send you to the Hospital wing if you're injured?"

"Yeah, but how did you know they did that?" Harry asked, perplexed.

Michael looked around his group of friends. Harry noticed quite a varied group of sixth and fifth year students from each of the houses, ten students in all. Harry was impressed that such a mix was possible in these times.

"John," Michael said, indicating a student that Harry vaguely recognized as a fifth year Ravenclaw, "was cut in Potions and spilled a drop of blood on the crest outside potions and was immediately in the Hospital Wing. We did some experiments, but had to stop when Madame Pomfrey threatened us with detentions if we didn't stop disturbing her patients."

Harry smiled. "Good job in that though," he congratulated them.

"We haven't figured out anything else that they do," John said. "How do you work them?"

Harry stepped out of the circle of friends and called over his shoulder, "But it's no fun if you don't discover it yourself."

He walked away knowing that he was leaving some curious and confused classmates behind. He found Ron and Hermione with Dean, Lavender, Seamus and Parvati just in time to enter the Hall for their first lesson in Apparition.

"Hello, students," an ancient figure said from a raised dais at the far end of the Great Hall. "My name is Melinda Hopkirk. I am the head of the Department of Magical Transportation and have been teaching Witches and Wizards to Apparate for more than a hundred years, so trust that I know what I am talking about. And, yes, it is my sister that some of you have received warning letters from."

There was a brief murmur from students who had heard of the Improper Use of Magic Office, most of them in a less than desirous way. This revelation seemed to add to the curiosity of their newest professor. The woman seemed to be well in excess of even Dumbledore's age, with thin, wrinkled skin and sparse gray hair falling to her shoulders. Her arms were bare to the bottom of her short sleeves, showing bone and muscle with paper-like skin draped around the structures, revealing both her age and fitness, without a trace of fat to smooth the details of the muscles and sinew. Her face was weathered, from gardening Harry guessed. She had short trimmed nails, they could see as they approached her station, and age spots over the back of her hands. All in all, a woman who had led a full and active life, but was in no means willing to roll over and die just yet.

"For the next two weeks, three times a week, two hours a day," she enumerated, "I will be teaching you about the common forms of wizarding transportation. We will start out with the simpler things and then spend everything but those fifteen minutes on what you all thought you would be here for in the first place, Apparition."

This got Harry curious. He realized that not all of the students had been exposed to the myriad of

wizarding transportation methods that he had, but surely everyone would know about Floo and Portkeys.

"You learned about broom travel in your first year, so that's already covered, except to say that broom travel is covered under the Secrecy Act, so caution is to be exercised unless you want to spend some time in custody of the Ministry," she paused to let that sink in. "Related to broom travel are other enchanted objects. Enchanted objects such as carpets and Muggle vehicles fall under the Muggle Artifacts regulations and are illegal to use. This is applicable to all travel in Britain. If you travel outside of Britain, I recommend you check the local rules before you find yourself on the wrong side of the local laws."

She moved swiftly through the Knight's Bus, Portkeys and the Floo network, touching on the procedures and departments necessary to connect one's house to the Floo network and what qualified or disqualified a fireplace for Floo connection. With a practiced pace, Professor Hopkirk moved on to Apparition instruction.

"You are best advised to remember the details on each of those basic forms of magical transportation, as they, and Apparition, will be featured in the NEWT level magical theory written examination at the end of your seventh year. You will be responsible for any continuing tuition on the subject to prepare for the test," she declared. "Now, on to Apparition."

Professor Hopkirk waved her wand at the Great Hall in total before moving on, marking the floor in parallel lines beneath the students' feet.

"Everyone grab a spot on a line and leave at least an arm's length between yourself and the person beside you," she commanded, pausing with an authoritative air that demanded compliance immediately. The students scrambled to their own places on one of the white lines, waving their hands to their sides to make sure that they had an arm's length of room, literally.

"Hmm," Harry whispered to Hermione beside him, with just enough volume to include Ron on the other side of her. "Good professor, at least. All of the authority that Snape pretends to have without the cruelty or bias."

Hermione was silent, obviously refusing to participate in a negative comment on a teacher, even Snape, while Ron whispered his agreement.

"Everyone," the Ministry provided Professor addressed the Hall, "To begin our training in the art of Apparition, I want everyone to mark a circle, about a meter across, on floor midway between your line and the one in front of you. First row, a circle about two meters in front of you, if you will."

Hermione, ever helpful, reminded her boys of the correct incantation to mark the floor without damaging it. Ron chafed a bit at her treatment, but used the suggested spell never the less. Those students within earshot were entertained, but attentive to what she was suggesting.

