“Ginny,” Hermione said as she gently shook her sleeping dorm mate. “Ginny, wake up.”
“Wha…” Ginny said as she sleepily opened one eye slightly to survey exactly where she was.
“Wake up or you won’t have time to find Harry before breakfast,” Hermione said.
As her head cleared and the reality of the situation began to seep into her, Ginny sat up and said, “Oh my goodness, Hermione. I was going to try to wake up early enough to go to the room of requirement with Harry. You should have woken me up sooner.”
“I tried,” Hermione said with a shrug. “You were really out. You must have stayed up too late last night. You should have gone to bed when Harry did.”
“I was just so sure he was up to something,” Ginny said as she changed into her school robes. “I don’t know what it was. I just had a feeling he was going to try to sneak out last night.”
“What reason would you have for thinking that?” Hermione asked.
“I didn’t have a reason,” Ginny answered. “I told you, it was just a feeling. When he went off to bed, I got the strangest feeling he was hiding something.”
“Harry?” Hermione asked with a grin. “Now when have you ever known Harry to have a secret that he doesn’t let the rest of us in on?”
“I see what you mean,” Ginny responded with a grin of her own. “I guess I was just being paranoid. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to know what all of his secrets are though.”
“I think that may be one of the things about Ron that I love so much,” Hermione said. “He never keeps anything a secret for long.”
“Except, of course, his secret of how he felt about you,” Ginny teased.
“Let’s not even get into that one,” Hermione said with a smile. “Still, he didn’t hide his feelings for me as well as Harry hid his for you.”
“To tell you the truth,” Ginny said, “I don’t know if Harry did hide his feelings for me. Up until this past summer, I don’t think he had ever bothered to look at me as anything other that Ron’s little sister. I’ll never forget the look on his face when we went to pick him up from the Dursley’s. I think I knew right then that he loved me. That was when I knew that, if he gave me the chance, I was going to love him to the end of my days.”
“So, have you heard anything about that lately?” Hermione asked.
“Are there going to be wedding bells chiming for the two of you any time soon?”
“Not that I’ve been made aware of,” Ginny said with a smile. “I think we both want to get married some day though. It’s just a matter of finding the right time. I do still have another year here at Hogwarts you know.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Hermione said. “You two will have to spend the entire school year apart from each other. That won’t do at all. He’ll have too much time to come up with new secrets. You’ll never get caught up on all of them.”
“Speaking of that,” Ginny began as she put down the brush she had just ran through her hair, “I had better go and find him before he makes a new one.”
Ginny and Hermione walked out of their dorm room smiling and began to descend the stairs into the common room. Ginny was the first to emerge into the common room, and what she saw there made her stop in her tracks.
“Mum?” Ginny asked. “Dad? What are you doing here?”
“Good morning, Ginny dear,” Molly said with a smile. “Did you rest well?”
“Fine,” Ginny responded as she noticed that her parents were both wearing their dress robes. She also noticed that a small crowd was gathered there to watch whatever was going to happen. It wasn’t every day that parents visited their children at Hogwarts, and nearly unheard of that they would be in the house common room.
“Ginny, your mother and I have something that we need to discuss with you,” Arthur said with just a hint of a grin.
“What is it?” Ginny asked. “No one has been hurt have they?”
“Oh no,” Arthur said quickly. “It’s nothing like that. You’ll have to forgive us. This is just a bit awkward.”
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Ginny said.
“We’ve come here this morning to inform you that we have spoken with a young man named Harry Potter…” Arthur began.
“Since when is he Harry Potter to you instead of just Harry?” Ginny asked cutting him off.
“If you will let me finish I’ll tell you,” Arthur said a bit impatiently. “Now where was I? Ah yes. …a young man named Harry Potter and we have given permission for him to begin a formal courtship with you.”
“What?” Ginny asked, confused. “Isn’t that what we’ve been doing already?”
“Oh no dear,” Molly said, barely able to contain her excitement. “A formal courtship will be very different. If you want it to be that is. You see, what Harry has done by requesting this courtship, is to put your relationship with him completely under your control. He has agreed to do anything that you ask of him to prove his love for you. When you feel like you have got all that you have asked for, and you still want the relationship, it is up to you to tell him when you are ready to get married. It is his responsibility then to offer you a formal proposal.”
“What?” Ginny asked, amazed as whispered conversations broke out all over the common room.
“There hasn’t been a wizard enter into this type of an agreement in more than one hundred and fifty years,” Arthur said. “You can imagine why that would be. Apparently, women would sometimes get to asking a bit too much from the men. Keep that in mind young lady. I think Harry was a brave man for entering into this kind of thing.”
“I would just ask you to keep in mind that part of our agreement in this matter,” Molly began, “is to pay for your wedding, if you should decide to marry him that is. I would just like to point out that we are currently in the middle of plans for your brother’s wedding. If possible I would like to get that one out of the way first.”
“Wait a minute,” Ginny said, still not believing what she was hearing. “Are you telling me that I could marry Harry while I’m still in school?”
“You could do it this morning if you wanted it,” Arthur said. “Special rules apply in this case that would override the age limits for marriage. I would strongly advise against it though, if that was what you were thinking. You’re poor mum would fall to pieces.”
“Don’t worry, dad,” Ginny said still in a bit of a daze. “I won’t get married until sometime after Ron and Hermione.”
“Good,” Arthur said relieved. “I’ll have to make a trip to Gringotts to check on our finances, and I’ll let you know what we’ll be able to do by that time.”
“I’m so happy for you, Ginny,” Molly said, failing to hold back her tears any longer as she hugged her daughter.
“I just keep thinking that someone is going to wake me up,” Ginny said.
“I’ve already done that,” Hermione said. “Unless we’re both dreaming.”
Fifteen minutes later, Ginny found herself, still in a daze that she couldn’t seem to snap out of, walking down the last flight of stairs that would take her to the Great Hall. She couldn’t think of why she was going there, but Hermione was somewhere near by talking about how wonderfully the day was starting out. All Ginny could do was to nod numbly as her brain tried to make sense of what she had learned.
Ginny’s mind cleared almost instantly, as she stopped and looked at the black-haired green-eyed boy who stood outside the Great Hall waiting on her. She was going to marry Harry Potter. As she looked into Harry’s eyes, she felt a warmth flood in her body, and she knew that it would indeed be hard to wait until after Ron and Hermione were married.
Harry walked over to where Ginny stood staring at him, and grinned as he stuck out his arm and asked, “May I escort you to breakfast Miss Weasley?”
Ginny grinned back and put her arm though Harry’s as she said, “I would be delighted Mr. Potter.”
Harry escorted Ginny to the table and held her hand to assist her as she sat down on the bench before he asked, “May I join you, Miss Weasley.”
“Only on one condition, Mr. Potter,” Ginny responded. “You have to drop the formality and just call me Ginny.”
“As you wish,” Harry said with a slight bow.
“Any pet names you may think of may be used as will as well,” Ginny said with a smile. “Now sit down Harry so we can eat.”
Harry sat next to Ginny as Hermione and Ron sat across from them and giggled quietly.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” Ron said with a smile. “You must have gone nutters to have agreed to something like this.”
“Oh, Ron,” Hermione said. “It’s only the most romantic thing a man could do for the person he loves. You really have to trust that person to do it though. I have to admit that. What made you think of doing this Harry?”
“Actually, I didn’t know anything about wizard courting until I talked to Professor Dumbledore yesterday,” Harry said. “I told him that I was planning to ask Ginny’s parents for permission to marry her, and I asked him if he had any advice as to how I should go about it. He told me that it was a custom that not many people followed any more to ask the parents before they asked the woman. He started telling me about how things used to be done, and explained about the whole courting procedure. It was perfect for me. It was exactly what I wanted to say. From the day she came to pick me up at the Dursley’s, I knew that I would give her anything she wanted if I could. This is my chance to prove that I mean it.”
“You are a fool, Harry,” Ginny said, “a big lovely fool. You didn’t need to do this to prove your love to me. I felt it the first time we touched this summer.”
“So did I,” Harry said. “I just want you to know everything about me that you want before you make a decision about our future.”
A light went on inside of Ginny’s head and she smiled as she said, “I don’t believe it. You did this so I would have access to all of your secrets. You knew that I would ask about all of the things you keep hidden from us. Are you really ready to spill everything?"
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” Harry said. “I’m ready to do anything you ask of me.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ginny said as she squeezed Harry’s hand. “Actually, there is one thing that I’d like for you to agree to do for me right now.”
“Name it,” Harry said.
“Start teaching the D.A. again,” Ginny said. “Tuesday’s were for third, fourth and fifth years if memory serves me correctly. You can start tonight.”
“Consider it done,” Harry said as he bit off a bit of his bacon. “Hermione, I trust I can leave it to you to let everyone know that the old schedule is back on.”
“Sure,” Hermione said. “I’d say there will be quite a few people who take you up on the classes now, Harry. Maybe even more than before as people start to realize how soon the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. tests are coming up.”
“I’ll be ready for it,” Harry said. “We’re going to need all of the help we can get fighting the death eaters. I think it’s about time to turn this club into a real army. We’ll be dueling tonight, so I could use all of your help with it.”
“You can count on us, Harry,” Ron said. “Word has gotten around about what you did in your dueling test the other day. I don’t know if you’ll have much luck making the sixth and seventh years wait until Sunday for their lesson.”
“Just let them know that the Sunday class will be a double one to get them caught up on where they need to be,” Harry said.
“Just don’t forget about your tutorials on Sunday, Harry,” Hermione said.
“I haven’t forgotten,” Harry said. “There’s plenty of time for both. I owe it to them, Hermione. I should have been teaching that class all year long, but I seem to have had one thing or another that took me away from Hogwarts. Now that I’m here, I plan on using what time I have left to prepare them for what is coming.”
Throughout breakfast, word spread beyond the boundaries of the Gryffindor table of the situation Ginny and Harry were in. It didn’t take long for Ginny, who wasn’t as used to the stares as Harry, to want to leave the Great Hall.
“I had better be running along to class,” Ginny said. “I’ve got double transfiguration this morning.”
“Would you mind if I walked you to class?” Harry asked. “I could carry your books for you if you wanted.”
Ginny smiled and said, “This is going to take some getting used to, Harry. I’m not used to someone following my every command. I would be very pleased to have you walk me to class. On the way there, I have a couple of questions you can answer for me.”
“Anything you say, Ginny,” Harry said as he stood and took Ginny’s books and began to walk away with her. “What would you like to know first?”
Ron and Hermione had to laugh as they watched Harry and Ginny walk away. They both had the feeling that Ginny would soon learn more about Harry and his secrets than they could imagine. They were still laughing when Neville and Luna sat down where Harry and Ginny had been.
“Is it true what they’re saying about Harry and Ginny?” Neville asked. “Has Harry really agreed to do anything she asks him to?”
“Yes,” Hermione said. “It’s true.”
“I always knew he was brave,” Neville said, “but I never thought he was that brave.”
“So you’re saying that you wouldn’t have that much trust in me then?” Luna asked.
“Uh…” Neville stammered. “No. I mean yes. I mean… I would trust you is what I mean.”
“It’s okay, Neville,” Luna said with a smile. “I love you anyway.”
Neville blushed deeply and said, “I love you too. It’s just that my Gran would freak if I did something like that. I don’t have any secrets from you anyway. I’ve told you things I’ve never told anyone before.”
“I may have to have a talk with Harry about this,” Ron said with a grin. “He’s making the rest of us look bad. Every girl in the school is going to be asking their boyfriends if they would do it for them. Now how is a guy supposed to answer a question like that?”
“At least you don’t have to worry, Ron,” Hermione said. “You’re already getting married.”
Ron’s grin turned into a wide smile as he said, “I couldn’t be happier about it either.”
Professor McGonagall walked into the Great Hall, and walked quickly to where the four Gryffindors sat laughing. Hermione saw her coming and had a sudden fear that something had happened, and she was looking for Harry.
“Mr. Longbottom,” McGonagall began, “the Headmaster needs to speak with you in his office right away.”
Neville swallowed hard, trying to think of what he could have done as he asked, “W… W… Would it be alright if Luna came with me?”
McGonagall looked as if she was about to say no, but she stopped herself and said, “Perhaps it would be a good idea if Miss Lovegood accompanies you after all.”
“I’ll be late to transfiguration if I do, Professor,” Luna said. “It’s my first class today.”
“I think you should plan to miss all of your classes today,” McGonagall said. “I will inform your other teachers about your absence.”
Ron and Hermione sat there and watched until Neville and Luna had followed Professor McGonagall out of the Great Hall.
“That was strange,” Ron said. “I wonder what that was about.”
“There’s only one thing it could be,” Hermione said, the sadness evident in her voice. “He can’t be in trouble for anything. If he were, Professor McGonagall never would have allowed Luna to go with him. Did you see her reaction when he asked if Luna could go with him? She was about to say no, and then she thought better of it. Why else would they be gone for the entire day? It’s Neville’s grandmother. Something must have happened to her.”
“I hope you’re wrong, Hermione,” Ron said. “I don’t know if Neville could take something like that even if Luna was at his side.”
Harry and Ginny walked hand in hand into the Great Hall for dinner, and were not surprised to see that many of the heads of those already there turned to watch them. Harry had learned to tune such a thing out through years of practice, but Ginny was still dealing with it as best she could. She had been pressed for details of what she was planning to make Harry do all day, as well as had an assortment of tortures proposed by those who thought it would be funny to see any guy squirm a bit. She had no need of them though, Harry had done everything she had asked of him all day long without complaint. By dinnertime, she thought that she must certainly know almost every secret Harry had kept hidden from them all.
“Well, I see that you’ve survived the first day, mate,” Ron said to Harry as he and Ginny sat down.
“Of course I have,” Harry said.
“I told you she wasn’t going to torture him, Ron,” Hermione said.
“Well I couldn’t very well rough him up before the D.A. meeting tonight,” Ginny said with a grin. “He’s missed too many of them already, and I’m going to make sure he doesn’t miss another one.”
“I assume you’ve already passed the word about the meeting tonight, Hermione,” Harry said.
“Everything is set, Harry,” Hermione said. “As we expected, several of the sixth and seventh years didn’t want to wait until Sunday for their class. I think we convinced them with the double class though.”
“Great,” Harry said.
“I hope Neville is back in time, and in a condition to get to the class on Sunday,” Ron said. “I know that he’s been looking forward to it starting up again.”
“I wouldn’t worry about Neville,” Ginny said. “Luna will take care of him.”
“I wish we knew why he left today,” Ron said. “I just feel like there should be something we could do for the poor guy. I heard a rumor that he had to floo over to St. Mungo’s.”
“I’m sure they’ll let us know if there’s anything we can do for him,” Harry said. “We shouldn’t jump to conclusions though. It may be nothing.”
Hermione and Ron sat and stared at Harry for a few seconds before Hermione said, “You know something don’t you, Harry?”
“What makes you think that?” Harry asked.
“Because you just answered my question with another question,” Hermione said. “You only do that when you’re hiding something.”
“Go on, Ginny,” Ron said, “make him tell you what he knows.”
“Harry has told me all he needs to for now,” Ginny said with a grin.
“Oh come on,” Ron said. “You know whatever it is too? Maybe it isn’t such a good thing that you two spend so much time together. You hang around him for too long, and you start keeping secrets with him?”
“Harry has told me quite a few things that I asked him about,” Ginny said. “Now that I know some of the things he’s been keeping from us, I don’t blame him at all for not telling us about them. Some other things I choose to keep quiet about just to annoy you, dear brother.”
Harry left the Great Hall early enough to give him time to conjure everything he would need for the D.A. class. Ginny had wanted to walk Harry to the class, but Harry reminded her of the Potions essay she needed to get done. So, he left her in the care of Hermione and Ron to make sure she got back to the common room.
Minutes later, Harry was standing at the head of the room he had conjured, and he looked out at the faces of the students who had come to learn what he had to teach. He briefly wondered if they had any idea what he had in store for them that night. It was a night that would certainly determine if they really wanted to be there or not.
“Many of you have attended the D.A. classes before,” Harry said. “Tonight we’ll move beyond those previous classes. Outside the walls of this school there is a war raging. Voldemort and his death eaters are spreading fear throughout the wizarding community once again. From now on, this class will be concerned with one thing and one thing only. I will do what I can to prepare you to fight in this war. By the time I’m done with you, you will have learned how to work together to defeat your enemies. You will need to work together, because none of you are ready to fight one of the death eaters one on one. You have to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and use them to your advantage in a battle.
“The first thing I can tell you, is that you need to know as much about your enemy as you can before you ever duel. Tonight we’ll learn about three of the most dangerous death eaters you may face.”
Harry waved his hand, and all of the students took in a sharp breath as three death eaters appeared next to Harry. It was several seconds later before they realized that the death eaters were as still as statues, as if they were frozen in place.
“Allow me to introduce you,” Harry said. “Lucius Malfoy. He’s the brains of the death eaters. If you meet a group of them, he’ll be the one giving the orders. Don’t let that fool you though. He can still duel with the best of them. He’s ruthless. He would kill you with the killing curse without giving it a second thought. His weakness is his arrogance. If he gets the upper hand on you in a battle, he’ll stop to gloat about it before he finishes you off. It may only give you a couple of seconds to escape, but, if used wisely, that can be more than enough time.
“Antonin Dolohov, probably the most consistent fighter among the death eaters. His power is not to be underestimated. You can’t depend on him to make a mistake, because he won’t. He can be just a cruel as Malfoy, but he won’t spend time talking to you. He’ll go for the quick kill every time. You’ll have to be on your toes if you get near him. The very focus and determination that make him such a formidable opponent can also be used against him. He’ll focus in on one target and fail to notice an attack from his flank or rear. Working as a team is the only way that you may be able to survive against him.
“Last but not least, Bellatrix Lestrange. She’s an extremely powerful and knowledgeable witch. She was trained in the dark arts by Voldemort himself. Out of them all, she is the one that you should fear the most. Her loyalty to Voldemort is absolute, and any insult of him will set off her extremely quick temper. Unlike Dolohov, who likes to go for the quick kill, Bellatrix enjoys causing pain to her victims before she kills them. She’ll toy with you until you think you have a clear shot, and then she’ll strike. Her favorite spell to use if she’s only trying to cause you pain is the Cruciatus Curse. Believe me, you don’t want to feel the pain she can inflict with that curse. She’s driven people mad with it in the past. One of her greatest assets can also be one of her greatest weaknesses. She is extremely quick. She can toss out two spells in the time it takes most people to do one. You will spend much of your time against her just trying to defend yourself. She can be too quick for her own good though. It may be possible to lead her into a trap before she has time to realize one is being set for her.
“You will come to know these and other death eaters very well over the next few weeks. While in this class they will act as your main dueling partners. In the past I have had you partner against each other, but it is now time for you to get a taste of what dueling in a battle is really like. It won’t be easy, and it will be just a bit dangerous, so if any of you want to, you can leave before we get started.”
Harry looked around the room at the excitement on the faces of the young students before him. None of them moved at all. By the end of the class, he knew that some of them would wish that they had.
“We’ll get started then,” Harry said as he waved his hand and all of the death eaters except Malfoy vanished. “We’ll start with Malfoy. I need five volunteers to go in the first group.”
Harry grinned as five times the number he needed raised their hands instantly. He pointed to five of them in the front of the class and motioned for everyone else to step back and give them plenty of room. Harry put up a shield charm that would protect those not participating in the exercise, as the chosen five spread out in a straight line in front of Malfoy with their wands drawn.
“Begin,” Harry said.
An instant later, Lucius Malfoy came to life, and reached inside his robes for his wand. Less than ten seconds later, Malfoy went as still has he had been before the duel began.
“Ennervate,” Harry said as he pointed his wand at the five students sprawled out on the floor. “I guess it was a good idea to start by only allowing him to use stunning spells. If this had been the real thing, I would have some really angry parents on my hands.”
“I thought you said Bellatrix Lestrange was the quick one,” one of the fifth year volunteers said as he shook his head in an attempt to clear away the fog.
“She is,” Harry said. “Welcome to the real world of dueling. There is no marching off of ten paces in a real battle. There won’t be anyone to check to make sure both sides are ready. Your opponent may be two hundred meters from you, or he may be two centimeters away. You have to be ready to fight under any circumstances. Does anyone have any idea what they did wrong?”
A small third year girl shyly raised her hand and said, “They didn’t have a shield up?”
“Exactly,” Harry said with a smile. “I would have thought you all would know by now to always keep a shield up when there is a possible danger. Hasn’t Professor Bane stunned all of you enough yet? Still, if this had been an actual battle, your shields wouldn’t have helped you much against the killing curse anyway. I’m sure you all remember the attack on Hermione Granger earlier in this school year. What many of you may not know is that it was the killing curse that she was hit with before she fell over the railing. The only reason she wasn’t killed instantly was the fact that she put up an exceptionally strong shield in time to deflect a portion of the spell’s potency. I’ll teach you that shield charm later on once we’ve gotten past the stunning level.
“Another thing you all may want to keep in mind, is that the easiest target is one that stands still directly in front of you. The last group met their attacker in a straight line, making it easy for Malfoy to identify the extent of the threat immediately, and decide on a course of action very quickly. Remember that a moving target is more difficult to hit than a stationary one, even for an experienced wizard. Also, spread out to attack from different angles all the way around your enemy. Having to turn around to search out a target should slow his attack considerably. Now, do I have five more volunteers that want to give it a try?”
Harry looked out and noticed that, the number of hands that went up immediately were fewer in number than the last round had been. Harry picked another five, and they stepped forward cautiously. Harry backed away along with the remainder of the students. He was pleased to see that they were taking his advice about surrounding their opponent.
“Begin,” Harry said once again with a wave of his hand.
Once Malfoy came back to life and began firing stunning spells at the students, Harry watched as the students ran all around Malfoy slowing down his response time. The students were proud that they had withstood the attack this time using their shields, but became frustrated when they discovered that Malfoy had his own shield to protect him from the stunning spells they were sending at him. Malfoy too noticed that his efforts were wasted, and resorted to a tactic the other students were not expecting.
Before any of them had time to react, Malfoy dashed straight at a fourth year Ravenclaw, and grabbed her from behind as he put the point of his wand to the girl’s temple. The rest of the students were so surprised, that they stopped what they had been doing and stared at the frightened girl being held roughly by the death eater.
“Are you having trouble believing that someone would resort to such a thing?” Harry asked as he walked back to the center of the room. “Always expect something like this if you have a death eater losing a battle with a group of attackers. You have to expect the unexpected. The thing you can’t do, is exactly what you did. Be aware at all times if you get into range for them to attack you like this, and do your best to make sure you don’t give them the chance to grab you. The tactic worked for him unfortunately. There may come a time in the midst of battle when one of your friends may fall or be captured as one was here, but you can’t afford to stop your attack. That was exactly what he was counting on. You stop your attack, and you are suddenly a stationary target once again. Don’t be fooled just because we’re only using stunning spells right now. If this were a real battle most of you would be dead right now just because you stopped and presented him with a target. Once most of you were dead and the rest were diving for cover, he would have killed his hostage and used her body as a shield against whatever attack you may still try to mount.”
“Uh, Harry?” Rachel, the girl being held by Malfoy, said. “Is it okay if I move now?”
“Sure,” Harry said with a grin. “He isn’t going to harm anyone for a few minutes. I have to tell you that, although most if not all of you would have just died in a real battle, this last attempt was a marked improvement over the last one. Don’t feel too bad about it though. I didn’t exactly do a stellar job the first time I faced off against the death eaters myself. By the time I’m done with you, I dare say that you will do much better.”
The rest of the evening was spent letting everyone in the class have a go at Malfoy. Harry pointed out the good and the bad things from each turn, and began letting the students use spells other than stunning spells to subdue their enemy. Time after time they tried and failed, but each time they tried brought them closer to their goal. It really threw them when Harry gave Malfoy the ability to use a shield disrupting charm so that his stunning spells were able to get through their shields. He explained to them that it was very unlikely that they would be facing a stunning spell from a death eater, and they needed to practice not being hit by whatever spell they had thrown at them.
By the time they all left, they were exhausted and sore from being stunned so many times, but their spirits were high. Harry had been right. They were getting better. By the time they left, almost every group had succeeded in capturing Malfoy. It was true that they had yet to do so with all of their original team still standing, but they listened to Harry’s advice, and they were starting to anticipate the moves of their teammates. They left knowing that they were on their way to becoming a significant force that few would be able to stand against. Though it would likely take them until the next Tuesday to recover, they all made plans to return to the next class.
The thing that Harry was most pleased with was the way each group began to work together as a cohesive unit without regard to what house colors they wore. He was especially pleased to see the way that the students from the other houses accepted the four Slytherin students so easily within their ranks.
The door to the room of requirement disappeared behind Harry as he walked down the stairs. He felt a great satisfaction with what he was doing. He had so many things he wanted to teach the other students, but knew that he would have to focus his efforts for the short time he had left at Hogwarts. He began his trek back to Gryffindor tower knowing that he had a completely different dueling structure in mind for the other D.A. classes. He had several days to plan them, so he would be sure to be ready when the time came.
By lunchtime the next day, word of Harry’s training of the third, fourth and fifth year students had gotten around to every corner of the school. He wasn’t worried though. He didn’t have to keep it a secret the way he did back in the dark days when Delores Umbridge stalked through the halls of Hogwarts. As long as no one was permanently injured, there was nothing anyone could do about it to stop him. So far, none of the teachers seemed interested in trying to. Even Snape failed to comment on it one way or the other when he had seen him earlier that morning. Professor Bane was elated. It turned out that the special project he had wanted to propose to Harry was to tutor some of the students in preparation for their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s.
Harry had gotten a heads up from Cassidy that Draco was furious about Harry’s use of his father in the D.A. training. So far, Draco had yet to make his feeling on the matter known to Harry in person. Harry knew that that likely wouldn’t last though. He was making sure to keep a shield charm active at all times just in case.
“So where is Hermione anyway, Ron?” Ginny asked. “It isn’t normal to see you two apart during meal times.”
“Oh, she spilled some ink on her robes and went to change them,” Ron said as he piled food on his plate. “I offered to walk with her, but she told me to go ahead and eat since it wouldn’t take her that long to change.”
“So, Harry,” Ginny began, “have you planned what we’re going to do in the D.A. class on Sunday? You seem to have caused quite a stir with the one last night.”
“Actually, I know exactly what I’m going to do with the class on Sunday, Ginny,” Harry answered. “It will be considerably different from the other one.”
“It sounds as though you may be creating a monster with those third, fourth and fifth years, Harry,” Ron said as he swallowed a bit of food. “They’re walking around the school as if they were ready to take on the world.”
“I wouldn’t worry about them too much, Ron,” Harry said unable to hide a grin. “They won’t feel quite so cocky after their next class session. Last night was just a warm-up.”
Hermione ran into the Great hall and over to Harry, Ron and Ginny and said, “I can’t believe I was so wrong. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.”
“Slow down, Hermione,” Ron pleaded. “What are you talking about?”
“Neville,” Hermione answered. “It wasn’t his grandmother at all. An owl delivered this to me while I was upstairs changing into fresh robes.”
Hermione put the copy of the Quibbler down onto the table for all of them to see the story on the front page.
You Can’t Keep a Longbottom Down
St. Mungo’s has chalked up another miracle recovery to it’s history book. Just over one month after the astounding recovery of Harry Potter from his incredible injuries, the healers of St. Mungo’s have announced the recovery of Frank and Alice Longbottom from injuries sustained more than sixteen years ago at the hands of well known death eater Bellatrix Lestrange. Previously thought to be unrecoverable due to the extensive damage done to their minds after being tortured with the Cruciatus Curse, healers are now expecting a full recovery to be imminent.
Details are still sketchy as to the reason for the sudden turn around of the Longbottom’s condition. Healers tell us that it was accomplished using a new regimen of treatment that had not been attempted before. They have refused to reveal any details about the treatment fearing that it could prove dangerous in the wrong hands.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger, though that is what we specialize in here at The Quibbler, it seems that there may be some connection with this case to Harry Potter. There is a rumor floating around some of the portraits lining the halls of St. Mungo’s, that it was none other than the-boy-who-lived himself that first proposed the new mystery treatment. Healers have refused to comment on that rumor in any way other than to say that Mr. Potter did inquire about the health of the Longbottoms while he was hospitalized there. Healers insist that he was simply checking up on the condition of the parents of friend and fellow Hogwarts student Neville Longbottom.
Neville learned of the recovery of his parents yesterday morning, and has remained at their bedside ever since. He described the moment when he learned the news of his parents condition change as, “the happiest day of my life”.
“Wow,” Ron said amazed. “And here we were feeling all sorry for Neville. Little did we know that we should be having a party for him.”
“I think that would be a great idea, Ron,” Hermione said. “We should start planning it tonight if we want to have it ready by the time he gets back, whenever that may be.”
“I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more,” Ginny said.
“So, Harry,” Ron began with a sly look as if he was about to pry into something, “is it true? Did you tell the healers how to cure the Longbottoms?”
“You always have been a sucker for rumor, haven’t you, mate,” Harry said. “You heard what the paper said. I was just asking about the parents of a friend.”
“What about the letters you’ve been sending to Healer Snagprat?” Hermione asked.
“So who says I still have to be in St. Mungo’s to inquire about them?” Harry asked in response.
“You’re answering a question with a question again, Harry,” Hermione said. “Ginny, make him tell you the truth.”
“Actually, I asked him about that yesterday morning,” Ginny said with a grin.
“And?” Hermione asked anxious to hear what he said.
“And I heard all I needed to hear,” Ginny said unable to control her smile.
“Oh, you two,” Hermione said in frustration. “You two were definitely meant for each other.”
“I like to think so,” Ginny said still smiling.
Ron just looked at Harry with a knowing grin and said, “You’re a good man, mate. You’re a good man.”
Later that evening, Harry sat in the Gryffindor common room with Ginny, Ron and Hermione trying to plan an appropriate celebration for Neville’s return. They were just finalizing their plans when an excited fifth year girl who had been in the previous day’s D.A. class stepped into the common room and walked over to where they sat.
“Hi, Meagan,” Harry said as she neared where he sat. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Meagan responded. “I just thought you would want to know that Luna Lovegood just got back.”
“Is Neville with her?” Harry asked.
“No,” Meagan said. “I asked her if he was coming back tonight, but she said he was going to stay at St. Mungo’s until his parents were released.”
“I guess we can’t really blame him for that,” Ginny said. “He’s grown up his entire life without his parents. If I were in his position, I wouldn’t be quite ready to leave them either.”
“She said they were expecting to release his parents by next Monday,” Meagan said.
“Well that should give us plenty of time to set up for his party,” Ron said.
“It’s a shame really,” Harry said surprising them all. “I was hoping he would be back for the D.A. class on Sunday.”
“Well, if it’s anything like the one yesterday,” Meagan began, “he’ll be sorry he missed it.”
“I take it you enjoyed the class then,” Hermione said.
“I wasn’t enjoying it much when I first woke up this morning,” Meagan said with a smile. “Most of the soreness wore off as the day went on though. I’m ready for another class tonight if Harry wants to teach one.”
“Sorry, Meagan,” Harry said with a grin. “I’m going to be busy tonight. I’m still trying to answer all of the get-well cards I got when I was in St. Mungo’s.”
“Oh,” Meagan said as she blushed suddenly. “Well if you get to the one I sent you, you don’t need to send me a response. I’m just glad you’re back. Well, I’ll leave you all alone now.”
“You don’t have to,” Ginny said. “You’re welcome to stay if you want.”
“Oh, no,” Meagan said blushing even deeper and beginning to fidget. “I think I’ll just… uh… turn in early.”
They all watched as Meagan nearly ran for the stairs to the girl’s dormitories, and Hermione said, “You had better watch out, Harry. I think you have another admirer.”
“I know,” Harry said. “I opened her letter earlier today. I was just trying to think of how to respond to it.”
All of the sixth and seventh years spent the rest of the week growing more and more anxious to find out what Harry was planning for their Sunday D.A. meeting. They had all heard about what he had done with the younger students, and couldn’t wait to know what they would be up against.
The students in the room of requirement stood trying to control all of their pent up anticipation as Harry stepped to the head of the room and said, “By now I suspect that you have all heard about the D.A. class on Tuesday. Most of you are probably wondering if you are in for the same training. I will tell you right now that what we do here tonight will be very different in some ways, and similar in others. I have begun to train the younger students to work efficiently in small groups to take on the death eaters. Most of them are not yet skilled enough to think of fighting a death eater on their own yet, so they will combine their talents to make them more effective. For you however, I have something different in mind. I will train you to fight the death eaters one on one. We don’t have much time to train before Voldemort attacks, so we will be having double D.A. meetings every Sunday until the end of school.”
There was a collective gasp from the group at the mention of Voldemort’s impending attack and Cassidy was the first to step forward and ask, “How do you know Voldemort will attack soon? And what makes you think he would attack us here at Hogwarts?”
“I know he will attack soon because I can feel it,” Harry said as he reached up to touch his scar. “He’ll attack here, because that’s where I am. The thing he wants more than anything in the world is to kill me.”
Just then, they all jumped as the door to the room creaked open. They all relaxed when they saw who it was.
“I heard there was going to be a D.A. meeting tonight,” Neville said as he closed the door. “I hope I didn’t miss it.”
“You’re right on time, Neville,” Harry said with a smile. “Welcome back.”
“Thanks, Harry,” Neville said looking at Harry. “Thanks for everything.”
Neville walked over to where Luna was standing just as Cassidy said, “I still don’t get it, Harry. I’m just as aware as anyone how much Voldemort must hate you, but why would he risk everything by attacking Hogwarts while Professor Dumbledore is here, just to get to you?”
“It goes beyond hate, Cassidy,” Hermione said. “You’ll just have to trust Harry. There are things you don’t know.”
“But I think the time has come,” Harry began, “when she should. You all should know why I am so certain that Voldemort will come after me. When Voldemort was at the height of his power years ago, there was a prophecy made that concerned the two of us.”
Harry spent the next few minutes telling the stunned group everything he could about the prophecy, how and why his scar had hurt over the years, and the details of their past meetings. Once he had stopped his tale, it was several seconds before anyone moved to speak.
“I can’t believe you suffered through that for so many years and you never told us, Harry,” Seamus said. “We’ve slept in the same dorm for seven years now and none of us knew. God, half of the time I thought you were just crazy, but all those times your scar was hurting.”
“I didn’t want anyone to know, Seamus,” Harry said. “Ron and Hermione were the only ones who knew about it along with a few of the teachers. I didn’t want to get the rest of you involved. I didn’t want to give Voldemort a reason to hurt anyone else. I wouldn’t have told you tonight, but the time has come when you all needed to know. The battle is coming, and I’m going to need your help if we’re going to win it.”
“You can count on me, Harry,” Neville said. “I’ll stand beside you.”
“No you won’t,” Harry said. “I want to make that clear to everyone right now. I’m going to train you to fight the death eaters, but under no circumstances are any of you to attempt to fight Voldemort. That will be my fight. That is what I’m training for. I don’t want anyone even close by when Voldemort and I meet.”
“Then we had better get to the training if we’re going to fight the death eaters,” Cassidy said with a slight tone that made Harry wonder if she was really giving up so easily.
