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Introduction:

harry potter
Chapter 25: Shopping at Knockturn Alley

NOTE: Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I think the story is going a little slow right now, I'm boring myself, basically, so let’s bring back some excitement!



The next day, the boys persuaded Mrs. Weasley to let them go off to Diagon Alley on their own, using Christmas shopping as their excuse. "We can’t very well shop for you when you’re standing right behind us, mother." George told her. She agreed to send them with ministry guards, which made the boys happy. After all, a ministry worker would be easier to lose than the ever-watchful Molly.

A short while later all the arrangements where taken care of and they all stepped into the fireplace, arriving at the twins’ shop covered in a fine coating of soot. Brushing themselves off, the boys greeted Lee and immediately began inspecting the shelves for the ingredients needed to make the counterpotion. George sent the guards to stand outside (so as not to scare away business) while Fred gave Lee some busywork back in the office to keep him out of the way.

"I wish Hermione were here. This would probably go a lot faster if the big brain were helping." Fred grumbled as he began measuring out the proper amounts of the ingredients the others found.

"Yeah, but then we’d have to listen to her tell us we’re doing everything wrong." George laughed.

"Guys, it should be obvious that it would be much faster to do everything this way!" Ron imitated Hermione, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms as she does when correcting or scolding them.

"I think it would be less annoying if she weren’t always right." Fred joked.

Harry remained quiet on the topic since he actually felt pretty guilty not to have included Hermione. Through planning or accident, she’d always been a part of everything he’d done since they’d met and it felt wrong to try and exclude her now. But at the same time he felt bad including her, Ginny, or Luna in something like this, something Cho had clearly meant for the boys.

By the time half an hour had passed, they had all but three of the required materials and finished measuring out the proper amounts of those they did have. "We still need to find: Nardook root, turnock juice and spectorperspe." Harry read off the list.

"What’s spectorperspe?" Ron asked.

"It’s more commonly called ‘ghost sweat.’" a voice said from behind them. Startled, the four boys turned to see Hermione and Ginny standing by the fireplace. "Why on earth would you need that?" Hermione asked, a smirk on her soot streaked face.

"What are you two doing here?" Ron asked, finding his voice first.

"You didn’t think it would be that easy to ditch us did you?" Ginny said with a false sweetness. "The real question is, what are you four trying to hide?"

The boys all looked at each other and reached a silent agreement to let the girls in on what they were doing, though it still made Harry uncomfortable to do so. "Fred and George may have found a potion to get around the Bickeross." He finally answered as he handed over the book and list of ingredients.

(BREAK)

Luna had woken that morning feeling compelled to accompany her father to the Quibbler offices. She did this often, liking the bustling colors, noises and employees, but today had been different. There was some reason she needed to be in the area, she just didn’t know why yet. She was certain an answer would be forthcoming though, and so she gladly followed her dad on his rounds to check on the printing presses. As the morning progressed, the uneasy feeling she’d shrugged off earlier steadily built up until she felt like a teapot about to boil over.

After lunch, her dad left her in his office to attend a meeting with one of his most published reporters. No sooner had she gotten up to get a glass of water, wishing something would come to let her know what was going on, than the familiar feeling overtook her and she dropped to the ground unconscious to the world.

(BREAK)

They had almost instantly noticed the boys’ absence from the house- the silence gave it away. It had taken a long time to get Mrs. Weasley to tell them where they’d gone, but as soon as she had admitted to letting them leave for Christmas shopping, Hermione and Ginny had known it was a lie. Ginny did most of the talking, getting her mother to finally agree to let the girls follow after the others. "Why do you think they didn’t tell us they were going somewhere?" she asked Hermione as they prepared to step into the fireplace.

"I don’t know, but it certainly wasn’t to go buy presents." Hermione knew that whatever they were doing, it was something dangerous that she wouldn’t approve of. Harry hadn’t told her for a reason, and usually when he kept things from people it was because he either felt the need to protect them or to protect himself from their disapproval. She had a funny feeling this time the reason would involve a little of both.

They arrived just in time to overhear enough, stepping into the twins’ store without bothering to brush the soot from themselves and demanding to know what they were being kept out of. Hermione watched as they all glanced nervously at each other, each one nodding slightly as they decided to tell the truth. "Fred and George may have found a way around the Bickeross." Harry said, handing her a book.

"The Rictheous Potion?" She quickly read the text as Ginny looked over her shoulder.

"Well, do you think it will work?" Fred asked excitedly.

"It should. It does say the potion was created specifically to counteract the effects of Bickeross." She answered honestly though she hated to get their hopes up.

"So if this works, you’ll be able to tell us everything that happened with Cho?" Ginny asked.

"You, Dumbledore, the world... Everyone!" Ron exclaimed with a wide smile.

"But where do you expect to find the last three ingredients? Nowhere I know of in Diagon Alley sells spectorperspe or turnock juice." Hermione tried to recall anywhere she’d seen that would sell these sorts of things. "You might find nardook root, I suppose." She added, looking at the boys who were all staring purposely at the ground. She immediately realized where they intended to go. "Oh no you don’t Harry James Potter." She scolded as she stalked over to him. "Knockturn Alley is dangerous, especially for you. Do you know how many Death Eaters there could be just slinking around? Only the worst kind of wizards shop there."

"Relax Hermione. George and I go there all the time!" Fred told her.

"Thank you for making my point." She answered crossly, upset they had been planning to take such a risk. "And you’ve never gone there with Harry. Besides, what if this potion doesn’t even work the way we think it will?"

"Well, fine. We’ll just go alone then. You guys can wait here and entertain Lee and the guards." George shot back. "Then if it doesn’t work out, we’re the only ones who risked our necks."

Hermione cringed, knowing he’d just said the exact right thing to ensure Harry would be going with them. Sure enough, he stepped between everyone with his hands out trying to keep the peace. "Alright, that’s enough bickering. Look, there’s no way you guys are going alone when we wouldn’t even be in this mess if Cho hadn’t been after me."

"Relax, Harry. We came to terms with the fact that people would be after you long before we decided to be your friend." George grinned.

"Yeah, it was kind of why we decided to be your friend, all the excitement and all." Fred added with an identical grin.

"So we’re all going?" Ginny asked.

"Absolutely not. You and Hermione should just go home." Ron said stubbornly.

"Why because we’re girls? You and Harry get in way more trouble than we ever have!" Ginny replied heatedly.

"We’re all going." Hermione said with authority. She caught the unhappy look on Harry’s face and decided he could just deal with it. "If something happens, it’ll be better that way, more of us to watch out for each other."

"More people to be targets you mean." Ginny said.

"You don’t have to go Baby Sister." Fred reminded her.

"Yeah, you’re the one who got all feminist about it. We’d rather you didn’t go." George added and once more Hermione knew he’d said the one thing to ensure the opposite of what he’d wanted to achieve. There was no way Ginny wasn’t going now.

"Let’s just get this over with as quickly as possible before anything can go wrong." She said impatiently.

"Everything will be fine, Mione. You’ll see." Ron reassured her.

"That’s what we always say right before we end up fighting for our lives." Ginny grumbled.

(BREAK)

Draco absolutely hated Bellatrix Lestrange. But for some unknown reason she was a favorite with Lord Voldemort and therefore the insanity that would have normally made her a liability to them, had to be tolerated. He and his father were walking through Knockturn Alley with the horrid woman, disguised in cloaks just in case an Auror or two decide to take a stroll looking for the escaped Death Eaters. Draco thought it ridiculous that they risk capture at all, but they’d been sent on a mission and he had been told that for some reason he had to go with. He knew the plan they were currently enacting had come from that crazy old man who’d shown up over the summer, somehow quickly gaining a place of power within the Dark Lord’s inner circle- he just didn’t know how yet. But a few more days in London, left to wander virtually unnoticed, viewed as neither an asset nor a threat, and he’d know all.

"There’s the signal! Little Potter and his nasty friends have been found!" Bellatrix said excitedly, turning to Lucius. "See and you didn’t trust what old Jasper said."

Jasper. Draco thought to himself. So that was the strange old man’s name, though he wasn’t sure if it was his first or last. He kept his face blank as his father growled out his answer. "It’s not that I didn’t trust him, I just didn’t believe everything he said. But I guess it really was time for our new recruit to prove himself."

Draco knew they didn’t mean him. He was already in the process of having to prove himself in this whole twisted plot with Cho. They meant the other person who’d come with them to Knockturn Alley and had been sent out to search for Potter. To be honest, he didn’t believe the person would actually do it, but time would still tell once everyone was face to face against each other. As he followed Lucius and Bellatrix through the dark streets, he knew that whatever was about to happen was going to change everything.

(BREAK)

Luna felt calmly panicked as she picked herself up off the floor. Having been receiving warnings and visions of the future for as long as she could remember, she was used to how fast they overtook her and coming out of it sprawled wherever she’d fallen. Thankfully this time it had taken her over while she was alone and so she wouldn’t have to make any explanations, which always proved awkward. But the events she saw that were about to take place had been almost more than she could bear to watch, leaving her feeling desperate and scared. Unable to find her dad, she quickly scrawled a note to him making her excuses for leaving. Then she ran from the building toward Knockturn Alley hoping she wasn’t too late to help.

(BREAK)

Harry stood at the end of Knockturn Alley with his friends staring towards the dark, decrepit and decaying buildings lining either side. They all wore heavy cloaks, keeping their hoods pulled up to hide their identities as he, Hermione, Ron and Ginny quickly followed Fred and George, who seemed to know exactly where they were going. They walked for a long time as witches with bad teeth and wizards with twisted limbs watched their progress, making Harry feel uncomfortably scrutinized under so many eyes. The air grew colder and the day became darker the further they went, until finally the twins stopped and turned to the others.

"I think we’ll find what we need here." George said pointing to the building on their left. Harry looked up and read, ‘Poisons and Potions,’ on a storefront made of decayed wood and dirty smudged glass. The name didn’t make him feel any better nor did the shabby and foreboding exterior, which was actually nothing compared to what he saw once they went inside. Cobwebs covered every inch of the ceiling, much to the discomfort of Ron, Harry noticed. Jars full of gross and disgusted things filled the shelves inside broken display cases. Taking a closer look at a few different jars, he decided that it would be in his best interest not to try anymore of the twins’ concoctions if this was where they got their ingredients.

There were all kinds of unruly and creepy patrons shopping there and Harry drew his hood down further, desperate to get what they needed and leave before trouble could break out. Fred and George pointed their wands at their throats and muttered something under their breath. When they approached the shopkeeper, their voices were magically altered and came out as gruff, commanding, and tough. "‘Ello, Grutch." Fred addressed the stooped, disgusting man behind the dirty counter.

"Back again boys? I see you brought friends." Grutch tried to look past the brothers.

"Never mind them, they work for us." George told him with such authority that the man turned his intense gaze from Harry, who he had been studying closely, back to them.

"What can I do for you two, then?"

"We need, nardook root, turnock juice and spectorperspe." Fred listed off.

The shopkeeper bared the few teeth he had in a crooked smile. "Quite a shopping list. Might I inquire of the purposes?"

"Ask us no unsightly questions, and we’ll do the same." George said, leaning forward and blocking Harry from view. Harry himself was feeling uneasy, the man kept turning his attention to him, as were many other cloaked figures in the store. He wished they’d hurry up.

"I’ll be right back." Grutch said disappearing behind a torn black curtain. Hermione went off with Ron to inspect some of the shelves’ contents while Ginny searched the glass cases full of weird, dead creatures. Harry felt very exposed standing in the middle of the store all by himself. He had a childish urge to turn and run until he was safely on the sun-filled streets of Diagon Alley. This whole street gave off an uneasy sense, of death and darkness, evil and pain. Harry felt it all and knew he wanted to be gone. He stepped a bit closer to the twins who still had their backs to him as they waited for the shopkeeper.

Grutch finally reappeared from behind the curtain with three vials. "That’ll be 50 galleons, boys."

"Fifty?" Fred asked with feigned surprise.

"You’d charge that much to us?" George asked indignantly. "Two of your most loyal customers?"

"Yes, now pay or leave." Grutch crossed his arms over his chest and watched closely as the twins counted out the amount due.

Suddenly, Harry felt the tip of a wand in his back and a hand on his shoulder. A voice whispered into his ear, "Come with me Potter, or I’ll kill your friends where they stand." He nodded and let himself be steered out of the store. The voice was familiar, but he couldn’t place it. "Don’t turn around." It growled at him as they walked outside. Harry couldn’t tell if his captor was male or female, but he realized it didn’t much matter. As he was led further down the rapidly darkening streets, he found himself concentrating on Hermione until he could have sworn he heard her voice in his head.

Where’s Harry? He heard her ask.

I’m being taken hostage, Hermione. He thought, feeling miserably hopeless.

And then, he got a surprise.... she answered back. By who?







A/N: Sorry it's short, I promise next one will be longer with some fighting.

Chapter 26: Unexpected Foe

NOTE: This chapter, Harry’s power develops and we learn the identity of a most unlikely foe. So as always, Read, Review, Enjoy!!!!




Can you hear me, Hermione? Harry thought wildly, focusing everything he had on her.

Yes. Ron says he can hear you too. What’s going on? Where are you? Who’s taken you hostage? Her panicked voice filled his head.

"Keep moving!" The owner of the gruff voice ordered him, digging the wand deeper into his back as they rushed down the street. He wanted nothing more than to turn and fight this stranger, but something told him that the person behind him wasn’t unknown to him, that he actually knew them well. That made him even less certain about what was going on and what he should do about it. With no other viable option, he decided to bring help to him.

We turned left when we got out of the store, I think we’re going deeper down Knockturn Alley. He tried to take in his surroundings but they were moving quickly and of course nothing here was familiar. He desperately searched the strange faces on the street, but no one was paying any attention to the scene. Apparently, someone being forced away at wandpoint was a common enough occurrence in this area… that or everyone here knew better than to involve themselves in things unconnected to them.

We’re coming, have you turned off the main road yet? Hermione asked desperately.

No. He answered. But we’re moving fast.

Then the voices in his head changed, and Ron was talking to him. Harry, can you see who it is?

No. He said as his captor violently grabbed his arm and practically threw him around the corner before once more jamming the wand in his back and moving them forward. Wait! We’re turning, the street sign says.... Pheasant Street! He relayed quickly to his friends. He began to wonder if guiding his friends to this potentially dangerous person was a good idea, but in Knockturn Alley he had no one else.

Fred says we’re less than a mile away from you! Ron declared. They must have been running full speed after him.

There were several long tense moments of silence as he allowed himself to be directed further down someplace where he’d be unlikely to find an ally. Once more he was roughly grabbed and thrown around a corner, making the touch of fear he’d been holding onto melt into anger. He saw they were now blocked on three sides by buildings, the only exit behind him and past his captor. He supposed it was as good a place as any other to have this intended showdown, all he needed was an opportunity.

Deciding he would attempt to make this stand alone, he tried to call out to his friends again. We’re in an alleyway now. It’s a dead end. Maybe you guys should go get help. No one responded to that thought and he wondered if his sudden ability had left him or if they were deliberately ignoring him. He felt uneasy, knowing this had to be a trap.

"Drop your wand, Potter." The figure demanded, jabbing him in the back again. Harry obediently let his wand drop to the ground and saw the person kick it away. He kept his eyes trained on the spot where it landed. "Now turn and face your death like the man you’ll never become." Harry turned and faced the cloaked man. He knew it was a man now and the voice was uncomfortably familiar, though he still couldn’t see the face under the hood. His captor stepped forward and ripped Harry’s own hood back before raising his wand and preparing to cast his demise. He kept his eyes open, refusing to show fear.

"Harry?" Someone called breathlessly from the mouth of the alleyway. The man was distracted long enough for Harry to kick him away. He rolled over to where his own wand lay and rose pointing it at his would be assassin before glancing at the person who may very well have saved his life. "Luna! What are you doing here?"

"Daddy and I were doing some research for the Quibbler and I wandered off. Who is this?" she walked over to him and drew her own wand without hesitation.

"I don’t know." Harry answered, glad he wasn’t alone. But then if he couldn’t handle this by himself, how was he ever supposed to face Voldemort?

(BREAK)

Luckily Luna had made it in time to save Harry’s life, stopping the horrible event she’d been shown. But as she’d learned from the past, anytime someone else or even Harry himself stepped in to change his fate, another person suffered the consequences. During the Triwizard Tournament, it had been Cedric. At the Department of Mysteries it had been Sirius. Of the two horrible tragic quidditch games, Harry had come out alive and Neville had been the one claimed in his stead. She felt nervous, wondering how fate would even things out this time…

"Where’s everyone else? You didn’t come here by yourself did you?" Luna asked. She already knew the answer, she’d heard him talking to Ron and Hermione in his head, though she was sure he didn’t know it yet. So she made sure to play along as she always did, pretending ignorance to the situation she’d already foreseen while desperately trying to figure out how to get them out of this without further incident.

"They should be here any minute actually." Harry answered, looking toward the mouth of the small alley. She allowed her gaze to follow his, which proved to be a big mistake. Having both of their attention diverted even for those few brief seconds had been enough for the man on the ground to gather his courage, jump to his feet and attempt to curse them. "Look out!" Harry shouted, shoving her to the side. In his panic, he must not have realized how much force he was using and unable to stop her momentum, she landed on the ground hard, scraping her palms as she attempted to break her fall. Ignoring the sharp sting of her hands, she instantly turned with her wand out to find the two practically fist fighting as they rolled around on the ground. The stranger was all wrapped up in his cloak causing a quite a hindrance to him.

"Move!" She yelled and without hesitation Harry rolled out of the way, giving her a clear shot to send a binding at their attacker.

Once sure the man was secure, Harry rushed over to help her to her feet. "I’m so sorry Luna, are you okay?" He asked, taking her hands in his and studying the injuries caused in her fall.

"I’m fine. Better a little scrapped up than dead, right?" She answered, a bit embarrassed by his attention to such a minor wound. Of course the guilt flashing in his eyes told her that he blamed himself for this as much as if she actually had been hurt more seriously. "One application of a few herbs and it’ll be good as new." She smiled, trying to reassure him that all was well. Sensing the others were near, she pulled her hands from his and turned to greet them.

(BREAK)

"Harry!" Hermione, Ron, Ginny and the twins rounded the corner their wands out and ready. He’d never been so happy to see them, opening his arms wide as Hermione threw herself against him, both of them relieved that she’d found him alive and unharmed.

"Luna?" Ron appeared stunned to find her there. But as he and the others took in the sight of the man still stuck in a binding on the ground, he stepped over to her and put his arm protectively around her shoulders. Fred and George strode over to the hooded figure, releasing Harry’s spell and bringing him to his feet before unmasking him.

"PERCY?!???!" Everyone said at once, not quite believing what was right in front of their eyes. There stood the outcast Weasley child looking calm and defiant, his hair as fiery as the glare he threw his brothers and Harry.

"Who is he?" Luna asked, though Harry sensed she already knew. And who could dismiss the family resemblance? He gathered the fallen wands, keeping his and handing Percy’s over to one of the boy’s siblings.

"Our brother." Ron answered grimly, still in a bit of shock as he reached to take the wand.

"Don’t tell us you joined the other side!" Fred growled as he grabbed Percy’s arm and rolled up the sleeve. There on the inside forearm for all to see was the tattooed dark mark of a Death Eater.

"Didn’t think you’d have it in you." George commented.

Fred shook his head. "Mum and dad are going to be so disappointed."

"They’ll be used to the feeling." Percy sneered, pulling his arm free and pushing away the twins.

"Whoa there big brother. Calm down or you’ll hurt yourself." George pushed him back.

"Or we’ll hurt you." Fred added, waving his wand threateningly.

"Guys-" Harry started to rein the twins in, but was interrupted by a voice at the mouth of the alley.

"Well, we only wanted you to bring Potter, but you brought us the whole miserable bunch. Good work Weasley." Everyone turned and pointed their wands at the three new figures standing behind them, blocking the only exit. Harry glared at Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, but was surprised to see Draco hovering behind his father, looking unsure if he really wanted to be there.

Grinning madly, Bellatrix took a step toward Hermione, Ron and Luna. Thinking now was as good a time as any to experiment with his developing powers, Harry pushed with his mind the image he had been picturing, and Bellatrix suddenly hurtled backward knocking over the Malfoys. Harry collapsed to his knees, exhausted from the effort.

Ron leapt into action, diving for their fallen wands before Lucius could while Fred and George made a mad grab for their brother, who was trying to flee. Ginny kicked Percy’s legs out from under him as he ran by her, forcing him to stumble and dodge back into the blocked alley. Harry ran and tackled Draco who had recovered his wand. The boys grappled for a moment and then it was almost as if the other boy had just given up. Harry took Draco’s wand back and threw it to Ron who had come to help him.

Rising slowly, he tried to sort out who needed help but froze in fear at what he saw. Fred, George, and Ginny were backing away from Percy, their hands in the air signaling defeat as he dug the tip of a small dagger under Hermione’s chin. She was struggling to get away, out of his grasp, but it was no use, he was taller and had developed a lot of strength since he had last been seen. Everyone else stopped what they were doing, either in horror or curiosity to see how this scene would unfold.

"Give them back their wands, Ronald." Percy ordered.

"Why? Why did you do this?" Ron asked him, almost in tears. Trembling, his lifted the hand holding Lucius, Draco and Bellatrix’s wands.

Everything seemed to happen at once as the elder Malfoy stepped forward to snatch back his wand. Harry had been giving Ron and Hermione silent orders and on his count, they had sprung into action. Ron threw stunners at the Malfoys and LeStrange, while Hermione used her wand to stun Percy’s foot so that he would loosen his hold enough for her to escape as Harry mentally threw him against the wall. But Percy recovered more quickly than they had expected. He got to his feet and dove for the wands that Ron had dropped. Picking one up he wildly waved it around yelling out loudly and passionately, "AVADA KEDAVRA!!!"

"Duck!" Harry screamed, grabbing Hermione and Luna who were closest to him and diving behind one of dumpsters. But the others weren’t as quick as he was. He watched horrified as the unforgivable struck a target, sending another of his friends falling to their death.





A/N: Who was it?!?!?!? Who died? I know........Muwhahahahahahahahahahaha I know this isn't as long as I promised, but once again I didn't know what was going to happen until I started writing, I'm hoping to have the next chapter up by this weekend.

Chapter 27: The Ignorant VS. the Understanding

NOTE: Welcome back, obviously someone died last time which may upset some, but I’m beginning to have a plan formulated for this story, so all I can say is trust me, it will all have a purpose. READ, REVIEW, ENJOY!





Harry sat down next to Hermione in the hard plastic seats and took her hand, squeezing it tightly. Together they watched the healers of St. Mungo’s bustle around them importantly but Harry knew there was nothing they could do. They all walked around with their medicines and bandages like they could save every life- but what about the ones that were already dead? What could these impressive healers do for them?

He felt numb inside as he looked around at the five tear-stained faces of his friends and felt the void of the one face that would no longer be among them. He felt guilty for not having shed a single tear for the loss, but he knew he was too angry to cry. The circumstances surrounding the death were too much and he felt ready right now. If given the chance, he would take on Voldemort and end the constant suffering of the people around him.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came back to them after visiting the morgue, shock evident on their faces. Harry could tell they had no idea how to feel or how much crying would be enough, how much anger. Without a word, the six teens followed them to the car and endured the silent ride back to Potter Manor.

(BREAK)

Draco thought his heart was going to explode in his chest as he quickly made his way through the maze of streets back to the safe-house. Lucius, Bellatrix and Percy had apparated there immediately, but not being of age and not wanting to bring attention from the ministry for underage apparation, Draco had been forced to take the long way. He wished his father had stuck around to take the journey with him, but he hadn’t been surprised when Lucius had insisted on disappearing immediately after the crime.

The Crime… The murder to be more exact. He’d just witnessed a brother take a brother’s life… and for what? What stake did Percy Weasley have invested with Lord Voldemort that would cause him to act so carelessly around so many of his siblings? It had been obvious Percy hadn’t cared who his curse struck, he hadn’t even attempted to aim. They had all been targets, Lucius, Bellatrix and himself included. This led him to believe that perhaps it wasn’t loyalty that had driven the outcast Weasley to turn to the other side, it had been anger. That made him dangerous in Draco’s estimation, a huge liability because you could never tell just what will change the tide of one’s rage.

As he silently slipped through the front door of his father’s London safe-house, he made sure they all knew he’d come back safely. No one seemed to care much, not even Lucius and he found himself longing for the large, empty house he shared with his mother. It had to be better than the crowded, cold indifference he had here. Careful not to show any emotion, just in case anyone was paying attention, he quickly made his way to the small room allotted for his use. Then, flinging his cloak in the corner, he sat on the bed and dropped his head in his hands, feeling the full conflict brewing within him. Longbottom had been one thing, it had been an accident that he died- well not the circumstances that brought about his death, that was Cho- but everyone else had been saved and it was only a fluke that he hadn’t been. But this… this was something wholly different. He’d gone to Knockturn Alley that morning knowing they intended to kill someone, be it Potter alone or all of his friends as well. He hadn’t been sure how to feel about it then… and after witnessing the event, he definitely wasn’t sure how to feel now. He knew he was supposed to be hard, to shut off the emotions and fuel the predator. But he certainly didn’t feel like a predator at the moment.

A knock on his door interrupted his train of thought. Setting his face in a bored, stony expression, he got up to see who could possibly want to see him. He was only slightly surprised to find Cho. "What do you want?"

"I heard one of them died." She answered brushing past him into the room before turning to face him with a demented gleam in her eyes. "Who was it?" She asked with so much excited anticipation that it made his stomach turn, not that he let on to that fact.

"Why didn’t you just keep eavesdropping?" He asked cruelly. "I’m sure they would’ve said."

"You’re one to talk about eavesdropping. You think I don’t know that you’ve been slinking around in that cloak of yours listening to everything." She shot back.

"What of it?" He answered defensively.

"Relax Draco, I understand the benefit of not being left in the dark. I won’t tell anyone." She smirked.

"Great." He walked over to the door, opening it and gesturing her out. "You can go now."

"Come on! They stopped talking about it." She whined. "Please, just tell me. Which one of them died?"

"Good-bye Cho."

"Come on, Draco." She said in a low voice, slinking up to him, closing the door again and grabbing his collar, running her fingers around his neck. "Tell me who it was."

If only she knew how little her charms worked on him. But he’d just been wondering how much of a predator he could be and this seemed as good a time as any other to find out if he could still pull it off. "One of the Weasleys." He teased, drawing out the information she wanted.

As suspected, she upped her game. "Oh yeah. That’s slightly disappointing. Which one?" She asked in a low smooth voice, now drawing her finger down his chest.

With a satisfied smirk, he grabbed her arm and pushed her away. "Does it matter?"

"You’re being purposely obtuse." She accused, crossing her arms.

"And you really think you can seduce anyone, don’t you?" He shot back.

"It worked on you before." She replied smugly.

He turned on her quickly, stalking up to her with a look in his eye that forced her to back up. Raising his arms and slamming his hands against the wall on either side of her head, he took great pleasure in the excited fear he saw in her eyes as she cringed. He leaned in close, bringing his face within inches of hers, trapping her with his body. "Make no mistake, Cho. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do." He growled with so much conviction, he nearly convinced himself it was true, though they both knew the opposite.

"So now what?" She whispered.

Rather than answer, he captured her mouth with his, hating himself the whole time. She responded immediately as he’d known she would since she believed she had some kind of hold on him. But he knew he was the one using her, silencing the doubts in his mind by filling the void with self-loathing at the twisted pleasure he took in being with Cho. He didn’t need her to know that he was in control, that this would always begin and end whenever he chose… for now, it was enough that he knew it. Especially since this was the only place in his life where he felt he had any control at all.

(BREAK)

"Tell me again, son, why you were all in Knockturn Alley?" Mr. Weasley pleaded in a numb voice, addressing Ron. There was not a moment Ron had stopped crying since Percy, Bellatrix and the Malfoys had run off. Now was no exception as he struggled to answer through his sobs.

"It was my idea, dad." Fred answered quietly for him. He had shed his tears and now Harry watched as the hardened face of anger and regret took over. He knew that face well. "We needed some things for- it doesn’t matter. I wish we had never gone."

"But you did and YOU LIED TO ME!!!" Mrs. Weasley yelled. She hadn’t said a word since Hermione had contacted her and now her grief was creeping in. "IF YOU HAD SHOPPED LIKE YOU TOLD ME YOU WERE NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. YOU KNEW HOW DANGEROUS IT IS THERE!!! IF YOU HADN’T GONE THEN WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO BE GOING TO… to... to anyone’s funeral." She finished quietly unable to utter her lost child’s name before she broke down. Mr. Weasley led her upstairs, crying. Harry knew how she was feeling, and at the same time he didn’t. He had lost a great deal in his life, but he could never imagine what it would be like to lose your child.... especially at the hand of their brother.

He watched Fred and Ginny silently walk out of the room with the heads hanging and was tempted to follow, but figured they’d rather be alone. Eventually, he and Hermione convinced Ron to go to bed as well by setting up a makeshift bed on the floor of his room and bunking with him for the night. They knew he didn’t want to be alone and were more than happy to do anything to help alleviate the agony he felt.