The week that the Apparition training began, Harry found time to complete something that he had been working on for months. When Harry and Ginny had first gone to Professor McGonagall with their interest in Animagus training, they were told of the discipline and work required to train for an animal transformation, if the skill exists at all in a mage's repertoire. Not all witches and wizards have the possibility to train with any success in the art, and of those that do, few ever try, be it lack of motivation or lack of opportunity. Harry and Ginny were glad to find, after the initial processes, that they did indeed have the potential for the wandless transformation.

The next step for them was to find their 'natural' animal, or the animal form that their magic deemed most compatible. For some, their animal turns out to be almost fated, such as the case of Peter Pettigrew, the man and friend that betrayed Harry's parents. In retrospect, you could ask why you would ever trust a Rat Animagus, but that would hardly be fair. Of course, contemporaries of Sirius Black would have completely understood his Animagus form being a dog, or at least half of the female population would have, whether they were complaining or reminiscing about the man they used to know. Their predetermined animal forms turned out, for Ginny, to be a Falcon, and a panther for Harry. They celebrated their new ability, but the difference in forms between Harry and the girl that he loved caused him to start asking himself and his Professor questions.

Harry wanted to know if it was possible to change into an animal that wasn't 'natural'. Professor McGonagall's answer was tentative. She knew it was theoretically possible, but was unsure if Harry could do it, much less as a second animal. The only way to know, she told Harry, would be hard work. All through the imprinting process, he had the feeling that he was going to be successful. Today, he would find out if his feelings were correct.

"Professor," Harry called as he and Ginny entered the private office of Professor McGonagall. "Can we have a bit of your time?"

The Professor looked up from a stack of parchments where she sat at her desk with a quill in one hand, the end bright with aangry red ink, and a blotter in the other. Judging by the stack to her right, she was only half through the considerable load of essays that she was correcting.

"No, please," she replied with unexpected enthusiasm, "I need a break. How can I help?"

Harry smiled. "I was hoping that you could supervise while Ginny cast the Animagus Transformation Spell."

"I would be delighted, Mr. Potter," Professor McGonagall said. "Would that mean that you believe that you have completed imprinting of a second animal form?"

"Yes," Harry smiled.

"Are you sure, Miss Weasley," the Professor asked, "That you feel that this is something you can devote the concentration necessary to complete? I would never even allow you to contemplate participating if I did not feel that you had the natural talent in Transfiguration to attempt the task, but you must be sure."

"Yes, Professor," Ginny nodded with all seriousness. "I've been practicing the wand movements separately from the incantation, and Harry and I both think I have it correct. Can you check me on it, and then make sure that I do it correctly?"

"Certainly, Miss Weasley," Professor McGonagall said. "The incantation, if you would?"

Ginny wiped her face of all emotion and cleared her thoughts, a necessary precursor to any complex magic. Clearly, she chanted the phrase, "Hominis Instar Muto Animus!"

"Very good, Miss Weasley," McGonagall praised, "Ten points for having taught yourself without hearing it aloud more than once."

"Thank you."

"And the wand movements?" McGonagall requested.

After Ginny attempted the wand movements several times, pointing away from any living being in the room, with less and less needed correction, Professor McGonagall deemed that Ginny was ready to try it out on a human test subject. That sort of talk, of test subjects, gave Harry some nerves, but he suppressed them so he could do his part and concentrate on his new Animagus form.

When Ginny and Harry made it back to the dorm that evening, it was just before curfew and time for bed. Ginny made her way up to the fifth year female dormitories with a new interest.

"Ooh," her friend Samantha cooed. "Beautiful cat, Ginny, what's her name?"

"It's a tom, and I think I'll call him Satin, because his coat is so satiny smooth," Ginny proclaimed. The cat started to struggle in her arms, as if he objected to the name, but he was subdued, against his will, when she started to pet his silky smooth fur down his back. Soon he was pushing into her hand, having forgotten the slight of his name.

"Can I pet him?" another friend, Cassidy, asked.

Ginny looked at her the girl, already changed into her sleeping gown, and agreed. "Sure, I need to change, so you can hold him whilst I do."

Cassidy took the blissfully purring black kitty to her own bed and sat at the edge with Satin curled comfortably in her lap. The other girls, Samantha included, rushed forward to greet the newest member of their dorm, and each have their turn petting the cat's fur, that felt satin smooth, despite the haphazard nature as it ran down his back. The fur on his head was especially messy, especially over his right eye, where the pattern was quite jagged.

When Ginny came back to retrieve her kitty, Cassidy had him on his back, rubbing his tummy, eliciting loud purrs that could be heard across the room.

"Ooh, he's still got his..." Sally observed. "Are you going to get him neutered?"

Satin righted himself in an instant and leaped to Ginny's front, using his claws to gain a purchase in her winter weight flannel sleeping gown. In time to save herself from being perforated, Ginny grabbed her cat and cradled him to her shoulder in a protective manner.