“Then let’s begin,” Harry said with a wave of his hand that caused the room to change into the same forest setting Harry had used for his dueling test with Professor Bane.
Four hours later, a weary and humbled group of students, some with some minor burn marks on their robes, emerged from the room of requirement. They had heard about what Harry had done with the class earlier in the week, but what they had just been through made that class look like a cake walk. They all just hoped Professor Bane didn’t ask them to do anything on Monday morning that would require them to be alert and agile.
The next evening, Harry found himself back in the room of requirement facing a very nervous group of first and second year students. They had all seen the condition of their housemates that had attended previous classes, and they were slightly scared that they wouldn’t survive the night.
“Welcome to the D.A.,” Harry said with a gentle smile that served to relax some of them somewhat. “I know that you all may be wondering what might be in store for you tonight. The first thing I need you to do is to relax. Take a few deep breaths and calm your nerves. You won’t be dueling as fiercely as the other two D.A. classes, so you don’t need to worry about any stories you may have heard. I am going to train you to perform a very specific task. I won’t be asking any of you to try to battle a death eater. You can leave that to the other two classes. Let them do the fighting. What I need you to learn to do is to protect. I am going to be teaching you some of the most advanced shield charms ever devised. Some of them haven’t even been made known to the general wizarding world. Don’t think you are getting off easy though. These charms won’t be easy for you by any stretch of the imagination. Many of them are difficult for fully trained wizards, but if you work hard at it, you’ll be able to block any spell thrown at you.
“Your job, should the death eaters attack, will be to spread out among those not involved in the battle and conjure a shield strong enough to protect them. I’ll teach you how to band together to combine your shields to protect large areas. Don’t think of yourself as the last line of defense. For those innocent people you will be saving, you are their first line of defense.”
“But what if we can’t produce a strong enough shield, sir?” a first year Hufflepuff boy asked meekly.
“You can call me Harry, David,” Harry said with a smile, surprising him that he knew his name. “I’m not a professor. I’m just a student like you. You just give me a chance to teach you, and I’ll guarantee that you’ll produce a shield more than strong enough. Is it a deal?”
“Deal,” David said with a smile and eyes full of trust.
“Great,” Harry said. “That goes for all of you. Even if you’ve had trouble with your shields in other classes, I’m willing to bet that there will be an improvement for all of you by the end of this class. If there isn’t, you can call me an idiot and we can move on to anything you like.”
“So where do we start?” David asked, all anxiety gone and replaced with excitement.
“Why don’t we start with one that I developed myself over the summer,” Harry said with a smile. “I can tell you that no one below seventh year has seen this one. You will be the youngest wizards and witches to ever attempt it. Even better than that, it isn’t difficult to do, and it is as strong as any shield ever taught in a class here at Hogwarts. You master this shield, and even the killing curse won’t be able to touch you.”
Gasps and mutterings erupted from the students to match their wide eyes. They knew then that Harry had saved a very important duty for them. They may not be dueling like the older students, but Harry was about to teach them something that even they would be envious of.
“I do have to ask one thing of you before I teach you this spell,” Harry said, bringing their attention back to him. “I need all of you to agree not to mention this spell to anyone outside of this room. If word of this spell should reach the ears of the enemy, it could prove disastrous to our cause.”
David looked around the room and gauged the affirmative nods of his classmates before he turned to Harry with a new confidence and said, “You can count on us, Harry. We won’t let you down.”
“Then lets get started,” Harry said as he drew his wand. “Spread out a bit, and draw your wands. You are about to create a magic circle. Listen to what I say and watch very closely. Then give it a try.”
Two hours later, the first and second year D.A. students walked out of the room of requirement with a confidence they had not felt since they got to Hogwarts. Not only were they members of a secret army, they were a secret unit within that army that none of the other members would ever be aware of. They were so happy, it didn’t even bother them that they couldn’t tell anyone about what they were preparing for.
They weren’t the only ones that were happy though. Harry paused at the door and looked back at the room behind him, and smiled. He was as happy as he had been since the last time he saw Ginny. Sharing his knowledge with the students and seeing the look of accomplishment on their faces was something he would treasure forever.
The Tuesday D.A. class met in the room of requirement once again to see what Harry would teach them that time. Some of them were a bit disappointed to enter the room to find Harry waiting on them standing next to the frozen figure of Lucius Malfoy once again.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asked the class. “You all look disappointed. I had heard that you were all looking forward to this class.”
“We dueled Malfoy last week,” Rachael said. “We were kind of hoping for something different this time.”
“Are you all sure?” Harry asked in mock surprise. “I thought you may want to master this death eater before we moved on to someone else. I’ll tell you what, lets start with Malfoy just to get warmed up and then I’ll see if I can bring something new into the class.”
Everyone in the class nodded their agreement, but some of them caught the look in Harry’s eyes and thought that perhaps it may have been a mistake to ask him to make things more difficult.
“I’ll need five volunteers,” Harry said as five people immediately stepped forward from the pack. “You will be the lucky group that gets to duel Malfoy first. Before we get started, I need another group of five to join in the fight later on.”
The students looked around at each other in a moment of surprise. He had never let a second group join in a duel before. Rachael stepped forward with her group to take up the second position.
Harry waved his hand and they all found themselves standing in a much different room. Harry gave them all a few seconds to look around the room and take in their new surroundings.
“You will notice that we have switched locations,” Harry said. “You are now standing in a room within the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. A couple of years ago, I was unfortunate enough to find myself here dueling with death eaters. If you look down the steps you will see the stone dais in the center if the room. In the real room of requirement there is a mysterious veil standing there. If you fall into the veil… Well, actually it is not known exactly what happens to a person who falls into it. Suffice it to say that the person leaves this world, and there, as yet, is no way to get them back. Obviously, I’m not going to have the veil present for our class, because of the danger to you all. Just know that anyone who falls onto the center dais will be considered dead and will not be allowed to continue with the exercise. Is everyone ready?”
“Harry,” Rachael began before he had told them to start, “when do we join in?”
Harry looked back at her with a grin that made them all cringe slightly and said, “You’ll know when. Trust me. You’ll know. Begin.”
The first group of five fanned out around the stepped room and aimed their spells at Malfoy, who ducked below the edge of a lower step to avoid the onslaught. Malfoy popped his head up and hit two of the students with spells that made their movement slow considerably before he ducked to avoid a barrage from the other three. There was nothing the remaining three students could do to stop Malfoy from popping up once again as he took aim at the two students struggling to move and knocked them out cold. The three remaining students were ready for him once he popped up and prepared to strike, when they heard a noise on the other side of the room. It sounded like voices talking from behind a door.
The next thing the students knew, the door exploded and Dolohov and Lestrange ran through it. The students had to lay down flat on the top step to avoid the incoming spells from the two unexpected death eaters. They were pinned down. They couldn’t move thanks to the constant stream of spells heading in their direction, and the two new arrivals were circling to close in on them.
“I would say that would be the cue you have been waiting for,” Harry said to the five students staring in disbelief.
A couple of seconds later, the five new students entered the fight and almost immediately two of them fell unconscious. One of them tripped as he tried to jump down the steps while firing off a spell. The three that had been pinned down took their opportunity to join in the fight again only to realize that they had been so concerned about the new death eaters that they had forgotten about Malfoy. A couple of seconds later another student went down as Malfoy found his mark.
Rachael had managed to make it around to where the first two students who had been stunned were laying and said, “Ennervate.”
They were dazed at first, but a couple of seconds was all it took to remind the recently revived students of where they were. One of them was able to launch a stunning spell that hit Malfoy in the back and took him out of the fight, only to fall stunned again after Bellatrix spotted his head pop up.
“Next five,” Harry said just as Dolohov hit Rachael with a spell that made her slip and tumble down the steps. “You had better get in there if they’re going to stand a chance.
Another group of five jumped forward and began to run into battle, but before they could scatter, Bellatrix hit them with a spell that knocked them all backwards and off of their feet. They scrambled to stand up, but Dolohov stunned three of them before they could get out of the way.
“Another five,” Harry said over the taunts that Bellatrix was yelling at the students she was battling.
Five more students joined the battle, but waited for a time when they knew that the attention of the two death eaters was focused somewhere else before doing so. They revived the three stunned from the previous group as they passed, and they felt that they may finally have sufficient numbers to mount a decent attack. It was only seconds later though, that they heard more voices coming from behind a door opposite the one Dolohov and Lestrange had entered through. They all braced for the worst as the door exploded as the other one had, and eight more death eaters they did not recognize ran in to join the fight.
“Okay class,” Harry said turning to those who still stood behind him, “I think perhaps all of you had better get in there now.”
Less than five minutes later, everything in the room went quiet as Rachael pushed herself up to a sitting position. She was acutely aware of the pain in her left shoulder that she had landed on when she had fallen to the bottom step at the base of the center dais. If her spirits were not low enough already, they sank even lower as she looked up and surveyed the steps around her. All of her D.A. classmates were lying unceremoniously draped over the steps throughout the room. She also could see the still figures of the death eaters standing around the top rim. A quick count showed her what she already feared. The entire class had entered into the battle, and other than Malfoy, they had only succeeded in stunning one other death eater. It was plain that they had let Harry down. They were not even close to being up to the challenge.
Rachael looked up once again to see Harry walking around the top levels and reviving students as he came to them. Once everyone had been revived, the room changed once again, and Rachael found herself sitting in a bed in the hospital wing. Several of her fellow students were also in beds nearby.
“Patch them up as soon as possible, Madam Pomfrey,” Harry said to the woman who had walked in to survey her new patients. “Class isn’t over yet and we have a great deal more to learn before it is.”
“I’ll do my best, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said. “I don’t see anything too serious so far. To have this many students injured in one class would tend to suggest that perhaps the lesson was a bit too dangerous.”
“That it was,” Harry said. “I’ll try to take it easy on them from now on.”
“See that you do, Mr. Potter,” Pomfrey said. “I would hate to have to report something like this to the Headmaster.”
Harry grinned, having heard similar threats from the conjured Madame Pomfrey nearly every day over the past summer. Little did she suspect that he had little to fear from her threat. She would disappear from the room as soon as Harry was sure that all of the injuries had been mended.
“So,” Harry said as he walked over to Rachael’s bed, “how are you feeling?”
“I think my pride hurts more than anything else,” Rachael responded. “I’m really sorry, Harry. I know we let you down.”
“Not at all,” Harry said. “You all actually did better than I expected you to. I knew you weren’t ready for a fight like this yet. The only thing was that none of you knew it. All of you walked around ready to take on the world ever since the last class. This dueling exercise was just to show you that you may not be as ready as you think.”
“Will we ever be ready for a fight like that though?” Meagan asked as she and several other class members walked over to Rachael’s bed.
“In time, even a single group of five will be able to defeat all of the death eaters you faced today,” Harry responded surprising those who heard him. “That is, you will if you’ll trust me to know what you are all ready for when it comes to your training.”
“I certainly will,” Rachael said. “Anything to keep me from falling down any more steps.”
“I can’t promise that you won’t get a few more bumps and bruises during this training though,” Harry said. “At least there won’t be any more today. As soon as Madame Pomfrey releases everyone, we’ll go back to our usual room and I’ll teach you all a few new spells that will serve you a bit better when dueling against greater numbers.”
Later that evening, after the D.A. class had been dismissed, Harry walked down to Hagrid’s hut to see if he had been able to procure something from the forest that Harry was in need of. He was pleased to see that Hagrid had found more than he would be needing. Still keeping his latest project a secret from everyone except Ginny, who had agreed to help him where she could, Harry decided that it would be safest to let Hagrid keep it until he found time to come back for it.
Harry walked through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room, and spotted Ginny sitting with Ron and Hermione near the fire.
“My goodness, Harry,” Ron said as Harry walked over. “I don’t know what you did to the class tonight, but they sure seemed changed over last week. Last week they strutted through here like they were royalty or something. Tonight, they were a somber lot. Not one of them said a word to anyone. They just walked straight through and up to their dorms.”
“I suspect they were still smarting a bit from class,” Harry said. “I don’t think I’ll have any more problems with overconfidence from now on.”
“Just to let you know, mate,” Ron began with a smile, “I don’t feel confident at all after the last class. You don’t need to prove any points to me.”
“I’m not worried,” Harry said. “I’m sure word of what happened tonight will leak out by Sunday. I suspect I won’t have to worry about anyone else.”
“Then maybe I can give you something to worry about, dearest,” Ginny said with a smile. “It occurred to me today that you and I have never really had a date before. I know we’ve spent loads of time together, but we’ve never gone out on what you might call an official date.”
“I see what you mean,” Harry said. “I guess we have always just sort of hung out together.”
“I think I might have a solution for that though,” Ginny said brightly. “Valentines Day is coming up and there’s a Hogsmeade weekend. I want you to make plans to take me somewhere we’ve never been before. Don’t tell me about it before hand. I want it to be a surprise.”
“How big of a surprise can it be?” Ron asked. “Hogsmeade isn’t that big of a place. Is there anywhere you two haven’t already been together?”
“Hmmm,” Harry said as he thought. “I’ve got more than a week to plan it. I think I might be able to come up with something by then.”
“Why do I get the feeling you may already have an idea, Harry?” Hermione asked.
“What makes you say that?” Harry asked with a grin.
“You did it again, Harry,” Hermione said. “You just answered my question with another one.”
“Did I?” Harry asked with mock innocence.
Elsewhere, in England, the mood was not as light. Lucius Malfoy walked down the dim hallway that would take him to the room where he knew his master to be. He did not look forward to the meeting. It was always a painful thing to deliver bad news to the Dark Lord.
“Forgive me for intruding on you, my master,” Malfoy said as he bowed low in the doorway of the room. “Something has happened, and I wanted to tell you about it right away.”
“Enter, Lucius,” Voldemort said as he looked up from the desk he was sitting at. “Tell me of your news.”
“We have had to abandon our hide out in east London, Master,” Lucius said expecting to feel pain at any time. “The aurors raided it this evening, and I am told that the death eaters stationed there barely had time to apparate out before they were captured.”
“Good,” Voldemort said surprising Malfoy. “What’s the matter, Lucius? Do you not see why I would be glad to hear this news?”
“I admit that I am puzzled by it, my lord,” Malfoy answered.
“Allow me to enlighten you while I am in such a good mood then,” Voldemort said. “I knew very well that the aurors would be raiding that hide out. It was I who allowed them to find out its location. You can tell those manning all of the hideouts in London to be on their guard. I will be giving up their locations soon as well.”
“I am more confused than before, my lord,” Lucius said. “Why would it be to our advantage to do so?”
“Because I want the keen eyes of the ministry to be focused on London, Lucius,” Voldemort said with something akin to a chuckle. “I want them to be crawling down every sewer pipe in the city while we focus our efforts on another target.”
“Potter,” Lucius said with a sudden understanding.
“Of course, Lucius,” Voldemort said. “Until he is dead, that is my one and only real target. Everything else is just a diversion.”
“So we finally get to take care of Potter once and for all?” Lucius asked.
“Not yet,” Voldemort said. “All of the pieces are not yet in place for such a battle. First we’ll just soften them up a bit by hitting them somewhere close to home. I still owe Harry a bit of pay back for that ministry model he sent to me.”
“I’m sure I could get my son to…” Lucius began
“He is not to touch Harry in the slightest,” Voldemort said with his voice rising.
“I was thinking more of the Weasley girl Harry is dating,” Lucius said.
Voldemort sat and though for a moment with a twisted grin on his face before he said, “I will consider that, but I’m surprised you would want to ask your son to do the job. I was under the impression that he was not in your good graces at the moment.”
“I believe that Draco just needs a bit of a reminder of exactly who he is,” Lucius said biting back what he really wanted to say.
“Don’t bother,” Voldemort said. “I wouldn’t use him to do the job anyway, just as I didn’t in the attack on the Mudblood.”
“I still don’t understand why that was, my lord,” Lucius said. “I assure you that Draco would have succeeded in carrying out your wishes.”
“I have no doubt of that,” Voldemort said. “He also would have been at the top of the suspect list if he had. How long do you think the student who attacked her will live if Harry ever finds out who he is? My reports tell me that he has become a shockingly powerful wizard of late.”
“I doubt that Potter has it in him to kill anyone, my lord,” Lucius said.
“Never underestimate the will of an enemy to cross a moral boundary when presented with the right pressures, Lucius,” Voldemort said. “Never underestimate Harry. He stopped me once. I don’t intend for it to happen again. Meet me here tomorrow with Bellatrix and some of the others and I’ll tell you where you will attack next.”
“My lord,” Malfoy said as he bowed and backed out of the room. What Voldemort had said about Draco still stung in the back of his mind. He was a Malfoy after all. No Malfoy could ever have his loyalty called into question. Voldemort may have said it was for other reasons, but Malfoy still had the feeling that there was something his master didn’t trust about Draco.
Ginny walked into the Great Hall for lunch to find Harry, Ron and Hermione already seated and eating.
“… don’t need me, Ron” Harry said. “You’ve already got a full team to work with. You’ll be fine.”
“Well, I never thought I would see the day when Harry Potter passed on a chance to climb onto a broom for quidditch,” Ron said with a frown.
“What did I miss?” Ginny asked as she sat next to Harry.
“Just Harry refusing to rejoin the quidditch team,” Ron growled.
“I don’t see why you’re so upset about it, Ron,” Hermione said. “Your next match is tomorrow. Harry hasn’t been on a broom in months. He hasn’t trained with the team at all.”
“I didn’t expect him to start,” Ron said. “I just thought it would be nice to have him as an alternate just in case we needed him.”
“It isn’t as if we’re going to be facing Slytherin or something,” Ginny said. “If we were, I could see where you might think someone could be knocked out of the game and we would need an alternate. The match is against Hufflepuff though. When was the last time anyone had to use an alternate in a match against them?”
“I guess you’re right,” Ron said. “It just makes me feel better somehow knowing Harry is waiting nearby if we need him.”
“Even if you did need him,” Hermione began, “it wouldn’t be like getting the Harry of old. He would have to ride one of the school brooms.”
“Speaking of that,” Ron said turning to Harry, “why haven’t you ordered a new broom?”
“I guess I just never thought about it,” Harry said. “If it would make you feel better, I’ll have a broom by the time Gryffindor takes on Slytherin.”
“Good,” Ron said relieved.
“So, Harry,” Hermione said. “What are you planning to do after lunch while the rest of us are in Potions and Defense against the Dark Arts?”
“I thought I might go down and visit with Hagrid for a while,” Harry answered.
“But, Harry, Hagrid has to teach Care of Magical Creatures during that time,” Hermione pointed out. “He won’t be able to visit with you.”
“Oh,” Harry said thinking quickly. “I guess I’ll just work on what I’m going to do for Sunday’s D.A. class.”
“Didn’t you say just yesterday that you had already worked that out?” Hermione asked.
“Is there some reason why I can’t change my mind?” Harry asked with a grin that he knew Hermione would pick up on.
“You’re doing it again, Harry,” Hermione said shaking her head. “Oh my goodness. We’re sitting here talking about the D.A. and I nearly forgot that I have something I want to show you, Harry.”
“What is it?” Harry asked as he watched Hermione reach inside her robes and pull out a tiny bag and place it on the table.
Hermione pulled out her wand and performed an enlarging charm on the bag. A second later, they all saw a large bulging bag sitting in front of them. Hermione reached inside and pulled out a silver ring and handed it to Harry.
Harry took the offered ring and turned it in his hand to examine it more closely. The outside of the band had the symbols of the four houses etched into it. On the top, there was a small white stone. Harry looked the ring over carefully, and then looked back to the bag it had come from before looking up at Hermione.
“Is this what I think it is,” Harry asked.
“It works on the same principles as the original signal coins we made for the D.A.,” Hermione said. “I have one for everyone who has been coming to the classes, and a few extra just in case you get any new students. They’re one size fits all. They’ll automatically adjust to the finger size of the wearer. They get warm whenever there is a new signal coming through from anyone wearing one. The stone will remain white most of the time, but will change color depending on what the situation is that everyone is being alerted to. Green will alert everyone to a meeting. Red will be the signal that someone is in danger. The stone will turn black if someone is in immediate need of medical attention. Once the signal has been sent, the corresponding message will display around the outer band as to the location where help is needed, or the place and time for a meeting.”
“Brilliant,” Harry said as he slipped the ring on his right ring finger.
“So when do the rest of us get one?” Ron asked.
“Well, you can have one right now if you want,” Hermione said. “I’ll bring this bag to the meeting on Sunday to pass them out to everyone there, Harry. Then I’ll just leave it with you to pass out to the other two classes.”
“I just want to make sure now,” Harry said. “It isn’t going to spell out the word sneak on their forehead if they take it off is it?”
Later that evening, after dinner, Ron came down from his dorm room into the Gryffindor common room expecting to find Harry and Ginny sitting by the fire where he normally found them. He had a few new plays he was thinking about inserting into the next day’s quidditch match, but he wanted to run them by Harry and Ginny first. He was disappointed to find that they were not in the common room where he had expected them to be.
“Hermione,” Ron began as he walked over to where Hermione sat reading, “have you seen Harry and Ginny lately.”
“They went out just a few minutes ago,” Hermione responded looking up from her book. “I think they said they were going to go and see Hagrid for a while.”
“Why this sudden interest in seeing Hagrid?” Ron asked.
“Ron,” Hermione said surprised. “Hagrid is a friend of ours. Harry can go and see him if he wants to. You’re just mad because they didn’t ask you to go along.”
“Am not,” Ron said. “I just had a new play I wanted to run by them.”
“So you weren’t upset at being left behind?” Hermione asked.
“Of course not,” Ron said not sounding too convincing.
“I was,” Hermione admitted.
“Hermione,” Ron said surprised.
“Well I was,” Hermione said. “It isn’t easy you know. We’ve been hanging out with Harry for seven years now. To suddenly have him going off and doing things without us makes me a little jealous. I know it isn’t rational. He probably feels the same way about us going off and spending time without him. We’ll have to get used to the separation soon enough anyway. It won’t be that long before we graduate and move away from Hogwarts. We may see each other during holidays and the like, but it just won’t be the same as it was.”
Ron stood and stared at Hermione for a few seconds before he said, “I guess I did lie a little bit. I do miss him. That was one of the reasons I wanted Harry back on the quidditch team. He may only be an alternate, but at least he would come to the practices and we would get a chance to spend some time together. He’s like a brother to me, Hermione. I know I have plenty of those, but I feel closer to Harry than to any of them. I felt that way even before I found out he wanted to marry my sister.”
“I know,” Hermione said as she stood up and hugged her fiancé. “How would you like to get some fresh air with me. The astronomy tower should be free tonight since there aren’t anymore classes before the weekend.”
“I think I could use some air now that you mention it,” Ron said.
A few minutes later, Ron and Hermione walked out onto the top of the astronomy tower to find that they were not the only ones who had thought to come there.
“Good evening, Draco,” Hermione said causing Draco to jump as he turned to glare at the new arrivals.
“What are you two doing here?” Draco asked.
“Not the most polite response I’ve ever heard,” Ron said. “We just came up here to get a bit of the night air. What about you?”
“I thought perhaps it was somewhere I could be alone,” Draco said. “Apparently I was wrong.”
“We were only planning on staying for a few minutes anyway,” Hermione said. “Then we’ll leave and you can be alone again if you want.”
“Forget it,” Draco said. “Take all the time you want. I’ve had enough air for tonight.”
They watched as Draco turned and walked away without another word. After he was gone, Hermione moved to look over the side of the tower and saw something that intrigued her interest. Down by the lake, she could just make out Cassidy standing by the shoreline. Hermione had to wonder how long she had been there. Surely Draco had noticed her. He had been staring off in that direction when they first walked onto the roof. She wondered if wanting to be alone was his real reason for being on the tower that night.
“They’re coming out,” Ron said, bringing Hermione back from her thoughts.
“What?” Hermione asked.
“Harry and Ginny just came out carrying a lantern,” Ron said as he pointed in the direction of Hagrid’s cabin. “Hey. What do they think they’re doing? Harry can’t take her into the forbidden forest. She could get hurt.”
“I’m sure there must be a good reason for it,” Hermione said. “Besides, Harry is with her. She’s probably safer in there with him than anyone else.”
“She’s my little sister, Hermione,” Ron said. “Do you have any idea how mum would react if she found out Ginny was strolling through that forest in the middle of the night? She’ll blame it on me for not stopping her.”
“Just relax, Ron,” Hermione said. “Harry has on his ring and so does Ginny. If anything goes wrong, we’ll know about it. Maybe we should just go back down to the common room and wait for them to come back.”
“I can’t go back to the common room,” Ron said. “I’ll be a nervous wreck there. I have to wait here so I can see when they come out of the forest.”
“Great,” Hermione said. “So you’ll be more of a nervous wreak up here. Just stand back from the edge. I don’t want you to accidentally throw yourself over the edge.”
“I’m not that bad,” Ron said as he turned to look at Hermione.
“Oh really?” Hermione asked. “Of all nights. It had to be tonight that I needed some air.”
Ron looked back to the forest and said, “Wait a minute. I think I see something. It looks like a light.”
“You see,” Hermione said. “It wasn’t anything to worry about. There they come now, and neither one looks any worse for wear.”
“What in the world is Harry carrying?” Ron asked. “He didn’t go into the forest with that.”
“It looks like some wood,” Hermione said. “They probably just went to gather some firewood for Hagrid.”
“Why would they need to?” Ron asked. “He has a huge pile of firewood behind his cabin.”
“Don’t you get it, Ron,” Hermione said. “Maybe they were just looking for something they could do together for a few minutes without being disturbed by anyone. Maybe they just wanted some air.”
The Saturday quidditch match against Hufflepuff lasted considerably longer than the one had against Ravenclaw. A thick fog had rolled in overnight and hung stubbornly in the air over the quidditch pitch, making the snitch more of a challenge than usual to locate. Ginny had finally chased it down after nearly three hours of searching. Gryffindor had already built up a considerable lead in the match, and the points from catching the snitch made for an especially jubilant Gryffindor house. Their points from the game allowed them to widen their lead in the race for the house cup.
The party had lasted well into the night back in the Gryffindor common room. Harry was one of the only ones to go to bed early, since he still had to be up early for his Sunday tutoring sessions. By the time most of the rest of the Gryffindors opened their eyes, Harry was well into his History of Magic session.
At the beginning of the Sunday D.A. class, Hermione had passed out the new D.A. rings to those present and explained their workings. By the time the class had ended, four hours later, the stone in the center of their rings had turned black several times. Many of them were becoming as familiar with Madam Pomfrey as they were the death eaters. They always came back for more though. Their injuries were fewer and further between as the class progressed. They all knew that they had learned more about dueling in the last few weeks with Harry than they had in all of their years at Hogwarts. By the end of the school year they had no doubt that he would train them to stand alone against any of the death eaters they may come into contact with.
On Monday, the first and second years slipped their rings on proudly. It was a sign to them that they were part of a larger whole. The thing that they found astounding was what Harry was going to teach them. In addition to their shielding spells, in which their progress surprised even Harry, he said that they would need to be able to get to the scene of a battle quickly in response to a call for help they would get through their rings. It was unheard of to even be attempted by such young wizards and witches, but Harry was going to teach them to apparate. After their initial shock had worn off, they pointed out to him that there were spells protecting Hogwarts that prevented apparating. Harry just smiled and told them that that only applied to someone trying to apparate onto or off of the Hogwarts grounds. It was a little known secret that students could still apparate from place to place within the school grounds.
By the end of the third, fourth and fifth years D.A. class, each group had managed to defeat the duo of Malfoy and Dolohov with very few casualties. They were all feeling very good about what they had accomplished, but they had learned their lesson the week before. They weren’t about to say anything to Harry that might give him the feeling that they were becoming too sure of themselves.
Friday morning came, and almost every student in the school awoke with the first rays of the sun. Their Valentine’s weekend had finally arrived. Those that were old enough to make the trip to Hogsmeade counted their money in an effort to plan their day to make it last as long as possible.
Probably the only person who didn’t worry about planning their day was Ginny. She didn’t have to make any plans at all. She could leave all of that to Harry. Ron had been right though. They had been to every place she could think of in Hogsmeade, at least the places she would want to go to. It would be interesting to see what kind of a date Harry would plan. She knew that it would likely consist of roaming though the shops as usual, but she didn’t care. She was going to be with Harry, and that was enough for her.
Ginny and Hermione walked down into their common room to find Ron sitting alone and Ginny asked, “Where’s Harry?”
“He said he had to go and see Professor Dumbledore about something before we went to Hogsmeade this morning,” Ron responded.
“What about?” Ginny asked.
“Well, unlike Harry,” Ron began with a grin, “I don’t have to answer every question you ask me.”
“I bet you’ll tell if Hermione asks you,” Ginny said.
“Sorry, Ginny,” Hermione said. “I already know why he went to see the Headmaster. I’m afraid I can’t tell you either. It has something to do with your date today, and you said you wanted it all to be a surprise.”
“There’s never a time turner around when you need one,” Ginny said in mock frustration.
“Don’t you dare make Harry tell you about it when he gets back either,” Ron demanded. “You have no idea what lengths Harry has gone to in order plan this date for you. If you make him tell it all now it’ll ruin everything for the both of you.”
“You do understand, of course, that telling me that only makes me more anxious to know what in the world he has planned,” Ginny said.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Hermione said. “Trust me. You’re going to love it.”
They all looked up to see the portrait hole open and Harry walk through it with a smile on his face, and a handful of flowers. He looked and saw them all standing there and the smile on his face dropped a bit.
“I’m sorry it took me so long, Ginny,” Harry said. “I was hoping to make it back here before you came down.”
“That’s all right, Harry,” Ginny said with a smile. “It must have taken you a while to cut all of those flowers.”
“Oh,” Harry said, remembering that he was holding them. “These are for you, Ginny.”
“Thank you, Harry,” Ginny said as she took the flowers. “They’re beautiful. It was very sweet of you.”
“Well, I’m kind of new to this dating thing,” Harry said, “but I think flowers are sort of customary.”
“I think you’re doing fine so far,” Ginny said. “I’ll just take these up to my room and put them into some water. Then we can go down and get some breakfast.”
“I can’t wait,” Harry said as she turned to go.
“So is everything set?” Hermione asked once she was sure Ginny was out of earshot.
“Professor Dumbledore said he got an owl late last night, and everything has been arranged,” Harry said with a grin of anticipation.
“She would never guess what you’re up to in a million years,” Ron said.
“I hope not,” Harry said. “I really want this day to be one that she’ll always remember. If everything goes like it’s supposed to, this may be one of the best days of my life.”
After breakfast, all of the Hogwarts students made the journey off of the Hogwarts grounds and into Hogsmeade. Being that it was Valentine’s day, the majority of the students had taken the time to make sure they were making the trip with someone special to them.
As Ginny expected, she and Harry stayed with Ron and Hermione as they stopped in at the Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer, Honeyduke’s, Zonko’s, and the building site for Fred and George’s new shop. It was nice to get a chance to talk to Fred and George about their new expansion, but other than that, everything else was fairly normal for a Hogsmeade trip.
At around noon, Harry looked at his watch and said, “It’s almost time for lunch. Is anyone hungry?”
“I’m starving,” Ron said before anyone else could say anything.
“That’s surprising,” Ginny said. “I didn’t think you would want to eat anything after all the candy from Honeyduke’s you’ve eaten.”
“My goodness, Ginny,” Ron said. “That was nearly an hour ago.”
“Ah, the appetite of a teenage boy,” Hermione said. “We had better get these two fed or they’ll be cranky for the rest of the day, Ginny.”
“So what is it going to be?” Ginny asked. “Shall we go back to the Three Broomsticks like usual?”
“Actually,” Harry began, “we thought we would try somewhere a little different this time.”
“Really?” Ginny asked a bit surprised.
“We may be teenage boys,” Ron said, “but we can still be spontaneous when we want to.”
“Lead on, Ron dear,” Hermione said. “I don’t want too much time to pass before we get there. You may change your mind.”
They walked for a couple of minutes until Ginny watched Ron turn and begin to walk to Madam Puddifoot’s. She thought he must surely be joking. She had wanted to go there before, but it wasn’t the kind of place she could see Ron consenting to. Maybe Hermione had more influence over him then she thought.
Ron and Hermione walked all the way to the door before they turned to look at Harry and Ginny behind them. Ginny was a bit surprised when Harry stopped several feet away from where Ron and Hermione were standing waiting on them.
“Enjoy your lunch you two,” Harry said.
“You too, mate,” Ron said as he and Hermione turned to walk inside.
“I don’t understand, Harry,” Ginny said. “I thought we were all going to eat together.”
“Surprise,” Harry said with a smile. “You and I will be dining elsewhere today.”
“That wasn’t exactly what I meant when I told you I wanted you to surprise me,” Ginny said.
“I know,” Harry responded. “Just wait. There are more surprises coming.”
Harry led Ginny back down the street until they were almost back to the Three Broomsticks. Harry surprised her again when he pulled her into the alley that ran beside it.
“Harry,” Ginny said. “What in the world are we doing here?”
“My, my,” Harry said grinning at her. “You sure are anxious. You must be hungrier than I thought.”
“Then why are we standing in an alley?” Ginny asked.
“We just needed to get to a place where no one would see us,” Harry said as he reached in his pocket and pulled out an unopened chocolate frog.
“I hope that isn’t your idea of lunch,” Ginny said.
“Of course not,” Harry said. “You don’t really think I would have spent so long planning this day and come up with nothing better than a chocolate frog do you?”
“I don’t get it, Harry,” Ginny said.
“Just hold on to the chocolate frog and you will soon,” Harry said as he held out the frog to her. “Hold on tight. Its almost time.”
It was only a split second before it happened that Ginny realized what the chocolate frog was. She felt the hard tug behind her navel and the next thing she knew her feet hit a much harder surface than the one she had just left. She looked around her to try to get her bearings, but she didn’t recognize the place as anywhere she had been before. She was in another alley, but it was not one in Hogsmeade.
“What have you done, Harry?” Ginny asked.
“I thought you were hungry,” Harry said. “Why don’t you come with me and we’ll see if we can find a nice place to eat.”
“Harry, you turned that chocolate frog into a portkey?” Ginny asked.
“Actually, Professor Dumbledore did it for me,” Harry said with a smile. I couldn’t have done it myself. You can only make a portkey to a place if you’ve been there before.”
“Where are we?” Ginny asked.
“Well, lets have a look around and make sure we ended up in the right place first,” Harry said as he began to lead her down the alley.
When they emerged from the alley, Ginny stopped in her tracks and gaped at her new surroundings. They had emerged onto a boardwalk bustling with people. Beyond the boardwalk was a beautiful beach, and beyond that was a sparkling sea.
“This is it,” Harry said. “It looks just the way he described it. Ginny, welcome to the southern coast of France.”
“What?” Ginny exclaimed. “Are you serious?”
“I wanted to do something really special for you,” Harry said. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny said as she took another look at the beach. “This is so much more than I was expecting. I really would have been fine with eating in the Three Broomsticks.”
“Professor Dumbledore tells me that there’s a nice little café near here that is only accessible to wizards,” Harry said. “Do you want to see if we can find it?”
“You bet I do,” Ginny said as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thank you Harry. This is the best thing anyone has ever done for me.”