As he struggled to sleep, Harry knew everyone in the house was still wide awake and full of grief, each trying to figure out how to live the next day without George.

(BREAK)

Luna had gone with to the hospital but insisted on having her dad pick her up. She wanted more than anything to be there for Ron and knew her father would certainly have given his permission to let her stay… but she just couldn’t do it. This needed to be about him and his family and their grief. She worried that if she had to bear witness, her own suppressed grief for her own similar loss would overwhelm her and make her unable to truly help Ron. She felt it much better that he be with Harry and Hermione who could give him the attention she now had to deny him… at least until she was sure she wouldn’t be consumed by her memories.

"Hello love." Her father said from the doorway to her room. "You doing alright?"

"I’m quite sad actually." She answered honestly as she climbed into bed.

He walked over and kissed her forehead before sitting next to her. "That’s only to be expected. It’ll all fade with time."

"Until something else happens to make me remember." She grumbled.

"Here’s a little something to help you forget." He pulled out the latest copy of the Quibbler. "Hot off the presses. You are the first to set eyes on it."

Many people misunderstood her father, but she knew he was truly trying to make her feel better and so with a smile, she reached out and took the magazine, opening it to the lead story. Vampires Bite at Chance to Negotiate Joining Lord Voldemort By: Xenophilius Lovegood.

"Is this true?" She asked, amazed but not really surprised, figuring most vampires would side with Voldemort.

"Heard it myself from an extremely reliable source as stated in the article." He answered proudly. Then he leaned over and once more kissed her forehead, pulling the blankets up around her as he stood. "Try your best to sleep tonight… remember, tomorrow only brings you one day further from today’s mistakes. I love you."

"I love you too." She returned, feeling slightly better than when she had gotten home. She knew that starting tomorrow, she was going to have to find the strength to give the support that Ron needed from her.

(BREAK)

The next morning, Harry and the other teens found they had to fend for themselves for breakfast since Mrs. Weasley refused to come out of her room. Mr. Weasley had left early to take care of some things along with Lupin and Tonks, leaving them to themselves and making the house feel very empty. No one was really in the mood to eat, but they went through the motions all the same so they would have something to do. Luna’s arrival slightly brightened Ron’s mood and Harry was grateful that she’d come back.

A little after the cereal was poured, a large brown owl swooped in to deliver the Daily Prophet to Hermione. She paid him and opened it to the front page. "Oh, Harry." She sighed as she laid the paper out for all of them to see. He stared at the large picture of himself plastered above the fold. It was apparently taken last night in the hospital- he was staring at the floor, as if trying with his gaze to burn a hole down to hell to confront the Devil. At the top of the page was the headline: DEATH ONCE AGAIN SURROUNDS HARRY POTTER.

"What’s it say?" Ron asked grimly as Fred and Ginny turned away. Apparently they weren’t up to reading it themselves yet. Harry grabbed the paper and read it to them, getting angrier as he went on.

Another friend of the famous Harry Potter died
today. According to sources, he was accompanied
by his peers to Knockturn Alley where they were
ambushed by three death eaters, whose names have
not yet been disclosed. The victim was a child of
Minister of Magic Arthur Weasley, though which
of the seven we have not yet been informed. We
expect more information to become available today
at the press conference held by Minister Weasley.
It seems no one is safe around Potter these days.

"I told my Carl to stay away from that boy when
he returns to school for spring term. Nothing but
pain, death and misery surrounds that child." Said
Mrs. Fellow, a concerned Hogwarts’ parent.

"If I was his friend, I’d run screaming in the other
direction. The rest of the Weasleys better watch
themselves, as well as his girlfriend." Said Carl
Fellow, fifth year Hufflepuff.

Many other students felt the same. "God, if I was
his girlfriend I’d run to the other side of the world,
I don’t care how hot he looks in a Quidditch
uniform." Said Marta Kramer, seventh year
Ravenclaw.

"I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my brother or
sister, but if I were Ron Weasley, I do know I’d
hate Harry Potter. He’s the reason Death Eaters
were there in the first place. He’s the reason
everyone keeps dying." Said Millicent Bulstrode,
a sixth year Slytherin.

Harry threw down the paper in disgust, not wanting to read the rest of it. He ran from the kitchen, the tears he wished he had shed yesterday coming in full force now. Storming into his room he
slammed the door shut and collapsed on his bed to sob in peace.

Awhile later, Harry heard his bookcase open and silently yelled at himself for not locking it. He turned to see Ron holding the paper. Without a word, he sat down at the end of Harry’s bed and quietly began reading.

"A lot of friends and family of Harry Potter
have died at the hands of evil people. But
that’s what happens when you choose to
stand up and fight instead of sitting back and
watching this evil spread. I’m proud to be
Harry’s friend because I know that no matter
what, he’ll be there, trying to keep me and
everyone else safe. Death is a part of war, a
large part unfortunately, and it sucks. Honestly,
I don’t know why Harry is still fighting for the
good guys, when all they do is blame him for
everything that goes wrong. If I was Harry
Potter, I’d stop fighting and let Voldemort take
over, that way you’d all see how much worse
things could be. But I’m not Harry and he
wouldn’t do that to you, he can’t, it’s not in
him. But believe me, things would be a lot
worse without him." Said Dean Thomas, sixth
year Gryffindor.

"Who knew Dean was so eloquent?" Harry asked to hide his slight embarrassment. Ron snickered and kept reading.

"My sister Parvati and I have known Harry for
five and a half years. He’s one of the nicest,
bravest and most loyal people you’ll ever meet.
I can’t believe all the crap he’s gotten over the
years for the consequences that come with
stopping He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He’s
saving our butts people so just leave him alone
to grieve with his friends. What none of you
realize is that all he really has left is them and
when they die, it’s like he’s losing his family
all over again. So just get over him already and
let the guy have a break." Said Padma Patil,
sixth year Ravenclaw."

"Since when is Padma Patil my friend?" Harry asked surprised.

"I think she and Fred are kind of seeing each other. But it’s not the point. She doesn’t know you very well, but at the same time she knows all about you. Everyone who’s talked to you does. I don’t hate you, none of us do." Ron said his eyes welling up again.

"This shouldn’t be about me, and you shouldn’t be here trying to make me feel better when tomorrow we have to go and bury George."

Ron let out a shaky breath. "I’m not ready for this to be real yet. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for it to be real."

They sat there in silence, knowing it was best not to talk. Knowing that simply being there together was help enough. Eventually, Hermione and Luna found them and sat down with of their respective boys. All four were getting ready for a funeral.





A/N: A Weasley dead! Oh no! What have I done!? But remember it all has a purpose.


Chapter 28: Moony

NOTE: Read on as the plot thickens… Enjoy!



Harry held on tightly to Hermione’s hand as they followed the Weasley family into the graveyard to bury one of their own. Mrs. Weasley still hadn’t said a word to anyone since her outburst, Ron had spent most of his time with Luna or alone, while Fred and Ginny hadn’t shone their faces except at meal times. They came to a stop at a hole six feet deep in the lush green ground. This was the second time Harry had stared down into the dark, gaping earth, with early morning mist swirling around the mourners of a young, lost life. He had a strange urge to smile. Of all the people he knew who had died, it wasn’t until this year that he had actually attended a funeral. At least… he didn’t think he’d been at his parents’ funeral...

Dismissing thoughts he had no control of, he looked over to Bill and Charlie, who had arrived at his house very late the night before. They hadn’t cried with their family, rather they showed the same emotion Harry felt, anger. Pure, blinding, unbridled anger. When they found out that Percy had been responsible for the body now being lowered into it’s final resting place they had left in search of him, wanting to get a hold of their brother before the Aurors. "It’s a family matter." Bill had said. "Percy has always been weak, but that won’t save him from us."

Next to them, Lupin and Tonks were holding each other and Harry knew his friend was thinking the same thing he was. Too many people were being lost to this cause, innocent people. Dumbledore was giving the service, but Harry wasn’t listening to a word he was saying. He had memorized the front page of the paper this morning and as he looked at one Weasley clan member in particular he reread the article in his mind.

MINISTER OF MAGIC’S SON BECOMES
DEATH EATER- KILLS OWN BROTHER

In a press conference yesterday, Minister
of Magic, Arthur Weasley broke down in
tears as he retold the tale of Harry Potter
and his friends.

"It is my deepest regret to inform you that
yesterday, my son Percy Weasley used the
killing curse against his brother, George."
The minister told the shocked crowd.
It is unclear when Percy, former
undersecretary to Cornelius Fudge, had
joined the Death Eater’s ranks. Other
Death Eaters present, according to
testimonies by Potter, Ron, Fred and
Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger and
Luna Lovegood, were recently escaped
Bellatrix LeStrange and Lucius Malfoy. It
is also reported that Malfoy’s son, Draco
was present.

"It is a tragic thing, war. It pits father
against son and brother against brother.
Everyone responsible for my son’s death,
and every other death under He-Who-
Must-Not-Be-Named’s orders, will be
shown no mercy. They will be brought to
justice, and as of right now, I have no son
by the name of Percy." The minister
stated at the end of his speech.

The funeral for George Weasley will be
held this morning at 9:00 a.m. It will be
closed to all except close family and
friends.

Harry looked at Fred and felt for him. He hadn’t talked to anyone but Ginny. When they looked at him, all they saw was a void where a normally happy and mischievous face had been. What was going on in his head? Harry was worried about him. In fact, he was worried about all of them, himself included. This had been a hard twist of fate.

They headed straight back to the house after the service and all scattered to be by themselves. Going to the third floor, Harry knocked tentatively on Fred’s door. After a brief pause, it opened and without a word, he was invited in. He looked around, discovering that all of George’s things had been packed in boxes that were now sitting along the wall.

"I couldn’t stand looking at it all." Fred said without emotion, noticing where Harry was staring.

"This may be a stupid question, but how are you, Fred?"

"The brother I always hated the most just killed the brother I loved the most. I don’t know how I am." Harry was beginning to get scared. Fred was distant and unattached. He appeared not to have slept or showered in days.

"Fred-"

"I’ve been working on that potion. With the ingredients we got. I think I almost have it right." He interrupted, gesturing to the things he had bubbling on his work table.

"Fred, you can’t just pretend... you have to talk to someone." Harry tried. He wasn’t sure exactly what to say, now that he’d seen his friend’s despair.

"Do I? You’ve lost a lot of people you love right, Harry? But how many of them did you know, like really know? Did you know everything about them? Did they know everything about you? Where they half of who you are? I don’t think so. Half of me is dead, so excuse me if it was the fun, carefree half." Fred stomped off to continue work on the potion.

"You’re blaming yourself, aren’t you?" Harry felt he had hit the nail on the head, as if he had plucked the thought from his friend’s head. But then again, maybe it was just because that was exactly how he felt every time someone died.

"Just leave, okay? I’d hate to say anything I can’t take back." Fred warned, his back to Harry.

"Go ahead, say it all. Whatever you want. Rail against the world if it’ll help." He offered.

At first he did nothing. Then out of nowhere he threw a beaker against the wall and Harry watched as it shattered into a thousand pieces. Fred collapsed on his bed in total despair. "What am I supposed to do now, Harry? All I can do is pretend. Pretend I can handle everything, his death, the store, school. Truth is, without him, I can’t do a damn thing."

(BREAK)

Ginny jumped as a large brown owl tapped on her window. She let him in and he swiftly dropped a small envelope in her lap before swooping back out into the morning. She stared at the note, making no move to either open it or close the window against the severe winter air. In truth the coldness felt good, soothing against the depressing thoughts she’d been lost in. Until that day she hadn’t let it be true in her mind, but watching George being lowered into the ground in his shiny black coffin she could no longer deny that her brother was gone. With a heavy sigh, she tore open the letter, curious as to who could possibly be writing her.

The words on the paper burned into her mind as her eyes poured over them. How dare he write to her! And what’s more, he was requesting a meeting, as if he had a right to ask anything of her. Well if he thought she was a fool, he would be sorely mistaken. She would meet him, see what he had to say for himself and then she would show him just how big a mistake he’d made by thinking she’d be understanding. That feeling of needing to throw caution to the wind was upon her and her mind was swirling in on itself to the point where even she didn’t know what she was thinking anymore. But she knew she wasn’t crazy- after all, she fully intended to protect herself.

Grabbing her wand, she stuffed it in her purse and snuck down the stairs to the kitchen with the idea of slipping out the back door. As she passed the counter, something gleamed out of the corner of her eye and she turned to see all of the large kitchen knives, freshly washed and laying out to dry. It was unlike her mother to not just use magic to do the chores and she realized Molly wasn’t exactly up to running a household. Harry must have cleaned up. Without questioning her actions, she picked up the biggest knife and put it her purse before continuing on her way out.

(BREAK)

"It’s not fair." Ron said quietly as Luna sat beside him.

"I know." She answered, her voice choked with emotion. He hadn’t realized she was feeling so deeply upset. "Murder is never fair."

"I just don’t understand Percy! Why would he do this to us?" he stood and began pacing, his heart feeling too big in his chest.

"Because he felt you all deserted him." She answered quietly. Then she looked up at him in horror as if she’d revealed too much.

"So it’s our fault he’s a horrible person?!" he turned on her.

"I didn’t say that, I said that’s how he felt."

"How would you know?"

"I wouldn’t. But one can piece these things together." She answered defensively.

"Whatever. The last thing I want is to fight with you." He sat at his desk and rested his head in his hands, trying to figure out something to make sense of his life.

"Well I don’t want to fight with you either. Believe me, I can imagine how you’re feeling right now." She came over and began rubbing his shoulders, but he pulled away wanting none of her pity.

"How could you possibly? You’re an only child, you never watched someone murder your brother." He looked back at her and saw the pain and anger in her eyes. He became startled by the sharp intensity of those emotions. Normally, she was sort of detached from everything as if the only thing tethering her to earth was her own body. But now, she was fully present in the moment and he became horrified, as if he were responsible for the fury and agony she was trying to conceal.

"You’re right. I’ve never had to watch my brother be killed." She finally said very carefully choosing her words before continuing in a rant. "That doesn’t mean I can’t empathize. I’m not some alien from the stars incapable of human emotion."

"I never said that." He answered quickly, taking a step toward her.

She shook her head and within seconds she was herself again, those feelings pushed back down wherever she kept them. When she met his eyes again, they only held concern for him. "It’s okay. I’m the one overreacting here. I’m sorry." She stepped forward and threw her arms around him, giving no further explanation. Not wanting to rock the boat, he let it go. But as soon as he could focus on something other than the tragedy that had befallen his family, he intended to talk to her about all the little things he was certain she was keeping secret. After all, he didn’t have secrets from her.

(BREAK)

Harry ran into Hermione as he was leaving Fred’s room. They looked at each other and then silently made their way downstairs. Neither spoke until after they had bundled up and gone out into the snow-covered backyard. "Harry, this may not be the best time, but we need to figure out how we can talk to each other in our heads." Hermione whispered, her breath misting the air.

He dug at the snow with his boot, not wanting to talk about anything at all. "You’re right, it’s not the best time. It was a spur of the moment thing and we can’t do it now, so let’s just forget about it."

"But Harry..."

"I can’t, Mione, not now! Fred, he’s... I’m worried about him. He’s up in his room, with all of George’s things packed away, working on that potion. They’re all falling apart- Molly, she hasn’t eaten anything in three days. Ron won’t talk to any of us, Ginny refuses to come out of her room, and Arthur has to deal with this whole thing at work, away from his family while Bill and Charlie can only search for Percy, fueled by their anger. I feel helpless, Hermione, and I don’t like that feeling."

"I know." She rubbed his shoulders affectionately.

He steeled himself, ready to admit what had been rolling around in his head since the moment George died. "The only thing I’m certain of now is that I can do it."

"Do what?" She stopped rubbing, now squeezing his shoulders tightly, already knowing what he was talking about.

"Kill him. He destroys the innocent- he did it to my family, and now he’s done it to the Weasleys. It can’t happen anymore. I can’t let my guilt over becoming a murderer stand in the way."

She came around to face him. "You feel that way now, but...who knows what’ll have happened by the time you come face to face."

"More terrible things. I have to end it. It’s my destiny, so why fight that? I’ll do what I have to do."

Hermione threw her arms around him and cried softly, letting his words finally unlock the misery she’d been holding in. "I won’t let you do it alone. I refuse to believe you were meant to do this alone."

Harry couldn’t muster the strength or conviction to argue with her, so he simply held her until they were both nearly frozen. Finally with both their teeth chattering, they decided to head back in the house to thaw out. While heading down the hallway to the fire crackling in the parlor, they ran into Lupin on his way out, carrying a suitcase. "Are you leaving?" Harry asked him.

"I know I shouldn’t, but I have to." Lupin answered miserably. "I put it off for as long as possible, but the moon is full tonight and you know I have leave for that. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Promise me you’ll help Tonks look after Molly? Try and get her to eat something, alright?"

They nodded, having no problem promising to take care of a woman who had always taken such good care of them. The three said their good-byes quickly, Lupin eager to get far from civilization before night fell. After he left, Harry turned to suggest hot cocoa and noticed Hermione looking thoughtful. "What is it?"

"The clue, Harry!" she said loudly, startling him.

"What… the clue for the ring? What about it?"

"Do you still have it?" She asked excitedly.

"Yeah, of course. It’s in my room."

"Come on!" She ran up the stairs and he quickly followed her, excited by her excitement. He rushed to his desk and pulled out the right paper and handing to her eagerly. She scanned the words, looking up at him with her eyes wide with pleasure at her epiphany. "This is it, Harry!!! When an animal was made, why didn’t I see it before?! Lily was talking about Lupin. Moony, get it?!"

"Let me see that." She gave it back to him and he carefully read through the passage. "It seems so simple now." He shook his head in disbelief.

"Harry, when was Lupin turned?" Hermione asked him eagerly.

"I don’t know, I don’t think he ever told us." Just then they heard the front door slam. "Maybe that’s him now, maybe he forgot something." He added hopefully. They eagerly ran down to meet him only to find Ginny instead.

"When did you go out?" Hermione asked her. And then she gasped. The other girl had taken a step into the edge of the hall light and they saw that she was splattered in blood.

"Ginny! What happened? Are you hurt?" Harry pulled her up to the landing and fully into the light. As he did, a knife clattered to the floor.

"It’s not my blood." She said quietly.

Hermione looked at her horrified. "Ginny, what did you do?"

Harry pushed Ginny up the stairs a bit as Mrs. Weasley poked her head out of her room. "What’s going on?"

"Nothing. Sorry if we disturbed you." Hermione said quickly.

"Fine." Mrs. Weasley closed her door on them again.

"Four words total, that’s a start...." Harry said, more than a little worried. They looked up at Ginny who hadn’t moved. "We can’t let any of them see her like this."

"Ginny?" Hermione gently touched the other girl’s arm. Ginny simply looked at her, but said nothing.



A/N: Muwhahahahahahahaha. Who’d she stab and did she kill them? Find out in the next installment of Harry Potter and the Ring of Mykele.

Chapter 29: Pretending

NOTE: HI! Time to figure out what’s going on! As always my lovelies, Read, Review and Enjoy!




Luna had gone home and locked herself up in her room. Unable to relax she paced the floor, angry with herself. She had intended to one day tell Ron everything about herself, but how could she tell him anything when there were so many things for him to deal with. He already thought her weird, the last thing she wanted was for him to think her as big a charity case as he sometimes thought of Harry. She felt so frustrated! Ron never thought anyone else’s life was as bad as they described it and when she had tried to commiserate just an hour ago he’d turned on her, certain no one’s pain was as great as his.

It only proved her instincts had been right, she couldn’t share her own history with him until he realized what it was like to think of others. Maturity would take care of that, but she still felt guilty; there were so many things she should have shared with him, things any boyfriend should know about their girlfriend and a few things that would be a little more abnormal. But his life had been a little too easy, too perfect up until a few years ago. He hadn’t had the strict and overbearing parents that Hermione did, he didn’t lose parents like herself and Harry. He hadn’t been forced to live with people who hated him, he hadn’t had to deal with the stigma that comes from being smart and he hadn’t had to deal with the taunting that comes along with your mother accidentally killing herself the way her own had. Ron could never understand where any of his friends were coming from and it angered him more than he cared to admit. So she’d always felt that telling him anything more than what was commonly known about her would push him away, that she’d be one more person he couldn’t understand.

Sighing, she lay on her bed and stared at the ceiling. If she was being honest, it was more than the little spat she’d just had with Ron that was bothering her. The events of that day in Knockturn Alley were upsetting her deeply. She’d gone to try and help, to be an active participant as she’d vowed to be, and it had only turned out worse. She’d stopped Harry from receiving his fate only to have it delivered to George. It was the third time she’d seen him die in a vision and once more he’d come out unscathed, and once more the backlash had reached out to someone else. The guilt was eating away at her and she knew she’d have to talk to someone about it, and fast. But her father had never been too keen on using the gifts bestowed to him through their bloodline, much to the dissatisfaction of her grandmother who took their abilities very seriously. But her grandmother was overseas on holiday and nothing Luna wanted to discuss could be summed up in a note. She knew Harry would be coming around, especially after what he’d been able to do the day George had died. She only hoped he’d come around sooner rather than later because she couldn’t go through this alone for much longer.

Closing her eyes, she was almost instantly asleep and dreaming, leading her to believe even while unconscious that there was something waiting to be shown to her. The images were unsettling to say the least, and she watched in horror as Ginny stalked her prey in an alleyway. Luna sat up just as Ginny had struck the blow to her victim, stabbing him in the back. She hadn’t seen the final outcome to this, but she knew in this instance, it was already too late for her to try and intervene. While her visions always pertained to events ranging from moments to years into the future, her dreams were more like messages of events unfolding that she needed to know. These could be things that had happened, were happening or were about to happen- As she sat there trying to wrap her mind around what she’d just been shown, she knew there was nothing she could do to save Ginny from herself. Her friend had taken action without making a conscious decision and therefore no vision had come as warning… Luna had just dreamed of a crime that had already taken place. Knowing there was only one way to get more information, she laid down again and closed her eyes tightly in anticipation as sleep once more instantly swept her away.

(BREAK)

Harry sat on Hermione’s bed, waiting impatiently for the girls to come out of the bathroom. He kept running different scenarios through his head. Had Ginny gone after Percy? Why else would she leave? But that didn’t make any sense, she knew Bill and Charlie were still out searching for him, why would she think she could find him… whose blood was it?

"She’ll be out in another minute." Hermione said, closing the door behind her.

"She tell you anything." He asked anxiously.

She sighed and sat next to Harry on the bed. "Only that she didn’t mean to do it. She hasn’t said what or to whom. Do you think she went after Percy?"

"I have no idea." He shook his head, reaching for her hand. "How would she know where to find him?"

"It wasn’t Percy." They turned, startled that Ginny had so silently crept back into the main room. Her hair was damp, hanging in tangles around her face and she was wearing Hermione’s robe, her skin still wet from the shower.

"Tell us what happened Ginny." Hermione said gently, getting up and putting an arm around her shoulders, guiding her to go sit between them.

Harry could feel her shaking as she tried to explain. "I don’t know.... I was so angry. And then I got his note and I don’t know what I was thinking." She let out a tiny sob.

"Whose note?" He asked. But Ginny went on, not paying attention to either of them.

"He said he wanted to meet up, that he thought I would be the most understanding. Guess I proved him wrong. I decided to go, to hear what he had to say, but I didn’t want to go unprotected, and I didn’t think my wand would be enough, so I put a butcher knife in my purse. It was so stupid of me. I mean, who carries around a butcher’s knife?"

Harry and Hermione looked at each other over her head, not daring to interrupt, but confused beyond words. They listened with anticipation and a growing sense of dread as Ginny took a deep breath and continued. "There he was, his back to me. I felt the anger again and it made me.... I don’t know... irrational to say the least. Just the sight of him made me sick. I snuck up behind him and before I knew it..." She made a stabbing motion with her hands. "I really didn’t mean to, and until he fell, I didn’t even realize that I had."

"Who did you...who was it, Ginny?" Harry asked, turning her so she was looking in his eyes.

"He watched my brother die and he killed Neville, he had it coming to him." She said darkly.

(BREAK)

Draco woke to intense searing pain. He tried to focus his eyes, but everything remained hazy. Any attempt at movement was agony. Panting, struggling to breathe he put everything he had into clearing his mind and concentrating on his situation. He was lying on his stomach, he could feel gravel digging into his face and body underneath the more serious pain he was experiencing. He remembered coming to the alley to wait, hoping that Ginny had received his note and decided to come see what he had to say. He had still been trying to figure out exactly what he did want to say, what he could say, when he’d heard something behind him. And then his world had exploded in pain as he dropped to his knees, his back growing numb and his arms unable to hold him up. He’d collapsed and must have passed out where he fell.

As he lay there now, staring without being able to really see he wondered if this wasn’t something like what he’d been expecting when he’d written to Ginny. Perhaps this was the reason he’d begged her to come see him, to give him a chance to explain regrets he couldn’t even explain to himself. He knew he’d been looking for a way out, he knew Ginny Weasley was near a breaking point, and he knew of all the people capable of taking his life her hand was the one he’d wouldn’t mind dying by.

Coughing up blood, he once more closed his eyes feeling determined to pass out again so as not to live out his last moments in this excruciating state. There was nothing he could do to help himself, every time he tried to move was torture. He sighed as a sense of dismayed contentment fell over him. All he could do was wait to die…

(BREAK)

"You’re sure you didn’t leave any evidence, anything to connect yourself to it?" Harry asked again as they approached a phone booth. Ginny nodded. "Okay, why don’t you wait over there?" He pointed to a coffee shop. She nodded again and he watched her go inside and take a seat by the window before turning to pick up the phone.

"I don’t know how comfortable I am with this, Harry?" Hermione said looking around nervously.

"He’s a creep and I’m not letting her get in trouble for this." He argued. "She said she didn’t kill him and that he didn’t see her. So I’ll just make an anonymous call to the ministry and be done with it."

"She said she didn’t think he was dead. What if he is? You may be resigned to becoming a murderer, but is she?"

Harry felt himself harden as Hermione took a half step back, realizing too late what she had said. "Just go keep an eye on her, okay? Can you do that?"

"Yes." She turned quickly and joined Ginny in the shop.

Harry put the receiver to his ear and pressed 083245. Mr. Weasley had told him long ago that was the number to reach the ministry. Apparently, it had been a huge deal when they decided to put a working muggle phone in the middle of the wizard world. He tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for someone to pick up. "Ministry of Magic?" A cool feminine voice said.

"Auror department please. Anonymous tip."

"One moment." As he waited to be connected, he used a spell that George had taught him to disguise his voice.

"This is Mackle, what can I do for you?" A gruff sounding man asked him.

"You’ll find Draco Malfoy in the alley on Turner Lane. He’ll need medical attention." Harry said in a voice he didn’t recognize. He quickly hung up and went to get the girls.

(BREAK)

DEATH EATER’S SON FOUND STABBED
-IS IN INTENSIVE CARE

Draco Malfoy, son of former prominent
society members, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy,
was found stabbed in a muggle alley. The 16
year old still hasn’t spoken to anyone except
his mother in his weakened condition, but
sources say he doesn’t know who attacked him,
and he won’t say what he was doing in the
alley. Lucius has yet to make an appearance,
but ministry workers are guarding Draco’s room
round the clock in case he does.

"We are hoping that we may be able to capture
Mr. Malfoy when he comes to check on his son."
Said Marcus Mackle, an Auror for the Ministry.
There is still no word on the anonymous caller
that tipped off Mackle yesterday.

Draco put the paper aside, strangely pleased that no one had connected Ginny to his "accident." At first, when he’d awoken in the hospital he’d been panicked, unsure where he was. The stark white room with it’s glowing healing crystals had been unsettling- his mother asleep in the chair next to his bed had been a total shock. He’d reached out and touched her hand, as if to prove to himself that she was real, that he was no longer dreaming. She’d instantly been at his side, not to inquire how he was feeling or to offer comfort but to demand that he tell her who had been responsible. It was in that moment that he’d decided Ginny’s secret was safe with him.

Since then, several people had come by to ask him questions but he always claimed to know nothing. With every unwanted visitor allowed to walk through the door, he hoped for word from his father… but it never came. Narcissa changed the subject every time he brought it up and though it angered him, he was actually glad she was there. She hadn’t left his side for longer than an hour or so when she’d gone home to change clothes. It was surprising to say the least, seeing even a little of her maternal instinct kicking in. She may not be fawning all over him, but just her presence- sitting stiffly in that chair next to his bed as he recuperated- had been enough to lessen his doubts that she loved him. At the same time, this whole incident only strengthened his certainty that his father didn’t love anyone… least of all his son.

(BREAK)

A week had passed and still no one had connected Ginny to Malfoy’s stabbing. Harry was beginning to think they had done it- that Ginny was in the clear. There was only one more thing to take care of. He pulled her purse out from under his bed where he had been hiding it since that day. The bloodied knife was inside and tonight he was going to sneak out and destroy it far from the house. Only one thing stood in his way… since his return a couple of days ago, Lupin had been keeping a close eye on all of them. So to distract him from the fact that Harry would be gone, Hermione had agreed to corner their friend and ask about when he became a werewolf. A good distraction, Harry thought, considering they desperately needed that information.