"No," Ginny giggled. "Harry gave him to me and I think he would want Satin to stay a tomcat."

Samantha was laughing uproariously. "Beautiful green eyes, though," she howled. "Did you see how wide they got when you mentioned cutting off his...getting him fixed? Must have some Kneazle in him to have understood enough of what Sally was saying."

"Don't worry, Baby," Ginny soothed. "No one's gon'na cut anything off. I promise."

Shortly afterwards, all of the girls went to bed, Ginny's new cat included. He curled up beside her chest, snuggly under her arm, with a contented purr that quickly lulled Ginny to sleep.

The next morning the cat acknowledged that it was the best night sleep he had gotten in a while, but silently commented to himself about the disappointment with the various winter weight night clothes worn by the fifth year Gryffindor girls.

That Saturday morning, Harry's long ago promise was brought back to him, but not before he got a reminder of the week's embarrassments, the manner of the reminder causing even more embarrassment. It all started with a question, and after that, all of Harry's work that week to mitigate his humiliation vanished, useless.

"So, how did the Apparition classes go?" Ginny asked. The question was innocent enough. She had asked Harry several times during the week, and he had told her the truth. He had managed to do the remarkable and Apparate himself from the line to the inside of his circle before the end of the first lesson, just. He had told her he wasn't the first, but he was the first who had not had rides on side-along Apparition before. Apparently the ride with a person skilled at apparating not only themselves, but a passenger, went a long ways in preparing a teenager for their first solo trip, as it let them experience the sensations of a successful Apparition and let them know what they are striving for.

Unfortunately, that accomplishment was not his embarrassment. His embarrassment didn't involve the act of Disapparating, or the projecting of himself through the ether, whole, to his target destination.

"Great," Ron answered his sister. "I got my first successful on Wednesday evening and Hermione," he continued proudly, "did hers perfectly on Friday."

"That's great!" Ginny effused. "Congratulations, Ron. You'll get it on you're first test, for sure!"

"Thanks," Ron said. "Maybe by then, Harry'll be ready for the test, himself," Ron elaborated with an evil glance at his best friend.

"Ron..." Harry growled as he attempted to kick his friend's shin under the table.

"What?" Ginny said. "I thought he apparated on Monday."

"Oh, he did," Hermione assured her. "He just had some complications."

"Complications?" Ginny asked in a high pitched squeak, dropping her fork to her breakfast plate. "I thought you said you got there whole!" she nearly raged at her boyfriend, who looked embarrassed, and, quite frankly, would have rather had the table between him and Ginny right then.

She turned to him in full force and pushed their section of bench back from the table a bit to give her full range. Her abrupt movement startled not only Harry, but the surrounding students, Saturday morning interruptions not being the norm. Ginny started to check him for any injuries from his trip through the ether. She started at his torso and felt through his robes first down the front, at his sides, and then back up his legs. Harry found her boldness quite interesting, but it completely took his capacity for speech from his mouth when she checked on the intact location of his boys and their friend, without so much as a pause in hesitation or contemplation, or even a 'by your leave?' She just did it like it was natural and her right. It all happened so fast that he wasn't able to correct her assumption before she started her exploratory frisk, and was completely mortified not long into it. His girlfriend did a full cup and roll test on him in front of the whole school in the middle of Saturday breakfast.

Before he could let any sense of glee shine through his abasement, she had moved on to other pastures, copping a feel at his belly button, abs and pecks. She was doing a rather thorough job of feeling her boyfriend up, which he would later realize would be an activity worth repeating in private, but at the moment would cause only humiliation.

"Ginny," Ron choked. ""What the bloody heck are you doing?"

As Ginny continued her search of missing body parts, Hermione shook her head and corrected her boyfriend's language before turning her attention to her exploring friend.

"Ginny," Hermione said, trying for her attention. "Ginny!" she said with more force as Ginny finished with Harry's right arm, hand and fingers and continued to his left. "Ginny, he wasn't splinched."

Ginny paid no attention to her best female friend, instead standing herself and her boyfriend up for a check of the other side. Harry cooperated fully in his stunned state, through his complete shock rather than conscious choice. She could pose him as a ballerina in his current state and he couldn't protest.

Hermione, desperate, reached over the table to grab her friend's attention. "Ginny!!" she yelled, putting some pressure on pressure on the girl's shoulder. "Harry wasn't splinched!"

The physical contact finally broke through Ginny's panic, letting the reality of the situation seep through. Unfortunately, this was one of those 'fate is an evil bitch' moments. The interruption caused Ginny to stop her motions cold as her brain took the chance to fully processed what Hermione assured her was the truth. Harry was whole, as her search had nearly fully assured.