“You just say the word and I’ll do it for you every day,” Harry said as he hugged her back.
“You have no idea how hard it is not to tell you to do it right now,” Ginny said as she gripped him tighter.
“Well you might want to wait until after lunch anyway,” Harry said. “If we do get married, this may be where we end up living.”
Ginny stepped back and looked at Harry as she remembered what he had told her about his inheritance, and asked, “Is this it? Is this where the villa your dad bought for your mum is?”
“It should be somewhere in this neighborhood,” Harry said. “Professor Dumbledore gave me the address, so we could take a look at it after lunch.”
“Then by all means,” Ginny said, “let’s eat.”
Ginny took Harry’s arm and they strolled down the boardwalk toward the café. It wasn’t a difficult place to find. It looked like any normal café, except for the fact that muggles who came near it suddenly found that they had a need to walk as far to the right of the boardwalk as they could get.
Lunch at the café was all that Professor Dumbledore had said that it would be. Harry would have been tempted to stay there longer and talk with Ginny, but they both became aware that a crowd of wizards and witches had gathered nearby, and they appeared to be whispering among themselves as they looked at Harry.
Just before they left, Harry had it confirmed for him that he had been recognized even so far away from home. He had called the waiter over to tell him that he needed the check.
“Oh no, Monsieur Potter,” the waiter said. “Ze meal is on ze house for you.”
Ten minutes later, Harry managed to pry himself away from the crowd that all wanted to shake his hand and get his autograph. He wondered just how far he would have to go before he got to a place where people would not recognize him so readily.
The crowd had been good for one thing though. They were all familiar with the area and were able to give Harry precise directions to the place where he could find his villa, though he made sure not to tell them that was the reason he wanted to go there.
Harry and Ginny stood at the gate of the small villa and stared in wonder. It was not a large place, but it was the very picture of home. Each of them could already see why Harry’s mum had fallen in love with the place. The front yard was neat and well taken care of as if a groundskeeper had been tending to it for years. Bright colored flowers stretched up to drink in the bright sunshine, and helped to create a peaceful oasis that neither of them felt like leaving. The interior still remained unexplored, but somehow Harry knew that he would return to the villa as often as possible.
“Your mum had great taste, Harry,” Ginny said as she looked over at him. “This isn’t going to be an easy place to leave.”
“I know what you mean,” Harry said. “Let’s check out the inside. Maybe then we can just forget everything else and move in.”
“You have yourself a deal, Mr. Potter,” Ginny said with a wide grin.
Ron was following Hermione around one of the shops in Hogsmeade as she looked for just the right gifts for her bridesmaids and maid of honor. As far as Ron was concerned, it was far too complicated to look for a gift that would be right for every single member of a wedding party. He would much rather pick out individual gifts for each of them. He was just about to mention it to Hermione once again when he heard a commotion outside.
Ron and Hermione walked over to the window and looked out to see people running for cover. Looking to their left they saw a large group of hooded figures walking down the street toward where they were. They were shooting spells at anything that moved and one of them cast the dreaded dark mark into the air above Hogsmeade.
“This is it, Hermione,” Ron said as he drew his wand and headed for the door. “This is what Harry has been training us for.”
“Wait, Ron,” Hermione said as she grabbed his arm to stop him.
“We have to get out there,” Ron said urgently.
“I know that,” Hermione said. “Remember what Harry taught us though. Don’t enter into a battle until you’ve prepared yourself mentally for it. Focus your thoughts.”
They both took a moment to stop and breathe. After a few seconds, they nodded silently to one another and Ron opened the door and ran out to meet the death eaters. They were not the only ones who’s recent training kicked in. D.A. members from second year through seventh never hesitated in what they knew had to be done as they ran into the streets of Hogsmeade to meet the death eaters head on.
Harry walked out onto the balcony of the villa and wrapped his arms around Ginny from behind as they both looked out at the Mediterranean Sea before them. They were both dreaming of day upon day of watching the waves roll into the shore. Their old lives seemed so far away. They could almost imagine that they had already been married and settled into a new life.
They both felt it at the same time. The rings on their fingers were getting hot. Looking down at the rings they could see that the stone, normally white, had turned a vibrant red. A look at the band spelled out Hogsmeade. Suddenly, their new life evaporated and their real lives slipped back into place. Harry knew what he had to do.
Harry pulled the chocolate frog package out of his pocket and pointed his wand at it as he said, “Portus.”
Harry nodded to Ginny and they both grabbed the portkey and waited for the ten second delay to end and transport them back to Hogsmeade. The delay couldn’t be over fast enough for Harry as he looked at the ring on his finger and noticed that the red stone had suddenly turned black. Someone had been seriously injured, and he had not been there to stop it.
Harry and Ginny transported back to the alley they had left from. They didn’t even have to leave the alley for Harry to know what had gone wrong. A quick glance at the sky told him that the dark mark had been conjured. Death eaters were attacking Hogsmeade at a time when they knew students would be present, and the most damage could be done.
Harry and Ginny both drew their wands and ran onto the streets of Hogsmeade to see what they could do to help. What he saw almost made him lose his focus on what he was there to do. There were death eaters spread out all over the streets, and it looked like they were on the defensive against the constant attack of nearly seventy five students. Harry had to smile as he looked around and saw that those students who had been stunned or injured were all surrounded with a protective magic circle, and inside of many of those circles stood the second year student who conjured it. They were doing their job even better than Harry expected.
Harry noticed that five of the students from the Tuesday night class had a death eater pinned down behind a stack of crates. Harry muttered a spell and the death eater never knew what hit him as Harry appeared out of thin air behind him and hit him with a paralyzing spell. Harry then set out in a dead run at the flank of Rookwood, who was standing in a toe to toe slugging match with Hermione. Rookwood saw him coming out of the corner of his eye and stupidly took his attention away from Hermione long enough for her to draw her wand back and whip it forward to send a fierce purple cutting spell through his shield that hit him square across the chest.
“He won’t be waking up from that one any time soon,” Hermione said. “I should know. That’s what they hit me with in the Department of Mysteries.”
“Great work, Hermione,” Harry said. “See if you can help some of the others.”
Draco Malfoy was in Hogsmeade at the time of the attack, but he did not run out in the street to try to prevent it like some others had. He had watched from one of the shop windows as the battle raged outside. He was amazed that the students were putting up such a good fight against the pride of Voldemort’s army. He couldn’t concentrate on that for too long though. Right in front of his window, the American mudblood stood dueling with Avery. By the looks of it, it was a fairly even match. Something caught Draco’s eye though, and he looked back up the street to see a death eater with his hood still on stalking in on Cassidy from the rear. A few more steps and the death eater would be able to easily stop and fire off a spell to take her out.
There wasn’t time to think, instinct took over and as the death eater stopped and raised his wand, Draco jumped between him and his target and blocked the spell that had been intended for Cassidy’s back.
“Draco!” Lucius Malfoy screamed as he took off his hood. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Not her,” Draco said. “Any of the others, but not her.”
Thanks to an assist from a flanking Hermione, Cassidy was able to turn and see what was happening behind her. She had heard Draco’s voice, but hadn’t had time to pay attention to what he was saying.
“Have you lost your mind?” Lucius asked. “You’re protecting the mudblood who has come here to destroy our master?”
“Your master,” Draco said. “I won’t let you hurt her, dad. I can’t help it. I love her.”
“Then you’ve made your choice,” Lucius said. “If you stand against us, then you must die.”
Draco never had time to react as Lucius uttered the killing spell and a bolt of green light shot toward Draco. There was a scream behind him, and Draco knew that he was already dead. Then something unexpected happened. Before the shaft of green light got to him, it hit something and dispersed around him. He looked down to make sure he was still standing, and watched as the glowing letters that encircled him turned back to a sandy color. He looked back up to see his father already looking off to his side.
“Potter,” Lucius said through gritted teeth.
“Why didn’t your half-blood boss come with you this time, Lucius?” Harry asked.
“Never insult the Dark Lord like that, Potter,” Lucius spat.
“What are you going to do about it?” Harry asked seriously. “Do you really think you’re a match for me Lucius? I’m willing to bet that you couldn’t attack me even if you wanted to. I’m willing to bet that Voldemort has told you not to harm me. He wants me for himself. If you make it out of here today you can give him a message for me. Tell him I’m ready for him. Either he comes to find me, or I’ll come to find him.”
“You are a fool, Potter,” Lucius said. “You have no idea what kind of power the Dark Lord possesses.”
“Actually I do,” Harry said as he drew back his wand. “Let me show you.”
Harry never got the chance to use a spell as Malfoy apparated away instantly. In fact all of the conscious death eaters apparated away. Looking to the end of the street, Harry could see why. Running down the street from the end of town were the Aurors from the Ministry of Magic.
Harry went to meet them along with Hermione, and left Cassidy and Draco standing there next to each other. Neither of them knew quite what to say to each other.
“I don’t know about you,” Cassidy finally began, “but I could use a butterbeer about now.”
“I wouldn’t mind a drink,” Draco said not meeting her eye.
“Well, I’ll buy,” Cassidy said. “I think it would be the least I owe you.”
They walked together side by side for a while on their way to the Three Broomsticks, and Malfoy finally asked, “Did you hear everything I said to my dad?”
“Most of it,” Cassidy said.
“I may need something stronger than butterbeer then,” Draco said as his cheeks flushed.
“Butterbeer only,” Cassidy said. “I want your head clear. We have a lot to talk about.”
“Yea,” Draco said as he held the door open for Cassidy to enter first. “I guess we do.”
“Harry, what in the world happened here?” Kingsley Shaklebolt asked as he surveyed the main street of Hogsmeade.
“The death eaters picked a bad day to attack,” Harry said matter of factly. “There are a few of them that are knocked out that weren’t able to get away.”
“Amazing,” Kingsley said as he surveyed the students still standing on the field of battle. “I can’t believe a bunch of students were able to stand against them with so few casualties. What in the world are they teaching all of you at Hogwarts now?”
“How to survive, sir,” Harry answered. “How to survive.”
The aurors set about detaining the fallen death eaters and getting the injured students to St. Mungo’s. To their surprise, the extent of the injuries consisted of nothing more than a broken leg and a few burns. All of the students would be treated and released in time to be back at Hogwarts for dinner.
“Hey, Tonks,” Ron called out as he spotted her walking by. “Don’t forget this one.”
Tonks walked over and looked at the stiff form of a death eater lying on the ground in some sort of binding she had not seen before. She was wishing it extended over his mouth since he was sobbing and pleading annoyingly.
“Is that who I think it is?” Tonks asked.
“The rat himself,” Ron said proudly. “Peter Pettigrew.”
“What in the world is that you have him bound with?” Tonks asked.
“It’s something Harry taught me just in case I ever ran into him again,” Ron explained. “Not only does it bind him, but it keeps him from aparating or changing into his animal form.”
“Hmmm,” Tonks said. “Sounds like a handy little spell. I might have to get you to teach it to me someday.”
“You had better get Harry to teach you,” Ron said. “He still does it better than I do. He can do it so it will cover the mouth as well.”
Tonks began to levitate Pettigrew to the center of the street where the Aurors were gathering the captured death eaters. On the way, they passed Harry, Ginny and Hermione.
“Harry,” Pettigrew said. “Harry. Remember me. You saved my life once.”
“I remember it,” Harry said. “Don’t think I haven’t regretted it every day since.”
“Oh no,” Pettigrew said. “It was a good thing that you did. I owe you a debt now. I want to repay it.”
“Really,” Harry said as he stopped and knelt down beside the floating form of Pettigrew. “How do you suppose you can help me?”
“Just tell the Aurors that I helped you and I’ll tell you where the Dark Lord is.” Pettigrew said.
“I might have expected you to turn informant,” Harry said nastily. “You did it against my parents. Now you’re ready to do it against Voldemort. I don’t need your help though. Would you like to know why?”
Pettigrew nodded, and Harry leaned forward and whispered into his ear so that only he could hear it, “Because I already know where he is.”
“But how?” Pettigrew asked. “That’s impossible. You still need me.”
“Take him away,” Harry said as he stood and walked away.
Most of the students who had taken part in the battle were gathered just outside the Three Broomsticks as if awaiting orders as to what they should do next. Harry, Ginny and Hermione, having been joined by Ron, Neville and Luna, walked over to the group and Harry could see the look of accomplishment on their faces.
“Is everyone alright?” Harry asked.
There were nods all around that told him that they were feeling pretty good.
“This wasn’t it though was it, Harry?” Meagan asked. “This wasn’t the main battle?”
“No, it wasn’t,” Harry told them. “The next one will be much worse.”
“But by the time that comes,” a sixth year Slytherin girl named Delores began, “we’ll be much better.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” Harry said with a smile. “Still, I think you all exceeded my expectations here today.”
“I just have one question,” Rachael said. “How long does it take before that thing goes away.”
They all looked up to see the dark mark still hovering over Hogsmeade, and Hermione stepped forward and said, “Maybe I can do something about that.”
Hermione walked out into the middle of the street and muttered something they couldn’t hear before she pointed her wand at the sky. What they saw next surprised no one more than Harry. A mist erupted from the end of her wand and shot into the air where it spun together and coalesced into a perfect rendition of Harry’s head. Everyone watched as Harry’s head opened its mouth and swallowed the dark mark whole. It was just like the model of the Ministry of Magic that Fred and George had been selling, except this time Harry’s head didn’t go away.
Everyone on the streets cheered as they looked up and saw what to them was a beacon of light in dark times. Harry could have died of embarrassment where he stood.
“Hermione how could you?” Harry asked. “Get rid of that thing.”
“Sorry, Harry,” Hermione said. “I can’t get rid of it. You just have to let it burn out.”
“How long will that take?” Harry asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hermione said. “I’ve never tested it anywhere other than the room of requirement.”
“I like it, Harry,” Ron said.
“So do I,” Meagan said.
"I think it's quite nice," Luna said airily.
"I think it's perfect," Ginny said with a smile.
“We all do,” Delores said.
“After what you’ve given us, Harry,” Rachael began, “no one deserves that kind of a tribute more than you do.”
“Well, in that case,” Harry said looking back at all of them, “I guess the least I owe all of you is a few butterbeers. Everybody get inside. The drinks are on me.”
Malfoy, Dolohov and Lastrange all writhed in pain on the floor as Voldemort stood over them in a towering rage and said, “How could you all have failed me? I sent you with a sufficient number of death eaters to flatten Hogsmeade. There should have been enough death and devastation to keep the Ministry of Magic busy for months combing through the rubble.”
“Please, master,” Bellatrix pleaded. “We met heavy resistance. We did all we could.”
“What resistance?” Voldemort snarled. “I made sure the aurors were occupied elsewhere. There is no way they could have gotten there in time to stop you.”
“It was the students master,” Dolohov gasped.
“The students?” Voldemort asked as he intensified the pain. “Are you telling me that the heart of my army was defeated by a bunch of students?”
“It was Potter, my Lord,” Malfoy screamed.
The pain stopped almost immediately as Voldemort walked over and bent down to where Malfoy laid and asked softly, “What of him? He had better not have been permanently injured in the battle.”
“He wasn’t touched, my master,” Malfoy said as he gasped to catch his breath. “Just as you ordered. But the other students he has been training in his D.A have become formidable fighters.”
“How is that possible?” Voldemort asked. “My reports of this D.A. tell me that they have only met a handful of times all year. Would you have me believe that Harry has managed to train them to face the power I wield so quickly? I have trained my death eaters for years to make them the most powerful army in the world. Harry couldn’t have possibly done it.”
“Master,” Malfoy said as he got to his knees. “I spoke to Harry myself just before we apparated back here. He wanted me to deliver a message to you.”
“Really,” Voldemort said with curiosity. “What could he have to say to me.”
“He said to tell you that he is ready for you, my master,” Malfoy said fearing that he may be struck down in pain at any time. “He said that if you don’t come to find him, then he will come to find you.”
Voldemort was silent for a time before the death eaters cringed as he let out a sound they could only assume was supposed to be laughter.
“The foolishness of youth,” Voldemort said. “He will run head first into a battle with me, and not realize the power I can bring to bear on him.”
“He believes he does know how powerful you are, my Lord,” Malfoy said. “He told me that in his own words.”
“The fool,” Voldemort said. “I will prove my power to him soon enough. His confidence will be his undoing. He won’t have to wait long. Soon everything will be in place for the final battle with Harry. First though, we need to make a plan to break those captured out of Azkaban. I will need all of my death eaters if we are to destroy Hogwarts.”
“We have another problem, master,” Malfoy said. “Draco has turned against us.”
“Has he now?” Voldemort asked with a slight grin. “Let me guess. He’s fallen in love with the American witch.”
“He says he has,” Malfoy said as rage boiled within him.
“What do you propose to resolve that situation?” Voldemort asked.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s no son of mine,” Malfoy said. “He’s turned against everything he’s been raised to believe. I would have killed him myself if Potter hadn’t interfered.”
“Don’t worry, Lucius,” Voldemort said. “I’ve suspected his loyalty was wavering for some time now. I’ll see to it that he’s taken care of. Antonin.”
“Yes, master,” Dolohov said.
“It’s time to send another message to your nephew,” Voldemort said. “Tell him to forget about the Weasley girl for now. I want Draco dead by the end of the next week. See to it that he doesn’t fail me this time.”
“I’ll tell him, master,” Dolohov said. “He won’t fail again.”
“He had better not,” Voldemort said menacingly.
Harry walked back through the gates of Hogwarts as the sun was setting. He had a good portion of the D.A with him, and periodically they would stop and stare back towards Hogsmeade. They couldn’t see the city itself, but the floating representation of Harry’s head was still easily visible as it glowed brightly in the darkening skies.
It hadn’t been easy for Harry to sneak out of Hogsmeade. He had to use the D.A. members as a shield to avoid the reporters and photographers from the Daily Prophet who had come to cover the events of the day. It hadn’t been easy, but he had made it back to Hogwarts without being stopped. Or so he thought.
“Harry Potter,” Professor McGonagal said in her usual stern way from the steps to the castle. “Come with me please. The Headmaster would like to speak to you.”
Harry hadn’t really thought of getting in trouble for what had happened in Hogsmeade. How could they blame him for it. He didn’t ask the death eaters to attack. He hadn’t even been there when it started. Then he remembered the injured students. They were all in the D.A. It was very likely that Dumbledore had gotten a few owls from angry parents. They had to have someone to blame after all. Harry was the most logical choice.
“Ah,” Dumbledore said as Professor McGonagal opened the door for Harry to enter the Headmaster’s office. “Come in, Harry.”
“If you don’t need me any more, Headmaster,” McGonagal said, “I’ll go see if I can be any help to Professor Flitwick.”
“Thank you, Minerva,” Dumbledore said. “I think he would appreciate your assistance. Well, Harry. You’ve had an eventful day.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said still not able to tell if he was in trouble or not.
“How was the café?” Dumbledore asked.
Harry hesitated for a second before he said, “It was great. Ginny and I had a great time there.”
“Did you get a chance to go by and look at the villa?” Dumbledore asked.
“Yes,” Harry responded. “We both fell in love with the place as soon as we saw it.”
“I had a feeling you would,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “You are fortunate enough to have a former Hogwarts Herbology professor living next door. She’s been tending to the grounds of the villa for you for years just in case you came by. She was a close friend of your parents while they were there.”
“I’ll have to thank her the next time I’m there,” Harry said. “The grounds are beautiful.”
“She’ll be happy to hear that you liked it,” Dumbledore said. “I was under the impression that you were planning to spend the entire day there. What made you come back so early?”
“The death eaters were attacking Hogsmeade,” Harry said not sure why Dumbledore didn’t already understand that.
“How did you know that though?” Dumbledore asked. “There was no way anyone could have gotten a message to you so quickly, yet you were able to arrive even before the aurors.”
“I got the message through this,” Harry said showing Dumbledore his ring. “It gets warm when a message is coming through. The stone changes color to tell us what the situation is, and the location prints on the band.”
“Fascinating,” Dumbledore said as he studied the ring. “A contribution from Miss Granger I suppose.”
“She’s the brightest witch of her age,” Harry said.
“Some would say that the brightest wizard is Harry Potter,” Dumbledore said, causing something to catch Harry attention out of the corner of his eye.
Harry couldn’t believe it. Professor Dumbledore had one of Fred and George’s ministry models on a shelf in his office.
“It’s an entertaining little gadget isn’t it?” Dumbledore asked, as he gave no indication that he wanted to say the word that would shut it off. “From my balcony, I saw that we now have a life size model of that floating over Hogsmeade as we speak.”
“To my everlasting shame,” Harry said as he shook his head.
“Another of Hermione’s contributions?” Dumbledore asked.
“Yes,” Harry admitted. “Sometimes she’s too smart for her
“Perhaps just smart enough,” Dumbledore said. “I’m sorry that you can’t see what a great thing she’s done for the wizarding world today. By tomorrow, the pictures of that head above Hogsmeade will be on the front page of every copy of the Daily Prophet. The hope it will spread would be impossible to measure.”
“Is it a false hope though?” Harry asked. “There’s no guarantee that I’ll be the one that wins when we finally battle. What happens if I lose?”
“Then the fight will go on,” Dumbledore said. “The hope that they get from you now should be cultivated to it’s fullest just in case you do lose. That is when the hope will turn to inspiration. The whole of the wizarding world would stand up and fight in your memory if it came to that."
“Let’s just hope it won’t come to that,” Harry said.
“Speaking of inspiration,” Dumbledore said looking over his glasses at Harry. “I hear that the aurors were quite impressed with the fighting prowess of your students.”
“Not nearly as impressed as I was,” Harry said.
“I just have a small favor to ask,” Dumbledore said. “In the future, if you plan to teach advanced magic to the younger students, would you please warn them not to try to use it before they have mastered it.”
“What happened?” Harry asked.
“Apparently some of the first years got the message about the battle through their rings,” Dumbledore explained. “In an attempt to get to the battle, they attempted to apparate to the edge of the school grounds. Needless to say, their aim needs some work. Students have turned up in some of the strangest places. As we speak, Professors Flitwick and McGonagal are trying to free one young man who managed to apparate into a painting. They’ve tried to get him to apparate back out again, but he’s so shaken up he’s swearing he’ll never try to apparate again.”
“Maybe I could go and talk to him,” Harry said with a grin.
“I think that may be exactly what he needs,” Dumbledore said with a grin of his own.
The volume of outgoing owls from Hogwarts had never been greater than it was on the day following the battle in Hogsmeade. There was barely an owl available as the students scrambled to send a message to their families assuring them that they were still alive and well before the Daily Prophet could spread the second hand details of what had happened. By the time many of their owls had arrived, however, many of their parents were already composing panicked letters to Hogwarts inquiring about their children.
A little side note that most of the students would not know, was that, in Diagon Alley over the next few days, the Weasley twins sale of their ministry model would multiply three hundred percent over all of their previous sales combined. The twins weren’t panicked though. They had bet that the explosion in sales would come eventually. They had stocked enough in their warehouse to fill every order. The thing that had them stumped was why their account at Gringotts had grown far beyond where their own account sheets said it should.
Nearly everyone in the Sunday D.A. class came to the room of requirement early. They were all anxious to see what Harry would do in the class in light of recent events. They were beginning to wonder if the class had been canceled when Harry hadn’t arrived several minutes after the class should have begun.
“Sorry I’m late everyone,” Harry said as he and Ginny walked in. “I’ve had to spend most of the day with my head in the floo network reassuring some of your parents that they attacked us and not the other way around.”
“How thick can some people get?” Delores asked. “No one would willingly seek out a fight with death eaters.”
“Parents,” Seamus said in disgust.
“Why did you have to talk to them, Harry?” Neville asked. “Why wasn’t it Professor Dumbledore that talked to them?”
“Did you see what they wrote in the Daily Prophet?” Ginny asked. “They were kind enough to change things a little. They turned the D.A. into the P.A. Now everyone thinks Harry is teaching this class to build his own army to fight the death eaters and Voldemort.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” Dean asked.
“Think about it,” Hermione said. “Who else has trained their own private army?”
“They surely don’t think Harry’s training us to take over the world,” Neville said shaking his head.
“Don’t worry Neville,” Harry said. “Your parents couldn’t have been happier. Look at it as a parent for a minute though. Try to imagine it was your child fighting the death eaters. To them it looks like I’m gathering followers. Even I can look at it and see that the similarities are a little scary.”
“You don’t gather followers through fear and intimidation though,” Ron said. “We all came here because we wanted to. “
“You never would have gotten any of us Slytherin here through intimidation,” Delores said. “I haven’t been afraid since I came to that first meeting.”
“You’ve touched on the subject for the entire class today,” Harry said. “We’re going to concentrate solely on occulmency today. In the next battle you may need it. Voldemort is a master of breaking down your mental defenses. If he gets the chance, he’ll take control of your mind and use you against me.”
“That’s why you don’t want any of us to interfere,” Cassidy said.
“No matter what,” Harry began, “I could never bring myself to hurt any of you.”
The class proceeded normally for the next four hours. By the time the class was coming to an end, everyone was as relaxed and focused as they had ever been.
“Even if no one tries to get in my head,” Seamus began, “I’m going to use this before my N.E.W.T.s. I feel great.”
“Before I let you all go,” Harry said, “there’s something serious I need to discuss with you all.”
Harry went on to tell them all the details of what happened between Draco and his father.
“You don’t think he’ll try to do anything to Draco here do you?” Cassidy asked concerned.
“You were there, Cassidy,” Harry said. “You saw it with your own eyes. He tried to kill him. Draco knows too much about the death eaters. If Lucius thinks he’s turned to our side he’ll try again, and soon. Don’t forget that they still don’t know who it was that attacked Hermione.”
“What do you want us to do?” Ron asked, suddenly much more interested.
“I don’t want Draco to go anywhere in this school alone,” Harry said. “I want someone from the D. A. keeping an eye on him all the time.”
“He won’t like it if he finds out about this,” Cassidy said.
“I know,” Harry said. “That’s why you have to do it without him knowing about it. I’ll tell the others about it tomorrow. That way it’ll involve more people and be less evident.”
“Well I don’t think he’ll have anything to worry about once you get those second years on the case,” Dean said. “I still can’t believe how they ran out into that battle and protected the injured. You should have told us you were training them to do that.”
“Everything in its time, Dean,” Harry said with a smile.
“Let’s not forget the third, fourth and fifth years,” Lavender Brown said. “I’d hate to cross a group of them under the wrong circumstances.”
“Some of them have said the same thing about all of you,” Harry said with a proud smile. “Let’s just be glad we’re all on the same side.”
Voldemort waited impatiently for the rescue party to return. He couldn’t understand what was taking so long. The plan had been a brilliant one. Instead of waiting for the ministry to transfer the captured death eaters to Azkaban, the rescue party was to apparate into the staging area at the ministry and take the aurors by surprise. It should have been the easiest breakout yet, but the time ticked by, and still they had not returned.
There were several soft pops, and Voldemort turned to see the kneeling forms of the rescue party before him.
“What has happened?” Voldemort asked. “Where are my death eaters?”
“They’re coming, my lord,” Malfoy said quickly. “But…”
“What?” Voldemort asked impatiently. “Was there heavy resistance?”
“No resistance at all, master,” Malfoy said. “We took them by surprise just as planned, but as soon as the aurors saw us they smiled and apparated out of the room.
“They smiled?” Voldemort asked making sure he had heard correctly.
“Yes, master,” Malfoy confirmed.
“Then I ask again, where are my death eaters?” Voldemort screamed.
The eleven missing death eaters suddenly appeared in the room holding the chains they had been bound with earlier.
“The ministry did something to them, my lord,” Malfoy said. “They weren’t able to apparate. We had to make a portkey for them.”
“They must have suppressed their magical abilities for the transport to Azkaban,” Voldemort said. “The affects should only be temporary.”
“It was some kind of potion, my master,” Wormtail said. “They forced us to drink it.”
“Don’t worry,” Voldemort said. “Your abilities should return in a few hours. In the mean time, you will all be punished for being captured by a bunch of students.”
Voldemort smiled at the terror in their eyes. He took such joy in his work.
The Dark Lord was not one to ever let his guard down. Even while asleep he maintained strict control over his unconscious mind. That night though, was different. He was so happy about stealing his death eaters from under the ministry’s nose, and then having the joy of torturing them all for several hours. He was in such a good mood that, as he slept, his control wavered ever so slightly. That moment was enough though.
Voldemort suddenly found himself in the hallway just outside his main council chambers. He knew something was amiss right away. He had planned his dream schedule carefully, and this was not what he had planned at all.
The door to his council chamber was cracked slightly and a flickering light seeped through the gap. Voldemort’s curiosity got the better of him and he pushed the door open.
“What’s the matter, Voldemort?” Harry asked as he sat in Voldemort’s chair. “Aren’t you sleeping well?”
“How did you get into my dream?” Voldemort asked.
“Surely you already know the answer to that,” Harry said with a grin. “You found out long ago that this scar you gave me links us together. You used it to your advantage a few times as I recall. You didn’t think it was just a one way connection did you?”
“No one invades the mind of the Dark Lord,” Voldemort seethed.
“You can tell you death eaters that all you like,” Harry began, “but we both know different.”
“I could kill you right now you know,” Voldemort said.
“I doubt it,” Harry said. “You don’t even have your wand. Remember that I’m the one in control of this dream. Nothing will happen that I don’t want.”
“And what exactly do you want?” Voldemort asked. “Surely you didn’t go to the trouble of breaking into my head just to prove that you could. We both know you won’t get the chance again.”
“I just wanted to check on you since I never heard back from you,” Harry said with a mischievous grin. “You wrote to me. I sent you a present. You sent your death eaters to kill my friends. I sent Malfoy back with a message. You still haven’t sent a reply.”
“I’ve been a bit busy since then,” Voldemort said.
“Ah, yes,” Harry said smiling. “You broke out the death eaters we captured. How are they by the way?”
“They’re fine,” Voldemort hissed, tiring of Harry’s playful attitude.
“Are they?” Harry asked still smiling. “Have they gotten their powers back yet?”
“How did you know about that?” Voldemort demanded.
“Lets just say that the pure-blood gene pool they love so much just got a bit smaller,” Harry said.
“You’re lying,” Voldemort said.
“Am I?” Harry asked. “You’ll see soon enough.”
“You underestimate my abilities with potions, Harry,” Voldemort said. “Even if the ministry has developed a potion to suppress their magical abilities, I’ll soon develop an antidote.”
“Good luck,” Harry chuckled. “By the way, the ministry didn’t develop it. It was a little gift from me.”
Voldemort stared at Harry with an intensity that would have shriveled most men as he tried to determine if Harry was being truthful.
“Those death eaters will be of no further use to you,” Harry said. “Soon we’ll add more to that list.”
“Then I’ll soon relieve you of some of your friends in return,” Voldemort said.
Voldemort never had time to react as harry suddenly sprang from the chair and pinned him to the wall with a powerful grip on his throat.
“This is between us,” Harry said through gritted teeth. “Right now I’m waiting for you to come to me. You so much as lay a finger on one of my friends and I’ll come to you. I know where you are. The scar links us. You can’t hide from me. I will kill you.”
Voldemort suddenly sat up in bed. His body was drenched with sweat, and there was a searing pain in his forehead like he had never felt before.
Hundreds of miles away, Harry lay in his bed at Hogwarts. A smile spread over his face as he dreamed. He knew the battle would come soon now. Everything in its time.
Voldemort sat in his council chambers waiting for his summoned death eaters to arrive at their appointed time. It took a great deal of his concentration to deal with the lingering feelings he still felt from the previous night’s events. He knew that he would never allow Harry into his mind again, but what Harry had left behind had to be pushed to the farthest recesses of his consciousness he could manage. He could never let those feelings creep to the surface again.
The door to the council chamber opened, and Malfoy walked in followed by Dolohov. They only took a few steps into the room before they kneeled before their master.
“Well?” Voldemort asked. “What news is there of the death eaters you rescued? Surely their powers must have returned by now.”
“They have not, my lord,” Malfoy said as he looked up for the first time. “I checked…”
“What?” Voldemort asked wondering why Malfoy was looking at him so strangely.
“I’m sorry, my master,” Malfoy began, “but the scar on your forehead… It looks just like the one on Potter’s head.”
Voldemort put his hand to his forehead, and instantly some of the feelings from the night before tried to surface once more. Voldemort ran his fingers over the unmistakable lightning bolt shape. The pain in that spot had been so intense the night before. He could not let his death eaters know that though. He could show no weakness.
“Yes,” Voldemort said smoothly. “The time for our final battle grows nearer, and our minds come into closer contact. Destiny is calling us together. Even I can not fight that destiny. Nor do I wish to. The scar should fade once I have killed Harry once and for all.”
“Of course, master,” Malfoy said.
“You were saying?” Voldemort said trying to get them back onto the previous subject.
“I checked on the death eaters we freed,” Malfoy said. “Not one of them is showing the slightest hint of magical ability yet.”
“Then they will never regain their powers,” Voldemort said. “I have learned that the potion they took removed their powers permanently. They are of no use to me now. See to it that they are all disposed of.”
“Are you sure, master?” Malfoy asked, shocked that he would suggest such a thing.
“I say nothing of which I am not sure, Lucius,” Voldemort said with a stare that made Malfoy bow his head once again. “Do as I have commanded of you. Once that is done, I want you to personally make contact with the dementors. The time for them to return is close at hand. Once I summon the full ranks of my death eater army, and all of my allies, we will attack Hogwarts and destroy everything in our path. Now go at once and carry out your orders, Lucius.”
“Yes, master,” Malfoy said.
Once Malfoy had left the room, Voldemort turned his attention to Dolohov and said, “I trust that you have not received word from your nephew yet.”
“I have not, my lord,” Dolohov said.
“Then send another message to him,” Voldemort said. “Tell him I want Draco dead by the time the sun sets tomorrow night. After that he is to turn his attention back to the Weasley girl. I want to hear that she was made to suffer terribly before she died. Is that clear?”
“It is, my lord,” Dolohov said as he got up to leave.
Once Voldemort was alone in the room, he touched his forehead once again, running his fingers over the scar as he said, “Damn you, Harry.”
“Wait a minute,” Harry said. “What are you going to use it for?”
“I’m going to keep an eye on Malfoy,” Ron said.
“Why would you need an invisibility cloak for that?” Harry asked.
“I just do,” Ron said. “Can I borrow it or not?”
“You understand that this is not what I meant when I asked everyone to keep an eye on him, right?” Harry asked. “I just wanted to keep people near him at all times and in plain view.”
“What good is that going to do?” Ron said, a bit of his frustration showing through.
“It should keep someone from trying to kill him,” Harry said. “They won’t want to try it when there are other people around.”
“Exactly,” Ron said. “How are we ever supposed to find out who tried to kill Hermione if we don’t give this person a chance to expose themselves?”
“I should have known,” Harry aid shaking his head. “You want to dangle Draco out there as bait so you can beat the life out of whoever tries to attack him. Do you even care that Draco might get seriously hurt in the process? Are you really willing to do that just to get your revenge?”
“If that’s what it takes,” Ron said.
“Well, at least you’re honest about it,” Harry said with a grin he couldn’t stop.