He paused to think about Hermione. They hadn’t spoken much this week, and he knew he was still upset about her comments. He didn’t know why he was so upset, perhaps it was all just too much. Things between the two of them lately had been... uncomfortable. Ever since he told her about kissing Ginny, they’ve slowed down, never really talk anymore, seem to have trouble meeting the other’s eye. And then George had died… they had been like a couple grieving together, but it had been almost like an act. He knew he loved her, and he could feel that she loved him, he didn’t know how but he could feel it radiating from her. There was just something in the way, some unspoken burden. He had an idea that it was the prophesy, but at the same time he didn’t think it was as easy as that. It seemed sometimes that he could read her mind, and when he could he was able to catch a glimpse of what she was afraid to tell him- that she was worried her family was the next in line to be affected by this war.

He shook his head, clearing it for the task he had to do tonight. He was resigned to the fact that he and Hermione desperately needed to talk if things were going to be alright between them. He couldn’t pretend anymore and still keep his sanity. He easily slipped out to perform the task of getting rid of the evidence and returned long before he was missed. Thankful that for once something he’d planned had gone smoothly, he climbed the stairs and closed himself up in his room.

"Where did you bury it?" Hermione asked, coming through the bookcase.

"Don’t worry about it, did you talk to Lupin?"

"Yeah." She smiled as Harry patted the space next to him on the bed, inviting her to come and sit… but she hesitated. Finally she did sit, as far from him as she could be across the room at his desk. "June 13th. It was right after exams their fifth year."

"When do you think the others would be up to hearing about this?"

"Ron said Luna was coming over tonight, maybe we could do it then." She looked down nervously. "I think we need to talk, Harry."

"I think you’re right." He sat up straighter.

"I’m sorry for what I said. It was stupid, and I was upset and worried. I’m just not happy about the whole situation, or the Prophesy, or how seriously you’re taking it." She looked at her hands.

"You think I’m happy about it? I don’t want to kill him, I have to." He turned away, swinging his feet around to sit on the edge of the bed.

"But you do want to, I can see it, plain as day." She argued.

Harry stood up angrily. "Maybe I do... so what? It doesn’t make me any different. You just don’t know; you haven’t lost what I have, what the Weasley’s have. Grief is a fickle thing, Hermione, look what it made Ginny do!"

"So until my parent’s die, I’m not allowed to have an opinion on this?" She stood up too and now they were both yelling.

"That’s not what I said. It’s just that your opinion isn’t founded on the same things mine is."

"I just can’t... what if he gets you first?"

Harry softened his tone. "I know you’re worried about me, and I know you’re worried about your family. But don’t you see? As long as I ignore the Prophesy, you’ll always have to worry about us. Don’t you want it to end?"

"Of course I do! But... You know what, we’re just going to keep going around in circles here."

"So, what? You just want to agree to disagree? How long will that work?"

She walked over to him and took his hand. "No matter what happens, I’ll be here. That’s what you’re thinking right? That I want to break up with you?" Harry looked down. It was exactly what he had been thinking and it terrified him. "I don’t want to, and I can’t see myself ever wanting to. I love you and we may not agree on this, but I’m not going to leave you. It would absolutely break my heart." She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his shoulder. After a second, he rested his cheek against her hair and put his arms around her, holding her tight. He didn’t know how long they stood there, but it was safe and he never wanted to leave. Hermione was that safe place that he had been looking for, away from the hurt, the pain, the enemy. But he had to disappoint her. To become something he had never dreamed he would be.

(BREAK)

Ginny turned on the shower to it’s hottest setting, sitting under the spray as the water scalded her skin clean. At first the intense, painful heat felt soothing, but eventually she grew numb to that as well, her body becoming accustomed to the temperature. Still she remained there until long after the water turned cold. Finally with her teeth chattering and her skin wrinkled, she climbed out, wrapping herself in a big fluffy towel and her robe before stumbling back to her room. Once more safely under the covers, she stared at the wall waiting for sleep to overcome her boredom.

She refused to let herself think about anything at all, everything was far too complicated- from her relieved disappointment at learning Draco Malfoy would live, to her anguished horror at losing George. She wanted to talk to someone, but at the same time she never wanted to see another person again in her life. Squeezing her eyes shut against the tears she kept refusing to shed, she struggled to remember what it was like to feel strong. It seemed they were all taking one blow after another lately and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could remain standing.

(BREAK)

Mrs. Weasley surprised everyone when she had gotten up that day and started to act like her old self again. She had breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table, she smiled at everyone and made small talk. No one could understand why she was pretending to be alright when it seemed so obvious that she was ready to start crying at any moment. Everyone let her play her part, but they kept a close eye on her, ready to catch her if she fell.

They had rarely seen Mr. Weasley since George’s funeral. He left almost before dawn and got home well after midnight. When they did happen to run into him, they could see the toll all of this was taking on him. There were large dark circles under his eyes, and his skin was sallow and pale. He appeared to have lost quite a few pounds in the last week, his clothes were a bit baggy and always wrinkled. He never spoke of what was happening at work to any of them. But he, like his wife, always seemed on the verge of tears.

During the week, Fred had moved all of George’s things up into the attic. Since then, he had been more sociable, though understandably no where near his normal self. Harry worried it was too soon for him to try and get back to normal, but if he needed to pretend he was healing, then why tell him any different.

Ginny hadn’t told anyone else about what she had done. When Mrs. Weasley had commented on the Daily Prophet article reporting Draco’s stabbing, she had shaken her head and muttered, "What a shame," along with her mother. She too was pretending to be moving on, but Harry and Hermione could both see the terror and guilt in her eyes. It worried them that those feelings would never leave her. She refused to answer any more questions from them and had taken to avoiding either one when she saw them coming.

Ron was a different story all together. He would be prone to mood swings, one minute content and happy, fooling any outsider into believing he had come to terms with his brother’s death, but then the next minute horribly outraged, throwing things around and yelling at anyone who dared try to calm him. Harry didn’t know how to help him, and desperately wished he did. Ron was the only one who let his grief show at all.

Luna, usually unfazed by anything, confused Harry more than anyone else. Like Hermione, there were times when he could almost read her mind, and while the others were pretending to be beyond their grief, she was pretending to feel it. He knew it wasn’t because she didn’t feel sad, she did, it was something else… something she was holding back from them all, even Ron. Having his own things to worry about that night, he didn’t feel up to pushing the matter, but decided to make time to ask her about it later- and this time he meant it.

So there they were, the remaining Marauders, sitting around Harry’s room nearly two weeks after losing George, pretending to fool each other, and themselves. "Look, I know this isn’t the best time, and maybe you don’t want to know anything about it, but Hermione solved the clue." Harry told them, cutting straight to the point. He saw a moment of excitement and interest pass the Weasley children’s eyes before guilt closed in again.

"The day an animal was made, it’s Lupin, the day he became a werewolf. He told me it was in June so we have awhile to wait." Hermione said. She was about to add something, but was cut off by Fred.

"The ring, will any of us be able to wear it and use it, or just you Harry?" He looked hopeful.

"I will let everyone have a turn, since we all have people we need to say good-bye to." He smiled sadly and Fred lowered his eyes, thinking hard.

"But what about the whole worst fear, guarding over it thing?" Ron asked.

"That’s for me to worry about, since I’m the one who has to get it." He looked over at Hermione and saw the same uncertainty and brief anger in her eyes that was almost always there. Did she know he could see it? There was a lot happening to him that they didn’t know about, that he didn’t know about himself. Maybe now was as good a time as any to bring it up, to get everyone’s mind on something else.

"Now, there’s something else...." Five pairs of eyes turned to him. "Pay attention."

How many of you can hear me right now? Raise your hand if you can hear. He thought out to the group. Hermione, Ron and surprisingly Luna raised their hands. Ginny and Fred looked confused. "Interesting. I wonder why you two can’t hear me like they can."

"What are you talking about, Harry?" Ginny asked him.

"Hermione, Ron and Luna can all hear me talking to them in their heads, but you two couldn’t."

"George heard it too." Fred said quietly. "That day in the shop, we were running after you and he could hear you but you couldn’t hear him back."

Everyone grew still and silent. They looked at the floor unsure of what to say next. "I wonder why that is." Hermione said, at last breaking the silence.

"Probably because your powers are growing… maybe soon you’ll be able to talk to everyone in your head." Luna shrugged with an aura of knowledge. Harry studied her hard, but her expression gave nothing away.

"The only sure way to know is to ask Dumbledore, right?" Ginny asked.

"Right, I guess I’ll have to talk to him about all this new stuff." Harry said, fearing it was true. He still didn’t want to see or talk to his headmaster. "As soon as we go back."

"Are you all celebrating Christmas this year?" Luna asked out of nowhere, completely changing the subject. Everyone looked at her strangely. "It’s just that it’s coming up in a few days and there aren’t any decorations or presents or.... I think I’ll stop talking now." She finished, finally realizing she had said something wrong.

"It’s your house Harry, are we putting up decorations?" Ron asked, giving Luna’s shoulder a squeeze. Lucky for them, he seemed to be in one of his good moods.

"Yes, I think we will. Maybe that’s just the thing to brighten everyone’s spirits, even just a little bit. What do you say we spend tomorrow doing it? Surprise your dad when he comes home from work?" They all agreed and for a little while as they sat and made plans, everyone’s mind was preoccupied. Harry glanced at Luna who’d made the suggestion and wondered just how she always seemed to know what to say.

Soon they all decided to turn in for the night and Harry went to bed feeling a little bit lighter. Christmas might be just the thing to take their minds off of everything and finally start healing as a family. He settled under the covers, content in the fact that tomorrow would be a better day. Then he noticed the light coming from the bookcase. He sat up and saw Hermione slowly closing the doorway behind her, obviously unaware that he was awake. "Can I help you with something?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

She jumped and spun around. "Oh, Harry, I thought you were sleeping."

"So why are you creeping into my room then?" He turned on the small lamp next to the bed.

"I was going to wake you up." She said shyly.

"Well, that makes sense." He said as she came over to his side of the bed. Motioning for him to move over, she climbed in next to him.

"I’ve been thinking a lot, Harry. About us, about what we talked about. But there was just one thing that kept distracting me from my thoughts...."

"And that was?" He asked as she turned to face him.

"How much I love you, and......"

"And.....?" He smiled as he watched her blush and cast her eyes downward..

"And how much I want to be with you."

(BREAK)

The next day Ron and Harry were putting up garland on the staircases. As he listened to his best friend describe what happened the previous night, Ron felt a bit smug knowing he and Luna had beaten Harry and Hermione to that next step in a relationship. And what a step it had been. He was glad they had taken it, because now the only time he didn’t think of his misery at losing his brother was when he and Luna were alone in the dark. Harry had just finished talking about how Hermione had slipped into his room, faltering in his telling of the story as he blushed. "And then?" Ron prompted with a smirk.

"And then what?" Harry acted casual, as if he didn’t want to talk about it. Of course he’d been the one to bring it up in the first place so some part of him must have wanted to share with his best friend.

"Well, did you or didn’t you?" He asked with a wink.

"Don’t wink at me, it’s weird." He said making a face as he strung some more garland through the banister.

"Come on, I told you about me and Luna!" Ron argued causing them both to smile- they were like a couple of girls passing around gossip.

"Did I ever express an interest in knowing? Believe me, I would have been a lot happier without that information, mate." Harry grinned at his friend.

"Come on, did you... you know...? You have to tell someone." He argued.

"Well...."

"Come on, you can tell me. I swear not to tell one way or the other." Ron crossed his hand over his heart. "If you can’t trust your best friend, who can you trust?"

"Alright already!"

(BREAK)

Harry was smiling as he left Ron to finish the decorations. He had decided to go to his room and take a short nap before lunch, and as he snuggled in under the covers, his thoughts turned to Hermione. He had told Ron yes, they had "done it" but those two words didn’t come close to the feeling of the act. Even now he could feel her soft lips, taste her skin, smell the lilac in her hair. In his mind, he was imagining running his fingers down her cheek, kissing her neck. He could feel her biting his ear in that way that drove him crazy. He smiled, thinking he never loved or wanted her more.

"You were thinking of me?" A voice interrupted his daydreams. His eyes shot open to see Hermione standing coyly at the bookcase.

"You could hear that?" he asked, slightly embarrassed.

"Hear it, see it, you should really work on controlling this new power sweetheart." She laughed.

"If you’re going to come in here every time I think about it, I’m not sure I want to control it." She laughed again and ran into his arms.





A/N: Stay tuned for more!


Chapter 30: Christmas After Tragedy

NOTE: This one took awhile, but I’m back to work on this now. Please as always, Read, Review, Enjoy!



Harry realized Ron had told Luna and Fred about their conversation the moment he sat down to lunch with them. All three had weird smiles on their faces, but luckily Hermione didn’t seem to notice. When Ginny came down to join them all, he held his breath waiting to see what would happen, but thankfully she seemed none the wiser. Well, at least Ron had some boundaries even if he did go and blab what was supposed to have been a private conversation.

So much for trusting your best friend, Harry thought to Ron who only grinned wider. Just remember mate, revenge is sweet…. Fred doesn’t know about you and Luna yet.

This time Ron’s face turned serious and he gulped. You wouldn’t. He thought back to Harry who took his turn to simply grin in reply as he left his friend to think of all the ways his brother would tease him.

Mrs. Weasley was talking in her fake happy way when suddenly Harry’s attention was drawn to Luna. She was looking down, pushing her food around on her plate. He wasn’t sure if it was a thought he had picked up on, but he decided today was the day. He would find a way to have that long planned but never realized talk with her while they were in Diagon Alley that afternoon.

It was a huge secret being kept from Molly, but Mr. Weasley had arranged for Lupin, Tonks and Mad-eye to escort the teens, this time to really go Christmas shopping. They had all reluctantly made the request, each desperately needing time out of the house and in the fresh air away from their memories. Luckily Arthur had understood and decided to give them a second chance with his trust, making them all promise not only to stay on Diagon Alley, but to never leave the sight of their chaperones. Willing to do anything to get out, they all agreed.

The twins’ shop was the most convenient place to arrive, but Fred refused to go there. So instead, they traveled the floo network ending up at the Leaky Cauldron. After a trip to Gringotts they broke up into three groups so that they could buy for each other in secret. Ron and Ginny went one way, while Fred and Hermione went the opposite direction, conveniently leaving Luna with Harry. Lupin was the chaperone of their twosome but understood they wanted privacy. After making them promise to stay in the open, he told them to meet back in two hours at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry felt sorry for Fred and Hermione who had been paired with Mad-eye. He knew the Auror took his responsibilities seriously and wouldn’t be letting them out of his sight; though he also knew that Lupin was trailing them from a few yards back the whole time, he appreciated the semblance of privacy.

As they walked aimlessly down the street, he tried to get his words together but Luna spoke first. "Just ask me, Harry."

"Okay." He pulled her behind one of the shops and out of earshot. "What are you hiding from us?"

"You want to be more specific?" She asked with a sigh.

"Okay, why are you pretending to be sad?" Harry pressed, determined to get her to open up.

She seemed surprised, as if she’d been expecting a different question. "I am sad, Harry. My boyfriend’s brother was murdered."

"Alright, I know you’re sad, but there’s something else there, I know it, I can feel it… almost see it." Harry told her.

"I really don’t know why you care all of a sudden." She said turning away from him. "I thought there was something else you wanted to talk about."

That took him back a minute- that he’d been right a moment ago- but he shook it off. "Luna, come on, of course I care and there are several things I wanted to talk to you about. But this is obviously something that’s bothering you and it’s going to come out sooner or later. Secrets don’t fair well in our group."

"Before I go spreading my secrets, why don’t you spill yours to everyone?" she asked defensively.

"What?" He was confused by the question as much as by it’s asker.

"You’re scared, Harry." She said, almost accusingly. "Scared for Ron, for Hermione. You’re scared for everyone."

"That’s not such a secret, you know." He answered, getting aggravated.

"No, maybe not, but the fact that you’re scared for yourself is." She pointed out.

"What?"

"You’re scared to die, and you’re scared to tell anyone because then they won’t see you as the strong one, the hero, the protector. You’re scared to death that people will see you for what you really are, for what all of us really are, a terrified, guilt ridden teenager who has no idea what he’s really doing. Whose victories are a result of luck, skill, and instinct. That sometimes, you don’t have everything under control and need help." He was staring at her unable to find a response. She went on. "You’re wondering how I know all that. Thought those were things you were keeping to yourself, right? No one notices me, Harry, not even Ron half the time. It’s not his fault, there’s a lot going on and I’m easy to forget. But you. You always seem to notice me, try to figure me out. But you’re easily distracted. By Hermione, by your other friends, by life. You can take glimpses into our minds, but what none of you realize is that I can constantly see into yours."

Harry was dumbfounded. "I don’t even know what to say to all of that." He finally said, feeling he needed to say something.

"You don’t have to, I know that you know it’s all true. I also realize that you’re aware I’m still hiding something else. Well, fine, if you have to know, I’m trying not to feel anything. I had a brother once and he was murdered too. If I think too hard about George, I’ll lose myself in memories of Kane." She looked down, breaking the emotional connection they’d been building with their eyes.

"Kane… you have a brother? I thought you were an only child."

"Because I never said otherwise and no one ever asked. I already had the stigma of being the girl whose mother accidentally killed herself, you think I wanted them to judge me because of Kane? It’s hard enough pretending not to care what everyone thinks of you. I wanted to tell Ron, was about to, but he said I could never know how he felt because I didn’t have a brother to watch die. And he was right, I didn’t see it. I came home and found out from my father that Kane was dead. How could I try and commiserate the loss when Ron doesn’t want to hear anything beyond his own pain? I couldn’t tell him."

"Why didn’t you tell him or any of the rest of us about this before George died, like last year when we became friends?"

"Oh, you mean when you all thought I was weird and no good? None of you even really liked me until after the Department of Mysteries thing, well, except for Ginny. Why should I tell any of you anything personal about me?" She seemed angry, for the first time since he’d known her.

"When was your brother killed?" Harry asked, trying to sound as sympathetic as he felt.

She stared at him a minute before answering. "Before my first year at Hogwarts. He had just graduated and joined the Auror’s office. He was killed on his first assignment."

Again Harry had the feeling she was holding back. "You know who did it, don’t you?"

"They’ll never prove it wasn’t an accident." She sighed before continuing in a detached voice. "He was investigating a disturbance at the Malfoy mansion when he fell over the balcony of the fourth floor and broke his neck on the concrete below. Lucius Malfoy said he was leaning over to try and see into the garden when he lost his balance. He even had the nerve to report that Kane was clumsy while investigating, knocking things over, tripping over his own feet. But Kane wasn’t clumsy. He was athletic, he played quidditch as a chaser and his whole life, he was obsessed with a muggle game called basketball."

"What do you think really happened?" Harry asked.

"I know what really happened. He found something there. Something Lucius didn’t want the world to know he had. Probably something related to his continued activity with the Death Eaters. He killed my brother, who hit on the jackpot his first assignment. But Fudge wouldn’t hear of anything against Lucius, said it must have been as they said." She seemed really angry now, and Harry began to feel guilty for making her relive all of this.

"Lucius Malfoy was one of the most prominent members of society and Fudge was weak and easily manipulated. I’m sure when the time is right, you can go to Arthur to reopen the case and clear your brother’s name. Show that he died doing a good job, you know. I’ll go with you, if you want." Harry offered.

"Maybe." She said thoughtfully.

"Thanks for trusting me with all of that." He said unsure of what else to say.

"It’s about time I told someone, huh. Look, I’ve had enough of these heart to hearts. I’m not good at them, and they make me feel awkward."

He smiled. "Okay, how about a new topic. You said you could always see into our minds?"

"Finally! Yes, I can. And you can too if you concentrate harder. Like I said, you’re catching glimpses now because your mind is just now figuring out how to connect to that part of you. I’ve seen great things for you, Harry. You’re a lot more powerful than you know." She grinned.

"What do you mean you’ve seen things?" He asked, ignoring the part of him that was screaming that she was right.

"Well, that’s my other gift. Sometimes, I see the future, or warnings of the future. Just like you have a second power, the ability to move things with your mind."

"How do you know all this?" He stopped at her amused smile. She had just confessed to reading minds and seeing the future. "Let me rephrase, how did you learn about all of this stuff?"

"From my grandmother, she’s very proud of our abilities. It was probably passed along in your line too."

He gave that some thought. He knew very little about his parents, other than what the people who knew them could tell him from their memories. No one had ever mentioned anything like that, though to be fair, he hadn’t asked. Surely Lupin would know which of his parents he inherited these abilities from.

"Look, it’s a lot to take in and I’m sure Dumbledore could tell us both more about this than we already know. Why don’t we table the discussion, now that you know what’s going on? We do have some shopping to do."

"Then let’s go." He said with enthusiasm. As they returned to the street, he felt lighter and more connected to himself now that he had Luna to share the burden of these powers. For once, he wouldn’t be special alone and he was grateful.

She stopped him outside of one of the shops. "Harry?"

"Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone about what we talked about with your brother. Kane is your business."

"I appreciate it. I know this might be too much to ask, but I’d like it if you could also keep my powers a secret for a little while. I’d like to tell Ron and the others in my own time." Her eyes pleaded with him and he knew she worried about what everyone would think, finding out she’d been able to see their thoughts this whole time.

"Okay. It’ll be our secret until you’re ready." He promised. They smiled, each glad to finally have someone else to understand them.

(BREAK)

"So, where do you want to go first?" Hermione asked Fred, annoyed that Mad-eye refused to remain more than a few feet away from them. As much as the man complained about being a glorified babysitter, he sure took the job seriously.

"Let’s just head this way and see what we find." He suggested with a shrug. She noticed he’d chosen to go in the direct opposite direction from his store. They walked in silence, looking through shop windows, hoping something would catch their eye. She watched him carefully, taking in the hollowness behind his eyes and the haggardness of his posture. He was trying so hard to be okay, to show everyone that he was okay… but his façade was definitely starting to crumble.

"I want to stop in here for a minute, see if I can’t find something for Ron." She took him to the sporting store, hoping to perk him up a bit by letting him immerse himself in things he enjoyed.

"Just stay together, and don’t you two dare try to sneak away." Mad-eye warned.

"We wouldn’t dream of it." Fred replied, shooting Hermione a grin.

They walked among the shelves, checking out several different items for different games, many of which she’d never even heard of and certainly had no interest in. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that Mad-eye had become involved in a conversation with the shopkeeper at the front of the store. Though the Auror was far out of earshot and had his back to them, Hermione knew better than to assume they weren’t being observed. She could feel his magical eye on her even now.

Pulling Fred into the corner and pretending to look at flying gloves, she leaned in close and whispered, "I bet if we tried, we could make a break for it right now."

He looked at her in surprise before a mischievous smile spread across his face. "Why Miss Granger, that suggestion is quite unbecoming of you." He joked. She was glad he’d taken her lead. She wanted to give him one moment, one conversation full of carefree nonsense where he didn’t have to think about George, the ring, or anything else.

With the ice broken, she felt herself smile back at him. "Just trying to think like you."

"Oh, I would have bailed out a long time ago… but I figured you’d only slow down my getaway." He teased.

"I can be just as stealthy as the rest of you." She replied, giving him a small shove.

"More so I’d bet, if you really put your mind to it." He grinned widely. "Lucky for us you aren’t the type."

"Oh yeah? What type am I?" She asked, crossing her arms and pouting as if she’d just been insulted.

He laughed. "One who follows the rules whenever possible."

"How dull." She sighed. It was how she was always seen, she should be used to it by now.

"Oh come on Hermione, you’re anything but that." He reached out and grabbed her shoulder.

"Fred?" A voice called from behind them. They both whipped around to find Padma Patil behind them.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" He asked, at once closing in on himself again as he approached his semi-girlfriend.

"Parvati is picking out a new broom." She answered, reaching out and wrapping her arms around him. "Are you okay?"

Hermione felt awkward and turned back to the display of gloves trying hard not to eavesdrop but unable to find success due to proximity. "I’ve been better." She heard Fred reply numbly. Deciding to give them privacy, she moved to the front of the store with Mad-eye, ready to leave as soon as possible.

"Where’s the other one?" The Auror asked gruffly as his eye swirled in his head, making her sure he knew exactly where Fred was.

"He’s talking to a friend."

"He shouldn’t be talking to anyone but us." Mad-eye grumbled. Though she didn’t know why, Hermione agreed absolutely.

(BREAK)

Though it felt good to be out of the house, the last place Ginny wanted to be was in Diagon Alley. It was too close to Knockturn Alley and the place that haunted her dreams. Glancing at Ron she saw that he was having a hard time as well, walking with his jaw clenched and a sense of grim determination. They ducked into the bookstore where she was finally able to realize that most everyone was staring at them. They all knew who the Weasley kids were by now, with the Daily Prophet running articles and pictures of the minister and his family in nearly every issue lately.

"Just ignore these people. They don’t know anything more than what they read." Tonks whispered from behind them. It wasn’t the stares that Ginny found she couldn’t take, it was the pity in their eyes that made her want to run and hide.

With his head held high, Ron went down a few aisles, looking for something for either Luna or Hermione. Ginny chose to stay near Tonks, feeling less strange with someone she knew.

Together they took a look around the store while she tuned everything else out. They were there maybe ten minutes before two voices broke into Ginny’s attempt to block out the world. "They wouldn’t let me in to see him, but I heard he was pretty bad off. If they’d found him ten minutes later, he would’ve died." A familiar sounding girl said.

Taking a few steps away from Tonks who was busy scanning the store for Ron, Ginny peeked around the corner to find Pansy talking with Millicent who was just responding. "I know. And the worst part is that no one has any idea about who could have done it. My dad heard he wasn’t robbed or anything like that."

"Well it must have been personal." Pansy answered. "To not use a wand, to actually brutally stab someone it had to be someone who Draco made really angry. My bet is on Potter."

"But is it really his style? I mean, whoever it was didn’t use a wand… could’ve just been some awful muggle looking for a fight." Millicent argued.

"Oh please, like Draco would let a muggle sneak up behind him and stab him in the back." Pansy snorted.

"Well who would he just let sneak up behind him and do that?" Millicent shot back.

That silenced the other girl for a moment. Then she shook her head. "No one. It had to have been a fight that went wrong, but I doubt it was a muggle."

"So have you heard if he’s going to live?"

"From what I overheard when I was trying to visit, he’s well enough to continue healing at home. They’re releasing him today. We should go over and see him there!" Pansy suggested, instantly brightening.

Deciding she’d heard enough she turned to find Tonks looking at her with an amused grin. "Gathering gossip?"

"You caught me." Ginny replied with a small smile.

"Your brother’s all ready to go, how about you?" She asked.

"I’m ready." She said eagerly, desperate to get out of the stuffy bookstore and back into the fresh air.

(BREAK)

When they returned home from Diagon Alley, Hermione listened to Harry tell her everything Luna had told him about his powers, though she felt he was holding something back. She didn’t quite believe that Luna had come by this knowledge while doing research for the Quibbler, though maybe that was just her jealousy over the fact that the other girl had been able to give him answers when she could not. She pushed her own feelings aside to analyze for later, and tried to match his excitement. "That’s great Harry. And I’ve read a bit about wandless powers, I think what you’re talking about are the abilities associated with telepathy, pre-cognative sight and telekinesis."

"If you say so." He collapsed next to her on the bed, still wearing a big goofy grin. She smiled in spite of herself, enjoying seeing him so happy. "Finally some answers."

"And more to come, if you both go talk to Dumbledore." She answered carefully. "After all, even Luna said she didn’t know everything about it."

"I guess I’ll have to, I’ll just make sure he understands that I want nothing held back. In the meantime, all I know is that I’m going to work very hard to develop this stuff as far and fast as I can. This may just be the thing that gives me enough of an edge to win."

"Maybe." She answered not wanting to ruin his optimism. But she couldn’t help but worry. If he learned to put too much stock into these powers, he’d be disappointed one day if they didn’t work the way he wanted. She thought it a way better idea to develop his wand skills, those would never fail him. Everything else she considered a back up arsenal. She decided to save her concerns for later, if it actually became a problem. After all, why start a fight if there might not even be a reason.

(BREAK)

"Welcome home!" Narcissa flung open the front door and Draco was wheeled in by Old Bowie. He was the gardener at the Malfoy mansion and secretly Draco’s favorite person, making him the only one he felt comfortable enough with to have help him in such a weakened condition. He certainly didn’t want his mother to continue to see him as weak, he knew how she felt about weakness… she’d disowned her own sister simply for having a heart weak enough to let her marry a mudblood. If he didn’t prove that he could get through this healing process quickly, she would begin to question his strength and willpower… if she didn’t already. There was nothing Narcissa despised more than a weak character… despite her own flaws. After all, she was the one so dependent on her lifestyle that she refused to leave a husband she clearly no longer loved- the one who let her unhappiness push her into sleeping droughts and numbing potions.

