"You left the grounds with Hagrid on Sirius Black's flying motorcycle, went to Diagon Alley then came back?" Severus clarified. "What ridiculous nonsense is this?"
"It's not nonsense, that's what happened last night after the Quidditch game," Harry insisted.
"I am afraid to believe you," Severus confessed. "If I do, that means you left the grounds with out my permission or, at the very least, knowledge."
Harry hung his head. "Sorry."
"What was it you got in Diagon Alley?" Severus asked.
"We got Hagrid a wand."
"A wand?" Severus raised a brow. "Merlin help us all."
Harry gave him a look. "Hagrid is not that bad! He is really nice."
"You know full well that I do not trust him after that...accident with Fluffy last year. He is irresponsible," Severus insisted.
"Then maybe you could teach him to use it responsibly," Harry stated. Judging from the look on Severus's face, he was not amused. He did drop the subject, however.
"Regardless, I do suppose congratulations are in order," he said a bit grudgingly.
Harry grinned. "Yep. We crushed Slytherin."
"No foul play involved?" Severus asked suspiciously.
Harry occluded his mind. "Foul play is Slytherin's department."
Severus tilted his head. "Then how did the Weasley twins get put in Gryffindor?"
Harry shrugged and changed the subject. "How come you assigned that huge Potions essay? Nobody has time for that."
"Why not? Too busy studying for the end-of-year exams?" he asked a touch sarcastically.
"Already? They're almost two months away!" Harry exclaimed.
"Exactly," he said. "You best get started now."
Harry groaned. "I'll be fine."
"Cocky as ever," Severus muttered.
Later on, Harry wished that he had begun studying when Severus had mentioned it. The next two months flew by, leaving Harry and his friends cramming for their exams. Studying became night and day, filling the gaps that Quidditch had left behind. Harry yearned for a distraction and soon enough, one came his way.
"What do you mean Lockhart's been sacked?" Ron asked incredulously as everyone gathered around Seamus, who apparently had the news.
"Yup," he said cheerily. "I guess the other teachers got suspicious when he didn't try to rescue Draco and they looked into him. Got him to admit that he didn't do anything in those books; stole it all and wiped their memories, he did."
The girls looked downright horrified. "How do you know?" one asked.
"That doesn't sound like the brave, charming Lockhart we know," Lavender spoke up.
"I heard McGonagall and Flitwick talking. And are you mental, Lavender? The guy is an idiot," Seamus said.
Approval spread through the gathered guys at Seamus's comment. Harry certainly agreed.
"Are they going to expose him?" Harry asked.
Seamus shrugged. "Hope so."
As it turned out, they did. The next morning, the Great Hall was abuzz over the shocking article in the Daily Prophet.
Lockhart: Fancy or Fraud?
By Rita Skeeter
New information has come out about the Hogwarts Professor and five time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award, Gilderoy Lockhart. The hearthrob's colleagues claim that his publications are based off deeds performed by others rather than by Lockhart himself. They claim that he admitted to wiping the memories of the heroes and passing off the feats as his own. Is there any truth to these claims or are the other Hogwarts Professors just jealous of his fame and fortune? I talked to Potions Master Severus Snape, one who is not unfamiliar with fame being that he adopted none other than Harry Potter. It is common knowledge that he desires Lockhart's position as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and has this to say about the aforementioned wizard: "He is a blithering idiot. A cornish pixie could outwit that one. In fact, I believe one already has. The only thing he can do right are memory charms, apparently." Though we have yet to acquire concrete evidence supporting these allegations, rumor has it that Lockhart has been fired from Hogwarts. We here at the Daily Prophet would like to hear your opinion: is Lockhart a charmer or a charlatan?
"Charlatan," Ron said definitively.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Do you even know what that means?"
"Sure..." he said unconvincingly. His eyes perused the paragraph. "Fraud?"
Hermione looked at him. "Lucky guess."
"Did Snape really say that?" Dean asked Harry.
Harry shrugged. "Probably. I could see it. But I can't see him talking to a reporter."
Harry glanced up at the Head Table. Snape sat reading, newspaper in hand. The expression on his face was one of loathing though Harry didn't know if it was directed at Lockhart or Skeeter. Lockhart's seat was empty.
"Come on, Harry," Hermione urged. "There is more studying to do. You really need to get on that Transfiguration."
Harry moaned. "Can't we take one day off?"
"No," she insisted. "You'll take one day then you won't want to go back. Get up."
"Sometimes, Hermione..." Harry began tiredly as he stood.
"You'll thank me later."
Harry grunted and followed her to the library, wishing it were next week so he could just take the tests and be done.
Harry got his wish and almost immediately regretted it. The tests were a horror. After being distracted by so many other things that year, Harry had gaps in his knowledge that stretched for pages on his exams. He vaguely remembered Hermione saying something about the International Warlock Convention but for the life of him could not remember what year it had taken place. He made up a date like he had been doing on each of the previous written exams. The only one he felt truly good about was Potions. Herbology wasn't bad either but the current History of Magic wasn't going very well. Transfiguration was, as expected, horrible; it was Harry's worst subject.
When at last the exam was over, Harry was relieved that he only had one left: Defense Against the Dark Arts. He figured this would be tough seeing as Lockhart never taught them anything useful. If they asked his favorite color or how many times he had won the most charming smile award, though, Harry would ace it. He walked with the other second year Gryffindors to the testing room which sported a cream colored sign on the door.