“It isn’t like he’ll ever be left alone anyway,” Ron said. “Even if I am under the invisibility cloak, there are hundreds of students all over the school watching out for him. He couldn’t get a moment to himself if he tried.”
“I suppose you’re right about that,” Harry admitted.
“So it won’t do any harm to let me sneak around under the cloak for a while,” Ron said.
“Fine,” Harry said as he handed Ron the cloak. “Just don’t get in to trouble with it. It’s the only one I have you know.”
“Trust me,” Ron said with a wink as he disappeared beneath the cloak.
It didn’t take long to find Malfoy. He was in the library with Cassidy studying for a potions test. Ron waited for what seemed like hours for them to finish. It looked as though Malfoy was getting a bit antsy as well. Apparently, studying potions was not what he wanted to be doing on that night.
Things got even worse for him a few minutes later though. Hermione walked in with her potions book as well. Cassidy spotted her and called her over to see if she could help her with something. Before you know it, the two girls were studying together like long lost friends. Draco looked like he was going to climb the walls.
“I think I’ve had enough of studying for tonight, Cassidy,” Draco said as he stood. “I think I’ll go outside for a little air before I head back to the common room.”
“Oh,” Cassidy said. “Well, I’ll come with you.”
“No,” Draco said. “Don’t worry about me. You stay here and study with Hermione. I just need to walk off some energy. I can’t seem to sit still. I’ll wait for you in the common room before I go to bed. Don’t stay up too late.”
Draco began to walk out of the library, and Ron could see that Cassidy and Hermione were nearly in a panic. There was no one else in the library that they could send to keep an eye on him. It would look suspicious for one of them to go.
“Easy ladies,” Ron said as he walked past the table under the cloak. “I’ve got him.”
“Ron?” Hermione asked. “What are you doing under that cloak?”
“How else do you think I’m going to follow him around without him noticing?” Ron said.
“Good point,” Hermione admitted.
Ron couldn’t believe it. Draco somehow managed to make the entire trip from the library to the front doors of the school without passing a single D.A. member. He thought that he was on his own until, at the last moment, a first year Hufflepuff walked out of the Great Hall in time to spot Malfoy heading outside alone. He immediately changed direction and began to follow Draco. Perhaps just a bit too closely though.
Ron had seen that it was inevitable. Even a blind person would be able to tell that the Hufflepuff boy was following Draco, and Draco was not blind.
Draco had walked the grounds for no more than five minutes when he suddenly turned and asked, “Why do you keep following me?”
The little Hufflepuff boy was so startled that he just froze and stared at Draco with wide eyes.
“Well, you must have a reason,” Draco said. “You’ve been following me since we left the castle.”
“I… I… I’m sorry, sir,” David said. “I just didn’t think you should be out alone so late at night.”
“I see,” Draco said. “Are you going to protect me then? There is nothing out here that I need to be protected against. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“I’m sorry,” David said. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Then run off back to the castle and leave me alone,” Draco said.
David turned and ran back to the castle as fast as he could. Ron had no doubt that he would find other D.A. members and alert them to the fact that Draco was not being watched.
“I hope I wasn’t that silly when I was a first year,” Draco said with a chuckle as he turned to continue his walk.
Ron knew that, at least for the next few minutes, he was all the protection Draco had. He had to laugh at the situation. If anyone had told him even a month ago that he would be guarding Malfoy, he would have laughed in their face.
He didn’t laugh long though. Ron saw something out of the corner of his eye. There was a movement he had just barely seen. They were not alone on the grounds. Someone else was there with them, hiding in the shadows.
Ron didn’t know if the new arrival was friend or foe. There was an icy feeling that ran down his back that made him think it was the latter. Instantly he drew his wand and began to close the gap between Draco and himself. He watched the figure dart out of the shadows of the castle and swiftly take up position behind a tree. He could also see that Malfoy would eventually pass very close to that tree if he continued his walk.
Ron flanked Draco as closely as he dared, on his guard for any movement at all from behind the tree. Ron’s heart pumped madly in his chest. This was it. He could feel it.
They had closed to within ten paces of the tree when Ron had his suspicions confirmed. The tree kept nearly the entire area around it in shadow, but just enough moonlight made it through for Ron to make out the tip of a wand emerge from behind the tree. The moment was at hand. Ron had to make a decision about what to do. He knew in an instant, and he moved quickly.
Draco looked ahead of him and briefly saw a green light jump from behind the tree. He didn’t see much of it though. Something crashed into him and knocked him to the ground just as the killing curse passed through the spot where he had just stood.
Draco barely had time to process what was happening, as Ron suddenly appeared out from under the invisibility cloak on the ground behind him. Ron sat up and muttered a spell Draco didn’t recognize, and binding cloths sprang from his wand to encircle the entire trunk of the tree, trapping their attacker.
“Are you hurt?” Ron asked as he stood.
“I don’t think so,” Draco said standing back up as well. “What just happened?”
“Somebody tried to kill you,” Ron said. “Harry was afraid this would happen.”
“Wait a minute,” Draco said. “Are you serious? How did a death eater get on the grounds without Dumbledore knowing about it?”
“It wasn’t a death eater,” Ron said. “It was a student. I’m betting it was the same one that took a shot at Hermione earlier this year. You want to come with me to find out who it is. Then we can fight over who gets to rip his heart out first.”
Draco drew his own wand and said, “Lumos. I want to see the person who had the nerve to try to attack me.”
Ron and Draco walked to the other side of the tree and were shocked at what they saw. There, bound to the tree with nothing visible below the nose, was a boy. They had both expected to find a mean looking seventh year. What they found was a student who couldn’t have been more than a fourth year at best. He didn’t look mean at all. In fact, he looked scared. Tears streamed from his eyes as he mumbled continually through the binding that covered his mouth.
“It’s just a kid,” Ron said. “I don’t know him.”
“I do,” Draco said.
“Is he a Slytherin?” Ron asked.
“No,” Draco said. “Actually, he’s a third year Ravenclaw. His name is Drew Caldwell.”
“Are you sure he’s a Ravenclaw?” Ron asked.
“Of course,” Draco said. “It caused quite a stir within the ranks of the death eaters when he was sorted into Ravenclaw. I can’t believe I didn’t think of him when I was trying to figure out who might have attacked Hermione.”
“Is his dad a death eater?” Ron asked.
“No,” Draco answered. “His uncle is Antonin Dolohov though. Dolohov’s sister married a Caldwell. Since then, they’ve stayed as far away from the death eaters as possible.”
“Not far enough, it would seem,” Ron said.
“Don’t hold it against him,” Draco said. “Never underestimate the influence of the Dark… Voldemort. I can assure you that he didn’t do any of this willingly. They probably threatened to kill his parents if he didn’t cooperate.”
“Are you both alright?” Dumbledore said as he approached the scene while the other teachers held back what looked like the majority of the school.
“We’re fine,” Ron said.
“Good,” Dumbledore said. “I’ll need to speak to the two of you in my office in about one hour.” Dumbledore waved his wand and the binding around the tree disappeared. “I’ll need you to come with me now, Drew.”
Drew couldn’t even speak through his sobs. He just walked forward and handed his wand over to Professor Dumbledore.
“Don’t be afraid, Drew,” Dumbledore said as he placed his hand on Drew’s shoulders. “The worst part is over now. We have a great deal to discuss.”
Ron and Draco watched as Dumbledore vanished along with Drew. Dumbledore had spared him the shame of walking past all of the students.
“Well I guess we had better get this over with,” Ron said looking at the throng of people still fighting to get outside. “They won’t let us get any sleep tonight.”
“Weasley,” Draco said before Ron began to walk away. “For what it’s worth, I just wanted to say thanks.” Draco stuck out his hand and waited to see if Ron would slap it away or just laugh in his face.
Ron took a moment to consider, and then reached out and took Draco’s hand and said, “I’m glad I could help. Just don’t expect that kind of charity on the quidditch pitch.”
Draco smiled to match Ron and said, “Until then.”
Ron had been right. He and Draco found it difficult to get back into the school through all of the students who pressed close to them. It actually surprised them both that they stayed so close to one another for support. They were feeling quite overwhelmed from all of the attention though.
Ron and Draco both noticed that, just when they thought they would suffocate in the crowd, the mass suddenly shifted back in a five-foot circle around them. Looking around, they spotted the reason why.
“I think you two had better come with me until the Headmaster calls for you,” McGonagal said as she held her wand in place maintaining the breathing space. She led them to an empty classroom and told them to wait until she came back for them.
“Great,” Draco said as he began to pace.
“What’s the matter?” Ron asked.
“I can’t stay here,” Draco said. “After what just happened, the rumors will be flying through the whole school in no time. By the time word makes it back to Cassidy, I will have been killed after being attacked by a dozen death eaters.”
“They do have a way of getting out of control if left to their own,” Ron agreed. “I see what you mean. It’ll eventually make it back to Hermione too. I’ll probably either have died trying to defend you or killed you myself. Either way, she’ll go nutters.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Draco asked.
“For once, I’d say that I am,” Ron said. “Let’s go.”
Draco led the way to the door, but when he tried to open it, it held tight. Try as he might, it just wouldn’t open. When he finally gave up and let go of the door, Ron pointed his wand at it and tried every door opening charm he could think of, but still it wouldn’t budge.
“She’s sealed it with some kind of spell I’ve never seen before,” Ron said.
“She knew we’d try to get out,” Draco said. “Why is she trying to stop us?”
“She’s probably also trying to keep all of those people outside from getting in,” Ron said.
“So we’re trapped,” Draco said as he began to pace once again.
“It won’t do you any good to get yourself too worked up about all of this,” Ron said as he sat down. “There isn’t anything we can do about it until she comes back to get us. Besides, Dumbledore’s a pretty smart bloke. I’m betting it won’t take him long to get word to both of them about what really happened.”
“What makes you so sure?” Draco asked.
“Past experience,” Ron said. “This isn’t the first crisis situation I’ve been through in the last seven years.”
“Well this is my first,” Draco began, “so excuse me if I find it a bit difficult to relax.”
“Suit yourself,” Ron said.
A full thirty minutes passed, as Draco continued to pace, and Ron kept threatening to nod off for a nap. They both stopped what they were doing and took notice as a small pop announced a new arrival to the room.
“What took you so long, Harry?” Ron asked.
“Sorry,” Harry said with a grin. “I got here as soon as I could. Once I found out about what happened I had to get back to our room to look at the map just to find where they had you two.”
“How in the world did you get in here?” Draco asked.
“I apparated,” Harry answered.
“But I thought…” Draco began.
“I’ll explain later,” Harry said cutting him off. “Are you two alright?”
“I am,” Ron said. “Draco’s been pacing a rut in the floor though.”
“Have you seen Cassidy?” Draco asked not caring how desperate he sounded.
“Don’t worry,” Harry said. “She’s fine. Professor McGonagal picked her out of the library along with Hermione. I’m guessing that she’s either telling them about what happened herself, or taking them to Professor Dumbledore.”
“I tried to tell him,” Ron said.
“So how much longer are they going to make us stay trapped in here?” Draco asked.
“They should come for us any time now,” Ron said. “Dumbledore said one hour. That hour should be just about up.”
The door suddenly opened and McGonagal walked in, surveyed the room and said, “I might have known I would find you here Mr. Potter. It’s just as well. The Headmaster wishes to speak with you as well.”
The three students walked through the door to Dumbledore’s office followed by McGonagal, and Ron and Draco were nearly instantly wrapped in the arms of their girlfriends. It was several minutes before they finally separated long enough to take a look at whom else might be in the room.
Ginny was standing with Harry, Snape was looking over the scene as sternly as ever, and Drew was sitting in a chair beside Dumbledore’s desk with his head in his hands. Drew’s hands were trembling slightly, and it was plain to see that he was still upset.
“Is he okay?” Ron asked Hermione.
“He’s been through more than you can imagine, Ron,” Hermione said. “Please don’t be harsh with him. I’ve already said my peace to him for attacking me. Trust me, he didn’t have any choice. It wasn’t something he wanted to do.”
“Draco said he thought as much,” Ron said. “Don’t worry. I had my chance to take my revenge on him. If I was going to do it I would have already.”
“What about you, Draco?” Cassidy asked. “Are you willing to trust me enough to believe me when I tell you that you don’t need to punish him for what he did any more than he already has been?”
“I probably understand him better than anyone here,” Draco said as he walked over to Drew. “They threatened your parents didn’t they?”
“Yes,” Drew said as he looked up at Draco with a tear stained face. “I am so sorry for what I did to you Draco. I didn’t have any choice. You have you believe me.”
“I do,” Draco said. “Luckily for me, your spell didn’t find its mark tonight. The question is, what happens now? Word of this is bound to leak out. Voldemort has spies writing to him even now. I can guarantee that.”
“We’re working on that,” Dumbledore said. “Drew’s parents will soon be in extreme danger. Somehow, we have to get them away from their house.”
“That won’t be easy,” Snape said. “They are almost certainly being watched by death eaters as we speak. Any attempt to reach them will result in the death eaters attacking instantly.”
“Couldn’t you send a few members of The Order to eliminate the death eaters?” McGonagal asked.
“There is no way for us to know how many death eaters they may be facing,” Dumbledore said. “It would only take one of them to raise the alarm and there could be fifty of them there to meet us in a matter of a few seconds.”
“We can’t even get a message to them,” Snape said. “Anyone who approaches the house would be killed instantly.”
“There has been a spell put around the house to prevent anyone from apparating into it or out of it as well,” Dumbledore said. “The only way in is to walk in the front door.”
“They won’t dare leave the house of their own accord,” Draco added. “No doubt, they’ve been threatened with Drew’s life as well. It’s standard practice for the death eaters to have everyone under their control in some way.”
“We just need to get them a message that Drew is safe,” McGonagal said.
“Even then, it would be dangerous for them to leave the house,” Dumbledore said.
“Please help them,” Drew pleaded. “They didn’t have anything to do with any of this. I’ll go to Azkaban if I have to, but please help them.”
“I’m not about to let them take you to Azkaban, Drew,” Dumbledore said. “We’ll find a safe place for you to hide until we can straighten all of this out.”
There was a silence in the room for several seconds until Harry said, “So all we have to do is get a message to them that Drew is safe and get them to portkey out of the house.”
“We have already discussed that,” Snape said. “It is impossible to get a message to them without walking up to the house. Anyone who tries it will be killed.”
“Maybe not,” Harry said.
“What did you have in mind, Harry?” Dumbledore asked looking over his glasses.
“All we have to do is have someone walk up to the house that they won’t attack,” Harry said.
“Weren’t you listening?” Draco asked. “They’ll attack everyone.”
“They won’t attack me,” Harry said. “They’re under direct orders from Voldemort that I not be harmed.”
“Absolutely not,” McGonagal said. “We aren’t going to send a student into that kind of danger.”
“He may be right, Minerva,” Dumbledore said. “This is a desperate time, and it may call for desperate measures.”
“But Harry is…” McGonagal began.
“The best hope we have,” Dumbledore said. “He may be the only hope Drew’s parents have.”
“I don’t want to send Harry into the middle of that kind of situation either,” Ginny said. “But I will. I believe Harry can do it. I don’t think he would have brought it up if he couldn’t.”
“With all due respect,” Snape said, “Harry has a history of jumping into the fire with both feet before he knows the full extent of the danger involved.”
“And he has come out of it every time,” Hermione said.
“With an extraordinary amount of luck,” Snape said.
“Then let’s hope luck is on our side tonight,” Dumbledore said as he pulled out his wand and pointed it at a small silver object on his desk. “Portus.”
“Are you sure about this, Albus?” McGonagal asked.
“I am,” Dumbledore said.
“Before I go, Professor,” Harry began as he pulled out his own wand, “there’s something I need Ginny to do for me.”
Harry looked over at Ginny and placed his instructions directly into her mind so that no one else would hear what he was asking her to do, and she said, “I understand.”
Harry pulled a chocolate frog from his pocket, pointed his wand at it and said, “Portus.”
Ginny walked forward and took the portkey from him. A few seconds later, she disappeared.
“She won’t be in any danger will she, Harry,” Ron asked.
“No,” Harry said. “She’s only gone to prepare the place where I’m going to take Drew’s parents to. It’s perfectly safe. She’ll stay there until I get there. Then she’ll come back with me.”
“I thought you would bring them back here,” McGonagal said with a bit of surprise.
“No,” Harry said. “They’ll be looking for them here. There’s no telling how many spies Voldemort has at Hogwarts. We can’t run the risk that one will see them here.”
“Where will you take them then?” Snape asked.
“Sorry, Professor,” Harry said. “I placed that information in Professor Dumbledore’s head already. The fewer people who know about it the better.”
Harry reached forward and grabbed the silver object on Dumbledore’s desk before anyone got the chance to ask another question. A few seconds later, he found himself standing at the front gate of a nice middle class home. Before he walked through the gate, Harry turned around so that all of the death eaters watching would get a look at him. He needed them to recognize him. He was depending on it to get him to the front door of the house. Luckily for him, there was a streetlight hanging right above his head that made him plainly visible.
By the time the confusion was beginning to pass for the death eaters about what they needed to do, Harry had already turned and walked to the door of the house. They were too late to stop him as he pulled his wand, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.
Harry listened, but there was no sound within the house. He walked into the living room knowing that he was still in danger of being attacked, though not by the death eaters outside.
“Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell,” Harry called out. “I’m Harry Potter. I’m a school mate of your son Drew.”
“Harry Potter?” Mr. Caldwell asked, as he appeared, wand in hand from behind a large chair.
“Yes,” Harry said. “I’ve come to help you. I’ve come to get you out of here.”
“But we can’t leave,” Mrs. Caldwell said as she appeared from behind a doorway on the other side of the room. “If we try to leave the death eaters will kill Drew.”
“Don’t worry about Drew,” Harry said. “He’s safe back at Hogwarts. Professor Dumbledore has him in his office as we speak. As soon as I have you safely hidden away, I’ll send him to join you.”
“Why are you taking this risk?” Mr. Caldwell asked. “The death eaters could kill us all.”
“Because Drew asked me to,” Harry said. “Please. We don’t have much time.” Harry pulled the silver object he had used as a portkey to get there and pointed his wand at it. “Portus.”
All three of them took hold of the portkey. Just a second before they disappeared, they heard the front door break open. The death eaters had finally regrouped. Harry just smiled knowing that they were too late.
Professor Dumbledore sat behind his desk and calmly watched as Professor McGonagal and Ron paced continually across his office. If he had had a little less faith in Harry, he might have felt the need to join them.
Harry and Ginny suddenly appeared right in front of Dumbledore’s desk as Harry nodded to Dumbledore to let him know that everything was taken care of. Harry knew that the first person he should talk to was Drew.
“Drew,” Harry said as he walked over to him.
Drew looked up in surprise and asked, “Did you do it? Are they alright?”
“They’re fine,” Harry said. “They’re somewhere safe.” Harry held out the chocolate frog one more time as he pointed his wand. “Portus. Take this Drew. You can see for yourself.”
Drew reached out and took the offered portkey as he said, “I don’t know how to thank you, Harry. I need to thank all of you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I promise that I’ll do everything I can to pay you all back. Anything you need, just ask me for it.”
Drew disappeared from the office, and they all stood in silence for several seconds.
“I could not be more proud of all of you tonight,” Dumbledore said. “Of course, we can never tell anyone what really happened. If it became known that Drew attacked two Hogwarts students, the ministry would take him away to some place. I doubt that they would put a child into Azkaban, but I think we all agree that he does not need to be confined or questioned beyond what we have learned here tonight. Therefore, if you are all willing to go along with it, what happened tonight on the grounds was outside dueling training for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and no more.”
Everyone nodded their agreement.
“I think that some reward is in order for your loyalty to Hogwarts and to the students,” Dumbledore said. “One hundred points will be awarded to Gryffindor and to Slytherin.”
After all of the students had been dismissed, and were on their way down the stairs, Draco asked, “So where did you take Drew and his parents, Harry? Is it really safe? You know the death eaters are going to turn England upside down looking for them.”
“I’m sorry, Draco,” Harry said. “I can’t tell anyone else about it for now. You’d like it though. Maybe someday I’ll take you and Cassidy there.”
“Really?” Draco asked. “Why would you do that for me?”
“I told you once that I’ve hoped we would eventually find a way to put our differences aside,” Harry said. “I know enough now to put mine aside anyway.”
“So do I,” Ron said. “I have to admit it was a lot better having a normal conversation with you, than screaming insults back and forth.”
“Cassidy must be rubbing off on me more than I thought,” Draco said. “I think I liked it better too. I’m not willing to put aside all of our differences though. I may have to hold on to a few for a while. We do still have a quidditch match coming up you know.”
“That I can live with,” Ron said
“You boys and your quidditch rivalries,” Cassidy said shaking her head.
“It isn’t just the boys,” Ginny said. “I’ll likely be the one playing seeker in that game.”
“Which reminds me,” Ron said. “Have you ordered your new broom yet, Harry?”
“Would you believe I’ve forgotten?” Harry asked with a smile. “It must have just slipped my mind. I’ll do it soon though. I promise.”
It was less than a week later that Drew returned to Hogwarts. By the time he had reappeared, Harry had made sure the D.A. was watching his back at all times as they had for Draco. There was still no way to tell exactly what Voldemort’s reaction would be to Drew’s failure to kill Draco. Another attack could happen at any time.
As the weeks passed though, Harry became convinced that no other student would dare attempt an attack even if Voldemort himself ordered it. It was common knowledge that the D.A. was keeping an eye on Drew and Draco, and the threat of retaliation from the entire group seemed enough to dissuade them from making that attempt.
Drew began attending D.A. meetings as soon as he returned to Hogwarts, and had progressed nicely, along with all of the other new students. No one ever said anything about not believing the official story of what happened the night Draco was attacked, but attendance at the D.A. meetings increased immediately.
The increased attendance at the classes had its downside however. Harry, who’s time was already stretched thin, found it stretched even thinner as he spent even more of his free time trying to catch the new students up on what they had missed. That was why Ginny couldn’t believe Harry had agreed to teach a private class in addition to the ones he was already teaching.
“You didn’t mention we were doing this to anyone did you?” Draco asked as he looked at Harry.
“Well, almost no one,” Harry responded. “I had to tell Ginny, of course. I can’t have any secrets from her. I have asked her to keep it to herself though.”
“I just don’t want the whole school to know,” Draco said. “I wouldn’t even have asked you to do this, but Cassidy was driving me crazy wanting me to go to the D.A. meetings with her.”
“I understand,” Harry said with a smile. “Actually, she’s been after me to try to get you to come. I’ve never asked anyone to come to the classes though. Everyone who walks through that door comes of their own free will.”
“You know why I asked you to teach me, don’t you?” Draco asked.
“Yes,” Harry responded.
“I don’t want to train to fight an entire army of death eaters,” Draco said. “There is only one death eater I’m interested in.”
“Are you sure you want that?” Harry asked. “There are plenty of other students who have already been trained to face your father.”
“This is personal now,” Draco said. “You have Voldemort. I have my father. We all have demons we have to face.”
Harry looked at Draco for a few seconds, wondering if he was doing the right thing, before he said, “So be it. Let’s get started then.”
Four hours later, Harry looked on as Draco stood breathing hard, with his wand still clenched tightly in his shaking hand. Beyond him, Lucius Malfoy laid sprawled out on the floor unconscious.
“Very nice,” Harry said as he walked over to Draco. “I told you you’d be able to do it without using one of the unforgivable curses.”
“It would have been faster if I had used one though,” Draco said as he tried to catch his breath.
“Perhaps,” Harry said. “What would happen to you afterwards though? The ministry would arrest you just as fast as a death eater if you used one.”
“So what?” Draco asked trying to make his grip loosen on his wand.
“You’ve been fighting with your father for four hours now,” Harry said. “Your nerves are at a breaking point. Once you’ve had a chance to think about it for a while, you’ll realize what that would mean to Cassidy. I was hoping your relationship with her would last even after we left Hogwarts.”
“I guess you’re right,” Draco said as he relaxed his hand at last. “Assuming that any of us survive to leave Hogwarts, I was hoping the same thing.”
“Besides,” Harry began, “you really don’t need to resort to an unforgivable curse. You have quite a bit of natural dueling talent. It may be a little rough around the edges, but a few more training sessions should make you one of the best duelists of all of the students here.”
“Better than you?” Draco asked with a grin.
“No,” Harry said.
“And modest as well,” Draco said still grinning.
“Just a statement of fact,” Harry said. “Trust me. I run my own training sessions.”
“I’d like to see one of those sometime,” Draco said putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “We all need to know that you’re ready for Voldemort, Harry. I need to know that you can win.”
“None of us will know that until it happens,” Harry said. “It isn’t going to happen tonight though. At least I hope not. I’m exhausted. This is the second D.A. class I’ve taught today, you know.”
“Speaking of that,” Draco began, “how are we going to get back to our common rooms? It’s well after hours. Filch would have a field day if he catches us out this late.”
“He’ll never see us,” Harry said as he pulled his invisibility cloak out of his robes.
“No way,” Draco said. “Where did you get an invisibility cloak?”
“It was my dad’s,” Harry said. “I’ve had it since my first year here.”
“Wait a minute,” Draco said. “Why didn’t I put that together before? The night Drew attacked me, Ron knocked me out of the way. I never saw him coming. I never saw him until he sat up after he knocked me down. Was he wearing your cloak?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “It’s a lucky thing for you that he was. I almost didn’t let him borrow it.”
Harry took Draco back to his common room, and then made his way back to his own before collapsing in his bed. He was so tired that he didn’t even bother to change into his bedclothes. His sleep that night was as deep as it had been in some time. He knew that he was likely to have several days like the one he had just been through before he got out of Hogwarts.
Several weeks later, Ginny walked into the Great Hall and slammed her books down on the table a bit too hard as she sat down across from Ron, Hermione and Neville. It was easy for them all to see that something was eating at her.
“Uh, I thought Harry was coming down to breakfast with you,” Ron said.
“So did I,” Ginny said.
“What happened?” Hermione asked fearing that she already knew the answer.
“What else?” Ginny said. “It happens all day long every day. He isn’t even safe in his own Common room. We were just about to leave when another fifth year asked him to help him with a problem he was having with his potions.”
“People are sort of going nutters now that the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s are getting so close,” Neville said. “I’m sorry to say that I’ve asked him for a bit of help before myself.”
“But you asked him because you actually had a specific question you couldn’t figure out,” Ginny explained. “He’s spending most of his day explaining everything from Potions to Care of Magical Creatures to people who are using him as a crutch so they don‘t have to study as hard. Why should they find the answers themselves when he can tell them everything they need to know? He barely has time to breathe any more. He didn’t get in until late again last night.”
“Why doesn’t he just say no?” Ron asked.
“Oh come on,” Ginny said. “This is Harry we’re talking about. When does he ever refuse to help someone when they ask for it?”
“Good point,” Ron said nodding in agreement.
“At least he has his first two periods off today,” Neville said. “It’s Monday. He doesn’t have to go to Defense Against the Dark Arts or Potions. Maybe he can go back to the common room and get some rest.”
“Not likely,” Hermione said. “He’ll do exactly what he does every Monday morning. He’ll be in the room of requirement working on a way to kill the dementors and defeat Voldemort.”
“Well people had better start giving him some time to relax or he won’t be in any shape to do either of those things,” Ginny said.
Professor Dumbledore stood on the top step and knocked on the heavy wooden door of Hagrid’s cabin. It only took a few seconds for the door to creak open.
“Professor Dumbledore, sir,” Hagrid said. “Is ever’thin alri’?”
“Everything is fine, Hagrid,” Dumbledore responded. “I just had a few things I wanted to ask you.”
“Come on in, Professor,” Hagrid said as he stood aside and made room for Dumbledore to pass.
“Thank you, Hagrid,” Dumbledore said as he walked inside.
“Can I ge’ ya some tea, Professor?” Hagrid asked. “I jus’ put some on.”
“No thank you, Hagrid,” Dumbledore said. “I can’t stay long. How is everything going with the Care of Magical Creatures class?”
“Jus’ fine, Professor,” Hagrid said. “Been get’n em ready fur the examiners. They’ll be fine.”
“Wonderful news,” Dumbledore said. “What about Harry? Is he almost done with his weekend class? I understand that his time has been rather limited lately. I’m sure he could use all he could get.”
“Oh, ‘arry finished the class months ago,” Hagrid said. “’e’s jus’ been comin’ here to work on… Sorry, Professor. Don’ ask me any more ‘bout tha’. Promised ‘arry I’d keep it a secret.”
“I quite understand, Hagrid,” Dumbledore said with a grin. “Well, if Harry is coming here of his own free will, then there is nothing I can do about that. I’ll go now and speak with Professor Sprout and Professor Binns. Perhaps Harry is not working on any special projects with them.”
Ten minutes later, Dumbledore found himself in Greenhouse number three as Professor Sprout explained, “I’m so sorry, Professor. I know I should have informed you sooner. I was just enjoying his company so much, and he really didn’t seem to mind. He passed the class with flying colors a few weeks ago. Since then, he’s been such a help to me that I admit I didn’t want him to stop coming to the Sunday class times. Honestly, if I had known that his time was so restricted, I would have told him not to come back.”
“So Harry has been helping you?” Dumbledore inquired.
“More than I can say,” Sprout answered. “It was wonderful. He came to class here every Sunday, and that was a perfect time for him to help me get everything ready for my classes during the week. My goodness, if he wasn’t a student, I’d hire the boy to be my assistant. Such a deep understanding of Herbology I haven’t seen since I was a student and Professor Boggs taught the class.”
“Really?” Dumbledore asked. “That should be interesting when they finally meet. She lives next door to a house he owns. She’ll be delighted to meet someone who can converse intelligently with her on the subject.”
Twenty minutes later, Professor Dumbledore found himself at a door that few others ever bothered to approach. He knocked lightly, and there was only a brief pause before a disinterested voice told him to enter.
“I hope this isn’t a bad time,” Dumbledore said as he stuck his head into Professor Binns’ office.
“I’m just finishing a bit of grading,” Binns said looking up only momentarily before returning to the paper before him. “What can I do for you, Headmaster?”
“I was just coming to ask you about the Sunday class you’re teaching,” Dumbledore said.
“I was just re-grading the final exam for that class,” Binns said showing a sudden interest and looking up at Dumbledore.
“Was there a problem with it the first time?” Dumbledore asked.
“If there was then the problem remains even after combing through it carefully once again,” Binns said. “I was sure he was cheating all along. He had to be. No one ever does that well in History of Magic. I’ll be hexed if I could figure out how he could have been doing it though. I stood over him as he was taking his exam and watched every stroke of his quill. I knew before he was half way through with the test that Mr. Potter is the best student I’ve ever had.”
“Mr. Potter?” Dumbledore asked surprised. “In all my years here as a student and as a teacher, I think that was the first time I’ve ever heard you call a student by their correct name.”
“I avoid it as a matter of course,” Binns said with a rare grin. “Their heads are already big enough. I wouldn’t want to do something to make them feel any more important than they already believe themselves to be."
“You’re willing to make an exception for Mr. Potter though?” Dumbledore asked.
“Never to his face,” Binns said. “Still, the best student I have ever had deserves that much respect from me at least.”
“The best?” Dumbledore asked. “What about Tom Riddle?”
“Ha!” Binns laughed suddenly. “Riddle was good. I’ll admit that. He doesn’t hold a candle to Potter though. Not even close.”
“Interesting,” Dumbledore said.
“With a little more study he may be able to take over teaching the History of Magic class,” Binns said as he looked at Dumbledore’s shocked expression. “Well, I can’t teach it forever, you know.”
Professor Dumbledore caught Harry at dinner that night to inform him that he was no longer required to attend any weekend classes. It didn’t do much good though. The students didn’t seem to have any trouble finding Harry wherever he was. Within two weeks of getting word of his free weekends, anxiety over the impending examinations hit a fever pitch, and Harry stayed in the room of requirement nearly every evening and all weekend long trying to answer the never ending questions of his fellow students.
Needless to say, Harry found it difficult to leave the room of requirement even for things like food or sleep. He had never worked so hard in his life. He was exhausted. He was irritable. He was stretched too thin.
Ginny had once again gone to the room of requirement along with Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna to drag Harry down to the Great Hall so he wouldn’t miss another meal. The students he had been working with had complained loudly, but Harry himself was too exhausted to put up any fight at all. He merely allowed them to lead him by the arm down the stairs.
Once they entered the Great Hall, the students there saw Harry and had a brief idea to ask him several questions. The look they noticed Ginny giving them all was enough to make them reconsider.
Ron and Neville sat Harry down on the bench. Harry immediately pushed his plate out of the way, and planted his forehead on the table in front of him.
“That’s it, Harry,” Ginny said as she sat down next to him. “After you eat you’re going to bed, and you’re going to stay there even if I have to tie you down.”
“Try to eat something, Harry,” Hermione said. “You haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.”
“He didn’t eat much of that if I recall,” Luna said.
“How could he?” Neville asked. “It took him so long just to make it out of the common room, he had almost missed breakfast by the time he got here.”
“Well that has to stop,” Ginny said. “Another week of this and he’ll end up in the hospital wing.”
“You have to take some time off, mate,” Ron said as he looked at Harry, who hadn’t moved since he sat down. “You’re only one person. There’s only so much you can do.”
Harry suddenly sat up with his eyes wide as he said, “Ron, you’re brilliant. Why didn’t I think of it before.”
Harry moved so quickly that none of them had time to react. Harry jumped up from the table and ran for the door.
“He’s lost it,” Ron said as he started to get up to go after Harry.
“Stay here,” Ginny said to them all as she stood up. “He’s headed back to that room. I’m going up there and putting a stop to this once and for all. It may not be a pretty thing to watch.”
“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” Hermione asked.
“I’ll have him back here in twenty minutes if I have to stun him to do it,” Ginny said. “I’ve let this go on too long as it is.”
Ginny tried to calm herself as she reached the top of the stairs. The door to the room of requirement lay before her, and she was ready for the fight that likely lay beyond.
Ginny stopped as a smiling Harry walked out of the room of requirement and said, “Hi, Gin. Sorry you had to walk all the way back up here to get me.”
“I’m here to tell you to put a stop to all of this, Harry,” Ginny said.
“There’s no need,” Harry said. “Everything has been taken care of.”
“You told them you weren’t going to teach them any more?” Ginny asked.
“No,” Harry said as he put his arm around her and they started to walk down the stairs. “Ron was right. I am only one man, but in the room of requirement I don’t have to be. There are three of me in there right now answering questions.”
“What?” Ginny asked.
“Only these copies of me won’t ever want to leave the room of requirement,” Harry said. “They’ll never get tired, or hungry. They can teach twenty four hours a day.”
“So you’ll never have to teach in there again?” Ginny asked.
“I’ll still teach the D.A. classes,” Harry said. “I’ll be able to go back to my old schedule again. For now though, lets get something to eat. After that, I’ve got some rest to catch up on.”
The day that many of the students had been dreading all year finally arrived. In the early hours of the morning, there was not a chair to be had in the library, and the room of requirement was buzzing with activity as the students attempted to cram every bit of studying they could before breakfast.
“I’m glad you remembered that Harry said not to wake him up for any study time this morning, Ron,” Ginny said as she sat down where Ron and Hermione were discussing the merits of a potion ingredient.