"Take my son upstairs and see that he’s comfortable." She ordered Bowie without once looking in his direction. "I’ll be up in a minute my love!" She called out to Draco. With Bowie’s help, he stood up out of the wheelchair the healers had insisted he be carted around in. Narcissa had made it clear that once he arrived home, the chair was not allowed… it would scuff her floors. Besides, there were plenty of servants to tend to her son.

As he was half carried up the stairs, he wondered just when his mother had grown so distant from him. She’d been the one to insist he attend Hogwarts over Durmstrang so he’d be closer to home, had sent him presents, letters and treats his whole first year… And then it had all changed when he was twelve and Lucius had forced him to take a stand, had begun bringing him to the Death Eater meetings. Though she strongly believed in the cause and supported her husband throughout, Narcissa had never taken the steps to become a Death Eater herself. Knowing her, Draco could see why. She hated taking orders, being forced to do things she didn’t want. And she certainly hadn’t wanted her son out risking his life and freedom the way her husband did. He began to wonder if part of her wasn’t happy he had been so critically injured, it meant he couldn’t be with Lucius and had to remain under her watchful eye- not that she’d ever been all that connected with him. He had sometimes felt more like a little puppy to Narcissa, something she could fawn over but often found annoying due to his constant need for love and attention.

Helping him into his bed, Bowie made sure to prop him up the way the healers had specified. "Thanks." He whispered, not wanting to get the man in trouble.

"For you, it is a pleasure Master Draco. Remember, you’re the only one worth a damn out of any of them." Bowie whispered back before quickly leaving, knowing Narcissa would question if he lingered. After all, the man wasn’t only a servant, he was a squib and was supposed to be intolerable. But of everyone in the house, his parents included, Bowie had always been kind to Draco, as if he felt sorry for the boy living in the mansion while he himself lived practically as a slave to the family. Now he wondered if Bowie hadn’t been right all along.

"Draco, my love. Some of you friends are here to see you." Narcissa said, walking in with a tray full of tea, soup, and crackers. She walked over and put a cool hand to his burning forehead. "You’re too warm. Take this before you eat." She handed him a potion meant to even out his fever.

"Who’s here?"

"What?" She asked. The fact that she was genuinely confused made him wonder how many potions she’d taken that day.

"You said there was someone here to see me?" He prompted with more patience than he’d expected.

"Oh yes! Two of them, the Parkinson and Bullstrode girls. Shall I send them up?"

"No!" He answered loudly, hurting his already sore throat. Those two were some of the last people he wanted to see. Or, actually, he didn’t want them to see him- not like this. His friends at school could never be allowed to see him so weak, he didn’t want them to get any ideas. He liked being in charge, of having people so unwilling to think for themselves that they hung on his every word. If they saw him as weak, he’d lose control for sure. That’s one thing about followers… they tend to sense where the power is.

(BREAK)

Fred flung the covers back and sat up, knowing sleep would be impossible. It was the night before Christmas, and in the morning he would put on a happy face and celebrate with the others. But now was his time to himself, the time to be honest and truthfully, he never wanted Christmas to come. He found it insulting that the world could just continue on without George and that he was just supposed to go along with it.

Moving to his worktable, he opened the book and began working on the Rictheous potion again, determined to get it right. But this was just one more thing he now had to do alone, without his brother, and his confidence in himself had waned considerably since Knockturn Alley. He wanted to cry, but wouldn’t allow himself the luxury. He’d shed his tears already, what good would it do to continue going around randomly crying like his mother. They all had expected him to break, he knew they did, hell he thought it would happen too. But his anger saved him. He wanted to kill Percy, to wrap his hands around his throat and throttle the jerk, demand to know why he’d done this. He would get the chance, he would make sure of it. He just hoped he’d have the drive to follow through. Percy was his brother too, after all, whether they’d gotten along growing up or not. Okay, so he wouldn’t kill him, unless forced too. He couldn’t let himself forget why George had lost his life. It was because Percy had been weak and eager to please; and to defy their father, he had joined the other side. Percy no longer cared about them, he had to remember that. He shrugged to himself. It should be easy considering his older brother had never really shown an interest in any of them over the years.

Peering into the cauldron, he was disappointed. A yellow, sludgy substance stared back at him, releasing a foul odor every time it bubbled. He gave up, knowing he needed help. Hermione was the best bet of course, if he wanted to get this done. He wasn’t quite sure where he was going wrong, but the walking textbook that was Hermione Granger should be able to fix it in no time. He’d ask her as soon as they got back to school, not wanting to ruin the holiday for the others just because he was in too much pain to want to celebrate. After all, Luna and Harry had been right about the decorations brightening up the place. Molly and Arthur had noticed right away and it had unexpectedly lifted their moods, as if they’d needed a reminder that they were supposed to be happy right now.

He knew it would be a long time before any of them would actually be happy, and he worried that he might never get there at all. But as he sat back on the stool, he realized that though his family would probably one day be able to move on, they would never be whole again. And not just because George was dead or even because Percy was the one to kill him; they would never be whole because they had been betrayed so thoroughly by one of their own that he joined the enemy and chose loyalty to Voldemort over loyalty to them. Fred couldn’t wait for June, for Harry to get the ring. He never doubted it would happen and if he had to be Harry’s shadow for the next few months to ensure the kid stayed alive long enough to get the ring, then he would. Not that I’d stop defending Harry after that, he thought to himself as he shook his head to clear it. He couldn’t let his hope and anxiety take over his rationality, he felt bad enough as it was.

A few days ago he had felt better for a moment, more like himself, but he’d never expected Hermione to be the one to brighten his spirits. She’d been the first one in more than two weeks who hadn’t mentioned George or asked how he was feeling and it had felt good to have a no-pressure conversation about anything else. Of course, Padma had to come along and ruin it with her concern. Though grateful that she wanted to be there for him, she just hadn’t known the type of comfort he’d needed- total denial of the situation… at least for now. Hermione had known that’s what he was looking for, of course she knew most everything so it wasn’t surprising.

With a heavy sigh, he made his way back to bed knowing that sunrise was only a couple of hours away. Staring at the ceiling, he wondered how long it would be until he felt normal, if he’d ever get there. There was nothing he could do, he couldn’t change the past- though the thought had crossed his mind. He’d even begged his father for a time turner but Arthur had stood firm regardless how much he may have wanted to do the same. He had claimed that if they went back and changed things, it could turn out even worse, and rarely did it ever turn out better. Though Fred still didn’t understand why they couldn’t at least have tried, he had let the topic drop after seeing how much it was distressing his father. Closing his eyes now, he tried to picture his life as it would be from then on, wandering aimlessly and alone. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, so long as he never strayed very far from Harry, Hermione, and the ring.

(BREAK)

His dreams had been pleasant and then suddenly had turned sinister with the world shaking beneath his feet as he started to fall down into emptiness. I’m dreaming. Harry reminded himself and opened his eyes realizing he was being so rudely awoken by someone jumping on his bed. He groaned and kicked his leg out, knocking whoever it was to the ground. Rolling over, he found Ron grinning at him from the floor. "Merry Christmas mate!" he said getting up and gesturing to the pile of presents at the foot of his bed. As Harry sat up, Hermione came staggering into the room through the bookcase, looking aggravated.

"He ran through my room yelling at the top of his lungs and then burst through here." She grumbled unhappily. Harry smiled and went over to kiss her.

"Hey Ron, Why don’t you get the others to bring their things up here and we’ll all open them together." Harry suggested. Ron ran to do just that leaving Harry time to give Hermione the gift he had purchased for her.

"Hermione, you grew up in the muggle world, do you know what a promise ring is?"

"Of course I do. A guy gives it to a girl as a symbolic promise that they’ll be together forever. It’s like an engaged to be engaged type of ring."

"I didn’t ask for a history lesson." Harry teased. He handed her a box and watched her as she opened it. Her eyes sparkled with tears as she gazed at the ruby and silver ring inside.

"Oh, Harry."

"Promise?" He asked, taking the ring out of the box and placing it on her left ring finger.

"To be with you and love you forever? Of course I can promise that." She kissed him lightly and then pulled away to look at her present. "And the ruby is a nice bonus." She laughed.

Finally they were all situated in Hermione’s room, piles of presents everywhere with Ron eager to start ripping into his own. Harry watched the others for awhile, waiting to see if they all liked the gifts he had gotten them. Ron nearly screamed when he opened his gift, a Firefly 3000 broomstick. "Way too expensive mate!" He cried out, though he gripped it tightly with no idea of giving it back.

Harry had bought Luna a journal, bound in willow bark. On the inside he had written, "So you have someone to tell everything to." She smiled at him, her eyes a sparkling sea of blue as she mouthed, "Thank you." For Ginny he’d gotten a statue of Pegasus and she squealed in delight as it unexpectedly took flight around the room and landed on her shoulder, rubbing it’s pink quartz nose against her cheek.

Fred laughed as he opened Harry’s gift. It was a model of the twin’s shop, complete with moving customers and a little Fred and George walking around eagerly trying to make a sale. "Where did you get this?" He asked when he stopped laughing and began to tear up.

"That’s actually from me and Hermione." He told him. "I had it made special order and she figured out how to enchant the people."

"Thanks guys. I really like it." Fred answered quietly.

Later that night, they were in the parlor playing with their new things with the excitement of young children. Harry was making the two knight statues Ron had given him engage in a battle, amused when one of them jumped on Ginny’s pegasus and attempted to flee but was thrown off. Hermione was sitting in the corner with the other girls, showing off her ring as they played a card game. He noticed Luna looking over at Ron while they talked and smiled a bit over what he had started. But Ron wasn’t paying attention to anyone; he was too busy cleaning his new broom. Fred and Lupin were in awe of the miniature shop, watching the people come and go, buying things as the tiny Fred and George tried to pull pranks on anyone who came in.

"Where do the people who leave go to?" Lupin asked.

"I don’t know." Fred answered. "But eventually they come back in to shop some more." He pointed to a woman who had just left a little while ago, walking back in the store and looking suspiciously at the tray of candy tiny Fred was offering her.

After awhile, Mrs. Weasley called dinner and the teens ran hungrily to the kitchen. The table had grown to twice it’s normal size to accommodate everyone who had been invited. Harry sat at the head of the table, for once feeling like the real master of the house, watching all the guests arrive. Hermione was to his left, her parents next to her exchanging looks as she showed them the ring he had given her. He knew what they were thinking, that he was too dangerous and just no good for her. Luna, who was to his right was glaring at them and he knew she could see what they were thinking as well. Ron was next to Luna bragging about his Firefly to Bill and Charlie, who were across from him. Finally Fred elbowed him to make him shut up. Ginny was on the other side of Fred, feeding her pegasus some lettuce.

"I’ve decided to name her Rose because she’s made of rose quartz." She told everyone. Tonks changed her hair to bubble gum pink in honor of Rose, startling the Grangers. Lupin kissed her hand before returning to his conversation with Mad-eye Moody across from him. Mr. Weasley was at the other end of the table, engaged in quiet conversation with Kingsley. Harry stared at the two empty chairs on the other side of Arthur. One was Molly’s, but he knew who the other one was for as well.

Just as he was thinking it, Dumbledore appeared in the doorway, nodded his greeting to the table and took his seat between Mad-eye and Mrs. Weasley. Harry could feel his anger building and didn’t understand why. He knew he would have to talk to his headmaster sooner or later to discuss his new powers and save his sanity, but all those feelings of mistrust were rising again.

As Molly finished putting all the food on the table and took her seat, Dumbledore stood up. "I have an announcement to make." He addressed the table.

Everyone’s attention was on him, but the great wizard was only focusing on Lupin and Tonks. "I have been asked, on behalf of Remus and Nymphadora to announce that on June 12 they will be joined in the blissful bonds of a Wizard Marriage." He paused as everyone took in the information. Almost instantly, cheers arose and Mrs. Weasley was in tears. Harry smiled down at his friend, glad that Lupin was bringing a little happiness to them all in the midst of this seemingly unending tragedy playing out before them.

Lupin stood and nodded shyly to the crowd. "We would be honored if you would all attend the wedding. We would like to keep it small, just family." Everyone responded with approval. Dumbledore and Lupin took their seats and the group began their Christmas feast, much happier than when they had sat down.




A/N: Awww, how nice. More to come so check back and please review.
Chapter 31: Back to Hogwarts

NOTE: What’s up? A lot to read in a short chapter, so read on, review and enjoy!



Ginny woke the morning after Christmas feeling wonderful. And then her memories came crashing back down on her and she squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to go back to sleep. Everything was going wrong in the waking world, nothing was as it should be and she wanted no part of it. More than anything, she dreaded that each morning she woke brought her one day closer to returning to school. Although at the moment she couldn’t decide which was worse, being at Grimmauld place with her family where it was harder to hide or at Hogwarts where she was more likely to do something reckless without having as much supervision.

As she heard the sounds of the others rising and running around the house she knew she had no choice now. If she didn’t make an appearance soon, her mother would be knocking at her door to see what was wrong. Since somewhat snapping out of her deep depression over George, Molly had been overbearingly observant of all of the other kids in the house, including Luna when she was here. Not wanting to draw her mother’s nervous attention, Ginny threw back the covers and with a heavy sigh went to join the others, plastering a happy smile on her face as she walked out the door.

(BREAK)

Fred paced his room feeling desperate. Working on the Rictheous potion had been the thing that kept him from thinking, from feeling. Now waiting to see if his latest batch turned out okay, he knew he was at an impasse. He needed Hermione’s help or he wouldn’t get this potion made at all. But ever since Harry gave her that promise ring a few days before at Christmas, she’d been glued to his side and for some reason, he was reluctant to let Harry know he needed help. The kid was so anxious to make things right for everyone but Fred didn’t want him to even waste his time. For him, things could never be made right, and even Mykele’s ring couldn’t fix it all.

So he threw out the sludge in his cauldron and went to join the rest of the house so no one would think him up in his room sulking. He would wait for his chance to ask Hermione to help him, sometime when it could be worked into casual conversation so that he wouldn’t stand out with his request. It was all about hiding now, hiding his overwhelming despair, his anger, and his desire for revenge.

(BREAK)

With a week left until he was supposed to return to school, Draco still hadn’t heard anything from his father. He hadn’t received so much as a Christmas card from Lucius and at this point, he wasn’t so sure he even wanted to see the man again. He’d run out of excuses about why his father never came to check on him and hadn’t believed the ones he had come up with anyway, so it’s not like he was too surprised or disappointed. But still, that small child within him that so desperately wanted to be loved and accepted by his father felt like he was once more punched in the gut, unable to breathe from the crushing weight of sadness. Though it was a feeling he was used to, it didn’t make it any easier to take. At some point he had to grow up, to decide to take a stand and let people know he wouldn’t let them make him feel this way anymore.

Well, now was that time. He wasn’t sure how he was going to do it, but he knew he had to find a way to disentangle himself. Part of him knew that the only way would be to defect to the other side as they were the only ones able to hide him effectively from his father and Voldemort, but at the same time he was disgusted by the idea of becoming a traitor. But he knew that if he ran away on his own, it would only be a matter of time before he was found… he knew things damaging to many and the Dark Lord wouldn’t take the chance of him running free-reined. And once he was brought back, he would most certainly be severely punished for his disobedience and disloyalty; he’d seen others tortured for less than what he was planning. But could he really turn to Dumbledore and Potter? After dealing with Lucius and Voldemort for so long, he knew what life was like when you make a deal with the devil. So what would happen if one made a pact with a savior? He wasn’t sure he really wanted to find out.

(BREAK)

The night before they were to return to Hogwarts came more quickly than Harry realized. He decided now was as good a time as any other to confront Dumbledore with all of his questions. The old wizard had been staying in Potter Manor for a week and a half, and Harry had the sneaking suspicion that it was because he was waiting for Harry to come talk to him. Enough time had passed that he felt he was doing things on his terms, that he was now going to talk because he wanted to and not for any other reason. He hated that he had the need to have this power struggle with his former mentor, but he was tired of relinquishing any control over his life. He was nearly an adult and he knew he needed to start acting like one in order to get any respect. But a childish rebelliousness seemed to take over him whenever Dumbledore was around.

"Headmaster?" Harry asked with a commanding tone as he poked his head into the parlor.

"Ah, Harry. Have you finally decided to talk to me again?" He lowered his head and looked at him over the top of his half-moon spectacles.

Instantly Harry felt a surge of guilt, anger and hurt; but instead of retreating to the safety of his own room as he suddenly longed to do, he strode confidently into the parlor and took the chair opposite from where Dumbledore was sitting. He silently reminded himself that he was the master of this house and would not be intimidated. Besides, he needed information. Desperately.
"I was wondering if you had finally decided to be honest with me." He answered. The older wizard simply nodded his head, urging Harry to continue. "These things that are happening to me, these new powers, you know about them don’t you?"

"Of course I do, Harry. They were created by the very first of our kind and so they are the most ancient and purest of powers bestowed among the worthy witch, wizard, even muggle. Today they have more common names, telepathy, telekinesis, as I’m sure Hermione was able to inform you. But you are perhaps wondering why I wasn’t the one to tell you." Harry nodded, not wanting to interrupt with words. "I wanted to be sure of something else. You see, you seem to possess several of these powers and very few in history can claim the same. Even I am limited."

"But why me? Why do I suddenly have them?"

"Harry, my dear boy, you’ve always had them. They are of course passed down through your mother’s side of the family. You are just now coming into them, perhaps because of the rapidly approaching danger."

"My mother was from a muggle family. Believe me it was something my aunt prided herself on." Harry replied.

Dumbledore smiled and shook his head. "That’s what I thought, which is another reason I held off on speaking to you about this. As it turns out, your grandmother was actually a witch as were her parents before her and so on all the way through your ancestry. It was a secret she kept for reasons known only to her, perhaps she did it for the love of the man she married who was a muggle. One can never truly know the motives of another even with the ability to read minds. Nevertheless, only a thorough perusal through the archives finally divulged the truth. I doubt even your mother knew and so I can honestly say I have nothing more to give on the subject."

Harry thought a moment and decided he believed him. It was definitely something he would have to look into later when the opportunity presented itself. "You said they belonged to the first of our kind. Who were they?"

"They were the first coven, a group of twelve who found each other during turbulent times in the ancient world. They leapt language and cultural boundaries and banded together to defeat the very first pure evil, known by many religions as the devil, but better known in our world as Marquees. He ruled with hate and mistrust, fear and trickery. The twelve took everything that was good in themselves and turned it into energies, forming their extraordinary powers to bring down Marquees. Powers that you now seem to possess, which indicates to me that you are the direct descendant of one of the coven."

Harry couldn’t help but feel amazed and overwhelmed. It was too much for him to take in after so much had happened. He looked at the great wizard sitting before him and knew that something was being left out. Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. "Go ahead, Harry. Ask."

"Does any of this have to do with Mykele, or the ring?"

"Mykele as you found out in your investigation, which I know you are still conducting against my wishes, was a clumsy man but a powerful wizard. He too was a direct descendant and had some of these powers. When he forged the ring, he focused those abilities into it, making it even more powerful than anyone knows. He never told the ministry that he had done this and it is a legend that was passed on by word of mouth. Harry, that ring is dangerous to possess, many would kill for it, including Voldemort himself if he knew the full capacity of it. I will not make you promise to abandon your search as I know that you cannot, but I would like you to promise me that you will be careful."

They sat in silence for a time. At last Dumbledore took his leave, announcing he must make his return to the school. After walking him to the door, Harry went to his room and found all the other teens waiting for him.

"Well, how’d it go?" Hermione asked.

"Boy do I have a lot to tell you guys."

(BREAK)

Luna waited impatiently on Platform 9 ¾ for the occupants of Grimmauld Place to show up. Her father had dropped her off nearly half an hour earlier and though she knew her friends were off to a late start, they were really cutting it close this time. At last she saw Ginny and Ron tumble through the barrier and rushed over to join them. She was eager to share in the hearty farewells Mrs. Weasley liked to bestow on every child she could reach- she enjoyed the warm, loving energy the woman exuded, even if it did make her miss her own mother.

As soon as they were left alone to board the train, Harry and the others quickly pulled her aside and filled her in on the enlightening conversation he’d had with Dumbledore. "So what does it all mean?" He asked her.

She looked at him sharply, knowing he was hoping she’d had some sort of vision. Of course she had, but it was nothing she wanted to discuss with everyone else present. She treated the question as if it had been meant for the whole group. "I guess that’s for us to figure out."

"Okay, but how?" Ginny asked, leading the group into boarding the train before they were all left behind.

"We'll, go to the library as soon as it reopens and look everything up." Hermione said as they settled into their train compartment, but Ron interrupted, a look of worry on his face.

"What about this trial thing? We still have to worry about that. And the fact that we still can’t talk about…" he gestured wildly, as he was unable to finish his thought. Luna felt bad that she couldn’t just simply tell what Cho had said to him and the other boys to ease their troubled minds. But she had to stay strong, Cho’s secrets would be revealed in time. She took his hand in support while feeling like the worst girlfriend in the world.

(BREAK)

"So what about the potion?" Harry asked as he turned to Fred, knowing he’d been working on it for days.

"I’ve just about got it." Fred replied reassuringly before casually turning to Hermione. "I think I need your help to get it just right though."

"Okay, as soon as we get there." She agreed before she and Ron headed off to the prefect meeting.

They returned quickly and the group rode on in comfortable silence, everyone lost in their own thoughts. His were directed around Draco Malfoy who he knew had recovered to the point of being allowed to return to school. Harry wondered what would happen when Ginny had to face him, if he knew that she was the one who stabbed him. Glancing at her, he saw her face was emotionless, but he could tell from the rapidity of her blurred thoughts that she was having trouble.

Whether from fear or shame, Malfoy didn’t come to cause any problems, but Harry could almost feel his presence on the train…. except… something was different. Deciding to test himself and his newfound abilities, Harry sent his thoughts out to find Draco Malfoy’s mind. He telepathically searched each car, eavesdropping on the inane thoughts of his schoolmates. Finally he settled on Malfoy and began listening. What he heard made him suddenly very unsure about a lot of things and he gasped outloud at the sudden strength of the emotions he was receiving from his enemy.




A/N: Will the potion work? Find out in the next installment. See you then!

Chapter 32: Disbelief

NOTE: I tried to get this one out faster, but alas, I have a life and it takes up a lot of my time. Plus, I’m not so good at the time management, get organized stuff. Anyway, enjoy!


 

Harry shook his head to clear it of Malfoy’s thoughts and feelings. "What’s wrong?" Hermione asked. The others all turned to look at him.

"I just went through his mind and he’s actually sorry." He said, his disbelief startling him into honesty.

"Who?" Ginny asked.

"Malfoy." He answered, knowing that ‘sorry’ didn’t even begin to cover the thoughts and emotions surging through his enemy’s mind. He explained the best he could what he had seen to the others; Malfoy was sorry, he knew how bad he had been and was looking to make amends. To make things right against those he had wronged.

"Fat chance of that happening." Ron sneered. "Why should anyone forgive him, he has blood on his hands?"

"So will I." Harry said quietly.

"Oh, Harry, it’s not the same." Ginny cooed, patting his shoulder. "You have to kill, you have no choice… it’s to save us all."

"Please, Ginny. Put some more pressure on him." Hermione snapped.

"Malfoy didn’t have a choice either." Harry declared, ignoring everyone. He wasn’t sure he could explain. He also wasn’t sure why he cared. "His father-"

"Harry! You’re saying it’s okay that he’s responsible for Neville’s death? That it’s okay that he was part of the group to kill George?" Fred shouted, getting angry.

"Of course not!" Harry yelled back. "But in a way, we’re all partly responsible aren’t we?"

"Harry-"

"No Hermione. There’s no way around it. If we had been quicker, Neville would be alive. If we hadn’t gone to Knockturn Alley to get ingredients that day, George would still be alive."

Hermione shuddered. "You don’t know that for sure. They were waiting, watching us."

"Watching you." Fred added glumly. "Why are you defending Malfoy anyway?"

"Because I saw what he was really feeling and thinking. He was vulnerable. And there’s something in particular, about Neville’s death that I just can’t quite see. But it’s important I know it is. And it’s more than that he’s sorry, there’s something he’s covering up about that day." He noticed Luna look away and knew that she also was keeping something secret. He was certain that she knew whatever it was that Draco knew.

"So go ask him. Beat it out of him if necessary. I still don’t see why we should care if he’s sorry." Ron said angrily.

"Look I know there’s a lot he has to answer for, but there’s something I can’t describe underneath it. It’s like he wants to change or something. His father-"

But again Harry was cut off before he could try to explain. "So because his dad is a jerk he should be forgiven for his part in all of this?" Ginny sneered. Harry felt for her, after all she had stabbed the guy in the back and left him to bleed out; the last thing she would want is to be given another reason to feel bad about it, like him not actually being involved in Neville’s death.

"I’m not saying that….he could have been stronger…he could have said no…but the thing is, none of you know what it’s like to grow up in a house where you have no choices. No place to gather strength from. No one to confide in." Harry couldn’t believe he was standing up for Malfoy, but he suddenly felt connected. Maybe some part of him was still in Draco’s head.

"You turned out pretty okay." Ron pointed out.

"That’s debatable- but he’s weak, eager to please, and terrified of being alone. As long as he did what his father wanted, he had his attention. It’s not right, but then, from what I saw, he’s not right in the head at the present moment."

"Let’s just see what happens." Hermione suggested. "There’s no use getting into a fight now."

(BREAK)

Luna rushed off as soon as they arrived at the castle, wanting to avoid Harry for as long as possible. She didn’t want to chance him getting her alone to ask those questions she couldn’t really answer. Why hadn’t she just told everyone what she knew, what she’d seen days before the stands blew up? Of course she could say that she had to let things take their course, that people needed to come into the knowledge in their own time and let them agree or disagree as they chose; after all it was the truth. But she knew the bigger, more shameful reason and it was something she could never admit to anyone. She hoped against hope that Harry hadn’t noticed anything off about her when he’d been talking about Malfoy and the extent of his involvement in Neville’s death. A swift look through his mind told her that hadn’t been the case and that he intended to talk to her. She couldn’t let that happen, she didn’t want to talk about it.

Just a couple of days and if her vision had been correct, she wouldn’t have to worry any longer. Malfoy himself would give Harry all the information he needed. As she walked through the Ravenclaw common room, she saw Cho and Marietta whispering in the corner as they watched her. She shivered to herself as she continued up to her dorm. A couple more days and she wouldn’t have to worry about Cho either. She could only hope that if the other girl did have anything planned, she’d get a warning in enough time. Some part of her mind was screaming that something was being plotted. Unfortunately, until a decision was made and made firmly, there was no way her fear could be confirmed with a vision. She lay on her bed and stared at the ceiling ignoring the other girls as they entered. They all thought her weird and dreamy, so she knew they would think nothing of her staring off into space and wouldn’t make an effort to speak to her anyway. A little part of her began to feel that the older she got, the more it hurt to know what people thought of her. Turning on her side she closed her eyes and imagined she was out in the jungle, chasing some unimaginable creature with her father as they tried to photograph it for the magazine. Letting the imagery take over her mind, she slipped off into a blissful nap.

(BREAK)

As soon as they reached the common room, Fred pulled Hermione aside. "Come on, George and I had a great set up going in the Room of Requirement. We can work there."

"Okay." She readily agreed, following him without question.

He had gotten the Marauders’ Map back from Harry on the train, and he used it now to get them quickly and discreetly to the right door. He asked it to accommodate his lab and opened the door, marching straight to the burners to get them going.

"Wow." She took her time walking around and inspecting things as he set up. He smiled at the child-like wonder with which she studied the equipment, ingredients and spell books. He often poked fun at Hermione for her love of learning but seeing her in the midst of it made him want to sneak in and watch her in one of her classes, just to see what she was like in action.

Shaking his head to focus on the task at hand but maintaining his smile, he finished getting everything set up. "Alright, you ready to go egghead?"

She made a face at him before smiling widely. "I guess. Let’s give this a shot." She said with a sparkle in her eye.

(BREAK)

Harry followed the other sixth year boys into his dorm and instantly lost that sense of happiness that had come over him when he had set foot on Hogwarts grounds. Neville’s bed and dresser had been taken away during the break, leaving a large gap in the room. Now, four lonely beds remained and as Harry sighed, he couldn’t help but wonder how many more beds would disappear before they graduated.

Making the excuse that he was tired, he stayed behind when the others decided to go enjoy the unusually nice weather. Laying down in the enormous bed, he thought about everything that he’d learned in the past two days. He knew that somehow, it was all connected. Somehow, it would all come back to Voldemort, but he just couldn’t piece it together. He needed Hermione; she was the thinker, the puzzle solver.

Instead of going to find her, he focused on what he had seen in Malfoy. He closed his eyes and forced his mind to repeat everything he had witnessed, to try and make more sense of it, to get a picture of where his enemy’s thoughts were. Colors flashed by, blurred and unfocused. Malfoy was confused. Darkness bit at the edges of those colors. Malfoy was scared. Visions of Neville, George, Sirius and even Harry were jumbled in with the colors and darkness. Malfoy was sorry. Beneath it all, yet somehow intertwined with everything, Lucius Malfoy’s voice was echoing in unheard words. Draco was alone.