"Miss Weasley," a cold voice broke through the stark silence that had washed over the Great Hall. "Perhaps you should be more circumspect in your activities with the opposite sex while you are in public spaces, as I have reminded you before."

Ginny, stilled mid motion before, became absolutely frozen at the sound of the Potions Master's voice from much too close of a distance. Moving solely her head, she looked up from her kneeling position on the floor to the greasy haired Professor.

"Miss Weasley," he continued in his menacing voice. "Remove your hands from Mr. Potter's...person."

Shocked, her mouth hanging fully open, she turned back to Harry, where he stood stock still, just as he had for the last few minutes. What she saw mortified her, as it had Harry for a bit. She had two hands full, at the moment, directly in front of her face, apparently checking where Harry normally sat for...something. At the moment she couldn't quite remember what that something was, the humiliation so great.

With sudden urgency, she went from frozen to frantic motion as if Harry's gluteus maximus had burned her, stumbling back away from him. In her haste to remove her hands from their previous activity, she banged her shoulder pretty good on the table where they had eaten their breakfast moments before.

"Better, Miss Weasley," Snape sneered. "Replace the bench and return to your seats, Miss Weasley, Mr. Potter. And see to it that you cease interrupting the breakfast of your fellow students and your professors with your lascivious acts."

They quickly stifled their horror and did as their least favorite professor instructed. Within seconds they were seated correctly, but Snape was not done with them quite yet. Here he had an opportunity, heck, a duty to punish them for inappropriate behavior in front of the entire school body with each and every one of their attentions directly on Harry Potter and his girlfriend.

"I believe that you two shall serve detention with me tonight in the potions dungeon so that I may remind you what is proper behavior in the public areas of this school and what is inappropriate behavior anywhere within Hogwarts or its accompanying grounds," Snape said loud enough for everyone to hear over the deafening silence. "Eight o'clock tonight, both of you, and do not be late."

Snape turned, his robes billowing, and started to make his way back to the silent teacher's table. He stopped, however, before he made it ten steps. "Oh, and twenty points from each of you for such a base display," he called over his shoulder. "And, Mr. Potter, I believe that tonight, before your detention, would be an ideal time to follow through on your promise of explaining your little prank on All Hallows Eve to the entire school. I expect a riveting presentation on the history of the man you referred to as Tom Marvolo Riddle."

The school was stunned, starting with Ginny's shriek and lasting through to be broken by Snape's determination of tonight's after-dinner presentation. Long held curiosities would be sated, causing the silence to be finally broken with the murmurs and conversations spreading throughout the Hall, some of the promised history lesson, and many on the rest of what they thought they saw at breakfast.

"Ginny," Hermione said, with a concealed chuckle. Apparently not concealed enough, as Harry shot her an annoyed look. "Harry didn't splinch himself. He was quite whole and clothed when he reappeared," she repeated.

"Then what...?" Ginny asked.

"I seem to have the same problem with all forms of Wizarding transportation except brooms," Harry informed her. "I fall down when I get there, where ever there is."

"You fell down?" Ginny asked. "You mean, when you reappear, you just collapse?"

Harry narrowed his eyes at her statement. "No, I don't just collapse," he put a fine point on. "I just stumble like I do in the Floo and on Portkeys."

"But, Harry," Ginny replied. "I thought you fixed the problem with the Floo and Portkeys?"

"I did," Harry said shortly, shooting Ron a look when a snicker escaped the man's lips. "It seems to be back with a vengeance during Apparition."

"But Bill said to just spread your feet to absorb the impact," she recited.

"He did," Harry said. "But in Apparition, you move a bit to jump-start your Disapparition. So when I arrive, I'm moving but the floor isn't and that doesn't seem to work."

Ginny couldn't help herself, she broke, and laughter spilled out. It turned out to be too much for his friends as well, as they too busted up in laughter, causing a ripple effect through all of the students who had been listening in. Harry just put his head on the table and gave it an exploratory thud. Maybe if he were to knock himself out, they would all go away. He pulled back and hit his head on the table again, and again.

What a day; humiliated and mortified at breakfast, and, yet, he still had a presentation on the life and times of Tom Marvolo Riddle, which he had to present to the entire school, no matter that he didn't know exactly what he wanted to say, and then he had a detention with Snape, of all people to look forward to. Apparently the day could get worse. He looked to the head table to wonder why McGonagall couldn't have been the one to come enforce 'discipline' at the Gryffindor table. He supposed that it was too good of an opportunity from Snape's point of view and he had just beaten her to the gate.

He prayed to whoever would listen, that nothing happened between now and dinner, wishing he could beg off Quidditch practice as a bad idea, but with a game looming in too short of a time, against Slytherin no less, he doubted Ron's generosity and understanding.

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