“I thought it was the least I could do for him,” Ron responded. “He stayed up for a while before we went to sleep last night to answer a few questions for all of us in the dorm.”
“Ron,” Hermione said scoldingly. “Why would you do something like that? Hasn’t he done enough?”
“He’s the one who offered it to us,” Ron said. “He said we could ask him one question each if we wanted to. He said he was hoping it would make us sleep better having one less thing to worry about.”
“He hasn’t had any problem staying relaxed about the exam,” Ginny said. “He took me out on a walk by the lake last night and kept me out there for two hours looking up at the stars. Everyone else probably thought he was doing it to study for astronomy, but he was just doing it for fun.”
“What would he have to worry about?” Hermione asked. “He’s been like a walking encyclopedia of magic around here for months. I happen to know he hasn’t cracked a book yet. I asked him. He’s making me a nervous wreck.”
“I’m not worried,” Ron said. “I’m not nearly as nervous as I was going into my O.W.L.s. I think the whole school must feel that way this year. We couldn’t be more prepared.”
“Good morning, everyone,” Harry said as he ran his fingers through his trademark messy hair. “Is everyone ready for breakfast?”
“You never lose your appetite, do you?” Ginny said with a smile as he bent over to kiss her.
“It’s the price I pay for being a seventeen year old boy,” Harry said with a smile.
Minutes later, Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Ron walked into a nearly deserted Great Hall. Apparently, most of the other students had not had enough of studying.
“Good morning,” Dumbledore said as he came to a stop behind the four Gryffindors. “How are you all feeling today?”
“Great, Professor,” Harry said. “How are you?”
“Well, I must admit that I’m a bit nervous,” Dumbledore said. “I always get that way before the testing begins. I was fine until the examiners arrived earlier this morning. Every time I see them I can’t help but think about how nervous I was when they came to give my O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s.”
“Have they posted the testing order yet, Professor?” Hermione asked.
“Not officially,” Dumbledore began, “but I think I can tell you all. Gryffindor N.E.W.T.s will begin with Herbology. Ginny, you won’t be taking any N.E.W.T.s until next year, but something tells me you won’t be too far from the exams today.”
“I’m just going along as moral support this year, Professor,” Ginny said. “Not that they’ll need any, of course.”
“I dare say you might be right,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “I anticipate great things from the students this year.”
Around noon, the Gryffindor seventh years walked out of their Herbology N.E.W.T.
“How was it?” Ginny, who had waited outside through the entire exam, asked.
“Harder than I expected,” Ron said.
“I told you the N.E.W.T.s were more in depth than the O.W.L.s were,” Hermione said.
“I know,” Ron said. “I know. No worries though. I’m sure I passed.”
“You had better hope so, Ron,” Ginny said. “Mum will send you howlers for the rest of your life if you didn’t.”
“You had better study more for your next one,”
Hermione said. “This will determine what job you get once you leave Hogwarts, you know.”
“Maybe you would like to study with me after lunch,” Ron said. “I have a free period.”
“I don’t though,” Hermione said. “I have my N.E.W.T. for Ancient Runes right after lunch.”
“I’ll study with you, Ron,” Harry said. “I have a free period, too.”
“Well of course you do, Harry,” Ginny said. “The two of you are taking exactly the same classes.”
“Do what you can with him, Harry,” Hermione said. “Potions isn’t his best subject.”
“He’ll be fine,” Harry said. “Snape isn’t giving the exam after all.”
“Boys,” Hermione said shaking her head. “They never take anything seriously.”
The Potions N.E.W.T. was given in two parts. The first part was a written exam that took place at individual desks in the Great Hall. To no one’s surprise, barely forty five minutes later, Harry took his test up to the appraiser overseeing the test.
“Finished already?” Ginny asked as Harry walked out of the Great Hall.
“Not completely,” Harry said. “I still have to take the practicals in the Potions classroom. Do you feel like walking me there?”
“Of course,” Ginny said. “On the way there, I wanted to ask you something.”
“Well at least you know I’ll answer it,” Harry said with a grin.
“I do love having that power sometimes,” Ginny said with a wide smile of her own.
“So, what do you want to know?” Harry asked.
“Have you thought at all about what kind of a wedding you would like to have?” Ginny asked expecting Harry to be at least a little flustered by the question.
“Every single day,” Harry responded quickly.
“Really?” Ginny asked surprised.
“It makes me happy to think about it,” Harry said. “I can tell you what I would like if you want.”
“Please do,” Ginny said intrigued.
“First of all,” Harry began, “I would like it to be at the Burrow. I want it to be in the spot on the ground right below where we shared our first kiss. Maybe sometime in the Summer. I’ll wear black. You’ll be in white. I think Hermione and Luna should be joined by a few others in pink. I imagine Ron in a deep shade of red, although his robes will be just as black as mine. All of my other dorm mates will be there with me as well. Maybe even Draco will show up. Of course I’d like to have Dumbledore and all of the teachers there, as well as the members of the Order. And the flowers…”
“Stop, Harry,” Ginny said. “Don’t tell me any more. I’d hate to find out you’ve put more thought into it than I have. I could never live that down.”
“I just need you there to make me happy, Gin,” Harry said.
“Count on it,” Ginny said. “I always will be.”
Later that evening, Harry and Ginny were sitting in the Gryffindor common room when Hermione walked in with a frazzled looking Ron.
“What a day,” Ron said as he tossed himself down in a chair.
“It wasn’t that bad was it?” Harry asked.
“Easy for you to say, mate,” Ron said. “You finished your written portion of the exam so quickly that the next person to turn it in took at least that long again before she finished it, and that was Hermione.”
“How did your practicals go, Harry?” Hermione asked. “You were already gone by the time I got there.”
“They let me skip those,” Harry said.
“What?” Ron asked as he suddenly sat up.
“Apparently one of the appraisers had read in Hogwarts, A History that I had passed that potions test back in January,” Harry said. “Before I got there they reviewed that test and declared that I had achieved a level that was beyond what would be expected during the N.E.W.T. So, they gave me an exemption.”
“So how did you do, Ron?” Ginny asked as Ron sat looking at Harry unable to form an appropriate response.
“I passed,” Ron finally said as he collapsed back into the chair. “I may not be as fast as Hermione, or as lucky as Harry, but I made it through at my own pace. At least I made it out before Neville.”
“Not by much though,” Hermione said. “He came out when I was still talking to Ron in the hallway. Luna was waiting there for him and they were going to take a walk down by the lake to unwind before dinner.”
“Speaking of dinner…” Harry began.
“I agree,” Ron said before Harry could finish. “Lets go see if they’ve put the house tables back together in time for dinner yet.”
The next day, Harry found himself standing in the Great Hall once again as he prepared to take his only N.E.W.T. of the day, Transfiguration.
“Excellent, Mr. Potter,” Examiner Marchbanks said as Harry turned the burning candle back into his shoe. “Very impressive.”
“Thank you,” Harry responded.
“Do you think you could successfully transform yourself into an animal?” Marchbanks asked.
“Certainly,” Harry said.
Moments later, everyone in the room stopped to watch as Harry the phoenix soared around the Great Hall. Just as he had done in the Transfiguration classroom in front of Professor McGonagal, Harry soared around for several minutes before landing once again in front of Examiner Marchbanks.
“Wow, Harry!” Dean exclaimed from where he was standing for his test. “That was wicked!”
“Please return your attention to your own exam, Mr. Thomas,” Marchbanks said before turning her attention back to Harry. “He was right though. That was one of the most brilliant examples of transfiguration I have seen in many many years.”
“Thank you,” Harry said.
“I was here during your O.W.L.s you know,” Marchbanks said. “I watched you produce your patronus. Little did I know that I would come back just two years later to witness yet another incredible of piece of wizardry. I tested your parents for their N.E.W.T.s you know.”
“I didn’t know that,” Harry said.
“It’s amazing to me how much of them can be seen in your magic,” Marchbanks said.
“Really?” Harry asked, anxious to know more, yet fighting to hold back tears of joy.
“Certainly,” Marchbanks responded. “Many years ago, I sat in this very room, and watched as your father changed into his animagus form for another examiner. Two years ago, I watched as you produced a patronus exactly matching that form. And today… Are you aware that your mother was a registered animagus as well, Harry?”
“No,” Harry said as tears began to fall from his eyes. “No one ever told me.”
“On the day of her Transfiguration N.E.W.T., she stood in front of me and changed into her own animagus form,” Marchbanks said. “She changed into a phoenix, Harry.”
After several seconds of wiping away tears, Harry said, “Thank you. I can never tell you how much it means to me to know that.”
“If I had known that no one had told you,” Marchbanks began, “I would have told you myself two years ago. You should know everything. There is only one final thing that I will ask you before I let you go, Harry. Have you ever tried to find out if you are an animagus?”
“Yes,” Harry said, some of recent joy fading away. “I have the ability, but I’ll never use it again.”
“Really?” Marchbanks asked. “Why not?”
“Because my animal form is a basilisk,” Harry said, causing his examiners eyes to widen.
“Are you sure?” Marchbanks asked.
“Positive,” Harry said. “I would never willingly become that monster. A few years ago, one nearly killed several of my friends. I’ll never be that creature.”
“I understand,” Marchbanks said. “I will have to report it to the ministry for registration though.”
“I know,” Harry said.
“If I remember correctly,” Marchbanks began, “your father didn’t realize what he had done until after he had changed into his animal form already. Apparently he had intended to keep it a secret. The desire to show off his abilities was a strong one in him.”
“I’ve heard that about him before,” Harry said with a grin. “He was especially likely to do it if he was trying to impress my mum.”
“She eventually settled him down a bit,” Marchbanks said with a grin. “In the years that followed, your father grew into quite the family man. Your mother was everything to him, you know. That is, until you came along. I think that was the point when your father really settled down. I had never seen your parents happier. You will do their memory well I think.”
“I’ll try to,” Harry said.
“Yes,” Marchbanks said as she looked deeply into Harry’s eyes, before remembering where they both were and what she was supposed to be doing. “Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I understand that you may not want your animal form to be made public. Rest assured that it does not have to be. There is a list kept at the ministry where the animagus forms may be registered, but stay off the list made known to the public. In a case such as yours, where the animal form could be extremely dangerous, only the minister of magic would know placement on that list. I did it for your father, so I can certainly do it for you.”
“My father?” Harry asked. “Why was he put on the list? His animal wasn’t especially dangerous.”
“Suffice it to say that your father could be very persuasive,” Marchbanks said. “I refused at first, but he eventually wore me down. That man had a natural talent for finding a person’s soft spot. So, congratulations, Harry. You have just completed your N.E.W.T. for Transfiguration. Best of luck with the rest of your exams. It has been a pleasure.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. “I think the pleasure was all mine. Thank you for telling me more about my parents.”
Examiner Marchbanks smiled and said, “You are very welcome, Harry.”
“You know,” Ginny said as Harry walked out of the Great Hall, “in the entire history of Hogwarts, I don’t think anyone has ever walked out of so many N.E.W.T. exams with a smile on their face as you have.”
“Sometimes,” Harry began, “even in a test you can learn things. Let’s take a walk outside and I’ll tell you about it.”
Friday, and the last day of exams, finally arrived. The Gryffindor seventh years were delighted that they were to end the exams. Theirs would be the last impression the examiners would get of Hogwarts that year. Better yet, it would end with the exam for Defense Against the Dark Arts. They all took the written part of the exam with the rest of the seventh years earlier in the afternoon, but they would be the last to go in the practical dueling test that evening.
One by one, the Gryffindors were called into the Great Hall. Harry watched them all come out, and he felt very satisfied when he saw that most of them were smiling. Most of them had been D.A. members, and stopped to thank him for the training, since it had apparently served them all well. Little by little, the number of people waiting dwindled.
Ron had come out of the Great Hall with a smile, as Neville was called in.
“That was so easy,” Ron said as he walked over to where Ginny was standing with Hermione and Harry, who were the only ones left that had not been called in.
“Easy?” Ginny asked.
“Well, I don’t mean it like that,” Ron corrected. “The guy we have to duel against is good. I’ll give him that. I just mean that while I was dueling him I didn’t really have to think about what I was going to do. My reflexes just took over. Before I knew what happened, the test was over. I think I had stunned the guy three times by then.”
“I suppose it will be strange just dueling against one person after the training we had against multiple opponents in the D.A. meetings,” Hermione said.
“Don’t let that fool you,” Harry said. “One spell is all it would take. You’re about to face an opponent you don’t know anything about. He could have some special trick he’s just saving to use against you. You have to be…”
“Constantly vigilant,” Ron and Hermione said at the same time.
“Relax, Harry,” Hermione said. “You’ve drilled that into us for so long that I'll never forget it. I’ll keep my eyes open.”
“See that you do,” Ron said in mock seriousness. “I want you back in one piece.”
Ron began to lean over and kiss Hermione when Ginny said, “You’ll break her concentration like that, you know.”
Ron went ahead and kissed Hermione before he said, “As if you’re going to let Harry walk in there without giving him a kiss. You’ve kissed him before he’s gone into every exam so far.”
“Well I have to do what I can to get him to relax,” Ginny said with a grin.
“Right,” Ron said with a chuckle. “He hasn’t broken a sweat all week. If he gets any more relaxed he’ll be asleep.”
“Hermione Granger,” the examiner said as Neville walked out of the Great Hall.
“Wish me luck,” Hermione said as she walked toward the examiner.
“Good luck,” Ron, Ginny, and Harry said in unison.
Neville walked over and stuck his hand out to Harry as he said, “Thank you, Harry. I never could have done that well without you.”
“You always had it inside you, Neville,” Harry said as he shook Neville’s hand. “I just helped you find it.”
“Still,” Neville said, “thanks for everything.”
“You had better go find Luna,” Harry said. “She’ll want to know how you did. After that, remember to send an owl to your parents.”
Neville smiled as he said, “Don’t worry. I won’t forget.”
Only a few minutes later, Harry walked into the Great Hall to find what appeared to be most of the examiners present and observing. Harry also noticed that only three of them had quills ready to mark down scores. In the back of his mind, Harry stored the thought that the rest could become a possible threat at any time during the duel. He didn’t know if the examiners had any tricks like that planned, but there was no harm in being ready for it.
“Welcome to your Defense Against the Dark Arts N.E.W.T., Mr. Potter,” Examiner Marchbanks said from behind the table where she was sitting with her quill in hand.
“Thank you, Examiner Marchbanks,” Harry said.
“Allow me to introduce you to your dueling opponent for the exam,” Marchbanks said as she gestured to a man who looked to be in his mid thirties. “This is Boris Gallagher.”
Boris stepped forward with an excitement in his eyes that Harry would have expected to see from a first or second year student as he stuck out his hand and said, “I can’t tell you what an honor it is to actually meet you, Mr. Potter. I’ve been looking forward to this all day long. I can’t believe I actually get to duel against Harry Potter. Wow.”
“That’s enough, Boris,” Marchbanks said. “You’re going to make Harry think you’re going to take it easy on him.”
“Oh, no,” Boris said. “I wouldn’t do that, Mr. Potter. I’ll give you the best I have.”
“I’ll do the same for you, Mr. Gallagher” Harry said.
“I have to tell you, Harry,” Marchbanks began, “that I think the rest of the students may have softened Boris up for you. He’s dueled the students during these tests for the last seven years, and I don’t ever remember seeing he or any of his predecessors spend so much time stunned on the floor. I understand you may have had something to do with that. Professor Dumbledore tells me you’ve been leading a study group on dueling for a good portion of the year. Is that true?”
“Yes,” Harry said.
“I see,” Marchbanks said with a smile. “In that case, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we’re anxious to see just what you can do.”
Harry never had time to respond. Loud screams from the hallway were enough to make Harry draw his wand instinctively.
“Stay calm, Harry,” Marchbanks said. “We’ll find out what the problem is.”
Harry didn’t need them to find out. His ring was already warm. The stone was red. The word he dreaded was formed clearly on the band.
Ginny burst through the doors to the Great Hall as soon as one of the examiners had opened the door to take a look outside, and she said, “Harry! It’s starting!”
“I know,” Harry said calmly.
“What has started?” Marchbanks asked.
“Please tell Professor Dumbledore and the teachers to secure the castle,” Harry said. “Voldemort is on his way.”
“What?” Marchbanks screeched. “Where are you going?”
“Voldemort isn’t here yet,” Harry said as he looked back from the door, “but the dementors are.”
Harry and Ginny ran out of the castle, and found the trouble instantly. At the very gates of Hogwarts, a small group of D.A. members had each cast their patronus to defend against the dementors coming from the direction of Hogsmeade. Harry could see that they wouldn’t last long though. The sky beyond them was dark with hundreds of dementors.
Harry was still just over one hundred meters away from where the students stood wavering under the attack when he saw the aurors from the Ministry of Magic, and order members apparate just outside the gates. They each added their own patronus to the battle, but Harry could tell that even that would not be enough to hold out for long.
Harry stopped just at the edge of where he could feel the cold of the dementors touch him as Ginny asked, “Will your patronus be strong enough, Harry? You never found a way to kill them did you?”
“No,” Harry said. “I have to try to drive them away though. Maybe it will be strong enough to help with that. You had better stand back, Ginny.”
“Not a chance, Harry,” Ginny said as she ran further into the battle to join the other students as she cast her own patronus.
‘Please let this work,’ Harry thought. “Valaya atra saikata. Valaya azakti saikata. Valaya saikata rejastejas. Valaya sukhecca saikata.”
The last of the sand poured out of the end of Harry’s wand as he looked down at the four magic circles that surrounded him. It was the most powerful combination he had been able to come up with to that point. The circles represented protection, power, light and hope. The key was still missing, but Harry didn’t have any more time to look for it.
Harry searched his mind for the happy thought he would use to produce his patronus. The moment it sprang into mind, it suddenly clicked. He knew what the key was. He wasn’t going to be able to do it alone though.
“Ginny,” Harry yelled to get Ginny’s attention. “I need you.”
Ginny’s patronus disappeared as she ran back to Harry and asked, “Is something wrong, Harry?”
“I need your help,” Harry said. “We have to do it together. Step inside the circles."
Ginny did as Harry asked as she said, “I haven’t helped you with this at all. I don’t know what to do.”
Harry took Ginny in his arms and reveled in the joyous feeling that coursed through him. Harry held his wand in his left hand and clasped it to Ginny’s right hand so that their wands were touching.
“It’s love, Ginny,” Harry said. “That was the key I’ve been missing. We have to do it together.”
Ginny nodded at Harry as they both raised their clasped hands towards the dementors and said, “Expecto patronum.”
The grounds of Hogwarts were almost instantly bathed in a pure white light. The students and the aurors who had been holding off the dementors stopped what they were doing to shield their eyes from the brightness as their patronuses disappeared. The dementors were apparently equally taken by surprise as they held their position and didn’t advance.
The ball of light that had issued from the end of Harry’s and Ginny’s wands began to take on a shape. In the matter of only a few seconds, they all looked up to see a woman in flowing white robes made of light, standing at least five meters tall. There was calm for only a few seconds. The instant the woman spread her arms, the dementors attacked.
The dementors couldn’t have resisted though. An unseen force was pulling them. Everyone watched in amazement as the dementors slammed head first into the chest of the woman and disappeared. On and on the swarm of dementors came, yet none ever emerged from the other side. In less than three minutes, the dementors were gone.
Harry and Ginny lowered their wands, and the woman disappeared.
Students began to appear all around Harry as they apparated, frustrated at having been confined to the castle. Hagrid ran over to Harry carrying his crossbow, as the doors to the castle burst open and the flow of students and teachers cascaded out.
“Are ya alrigh’ ‘arry?” Hagrid asked.
“I’m fine Hagrid,” Harry said. “I don’t know if that crossbow would have done you any good.”
“It was the firs’ thin I grabbed,” Hagrid said.
“What happened to the dementors, Harry?” Tonks asked.
“They’re gone,” Harry said. “They won’t ever bother anyone again.”
“You must be kidding,” Kingsley said. “How is that possible?”
Harry was just about to answer when Salisis suddenly flew in and wrapped around Harry’s arm. Ginny was just in time to stop Kingsley from blasting him with a spell. There were several seconds of silence as everyone listened to Harry speak to the black winged tree serpent.
“It isn’t over,” Harry finally said. “The death eaters are trying to come through the forest. There are more of them then I had suspected. Salisis said they’re going to walk right through where you have Grawp hidden, Hagrid.”
“Not to worry, ‘arry,” Hagrid said. “Grawp can ‘andle a few death eaters.”
“They aren’t alone,” Harry said just as a deafening roar went up from deep in the forest.
Even from where they stood, everyone could see the flickering glow above the trees. The death eaters had found Grawp. There were hundreds of spells being shot at him, and he didn’t sound at all happy about it.
“Grawp good boy,” Grwap said loudly. “No hurt Grawp or make angry.”
The pesky little wizards didn’t show any signs of stopping their assault, so Grawp did what came naturally. He reached over and snapped off the top of a tree, and swung it at a group of the wizards below.
Lucius Malfoy saw the twenty five death eaters that had just been wiped out by the giant and yelled, “This isn’t the fight we came for. Apparate further into the forest. Leave the others to deal with the giant.”
In an instant, the wizards were gone. Grawp wasn’t alone though. The wizards were gone, but the creatures they left behind were beginning to beat at his legs with clubs. He raised a leg and knew just how to deal with them.
“Professor,” Harry said as Dumbledore walked toward him, “I want to take the D.A. into the forest. The death eaters are attacking Grawp.”
“Relax,” Dumbledore said calmly. “The death eaters have already apparated closer to Hogwarts. We’ll make our stand here at the castle.”
“What about the other creatures that were with the death eaters?” Harry asked.
“Grawp has that under control,” Dumbledore said just as a dark spot appeared above the forest.
Everyone watched as the spot grew larger. It was coming in their general direction, but was angled more toward the lake. Seconds later, it landed with an enormous splash in the middle of the lake.
“Was that what I think it was?” Hermione asked.
“Indeed it was, Hermione,” Dumbledore said.
“I’m glad Grawp is on our side,” Ron said. “Anyone who can toss a troll that far is not someone I want fighting against me.”
Ten minutes later, the death eaters walked to the edge of the forest to find the path to the castle unblocked.
“Something doesn’t feel right to me,” Malfoy said.
“What do you mean?” Bellatrix asked.
“The dementors should have attacked by now,” Malfoy answered.
“We knew there was the possibility they might find some way to repel them,” Bellatrix said. “This is exactly what we were expecting to find. Either the dememtors would have killed everyone by now, or they would have been driven away. Everyone is probably inside celebrating right now. We’ll take them by surprise.”
“With the noise that giant made when we stumbled across it?” Malfoy asked. “They could have been in the deepest recesses of the dungeons and heard that.”
“Maybe they evacuated the castle then,” Bellatrix said. “Either way, we won’t know until we get in there and check it out. So, let’s get going.”
“Fine,” Malfoy said. “Let’s go. We’ll enter through the courtyard. Quietly.”
“I can’t believe this works,” Ron said as he and the rest of the D.A. stood in the middle of the grounds and watched the death eaters stream out of the forest. “I can’t believe we can stand right here in plain sight and they can’t see or hear us at all.”
“Concealment charms have always been a bit of a specialty of mine,” Dumbledore said. “I must say that I was a bit of a terror with them while I was a student here.”
“I’m glad I didn’t find that out any sooner,” Ron said. “I would have been paranoid around here for years if I had.”
“They’re almost to the courtyard, Professor,” Harry said.
“That they are,” Dumbledore responded. “Go ahead and move into position everyone. Good luck.”
The closer to the castle he moved, the more uneasy Malfoy became. It appeared that they were taking them by surprise, but something was nagging at his mind. He had to stay focused though. They were just about to enter the courtyard, and beyond that lay the castle.
Malfoy flattened himself against the stone wall that surrounded the courtyard and took a quick glance inside. It appeared to be as empty as the rest of the grounds. Malfoy entered the courtyard followed by Bellatrix and Dolohov, but they stopped dead in their tracks when the next death eater tried to enter.
Some kind of barrier had gone up that was preventing any other death eaters from getting in. To Malfoy’s dismay, it was also keeping them from getting back out. It was a trap.
“You don’t really want to leave so soon do you, father,” Draco said.
The death eaters spun around to see Draco standing there where he had not been before. Beside him were Neville Longbottom, Drew Caldwell, and four other students none of them recognized.
At the same time, death eaters outside of the courtyard ran for cover as students and teachers appeared out of nowhere and began showering them with stunning spells.
“What do you think you’re doing, Draco?” Malfoy asked.
“Something you taught me long ago,” Draco said with a grin. “Cut off the head and the body almost always dies. The head is trapped here in the courtyard, while the body is being killed on the grounds.”
“This is all Dumbledore could send to try to defeat us?” Bellatrix asked. “You must be as mad as your parents, Longbottom, if you think you can stand against me.”
“The question is,” Neville began in all seriousness, “can you stand against me if you can’t use your favorite spell.”
“We’ll see about that,” Bellatrix said as she instantly brought her wand up. “Crucio.”
Neville just stood there and looked at Bellatrix with a smile and said, “I hope that isn’t the best you’ve got.”
“Impossible,” Bellatrix screamed.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment since we met in the Department of Mysteries a few years ago,” Neville said. “I’ve had someone apply that spell to me nearly every day for the past two years. It turns out that, over time, you can build up a resistance to the pain that spell causes.”
No more words were necessary. The students were instantly on the defensive as the death eaters launched into a hard pressing attack. Draco stood toe to toe with his father. Neville took joy in showing Bellatrix how much Harry’s D.A. class had taught him. Dolohov had his hands full as the five younger students fanned out around him. Inside the courtyard, the war was raging.
Outside the courtyard, things were not looking good for the death eaters. They had been caught by surprise, and the level of resistance they met initially had been enough to knock nearly half of their number out of action almost right away. Without any of their leaders to tell them what to do, their ranks fell into chaotic individual battles instead of an organized effort. All too quickly, their numbers dropped significantly.
“I thought you wanted to kill me,” Draco said as he launched a nasty spell at his father that just barely missed its mark. “Come on then. You can do better than that.”
“Accio wand,” Dolohov screamed, wrenching the wand out of Drew’s hand before he could grasp it tighter.
Dolohov pointed his own wand at Drew and lined him up for the kill. It was a time when his focus did not serve him well though. He was never able to utter a syllable before he was hit with a stunning spell and a binding charm from Drew’s team members. He toppled over immediately and was out of the fight.
“Well, baby Neville has learned some new tricks,” Bellatrix said as she sent a battering blow to Neville’s shield.
“You haven’t seen all of them yet,” Neville said as he sent a spell back at her that nearly knocked her off her feet. “Keep your eyes open. You’re about to see five more.”
Bellatrix realized too late what he was talking about. Drew sent out a spell to negate her shield, while three of his teammates sent stunning spells a fraction of a second later. The last person had her wrapped in a binding before she ever hit the ground.
“Surrender while you can,” Draco said. “Take a look around you. There is no way out for you. Even if you defeat me, the others are more than capable of taking you down.”
“I’ll see you dead first traitor,” Malfoy screamed as he rushed Draco and got a knee in the gut for it.
Draco performed a binding spell that pinned Malfoy’s arms at his side before he said, “I’m not going to kill you. I want you to sit in Azkaban and think about the mistakes you’ve made.”
“I can think of one that I made many years ago,” Malfoy said nastily as he looked up as Draco.
“There are some mistakes you just can’t take back,” Draco said. “By the way, Harry and I are getting along great now. Cassidy and I may even visit him at the Burrow this summer.”
“It was that mudblood who ruined you in the first place,” Malfoy said.
“You may want to change your views on that,” Draco said. “If she agrees to it, she’ll be your daughter-in-law someday.”
“Not likely,” Malfoy said with a grin. “When the Dark Lord comes, he’ll free me and kill your little mudblood girlfriend.”
“He’ll have to get past Harry first,” Draco said. “From what I’ve seen lately, he had better be at the top of his game.”
“The Dark Lord is all powerful,” Malfoy said through gritted teeth. “No wizard can defeat him.”
“We’ll see,” Draco said with a grin. “Remember, Harry was the one that trained all of us to defeat you.”
Draco walked through the barrier closing off the courtyard and surveyed the grounds around him. He was amazed it had worked so well. In less than fifteen minutes, a bunch of students were able to defeat the most feared group of fighters in the world. Every single death eater that had been outside the courtyard had been stunned, seriously wounded, or forced to surrender. Bindings were being put around those who had been stunned.
Draco looked up and saw that the Dark Mark had been cast over the forbidden forest. He spotted Harry, and could see that he was rubbing his forehead while he talked to Dumbledore and Snape. He walked in that direction.
“It’s him alright,” Harry said. “He’s close by. Not far into the forest.”
“The courtyard is taken care of, Professor Dumbledore,” Draco said as he walked up.
“Thank you, Draco,” Dumbledore said. “Nice work.”
“Is that Voldemort you’re talking about, Harry?” Draco asked.
“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “I would have found him sooner, but I shut down my mental connection to him so my scar wouldn’t hurt when we were fighting the death eaters.”
“Have any of you seen Cassidy?” Draco asked.
“The battle scattered over a fairly wide area,” Snape said. “I believe Cassidy was helping with the binding. She may have wondered around the corner of the castle.”
“Thanks, Professor,” Draco said as he took off to look for Cassidy.
“I think he’s just waiting for me to come and find him,” Harry said. “I’ll bet he sent up the Dark Mark to lure me into the forest.”
“It would be foolish to do so,” Snape said.
“I agree,” Dumbledore said. “If this battle must happen, you can’t let him dictate the terms.”
“I don’t plan to,” Harry said.
“Send the aurors into the forest to look for him,” Snape said. “That is their job after all.”
“I think the aurors have their hands full until a group from the ministry can get here to take charge of all of the prisoners,” Dumbledore said.
“Voldemort isn’t that patient,” Harry said. “It won’t take him long to come looking for me. I think it would be a good idea to start moving people back into the castle as soon as possible.”
“We can try, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “I don’t know how much good it will do, but we can try.”
“Are you alright, Harry?” Ginny asked as she walked over.
“Ginny,” Draco said in a near panic before Harry could answer. “Have you seen Cassidy? I’ve looked everywhere.”
“The last time I saw her she was using a binding spell on a death eater near the forest,” Ginny said.
Draco’s eyes went wide with horror as he looked to the forest and then to the Dark Mark in the sky.
Harry was thinking the same thing as Draco, near tears, said, “Please, Harry. Help me find her.”
Harry knew what he had to do as he nodded and said, “Well it looks as if Voldemort is going to get what he wants after all.”
They were all silent for a few seconds until Dumbledore said, “Be careful, Harry.”
Harry nodded and began to walk off toward the forest, but stopped when he noticed that Draco was walking with him.
“Stay here, Draco,” Harry said. “Trust me; I’ll bring her back to you. It’s me he wants.”
“I would go with you, you know,” Draco said as the tears ran down his face. “She means everything to me, Harry.”
“I know,” Harry said. “I know.”
Harry had only taken another fifteen steps before he saw something that made him stop. Cassidy was walking out of the forest just ahead of him, and he didn’t like the look in her eye.
“Cassidy!” Draco exclaimed as he started running for the forest.
Harry turned and stuck out his hand and said, “Stop, Draco. Something isn’t right.”
“Don’t bother going after Voldemort, Harry,” Cassidy said as she continued to walk toward him. “I just
killed him myself.”
“Really,” Harry said flatly.
“I just killed the Dark Lord himself, and that still won’t be enough will it?” Cassidy asked. “I’m still going to have to take a back seat in the headlines to the ‘Famous Harry Potter’.
“That isn’t true,” Harry said.
“Isn’t it?” Cassidy asked angrily. “There will always be that thought on everyone’s minds. ‘She killed Voldemort, but could she have really beaten Harry Potter.’”
“No one will ever say that,” Harry said as he clutched his wand tighter.
“I’ll say it!” Cassidy screamed as she brought her wand up and shot a spell at Harry that he dodged easily.
“Cassidy, no!” Draco yelled as she shot another spell that Harry blocked with a shield.
Harry sent his own spell toward Cassidy that went well wide of its mark, but made her sidestep anyway.
Cassidy shot off two spells for every one that Harry sent her way. Cassidy’s spells hit Harry’s shield, but all of Harry’s shots went just wide enough to tell those who knew him that he wasn’t really trying to hit her at all. Slowly, but surely, Harry got closer and closer to Cassidy. When he was no more than three meters from her, Harry shot a spell so close to hitting her that she momentarily lost her balance trying to dodge it.
In that moment, Harry charged for Cassidy and grabbed her from behind as he pointed his wand at the ground and said, “Valaya atra saikata.”
The last of the sand had barely hit the ground when the air around Harry and Cassidy flared into a bright red. Cassidy collapsed into Harry’s arms as he lowered her to the ground.
“I’m so sorry, Harry,” Cassidy whispered. “I should have listened to you. I was no match for him. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t stop myself.”
“I know,” Harry said soothingly. “It’s over now. You’re safe from his mind control inside of this circle. Just rest.”
Draco ran over to the circle where Harry was holding Cassidy and asked, “What happened?”
“She went after Voldemort and he took control of her mind in order to make her attack me,” Harry said. “Go ahead and step into the circle.”
Draco walked right through the red colored air that surrounded Harry and Cassidy.
“Stay here with her,” Harry said as he passed Cassidy into Draco’s arms. “No matter what, don’t leave this circle.”
“What are you going to do?” Draco asked.
“Find him,” Harry said seriously as he stood to go.
“Harry,” Draco said just before Harry walked out of the circle. “Thanks.”
“Draco,” Harry said, “if anything should happen to me… Ginny…”
“I’ll do what I can for her,” Draco said. “Be careful.”
Harry nodded and walked outside the protection of the circle.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Harry,” Voldemort said from the darkness of the tree line.
“How have you been, Tom?” Harry asked.
“Never call me that,” Voldemort demanded.
“I think I can,” Harry said. “You see, I was on a first name basis with your sixteen year old personality you left in your diary. If anyone has, I’ve earned the right to call you by your real name.”
“I left that life behind many years ago,” Voldemort said taking a few steps out of the forest.
“I see you’ve gotten to experience part of my life,” Harry said looking at the scar on Voldemort’s forehead.
“It’s not something I’m very happy about,” Voldemort said with a warning in his voice.
“That makes two of us then,” Harry said. “Why don’t you surrender now, Tom? Your army is all but destroyed. There isn’t any reason to fight anymore.”
“You don’t understand me at all do you, Harry?” Voldemort asked.
“Better than you might think actually,” Harry said with a grin.
“You gave me the chance to surrender, and I refused,” Voldemort said inching closer. “Now I’ll ask you to join me and we can rule the world together.”
“Not a chance,” Harry said. “I guess that means we have to fight then.”
“So be it,” Voldemort said as he quickly raised his wand and cast a spell.
Harry guessed what he was up to and cast a spell back at Voldemort at the same time. As had happened before, a thin golden line connected the tips of their two wands.
“Does this look familiar to you, Tom?” Harry asked. “Priori incantatum. We’ll sit here like this all night if we don’t work out a strategy for this duel. Our wands contain a feather from the same phoenix. We can’t attack each other at the same time. We’ll have to take turns. One attacks while the other defends.”