His thoughts suddenly became his own again and a picture that he had seen of Mykele stood out in his head. The ring, the secret powers it held….did Draco somehow know? More importantly, did Voldemort know? Why else would Mykele pop into his mind just then? Through everything that happened this year, Harry had learned to trust his instincts, and right now, they were screaming at him.

Harry sat up and pulled out a quill and parchment and began writing.
PUZZLE
1.Ring
-worst fears
-key
-6/13

2.Coven
-Wandless powers (Also in the ring)
-Defeated Marquees (? Look up later?)
-Ancestors

3.Malfoy
-Confused
-Scared
-Sorry
-Alone
-Where does that put him? Pity, forgive, enemy
-Does he know the ring’s secret powers?
-What else is he hiding about Neville?

Harry didn’t know why he made the list, but he did know he didn’t want anyone to see it who wasn’t supposed to. He quietly said a spell and the ink vanished, much like the Marauders Map. He went downstairs and found Hermione in the common room reading.

"Hi." She said a little too brightly. "I was waiting for you."

"Why didn’t you just come up?"

"I figured you needed some alone time. Plus I just got done with Fred and the potion making process. What’s that?"

"A puzzle waiting to be solved. I need your help." He said the counterspell and the words reappeared. "I made a list of everything I know. Its not enough… there’s something big here, I know it."

"You want me to research and see what else I can find?" She asked glancing over the list.

"You would be the quickest at it."

"You really think Malfoy knows?" She looked at him.

"That’s the part for me to research." He answered, ignoring the doubts and concern that recently always seem to be present at the forefront of her thoughts.

(BREAK)

Ginny waited impatiently for Fred and Hermione to leave before she went in, slamming the door to the Room of Requirement and turning to face the emptiness. Simple throw pillows lined the floor and she flung herself upon them. How could Harry defend Draco Malfoy? She was being eaten away with the guilt of knowing she’d nearly taken the boy’s life, and now to suggest that he hadn’t even deserved it? More, to suggest that they owed Malfoy a chance? She thought she had understood Harry, but his do good attitude had gone too far this time.

She wouldn’t let herself cry, arguing that this wasn’t a situation that warranted tears no matter how frustrated and distressed she felt. She was determined to be stronger and she’d started by pretending rather successfully that she wasn’t ready to pull her hair out every moment she was awake. Putting on a happy face at Harry’s had been easier than she’d expected, but now that she was back here at school and trapped away with all her mistakes she felt the façade begin to crumble. She was disgusted with herself; it was only the first day. Squeezing her eyes shut, she willed the tears away refusing to give in. She forced her mind to clear, to become a blank empty void so that she wouldn’t have to think or feel. Finally getting herself under control, she took a deep breath and rose, dusting herself off before putting on a smile and walking out to join the others.


(BREAK)


At dinner that night, Fred informed them all that George’s bed had been taken too. He also announced with an air of determination that he and Hermione may have completed the Rictheous Potion. A good thing, considering Cho’s trial by the Hogwarts High Student association was fast approaching. The boys decided to take the potion that night, since it took twenty-four hours to work. They’d be ready to spill everything they knew by Sunday, the night before the trial. That is… IF the potion worked.




A/N: Next chapter: results of the potion, the trial of Cho Chang, an investigation of Malfoy and another fight between Harry and Hermione.
Chapter 33: Trials and Tribulations

Note: Hey guys, I bet I lost a lot of the readers after taking such a long break, but I’m back now and things are finally getting back to normal. I’ll have more time for writing now, so thanks for sticking with me and enjoy this delightfully long chapter.



Ron looked questioningly at the beaker in his hand. It was emitting an odor even worse than the polyjuice potion he had taken years ago, a smell he would never, could never forget. "Are you sure this is right?" he asked Fred.

"We followed the instructions exactly, little brother. So if you don’t trust me then it should help that the brainiac did most of the work." Fred answered, looking just as disgusted.

Hermione took Harry’s beaker and gave it a sniff. "Well, it is a counterpotion, you can’t expect it to smell like a pie." She said defensively, although she immediately handed back the offensive liquid after gagging a bit.

"I’m guessing that means it won’t taste like a pie either." Ron grumbled. He hated Cho Chang more now than he did before.

"Well, bottoms up, boys." Ginny said, looking almost gleeful.

"Just wait until you have to drink something this gross." he said, glaring. The three boys took a deep breath each and then chugged the potion down. "Oh god, this is horrible!" Ron felt like he could puke or pass out at any moment.

"What’s it taste like?" Luna asked.

"Rancid….spoiled…there are really no words." Harry belched out, his eyes watering.

"This better work." Ron growled, finally in control of himself.

Once they were all sure the potion was going to stay down, he walked Luna back to the Ravenclaw common room. Her hand was small and cool inside his large clammy one. Ron didn’t know why she made him so nervous all the time, but it was like she could get inside his head somehow, and by doing so knew him better than he knew himself. She knew everything he needed, and wanted. She knew when to be around and when to give him space. She never questioned him or their relationship. She was the perfect girlfriend. And that made him nervous. Luna had been overlooked because she was weird. But he saw her now, and she was one of the most beautiful girls he’d ever known. She was classy and graceful, loyal and brave, smart and willing to learn. In essence, she was far too good for him, meant for someone greater.

Again, as if reading his thoughts, she stopped and stood on her toes to reach up and kiss him. "I love you." She said quietly.

They had never said those words to each other. He had been jealous to learn that Harry and Hermione had beaten them to that milestone. But he hadn’t felt right saying those words. And now here she was, telling him just when he needed to hear it the most. "I love you too. More than you know." She smiled with a hint of amusement in her eyes before she brought his lips back to hers.

(BREAK)

Harry awoke Sunday morning with a churning stomach. He was nervous and anxious to find out if the potion would work, but he would have to wait until nine o’clock that night. He didn’t know if he’d be able to handle it, the hope and uncertainty for a whole day.

As he went down to breakfast he looked at the faces of his friends and read the same thing that they must see in his own, grim determination. Everything was resting on the success of the potion, and if it worked, they would at last have a real victory. Harry glanced at the Ravenclaw table and saw Cho talking quietly with some of her quidditch teammates, a bad thing since no one knew she was controlling them to do her will.

He had tried to think it to Luna, but even that somehow wouldn’t work. All she could get was what she called ‘the equivalent to static.’ Even having her spy on Ron and Fred’s minds when they weren’t expecting it wasn’t working, though he now had a strong suspicion she knew exactly what Cho had told them. He looked over at Luna, sitting at her own table all alone.

Cho was also looking over at Luna, smiling in a way that gave Harry an even bigger stomach ache. He motioned to the others to look at Cho and they too took in the sight, waiting. They were all waiting, his friends, his enemies, his teachers and he himself. It was now the waiting game… he just hoped that he would get in the first strike.

(BREAK)

"Have you seen Luna?" Harry asked Ron later that day.

"Not since breakfast. She said she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go lay down." He shrugged. "She said it wasn’t anything serious, just a headache." He noticed how disappointed Harry was and became suspicious. "Why? What did you need?"

"Nothing. I just wanted to ask her about something."

"Something doesn’t sound like nothing." He returned. "What can you talk to her about that you can’t discuss with me?"

Harry put his hands up and took a step back, making Ron realize how aggressive he was being. "I just wanted to ask her a few things about Cho, you know see if she noticed anything strange since they are in the same house and all. I didn’t like the way Cho was looking at her this morning and I’m worried something may be up."

It sounded true, and at the same time he knew his friend was holding back, as if there was some other more secret topic. It was the way he had shifted his gaze while talking. Ron shook his head, feeling ridiculous. "I’m worried too. I don’t trust anything about Cho Chang."

"Well if you see her before I do will you let her know I’m looking for her?"

"I’ll do you one better. I’ll just ask her myself." He answered watching his friend’s reaction closely. He thought he detected disappointment.

"Oh. Okay. Then let me know what she says."

"Will do." he smiled. Harry returned the smile before heading upstairs to the dorm.

Ron knew he was being silly, but he couldn’t help it. Harry had moved so comfortably into his life first claiming his parents’ love and then Hermione’s. Finally Ron had someone to love him and the last thing he wanted was to lose her to his friend. It was an irrational fear… he knew that. But he couldn’t help how he felt.

(BREAK)

To Draco’s surprise, Dumbledore had allowed him an hour to roam around outside. Uncertain that this wasn’t some sort of trap or trick, he’d asked why he was suddenly being given a glimpse of freedom. Apparently some healer at St. Mungo’s had sent in orders that he receive an hour outdoors everyday, though no mention of it had been made to him before he left home. He knew suddenly that it was something Lucius must have arranged, though he was under no delusion that his father had been looking out for his health. Lucius had simply used his son’s poor health as an excuse to get around the solitary confinement he was placed in, so that he could have an opportunity to meet up with Cho and settle their plans.

He sighed heavily as he bundled himself up and headed outside, knowing the headmaster probably had someway of spying on him. But he wasn’t too concerned with being caught anymore and so he walked out almost hoping he was leading some spy to his clandestine meeting. The cold air was refreshing though he was finding it difficult to catch his breath. The knife had just missed his lungs apparently though somehow they’d filled with blood and had to be drained. He’d been assured that the side effect of breathing problems would go away, but as usual, he had his doubts.

About halfway around the lake, he realized he wasn’t alone. Pausing and holding very still, he was just barely able to make out the soft crunch of light footsteps in the snow. "Hurry up will you? It’s freezing!" He yelled. He figured it was Cho, but at this point he didn’t care who it was, so long as they get whatever they want over with quickly.

But of course it was Cho, coming out from behind some trees and storming towards him angrily. "Are you insane? Do you want people to find us here together?" She demanded.

"I’m sure you could find a way to explain it." He shrugged.

She crossed her arms and regarded him closely. "Sometimes I think you were stabbed in the head instead of the back."

"And sometimes I think you’re an ugly bitch. Can we get on with this? What do you want?" He asked impatiently, enjoying the impassioned fury that passed through her eyes.

Shaking her head, she must have decided to let his insult pass and get down to business. "The hearing starts Monday and my sources tell me those idiots somehow discovered a counterpotion to the Bickeross."

"Not such big idiots then, are they?" He asked smugly. He had never thought something as trivial as a potion would stop Potter and his friends, but he’d let Cho dig her own grave on that one.

"In any case," She angrily continued, "I have to move on to plan B."

"Which you never told me about."

"Well, shut up and I’ll tell you what you need to know." She snapped. "I need to find a way to stop them from testifying. I don’t care about the stupid quidditch game, but if they say anything about my parents and Death Eaters I could be arrested. This is far more serious than expulsion now."

"You’re the one who wanted to play the game." He said meanly. "I never knew why you thought it was such a good idea to tell them all about you."

"Your father told me to!" She protested. "He gave me orders that came straight from Lord Voldemort."

Draco shrugged again. "You didn’t have to go along with it. They aren’t here being put on trial, you are. You should have known it would be a mistake to say too much."

"Fine blame me, but you’re going to help me get out of this."

"Oh? And how’s that Cho?"

"Like I said. I need to make sure they don’t testify. Ron and Fred are up first, but Ron is the key. Keep him from going up there and then we only have to worry about Potter." She answered.

"You have to worry about Potter." He corrected. "So? What exactly is your plan?"

(BREAK)

The final hour was almost to a close and the marauders were sitting in a circle in the Room of Requirement. Harry, Ron and Fred were excited in spite of themselves eager to get the truth out and introduce new evidence since they were all to be called on as witnesses at the hearing. At last with a minute to go, the boys began to grin madly.

"Don’t get your hopes up too high… it may not work you know." Hermione told them.

"Shut up Hermione!" Ron yelled. "We’ve lived with this secret long enough and we drank that horrible potion. I want the burden gone!"

"I’m just saying…"

"Well, don’t." Ron said glumly. Now unsure he turned to Harry. "Do you think it will work?"

Before Harry could answer, Ginny looked up from her watch. "You can find out for yourself." She told her brother. "Time’s up." The girls gathered closer to the boys waiting to see what would happen.

Harry tried first. "Cho… she… she told us…" but he couldn’t go on. He curled his fists in frustration. He turned to Fred and he took up the struggle.

"She told…. she told us she joined the other side." He managed to get out. Ron looked at his brother in amazement and Harry slapped Fred on the back.

"That’s right." Ron got out. "She and her family are working for V-v-oldemort."

"In fact her parents are Death Eaters." Harry concluded with no problem at all. They then proceeded to fill the girls in on everything that had been said that day in the courtyard. They told about Cho’s plans to get close to Harry and then kill him herself and how she said that now her mission had changed. They mentioned that she said she was controlling the Ravenclaw players, no one else. The girls listened in awe and terror, the last thing they all needed was another powerful enemy.

"So, do you think she’s in league with Malfoy then?" Ginny asked sullenly.

"I doubt it, she gave the impression that she enjoyed working alone." Ron answered taking a swig of pumpkin juice.

"Plus if Harry is right, then the Death Eaters may have known that Malfoy wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure and they sent reinforcement." Luna said, looking around at the bookshelves.

"If…IF Harry is right." Hermione said and Harry gave her a sharp look. "So far, he’s the only one who thinks he knows for sure that Malfoy is truly out of his element."

"Gee, thanks Hermione." Harry said bitterly. "I more than think I know it, okay… I saw it."

"So you say… look Harry, it’s just that no one else has your powers and we don’t see the things you think you see."

"You know… out of everyone here, I expected you to trust and believe in me the most." He said quietly.

Before Hermione could respond, Luna stepped forward. "Harry’s telling the truth, I’ve seen the same things in Malfoy that he has. I have the power to look into people’s minds. I always have and I want no questions on the subject… I just wanted to back Harry up so that you would believe him… before this, he was the only one who knew about me."

This time it was Hermione who cast a sharp look in Harry’s direction, which didn’t go unnoticed. Ginny must have taken in the situation and sensed that Harry and Hermione needed some privacy, she interrupted. "Fred, Ron, Luna, I think we better get going. We need a good night’s sleep since you three need to be at the trial early tomorrow."

"Right, let’s go." Fred caught her drift and pushed Ron out ahead of them.

Once the others left, Harry and Hermione stared each other down, anger, jealousy and hurt rising. "So you and Luna are confidants now." Hermione asked, an edge of betrayal in her tone.

"We confided in each other, yes. And based on how supportive you’ve been lately, it looks like I chose the right person to share with."

"What are you talking about? I support you, I always have… it’s just that this time… this time, it seemed like you really did have to be on your own with this one because you were the only one with these powers. And I didn’t like that…you began shielding yourself from me, pulling away." She crossed her arms and walked to a corner of the room.

"I’m sorry I have these powers at all, and I’m sorry I can’t share them with you, but there’s nothing I can do about any of that. Luna--."

"Luna." She interrupted with a bit of contempt.

"Luna," he continued, "is going through some of the same things I am, only she’s dealt with it longer. When you don’t know something, Hermione, what do you do? Look it up in a book or from a reliable source, right? Who else could I talk to?"

"Dumbledore, McGonagall, even me…I would have tried to understand."

"So wait, you said all those things about not believing me, in front of the others, to get back at me for not talking to you?" Harry asked, more than a little irritated.

"Maybe. I don’t know anymore, Harry. I don’t know why I get so upset, why I get so jealous. I don’t know anything. I just constantly feel like I’m going to lose you to someone or something."

"I thought you understood. There’s no one else for me but you. I’m not going to leave you and I’m annoyed that you keep feeling the need to put me in a position where I have to reassure you of that. It should be implied by now."

"It should be, but after the whole thing with Ginny… things just aren’t the same. It puts doubts in my head that I just can’t shake."

"You said you were okay with that."

"I lied!" She threw her arms in the air as if it should have been obvious.

"Hermione, I love you…I just can’t take these games anymore. Cho played them last year. You’re a better person than she is…on many levels. I just can’t keep worrying about you and me and us while all this other pressure is building around me. I need to focus and I need to know for sure that you’ll be able to support me and believe in me, just like you once told me you did, at the beginning of the year, you know after I poured my heart out to you."

"I believe in you more than anything, and I’ll support you even when I’m mad at you. I…I just…" She turned to him, tears in her eyes. Harry could see the mental struggle she was putting herself through. Whatever she was going to say, she did not want to say it. Her eyes relayed that she had come to a decision. She sighed and began quietly. "I know you need to focus right now, you’re right. I can’t keep distracting you. So…I’ll remove myself from the picture for a little while." She held up a hand to silence his protests. "Just until you figure everything out with Malfoy, Cho and Voldemort." She walked to the door. Harry’s face darkened and he ran to block her way.

"Harry, move away from the door." She said in a voice that wasn’t her own. It was detached, distant.

"No, this is not settled. You can’t just walk away when things are tough or I would have done it years ago. You have to fight for what you want, right?"

"Not always. That’s just not always the case, Harry." She turned her back on him and crossed her arms again to keep him from seeing the tears and the pain this was costing her. But she also didn’t see the tortured expression, the panic and the confusion that crossed his eyes. He grabbed her arm and spun her around to face him.

"THEN WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING ALL THIS FOR!" He shouted at her, his temper, his fear, out of control. "WHY AM I RISKING EVERYTHING I HAVE FOR PEOPLE I’LL NEVER MEET? FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T EVEN TRUST WHAT I TELL THEM? FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T EVEN CARE IF I LIVE OR DIE?" In his rage he shook her. She let her tears fall, but she wasn’t crying because she was frightened or in pain. She cried for him. He roughly released her, pushing her away at the same time. "Just go then." He ordered, sinking to his knees.

Hermione knelt beside him and cradled his head in her arms. His went around her waist and he let go….of everything. He was sobbing, letting out all he had been building up inside himself. "I’m scared, Hermione." He said once he had quieted down.

"I know." She whispered.

He pulled back and looked at her. "I’m scared for you, I’m scared for my friends, I’m scared for all those people I’ll never meet."

"I know." She said again, brushing his matted hair from his forehead and wiping his face with her sleeve.

"I’m scared for myself, too." He said quietly, admitting the secret Luna had already discovered. "I’m scared that I wish I could go back, before I knew about Hogwarts, back with the Dursley’s when I had nothing to live for." He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her softly. "I don’t want to die now, Hermione. I thought I did, because I would have peace at last…no pain, no fear…but I realized that I wouldn’t have you."

"I love you." She whispered.

"Then don’t stay away. I need you, you keep me grounded. I refuse to let this mess take away the one person I care about most."

"I wouldn’t have been able to, anyway. I was glad when you stopped me from walking out. You’re right…our time may be short and there’s no sense in wasting it."

"Okay then. You were right too. I can’t do this all alone. Not anymore."

(BREAK)

Ron stalked angrily ahead of Luna. He had gone from immense relief to instant rage. To find out in front of everyone that his girlfriend had been keeping a secret from him, a secret she had only shared with his best friend, well it was embarrassing as well as infuriating. And after they had just professed their love for each other the night before.

"Ron-" she started from a few feet behind him.

He turned on her, keeping his voice low because of the hour. But the venom in his words was unmistakable. "Don’t, Luna. I can’t believe you would do this, I really thought you were the only one who really knew me, you had to know how this would make me feel. Especially now that I know you really can read my mind."

"Of course I knew." Her was voice equally low and venomous. "Harry is your best friend and your greatest enemy. Your jealousy and competitiveness with him are overwhelming sometimes. Do you think he goes around thinking of ways he can best you? He doesn’t, and he isn’t even aware of the constant competition you imagine between yourselves. As for my keeping secrets, it’s my right."

"Your right?! Where’s my right to secrecy? Oh, that’s right, I don’t have it because you and Harry can trample through my head anytime you want! And I may be jealous of Harry, but at least I have a best friend! Who’s yours, Luna? And a better question, did you even have friends before Ginny noticed you and brought you around us?"

"I was picky about who I wanted in my life! And apparently, my standards were still too low since, to answer your question, I thought you were my best friend! There's a lot you don’t know about me, for many reasons. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever know. It just means I’m not ready to tell you. And I didn’t want to tell you about the mind reading thing because I knew you’d be upset to find out I could see thoughts you assumed were private."

"So now what?" Ron asked. Her words had cut, but he hadn’t held back either. Could they move on from here?

"I think we can." She answered his thought. "If you can realize I don’t want Harry over you, and this power is just a part of who I am."

Ron stood before her, unsure of what to do. He was afraid to think about anything. But he weighed in his mind, and he decided if that’s all it took to keep this girl, who just last night he had considered too good for him, then he could do it. Harry had Hermione and they were sickeningly in love, even if they were fighting all the time.

As for her power, he would just have to figure out a way to keep her out when he needed to. Hermione had mentioned something about it a while ago after Harry first showed signs of being able to see their thoughts. "I’ll do anything to make it like it was last night. I’ll forget today ever happened." He finally answered, with extreme sincerity.

"Okay then. I promise not to romp around in your head without telling you."

"Okay then. We forget this ever happened."

"Agreed." She smiled and threw herself in his arms.

(BREAK)

Neither of them wanted to face anyone else, so they decided to stay where they were for the night, pushing the throw pillows together to form a bed and settling in together under the blanket they’d found in the corner. Harry fell asleep quickly, as was his habit after an emotional outpouring, nothing seemed to drain him quicker. Hermione was resting her head on his shoulder, feeling peaceful and uneasy all at the same time. No one made her as happy or as sad as Harry did. She’d already experienced so many emotional highs and lows with him, she couldn’t fathom what could possibly be in their future. She never thought it would be easy, but she never imagined it would be this hard to be with him. But truth be told, she wouldn’t have it back the other way for anything. She loved him and she knew she wanted to be right where she was.

What she couldn’t handle was the jealousy constantly swirling in her stomach. She didn’t want to be suspicious of every girl he talked to, but he made it a lot harder when he goes and kisses one of her friends behind her back and then has secret conversations with her other friend. Of course, they were his friends too, and he had every right to talk to Luna. She only wished he could have confided in her as well. She wouldn’t have told Ron if Luna hadn’t wanted her to. As for Ginny, she knew that it hadn’t been all his fault. The girl had admitted to being the one to kiss him, but the fact that they also both admitted that it hadn’t ended right then and there, that the kiss had lasted a few minutes… she didn’t know what to make of it. She wanted to believe Harry, as she believed his intentions with Luna were completely innocent. But she just couldn’t. She knew the energy that Ginny exuded, one couldn’t help but want to be around the girl. (until lately that is) And she knew how pretty the little red head was, how the guys all looked at her when she walked by. Ginny had grown up well and at fifteen, she was definitely something to look at.

Hermione was anything but a fool. And she was reluctant to let Harry be the first to make her one. But beyond anything, she believed he loved her and so she had to put everything else aside and just let herself trust. She could do it, probably…

(BREAK)

Luna stood outside the entrance to the Ravenclaw common room and watched Ron walk down the hallway, feeling relieved that she had been forgiven. They had both gotten a few things off their chests and she hoped they’d be able to move on quickly. As she turned to open the door, she was suddenly assaulted by a roaring in her ears. She dropped to her knees as her vision faded out and she was suddenly in a large white room. Images began appearing before her, showing her the danger ahead. Cho’s face floated past her, laughing maniacally. Then Moaning Myrtle appeared, looking angered as she dove down into her toilet. Luna saw herself next and a very long piece of rope that entwined itself around her feet. And then suddenly it was all black and she was looking up towards a small circle of light.

Opening her eyes, she felt dizzy and disoriented. The panic she’d felt during the vision remained with her and suddenly she didn’t want to go anywhere near her common room or anywhere else Cho might be. She intended to run after Ron, to ask that he let her stay with him. But before she could rise to her feet, someone threw a dark heavy blanket over her head and grabbed her up. She tried to scream, but found that she could barely breathe wrapped in the thick fabric. Desperate, she tried to call out to Harry and the others with her mind, but as her lungs struggled to find oxygen, her brain struggled to make the connection necessary for her to tap into her talents. Eventually, her mind gave up and she slipped off into unconsciousness as she felt herself placed on the hard cold ground and the blanket was finally ripped away from her face.

(BREAK)

Monday morning was gray and somber. Only the few students who were to be at the trial were awake and in the Great Hall as they were excused from classes for the day. Harry stared at his breakfast in disgust, his stomach churning in anticipation. He, Luna and Ginny weren’t to be called on to testify until the afternoon and he didn’t know if he’d be able to maintain any resemblance of calm for that long. Ron also showed his nervousness, pushing his plate away without even trying so much as a bite. Harry felt for him, knowing he’d have to face the court with Fred that morning.

Hermione was sitting at the Hufflepuff table where the other prefects and Head Boy and Girl were sitting. They were to be the jury and weren’t allowed to speak with anyone. Ron, being a witness, was unable to perform his prefect duties and Seamus was sitting in for him. Luna, who was supposed to be present, was nowhere to be seen. The only occupants of the Ravenclaw table were Cho Chang and the rest of her players. She threw Harry a meaningful glance and smirked at him, but when he tried to see what her mind was up to, all he found was an icy stone wall. Something was wrong, and when Padma Patil came running up to the Gryffindor table, Harry’s heart clenched in anticipation.

"Ron! Ron!" Padma called as she ran up to him.

"What is it? What happened?" Ron asked worriedly.

"Luna! She’s gone! She asked me to make sure she was up in time this morning, but when I went to check on her she wasn’t there. I looked everywhere, but I can’t find her!" Padma threw herself in Ron’s arms sobbing and saying she was sorry. She had shouted the news loudly and all thirty students were on their feet, staring in disbelief and horror…all that is, Harry noticed, except for Cho.




A/N: Oh no! What have I done?! Coming up: the search for Luna, trial goes on as scheduled, and Cho gets a surprise of her own when the boys testify.

Chapter 34: Lost and Found

Note: Hello all. We’re getting close to the end of this one my friends. I’d say ten more chapters at most, maybe not even that since these next ones will be long and a lot will be happening. This chapter: more action returns.




The trial was postponed long enough so that a thorough search of the castle could be conducted, but Luna just couldn’t be found. Ron was beside himself with worry, and nothing the others could say or do could calm him, or themselves. All he could do was silently curse Cho under his breath- Hermione had taken his wand so that the temptation to really curse her was removed. None of the Marauders had a single doubt as to who was responsible for Luna’s disappearance, but they would not let him get in trouble for revenge. At the moment he hardly felt grateful for their concern.

It was half an hour before the trial had been rescheduled to start when a note magically appeared at his feet as he paced the hallway. The words seared themselves into his mind and feeling anger coursing in his veins, Ron approached Harry, Fred, and Ginny waiting outside the courtroom. "I can’t testify." He handed them the slip of paper.

~Don’t worry, she’s alive…for now. Testify against me and I’ll never tell you where she is. Show Dumbledore or the professors this note, and she will die.~

Harry angrily crumpled up the paper and threw it down the hall his eyes flashing the same rage Ron felt. Upset that Hermione had confiscated his wand, Ron took Ginny’s from her pocket and with a dramatic wave set the discarded note on fire. It was the only way he could work out some anger. "What did you do that for?" Ginny demanded, possessively reclaiming her wand from her brother. "Now we won’t be able to use it as evidence later!"

"It doesn’t matter." He answered dejectedly. "She’ll get to us all one way or another. Fred and I were supposed to testify this morning. Without me, who will believe Fred’s version of the truth? I mean, come on Fred, you aren’t exactly a reliable witness even with truth potion. And Harry won’t be able to collaborate until this afternoon and mark my words, she will find a way to keep him from talking too."

"No, she won’t. While you two are at the trial, Ginny and I will look for Luna." Harry tried to assure him. But Ron couldn’t help how he was feeling. Luna was being used against him, she was in some kind of horrible trouble, possibly even hurt and it was his fault, because she chose to love him.

Harry placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and took command of the situation as he tended to do. "Fred, you’re up first so buy us enough time to look, then, if we aren’t back by your turn Ron, you can decide whether or not to testify." Ron nodded sadly, unable to say anything. If Luna wasn’t there, in front of his very eyes, he wasn’t taking the stand.

"Where are you planning to look? They searched the whole castle." Ginny asked.

"We’ll see." Harry answered as Ron turned to go back in with the others. Though he was a bit upset to not be helping find Luna, he firmly believed his friend could do anything he put his mind to… he could only hope his faith in Harry wasn’t unfounded.

(BREAK)

Ginny waited impatiently with Harry until the trial started, with the drinking of a truth potion by all parties involved with the morning proceedings, before slipping out the back. They began their search with the Room of Requirement. Taking turns, they each paced the hallway first asking for a place to find Luna, and then for a place to hide her. No luck. They moved on to certain cabinet that Fred and George had once stuck a Slytherin through. He had not been found for weeks. Again, nothing. Together, Harry and Ginny searched the entire castle, and came up empty-handed before they each had an idea.

"I’m an idiot!" Harry exclaimed as they ran up to Gryffendor tower. Once in his room, they tore apart his trunk and found the Marauder’s map. Unfortunately, a thorough look through it didn’t give away Luna’s position. "I don’t know what else to do, where to look. There’s no way she could have smuggled Luna out without someone noticing."

"Well, are you ready to try my idea?" Ginny asked.