"What's it say?" someone from the back of the group yelled.
"It says that since there was no one to make the test, the exam has been cancelled," Neville said, scanning the paper.
"Yes!" Ron said obnoxiously, pumping his fist in the air.
Hermione looked crestfallen and for once, Harry sympathized. "I studied so hard for this!" she said. "All for nothing."
"I know," Harry said. "It sucks, but I'd still rather not take it."
Happy now, they headed out for the customary after exams walk of the grounds. It was a cloudy day and it looked as if rain threatened. Nevertheless, everyone was in high spirits.
"I can't believe our second year is over already," Hermione said sadly.
"Why not, you missed half of it?" Draco said teasingly.
She gave him a look."I know what you mean," Harry said. "It went so fast."
"I wonder if there will be a year where something crazy doesn't happen. Are giant snakes and such normal for Hogwarts?" Ron asked rhetorically.
"They're beginning to be," Hermione said.
"I wonder what next year will be..." Draco said almost wistfully.
Everyone turned to look at him.
"What?" he said defensively. "It could be something cool like...a centaur replacing Lockhart!"
"Chances are it won't be that simple," Ron said pessimistically.
"Oh, lighten up, guys. Whatever it is, we can handle it," Harry said confidently. "Now we probably ought to go start packing so we can enjoy our last day tomorrow."
"Alright," Hermione said sadly. As they made their way back up to the castle, it started to rain.
Harry slid into his seat at the Gryffindor table for what he realized would be the next to last time until next year. The thought made him twinge with sadness despite his excitement for summer and returning to Spinner's End. Returning home. The feast was filled with excited energy as almost everyone looked forward to the close of the school year.
"I'm going to miss this cooking," Ron commented as he scooped a plateful of corn casserole.
"You can always come visit," Harry offered. "Midgy is a great cook."
"Really? Come visit the Snape household? That wouldn't be awkward..." he said skeptically.
"It wouldn't be," Harry insisted. "You all could come," he said, extending the invitation to Hermione and Draco.
"Snape won't mind?" Hermione asked.
"Of course not."
"I find that hard to believe," Ron muttered.
Harry gave him a look. "What, are you guys just going to avoid me all summer? It'll be fine. Let me worry about it."
Ron shrugged. "Okay, send me an owl."
The others nodded in agreement.
"Alright, I will," Harry promised, glad for something to look forward to over the summer.
As the meal wrapped up, Dumbledore approached the podium for his customary remarks.
"Well, it has been another interesting year," he said with a gleam in his eye. "I am glad that we avoided closing because of the attacks; that would have ben sad indeed. The fact that we did not was due largely to two Gryffindors of whom I am extremely proud. Both Harry Potter and Ron Weasley will be receiving awards for special services to the school for both ridding us of the basilisk, exposing the fraud posing as one of our beloved professors and showing unparalleled bravery in the face of the unknown. In addition to the award, I believe we can summon up a hearty round of applause to go with it."
The hoots and applause made Harry and Ron blush.
Dumbledore smiled and continued, "Now one for Slytherin is in order for it is to them that this year's house cup belongs."
Another, rather more halfhearted, bout of clapping ensued.
"That is all I have to say," Dumbledore stated, "enjoy your holiday." He turned to leave, then remembered something. "Oh, will Hermione Granger, Colin Creevey and Seamus Finnigan please see me after the feast? Thank you."
Hermione looked surprised. As everyone rose to leave, she excused herself and headed over to talk to Dumbledore. Harry and Ron looked at each other, shrugged, then proceeded with the rest to the common room.
Hermione came in not long afterwards looking confused.
"What did he want?" Draco asked.
"He said that since we missed so much school we were excused from the end of year exams," she said.
"A little late," Ron commented.
"Lucky," Harry said.
"What'd you say?" Draco asked.
"I said I would rather keep my scores," Hermione admitted.
"What?!" they asked in unison.
Hermione looked amused. "What? I worked hard for those. I really didn't miss anything I couldn't teach myself."
Ron rolled his eyes. "You need a lesson from Fred and George on how to get the best scores while doing the least work."
Harry looked at him.
Ron shrugged. "They gave me some pointers last summer. How do you think I passed History of Magic?"
Harry grinned. "I might have to invite them over this summer too," he said. "But that conversation will be kept secret from Snape."
"Agreed," two voices chorused from behind the group.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm going to bed. See you all in the morning."
"Bye guys," Harry said sadly. "I'll miss you all."
Hermione actually had tears in her eyes as they stood in front of the train. "Oh, Harry!" she said, hugging him tight. "Don't forget to write."
"How could I forget?" he asked with a sad smile.
She gave him a soft look and stepped back. Ron clapped him on the arm.
"I'll miss chasing snakes with you, mate," he said with a twinge of sarcasm.
"Hopefully those days are behind us," Harry replied. Ron smiled.
"Thank you, Harry," Draco said. "For everything. I couldn't ask for a better friend."
"It wasn't a problem, Draco. Really," Harry looked at the three of them. "And I certainly couldn't ask for better friends either."
"Are you sure you can't come with us?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, I told Snape I would just wait for him to be ready and leave from here. It's easier," Harry said.
"Well, be safe, Harry," Hermione said as the whistle sounded.
"Keep in touch!" Ron insisted.
"See you," Draco added.
With a wave, Harry watched his friends board the Hogwarts Express, bound for their homes. When it had pulled away, Harry walked back up to the castle alone.