“Very well,” Voldemort said as he broke the connection. “So who should go first?”
“Well I thought…” Harry began.
Before Harry could finish his thought, Voldemort hit him with a spell that tore up the ground between them and tossed Harry back to where all of the teachers and students stood watching.
Voldemort laughed evilly as he walked closer to where Harry had landed. He stopped when the dark landscape between them was suddenly awash with light. Looking up, he saw a dozen glowing renditions of Harry’s head that the students had cast into the sky looking back down at him.
Harry got to his feet and said, “Not bad, Tom. I take it you wanted to go first. Now it’s my turn.”
Voldemort barely got a shield up in time as Harry’s spell slammed into him and knocked him back into the forbidden forest. Voldemort pried himself away from the tree he had landed against, and ran back into the open with a boiling temper. He scanned the area Harry had just been in, but he was nowhere to be seen. Looking to his left, he spotted Harry walking slowly away from the crowd and watching his every move.
Voldemort walked to within ten meters of Harry before unleashing his next attack. A stream of fire spewed continually from the end of his wand, and washed all around Harry.
Voldemort thought that Harry must have been fried to a crisp, but Harry appeared out of thin air behind him and said, “My turn.”
This time, Voldemort didn’t get a shield up in time, as Harry’s spell sliced a deep gash across his left shoulder, and he grunted loudly out of both pain and frustration.
“You’ll pay for that,” Voldemort seethed.
“It’s your turn,” Harry said. “Stop holding back and show me what you’ve got.”
Voldemort vanished momentarily before reappearing behind Harry and shooting a spell at his back. Even the powerful shield Harry had up was not enough to completely block the cutting spell that made a diagonal cut from the base of his left shoulder to his right hip.
Harry hadn’t had time to recover from the cut before he felt his feet lift off of the ground as he was shot toward the lake and dropped in. Another powerful spell from Voldemort caused the entire lake to freeze over completely in a layer of ice more than thirty centimeters thick, trapping Harry beneath.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd of teachers and students that were watching as Voldemort let out a malicious laugh.
“Harry!” Ginny screamed, causing Voldemort to turn to look at her.
“Ahh,” Voldemort said as she walked closer, “Harry’s little girlfriend. Have you suffered enough yet? Are you ready to admit that there is no one who can stand against Lord Voldemort?”
“I’ll stand against you,” Ginny said through her sobs.
“Then I will kill you next,” Voldemort said with a twisted grin.
“You’ll have to go through me first,” Ron said as he stepped in front of Ginny.
“And me,” Hermione said as she stepped next to Ron.
“You’ll have to go through all of us,” Dumbledore said as he, the aurors and order members put themselves between Voldemort and the students.
“Old fool,” Voldemort said with a chuckle. “You know that even you are no match for me. Release my death eaters and we will depart to fight another day.”
“I think not,” Dumbledore said seriously. “One way or another, it will end here tonight.”
“Are you man enough to face me alone, old man,” Voldemort asked, “or must I destroy all of you at once?”
“That will have to wait,” Harry said as he appeared, still somewhat wet, behind Voldemort. “I’m not done with you yet.”
Voldemort turned with surprise at hearing Harry’s voice, and barely vanished in time as Harry conjured a deadly wall of impaling spikes that fell in the spot where he had just stood.
“I’m surprised at you, Harry,” Voldemort said as he reappeared just seven meters to Harry’s right. “I didn’t think you were capable of such a viscous attack.”
“You have no idea what I’m capable of,” Harry said as he shot another spell at Voldemort that cut through his shield and placed a long cut along his right jaw line.
“You’ll pay for that,” Voldemort said as he shot a spell at Harry.
Harry’s shield blocked the attack and Harry immediately sent a spell back at Voldemort that knocked him backwards and strained his shield to it’s maximum. Harry then sent another spell that Voldemort dodged.
“You’re not playing fair, Harry,” Voldemort said as he shot off a spell that Harry deflected into the forest. “We’re supposed to be taking turns.”
“The way you were when you dumped me in the lake you mean?” Harry asked as he sent another spell that Voldemort countered.
“You aren’t still upset about that are you?” Voldemort asked as Harry sidestepped his hex.
“I’ll get over it,” Harry said. “Threatening to kill my girlfriend may stick with me for a while though.”
Voldemort stumbled back as part of a spell from Harry made it through his shield and collided with his chest. He was still gasping for air when Harry’s next spell turned the ground he was standing on to a pool of molten lava. He was barely able to jump out of the way before his feet started to burn.
There was no time for him to recover though as Harry reigned a barrage of spells down on him that he was hard pressed to defend against. There was a brief moment when he got the chance to shoot a spell back at Harry, but Harry countered it immediately.
Voldemort was just about to set up for another spell when he noticed that Harry had his wand clasped between his hands raised above his head. Almost too late, he realized what Harry was about to do.
Harry brought his hands down and sent a blast of super chilled air directly at Voldemort, who vanished again just before the spell reached him.
Harry heard screams off to his left, and looked to see the crowd parting. A corridor opened between Harry and Voldemort.
“What will you do now, Harry?” Voldemort asked as he held Rachael from behind. “Your feelings have always been your weakness.”
“What would you know about feelings?” Harry asked as he looked into Rachael’s terrified eyes.
“Enough to know that you’ll do anything I say to keep me from hurting this girl,” Voldemort said with an ugly grin. “Have I picked one that you know? One that you care about? For her sake the answer had better be yes.”
“You can’t stop, Harry,” Rachael said through her tears. “You taught us that on the first day. We both know what you have to do. Just do it.”
Harry raised his wand as Voldemort said, “You’re bluffing. You wouldn’t take the chance of hurting your little friend.”
“You’re right,” Harry said as he uttered a spell that shot from his wand and hit Rachael in the center of her chest.
For a split second, no one breathed. For a moment, they all thought Harry had lost his mind. Their minds all struggled to catch up even as their eyes watched Rachael shrink and slide from Voldemort’s grasp as she was transfigured into a mouse.
Rachael scurried away quickly as Harry drew back his wand and muttered an incantation under his breath. When his arm came forward, a powerful force erupted from the end of his wand that those lining the corridor felt as it passed by. Voldemort realized too late what was happening, and had his shield only half completed when the spell collided with his body and threw him hard into the stone wall of the castle.
Voldemort fell to the ground in a daze as blood streamed from his mouth. The next thing he felt was the searing pain in his forehead that kept getting stronger and stronger. He finally realized what was happening and collected himself enough to push Harry back out of his mind.
“Accio wand,” Harry said, causing Voldemort to realize that he had dropped his wand when he hit the wall.
Harry caught the wand in his left hand and stared at it for a moment. He could feel the gentle pull, and he somehow knew what he had to do.
Harry placed Voldemort’s wand in his right hand along with his own. Almost instantly, the two wands twisted around one another and joined to form a new single wand. A wand with the power of two phoenix feathers at its core. Harry had to marvel at the wonder of it. The two different woods spiraled together gracefully as one wand. Fawks’ tail feathers were reunited once again.
“So, what do you say, Tom?” Harry asked. “First no army, and now no wand. Are you ready to surrender yet?”
Voldemort spit blood out of his mouth before he looked back at Harry and said, “I’ll get my wand back soon enough. I don’t need a wand to kill you, Harry.”
Voldemort vanished suddenly, and Harry ran out onto the grounds to search for where he had gone in case he was trying to escape. Voldemort reappeared in the center of the grounds, standing, though hunched noticeably.
“That wand won’t do you much good now, Harry,” Voldemort said as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Seconds later, it was plain to Harry exactly what Voldemort had meant. Once again, Harry was going to have to face a basilisk. It was one of the few animals who were nearly impervious to wand magic.
Screams rang out from some of the students, and the teachers once again tried to make them go inside. Of course, almost no one moved. They were witnessing the battle that the wizarding world had been waiting sixteen years for, and nothing short of death was going to make them miss it.
The basilisk immediately slithered straight for Harry. Harry tried to hit it with a wand spell, but it just turned and let the spell impact on it’s skin before continuing the attack. Harry ran to draw the basilisk further away from the crowd, and nearly met his end, as Voldemort cut him off and nearly bit his head off.
Luckily for Harry, he was able to vanish and reappear on the other side of the grounds. As Voldemort slithered toward him again, he wondered which one of them would drop from exhaustion first. Somehow, Harry wasn’t liking his chances.
Several times, it proceeded the same way. Then Harry made a critical mistake. He had become too predictable in the distance he would move when he vanished. He reappeared after too long a time, and wasn’t in time to defend against the basilisk tail that was swinging directly for him. It hit Harry squarely in the chest and sent him flying ten meters through the air with a hard landing. He wasn’t even able to stand up again before he had to roll quickly to the side to avoid the basilisk’s snapping jaws
Harry made it to his feet and started to run, but the tail swung around again and pounded him hard in the back. Harry went for another flight, but was able to roll through his landing to come to a stop at the feet of the students.
“You have to do it now, Harry,” Ginny said as she ran to him from the crowd. “I know you don’t want to, but it may be your only chance. Please, Harry. Do it for me.”
Harry knew exactly what Ginny was talking about. He stood up and ran a safe distance out onto the grounds. On the way there, he calmed his thoughts. It was a creature he did not want to become, but Ginny had asked it of him, and he refused her nothing.
‘Animagia transforma,’ Harry thought. Harry’s transformation began, and everyone watched in amazement. Even Voldemort stopped half way to his target out of surprise.
Harry had never felt so powerful in his life. The creature he was becoming had unimaginable strength. Harry kept his eyes closed through the entire transformation, but he could tell the instant it was complete. He felt strange. Not like he had expected. Harry raised his head and stretched out his… wings?
“Yeah!” Ron exclaimed as he looked at what his friend had become.
“Oh, my…” McGonagal began but was never able to finish.
“Wicked,” was the response of several of those present.
“Interesting,” Dumbledore said as if he had not been totally surprised.
“’es beu’iful,” Hagrid said in awe.
There before them all stood an extremely large dragon with bluish white scales, and gigantic wings that were being flexed experimentally. The dragon looked over at them and they could all see the brilliant green eyes staring down on them.
Ginny stepped forward and yelled, “I love you, Harry Potter. Now get in there and kick his bum."
The reaction they all saw from the dragon was something they could only interpret as a smile. Doing otherwise, considering the size of the razor sharp teeth that were exposed, would seem almost gruesome.
Harry compressed his body closer to the ground before launching himself upwards with a spread of his wings. It was a magnificent feeling for Harry, and quite a show for those still on the ground.
Harry wasted no time in locating his target. Voldemort was coiled up in the spot where he had stopped to watch Harry transform. Harry sped toward the basilisk and opened his mouth to deliver a fire blast as he glided overhead.
Voldemort was annoyed by the fire he took in the face, but he stayed focused, and as Harry passed overhead he propelled his snake body as high into the sky as he could get. One bite is all it would take for the poison to begin killing Harry. On this attempt anyway, he was just short as Harry raised his tail to avoid the bite.
Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to avoid direct confrontation forever. His fire attack would only act as a diversion. Somehow, he was going to have to get a good bite on Voldemort without giving him the same opportunity.
Harry made a wide circle before coming back on his next attack run. Just as before, he could see that Voldemort was coiling for another jump. Harry gave Voldemort a face full of fire once again as he passed a little closer, but as Voldemort jumped, Harry turned his agile dragon body into a vertical dive for the ground. Voldemort jumped past him as he righted himself just short of the ground and used his powerful wings to keep him in the air as he reached out with the sharp claws on his feet and caught Voldemort’s tale.
Harry flapped his wings as hard as he could and Volemort was jerked upside down as Harry carried him high into the air. Voldemort began to fold himself in half and slither up his own body in an effort to get to Harry, but before he could, Harry let go of him.
Voldemort hit the ground with a sickening crash and lay still. Harry circled him for some time trying to determine if he was actually dead. Somehow he doubted that the fall would have killed him, but it may have knocked him out sufficiently for Harry to sneak in and get a good bite on him. Harry landed and walked toward Voldemort slowly looking for any signs of movement. He was well within range when he got his answer.
The basilisk suddenly came to life and wrapped itself around Harry in a powerful grip and pinned his wings so he couldn’t fly away. Harry knew the head would be coming in for the kill very soon, so he decided to see just how powerful his dragon body was. Harry put all the force he could muster into expanding his wings and pushing outwards with his short but powerful arms. He could feel the basilisk’s muscles giving way, and just as the head came into view, Harry burst free.
The head was still coming for him, but Harry reached out and wrapped his mighty hands around the snake just behind the jaw and clapped down hard. Voldemort couldn’t move his head around enough to get a bite on Harry. Harry had him where he wanted him, but that might not last. So, he had to take the advantage while he could.
Harry again spread his wings and launched himself into the air with Voldemort. Once he was high enough, Harry swung a foot up and caught the sharp talons on Voldemort’s snake body. With a powerful thrust, they punctured deep inside the body. Harry dragged his foot downwards and sliced open three long gashes that spilled blood profusely.
Harry could feel Voldemort’s strength waning. He knew that he was doomed. He swooped down out of the sky and dropped the bloodied basilisk on the ground. Harry wanted nothing more than to rip him apart at that moment. He had to be made to pay for all of the pain he had caused. Harry knew just how to do it.
Harry landed back on the ground and changed back into himself once again. Voldemort had also returned to his natural form after hitting the ground. Harry walked near him and pulled a bottle out of his robes along with his new wand.
“I’ve been carrying this around for months just in case I ran into you,” Harry said as he held out the small bottle. “I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”
“I am Lord Voldemort,” Voldemort said as he lay dying.
“You are Tom Riddle,” Harry yelled, unable to contain the anger that was brewing in him. “You are the lord of nothing and no one now.”
“I will survive,” Voldemort said defiantly. “I am the greatest wizard that ever lived.”
“Not for long,” Harry said as he held up the bottle and pointed his wand at it. “Transpotata internalimay Voldemort.”
“What have you done?” Voldemort asked as he clutched at his wounds.
“Made you into what you hate the most,” Harry said. “Now I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you died as a muggle and I’m going to speed that death along for you a little more. Accio sword.”
Harry raised his hand and waited. Seconds later everyone could see the light reflecting off of a sword as it descended toward Harry. Harry closed his hand on the sword, and prepared to swing it at Voldemort.
“Harry, stop!” Ginny cried as she ran over to him. One look in his eyes was enough to tell her that he had given in to the dark thoughts that were a part of him. “Harry, listen to me. This isn’t you. It’s the part of Voldemort that you have inside of you that’s making you want to do this. Fight it, Harry. Calm your mind. Remember who you are.”
Ginny reached out and touched his hand, and it all became suddenly clear. It was true. Tom Riddle wasn’t a threat to anyone anymore. He had already seen to that. He was dying.
Harry dropped the sword, and pulled Ginny into a hug instead. He tried to convince himself that it was finally over, but he knew that it wasn’t. There was a human being laying there dying on the ground. Harry knew him better than anyone. Part of him was part of Harry.
Harry led Ginny over to where Tom Riddle lay bleeding, and he knelt down as he said, “I can’t do anything to stop you from dying, but I’ll stay with you until you do. You don’t have to be alone.”
“I’ve been alone all of my life,” Voldemort said.
“I know,” Harry said. “I wouldn’t wish your life on anyone. You’ve spent your entire life seeking power. All those years you just never knew where to look for it. I didn’t find it until this year. I’d like you to experience it just once before you die.”
Harry took hold of Ginny’s hand once again, and the familiar power of their love coursed through him. Harry placed his other hand into Voldemort’s.
As soon as Harry opened the mental channel that would let Tom Riddle experience what he was feeling, Tom took in a sharp breath, and his eyes seemed to soften slightly. It was only seconds later that tears began to trickle down his face for the first time since his childhood.
“Harry…” Voldemort said as his life was ending. “I… never… knew.”
“I know, Tom,” Harry said softly. “Just rest.”
With that, Tom Riddle closed his eyes for the last time.
“Harry?” Ron said softly as he and Hermione walked close to them. “Are you alright?”
“It’s over, Ron,” Harry said. “He’s dead.”
“Yeah,” Ron said. “I’m sorry, Harry. I know it can’t be easy to kill another person.”
“It isn’t,” Harry said as he stood and put his arms around Ginny again and buried his head in her shoulder.
“It’s a terrible thing to ask a person to do to another,” Dumbledore said as he walked into range of the group. “Hopefully none of us will ever have to do that again.”
“Do you want us to leave you alone for awhile, Harry?” Hermione asked.
“No,” Harry said as he took his tear stained face away from Ginny’s shoulder. “You’re here because you care. Tom Riddle was the way he was because he thought no one cared about him. I don’t want you to ever leave me alone. I always have time for my friends.”
“I think you have a few more that are anxious to congratulate you, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “I know it isn’t exactly praise you’re looking for right now, but…”
“I know,” Harry said. “They have to get it out somehow. I just can’t do it for long. This cut on my back is going to need Madame Pomfrey soon.”
“I’ll bring your dinner up to the hospital wing for you, Harry,” Ron said as they were walking back and nearing where the teachers were having a hard time holding the students back. “I’d hate to see the kind of attention you’d be in for in the Great Hall tonight.”
“Oh my goodness!” Harry exclaimed. “I forgot. I haven’t done my last N.E.W.T. yet.”
Examiner Marchbanks was close enough to hear what Harry said, so she walked over to him and said, “Harry, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I think what we just witnessed would be enough to pass what ever dueling test we wanted to give you. By the way, impressive animagus form. Somehow I don’t think it would do any good to put it on that secret list. Not now that a few hundred students know about it. It’ll be on the front page by tomorrow.”
“I know,” Harry said with a smile. “I’ve been on the front page before. Hopefully this will be the last time.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Ron said.
“What do you mean, a week?” Ron asked in panic.
“I mean at least seven days, Mr. Weasley,” Madame Pomfrey said.
“But that can’t be right,” Ron said. “I’ve been hurt loads of times, and it’s never taken you that long to heal me.”
“I don’t recall you ever taking a blow to the head from a bludger,” Pomfrey said. “Bloody fool game. Such a barbaric sport in this day and age. Why don’t they teach children that here at Hogwarts?”
“But the match is in four days,” Ron said ignoring her last statements. “How am I supposed to field a team without a chaser?”
“You should have thought of that before you allowed this to happen,” Pomfrey said.
“It was an accident,” Ron said a bit too loudly. “I was at the other end of the pitch.”
“You are the captain, are you not?” Pomfrey asked. “You are the one who allowed them to practice with that bludger.”
“Explain to me exactly how we have a quidditch practice without using one of the balls we’ll face during the game,” Ron challenged.
“I specialize in healing, Mr. Weasley,” Pomfrey answered, “not lunacy.”
Ron walked out of the hospital wing to find the rest of the team waiting to hear the news.
“Why do I get the feeling this isn’t going to be good news?” Ginny asked as she read her brother’s face.
“Seven days,” Ron said. “He may not even be able to watch the match.”
“What?” The team asked in unison.
“I know,” Ron said, holding up his hand to stop the comments that he knew would be coming. “There isn’t time to train a new chaser before the biggest match of the year.”
“Maybe we can get Harlow back,” Seamus suggested. “He is the alternate after all.”
“I can’t do that,” Ron said with a surprised look. “He’s at St. Mungo’s with his dad. I can’t call him away from his bedside for the match. Besides, he isn’t that good. We still wouldn’t stand a chance even if he was playing.”
“What about Harry?” Seamus asked.
“He’s in America this week,” Ron said. “Bane sent him over there as a guest instructor to teach them all about magic circles. He won’t be back until Saturday, just before the match.”
“I’ll talk to Professor Bane and ask him if we can get a message to Harry,” Ginny said.
“What good will it do,” Ron asked making no effort to hide the depression he was sinking into. “Even after I’ve reminded him on numerous occasions, he still hasn’t ordered a new broom. If he had, it would have been here by now.”
“Excuse me,” Ginny said, “but I think you’re forgetting that Harry has been just a tad busy over the last few weeks. Did you really expect that to be the first thing on his mind?”
“I guess you’re right,” Ron said. “It isn’t his fault. The fates are just working overtime against us in this match.”
Ginny knocked lightly on Professor Bane’s office door, and his voice answered immediately and told her to come in. Taking the precaution to summon a shield charm, Ginny opened the door and walked inside.
“Have you got a minute?” Ginny asked.
“I might even have two,” Bane said with a smile as he sat behind his desk. “What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if there was a way to get a message over to Harry,” Ginny said.
“Do you miss him that much already?” Bane asked.
“Yes, actually,” Ginny answered, “but that isn’t why I need to get a message to him.
Ginny explained the problem to Bane, and Bane’s brow furrowed in thought before he said, “That does present a bit of a problem. Ordinarily, it would be a simple thing. I could let you stick your head in the floo network and it would pop out of a fireplace at the school in Salem.”
“Why can’t we do that now?” Ginny asked.
“This is exam week in Salem,” Bane explained. “ It’s like the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams here. The floo network and all other instant communications systems have been disabled until the end of the exams. The students have been known to find unusual ways to attempt to cheat there. The only way to get a message to him now would be by owl. It may take an owl four days or more just to make the trip.”
“That long?” Ginny asked desperately.
“Maybe less,” Bane said hesitantly, “if it was a strong swift owl. Salem is a bit further away than London.”
“Then there isn’t any time to lose,” Ginny said as she turned to leave. “Thanks, Professor.”
“Good luck,” Bane called before Ginny shut the door behind her.
Ginny headed straight to the owlery in a dead run. Once she arrived, she began to hurriedly jot down a note to Harry that said simply: Harry, Quidditch disaster imminent. Short one player. Please hurry back. Ginny
Ginny held up her arm and called Hedwig down. Hedwig dropped swiftly and landed on the small table in front of Ginny.
“I really need your help, Hedwig,” Ginny said getting several soft hoots in response. “I have to get this note to Harry in America. I know it’s a long trip, but this has to get to Harry as soon as possible.”
Hedwig turned and stuck out a leg to allow Ginny to tie the message on. Once it was in place, Ginny ran her hand over Hedwig’s feathers gently.
“Thanks, Hedwig,” Ginny said. “Have a safe journey.”
Hedwig flapped her wings as she flew out of the owlery and flew west away from the castle. All Ginny could do was wait. She was hopeful. She knew that, if any owl could get the message to Harry, Hedwig was the one.
Ron went to bed late Friday night in a foul temper. He had gotten worse with each day that passed. He had managed to fill the chaser position earlier that day. He felt that it was out of desperation more than anything else, and he still wasn’t happy about it. It wasn’t that Neville was a bad flyer, it was just that he hadn’t had time to train with the team. It would be an impossible task for anyone to accomplish in one day.
Ron’s dreams that night were fitful. He just couldn’t get it out of his mind. Over and over again the match against Slytherin played in his head. He had to live through every mistake repeatedly as he let through more goals than he had the entire time he had been playing quidditch. Neville always spent the match looking for where he had misplaced his broom. Ginny, distraught that Harry hadn’t made it back from America, stopped looking for the snitch and burst into tears for the entire match. For a quidditch game, things couldn’t get much worse.
Ron began to tremble violently as he sat on his broom as if some unseen force was shaking him. He looked around to see who might be hexing him, and looked down on the field to see Harry yelling something to him that his mind couldn’t quite make sense of.
“I can’t hear you, Harry,” Ron said as he began to talk in his sleep.
“I said wake up,” Harry said as he shook Ron once more.
“What are you doing to me, Harry,” Ron said still asleep. “I’ll fall off of my broom.”
“Fall out of bed more like it,” Harry said.
“What?” Ron asked.
“Wake up,” Harry said once again.
Something snapped in Ron’s head, and he shot up in bed and looked with wide eyes at Harry sitting beside him. He blinked his eyes a few times to try to get them to refocus, but he was sure it was Harry.
“Harry,” Ron said. “I was just dreaming…”
“So I gathered,” Harry said.
“What are you doing here?” Ron asked as his mind began to clear.
“I got Ginny’s note,” Harry said. “I came back as soon as I could.”
“What time is it?” Ron asked.
“Four in the morning,” Harry said.
“Why did you wake me up?” Ron asked with a yawn.
“I have something I want to show you,” Harry said with a smile.
“What is it?” Ron asked.
“I’ll have to take you to see it,” Harry said. “Hurry and get dressed.”
“I guess I might as well,” Ron said. “Anything would be better than going back to the dream I was having.”
A few minutes later, Harry led Ron out of the castle, a
nd Ron asked, “Where are we going, Harry?”
“To Hagrid’s,” Harry said.
“Do you think he’s up this early?” Ron asked.
“He’s up,” Harry said. “He always gets up by this time.”
“How do you know?” Ron asked.
“I’ve come down to visit with him this early before,” Harry said.
“How many times?” Ron asked.
“A few,” Harry said.
Harry knocked on Hagrid’s door, and only waited for a few seconds before it opened.
“’arry,” Hagrid said. “When did ya get back?”
“Just a little while ago,” Harry said as he stepped inside.
“’ello Ron,” Hagrid said. “Didn’ expect to see you ‘ere so early.”
“Harry said he had something he wanted to show me,” Ron said.
“So, yer finally showin it to ‘im, ‘arry?” Hagrid asked.
“I think he’s overdue for this surprise,” Harry said as he placed his hand on a blanket that was covering something in the corner.
“What?” Ron asked just before Harry pulled the blanket off.
Once the surprise had been revealed, Ron just stood there with his mouth hanging open, unable to put what he was thinking into words.
“So, do you still need a player for quidditch?” Harry asked.
“Welcome back, Harry,” Ron said as he continued to stare. “I can’t tell you how thankful Neville is going to be. Wow.”
It wasn’t until half past seven before Harry and Ron walked back into the Gryffindor common room. As Ron walked through the portrait hole ahead of Harry, Hermione spotted him as she came down the stairs from the boy’s dormitories.
“Where have you been?” Hermione asked. “I went to wake you up and… Harry!”
“Morning Hermione,” Harry said.
“When did you get back?” Hermione asked as she walked over to give him a hug.
“Early this morning,” Harry said as he hugged her back.
“How was America?” Hermione asked as she noticed that Harry was holding something covered with a large cloak.
“It was… different,” Harry said. “Interesting, but different.”
“Souvenir from America, Harry?” Hermione asked as she pointed to what he was holding.
“No,” Harry said with a grin. “Just something I was anxious to get back to.”
“You won’t believe it,” Ron said. “Go on, Harry. Show her.”
Harry took off the cloak to reveal a crimson shaft of highly polished wood. Hermione’s mouth fell open as she looked down the shaft to see a bundle of crimson and gold twigs that ended in a sharp point. She looked back up the shaft just as Harry spun it around to reveal the words, ‘Spirit of Gryffindor’ in fine gold script lettering.
“Harry,” Hermione began, “where did you get that broom?”
“He didn’t get it, Hermione,” Ron said with a proud smile. “He made it.”
“Made it?” Hermione asked not sure if she heard him correctly. “But how? When?”
“He’s been working on it since he came back from St. Mungo’s,” Ron said. “He’s had it hidden down at Hagrid’s cabin. That was why he was sneaking off to go and see Hagrid all the time. I can’t believe Ginny knew about it and she never told me.”
“Does it fly?” Hermione asked. “Broom construction is a very complicated thing to get right.”
“Oh, it flies all right,” Ron said. “We’ve been testing it since five this morning.”
“So, Neville is off the hook then?” Hermione asked. “Harry is going to play?”
“You got it,” Ron said excitedly. “I can’t wait to see the looks on the Slytherin faces when we walk out onto the pitch with Harry.”
“Ron,” Harry began, “you take the broom up to our room and let Neville know about the change.”
“What are you going to do?” Ron asked.
“I’m going to say good morning to Ginny,” Harry said with a smile.
“But, she hasn’t woken up yet,” Hermione said before she realized what Harry was going to try. “You’ll never get up the stairs, Harry.”
“Oh, really?” Harry asked as he walked to the base of the stairs.
Harry pulled out his wand, and an instant later, Hermione stood staring at herself dressed in Harry’s clothes.
“You have got to be kidding,” Hermione said. “Aside from the slightly embarrassing fact that you are now so intimately aquatinted with me, it will never work, Harry. Surely the person who originally put the alarm spell on those stairs would have planned for something like this.”
“Don’t worry,” Harry said with Hermione’s voice. “I’m not going to do anything inappropriate on the way there. I’ll transform back into myself when I get inside the room.”
“Well I should hope so,” Hermione said. “Ginny would be fairly surprised to wake up to find me kissing her I would think.”
Harry smiled as he turned and ran up two steps at a time. Ron and Hermione waited for the alarm they were expecting, but none ever came.
“Who would have guessed the answer was so simple,” Ron said.
“Simple?” Hermione asked looking at him. “Do you know of any other student in the school who could have pulled off a transfiguration like that?”
“Now that you mention it,” Ron began, “no. I just wish he had picked another girl to transfigure himself into. Now I’ll have to make you prove who you are every time I want to kiss you.”
“It kind of makes you wonder what other strange things Harry might be capable of,” Hermione said.
“As much as I wanted to know all of his secrets before,” Ron said, “now I’m just thinking it may be better if I don’t ask.”
Later that morning, having successfully smuggled Harry and his broom out of the castle, the Gryffindor team assembled in their dressing area for the quidditch match. Of course, they were all surprised to walk in and find Harry already there and dressed as if he was going to play. It didn’t take long for everyone to notice Harry’s broom leaning against the wall behind him. The broom got so much attention that Ron gave up on the idea of giving pre-match instructions.
“The Slytherin team is walking on to the field now,” Ron said as he peeked out. “Remember, I want all of us to walk out first and let Harry stay behind for a few seconds. Once we’ve met the Slytherin team, and they think we’re going to play one player short, Harry comes out.”
“Are you sure that isn’t just a bit too dramatic?” Ginny asked.
“There can’t be enough drama today, Ginny,” Ron said. “This is the last quidditch match I’ll ever play in. The stands are overflowing with people who have come to the school to watch the match. The excitement surrounding this game is almost as strong as that for the quidditch world cup.”
“That’s certainly an exaggeration,” Ginny said.
“I said almost,” Ron said defensively. “The point is, they all came to see a good show. I’m just trying to start it off right.”
“Fine,” Ginny said.
Ron opened the door and the Gryffindor team, minus Harry walked out onto the field and stood matched up with their counterparts. The Slytherin team looked at the empty space in front of Draco and looked at Ginny confused.
“You aren’t really going to play this game without a seeker, are you, Ron?” Draco asked. “Ginny would have to score more goals then she’s likely to in order for you to win.”
“Oh, we have a seeker,” Ron said with a grin as he turned to look behind him.
The noise from the crowd rose to a deafening level the instant Harry stepped out onto the pitch. The boy who lived, the defeater of the Dark Lord, and most importantly, the best seeker ever to play at Hogwarts was certainly a crowd favorite.
“Welcome back, Harry,” Draco said as Harry took his place in front of him.
“Thanks, Draco,” Harry said as he brought his broom into view.
“Nice broom,” Draco said as he studied it.
“Thanks,” Harry said as he turned the handle so Draco could read it.
“I should have guessed it,” Draco said. “Is it fast?”
“We’ll find out,” Harry said with a grin.
“Mount your brooms,” Madam Hooch said as everyone instantly got ready to fly. “Alright, into the air with you.”
Harry took off into the sky like a rifle shot as the others followed behind him. Harry leveled out high above the pitch to wait for the snitch to be released. Draco leveled out beside him just a few seconds later.
“Well, I guess that answers my question,” Draco said. “I’ll have to keep my eyes sharp today.”
“Well, I haven’t played in quite a while,” Harry said. “I may be a little rusty.”
“If only I were that lucky,” Draco laughed as he flew off to patrol a different area.
The balls were released, and the final quidditch match of the year began. Ginny caught the quaffle first and raced for the Slytherin goal. The Slytherin keeper bit on Ginny’s fake and she was able to toss the quaffle through the right hoop.
Slytherin took possession of the quaffle, and raced for the Gryffindor goals in a hammer formation. It was named the hammer formation because the chaser with the quaffle flew with the other chaser protecting his rear and the two beaters flying in front to hammer through anyone who stood in their way. Ron stood his ground as they approached, and at the last second the beaters split off and the quaffle was already flying toward his left goal. Ron was facing in the wrong direction, so he leaned all the way back on his broom and caught the quaffle just in time between his outstretched hands.
Ron sat up and threw the quaffle as far as he could straight down the field. The Slytherin players were still trying to get back into position, but the Gryffindor chasers that had stayed behind for just such a possibility caught the quaffle when they were already in a dead sprint to the Slytherin goals. Ginny held the quaffle and made the same fake move she had the last time, and the Slytherin keeper guarded his right goal. Unfortunately for him, Ginny had passed the quaffle to Dennis Creevey, who stuffed it directly through the center hoop.
Unfortunately for the Slytherin team, things didn’t get much better as the game went on. Ginny and Dennis went on to score three more goals, while the Slytherin efforts had been thwarted by Ron as he caught everything sent his way.
Down five goals to none, it was little wonder that the frustration of the Slytherin might drive them to do something drastic. The Slytherin beaters batted the bludger between them as they hung behind while the rest of their team was following the charging Gryffindor chasers. One of the beaters hit the bludger as hard as he could, but it was not in the direction of play as would have been expected.
Ron caught sight of the bludger, but it was too late. He took the force of the blow directly in his midsection as all of the air left his body. He was propelled backward into the center goal and crashed into it hard with his back. Ron doubled over his broom and held on for all he was worth. He knew what was about to happen, so he aimed his broom at the ground and prayed. He completely blacked out just two meters from the ground and fell off of his broom.
Unlike many other games, in quidditch play never stops unless the captain calls a time out. Unfortunately for the Gryffindors, their captain was laying sprawled out on the ground with nurses rushing out to check on him. So, after the Slytherin keeper finally managed to block one of the Gryffindor shots, the Slytherin had a wide open shot at the Gryffindor hoops. The Slytherin beater who hit the bludger had to land to be given a stiff warning, but the damage had already been done.
One of the Gryffindor beaters tried to guard the goals, but that took her out of play to protect her chasers. The Slytherin managed to steal the quaffle away from Dennis and bring it back up the field to score another easy goal.
Suddenly the tide had turned in the game, as the Slytherin team scored four more easy goals to take the lead in the game. Ron had finally been revived down on the field, and practically pushed the nurse off of him to mount his broom and rocket back up to his keeper position. His temper was on fire, and his determination had never been higher. He would have pulled out his wand and hexed the entire Slytherin team if he had thought he wouldn’t be thrown out of the game for it.
Ginny fought her way through the rough Slytherin defense, and managed to stuff the quaffle just through the left hoop. The Slytherin took possession of the quaffle, and began their run when they noticed that Ron was back in front of the goals. They could also see that the look in his eye was daring one of them to try for a goal.
Harry tried to stay focused on what he was supposed to be doing. Knowing that Ron was back in the air made that much easier. Harry was still circling high above the pitch when he saw it. The snitch was on the move against the edge of the pitch not more than a foot off of the ground. Harry put his broom into a steep dive, but he could see that Draco had seen it as well, and even with a faster broom Harry would be hard pressed to reach it before Draco did.
Harry willed all the speed he could get out of his broom, and the gap closed quickly. He watched Draco reach out his hand in order to grab the snitch.