"There’s no way she could have gotten her down there, Ginny. She doesn’t know where the entrance is, and besides, it was sealed up after second year."

"And, it’s the only place that wasn’t searched. The Chamber of Secrets is our last hope."

They made their way down, and she knew Harry was feeling doubtful, but she was excited. They were returning to the place where he’d first saved her life. Surely something there could trigger some kind of response from him. They could bond further over the memories. Normally she would have felt horrible, thinking these things while her friend was in danger, but she really was sure that they would find Luna there. After all they had searched every other conceivable place. Why not use this horrible situation to her advantage if she could?

(BREAK)

Luna woke to total darkness. She felt dizzy and lay still for several moments trying to get her bearings. She wasn’t sure what time it was or how long she’d been passed out. She wasn’t even sure what had finally woken her. Listening hard, she was able to discern a grinding sound from somewhere high above her. Then as she’d seen in her vision, a small hole of white light appeared. She got to her feet, feeling very shaky, though she didn’t appear to be injured. She felt something dragging on her ankle and reached down to see what it was. Feeling the rough texture she determined it to be rope, but before she could find out where it went she heard voices calling out to her. Relief washed over her and she forgot everything else in her overwhelming desire to pulled from this lonely abyss where she’d been placed.

(BREAK)

Per usual, they found Moaning Myrtle floating above her stall weeping. Ginny checked the sink, trying to catch the secret lever without using parseltounge, which Harry refused to do. Instead, he went to talk to the depressed ghostly girl.

"Good morning." He said brightly, hoping he wouldn’t make her angry.

"There’s nothing good about this morning. I haven’t had a good morning in ages." She grumbled. "Are you here to make a bunch of racket too? Better you do it now when I’m not trying to sleep than in the middle of the night like everyone else."

He bit his tongue on asking whether or not ghosts actually slept and focused on the task at hand. "There were other people here?" Harry asked eagerly.

Myrtle nodded sullenly. "They made fun of me too."

"I’m not here to make fun of you, Myrtle. I was wondering if I could ask you about these people that were here. What were they doing?"

"Digging. Over there where all the bad stuff happened before. I tried to warn them but they were so mean. And more boys were here! In the girls bathroom! Like you and your red haired friend weren’t enough!"

"Were they here last night?" Harry asked, his chest nearly bursting with hope.

"Only two girls. One of them was very rude to me."

"Was one of the girls blonde?" he heard the sink move behind him as Ginny must have found the lever.

"Harry! Come look at this!" She called.

"Oh yes!" Myrtle exclaimed as Harry rushed to Ginny’s side. "Go on and leave now that you’ve gotten all you wanted out of me! Ahhh!" and with a big flourish she dove into her toilet.

"That girl has issues." Ginny mumbled as Harry took in the sight before him. The hole had been reopened, wide enough for one person to fit through. He stepped to the edge and called Luna’s name.

"Harry?" Her relieved voice called back.

He let out the breath he’d been holding. "It’s me, Luna! Are you all right?"

"Physically… yes I believe so. In other ways I am terribly upset."

"This is Ginny. We’ll have you out of there in no time!" She called out reassuringly before turning to Harry. "Should we try to float her out?"

He surveyed their choices. "I think it’s our best option at this point."

"Together then... Wingardium leviosa!" They pointed their wands downward, hoping to see Luna rising up before them; secretly he used more than his wand, he focused and added his ability to move things with his mind to strengthen the spell. After a minute, her blue eyes were staring up at them from a few feet below and seconds later they pulled her clear of the hole.

"That was a little too easy for my liking." Ginny said looking around.

"What's that on your ankle?" Harry asked Luna.

She looked down and examined the length of rope still attached to her as she spoke. "I don't know. I thought it was meant to keep me down there and I tried to warn you guys about it, but you had already said the spell."

"Weird." Harry remarked. "Why would she tie you to a rope knowing it wouldn't do any good?"

Suddenly, the faucets on all the sinks burbled loudly and shot off as strong jets of water streamed out. Harry pushed the girls to the floor, throwing himself over them so that they wouldn't be hit with the flying debris before covering his own head with his arms. Luna pulled herself up and ran to the door. She pushed and pulled but to no avail. It didn't budge. Water was now gushing up from the hole made for the Chamber of Secrets and pooling around their ankles.

"Why isn’t the water going out through the crack at the bottom of the door?" Ginny yelled over the roar as Harry helped her to her feet.

"I don’t know!" Luna yelled back. She got down on all floors and stuck her hand under the door. "There’s something blocking it!" She said standing and looking around for a possible escape. The water was rising quickly for such a large bathroom.

"There must be gallons coming up!" Ginny yelled staring him helplessly.

"Well, now I guess we know what the rope was for." Harry shouted as he waded through the suddenly knee high water. "When the rope broke it triggered the trap Cho set." He made it to the wall and stared up at the windows. "They’re too high up!" He yelled to the girls.

"Plus the glass is really thick, we wouldn’t be able to break it anyway." Ginny said with a hint of defeat. The water pounded against the walls, creating a small current and they had to fight to keep their balance.

"There’s got to be a way out!" Luna screamed at no one in particular. Being the shortest of the three, she was now waist deep and beginning to panic. "Someone will come looking for us!"

"No, they won’t!" Ginny yelled back over the crashing waves. "Everyone assumed Harry and I went looking for you and as we aren’t testifying till this afternoon, we won’t be missed until lunch!"

"That’s more than two hours from now!" Harry yelped as he lost his balance and plummeted under water. He took in a gulp of stale water as he surfaced and struggled to breathe. This is the lake all over again, he thought to himself as he got his feet under him. Ginny and Luna were slowly making their way over to him, the water now deep enough for them to swim. There’s only one thing I can do, I hope she hears me. He let the waves carry him to the stalls where he jumped up and grabbed the top to help keep himself above water while he concentrated.

Hermione! Can you hear me?! We’re in trouble in Moaning Myrtle’s lavatory! He waited anxiously for her reply as the girls joined him, all three now hanging on to the stalls. Not that it would do much good in a very short while. The water rose higher still, the makeshift current growing stronger.

"Did she hear you?" Luna yelled to be heard, even though she was right next to him.

"I don’t know… wait!"

Harry? We’re still in the middle of Fred’s testimony. He’s dragging it on, I assume so that you guys can find Luna. Hermione answered clearly.

We found her at the bottom of the opening to the Chamber of Secrets! But there was a trap, and now we very well may drown if you don’t send someone after us. Harry said, letting his panic show.

I think Ron heard you. He just jumped up and ran out the door. Hermione informed him, an edge of panic in her return as well.

NO! Ron, be careful, the door is blocked and when you unblock it you may be crushed by the weight of the water! Harry tried to warn his friend.

Now Ron’s voice filled his head…I’m still on my way… Isn’t there a spell or something you can do to reduce the water level?

My wand is somewhere under the water! Ginny lost hers too and I don’t think Luna had hers on her! Harry struggled to hold on. He was beginning to feel tired.

Hold on! I just got permission to approach the bench… which is Dumbledore. Tell Ron not to do anything stupid. Hermione’s voice broke in.

Ron! Hermione has Dumbledore on the way! Just wait! Harry didn’t know how much longer they had. He could now almost touch the ceiling and was fighting desperately against the current, which was trying to drag him under. He searched for the girls and saw Luna clinging to the chandelier, her hand outstretched, reaching for Ginny who was fighting a battle of her own with the current. A losing battle by the looks of it, as she struggled desperately to stay above water. He hadn’t realized he’d been so focused on calling for help that he’d completely shut out what was happening around him.

Harry wretched himself in her direction, though not a strong swimmer, or even a fair swimmer, his determination guided him. He was caught off guard by a big wave and crushed against the wall, his head making full contact. He shook it off and started again toward Ginny, with Hermione back in his mind. Harry, Dumbledore has called for a short recess! We’re on our way! Hold on…

He couldn’t answer her; he was close…so close he could just brush Ginny’s fingertips. And then the current got her and she was dragged under. Harry thought quickly, the outcome of diving in after her would be them both drowning. "Luna! You still have that rope?!"

Carefully she reached down and untied it from her ankle. "Yeah, but it’s not long enough!" She yelled, holding up the three feet of rope.

"Let me see it!" He reached out and took it. Worth a shot, he thought to himself and willed the rope to grow with everything he had inside himself, mouthing the incantation he had learned in McGonagall’s class to transfigure something to grow. He was truly amazed when it worked.

"Here!" He said giving Luna one end and tying the other around his waist. Luna looped hers around herself and the chandelier. They now had a good fifty feet of rope. Taking a deep breath, Harry dove in and searched for Ginny. He came back up for air and dove again. On the third try he spotted her near the floor, barely struggling anymore. She looked like she was choking. Harry dove deeper. In a few seconds, she would be sucked down into the Chamber hole. He grabbed her wrist and pulled hard, his chest on fire and his lungs screaming. He yanked on the rope, so that Luna could help pull them up. In the back of his head, he heard Hermione and Ron talking, but they were too far away. Harry could feel the tug on the rope, and rose a few inches higher. They would never make it at this rate. Ginny needed air…and so did he. Once certain she was away from the hole, he plugged her nose and blew the last bit of air he had into her mouth before letting her go and clawing his way back up.

Once he surfaced, he realized there was only about two inches between the top of his head and the ceiling. "Again! This time pull as hard as you can!" He yelled to Luna between gasps for air. Filling his lungs, he dove again, reaching Ginny and pulling her close for examination. Her eyes were half-open, but bubbles were still coming out of her mouth. Once more pinching her nose shut, he pressed his lips to hers and blew all of the excess air he could down her throat. She struggled for a minute before going lax again. Circling his arm around her waist, he tugged the rope and swam up as best he could while being reeled in by Luna. At last they surfaced, but there was barely any surface left. Pulling Ginny’s head from the water, he tilted her face up and urged her to breathe.

There were voices in his head, screaming at him, demanding to know if he was alive. Hermione’s was the most prominent among them, but he could no longer find the part of his mind that could answer. Growing out the rope, calling out to them, swimming and diving had all burned him out, not to mention the crack he’d taken to the back of his head which was now throbbing painfully along with his lungs. Luna was desperately trying to untangle herself from the rope and chandelier while keeping her face above water. She finally managed it and made her way over to Harry, grabbing desperately for his free hand.

"Is she okay?" She asked, her lips grazing the ceiling.

He looked to Ginny who was cradled in his other arm. "I don’t know, but if they don’t hurry, none of us will be okay!"

"Did you hear that?" She cocked her head a bit toward the door. Then Harry heard it too. Over the pounding, gushing, roaring water, someone was banging frantically on the door. Suddenly a voice boomed above all other sounds and Harry felt an incredible pressure. It wasn’t the water…it was something else entirely and he didn’t like it any better. Any minute, he felt like he would pop!

"Ginny, you have to take a deep breath now, we’ll be under soon." Ginny struggled as hard as she could and Harry and Luna gulped in air as they were at last completely submerged. Harry now truly felt as though he would burst into a million pieces. He saw Ginny pass out in his arms and Luna wasn’t doing much better. Harry had now lost count of how many times he had blacked out in the last six years, but he knew it was coming and welcomed the darkness in place of the struggle.




A/N: Okay then…next chapter: Hermione becomes a witness, Ron and Ginny take the stand, Harry converses with Draco and makes a surprising discovery, and Hermione reads something she doesn’t like…..in Ginny’s diary. It all really starts next chapter…

Chapter 35: Learning Something New

NOTE: Hello all, there’s going to be a lot covered in this chapter, so hold on to your hats. Please review and let me know what you think.



Hermione’s heart was pounding in her throat as she, Dumbledore and Professors McGonagall, Snape and Flitwick rounded the corner to find Ron trying desperately to pry a board out from under the lavatory door. "What are you doing?" She demanded, pulling him out of the way as the adults assessed the situation.

"Marietta put it there. I saw her run off right before I got here." He answered absently as he wrenched his hands while studying the progress of the adults.

"Which way did she go?" Hermione asked darkly.

Her tone must have startled him into providing his full attention as he turned to look at her suspiciously. "Why?"

"Everyone stand back!" Dumbledore commanded before she could reply. He passionately thundered out some ancient word, waving his wand with a large flourish. Instantly the roaring and pounding they’d heard behind the door disappeared and three thuds resounded from within. "Oh my! I hope they weren’t hurt, in my panic I forgot to catch them."

Snape shoved the door open and she rushed past them all, kneeling at Harry’s side. He was breathing weakly, but it was enough to assure her that he was going to live. Looking up, she saw McGonagall kneeling across from her as the others checked on the girls. Realizing Harry was in good hands she merely nodded at the older woman before rushing off. After all, she had to catch Marietta quickly and find out if she was one more puppet under the curse or acting of her own evil accord.

She rushed to Gryffindor tower and up to the boys’ room, ignoring Dean who was unhappy about her interruption. She dug out the Marauder’s map and rushing back into the main part of the castle, searched for the location of her prey. There she was, making her way from the Ravenclaw common room back to the Great Hall. Quickly folding the map as she ran, Hermione shoved it in her pocket and feeling a stitch in her side, cursed herself for not caring more about athletics.

"Hey! Stop!" She screamed out breathlessly as soon as the girl was in her sights. Rather than do as she was told, Marietta ran through the front doors and out into the courtyard. Gathering her fortitude, she gave chase, pulling her wand out as she followed. "Stop!" she called out one last time. Still the girl ran. Feeling frustrated beyond belief she let the spell fly from her lips before she knew what she was doing. "Stupefy!" She struck her target and the girl went down leaving Hermione free to slow her pace and catch her breath. The spell though regretful was effective none the less. "I didn’t want to do that you know. I just want to talk to you." She released the spell but kept her wand up and ready.

"I have nothing to say." Marietta said stubbornly.

"Then I’ll make you talk." She threatened.

Faster than she thought possible, the other girl pulled her own wand from the sleeve of her robes and pointed it directly at Hermione. "Go ahead and try."

Marietta cast quickly, giving her little choice but to keep shielding from the attack and wait for a moment. When the other girl finally relented, Hermione shot a stunner. But apparently, the things they’d taught the Marietta in DA last year had stuck with her and she seemed prepared, shielding and instantaneously continuing her attack. To Hermione, it felt like hours that she stood there blocking spell after spell that was thrown at her. She’d hoped her opponent would grow tired, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

"Hey!" Someone yelled. It was enough of a distraction to finally get the upper hand. Marietta had glanced to her side to see who was there and Hermione took the opportunity to finally hit her target, throwing the girl in a binding spell and wishing the whole time she’d never released the first spell when she’d initially found her. Of course, she hadn’t expected the girl to be such a challenge.

Ron ran up to her, McGonagall close behind him. "What the hell happened?" He demanded while making sure she was okay.

Hermione ignored them both, walking over to her fallen foe. "It’s time for answers Marietta."

"I agree." McGonagall said, releasing Hermione’s spell and helping the girl to her feet. "Start talking Miss Edgecombe."

(BREAK)

"Are they going to be all right?" Harry heard Ron ask anxiously.

"They will be just fine." Dumbledore answered soothingly.

"Then why haven’t they woken up yet?" His friend demanded.

Harry debated whether or not he wanted to open his eyes, not wanting to see the hospital ceiling again or Hermione and Ron’s worried faces hovering over him. And he certainly didn’t want to know what was wrong with him this time. However when he thought on it, whatever he was lying on was way too comfortable to be a hospital bed and the only pain he felt was in his hand, which was probably the product of Hermione squeezing too hard. But then again, it didn’t feel like she was holding his hand, in fact, he couldn’t sense her there at all. Finally, out of sheer curiosity Harry decided to let them know he was awake.

"What happened?" He asked, struggling to sit up, and finding that his head was aching dully. Looking around, he realized they were in Dumbledore’s office. Luna and Ginny were still passed out; he could just make out their forms on two couches across the room.

Ron ran over to him as Dumbledore stood up. "He made all the water go away, another couple of seconds and you guys would have drowned! How’re you feeling?"

Harry looked down at his bandaged limb. "My hand hurts."

"Unfortunately, it was badly banged up when you hit the floor. I believe it broke, but Madame Pomfrey mended it right away. It’ll be sore for a day or so. My apologies." Dumbledore said quietly.

"Where’s Hermione? What about the trial? What time is it?" It all came back at once and he struggled to rise off the couch. Ron pushed him back down.

"I believe I’ll leave Mr. Weasley here to fill you in, I must see to a few things." And with that, Dumbledore vanished down the stairs.

"Where’s Hermione?" Harry asked again, suddenly very aware of her absence, and feeling lonelier for it.

"A lot happened while you were out, mate. Hermione made sure you were all right in the bathroom before she took off without telling anyone. After we brought you guys up here, we went to call off the rest of the trial until tomorrow. That’s when McGonagall and I found her….dueling in the courtyard with Marietta."

"What!?"

"You remember Marietta, right? Cho’s friend? Well, I saw her running from the lavatory door on my way to get to you guys. I mentioned it to Hermione when she got there and apparently she went to find out what happened. Like I said, when we found them, they were dueling. Don’t worry, she’s alright." Ron assured him. "Turns out, Marietta was the one who blocked the door, on Cho’s order."

"Was she under the impervious curse?"

"Actually, she wasn’t. Anyway, since Hermione was the one who got the information out of her, she has to become one of the witnesses on the stand, since this was another instance where Cho ordered someone to intentionally cause harm to students. So she’s with McGonagall right now writing out her statement. Believe me, she did not want to leave you, but they told her it was for a good cause. Plus she and Dumbledore have to find her replacement on the jury."

Harry had a hundred more questions, but at that moment Luna woke up and Ron hurried to her side. So he decided to go find Hermione on his own. As quietly as he could, he made his way downstairs and took off towards McGonagall’s office. He winced a little as he put a hand to the back of his head, feeling dried blood from where he had smacked his head against the wall. Shrugging it off, he continued on his way.

Hermione’s voice was ringing through the hallway as Harry approached the door. "Can I please go now? Harry’s still up there and I want to check on him." She pleaded.

"Yes, I believe that is all Ms. Granger." McGonagall answered impatiently.

Harry braced himself as Hermione raced out the door and saw him. "Are you okay?" she asked, looking him over for serious injury.

"Never better." He answered and swept her into a bear hug. "So are you okay? Tell me about this duel."

(BREAK)

Ginny had never felt so much disappointment in her life. She almost hated Hermione, a feeling which had been growing since Harry had chosen to be with the girl. Regaining consciousness in Dumbledore’s office, she had expected to see Harry hovering over her after the ordeal they had just been though together. He’d once more fought to save her life and while passed out she had dreamed of the ways she would show her gratitude.

Instead she’d found Ron and Luna. According to her brother, Hermione had gotten into some sort of fight with Marietta and he supposed that Harry had gone after her. Hermione was always screwing things up, getting in her way. She tried to rise only to have Ron push her back down. "You aren’t going anywhere."

"Why not?" she demanded angrily.

"Because you can’t walk right now." He answered softly.

Looking down she saw that her legs were wrapped tightly in bandages and splints. Suddenly realizing she couldn’t feel anything below her hips she began to panic. "What happened?"

"Apparently you hit the floor first, and Harry and I landed on top on you." Luna explained apologetically.

"Your legs were shattered. Madame Pomfrey already took care of it, but she said you’ll have trouble getting around for awhile. She left these for you, you know, once the feeling returns." Ron said, producing a pair of crutches.

(BREAK)

Draco stormed down the hallway, more angry than he had words for. During the first minutes of his hour out of his room, he’d heard the news buzzing around the school- Potter, Lovegood and Ginny Weasley had nearly died in Moaning Myrtle’s laboratory. Of course he knew it was more than a bathroom, it was the entrance to something that had once been much worse… before Potter destroyed the creature living there. He hadn’t been thrilled with Cho’s idea and had actually opted out of helping her kidnap Lovegood. She’d taunted and tormented him for not involving himself, but he’d stood firm- even when she’d threatened to tell Lucius he was being uncooperative. After all he’d made a decision before returning to school that he was going to find a way out of all this, and helping her set a trap that was potentially meant to kill Potter and Lovegood would only drag him deeper.

Maybe he should have told someone what she was planning, that’s what a good guy would have done, but old habits die hard and being a rat was nothing to be proud of. He never expected her stupid plan to work, figuring Potter would easily see through such a clear trap. After all, Cho had decided to use the Chamber of Secrets for what she thought of as sentimental reasons. But when he’d come out of his room today and learned of just how successful she’d nearly been, Draco had been taken aback. When he’d then heard that Potter and Lovegood hadn’t been the only victims, an instantaneous fury had risen up inside of him and he knew he had to confront Cho. Now he strode with angry purpose down towards the room where she was being kept.

Two prefects stood outside, including Jason Stone from his own house. Walking confidently up to them, he demanded entrance. "No one’s allowed in there." Said the wimpy looking prefect from Ravenclaw. Draco merely sneered at the boy before sweeping past him. "Hey! I’m telling the Headmaster!" The kid yelled after him.

"No you aren’t." Jason replied in a warning tone. Draco smiled, glad he still had some clout within his own house even if he had been kept locked away from them. Perhaps that was the part he was going to miss most about this life…

"What are you doing here?" Cho angrily demanded the moment she saw him.

"I heard about how badly you failed. Not only did they survive, that idiot Marietta got herself caught by Granger." He could feel himself shaking as he attempted to hold himself in check, careful not to reveal the real reason he was so upset.

"I’m aware." She answered miserably.

"You’re a sinking ship Cho. I’m getting clear before you completely go under."

"Oh yeah? You really think that’s possible?" She eyed him carefully. "Well let me remind you that we are on the same ship together, Draco. It’d be in your best interest to ensure I make it through this, because if I do go down, you better believe I’m taking you with me."

"Not if I find my own lifeboat." He threatened.

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"Lucky for you, I’m not sure yet. But I’m determined to figure it out. I just wanted to let you know, you’re on your own."

Cho shot him a sinister smile. "Like you were my only ally."

"Here at school I was, I know that for a fact. And right now, here is what counts." He returned before walking out the door. He had little time left and hurried back to his room, eager to begin figuring out how to disentangle himself from this nightmare.

(BREAK)

Luna felt miserable as she and Ron lay together in his room. The other Gryffindor boys had understood and left them to their privacy, but she could tell how upset Ron was and wanted nothing more than to be alone. "I’m sorry." She whispered.

He sat up and turned to look at her in surprise. "For what?"

Propping herself up on her elbows, she took a deep breath. "For all of it, Ron. For not knowing in time what Cho was planning, for being used as not only as a scare tactic but also as bait for a trap. I’m sorry that you feel bad that Harry was the one to find me, and for resenting you for it. Most of all, I’m sorry that you were and still are so scared for me."

"Come here." He said in reply, taking her hand and pulling her into his lap, cradling her in a way that she found extremely comforting. Resting his head on top on hers, he sighed deeply. "Nothing Cho did was your fault and you know it no matter how guilty you feel. And yeah, I wish I had been the one to rescue you… but I’m not sorry Harry beat me to it as long as someone kept you alive. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt that he got to be your hero, maybe that makes me selfish or petty, but that’s how I feel and can’t change it." He kissed her head, holding her closer. "But I promise you one thing Luna, I won’t stop being scared for you. For you or any of the others, so don’t be sorry for it, because I’m not."

"I love you." She was touched by his words as much as by his honesty.

"Right back at you." He pulled back and smiled down at her. "You feeling up to going to dinner?"

"Actually, I think I just want to go to bed, my head is pounding." She answered slowly.

He appeared concerned. "Everything okay? Is it from when you fell?"

"Relax, it’s probably just because I’m tired. Madame Pomfrey gave me a clean bill of health, remember?" She grinned, kissing his cheek before climbing off the bed. "Why don’t you go check on Ginny? I’ll be fine."

His face darkened with concern. "I tried, she won’t let anyone get near her. I think she’s really upset that she was injured so badly."

"That’s exactly what it is." She assured him, though she knew they were speaking of different injuries. Of course, there was no reason to bring that up at that moment… Ginny had brought her despair on herself. Ron may think busted legs were what was bothering his sister, but Luna knew the girl was actually upset that she hadn’t gotten the perfect picture she’d imagined with Harry. She should have learned by now that Harry wasn’t going to give Hermione up for her, but Ginny continued to hope and therefore continued to let herself down. There was nothing Luna could do to help- her friend had long ago decided she’d been betrayed and cut her off accordingly. Now it seemed she was cutting out her brothers as well.

Ron walked her to her common room, kissing her with such passion she felt weak in her knees. But she remained strong in her resolve and went to her room alone. There were so many things to figure out, but she couldn’t bring herself to think on anything without coming back to a deep feeling of guilt. Part of her felt that everything plotted by Cho and Draco was also in a way her fault if for no other reason than her silence. She decided to go to sleep and hope everything would go the way it was suppose to tomorrow- if it didn’t, then it would be time to break her silence. .

(BREAK)

Harry sat in the back of the "courtroom" and watched Ron’s face slowly become the same red as his hair. Unfortunately, Ron was up first that morning, and he was so nervous, he kept stumbling over his words, which definitely helped Gladyce Stark, the seventh year Slytherin girl who was defending Cho.

"Mr. Weasley, if you are not going to clearly articulate your answers, how is the jury to be expected to take your testimony seriously?"

Harry couldn’t believe it when Ron’s face turned yet another shade darker. "Look, your questions are confusing alright! You’re throwing around all these words that don’t mean anything!"

"They are standard courtroom words, I would know, as this is going to be my profession. All right I’ll simplify it for you Mr. Weasley. Did it ever occur to you that all those things Miss Chang told you were simply lies? Her way of getting back at Harry Potter?"

"No, actually that never occurred to me because that’s stupid! Why would she get back at Harry by saying she was out to kill him and that she was the one who put the Imperious curse on her team?"

"Allegedly putting them under the curse…innocent until proven guilty Mr. Weasley and I’m afraid you aren’t giving the prosecution much help. Miss Chang admits she is a woman scorned and that she said and did horrible things for revenge, but the accusation that she is the daughter of Death Eaters? Are you sure you don’t think it may have been simply a scare tactic, knowing Mr. Potter’s history?"

"Yes! It was a scare tactic! Because she wants to scare us! But I have no doubt that it’s completely true. Why don’t you just put her up on this stand with some of that truth juice and ask her?!"

"That will be all, Mr. Weasley." Gladyce smiled at the jury as she took her seat. Ron looked relieved that it was over and was quickly returning to his normal color. He practically vaulted off the stand.

"I think he did okay." Hermione whispered in Harry’s ear.

He shook his head and took her hand. "He was too easily rattled. If you and Ginny stay strong up there, it will be better."

"I don’t know how Ginny will do…." They turned to watch Ginny limp to the stand. She was aided by crutches, still a bit too weak from yesterday’s events to walk on her own.

All fears of her being a bad witness were relieved when she turned to the assembled audience with stone eyes and began her testimony with a hardened voice. "Ginny Weasley, testifying before the Hogwarts High Student Association against Cho Chang, on behalf of the prosecution."

(BREAK)

Ron’s knees felt like jelly from the moment he’d taken the stand to the moment he’d been allowed to leave it and return to his seat. His stomach was in knots and he felt ill. No sooner had Ginny taken the stand than he had to rush from the room and down the hall to the bathroom. As soon as he was done being sick, he staggered to the sink to rinse his mouth and wash his face. Taking in his reflection in the mirror, he saw the sudden paleness of his skin and the startled awareness in his eyes. Feeling himself shaking, he gripped the edges of the sink.

He had let that horrible Gladyce rattle him, he’d let everyone down. Fred had been cool and confident on the stand as he was in life, and Ginny had all the appearance of being unshakable from what he’d seen before he had to flee. Of course Hermione would be calm and collected and Harry would undoubted seal the case as long as he remained in control of his temper. And Luna, all she had to do was get up there with her big blue eyes and tell everyone how Cho had kidnapped her and the jury would melt in her favor. He was the only weak link, the only one who hadn’t had anything to offer and provided very little help otherwise.

Splashing more water on his face, he noticed his color return to normal. Taking several deep breaths, he told himself he was being ridiculous… that there was so much against Cho that there was no way he could screw things up. Though it made him feel a little better, he was no where near believing it. Straightening himself up, he carefully shielded his mind like he’d been practicing and strode with false confidence back to the makeshift courtroom.

He took his seat next to Luna and smiled in response to her look of concern. "Are you okay?" She asked, taking his hand.

"Just nerves. I’m fine." He assured her before turning his attention to the front where Ginny was holding her own against the formidable Gladyce. As he sat there barely listening, he decided he needed to be more assertive, to not only stand up for himself and his friends, but to tell people what he wanted and go about his life with a general sense of a real confidence in himself. He was determined that this would be the last time he let someone else define him, he would learn to be fearless.

(BREAK)

The trial was recessed for lunch, but Harry didn’t have much of an appetite. Ginny had done well, until the very end. Gladyce had brought her reliability into question, based on her well known dislike of Cho as well as the several trips to the headmaster’s office on disciplinary matters. Ginny had faltered, and even though everyone knew she was telling the truth due to the potion, Gladyce had twisted her words all around before letting her leave the stand.