The snitch was within reach. Draco was just about to clamp his hand down on it when Harry suddenly appeared at his side with his own hand at the ready to make the grab.
“I don’t believe it!” the announcer exclaimed. “Draco Malfoy has caught the snitch, but so has Harry Potter! An amazing development ladies and gentlemen! They both caught it! That means that one hundred and fifty points will be awarded to Slytherin. It also means that one hundred and fifty points will be awarded to Gryffindor. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a tie!”
“I thought I had you that time,” Draco said as he held on to half of the snitch.
“So did I,” Harry said as he held on to the other half.
“So, what do they do in the case of a tie anyway?” Draco asked.
“I’m not sure,” Harry said. “Something tells me they won’t just let it end though.”
It took Madam Hooch nearly fifteen minutes to consult with Professor Dumbledore and the other teachers before one of them was able to find the page in the rulebook that discussed ties. As one might expect, they were a rare occurrence.
“Six shots,” Madam Hooch told Ron and Rayburn the Slytherin captain. “One for every member of the team. Each member of the team may take the shot themselves, or elect one person to take all of the shots. Only the keeper for the other team will be allowed in the air during the shots. No other balls may be brought into play other than the quaffle. If, after each team has taken all shots, there is still a tie, the snitch will be released again. Each team will then be required to select one member of their team who did not play as their seeker to attempt to catch it.”
“I’ll take all of the shots myself,” the Slytherin captain, Rayburn said.
“I’ll talk to my team and let you know,” Ron said.
“I say Ginny should do it,” Dennis said after Ron had explained everything to them.
“But, you’ve played chaser all year, Dennis,” Ginny said. “You deserve it more.”
“But, you’re a better chaser than I am,” Dennis said. “I want you to do it for the team.”
All of the other team members agreed, and Ron informed Madam Hooch. Slytherin was to take their shots first.
Ron mounted his broom and flew into position in front of the Gryffindor goals. He looked to the other end of the pitch where the Slytherin captain was already waiting to begin his first run as some of his previous anger began to return. The whistle blew, and the charge began.
The burly Slytherin didn’t try anything fancy on his first run. He shot in a straight line toward Ron. Ron saw the look in his eye and knew that he wasn’t planning to swerve or pull up short. Ron braced himself for the impact without taking his eyes off of the quaffle.
By the time Rayburn had reached him, Ron had moved three meters away from the goal hoops. The impact could be heard on the other end of the pitch. Ron was pushed back toward the goals, and as Rayburn extended his arm to make a try with the quaffle, Ron reached up with his own hand and took the quaffle away from him. One shot had been blocked.
Rayburn gave Ron a nasty look as he took back the quaffle and sped to the other end of the pitch for another shot. Once again he came straight on and slammed into Ron. Again he tried for a shot as he pushed Ron back, and Ron contorted himself around and swiped the quaffle just before it crossed the threshold of the center hoop. Two shots blocked.
On the next run, Rayburn made it look as though he was going to slam into Ron again, but swerved at the last minute in an attempt to finesse one past him. Ron was ready for a fake though, and he caught the quaffle well short of the left hoop. Three shots blocked.
Rayburn was getting increasingly frustrated, and Ron knew it. So, it was no surprise to him when he went back to ramming into Ron on the very next play. Once again, Ron was able to stretch out and grab the quaffle just as it left Rayburn’s hand. Four down, two to go.
As if he hadn’t been before, Ron was getting angrier and angrier with every scoring run. Rayburn was trying to beat him to a pulp so he wouldn’t be able to defend against a shot. Ron wanted to send his own message to Rayburn though, and as soon as he started another run, Ron sped out from his position in front of the goals and sped head to head for Rayburn.
Rayburn got a smile on his face as he saw what he had driven Ron to. He was by far the bigger and beefier of the two, and he was sure Ron would be knocked out by a head on collision with him. What he wasn’t prepared for though was for Ron to swerve slightly just before they would have collided. He also wasn’t prepared when Ron grabbed the front of his broom and gave it a tug as he passed, sending him into a nasty spin. Having to use both hands to keep from being slung off of his own broom, Rayburn dropped the quaffle. Before it could hit the ground, Ron had made the turn and dived for the ground. He caught the quaffle as his feet skimmed the grass. One shot to go.
Once Rayburn had managed to steady himself, he had to go down to retrieve the quaffle from the ground in the center of the pitch where Ron had left it. He only had one shot left. This one had to count.
Ron moved a safe distance away from the goals as Rayburn started his last run. He knew that what he had done during the last play had probably made Rayburn even more intent on killing him, but he was just as determined that nothing get past him.
The impact made many of those watching cringe. When they smashed together, Rayburn put a hand out and caught Ron under his chin and whipped his head back. At the same time, Ron closed both of his hands on the quaffle and ripped it up and out of Rayburn’s hands as he was bent backwards by the hand under his chin.
Rayburn kept pushing him with everything he had. Ron could tell that they had enough momentum built up to take them to the center goal hoop. In fact, Ron was fairly sure that Rayburn intended to stuff him through the hoop along with the quaffle.
Having his head pushed back, Ron found it easy to keep track of how close he was getting to the hoop. He was lined up perfectly, and as his head reached the hoop, he tossed the quaffle up and back so that it flew over the top of the hoop even as he was pushed through it.
A loud roar went up from the crowd, and a whistle was blowing somewhere in the distance. Ron didn’t have time to worry about those. The thing he was most worried about was Rayburn’s fist as it pounded into his face repeatedly.
The next thing Ron was aware of was opening his eyes and looking up into the face of Madam Pomfrey as she was saying, “…barbaric students. It’s a wonder they don’t all end up like this.”
“How are you feeling, Ron?” Harry asked as he looked down at him.
“Like Grawp just stepped on me,” Ron managed to say in spite of his swollen lip.
“If it’s any consolation,” Harry began with a grin, “you look worse.”
“Thanks, Harry,” Ron said. “Now I feel loads better.”
“No problem,” Harry said.
“I don’t know,” Ginny said as she came into Ron’s limited view. “I think it might be an improvement.”
“I love you too,” Ron said with as much humor as he could muster.
“It would help if you didn’t talk right now,” Madam Pomfrey said.
“Who won?” Ron asked.
“I said don’t talk,” Madam Pomfrey repeated.
“It isn’t over yet,” Harry said. “Ginny hasn’t taken her shots. We thought we’d wait for you.”
Ten minutes later, Madam Pomfrey gave up on trying to convince Ron to go to the Hospital wing. He was refusing as strongly as possible even though his left eye was nearly swollen shut, and he had lost most of the feeling in is lower lip. He insisted that they prop him up where he was so that he could watch Ginny. He was wondering if it was worth ignoring Pomfrey’s warnings as they sat him up and the added weight on his face made it feel as if it would slide clear off his body.
Ginny took to the air seconds later and waited for the Slytherin keeper to get into position. She knew that Ron had stopped all of the Slytherin shots. All she had to do was score one goal and Gryffindor would win. She knew right away, that she would not employ the same strategy Rayburn had. Otherwise, she and Ron would be carried to the hospital wing together.
Ginny waited a few seconds after the keeper was in position before she began to speed around the outside perimeter of the pitch. Rayburn had been bent on direct confrontation. Ginny decided to try to attack from the flank. Ginny came even with the Slytherin goals and pulled left so she would pass in front of all three goals. She knew it wouldn’t be an easy shot. The severe angle, and the high speed she was carrying would make it difficult to line up a shot even if there were no keeper defending the hoops. The crowd took a collective breath as Ginny tossed the quaffle at the far hoop. It was an amazing shot, but the Slytherin keeper was able to get just enough of a finger on it to redirect the quaffle’s flight, sending it just wide of the hoop.
Ginny gathered the quaffle and sped back to the other end of the pitch. This time she didn’t pause to see if the keeper was ready. She got to the Gryffindor end of the pitch and immediately turned and headed straight down the middle of the pitch just as Rayburn had done. When she got in range, she performed a double dipping triple fake that nearly made the Slytherin keeper fall off of his broom trying to keep up with it. Unfortunately, even though the quaffle passed by the keeper untouched, it was just slightly low as it hit the lower part of the hoop and rebounded off into the keeper’s arms.
Ginny took the quaffle to the other end of the pitch and sat there for several seconds deciding on a strategy. She took off with the quaffle back up the middle of the pitch just as she had before, but less than five seconds later she dived for the ground. Ginny leveled off just above the ground and sped straight toward the base of the Slytherin center hoop. Just a few meters before she would have crashed into the center pole, the crowd winced as they watched her pull up sharply into a vertical climb. She was headed straight for the underside of the Slytherin keeper. He braced himself, not liking the thought of what a broom handle to his backside would do. All he could do was place himself in her way though.
Just before Ginny reached the Slytherin keeper, she performed a fantastic spinning swerve maneuver that made her pass by the keeper on his left side. As she passed by, Ginny tossed the quaffle as hard as she could.
“Gryffindor wins!” The announcer screamed as thunderous cheers erupted from the crowd. “Ginny Weasley has done it! What a fantastic scoring run! I wouldn’t be surprised if they name that one after her!”
An hour later, Harry and Ginny walked into the hospital wing to find Hermione sitting at Ron’s bedside.
“Well,” Harry said, “he certainly looks better.”
“Madam Pomfrey gave him a potion that took most of the swelling down,” Hermione said. “She wants to keep him overnight to make sure he doesn’t have any more serious head injuries.”
“I’m alright,” Ron said.
“Sure you are,” Harry said. “Do you feel up to talking to someone? There’s a guy outside that wanted to see you.”
“Who is it?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry said. “He said his name was Sherwood. Came up after the match and said he just had to meet you. I didn’t think you would want to miss the chance to talk to a fan.”
Ron laughed and then cringed from the pain of it as he said, “Sure. Let him in.”
Harry walked back outside and brought in a tall man with broad shoulders and short red hair.
“Mr. Weasley, my name is Tobias Sherwood,” Sherwood said. “I just wanted to tell you, that was some of the most amazing keeper work I’ve seen in a long time. I think you have some real promise.”
“Thanks,” Ron said, “but this was my last match. I’ll be graduating in a few days. Then I’m planning on becoming an auror.”
“Oh,” Sherwood said looking a bit disappointed. “That is too bad. I had thought that perhaps you would wish to continue playing quidditch.”
“What do you mean continue?” Ron asked confused.
“Professionally,” Sherwood said.
“Sure,” Ron said. “That would be my dream job, but in reality I don’t have a chance.”
“Don’t be too sure,” Sherwood said with a grin. “Quite frankly, I came here today just to try to get an autograph from Harry. I wasn’t expecting to have you fall into my lap.”
“What?” Ron asked more confused than before.
“Are you familiar with the Chuddley Cannons, Mr. Weasley?” Sherwood asked.
“Of course I am,” Ron said. “They’re only the best team in history.”
“I work for the Cannons, Mr. Weasley,” Sherwood said. “I scout new talent to fill vacancies. As of right now we have a vacancy for an alternate keeper. Interested?”
“In what?” Ron asked not letting himself believe what he was hearing.
“A job, Mr. Weasley,” Sherwood said. “I want you to come and play for the Cannons.”
Ron’s mouth fell open as he just stared back at Sherwood tying to form a response in his head.
“He’ll take it,” Hermione said.
“Are you sure?” Sherwood asked. “He said he wanted to be an auror.”
“He’ll take it,” Hermione said. “I’ll see to that.”
“Are you a relation of Mr. Weasley?” Sherwood asked.
“I will be soon enough,” Hermione said. “I’m his fiancée.”
“When do I start?” Ron asked still wondering if he was dreaming.
“As soon as you’re recovered and up to it,” Sherwood said. “We have a practice scrimmage against Puddlmeare United in three weeks. We think this is our year to get back to the world cup.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Ron said with a smile. “I’ll be there.”
“Terrific,” Sherwood said. “I’ll contact you after graduation with more information.”
“Thanks,” Ron said as Sherwood turned to go.
“Congratulations, Ron,” Ginny said.
“Thanks,” Ron said. “I guess this means you’ll have to go to the auror training without me, Harry.”
“That’s okay,” Harry said.
Ginny looked into Harry’s eyes and saw something she hadn’t expected. It wasn’t the look of disappointment she had expected. It was the look he always got when he was holding something back. Harry had another secret. She would have to remember to ask him about it later.
“I am going to tell you one last time, Mr. Weasley,” Griphook said very slowly as he tried to keep his temper in check. “There has been no mistake. The money in your vault is exactly what it should be.”
“But that’s impossible,” Arthur said pleading his case as he had on several other occasions. “I kept very careful records. The amount in that vault is certainly not what it should be. I haven’t come close to earning that much money since I’ve been working for the ministry.”
“I made the deposit into your account myself, Mr. Weasley,” Griphook said.
“Then you must have put it into the wrong vault or something,” Arthur said.
“I assure you that there was no mistake,” Griphook said keeping his anger at the insult from his voice. “I followed the instructions exactly as they were given to me.”
“You don’t understand,” Arthur said desperately. “I’ve already asked Fred and George if they were the ones that made the deposit. They said they were trying to figure out a mysterious deposit into their own account.”
“I made several transactions on the behalf of my client
that day,” Griphook said.
“But my son is supposed to be getting married soon,” Arthur said. “Until I get this whole mess straightened out, I can’t tell him how much I can spend on his wedding.”
“Spend it all for all I care, Mr. Weasley,” Griphook said. “It all belongs to you. I don’t know why you can’t just accept that. Good day.”
Griphook walked away and left Arthur with his hand on his forehead. He didn’t know how he could make them understand that a mistake had been made.
Professor McGonagal walked through the portrait hole early on the morning that the house cup was to be awarded. She was shocked to see that her entire house was jammed into the common room at once, and seemed to be in the middle of some kind of meeting.
“I’m sorry,” McGonagal said to the group as they stopped speaking as soon as they saw her. “I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I need to borrow Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger for a moment.”
“You already know how I was going to vote, Harry,” Ron said as he began to walk toward McGonagal. “Just vote for me if I’m not back yet.”
“Same for me, Harry,” Hermione said as she joined Ron.
“What was that all about?” McGonagal asked as they walked back to the portrait hole.
“Sorry, Professor,” Ron said. “Just a bit of student business.”
“I see,” McGonagal said suspiciously.
The three of them walked out of the portrait hole to find Molly Weasley with a worried look on her face.
“Mum,” Ron said. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry, Ron,” Molly said as she gave him a hug. “I just have to tell you something. I just couldn’t bring myself to put it into an owl message.”
“What is it?” Ron asked concerned. “What’s happened?”
“Oh, no,” Molly said. “It’s nothing like that. Everyone is fine. It’s just… Well, there’s a problem at Gringotts that we’ve been trying to get straightened out.”
Molly explained the problem to them as best as she could before a thoughtful Hermione said, “Wait a minute. When was the first time you noticed the account was wrong?”
“Just shortly after the New Year,” Molly said wondering why it might make a difference.
“Wait here,” Hermione said. “If my suspicions are correct, I think I might know someone who can shed some light on all of this.”
Hermione turned and walked back into the common room. A short while later, Hermione returned with Ginny following close behind.
“Hermione told me about what brought you here, mum,” Ginny said with a smile. “You would know that I would have the most honest parents in the country. Anyone else would have accepted the money and never said another word about it.”
“Do you know something about it, Ginny?” Molly asked.
“You have to promise you won’t make a big fuss about it,” Ginny said. “It’s the last thing he needs right now.”
“Who?” Molly asked.
“I was right,” Hermione said. “It was Harry wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Ginny said. “It was part of his inheritance that he gave away.”
“But we can’t…” Molly began.
“He wants you to have it,” Ginny said. “Don’t worry. He still has plenty, believe me. Besides, he wouldn’t take it back now even if you tried.”
“Fred and George, too?” Molly asked as tears came to her eyes.
“Yes,” Ginny said. “And Percy, Charlie, Bill, Ron, Hermione, Neville...”
“Oh, Ginny,” Molly said as tears ran from her eyes. “If you don’t marry Harry you’ll go down in history as the craziest witch of your age.”
“Don’t worry,” Ginny said with a smile. “I have every intention of marrying him the first chance I get.”
Later that evening, everyone gathered in the Great Hall for their last dinner at Hogwarts before the end of the year. They were also waiting for the awarding of the house cup. It was no secret to anyone which house was going to win it. Gryffindor was so far in the lead that no one had a prayer of catching them. The Gryffindor flags had already been hung throughout the Great Hall.
Professor Dumbledore stood from his chair as the students hushed themselves, and he said, “It is with great sadness that we end another year here at Hogwarts. Though we, as a school, have struggled through many challenges, we have come out in the end a bit stronger, and a bit wiser for it. It is a year in which I have never been more proud of the effort put forth by both the students and the teachers. I can guarantee you that the sorting hat has never been happier about the level of cooperation seen between the houses this year. I hope that you will be able to carry that over into the next school year.
"Something we will not have, after today, will be our beloved Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Professor Bane will return to his school in America where I am sure he was sorely missed during this school year. I’m sure you will all join me in my belief that he will also be sorely missed here at Hogwarts.”
The students all rose to their feet and gave Professor Bane a standing ovation. Indeed he would be missed. Those who were not graduating knew that they were likely to end up with yet another teacher who would turn the class back into drudgery.
“Now, I believe it is time to award the house cup,” Dumbledore said. “In forth place, Hufflepuff with an astounding 500 points. Well done Hufflepuff. If I am not mistaken, that is the highest number of points your house has ever achieved since the school was created."
The Hufflepuffs couldn’t have been happier as everyone in the Hall clapped to acknowledge their accomplishment.
“In third place,” Dumbledore began, “Ravenclaw, with five hundred and seventy five points. Another record I do believe.”
Once again the Great Hall erupted in enthusiastic clapping.
“In second place,” Dumbledore said, “Slytherin, with six hundred and twenty seven points.”
After the clapping died away, everyone waited to hear what they all knew would be a huge number of points for Gryffindor.
“And in first place,” Dumbledore began, “and winners of this year’s house cup, Gryffindor with an all time record point total of nine hundred and sixteen points.”
Everyone around the Great Hall began to celebrate for the Gryffindor record. It only took a few seconds for that celebration to die away as everyone noticed that the Gryffindor table sat very still and did not celebrate. A hush fell over the Great Hall as everyone tried to figure out what the problem was.
“I thought you would all be excited about your fantastic win,” Dumbledore said looking over his glasses at the Gryffindor table.
Harry rose from his seat and said, “There is something I would like to say, Professor.”
“By all means, Harry,” Dumbledore said as he sat back down.
Harry walked up to the teachers’ table before he turned and looked back out at the students and said, “This is my last year here at Hogwarts. That holds true for many of us here today. Next year, there will be more first years to take our place. I just hope that they have as great a time here as I have. This school has really been like a home of me, as I know it has been for many others. Gryffindor has won the house cup every year that I’ve been here. In every other year, we, as a house, took great pride in our hard fought victories. This year though, we have a different feeling. We have a feeling that we were part of something bigger than our own house. For a good portion of the year, we were able to lay aside our differences with the other houses, and work together for a common goal. Therefore, after having met as a house and taken a vote, Gryffindor house has decided to relinquish the house cup in favor of something we find more suitable.”
Whispered conversations erupted all around the Great Hall until Harry waved his hand and silenced them all once again. Above their heads, the Gryffindor flags were joined by those of each of the other houses.
Harry turned to look back to Professor Dumbledore as he said, “Professor, we sit before you as a unified house. Therefore, we believe the one point total now stands at two thousand six hundred and eighteen. That, I’m sure, is a record that no one will ever break.”
Dumbledore rose from his seat once again with a smile as he said, “I stand corrected. This year the house cup is awarded to Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Gryffindor!”
The cheer that rose from the Great Hall that night was not likely to be matched any time soon. From that point on, it was a celebration that went on well into the night. One of the most interesting things for the students was that after they left the Great Hall, students began running tours of their common rooms for students from other houses. It was technically against the rules, but the house cup had already been awarded. The teachers couldn’t deduct points from them for it. At least for one night, the house boundaries ceased to exist.
“Is something wrong, Harry?” Ginny asked as they stopped before stepping through the portrait hole.
“No,” Harry responded as he turned to look around the common room. “I just wanted to take one last look at it.”
“I know what you mean, mate,” Ron said as he and Hermione also turned to look.
“It’s strange to think that we may never see it again,” Hermione said. “This room holds so much history for us all.”
“How many games of chess did I lose here over the past seven years?” Harry asked. “It just isn’t going to feel right playing anywhere else.”
“I never thought I would miss having those chairs to plop down into while I wrote all of those essays for one class or another,” Ron said.
“I got engaged in this room,” Hermione said. “Right over there.”
“Will we ever find another room that can provide so much for us?” Ron asked.
“There will be other rooms,” Harry said. “Each of them will be special to us in some way, but we’ll never forget how we felt here. Through the good times and the bad, it served us well.”
Several minutes later, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione had joined the rest of the Gryffindors for breakfast in the Great Hall. Spirits were high as they all prepared themselves for the ride back on the Hogwarts Express.
The seventh years looked up to see the owls swooping in to deliver the mail one last time. Harry and Hermione both had mail dropped in front of them.
“What did you get, Harry?” Ron asked.
“It looks like a few more letters from people I’ve never heard of before,” Harry said. “I don’t know what I’d do without that quick notes quill I got for Christmas. It’s been a lifesaver for me. I’ve finally finished answering all of the cards I got while I was in St. Mungo’s.”
Ginny looked over at Hermione who was already carefully reading the letter that she had gotten and asked, “What is it, Hermione? Not bad news is it?”
“Well, no,” Hermione said as if she didn’t believe what she had just read. “It’s from the Ministry of Magic.”
“Well, go on,” Ron said when she didn’t say anything else.
“They’ve offered me a job,” Hermione said still stunned. “They want me to work for them in the Department of Mysteries.”
“Really?” Ron asked intrigued. “They usually don’t recruit from outside of the Ministry. They usually only take people that have already been working for the ministry for years.”
“Sometimes it pays off being the most brilliant witch of your age I guess,” Harry said. “Congratulations, Hermione.”
“Thanks, Harry,” Hermione said with a big grin letting some of her happiness show through.
“I take it you’re planning to take it then,” Ginny said with a smile.
“You bet she is,” Ron said.
“Well that’s taken care of then,” Ginny said. “Both of you are employed. I’d say that goes a long way to beginning a life together.”
“Now all you have to do is worry about the wedding,” Harry said with a grin.
“Oh, don’t remind me,” Hermione said. “Ron will be leaving almost right away to play quidditch. I’ll have to make all the plans myself.”
“I doubt it,” Ginny said. “Remember who his mum is. I’d say you’ll have more help than you can deal with.”
“Speaking of weddings,” Ron said as he looked over at Draco and Cassidy sitting reading their mail at the Slytherin table, “I wonder how long it’ll be before they settle down together.”
“Excuse me for a minute,” Harry said as he got up and walked over to the Slytherin table.
“Morning, Harry,” Cassidy said as she looked up. “Have a seat.”
“Morning,” Harry said.
“All set to leave, Harry?” Draco asked as Harry sat down.
“As ready as I’ll ever be I guess,” Harry said. “What about you? What do you plan on doing now that school is over? I imagine it could be a bit awkward going home to your mum after what happened with your dad.”
“I don’t expect I’ll ever be going back there,” Draco said. “I’m going to leave here with Cassidy and Professor Bane. Cassidy’s parents said I could come and stay with them over the summer. After that, I guess I’ll come back here and find a job.”
Harry reached inside his robes and pulled out a folded piece of paper that he handed to Draco before he said, “When you come back, you can stay here if you’d like. This is the address for the Black family estate. You have as much right to it as anyone.”
“Harry,” Draco said as he unfolded the paper Harry had given him, “this is the deed to the property.”
“I know,” Harry said. “I inherited the house. I don’t ever plan on living there, so it’s yours if you want it.”
“Harry,” Draco said, “I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Harry said. “Just fix the place up, and fill it with happiness. That has been missing from the house for quite a while.”
“Well at least it looks like he’ll be able to afford to fix it up,” Cassidy said.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked with just a hint of a grin.
“We both just got notices from Gringotts that accounts had been opened for us,” Cassidy said. “I just can’t figure out where the money would have come from. It’s really weird.”
“That is strange,” Harry said trying to look surprised.
Later that morning, Harry watched Hogwarts shrink from his view as the Hogwarts Express sped them all back toward London.
“Then we may see each other occasionally, Hermione,” Neville said. “I just got the letter this morning saying that I had been accepted into the auror training program.”
“That’s great Neville,” Hermione said. “I thought you said your grades weren’t good enough for you to make it in.”
“Well, they weren’t,” Neville said. “I’m ashamed to admit it, but I asked Harry to write a letter of recommendation for me. I think that’s what got me in.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Neville,” Harry said. “The aurors were all there when you took on Bellatrix. If they could see how well you did against her and still not let you in, then they would be a bunch of fools.”
“Well, at least we’re not all leaving school unemployed,” Ron said. “I had actually wondered if I was going to make it into the auror training at all.”
“Now it doesn’t matter,” Hermione said. “Now you’ll be playing quidditch. Although I’m not sure which one is the more dangerous.”
“Speaking of that,” Harry said, “there’s something I wanted to give you, Ron.”
Harry stood up and retrieved his broom from the overhead storage before Ron asked, “What are you doing, Harry?”
“I want you to have this,” Harry said as he held the broom out for Ron.
“Harry, I can’t take that,” Ron said. “That’s your broom.”
“My quidditch days are over, mate,” Harry said. “Besides, It would make me feel good knowing that you’ll be flying “The Spirit of Gryffindor”. If the team ever buys a set of brooms that makes this one obsolete, you can pass it on to your son for when he goes to Hogwarts.”
Ron stood and took hold of the broom before pulling Harry into a hug and saying, “I love you, mate.”
“I love you too, Ron,” Harry said. “Just make sure to stay away from those bludgers.”
“I’ll try,” Ron said with a smile as they separated.
“By the way,” Harry said. “There’s something else I wanted you to take with you. I’d like to know what your seeker thinks of this.”
Harry pulled a small box from his robes, and opened it to reveal a small crystal ball with thin gold lines crisscrossing its surface. Harry pulled the ball out of the box and wings with bright gold tips sprang out of the sides.
“Brilliant,” Ron said.
“I was thinking of asking Fred and George if they wanted to start marketing these,” Harry said. “Brooms are getting so fast it’s gotten almost too easy to catch the golden snitch. I think this crystal snitch would prove to be considerably more challenging.”
“You can say that again,” Ron said. “This will drive the seekers crazy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start using it as the standard snitch within a couple of years.”
Harry stuffed the snitch back into the box and handed it to Ron as Hermione said, “That’s an awfully sadistic thing to do, Harry. I don’t suppose it has anything to do with the fact that you won’t be looking for them anymore.”
“I might try to chase one down every now and then just for fun,” Harry said.
“He won’t get the chance too often,” Ron said. “I’m sure the auror training will keep him pretty busy.”
Ginny looked at Harry and saw the same look in his eye she had in the hospital wing after the quidditch match. She had forgotten to ask him what he might be hiding then, but she felt that the time was at hand.
“What is it, Harry?” Ginny asked.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“I saw that look the last time someone said something about you going to auror training,” Ginny said. “You’re hiding something, aren’t you?”
“Am I?” Harry asked.
“Well, that proves it,” Hermione said. “You were right. He is hiding something.”
“What is it, Harry?” Ginny asked. “Remember…”
“I know,” Harry said holding up his hand. “I have to answer anything you ask me. It isn’t a big deal. I’ve just been thinking about something.”
“What?” Ginny asked.
“Well,” Harry began, “I don’t think I want to be an auror anymore.”
“What!!?” Ron said. “But, Harry, you’ve wanted that for years now.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” Harry said.
“Harry, this doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that I have another year of school left, does it?” Ginny asked.
“No,” Harry said taking her hand. “It’s me. I originally said that was what I wanted to do because it seemed like it would be really exciting. Well, after all the fighting through the years, and the final battle with Voldemort, it just didn’t seem like so much fun anymore. I’m tired of it. I just want to go through a year when I don’t have to worry that someone will be waiting around the corner with a killing curse for me.”
Everyone was silent for a few seconds before Ron said, “I can understand that. I guess you have carried a heavy burden on your shoulders for longer than anyone should have to already.”
“If you don’t want to be an auror,” Luna began, “what do you want to do?”
“I don’t really know,” Harry said. “I haven’t really come up with anything yet.”
“You just have to come up with something you really love,” Hermione said.
“I’ll bet Fred and George would give you a job for a while if you wanted,” Ron suggested.
“I’ll think about it,” Harry said. “Maybe for a while.”
Just then, a small owl flew in the window and landed right on Harry’s lap. Once Harry got over the shock, he untied the message from the owl’s leg.
“Who’s it from, Harry?” Ron asked.
“It has a Hogwarts seal on it,” Harry said. “I wonder if I forgot to return a library book or something.”
“You had better hope not,” Hermione said as Harry opened the letter and began to read. “If you did, Madam Pince will hunt you down to get it back.”
They all waited as Harry read the letter and his eyes grew wide as a smile spread over his face. Harry pulled out a quill and ink and began to jot down a response.
“It wasn’t really an overdue book was it?” Neville asked as Harry tied the message back to the owl’s leg and sent it out the window.
“No,” Harry said as his smile got even wider. “It could be a bit awkward for a year or so, but I just realized what I really love to do.”
A young blonde boy walked through the door into Madam Malkin’s to be fitted for his new robes. He waited only briefly before Madam Malkin herself walked over to him.
“First year at Hogwarts?” Malkin asked.
“Yes, Madam,” Addison responded.
“Right this way dear,” Malkin said as she turned and walked to where there was another dark headed boy being fitted for his robes.
Addison stepped up onto the platform next to the dark headed boy as the boy looked over at him and asked, “Are you going to Hogwarts as well?”
“Yes,” Addison responded.
“So am I,” Flint said.
“So I gathered since you’re being fit for a Hogwarts robe,” Addison said with a smirk.
“My name is Brock Flint,” Flint said.
“Addison,” Addison said, purposely leaving off his last name.
“I’ve been waiting ages to get into Hogwarts,” Flint said. “My dad was the captain of the Slytherin quidditch team when he was at Hogwarts. Do you play quidditch?”
“Yes,” Addison said. “I’m a seeker.”
“I’m a chaser,” Flint said. “I really love to get in there and bust some heads.”
“It sounds like you would prefer to be a beater then,” Addison said as Madam Malkin draped a black robe over him.
“Never,” Flint said. “I’m a chaser just like my dad. I’m going to make the team this year and be the best chaser since my dad.”
“First years almost never make the teams you know,” Addison said. “If I’m not mistaken, no first year has made a house team since Harry Potter.”
“My dad told me about him,” Flint said. “He said he always pranced around showing off that scar he had. He seemed to think it made him special or something.”
“I take it that your dad didn’t,” Addison said.
“Hardly,” Flint said with a chuckle. “If you don’t know already, there are some families who are better than others. Potters are muggle lovers. They’re almost as bad as the Weasleys.”
“Do you know any of them?” Addison asked.
“No,” Flint said. “I don’t have to. My dad told me everything I needed to know.”
“You’re likely to find out more this year,” Addison said. “I hear that Harry Potter’s daughters are starting at Hogwarts this year as well.”
“So I hear,” Flint said with a scowl. “As if one Potter wasn’t bad enough, he had to go and have triplets.”
“He also had twin boys,” Addison said as he glanced over for Flint’s reaction. “They’re two years behind their sisters, so you won’t have to meet them for a while.”
“The three are bad enough,” Flint said with a scowl. “Potter scum.”
“Maybe they won’t be so bad,” Addison said with a grin. “Who knows, you may even find someone you hate even more than them this year.”
“I doubt it,” Flint said. “My dad read it in the daily prophet just this morning. It’s been fifteen years since Harry Potter graduated from Hogwarts, and this mornings front-page story was all about his three daughters coming to Hogwarts. They’re all waiting to see what house they get sorted into. As if there would be any question as to which house they would be sorted into. Like father like daughters.”
“Perhaps,” Addison said.
“All done dear,” Madam Malkin said to Addison. “You can come back in a couple of hours to pick it up.”
“How did he finish before I did?” Flint asked. “I got here before he did.”
“He doesn’t wiggle around as much either,” Malkin said as Addison stepped off of the platform.
“I guess I’ll see you at Hogwarts,” Flint said.
“Count on it,” Addison said with a look of seriousness that made even Flint shudder slightly. “By the way, stay away from the Potter girls. They’re friends of mine, and so are their brothers. You’ll have to deal with me if you so much as touch one of them.”
“You just made the worst mistake of your life,” Flint said through gritted teeth.
“See,” Addison said with a grin. “I told you you’d find someone you hated more.”
“Why would you want to defend them?” Flint asked. “You don’t look like a Weasley.”
“I’m not,” Addison said. “Though the Weasleys are friends of mine as well. My name is Addison Malfoy.”
“Malfoy?” Flint asked as his eyes went wide in anger.
“That’s right,” Addison said. “Draco Malfoy is my dad.”
“You were right then, blood traitor,” Flint said. “You just put yourself at the top of my hit list.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it,” Addison said with a smile as he walked out of the shop.
The first years walked to the doors of the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and came face to face with Minerva McGonagall.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” McGonagall said. “In a moment, you will pass through these doors and be sorted into your houses. They are Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. While you are here, your house will be like your family. Follow the rules and work hard, and you will earn points. Any rule breaking, and you will lose points. Wait here. I will come back for you when everything is ready for the sorting to begin.
“That’s him,” Flint said to two big goons that stood next to him as he pointed at Addison.
“I see Madam Malkin finished your robe,” Addison said calmly.
“You had better keep a watch over your shoulder every day, blood traitor,” Flint said as he took a couple of steps closer to Addison followed by his two goons. “One day you won’t and that will be the day I take care of you.”
“It looks as though you’ve made a friend already, Addison,” a red headed girl said as she stepped to his side.
“I wouldn’t call him a friend exactly, Lily,” Addison said with a grin.
“So, one of the Potter girls had the nerve to show up at Hogwarts,” Flint said.
“We all made the trip,” Molly said as she stepped into view followed by her identical sister Hermione.
“Is there some reason why we shouldn’t have?” Hermione asked.
“If you don’t already know, then you’ll soon find out,” Flint said with a twisted grin.
“I warned you to stay away from them the last time we saw each other,” Addison said.
“I hope they have more protection than you, blood traitor,” Flint said.
“They do,” said a tall boy with broad shoulders as he stepped forward.
“And who are you?” Flint asked.
“The name’s Longbottom,” the tall boy responded. “Frank Longbottom.”
“Well then all we need is a Weasley and that old gang’s kids will all be back together,” Flint said.
“Actually, our cousin Arthur started here two years ago,” Lily said. “I’m sure he’ll be very interested to meet you.”
“They’re ready for you now,” Professor McGonagall said as she stood before them once again. “Follow me, please.”
The sorting was as exciting as it had ever been. Several new students were added to each of the houses. Frank Longbottom was sorted early on into Gryffindor, while Brock Flint surprised no one when he was sorted into Slytherin soon afterwards. They were halfway though the sorting when the Potter girls were finally called.