"The truth can be told and still not be true, it is entirely based on what the person in question perceives the truth to be, isn’t it Miss Weasley?" She had said. Before Ginny could answer, Gladyce had continued. "Basically everything you testified here today was hearsay from your brothers and Mr. Potter, and as for everything else, there’s no way to know that my client was responsible for your terrible accident yesterday. And Miss Chang has already accepted the fact that she will most likely be expelled for what she pulled on the Quidditch pitch. So really, all your testimony comes down to is your opinion. You dislike Miss Chang, so your opinion is unfavorable. Unfortunately for the prosecution, your opinion can not carry the same weight as truth and facts. That is all Miss Weasley." Everyone’s heads had been spinning by the time Gladyce Stark had finished and for the first time in a long while, Ginny had been left speechless in a battle of wits.

Harry sighed and pushed his food around his plate. Hermione took his good hand and smiled. "Don’t worry. I won’t let her get to me this afternoon. I have cold hard facts and there’s no way I’m going to let her twist my words. And then you’ll go on and it will almost be over."

"I just can’t wait for Cho to be put on the stand…"

"Um, Harry…she won’t be. Weren’t you listening when I explained all this, at an HHSA trial, the defendant can not be put on the stand because it wouldn’t be fair. With the truth potions they have now, there’s no way she’d be able to lie which would compromise her defense and influence the jury."

"So? Then they’d all know!"

"Yes, but…well, it’s hard to explain." She scrunched up her face trying to figure out the best way to explain.

Harry didn’t want an explanation. Any reason given wouldn’t be good enough for him. "So who are they putting up there to question?"

"The Ravenclaw team and Marietta." Ron grumbled.

"Great, and the team is probably still under the curse…wait! Can the potions get around the curse?" Fred asked.

"I don’t know, actually." Hermione answered thoughtfully.

Ron, who had been listening in, almost choked on his water. "You don’t know something?! The world is coming to an end!"

"Shut up." Ginny snapped at him.

They sat in silence and Harry could hear all of their thoughts going through his head. It was too much. Since waking in Dumbledore’s office yesterday, his weird powers had been growing stronger. He couldn’t figure out how to turn off their voices except with distance. So looking at his watch and seeing it was only one o’clock, and the trial wasn’t to start again until three, he decided to have some time to himself. His friends gave brief looks of understanding, and he knew they all needed a little time to themselves.

Harry walked out into the courtyard and breathed in the fresh, frozen air. It felt good to be out there, he had begun to feel closed in, like he was going to suffocate at any moment just sitting in the castle. As he walked, he stared at the ground, watching his shoes crunch into the snow. He stopped suddenly, as a shadow appeared in front of him. Looking up, he came face to face with the person he had spun into a complete enigma… he was staring down Draco Malfoy.

(BREAK)

As soon as the trial broke for lunch, Luna made up an excuse and ran from the room. She didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to explain that she had seen her own kidnapping too late to save herself, it had been hard enough talking about it with Ron the night before. But even then she’d held back, not wanting to admit to anyone -not even herself- that she was scared and that it was Cho specifically that she was scared of. Hopefully as the trial continued, the things she’d seen would come to pass so that she wouldn’t have to actually take the stand. Even without the truth potion, she’d decided that if something changed what she knew should happen, she would tell all… as difficult as that may be.

Before she started receiving visions about the girl this summer, she had never suspected that Cho Chang was someone to fear. And even after the visions started coming, even after knowing more than the others what the girl was capable of, Luna still hadn’t considered her very fearful. But now, there was a sinister desperation in the other girl’s decisions. And no one was scarier than someone with no boundaries- Cho would do whatever she needed to do to get what she wanted, Luna was now certain of that. She was worried that even if everything worked out the way she’d seen, this was only the beginning of their troubles with the girl. Though it was only a feeling based on vague dreams, nothing she’d received in a vision, she knew better than to shake it off. It was an idea that was now fixed in her mind only awaiting confirmation- that even if they won the trial, they were still a long way from being done with Cho.

(BREAK)

Hermione had helped Ginny up to the Fifth year girls’ dormitory so she could rest for a bit before they had to return to court. Lately she had felt the other girl pulling away from her and at first she’d been upset, wondering how it was possible for Ginny to hold anything against her. But the more she saw her friend change into a sullen thing, always closed in on herself, the more worried she’d become. At first when Hermione had offered her assistance, she thought she felt annoyance from Ginny, but as they started small talk between themselves, their shared anxiety over current events became evident. Now they sat together on Ginny’s bed, discussing outcomes and trying to calm their fears about the trial. "She’ll be expelled no matter what. But if she’s found guilty of using the curse and being part of the Death Eaters, she’ll be taken to Azkaban." Hermione concluded.

"What if she isn’t? Gladyce is turning all of what we’re saying into speculation. She twisted mine, Fred and Ron’s words, turning it all to a matter of our opinions of Cho." Ginny sighed.

"Well, Ron just let himself be rattled, which made him seem unreliable, and you weren’t there when she talked to the boys, so that makes you unreliable. I probably won’t do much better. It all rests with Harry. If he can control his temper and remain calm and clearheaded, there’s no way they won’t find her guilty. And Luna telling her story will be the final nail in the coffin. After all, they know we’re telling the truth, it’s just a matter of how it’s phrased. I noticed that Gladyce doesn’t ask yes or no questions, so we have to put some thought into our answers. I was going to warn Harry about that and have him try to make her simplify her everything she asks."

"Then there will be no doubt left, right?"

"Right."

"Okay then. I’m thirsty, want me to get you anything from downstairs?" Ginny offered.

"Why don’t you let me go?" she offered.

Another look of annoyance passed over the girl’s face. "I don’t need to constantly be babied. I need the exercise, to get my legs working."

Hermione threw her hands up in surrender. "Okay whatever you want. I’ll wait here, by all means, go yourself."

"I will." She said, standing and arranging the crutches under her arms before turning and softening her tone. "So, do you want anything?"

"No thanks." Hermione smiled as Ginny limped out.

She got up to examine the books Ginny had lying on her bedside table hoping to find something to occupy her until the other girl returned. She picked up one that looked promising and swore to herself as the bookmark slid out and fell to the floor. I hope she remembers where she left off, she thought kneeling down to retrieve the bookmark from under the bed where it had landed. Her fingers brushed against something, which Hermione instantly recognized as the spine of a book. She pulled it out to see what it was only to realize that she had discovered Ginny’s diary.

Seating herself once more on the bed, she debated reading it. Her fear of anything existing between Harry and Ginny had not been quieted as she claimed, and if there were something she would surely find it here. At the same time, she knew that she trusted Harry above all else and looking for anything here would betray that trust. But she couldn’t help herself, that fear -terror really- erupted out of nowhere and she desperately scanned through the pages. Almost at once, she ran across Harry’s name and gasped in pain and anger as she read.

Dean and I have officially broken up. I now have two choices. Harry or Neville. I think I want Harry more. Neville is sweet and if things don’t work out with Harry, I’ll probably ask him out. But Harry, he’s…well he’s everything. Charming, sweet, strong, brave. Just perfect. There’s only one problem. I’ve noticed that he seems to be paying a lot more attention than usual to Hermione. It started last year, but then there was Cho and he seemed to forget Hermione. Well, maybe I could help him forget her too. I know Neville likes me. He is cluelessly adorable and it would be much easier to be with him even if he is too good for me.., but he is no Harry Potter. Hermione flipped until she saw Harry’s name again.

Harry is noticing me. I’ve been trying to act more like Hermione, reading and studying and whatnot. I’ve also been pushing him in her direction. See, I know that Harry doesn’t like to be pushed and maybe if I push hard enough, his stubbornness will kick in and he’ll want nothing to do with her. I really think it’s working. Tonight we taught our first DA class. I saw him, watching me. That is until Ron came over to talk to him. I know they were talking about me, because they gestured in my direction. Then Ron said something and Harry looked over at Hermione, a big dopey grin on his face. Damn Ron, he’s always messing things up.Hermione didn’t know what to do. Ginny could come back at any time, but she was compelled to keep reading. So she did, hoping she would hear Ginny’s footsteps.

They made it official. Harry and Hermione are dating. What is it about her? I just don’t see it. I mean she’s nice and all, and I do like having her as my friend, but jeez, first Ron crushes on her for a year or two and then Victor Krum and now Harry? Still Ginny didn’t come. She decided to read one more.

Harry came to comfort me, and I took advantage. I didn’t mean too, but perhaps my feelings aren’t as in check as I thought they were. He wants to tell Hermione that we kissed, but really, we did so much more. Kissing him fulfilled almost every fantasy I had since meeting him. I can’t describe how wonderful it was, his lips, his hands, the heat from the fire all melded perfectly. His skin is so soft, his arms strong, his lips delicious. I would give anything to be Hermione. I think she may take him a bit for granted. If only he could see how perfect I am for him. I was crying for what I had possibly lost with Neville, but now, after tonight, I cry for what I know I’m losing with Harry.

With tears threatening to break loose, Hermione skipped ahead until she found Harry’s name once more.Harry and Hermione are always fighting now. He’ll never leave her though, and I don’t know why. I love her like a sister, but she has a tendency to be a little grating. She’s smart, we all know it but she constantly flaunts it in our faces. Is that it? Does he depend on her intelligence? I know she’s always played some part in his survival through the years, and now, with the clues to the ring…is that why he lets her treat him so? I can be smart too. She may know what I’m feeling…I think she sees what I’m doing. But at the same time, I know she doesn’t. She doesn’t see how I’m throwing myself in his way, how I constantly try to be around him, how I make him think I need him. She’s smart, but not about boys. I don’t want to steal him away, I love her too much to hurt her so badly…I just want to give him options when they do break up. And based on the way he looks at me, it’s working. I see him, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. Does he remember too? Is he playing our moment over in his head? I think he is. When will it be my turn? When will he tire of her? Am I right about any of this? I know I’m in love with him, and sooner or later, I won’t be able to hide it anymore. It’s tearing me apart.

Hermione sat back in shock. Is that why Harry needs her, to solve the clues? Her head filled with doubts, anger, jealousy and pain, she quickly put the diary where she had found it. A few tense minutes later, Ginny entered the room carrying two bottles.

"I know you said you weren’t thirsty, but I brought you something anyway."

"Thanks, but I have to get going…it’s way past two o’clock and Harry is still out wandering. I promised to find him so he won’t be late." She nearly ran from the room. Grabbing her coat, she flew through the portrait and down to the front door. She ran wildly, searching for any sign that Harry had passed that way. She found footsteps in the snow and followed them.

There in the distance, near the Whomping Willow, she saw Harry’s outline, and someone walking away from him. She ran calling his name.

(BREAK)

Harry turned and saw Hermione running up to him. She looked terrified and his heart instantly leapt to his throat. He ran to her, grabbing her shoulders to steady her. "What happened? Is everything all right?"

She shook her head. "Everything’s fine, I… don’t worry, nothing happened."

Harry relaxed slightly, still alarmed by the way she was trembling. He noted that she ran out without her hat, gloves or scarf. Without thinking about it, he took off his scarf and wrapped it around her neck trying to give her a little extra protection from the cold. As he was taking off his gloves he began to tell her of the conversation he had just had. "You won’t believe who I was just talking to and what I found out. That was Malfoy, and he told me…well if it’s true…although I think it is, because I was looking into his mind while we were talking and he wasn’t trying to hide anything…." He stopped as he realized Hermione was watching him put his gloves on her hands and smiling…and crying. "Hermione? What’s the matter?"

"Nothing." She said quietly. "Nothing at all." She threw herself into his arms and cried softly into his chest.

"Why are you crying?" He asked, dumbfounded and bewildered. First Malfoy blows his mind with information and now he had to try and process whatever was going on with Hermione.

"Because you really do love me." She sobbed.

Harry pulled back and looked at her in confusion. "I thought we had already established that. On several occasions."

"I know, but I never truly believed that actions were more powerful than words, until today, until right now." She sniffled.

"What?" He asked, completely lost as to what was going on.

"Just go with it." She said, wrapping her arms around him again and burying her face in his coat. "So tell me about Draco."

"Well…"





A/N: And that’s where I end this chapter folks. Next chapter: Hermione fights with Ginny, we learn Draco’s secrets, Hermione and Harry take the stand, with Harry presenting a guest witness's testimony, and Cho shows her true colors to everyone……see you then!

Chapter 36: On the Attack

NOTE: Hello all! I guess my attempt at a chapter a week is failing horribly, but I'm doing the best I can, and I apologize for the delay. But here we are so read on, review after and enjoy thoroughly.



Harry sensed the tension between Hermione and Ginny as they filed back into the courtroom. Though he didn't know what set it off, it seemed to be coming more from Hermione. She was staring daggers of mistrust and fear in the youngest Weasley's direction as she sat in the witness stand answering Gladyce's questions. Miss Stark herself was a bit unnerved by Hermione, as she answered questions and insinuations hurled at her with few words and little emotion. Whenever a question was complicated or open to interpretation, Hermione played dumb and asked her to simplify it. Unsure of how to rattle her enough to bring doubt on Cho's character, Gladyce gave up and ended Hermione's session much earlier than anyone else's, having focused more on her duel with Marietta than anything else.

Harry was next up and as he took his seat, he kept his mind clear and focused and tried to remember what Hermione had prepped him on. Gladyce paced a bit in front of him before turning and staring him down, hands on her hips and a look of doubt written across her face. "Mr. Potter, it's true that you and Miss Chang dated last year?"

Harry took a deep breath and plunged in headfirst. "Yes."

"And did the relationship end amicably?"

"Not really, but I don't see what this has to do with the case?" He looked to Hermione and saw her nod at him encouragingly.

Dumbledore, who was presiding over the trial, turned to Gladyce. "If you would, Miss Stark, make clear to the court where you intend to go with this line of questioning."

"I aim to show that Miss Chang was upset both by her failed relationship with Mr. Potter and the subsequent arguments that occurred thereafter. This will provide a clear motive to her extreme reaction and course of revenge against him and his friends; including fake allegations to being a Death Eater to scare them and her admittedly horrible behavior on the quidditch pitch."

Dumbledore looked down, and said with an air of regret, "Please proceed."

Gladyce grinned wickedly. "Mr. Potter….whose fault would you say it was that your relationship ended? Yours or hers?"

"Realistically? It was both our faults." He answered truthfully.

"How so?"

"Well, rumors were flying last year about me and that was hard on us, and Cho still wasn’t over Cedric’s death and she had this whole jealousy issue that I couldn’t deal with." Harry’s mind whirred back to last year, which seemed almost a lifetime ago.

"Aha, yes!" Gladyce smile was now becoming something Harry knew he would see in his nightmares. He squirmed in his seat under her mad grin and heard Hermione mentally sigh. Quickly straightening himself, he stared her down and ground his teeth in determination. He would not be rattled. "Now, Mr. Potter, it was Hermione Granger that Cho was jealous about, was it not? How much time you were spending with her, alone?"

"Yes. I tried to explain that Hermione was one of my two best friends and not seeing her was plain impossible. It would have been like not seeing Ron. At that point, we had been friends for about five years."

"But Miss Chang’s fears weren’t unfounded, were they?"

"How do you mean?" he automatically responded. He could feel Hermione’s pride in him.

"Well," Gladyce gestured in Hermione’s direction, "aren’t you and Miss Granger an item?"

"Yes, now we are. But we weren’t then. And we didn’t get together until October this year, months after Cho and I had broken up. Not that she and I were ever really together to begin with." Harry pointed out

"Let’s get back to this jealousy issue." Gladyce said quickly. "You found it difficult to be around Miss Chang because she was jealous of Miss Granger, although you allege nothing was going on between you two at the time."

"Yes." Harry answered after a slight hesitation. He had a feeling, a very strong one, about where this line of questioning was about to go. He held himself in check, not wanting his emotions to accidentally set off any of his new powers in front of everyone.

"Interesting." Gladyce began to pace slowly in front of him, a look of deep thought across her face. "Rumor has it, Miss Granger has been having jealousy issues. Are you going to dump her too?"

"No, I’m not. I really don’t see how anything private between Hermione and myself is relevant." He felt his temper flare up. Within seconds, he felt the coolness of Hermione’s mind extinguish the flames that were building up. He silently thanked her, but was struck momentarily by flames of her own behind a very solid wall. She was trying to hide them. He shook his head and tuned into Gladyce once again explaining herself to Dumbledore.

"…it goes to his character, his reliability and the theory that he was just looking for excuses to kick Miss Chang to the curb." Dumbledore nodded sullenly. Gladyce adjusted the hem of her blouse and cleared her throat before continuing. "Cho asked you to get back together, didn’t she?"

"Yes, but Hermione and I-"

"But before you and Miss Granger were together, Cho asked you for another try and you refused?" Gladyce interrupted with another question.

"She asked me before Hermione and I were together, after we were together she asked violently. As Ron testified before, she attacked me in Hogsmeade and again at the Costume Ball."

"Every time she asked you to return to her, you rebuffed her, and in humiliating ways, for the amusement of your friends, correct?" Gladyce asked harshly, accusingly.

"No! Not correct! I mean…well, yes I refused her. But any humiliation she felt was self-imposed?" Harry answered.

"On the train to school, in front of a compartment full of your friends."

"She followed-"

She cut him off. "During your DA meeting."

"It was after-"

Again she cut him off. "In Hogsmeade."

"I was already with-"

"At the Costume Ball."

"I was there with-"

"Don’t you think Mr. Potter, that after all of that humiliation, a girl has a right to feel angry? You laughed at her, your friends laughed at her. You flaunt your new relationship in her face, you turn people against her. And she got mad. Okay, so she went a little far on the revenge, but after all of that, don’t you think she was even a little justified?"

Harry sat back calmly and smiled coolly at Gladyce. He was getting ready to pull the ace out of his sleeve. "No. She wasn’t justified at all, because all of those things you just listed were self-imposed, not to mention all a ploy."

Gladyce threw her hands in the air. "Not this Death Eater business again!" She turned to Dumbledore. "Sir I don’t really think-"

"If I may interrupt!" Harry said loudly. Dumbledore nodded to him. "I believe there is someone else who should be on this stand right now. Someone who knows everything about the mission Cho was sent to accomplish by her parents and Voldemort himself!" Gasps of fright went up around the room when the name was mentioned, but Harry ignored them. "Someone who has been taking the blame all year for something he didn’t even do! Draco Malfoy!" Harry pointed to the back of the room where Malfoy had silently slipped in. Everyone turned to stare. "Draco has informed me today that he is ready to make atonement for everything he has done in the past and his first act of rebellion against his father and Voldemort is to expose you for the lying, conniving bitch you are Cho!"

Cho screamed and jumped from her seat and turned to Malfoy. "You’re going to ruin everything! I’ll KILL YOU!" She tried to lunge at him but was stopped by the two professors sitting behind her. At once, everyone was in an uproar but Harry kept his eyes on Draco in case the other boy decided to flee.

Several minutes later, Dumbledore finally managed to settle the court. Malfoy switched places with Harry on the stand and drank his truth potion. Harry made his way back to Hermione. "I just hope this doesn’t blow up in my face." He whispered.

"What’s done is done. You made a decision, and I’ll stand by you. No matter how this turns out."

"I just hope it isn’t all some elaborate ploy." They settled back to watch the show before them. And if the glaring and sulking that was passing between Gladyce, Cho and Draco was any indication, it would be a good show to see.




A/N: Sorry this isn’t as long as I’d promised, life gets in the way. Next chapter: We really do find out what Draco said and Ginny and Hermione have that fight… plus the verdict of the trial and tensions begin running high among the Maurauders… Please review and voice your opinion.

Chapter 37: It All Comes Together and Falls Apart

NOTE: Hey I know it’s been awhile, but I’m back with another chapter. Hope you enjoy…please review at the end.



"Make your opening statement, Mr. Malfoy." Dumbledore ordered, suspicion drawn in the lines on his face. Draco swallowed hard. He’d made a decision, now he had no choice but to stand behind it. And a part of him was really enjoying the furious rage radiating from Cho, picturing his father’s face in place of hers.

After a deep steadying breath, he began his story. "My father sent a man to approach me on his behalf two days before fall term began. He said that there was going to be a new operative inside Hogwarts, one who could move without being seen. It was my mission to make sure that the operative remained undiscovered in order to try and covertly take out Potter and his friends. I was to take the blame for any wrong doing, since suspicion would naturally fall on me anyway. The next day, I was brought to a meeting with this new operative and was a bit bewildered at the sight of Potter’s ex girlfriend standing with so many Death Eaters. Cho and I were given our orders separately. I can’t say for sure what she was sent to do other than what she’s told me herself, but I do know that the Dark Lord’s plans were to have Potter killed before the end of this school year. My mission was made clear- don’t rock the boat, make sure every one of our enemies suffers and keep Cho’s true identity a secret. I was told that she was their new secret weapon."

"And what of the incident that took Neville Longbottom’s life?" Dumbledore questioned.

Draco hung his head, actually feeling guilty. "I’ve been told the Chang family has always been good with destruction spells. They created some for Cho and she set them up but not just to kill Longbottom, she was also after Granger and Lovegood who happened to be sitting there that day. If she hadn’t been, the second spell would have gone on the Ravenclaw stands."

"Why would she do that?"

"She told me she had to take out Potter’s allies, the people who kept him strong. Plus she was worried Granger was getting in the way of her getting close to Potter. I guess she planned to console him after the accident. Apparently she had plans for the Weasley kids later. And yesterday she tried to take out Ginny Weasley along with Potter and Lovegood when she set that trap in the lavatory." Malfoy glared at Cho. He wasn’t going to hold anything back. Having already taken such a huge step over the edge… why not just give into the free-fall? What did he really have to lose?

(BREAK)

Ginny listened to Malfoy tell his story. She felt bad, now knowing that he hadn’t been responsible for Neville’s death. And he had to be telling the truth; he’d been given one of the most powerful truth potions in existence. While he certainly deserved something horrible for all the things he’d done to them over the years, apparently he hadn’t deserved the brand of justice she had bestowed on him.

While she’d always carried a bit of guilt for stabbing him in the back and leaving him to die, she’d been comforted by the idea that it was an eye for an eye. After all, he’d run off after Percy killed George. But now she felt her guilt consume her to the point where she couldn’t even look at him. The only small comfort she had left was the hope that he didn’t know it was her. He’d told the Aurors that he hadn’t seen his attacker, but was he telling the truth? She didn’t think she’d ever be able to ask him, and she certainly couldn’t apologize. She still hated him after all. But if he hadn’t seen her, then she could just live quietly with her guilt. She supposed only time would tell.

She could feel her other problem staring daggers at the back of her head. She didn’t know what had made Hermione upset with her, but it would take an idiot not to notice the girl definitely had some issue. Had Harry said something that upset her? Something that involved Ginny? Her heart clenched in momentary joy at the thought that maybe he’d confessed he had feelings for her. Glancing over her shoulder, that dream was quickly dashed as she took in the sight of Harry tightly holding Hermione’s hand as he listened intently to Malfoy with a big smile of satisfaction. While he probably knew his girl was upset, it obviously wasn’t because of anything he’d said or done.

So what had she done to gain Hermione’s displeasure? She didn’t know but she hoped it was something her friend would get over on her own without any sort of confrontation. Ginny was feeling dangerous and the last thing she wanted was Harry’s girlfriend in her face.

(BREAK)

Harry stood with Hermione outside the courtroom, trying to digest what had just taken place. After convincing testimony from Malfoy, the student jury had found Cho guilty. She was expelled immediately and then placed under arrest to await trial for murder at the Ministry of Magic. Everyone had long since left for dinner, but Harry couldn’t leave the courtroom. It was the site of an actual victory. Something had gone right here, and he was unwilling to leave it so soon and return to the rest of the world where everything was still going wrong. Hermione had stayed behind to keep him company, but she hadn’t said a word. Harry knew that she and Dumbledore were the only other people besides himself to grasp how important this all was. He was about to suggest that they finally head off to dinner when she blurted out that she had something to do and ran off.

Half an hour later when she still hadn’t turned up at dinner, Harry began to worry. "Hey Ron, you haven’t seen Hermione, have you?"

"Not since we left you guys." He looked around as if she might magically appear. "Well, Ginny isn’t here either, maybe they’re off together doing something?"

Harry couldn’t shake the bad feeling he had so he tore Ron and Fred away from their dinners in order to find the girls, motioning Luna to come along as well. They searched the library first, but found it deserted. Deciding to head up to the common room next, they opened the portrait to the sounds of yelling and things breaking.

They all ducked as the pot Ginny had thrown sailed above their heads. "How dare you throw a glass at me!?" she yelled.

"You deserved it! You just go after whatever you want, no matter who gets hurt in the process!" Hermione yelled back.

"I have no idea what you’re talking about!" Ginny cried.

"Of course you do! I can see it in your eyes! You know exactly what I’m talking about, you’re just trying to figure out how I know!" Hermione shot back.

Ginny gasped with sudden understanding. "You read my diary! You bitch! Those are my private thoughts!" Ginny threw a plate at Hermione. With a twitch of his eyes, Harry sent it toward the wall instead.

Both girls turned to find their friends staring at them, mouths agape at the scene before them. Hermione looked embarrassed, but Ginny quickly recovered. "Harry, why don’t you remove your girlfriend from my sight? Before I hurt her. She has no respect for anyone’s personal belongings or privacy."

Hermione whipped around to defend herself. "I was just checking it out. We all know how horribly wrong things went with your last diary, I was just making sure this one wasn’t controlling your thoughts too!"

Again, Harry stepped in to change the direction of the next thing Ginny whipped at Hermione’s head. "That was low!" She said with venom.

"Maybe it was, but I would have just put it down when I saw it was harmless if I hadn’t noticed a certain name repeated all throughout it!" Hermione said meanly.

"Shut up." Ginny warned.

"Relax, I’m not going to tell anyone. I just wanted to see if you could justify the things you wrote about me and my life. Now I know for sure that you’re just a sneaky, conniving brat who has to have everything and everyone she wants. And to get it or them, you’ll bring down anything and anyone that stands in your way." Hermione pushed.

"Maybe you’re just jealous because you know that if we were to compete, you’d lose." Ginny said confidently crossing her arms.

"I already won…didn’t I, Ginny. Maybe you’re scared that even if we were on level playing ground, you’d be the one to lose." Hermione hissed out.

"Not likely since I already scored, right under your nose. That just kills you doesn’t it. That things can stray so far from where they supposedly belong?" Ginny taunted.

"Alright. That’s enough." Harry stepped forward. At this point, you wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what this argument was about, and he wasn’t prepared for things to get this out of control over him. Especially since Ginny was planting scenarios in Hermione’s head that would never really happen. He would never leave Hermione for Ginny. In fact, he couldn’t see himself leaving her for anyone, and he needed to get her away and convince her before this turned badly for their relationship.

"I agree. If it were anyone but my own sister at the other end of this argument, I would never get between a girl fight, but with Ginny, it just isn’t sexy at all." Fred quipped, trying to lighten the mood.

"Come on." Harry said, grabbing Hermione’s hand. She came, looking ashamed and jealous and unsure.

"I don’t like being like this, or feeling like this." She whispered to Harry.

"I know." He whispered back.

"You’re lucky they were here, Hermione." Ginny shouted after her. Harry tensed his shoulders, but kept walking. Once he got things straightened out with Hermione, he knew he was going to have to give Ginny the biggest wake-up call of her life.

(BREAK)

Fred couldn’t believe what he’d just seen and heard. While he’d been worried about his sister for quite a few months now, other things- mainly George’s death- had distracted him from his concern. He could only imagine what Hermione had read in Ginny’s diary, but it had been enough to cause her to have a confrontation. Harry had wisely whisked Hermione away before things got any worse, leaving Ginny to glare the rest of them down. He and Ron glanced at each other, neither knowing what to do. He thought for sure that his sister would run, but apparently she had her anger up. "What are you all looking at?"

"We aren’t sure." Fred shot back automatically.

She let out a deep sigh, collapsing on the couch. "Yeah, well…"

Luna, bless her heart, made a move for the boys. Carefully settling herself next to Ginny, she reached out and took her hand. "What’s going on with you?" she asked in her gentle, dreamy voice.

"Nothing." She answered stubbornly, pulling her hand away and moving further down the couch.

Ron went and sat in the new space created between the girls and so Fred took the other side, throwing an arm around his sister. "Come on Gin, tell us what’s been bothering you lately. We all know it’s something more than this fight with Hermione."

Ginny quickly disentangled herself from them, jumping from the couch and glaring wildly at them all. "Since when do any of you care?" she yelled, surprising them all. And then she did run, straight through the portrait and presumably to someplace outside. None of them made a move to follow, shocked into stillness.

(BREAK)

Harry and Hermione settled themselves on the floor of the Room of Requirement. He took her hand, feeling the weight of the promise ring he had given her, and made her give her word not to say anything until he was finished. "Hermione, I don’t want to keep having this same talk. So listen up, because this is the last time I’m going to defend myself. I love you, and nothing and no one will change that. What happened between me and Ginny was a mistake that I would not care to repeat. Now, I don’t know what she wrote in her diary, but nothing at all has happened since, and as far as I’m concerned nothing ever will."

She turned slightly, looking at the floor. "Harry. When I was little, my parents taught me that learning and studying should be the most important things in the world to me. They said that I would have to use my brains to get ahead in the world, because…." She stopped as Harry wiped away a few of her tears. She let him cradle her face in his hands but found it hard to meet his eyes. "Because they told me that I was blessed with more brains than beauty…. In the years that I went to muggle school, I realized they were right. I was always called names and told I was ugly. One boy in the school play we were in refused to kiss me on stage. I got used to it. I believed them all, that no one would love me. And then you came along. And you loved me. And I got scared, because you could go away at any time. Either because of the dangerous times we’re in, or because you would see someone you liked better. That’s why I’m acting the way I am. That’s why it’s killing me that Ginny kissed you. That’s why no matter what you tell me, I’m paranoid and jealous and I don’t even know what else."

He opened his mouth to answer her, to tell her that she was the most beautiful and intelligent girl he’d ever known, but she put her hand over his mouth and smiled through her tears. "Harry…" she said quietly… "will you marry me?"





A/N: Next chapter: Will he? Some time passes….marauders are divided, Malfoy slowly makes progress on the side of good…and other exciting stuff.

Chapter 38: Never Again the Same

NOTE: There are only about four more chapters. They will be long and a lot will be happening so stick with me. At the end of the final chapter, I will post a preview of my next story which takes place during the 7th year. Please enjoy this chapter and please review.




Harry was dumbfounded. "Marry you?" was all he managed to get out.

"I’m not saying we have to get married right this minute, but I was thinking, maybe after graduation next year." Hermione smiled, all the while holding her breath as Harry continued to look and feel like a petrified child.

"Why so soon?" He finally asked, gathering his thoughts.

"What do you mean…that’s more than a year away."

"I mean are you only asking me to marry you to ensure that I stay around? That I won’t leave you? Because I won’t, no matter what any girl writes in her diary. And no matter what your parents have told you."

He was taken off guard as Hermione punched him in the arm, throwing all her weight into it so that it actually kind of hurt. "Don’t be such an ass!" She yelled. "I want to marry you, that’s why I asked. And now it’s ruined. I never should have told you all that first. I should have asked first so that you knew this was what I wanted." She sat down. "Nothing has gone smoothly for us, has it? You know what, I don’t want you to answer now. Not when it’s like this. Please, just pretend I didn’t say anything." And she quickly got up and fled.

Harry was left on the couch, suddenly aware that he knew nothing about girls, specifically Hermione. What’s more, he wasn’t sure what the proper apology was for ruining a marriage proposal. Especially when he had wanted to say…. "Yes." He whispered aloud to the empty room.

(BREAK)

Draco sat in the headmaster’s office, staring down the man as he sat behind his desk. "Are you sure about this Mr. Malfoy?"

"I have to go home now, before anyone finds out what I did." He argued, knowing it was now or never if he wanted to save himself. He had one night to gather all the information he could against Lord Voldemort, intending to use it to bargain with Potter and Dumbledore and be assured protection. But if he didn’t go soon, he’d lose his chance and quite possibly never be heard from again.

Dumbledore nodded. "I have already placed a cone of silence around the school for the next two days. Any longer than that would raise too many suspicions. In the meantime, there will be no way for anyone to contact anyone else beyond our grounds so I am certain word has not yet leaked from here. But it is still a dangerous undertaking to go somewhere full of people you’ve just betrayed."

"I know. But I may never have another chance to go home." He shrugged, trying not to show how much the thought upset him.

"Okay, Draco." The headmaster said softly. "I’ll write to your mother insisting on an update from your healer. I suspect they’ll send the same report in order to keep you out of your room, but it’s no matter." He rose and moved to the door. "I’ll come back for you when the arrangements are settled and a portkey is obtained."

Draco remained in his chair, staring at everything and focusing on nothing. Slowly a small smile emerged as he reflected on the amusing irony of now going to spy on those who trained him for that kind of life. Sure it would be dangerous but he had no doubt he could pull it off. He was already nearly invisible there and with no information coming from Hogwarts, he could tell them all any version he liked of Cho’s trial. All that was left was deciding how to use whatever information he gathered to his best advantage.

(BREAK)

Two days after Draco shocked the courtroom, Cho was taken away to await her public trial and the school seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Word spread quickly about what had happened and Harry noticed that a lot of kids from Slytherin were really upset with Malfoy’s doublecross, making him actually concerned for the other boy. He found himself actually glad that Dumbledore had kept Malfoy locked up as before, it seemed much safer that way. As for how his friends were coping after all of the trial drama, Ginny had managed a very shaky truce with him and Hermione. Ron didn’t know whose side to take, his sister or his two best friends, so he spent little time with anyone besides Luna. Fred kept mainly to himself, a zombie, wandering the halls simply because he had nothing better to do. And Harry didn’t bring up the failed proposal, just as Hermione had asked, but he could see that both of their minds were always there… at that moment… wondering where they had gone wrong. Otherwise they acted just like the couple they’d been before, going through each day one step at a time.

About a month into the semester, Harry ran into Draco Malfoy in the courtyard during his free period between classes. They hadn’t spoken once since the trial and Harry wasn’t sure what to say now. He knew forgiveness for Malfoy’s past words and actions would be almost impossible, but at the same time, another part of him wanted to accept anyone who was willing to help in the fight against Voldemort.

Luckily, before he had to say anything Draco began. "I’ve been wanting to talk to you for awhile, Potter. It just never seemed like a good time. Listen. I’ve been kicked out of my home since word got to my father about what I did. But before that happened, I received some information that will be crucial to you and Dumbledore. I’ll tell you firstly, because I really do feel badly and want to help and secondly because I want you to arrange protection for me. From my father and everyone else who feels that I betrayed them. I don’t have many friends here anymore."

Harry suppressed the urge to ask if he ever had many friends. "So once I arrange this protection, you’ll tell me what you found out. Why should I trust you? You’ve never really explained why you want to switch sides. I mean you told me you felt bad, but I only took you at your word during the trial because I was desperate."

Malfoy sat down by the fountain as Harry stood over him, waiting for a response. "You want to know if this is just some elaborate ploy, right?"

Harry thought for a minute. "No, I know you’re being sincere, I’ve known it since the train ride back here, but I don’t trust you enough to tell you how I know."

"Fair enough. Did it ever occur to you, that you just might win this whole war?" Draco asked suddenly.

The question took Harry off guard. He’d never really thought about it. Winning and losing had always been intangible abstracts to him, some things to be pondered but never seriously considered. "I don’t know." Harry answered honestly.

"Well, it’s occurred to me." Draco said, looking off. "I’ve been able to watch you better over the years than any other Death Eater or Death Eater’s child. I was told to befriend you, and when that didn’t work, I was told to bring you down, destroy your confidence and make your life hell. No one suspected that you would be strong or that your friends would make you so strong. I almost admired you a few times, until I remembered I was supposed to hate you. And I was supposed to hate you because I wanted my father’s approval more than anything. I didn’t care who got hurt, but then… then people started dying and I was expected to take the blame." Draco stopped and took a few deep breaths. Harry sat next to him, but not too closely.

"Longbottom was a simpleton, and no threat to anyone." Draco continued quietly. "I felt bad when he died and that’s what sort of started to opened my eyes. But I still had a mission to do, so I took Pansy to the Shrieking Shack, knowing you would be there. There are spies everywhere, you know. Anyway, I told her I was responsible for the explosions knowing that you would overhear and Cho Chang would be able to continue unnoticed. When my father broke out of Azkaban, I thought I would finally have my chance to prove myself. And then that day in Knockturn Alley happened and I almost jumped in to help when Percy had you cornered, but then your friends arrived. I didn’t want any of you to die, I hated you all still, but I didn’t think you deserved to die because some old guys were scared of you. It just all seemed so stupid! When George Weasley fell, I was almost sick. I hid it well and ran off with the others. I wanted to apologize, for some reason I don’t even know, I wanted to tell you all that I was sorry, that I hadn’t planned any of this; that I no longer wanted to be like my father. So I contacted Ginny. I don’t know why, but she seemed the most harmless, the one most likely to listen. I found out how wrong I was when she stabbed me in the back."

"So you knew it was her and you didn’t turn her in?" Harry asked incredulously.

"She did me a favor." He answered bitterly. "When I was laying in that hospital, I kept waiting for my father to show up. I knew the Aurors were there, but if he had wanted to, he could have found some way to see me. He never even sent a message through my mother."

Harry felt a pang of sympathy. "So what do you want from us now?"

"I want to help. What better way to get my father’s attention than to help destroy him? And besides, it’s tiring trying to think up new ways to be cold and heartless. I never was as good at it as Lucius." Draco admitted with a shrug.

"You’ve been so good at lying all these years…" Harry said slowly. "How do I know this isn’t just another performance?" While Malfoy tried to come up with an answer, Harry probed his mind, attempting to see if he was looking for a lie or a true response. After all, he really hadn’t explained what it was that ultimately made him turn on Cho. Harry had an idea that it was for some reason that Malfoy himself was struggling to understand and after a swift look through his thoughts, finally said, "Never mind. I believe you. Let’s go see Dumbledore and arrange your protection."

(BREAK)

Hermione had lived the last month since the trial in a haze. One day had blended into another and all she could think about was her failed proposal. She felt embarrassed and ashamed by the aura of desperation she had cast herself in. But she had told Harry the truth that day, she hadn’t asked to make him stay, she had asked because she truly believed she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, as young as they were.

While she hadn’t exactly been avoiding him, she knew she was trying not to be around him alone as much, no longer feeling comfortable in his presence. She just hoped it would be something she’d get over quickly. "Watch it!" Someone yelled as she bumped into them in the hall. She shook herself out of her thoughts and continued on to her Arithmancy class. But once she reached the doorway, she found she had absolutely no desire to go in. She waited in the shadows as her fellow classmates went in and class started.

"Since when do you protest learning?" Fred whispered behind her, causing her to nearly jump out of her skin. "Whoa! Watch where you point that thing." He grabbed her wrist and moved so her wand wasn’t directly in his face. She hadn’t even realized she’d pulled it out.

Letting out the breath she’d been holding, she glared at him feeling shaky. He released her arm and she briskly put her weapon away. "You scared me, jerk."

"Sorry, it was unsettling to find you outside a classroom rather than in one." He grinned. "What are you doing?"

"I think I’m skipping class." She said walking away.

Fred grabbed his chest and dramatically fell against the wall. "I think my heart just skipped a beat. Could this be true?"

Though she liked that he was acting normal for him, the teasing was annoying her at the moment. "Lay off would you. I’m not feeling so great."

He instantly turned serious. "What’s wrong?" he asked as he followed her down the hallway.

"Nothing and everything. Just like always." She sighed. "I just don’t feel like being around people at the moment."

"Well then you’re going the wrong way. Everyone who isn’t in class is outside right now, enjoying the unusually nice weather we’re having." He pulled her to a stop just outside the Great Hall. "But I know someplace you can go."

Well, she’d already done the unthinkable and skipped class for no good reason. Why not follow Fred and see what it’s like to be adventurous like the others. "Okay, let’s go."

(BREAK)

Luna tried to read her transfiguration book but her mind kept wandering. Though extremely relieved that Harry had apparently forgotten all about her keeping secrets about Cho, she was also feeling on edge. Lately she’d been having some strange dreams, and that was usually an indication that an important vision was on its way, already trying to push it’s way in.

"I hate potions!" Ron said loudly as he slumped miserably in the seat next to Luna, interrupting her thoughts. Since they were in the library, she wasn’t surprised by the irritated shushing he received from several other students.

"What’s wrong with you?" she asked quietly.

"Snape gave us this huge essay and I don’t even know where to start. And Hermione is nowhere to be found." He whispered loudly, eliciting a few disgruntled looks as other kids moved away from them.

She felt annoyed that he constantly went to Hermione whenever he needed help. She wasn’t the only intelligent one after all, just the most intelligent. "Maybe I can help you." She offered.

"Really? Because this stuff is one grade level above you." He looked at her with hope.

She felt even more annoyed, but more at herself this time. She had to remind herself that he didn’t know about her past, about all the secrets she was still keeping about her life. Unfortunately since she couldn’t do anything about it at that moment, she took her frustration out on him. "In case you didn’t realize, I’m at the top of my year. I think I can handle reading some information and then writing an essay about it, no matter how difficult you may find it."

"Whoa, I can do this by myself. It just takes longer than-"

"Than copying your friends’ homework?" She interrupted, pushing for the fight.

"Than if someone just explains it to me." He concluded his thought, looking at her suspiciously. "What’s your problem?"

"Right now, you’re my problem." She began gathering her things and shoving them in her backpack. "I can’t believe that you either don’t know or don’t care to know anything about me! I hate that you seemed so surprised to learn that I’m actually smart and not just some out-there weirdo, wandering mindlessly through life and believing in nonsense!"

"I don’t think that! And you’re the one who just basically called me stupid!" he argued back. "And I’m not the one who’s always keeping secrets! Even when I do ask anything about you, you just change the subject! And now you’re mad at me for it?!"

She stood and turned on him, a small part of her wondering why she had wanted this fight. The larger part was enjoying losing control. "There’s a difference between being stupid and acting stupid and you are certainly doing the latter! And who do you think you’re trying to fool about what you’ve thought about me? I know what you’ve thought and still sometimes think."

Before he could reply the librarian, Madame Pince came over looking stern. "I must insist you two take this outside immediately! You are interrupting the entire library."

"With pleasure." Luna answered, grabbing her things and storming off without looking back.

(BREAK)

Dumbledore sat behind his desk looking thoughtful, amused and suspicious all at once. "Alright, Mr. Malfoy. I’ve listened to your story and I believe I have come to the same conclusions that Mr. Potter has. I will personally make arrangements to have you kept safe while at school and during the break." He said in a way that indicated he had known this was coming. "Now, what is it that you wish to tell us."

Draco took a deep breath. "As I’m sure you already know, I was lying at the beginning of the year when I told you that I didn’t know what Potter was looking for. I told my father who informed the Dark Lord. An investigation was immediately started to discover why the enemy would want the object. The more we found out, the happier he became. When he learned of the legend that the ring contained the ability to allow it’s wearer to have wandless powers, Cho was instructed to follow Harry and take it from him whenever he found it. That was what she meant when she said her orders had changed."

"We could have guessed all this." Harry said, slightly impatient.

"Yeah, well before her trial, Cho was able to sneak into the Gryffindor tower. She snuck into Hermione Granger’s room and found the date that the last clue alluded to. She had her friend Marietta send the information by owl and then the two of them kidnapped Luna Lovegood intending to both keep Ron Weasley from testifying and trap Potter. And then of course Ginny got wrapped up in all that too and got really hurt which of course didn’t bother Cho a bit. Anyway, after I testified when Cho was found guilty, expelled, and arrested, there was confusion as to what had actually happened. No one knew about me yet and I was able to move unnoticed in the confused uproar. I overheard my father and Percy Weasley receiving orders. Lucius was to grab Potter on the next Hogsmeade visit. Percy was to trick his friends into looking for him and then kill Luna, Ginny and Fred. Ron and Hermione, were to be left alive, as leverage to keep Potter talking. Then the Death Eaters were to destroy the village."

Harry had never been as angry as he was right at that moment. How dare they plot to use his friends against him, to use Hermione against him? He would never let that happen!

Dumbledore was watching Harry intently as he spoke to Malfoy. "Does anyone know you overheard this exchange?"

"No, sir. I was wearing my mom’s invisibility cloak. Since you are still in possession of mine." Draco answered.

"Alright, then we’ll be ready for them. The next Hogsmeade visit isn’t until right before final exams. That will be enough time to warn the villagers that a battle will most likely take place there. Draco, I trust you’ll understand that I have to keep monitoring your letters and keep you from leaving the castle at any time?"

"I understand." He turned to leave. "Oh," he turned at the door. "There’s one more thing. The Dark Lord won’t be at Hogsmeade. It was his plan that if Potter once again foiled him by surviving and remaining uncaptured, he would wait for him to find the ring. He knows that Potter won’t give up the search, no matter what, and besides," he turned to Harry, "he wanted to see what your worst fears were." And then he left.

Harry was pretty sure that all of this constituted his worst fears, and he knew that if he survived this, getting the ring would be as easy as getting wet when it rained.

(BREAK)

Ginny sat at the edge of the lake, skipping lunch altogether. Lately she didn’t feel like being around anyone and kept to herself as much as possible. She found the unusual weather uncomfortably warm and missed the colder days that January usually produced. Her legs were aching, begging to be stretched and so she got up and began the long walk around the lake. She lost herself in the moment, letting the peace of nature relax her and forgetting that any other people existed at all.

Just as she wound through trees to the opposite side of the lake, she stopped short, spotting Draco Malfoy walking towards her, with his head down and dragging his feet, looking like a sad little boy who’d just lost his puppy. She felt panicked, he was the last person she wanted to see, but she wasn’t sure whether or not he’d spotted her. For some reason, she didn’t want him to see her running away from him. She may be a wee bit remorseful for what she had done to him, but she refused to feel bad about it. She didn’t want a new Malfoy, she was fully comfortable hating the old one.

"Hey." He called out to her. Apparently she had stood in her indecision too long. He definitely spotted her now.

"Hi." She answered moodily as he approached. But he didn’t stop for conversation as she had thought, didn’t stop to rub her nose in the fact that she’d stabbed the wrong person for Neville’s death. Instead he walked right past her, too lost in his own gloom to stop and gloat over hers. She moved on herself, determined not to think on the encounter at all. It had been nothing after all, but she was surprised to find that a small part of her felt sorry for Malfoy, giving up everything to turn on Cho and help them win the trial. She knew he also still had to go testify in the horrid girl’s real trial at the Ministry and would play a major role in getting her convicted and sent to Azkaban for causing the stands to blow up the day Neville had died. Well, in the end it didn’t matter, she argued with herself. One good deed could never make up for the years of torture he’d committed against her and her friends and family. And deciding then and there to not think of Draco Malfoy ever again, she marched back up to the school for her last class of the day.

(BREAK)

"Where are we?" Hermione asked nervously.

"Under the school. George and I found this tunnel last year. Just wait, it’ll get better, it’s almost two, the sun will be perfect." He assured her. She wanted to believe him, but didn’t understand what the sun had to do with anything if they were underground. As they walked on the tunnel grew darker, smaller and more earthy- less wizard made. After ten more minutes, in which she bit her tongue in order to not demand that he take her back to the castle, she saw a bright light ahead of them. "Ah, here we are."

"Where?" She asked now feeling curious.

"Rowena Ravenclaw’s caverns." He said leading her out of the tunnel and into a large dirt room, filled with sparkling quartz and amethyst crystals growing straight out of the ground and coming to dangerously beautiful sharp points. She could see the light was indeed coming from the sun, through a small hole near the top of the cave and refracting around the room giving the appearance of surrounding her in rainbows.

"This is amazing. I thought it was just a rumor." She said, not knowing where to focus her eyes first.

"Much better than old Salazar Slythern’s Chamber of Secrets, huh?" Fred said, coming up next to her and smiling. "Luna said once that amethysts are supposed to enhance everyone’s psychic power no matter how little of it they had. So I’ve been coming here since we got back, hoping to… I don’t know, see if I can find a way to contact George I guess." He admitted without shame. "I suppose I’m too impatient to wait for the ring."

"I think if Luna were here, she’d say something like… if you believe, then you will feel George here. His aura could be trapped in the crystals…" she trailed off, feeling out of her depth on all things metaphysical.

"Well, Luna’s not here so what do you think?" he pressed.

"I guess I think anything possible at this point." She said seriously.

(BREAK)

"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

Ron whipped around to find Luna standing behind him, wearing the expression of one who is about to eat crow. "I’m in the middle of DA here." He said coldly, gesturing to his group who were currently practicing shielding.

"Please? It’ll just take a minute." She pleaded.

He didn’t want to go, she had hurt him badly when she’d started that fight between them in the library. Not to mention the embarrassment he’d felt when she’d stormed out and left him there. At the same time, he didn’t want to be in a fight with her, just wanted to put it behind them and move on. As angry as he was, he knew he was still lucky that she had chosen him. "Alright." He finally relented. "Hey Harry! Can you watch these guys for a minute?" he called out across the hall.

"Sure." He answered coming over and looking at them in concern. "Is everything okay with you guys?"

"We’ll see." Ron shrugged his shoulders and followed Luna out to the courtyard. It was much colder now that the sun had gone down, definitely feeling more like winter and he could see his breath in front of him as he stood before her, shivering and waiting for her to talk.

"Look, I’m sorry about today. I don’t really know what happened, I think I was just frustrated that it seems like I’m always the last person you think of when you need help with something. I don’t like being your last thought." She looked up at him shyly, her teeth chattering slightly in the cold.

He stepped forward and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her to keep her warm. "You are just so silly sometimes." He smiled against her hair.

"I know." She said into his shoulder. "I’ve just been seeing things, in my dreams, and I just don’t want us to… I want you and I to work. I love you."

"I love you too. And I think about you all the time. Maybe I don’t go to you with all my problems because I don’t want you to think any less of me than you already do."

"I think very highly of you." She said quietly, pulling away to look up at him. "I just wish I could choose more of my own life, and not have fate choose for me."

He had no idea what she was talking about when she talked in this cryptic way, but he did what he always did when she started on this fate and destiny stuff- he tried to be supportive. "I think if anyone could fend off fate, it would be you."

She merely smiled sadly back at him. "Unless fate is right."

(BREAK)

After the DA meeting that night and while the students of Hogwarts were still granted an hour or so of free time before lights out, Harry gathered Fred, Ginny, Ron, Luna, Hermione and Draco in the Great Hall. With Malfoy’s help, Harry recounted what had been said earlier in Dumbledore’s office. He looked around at the darkened and depressed faces of his friends and wondered if anyone was even up to fighting at Hogsmeade. After giving everyone a few moments to digest the information, Harry stood to make his announcement.

"Anyone who doesn’t want to take part in this, speak now. I will completely understand and it will not be held against you. Personally, I’m hoping you will all decide not to take part so that I know you will be safe to return to your families this summer. No one else has to die, and if you feel the stakes are too high, just stay behind. You won’t be a coward, and you won’t lose any of my respect or admiration because you’ve all already gone above the call of duty. So everyone who is out, please raise your hands." Harry was surprised that no one did. "Are you all sure? Because once our counter plan is in motion, there won’t be any turning back."

"I’m in, all the way." Fred said standing. "All I ask is that Percy is left for me to deal with."

"Correction." Ron said standing. "That Percy is left to any and all Weasleys that want to take him down." Fred and Ginny nodded their agreement, but Harry noted that Fred still intended to be the one to face their brother.

Draco simply shrugged, "I already said I would help, so I’m in."

Hermione took Harry’s hand and said, "And I already told you I wouldn’t let you do any of this alone." It broke his heart to see her determination. He didn’t want her there, and it would take a lot to convince her.

After awhile the others wandered off and Harry was left alone with Hermione… a rare thing these days. She was absentmindedly toying with his fingers as they sat at the table together. "What’s on your mind?" she asked quietly.

"Nothing."

"That’s not true. I can see those wheels working." She lightly tapped her finger against his temple. "You’re trying to figure out how to convince me not to come to Hogsmeade."

"Maybe I am. And it would be a lot easier if you would just agree not to go." He rested his elbows on the table and ran his hands through his hair.

"So why is it okay for everyone else to go?"

"It’s not. But you are the most immediate problem. You’re the one I will most have to convince. If it were up to me, Fred, Malfoy and I would be the only ones going."

"And why is that?" She asked, trying to mask her anger.

"Because, Fred deserves to go if for no other reason than to find Percy. And Malfoy, he has a lot to prove and if this is all a set up, though I don’t think it is, I want him there to suffer immediate consequences." They were silent again. Harry turned to look her in the face and sighed as he took her hand once more. She was pouting and looking very cute while doing it, which Harry could see she was trying to do on purpose to make him forget this argument for awhile.

It struck him suddenly, that the only way she wouldn’t go is if she were to despise him. To be so angry that she would never want to see him again. So angry, she wouldn’t have room to feel scared for him. As he looked at her, memorizing everything about her, he knew what he would have to do. It would break his heart, and it might tear them apart forever, but he would be damned if he was going to get her killed or captured in this battle. He would rather be apart from her forever, than know that she had died or been tortured because she chose to love him. He ran his fingers through her hair, wanting to remember the silky texture. She turned and unexpectedly kissed him, and he savored the taste of her mouth, the smell of her skin. Quickly making their way to the Room of Requirement were they unabashedly continued their passions, he decided he would be with her one last time before it all ended. He would keep this memory and use it to power on, to remember why he was willing to give her up- why he was willing to destroy the best thing that ever happened to him. It would all be to keep her safe. He prayed that she would someday find out and understand.

(BREAK)

"Sorry I’m late." Draco grumbled as he entered Dumbledore’s office.

"On the contrary Mr. Malfoy. You are right on time for lights out. Well done." The Headmaster replied with a kind smile.

"Okay, well goodnight then." He went into the living quarters just off the office that had been set up for him. At first he’d been put there as punishment, now he was kept there for protection. Draco wasn’t sure just how much the other kids knew about his betrayal, the worst they could really know is that he had turned on Cho. There was no way they could know that he was now helping Potter and Dumbledore fight against the Dark Lord and more importantly, Lucius.

Pansy apparently had decided to stick by him, because the moment he closed the door, she whipped off the invisibility cloak she’d been wearing and greeted him with a big dopey smile. "Surprised to see me?"

"Is that my cloak?" He angrily took it from her, ignoring her stupid question.

"I stole it back for you from old Dumb-door." She said laughing at her nickname for the Headmaster.

"You’re an idiot. As soon as he sees it missing he’s going to think I took it." He growled.

"So what? What do you care what he thinks?" she asked suspiciously.

Damn, time to play a Malfoy. "Because, you stupid cow, they already stuck me in this cramped little room where they can watch everything I do, who knows what their next move will be. I can’t get expelled, Pansy, I have important work to do here."

"Well soon it won’t matter. Potter will get what’s coming to him."

"I hope so." He sneered, though inside he was asking himself the same questions he’d been mulling over for awhile. What does Potter have coming to him? What exactly had the kid done to deserve anything? Perhaps those were answers he would never receive, as questions weren’t welcome among the Dark Lord’s ranks. "What are they all saying about me out there?" he asked eagerly.

"Oh a whole bunch of nonsense since the whole Cho thing. But don’t worry, Crabbe, Goyle and I have been setting them straight. I never liked Cho to begin with." She said earnestly.

"Of course you didn’t." He said with a cruel smile. Ever since learning at the beginning of the year that he was to work closely with Cho, Pansy had been having trouble holding her jealousy in check. Never in his life had he wanted to have anything to do with the insipid girl, but her feelings for him had been useful over the years, so he’d strung her along letting her hope she stood a chance. But for a long time now there was only one girl he’d found any interest in and it certainly hadn’t been Cho Chang, despite a few drunken nights where he’d tried to convince himself differently. What’s more, this girl was probably the reason he’d turned on Cho in the first place despite all the other reasons he’d given Potter and Dumbledore for his change of heart. After hearing of what Cho had done, he’d been angry and rushed to Potter without thinking, wanting only to punish Cho. And despite the position he now found himself in, he didn’t regret it. There was no way he’d ever get to really know this other girl while he was on that other path. He wasn’t delusional though, he doubted he’d ever get the girl. But at least he could try to make her think better of him.

"Draco?" Pansy put a hand on his shoulder and he rudely shook her off. She mistook his anguish for concern over what their classmates were saying about him. "Don’t worry, they may think you’re a traitor now because of Cho, but you’ll show them all it isn’t true."

"Yeah. I’ll show them all." He said bitterly.

(BREAK)

The next morning, Harry went to visit Lupin. He had a big favor to ask and hoped that his friend would be able to acquire what he needed. If he did, Harry hoped that it was someday going to help bring Hermione back to him. After Lupin agreed to do what he asked, Harry walked out into the castle with determination, looking for the other person who would be the most hurt in this scandal. There she was, walking toward the Gryffindor tower. "Ginny!" He called, running to catch up to her. "Can we talk for a minute?"

She followed him into the common room, which was empty at this time of day. Better that no one else witness this. He could sense Hermione coming, so he talked fast. "Look, Hermione told me what you wrote in your diary." And as he watched her blush, he knew that would be the last true statement he would utter to her or Hermione for a long time. "At first I denied everything, but then I couldn’t. You’re right. I do constantly run that night in my mind. No matter how hard I try, it stays with me. I just wish it had never happened so that I could be with Hermione in peace…but I just can’t."

"Oh, Harry." She threw herself in his arms, and he almost decided to call this whole thing off. But he had to do this, for Hermione. She was close, almost at the portrait, there was no turning back now. He took Ginny’s face in his hands and kissed her, imagining she was Hermione. He almost cried when he heard the portrait open and saw the flames erupt from Hermione’s mind.





A/N: Sucks, doesn’t it. Next chapter: Hermione and Harry, the aftermath, breaking it off with Ginny, Ron and Harry fight, time passes and we enter Hogsmead. Please Review.
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