Lily stepped up and sat on the stool and the sorting hat was placed on her head and said, “I’ve been wondering when I would be getting another Potter under me.”
“You’ll get plenty today,” Lily thought. “There are two just like me waiting to be sorted.”
“Just like you, eh?” The sorting hat asked. “Are you so sure? You’d be surprised the differences I can see.”
“I guess I always assumed we’d go into the same house together,” Lily said.
“Perhaps,” the sorting hat said. “Perhaps not. Now where should we put you? I see you’ve already had a bit of magical training.”
“Think of who my father is,” Lily said. “Mr. constant vigilance.”
“You think he’s being overprotective?” The sorting hat asked.
“Sometimes,” Lily said. “I love him for it though.”
“Smart girl,” the sorting hat said. “Perhaps you would fit well into Ravenclaw. What would you think of that?”
“I don’t mind,” Lily said. “I would be alright with any of them.”
“All right then,” the sorting hat said so everyone in the Great hall could hear. “Gryffindor”
A cheer went up from the Gryffindor table as the sorting hat was lifted off of Lily’s head. Lily walked calmly down to the Gryffindor table and took a seat across from her cousin Arthur.
“Molly Potter,” McGonagall said.
“Interesting,” the sorting hat said as it was placed on Molly’s head. “Different from your sister I think. You have more of your father’s rebellious side in you.”
“So I’ve been told,” Molly said.
“You would do whatever you have to in order to protect your sisters,” the sorting hat said. “Right. Better be Gryffindor!”
Another cheer went up from the Gryffindor table as Molly went and sat next to Frank Longbottom.
“Hermione Potter,” McGonagall said.
Hermione stepped up to the stool, and the sorting hat was placed onto her head as it said, “Well. Quite different indeed, I see something in you that I didn’t see in your sisters. You have a drive in you that is almost an obsession. That kind of drive would tend to indicate a Slytherin trait.”
“I know,” Hermione said. “I thought you might see that.”
“Dear girl,” the sorting hat said, “I see everything. I also see that this drive you have is a thirst for knowledge. I can see that it is only a desire to know, and not one to use what you know for a specific purpose. Tremendous intelligence. An intelligence that would seem to indicate that you should be in Ravenclaw. Studying is nearly constant in that house. Then again, perhaps I should put you in Hufflepuff. Perhaps seven years there would teach you to relax and have a good time.”
“I know how to relax,” Hermione said.
“You know the meaning of it my dear,” The sorting hat said, “but you seem to be deficient in the practice of it. You remind me very much of another student I sorted some years ago. She was all work and no play as well. I believe you know her.”
“Well of course I know her,” Hermione said. “I was named after her. It isn’t easy living up to your namesake.”
“Has she asked you to live up to it?” The sorting hat asked.
“No,” Hermione said.
“So you’ve put that pressure to prove yourself on your own shoulders,” the sorting hat said. “At least you come by it honestly. It was strong in your father as well. So, which house should I put you in?”
“I’d like to be in Gryffindor,” Hermione said.
“Gryffindor?” The sorting hat asked. “That wasn’t one of the options I listed before.”
“I know, sir,” Hermione said. “I’m sorry, but it would mean so much to me to be in Gryffindor with my sisters and my friends.”
“Don’t try to fool me girl,” the sorting hat said. “You don’t want to disappoint your father. As much as you are driven to live up to the intelligence of your aunt, you are more driven not to disappoint your father. Foolish girl. Don’t you know that your father is proud of you for being who you are? He won’t care what house you go into. He won’t love you any less.”
“I guess you’re right,” Hermione said as she held back a tear. “Put me where I belong. And thanks you for helping me to understand why you did it.”
The sorting hat was silent for several seconds as it considered the options before it said out loud, “Gryffindor! Don’t’ make me regret my decision.”
“I won’t,” Hermione said. “Thank you.”
Hermione ran down to the Gryffindor table with a smile on her face. She took a seat next to Lily, but left a space big enough for another to fit in between them. She looked at Lily and winked, which caused Lily to blush instantly. She knew exactly what Hermione was doing.
The sorting progressed, eventually leaving only one person still waiting. Professor Dumbledore sat up in his seat and waited to hear the final result. More so than the Potters, he knew that this last sorting would begin a new prophecy on its course.
“Addison Malfoy,” McGonagall said.
Addison sat on the stool, and the sorting hat said, “Hmmm. More difficult than either of your parents. I guess I could just put you in their old house of Slytherin. What’s this I sense? Disappointment? Ah, I see it now. Don’t try to hide it from me. I can find it no matter how much you try to hide it. Don’t worry. I never reveal what I find. Your secret is safe with me. Still, I don’t place students in houses just because of their feelings for others. Ravenclaw would be the best house for you. They would keep you focused on your studies. I see great things from you, Mr. Malfoy. You have real potential for academic achievement. Still, there are other reasons that have not been revealed to you that I happen to have overheard that would make it necessary for you to join a different house. So it is now up to me to make the decision. Which should I favor more? Potential or prophecy? Sometimes, Mr. Malfoy, we all have to compromise. Gryffindor!”
Most of the Gryffindors were stunned. They knew that the Malfoys had always been in Slytherin. They had assumed that this one would follow in their footsteps. A few of them knew better though.
Hermione turned to look at a beaming Lily and said, “I told you so.”
“Don’t you dare say a word,” Lily said as her face reddened.
Addison walked toward the Gryffindor table and Hermione motioned for him to sit between she and Lily.
“Thanks,” Addison said as he sat down.
The food appeared on the tables, and as the students reached for the food, Addison’s elbow brushed against Lily’s arm. For a brief instant, they both felt it. It was the same strange feeling that they had experienced over the past year. Neither of them knew exactly what the feeling was, but they knew that they couldn’t get enough of it. Of course, neither of them had confessed that they felt it to the other.
Later that evening, Arthur led Frank and Addison to their new dorm to find that two other students were already there.
“Hi,” Arthur said to the two students he didn’t know. “I’m Arthur Weasley. I’ll be in this room with you as well. Allow me to introduce you to Addison Malfoy and Frank Longbottom.”
“It’s nice to meet you all,” Ian said. “I’m Ian Ollivander.”
“Ollivander?” Frank asked. “As in… Ollivanders? The wand maker.”
“He’s my great uncle,” Ian said. “I spent all summer with him trying to learn how to make wands.”
“How was it?” Addison asked.
“Well, I’ll need a few more years before I’m ready to make a wand on my own,” Ian said. “My great uncle is a perfectionist when it comes to the wands he sells.”
“It’s a good thing for all of us that he is,” Arthur said looking over to the other blonde boy.
“I’m Isaac Spinnet,” Isaac said with a small wave to the rest of the group.
“Wait a minute,” Arthur said as he thought back to his fathers stories of his quidditch days at Hogwarts. “There was a Spinnet that played chaser on the Gryffindor team years ago. Are you related to Alicia Spinnet?”
“She’s my mum,” Isaac said with a proud smile.
“I don’t suppose you play quidditch yourself, do you?” Arthur asked.
“Sure I do,” Isaac said. “My mum taught me everything she knew about quidditch.”
“Well I’ll tell you all,” Arthur said with a wide smile, “I see great things for our quidditch team in the coming years. I played as an alternate keeper on the team last year. Addison is one of the best seekers I’ve ever seen, and now we have a chaser among us.”
“Well just don’t ask me to try it,” Frank said. “I’ll stay as close to the ground as I can if you don’t mind.”
“You can count me out as well, I’m afraid,” Ian said. “My family makes wands, not brooms.”
“It’s destiny,” Arthur said. “I’m telling you. Do any of your realize what dorm room we’re standing in right now?”
“Uh, ours?” Addison asked. “Speaking of that, what are you doing in here with the first years?”
“I told you,” Arthur began, “destiny. Two years ago I was placed in this dorm with four other sixth years. For five years they had gone with only four people in the dorm. Last year they all graduated leaving me in the dorm all by myself. Just in time to be joined by you all.”
“Coincidence,” Addison said.
“Really?” Arthur asked. “Let me show you all something.”
Arthur led them all over to a corner of the room and pointed to the floor. There before them were carved the initials, D.T., S.F., N.L., R.W., and H.P.
“This was their room until fifteen years ago,” Arthur said. “Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.”
“Wicked,” Isaac said as he stared at the carvings.
“I still say it was a coincidence,” Addison said. “Arthur, you and Frank may have ended up here because this is where your dads stayed, but what about the rest of us? There isn’t a Thomas, Finnigan or Potter around.”
“Maybe not,” Arthur said, “but are you or are you not the godson of my Uncle Harry.”
“That isn’t the same as blood,” Addison argued.
“He was a seeker,” Arthur pointed out. “You’re a seeker.”
“My dad was a seeker,” Addison said as he rolled his eyes. “I almost didn’t end up in Gryffindor at all. The sorting hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw.”
“Uncle Harry says the sorting hat almost put him in Slytherin,” Arthur said.
“Can you imagine what things might be like if that had happened?” Frank asked.
“I wonder how the prophecy would have turned out then,” Ian said.
Addison looked at Ian with a look that Arthur caught as he asked, “What’s the matter, Addison? Does that mean something to you?”
“It just reminded me of something the sorting hat said before it sorted me into Gryffindor,” Addison said. “It said it had overheard something that made it necessary for me to be in Gryffindor, even though I belonged in Ravenclaw. It picked prophecy over potential.”
“Prophecy?” Frank asked. “What prophecy?”
“I don’t know,” Addison said. “It was the first I had heard of it.”
“Whatever it is,” Arthur said with a suppressed excitement, “it has something to do with our man, Addison here. Now you have to admit that the similarities are bloody obvious. Would you like me to show you which bed Uncle Harry slept in, Addison?”
“I wonder if Harry knows what this is all about,” Addison said too lost in his own thought to pay any attention to Arthur’s foolishness.
Harry paced again and again across his office, trying unsuccessfully to concentrate on his work. He hadn’t been able to think about anything else since Professor Dumbledore first informed him about the new prophecy on the previous day. Ginny had tried to console him, but Harry knew better than anyone what it was like to be the subject of a prophecy and not be given the details of it. He had resented it for years that he had been kept in the dark about a great many things during his childhood. He had sworn that he would never let his own children grow up without information they might need to know about.
Yet Harry continued to pace. He fought
with his own instincts to decide what his course of action should be. His instincts told him to tell the children everything he knew. What was left of his reason fought back with a new understanding of a rationale for not doing so. Deep inside of him, Harry knew that information was kept from him to protect him. It was divulged to him only at a time when he was ready and able to deal with the information. Still, it wasn’t fair, and he wanted better for his children.
Harry knew he had to pull himself together. He knew that a group was already assembled outside his office waiting for him to come and speak to them. He couldn’t put it off forever though. As much as he wished it would, life didn’t stand still just because he wanted it to.
Harry took a deep breath, and opened his office door. As he had suspected, a hush fell over the room beyond as those gathered waited to hear what he had to say.
Harry cleared his throat as he walked to the front of the room and said, “Welcome to your first year Defense Against the Dark Arts class here at Hogwarts. I’m Professor Potter, and I’ll be your instructor. You won’t need your books during class. I don’t use them. I will assign readings from the book for you to do outside of class. While we are in class, we will be working on practical defensive magic. Most of your first year will be spent learning how to defend yourselves against unfriendly spells and creatures. It may sound a bit boring, but I can assure you that you had better stay on your toes. I have been known to spring surprise attacks on students just to see how they respond. Outside of this class, I hope to be a friend to you all, but inside of this class you should never trust me. I’ll do my best to teach and to trick. You must remain vigilant at all times. Now, before we begin our first lesson, are there any questions.”
A young wide-eyed Ravenclaw boy raised his hand and asked, “Do you really have the wand? The double wand from your battle with Voldemort.”
Harry grinned. He had gotten the same question from almost every first year class since he began teaching. He pulled out his wand, and there was a collective gasp of appreciation around the room. The only ones not affected by the sight of his wand, were those on the front row.
“What about the scar?” A blonde Gryffindor girl asked.
Harry brushed the hair back off of his forehead and said, “It isn’t nearly as prominent as it was when I was your age. It seemed to fade considerably after Tom Riddle died. Tom was more commonly known as Voldemort just in case some of you didn’t already know. Are there any more questions?”
Five hands immediately went up in the front row. Harry looked at his three daughters sitting there with their mother’s red hair and his own green eyes. Addison and Frank sat beside them with their own hands in the air.
“Do you have a question, Lily?” Harry asked.
“Yes, da… I mean, Professor,” Lily said. “Do you know anything about a prophecy concerning Addison?”
Harry could barley contain his surprise. Somehow, his daughters had heard about the existence of the new prophecy. He wondered just how much they really knew about it.
“I take it that the look on your face means you do know something about it,” Lily said as she tied to will the information out of her father.
Harry knew that he was trapped. Whatever conflict he had within himself about telling them, it was not enough to make him lie to his daughter when asked a direct question. He knew he was going to tell them everything he could to prepare them for what was coming.
His daughters knew it as well. They had known him for long enough to know when they had managed to tug hard on the strings of their father’s heart. Whatever the prophecy was, it was something that troubled him deeply.
As he considered his words, Harry looked at the expectant faces of those in the front row of his class. He had thought the year he had been Ginny’s teacher was awkward. The look of satisfaction he could see in his daughter’s faces was enough to tell him that he was in for a rough seven years.
Harry walked into the floo network from his office at Hogwarts. Seconds later, he walked out into the living room of his house in Godric’s Hollow. He was emotionally drained, and he plopped himself down in his favorite chair.
“Rough day at work?” Ginny asked as she bent over the back of the chair and kissed Harry on his forehead.
“More so than I expected,” Harry said. “Where are the boys?”
“My parents offered to take them for the night,” Ginny said as she massaged the tension out of Harry’s shoulders. “They thought it would be a stressful day for you since you would have to teach your daughters today for the first time.”
“Oh, you have no idea,” Harry said.
“Was it really that bad?” Ginny asked. “You made it through an entire year with me while we were still technically courting.”
“I would do that all again if I didn’t have to face those girls today,” Harry said. “Not to mention Addison Malfoy and Frank Longbottom.”
“What happened?” Ginny asked.
“They knew about the prophecy, Gin,” Harry said with a sigh.
“They what?” Ginny asked hoping she had heard him wrong.
“I don’t know how they found out about it,” Harry said, “but they did. They asked me about it first thing this morning just after class started.”
“What did you tell them?” Ginny asked.
“The truth,” Harry said. “Before you say anything, I know. I’ve heard all of the reasons for keeping it all from them, but I just couldn’t do it. I can’t explain it. They asked me, and I just knew that telling them was the right thing to do.”
“Albus said you might feel that way,” Ginny said. “He’ll blame himself you know.”
“It wasn’t because so many things were kept from me as a child,” Harry said. “I can’t explain it. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
“I told you it was a dangerous thing to teach those girls how to get into other people’s minds,” Ginny said.
“I did no such thing,” Harry said. “I taught them to keep people out of their minds. They figured the rest out on their own. Besides, they didn’t get into my head. If I could keep Voldemort out of my mind I should be able to keep three eleven year old girls out.”
“So how did they react?” Ginny asked as she sat down in the chair next to Harry.
“They took it better than I expected,” Harry said. “Of course, Lily blushed a bit when I got to the part about her and Addison.”
“I should think so,” Ginny said. “She’s had a crush on him for years. It can’t be easy for either of them to find out that they’ll get married someday.”
“Or that Addison may die trying to protect Lily and our grandson against a new dark lord,” Harry said looking at the floor. “I should be there, Gin. I would be able to protect them all.”
“But that isn’t the way it works, Harry,” Ginny said. “You of all people should know that. The prophecy didn’t say you would fight this dark lord.”
“I know,” Harry said, “but they’re just kids.”
“They won’t be when they fight him,” Ginny said. “Now that you’ve told them about it, you’ll have to make sure they know everything you do about dueling. That is how you can help them.”
“I guess you’re right,” Harry said as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “At least they know what is coming and have a chance to prepare for it.”
The next thing Harry was aware of was a sudden smell filling his nose that he had not smelled for some time. His eyes shot open, and Harry instantly knew that something was very wrong.
“Are you alright, Harry?” Ron asked as he looked at the shock on Harry’s face.
“Ron?” Harry asked trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
“Whoa, mate,” Ron said with a concerned look. “I thought we had lost you there for a minute.”
“What?” Harry asked still not sure how he had gotten to where he found himself.
“These things often happen when one begins to see with the inner eye,” Professor Trelawney said as she examined Harry with her magnified eyes. “What did you see Mr. Potter?”
“What are you talking about, Cybil?” Harry said.
“Mr. Potter, I hardly think one trance is enough to put us on a first name basis,” Trelawney said.
“This has got to be some kind of weird dream,” Harry said looking at all of the young faces around him.
“I think that was what you just came out of, mate,” Ron said. “You just sat there for about ten minutes staring into the crystal ball. You never even blinked. It was really starting to get weird.”
“I’m not supposed to be here, Ron,” Harry said.
“Confusion is common to those not experienced with gazing into the future once they return to the present,” Trelawney said. “Of course, I move in and out of it at will.”
“What are you talking about, Harry?” Ron asked. “Of course you’re supposed to be here. Don’t you remember coming to Divination class? Friday morning? North tower? Does any of that sound familiar to you?”
“Of course it sounds familiar,” Harry said. “The only problem is that I don’t belong here. I graduated from Hogwarts fifteen years ago.”
“My, my,” Trelawney said examining Harry a bit more carefully. “Just how far into the future did you look, Mr. Potter?”
“There’s no way,” Harry said. “Are you telling me that I sat here and looked into a crystal ball and lived through the next eighteen years of my life in the space of ten minutes.”
“You will find that time has little meaning in the mystical realm, Mr. Potter,” Trelawney said.
“I think he should go and see Madam Pomfrey,” Ron said.
“There is little that those inexperienced with the art of divination will be able to do for him,” Trelawney said. “He should remain here for me to watch over and care for.”
“It must be the pressure of the Tri-Wizard tournament,” Ron said. “He just needs some rest.”
“I’m going to go and have a talk with Albus,” Harry said as he stood up. “Maybe he can even give me some advice in a dream.”
“Well, I hope so, mate,” Ron said as he got up to walk out with Harry. “If this is a dream, I’d like to know if it’s yours or mine. I could swear I woke up this morning.”
A few minutes later, Harry and Ron found themselves facing the Gargoyle that stood guard over the entrance to Dumbledore’s office.
“Oh what was the password then,” Harry said. “Fizzing Whizbees.”
Harry waited, but the Gargoyle didn’t move.
“How long are we supposed to stand here trying to guess the password?” Ron asked.
“No,” Harry said in frustration as he grabbed his forehead. “That was from fifth year. What was fourth? What was it? Ah, Cockroach Clusters.”
“Yuck,” Ron said, but went silent when he saw the Gargoyle move aside.
Ron followed Harry up the spiral staircase, and watched as he took hold of the doorknocker and slammed it down hard twice against the oak door.
“Watch it there, boy,” the knocker said to Harry. “There’s no need to get rough.”
“Sorry, Griff,” Harry said. “I was in a hurry and I didn’t think.”
“Obviously not,” Griff responded.
“Harry, since when are you on a first name basis with Dumbledore’s doorknocker?” Ron asked.
There was no time to answer as Dumbledore’s voice called out for them to enter.
“Ah,” Dumbledore said as Harry and Ron walked into his office. “Shouldn’t you two be in class right now?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Harry said. “I don’t think so, but everyone else seems to think I should be. I don’t even know how I got here.”
“Really?” Dumbledore said as he looked over his glasses. “Were you somewhere else before?”
“We were in Divination,” Ron said. “Harry went into some kind of trance while we were looking into the crystal ball. He was like this when he came out of it. Professor Trelawney seems to think he saw a glimpse of his future.”
“But I don’t think so,” Harry said. “I think I actually lived it. I lived every day of eighteen years of my future.”
“Interesting,” Dumbledore said as he stroked his beard. “Quite unusual to see that much of ones own future.”
“He was only in the trance for around ten minutes though,” Ron said.
“I wasn’t seeing it though,” Harry said getting frustrated. “I’m telling you I lived it. I graduated. I got married. I had kids. I’ve been teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts here at Hogwarts for fifteen years.”
“Wicked,” Ron said. “You’re going to be a teacher?”
“I am a teacher,” Harry said.
“I know it may seem like it, Harry,” Dumbledore said, “but it is not unheard of for visions like yours to seem very real.”
“I tell you that somehow I’ve come back from my own future,” Harry said. “I should know. I lived it. I remember exactly what I did during my fourth year. I was in the tri-wizard tournament. I know how it ends up.”
“You know it because you have seen your future,” Dumbledore said.
“If I saw every detail of my future,” Harry said as he looked back into Dumbledore’s eyes, “then why didn’t I have a memory of going into the trance or coming out of it. Why don’t I have any memory of coming to this office to talk to you about it? Why do I remember everything but that?”
“Perhaps the future as you have seen it is not unalterable,” Dumbledore said. “Now that you know what your future is, that knowledge will dictate all of your actions from now on. The more you stray from that future you experienced, the more things in your actual future will change.”
“What?” Harry asked.
“You shouldn’t worry about it too much,” Dumbledore said. “You can’t be expected to repeat what you saw in every detail. Even coming here and speaking with me may have altered your future in some way. The longer you go on, the more your future will alter into something new."
“You mean Harry can change all of the bad things that would have happened to him because he already knows about it?” Ron asked.
“Essentially, yes,” Dumbledore said. “Though each change may alter that future enough so that those things may not happen at all.”
“Or it could create worse things that I don’t know about,” Harry said.
“There is that possibility,” Dumbledore said. “Perhaps you should get some rest before the final challenge tomorrow.”
“The final challenge,” Harry said remembering something. “Albus I have to tell you that…”
“Don’t, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Don’t tell me about anything I didn’t already know about the future. Things will happen the way they were meant to.”
Harry could see something in Dumbledore’s eyes. It was a look he had come to recognize well over the years. It was the look he got when he was holding something back. As usual, Albus knew more than he was telling.
Harry left Dumbledore’s office very unsatisfied with the advice he had gotten. In essence the advice was just not to worry about it. Ron still advised him to go and see Madam Pomfrey. By the time they had made it to lunch, Hermione got to add everything she had ever read on the subject into the mix.
Harry was having trouble paying attention though. Just down the table from them sat Ginny. He wanted nothing more than to run to her and hold her, but he knew that doing so would not only come as a shock to her, but would possibly make a drastic change in the future.
Harry was so thankful when classes ended for the day, that he decided to skip dinner. He knew that he was doing something that he hadn’t done in his vision of the future, but he was in no mood to care. He went back to his dorm room and lay on the bed trying to sort out what had happened to him and how he was going to deal with it.
The next day, Harry stood in the maze of the third task of the tri-wizard tournament looking at the Triwizard Cup on its pedestal waiting for someone to come and claim it. Having prior knowledge of all of the obstacles he would face in the maze, Harry’s progress to that point was much quicker than he had seen in it in the vision.
Harry was waiting, and it turned his stomach to think of what he was waiting for. He was waiting for Cedric to pop out of the hedge in front of him. Then they would battle with the giant spider. They would both grab onto the Triwizard Cup, and a short time later Cedric Diggory would die. It was the last thing Harry wanted, but it was the way it had to be.
A short time later, the battle with the spider over, Harry and Cedric grabbed onto the Triwizard Cup and were transported to the graveyard where Harry knew Cedric would be killed.
“Did anyone tell you the cup was a portkey?” Cedric asked.
Harry thought about the lie he was about to tell and said, “No.”
“Wands out do you reckon?” Cedric asked.
“Yeah,” Harry said as he drew his wand.
“Someone’s coming,” Cedric said as he looked off in the distance.
Harry just couldn’t do it. No matter what ramifications it had, he couldn’t stand by and watch an innocent person be killed.
“Portus,” Harry said as he pointed his wand at a card he had pulled out of his pocket and then shoved the card into Cedric’s hand. “This will take you back to Hogwarts, Cedric. You have to tell Dumbledore that Voldemort is coming back tonight. I’m going to try to stop him.”
“Harry, you…” Cedric began before he disappeared.
There was no turning back. Harry had already done something that would change the future he had seen. He planned to change it even more with what he was going to do next.
Harry waited for the stunning spell to come. He would wake up tied to a tombstone. Voldemort would rise once again and call his death eaters to him. Then they would give Harry his wand back so Voldemort could duel against him. It was gong to be a nasty surprise for them when they found out that they were facing a fourteen year old Harry with thirty two years of magical experience in his head. Harry had the chance to kill Voldemort and his death eaters years sooner than his future had planned.
The stunning spell flashed from the tip of Pettigrew’s wand, and Harry waited for it to hit him. When it did, Harry instantly felt his consciousness slip into darkness.
Harry finally opened his eyes, and was surprised to have to close them again to shield out the bright light that he hadn’t expected. He brought his hand up to block out the brightness and opened his eyes once again.
“Morning, Harry,” Ginny said with a smile. “How are you feeling this morning?”
Harry sat up suddenly and took a look at where he was, and put his hand to his hand as he said, “It was just a dream.”
“You must have been exhausted last night,” Ginny said. “We were talking, and the next thing I knew you were asleep in your chair. I couldn’t wake you up when I went to bed so I put a blanket over you.”
“I dreamed that I was about to face Voldemort in the graveyard like I did during my fourth year,” Harry said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, honey,” Ginny said as she kissed Harry gently. “I should have woken you up sooner.”
“I’m actually sorry I didn’t stay asleep a bit longer,” Harry said. “In the dream it was like I had gone back in time and possessed myself. I still knew all of the magic that I know now. I was kind of looking forward to seeing the look on Voldemort’s face when he realized he wasn’t facing the boy I was at that age.”
“Well it’s a good thing you didn’t sleep any longer,” Ginny said. “You’ll barely have time to have a shower before you have to leave for work as it is.”
Ginny had been right. Harry was running so late that, after he had showered and dressed, he only had time to grab a piece of toast before he hurried through the floo network to get back to his office.
Harry taught the sixth and seventh year classes that were scheduled before the school broke for lunch. Harry finished his lunch quickly and proceeded to the staff room to grade the papers the seventh years had turned in at the beginning of their class. When he entered the staff room, he found Professor’s Snape and McGonagal already present. Snape appeared to be grading his own papers while McGonagal read the daily prophet.
Harry greeted them both as he sat down and settled in to his grading. He had just finished with the second paper when he looked up and noticed the article on the back of the newspaper McGonagal was reading. Harry was so shocked by what he read that he reached out and grabbed that side of the paper so he could see it better.
“I’ll let you borrow it when I’m finished if you would like, Harry,” McGonagal said as she and Snape stopped what they were doing to look at the strange expression on Harry’s face.
“What is it, Harry?” Snape asked. “I haven’t seen that kind of impulsive maneuver from you since you were a student.”
“Look at this article,” Harry said as he pointed to the one he had been staring at.
McGonagal turned the paper over and laid it on the table as she read, “Ministry of Magic names Cedric Diggory to lead the Department of Magical Games and Sports.”
“How is that possible?” Harry asked.
“You’re acting as if you didn’t know about it,” Snape said.
“How could I?” Harry asked perplexed.
“This is yesterday’s paper, Harry,” McGonagal said. “You read this article yesterday and contacted Cedric through the floo network to congratulate him.”
“That’s impossible,” Harry said. “I haven’t spoken to Cedric since my fourth year at Hogwarts.”
“Are you feeling ill, Harry?” Snape asked. “You know very well that you speak to him nearly every day after you get home from work. He only lives three houses down the street from you.”
“But he died,” Harry said.
“What?” McGonagal asked. “Perhaps you should go and see Madam Pomfrey.”
“Didn’t he die in the graveyard the night Voldemort came back?” Harry asked.
“You know he didn’t,” Snape said beginning to believe that there really was something wrong with Harry. “You made a portkey and sent him back before Voldemort came back.”
“We still don’t know why you didn’t come back with him,” McGonagal said.
“Because he was a foolish child,” Snape supplied. “Diggory told us all when he came back that he was going to try to stop Voldemort.”
“But that was a dream,” Harry said. “It couldn’t have been real.”
“I think you’re right, Minerva,” Snape said as he studied Harry. “Perhaps he should go and see Madam Pomfrey.”
“I have to see Albus,” Harry said as he stood up still in a bit of a daze. “He’ll know what’s going on.”
Harry left the staff room and headed to Dumbledore’s office as he had done many times in his past. At least he thought he had. At that moment, he couldn’t be sure of anything.
“Come in, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know if I’m dreaming right now or not,” Harry said.
“A problem I sometimes face myself,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “Why don’t you have a seat and we’ll see if we can find out.”
“I just found out that Cedric Diggory is alive,” Harry said as he sat in a chair that Dumbledore conjured.
“Really?” Dumbledore asked. “You didn’t know that before?”
“I don’t think I did,” Harry said.
“Tell me exactly what you thought,” Dumbledore said.
“Well, I thought Cedric died during the tri-wizard tournament when we grabbed the cup and were portkeyed to the graveyard,” Harry said. “I remember bringing Cedric’s body back after I fought with Voldemort. Last night though, I had a dream. I think it was a dream anyway. I somehow went back to that time and competed in the last challenge again. This time I created a portkey and sent Cedric back even though I knew it would change the future I had seen in the crystal ball in divination class.”
Dumbledore was silent for several seconds as he looked at Harry before he said, “Interesting. You say you dreamed all of this just last night?”
“Yes,” Harry said.
“What else happened in this dream?” Dumbledore asked.
“Nothing much,” Harry said. “I remember the first part of the dream when I suddenly came out of a trance in divination. They were trying to tell me that I had seen a vision of my future, but I told then that I had lived it and I didn’t belong there. They thought I should go and see Madam Pomfrey because they thought I was confused. Then I came to see you. I was hoping you could tell me what was going on.”
“What did I tell you?” Dumbledore asked.
“Not to worry too much about it mainly,” Harry said. “As a matter of fact, I tried to tell you about what was going to happen to Cedric. You said you didn’t want me to tell you anything about the future that you didn’t already know.”
“Ron was worried about you,” Dumbledore said.
“Yeah, he… Wait a minute,” Harry said suddenly. “I never told you Ron came to your office with me.”
“This may confuse you even more, Harry,” Dumbledore said looking over his glasses at Harry, “but I remember that meeting. We discussed how changing something you had seen in your future could change other things you hadn’t intended.”
“How is that possible?” Harry asked. “I dreamed it all. In reality I never came to see you. We never talked about any of that. I never saw into my future.”
“Yet I have a clear memory of that meeting,” Dumbledore said. “I also have a clear memory of you and Cedric disappearing when you touched the cup. Then Cedric came back and told us that you had given him a portkey to come back and warn us that Voldemort had returned. As strange as it is, this all actually answers a few questions I’ve had since then.”
“Like what?” Harry asked.
“Like why you didn’t have any memory of making a portkey to send Cedric back once you had returned,” Dumbledore answered. “I asked you about it myself, and you said you didn’t even know how to make a portkey. You said that you had a faint memory of Cedric being there and then leaving somehow, but you didn’t know how.”
“I’m glad it answers your questions,” Harry said. “I’m more confused than ever though.”
“I can only make a guess about what happened,” Dumbledore said.
“I’ll take anything at this point,” Harry responded.
“I believe that you somehow managed to send your consciousness from this time back to possess your fourteen year old self,” Dumbledore said.
“That sounds just strange enough to fit in with all of this,” Harry said.
“Are you sure you didn’t try to do this on purpose?” Dumbledore asked.
“I didn’t even know it could be done,” Harry said. “I was just sitting in a chair at home talking to Ginny about what happened in class yesterday when I closed my eyes. The next thing I know I’m fourteen again.”
“It sounds as if it was an extraordinary piece of accidental magic,” Dumbledore said. “Were you talking about Cedric when you closed your eyes?”
“No,” Harry answered. “I was talking to Ginny about the prophecy.”
“Hmmm,” Dumbledore said. “Were you that upset by it after all this time?”
“Well of course I was upset by it,” Harry said as he sat on the edge of his seat. “My daughters brought it up on the first day of class yesterday.”
“I thought you would be used to that by now,” Dumbledore said.
Harry was about to respond when a sudden thought came to mind and he asked, “Which prophecy are you talking about?”
“The one about you and Voldemort, of course,” Dumbledore answered. “What other one were you talking about?”
“The one concerning a new dark lord,” Harry said. “The one where Addison Malfoy will have to fight to save Lily and my grandson.”
“When did you find out about a new prophecy?” Dumbledore asked.
“You told me about it just a couple of days ago,” Harry said.
“It would seem that something else changed when you saved Cedric,” Dumbledore said. “There is a new prophecy, but I haven’t shared it with you yet. It doesn’t have anything to do with a new dark lord though. Professor Trelawney made a rare trip to see me a few days before school started again. While she was here she went into another trance and said that one of your daughters would give birth to a child destined to be the Minister of Magic. We don’t know which one yet, but if current pairings hold into the future, I would say that the child’s last name would either be Malfoy, Longbottom, or Diggory.”
“Diggory?” Harry asked. “Cedric has a son?”
“Of course,” Dumbledore said. “He and Cho got married shortly after graduation and their son was sorted into Ravenclaw this year. He was in your class yesterday morning. Hermione and Marcus have been sweethearts since they were both four years old.”
“So, why don’t I remember any of this changed history?” Harry asked.
“I’m not quite sure,” Dumbledore said. “These memories have to be in your head somewhere.”
“Is it possible that my consciousness that traveled back in time would have come back to the present and over written all of those memories with the old ones I was still carrying from before the past was changed?” Harry asked.
“It is possible,” Dumbledore said. “Even so, the memories should still be in your head. They may just be locked away in an out of the way place.”
Harry thought for a minute before he said, “I’m going to cancel my classes for the rest of the day. I have eighteen years of catching up to do, and I know just where I can do it.”
It wasn’t until half past seven that night that Harry finally walked out of the room of requirement. Harry had watched years of his life replayed before his eyes. When they started, he thought it would take years to make it through even if he did skip all of the times when he was sleeping. Fortunately, as events from his life were displayed, the memories began to spill back out of the recesses they had been forced into. By the time he left, his memory had returned.
It was a strange sensation for Harry. His head was filled with the memories of two similar yet different lives. It was almost like the sensations he had dealt with years earlier when he discovered Voldemort’s memories in his head. This time though, the memories were all his own. He wouldn’t have traded his new memories for anything.
As Harry headed back to his office, he had to smile at his good fortune. He would have never thought that the one action of saving Cedric could have so many good benefits. He and Cedric had grown into great friends. A new dark lord had somehow been prevented from rising. There was one other thing that made him happy though, and Cedric had been the key.
Cedric had gone to work for the Ministry of Magic after he graduated. He had been in his first year in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. He was also a first year member of the Order of the Phoenix. As such, he responded to Dumbledore’s call when Harry and his friends were battling death eaters in the Department of Mysteries. His presence in the battle was the crucial difference.
Back in his office, Harry stuck his head into the floo network and it popped out into a comfortable room where a man sat in a chair reading. The man looked up from his book and smiled.
“Hi there, Harry,” Sirius said.
“Hi, Sirius,” Harry said with a wide smile. “I can’t tell you how great it is to see you again.”
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