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Introduction:

harry potter fanfiction
Chapter 21: War Childs

When everyone was back at Hogwarts to start the new term, Harry expected to hear a lot of rumours and gossips about the absence of Jacinta Malfoy. As Dumbledore said, she had been transferred from St Mungo’s to Hogwarts at the end of the holidays, but she was still in the hospital wing under the care of Madam Pomfrey. Still it was the second time she wasn’t able to attend classes and no one knew why. As Harry and his friends were the only ones who knew about what happened to the first year, the assault by her father was one of the few well kept secrets within Hogwarts’ walls. The only sign that still pointed to the incident was the bruised face of Draco Malfoy, undoubtedly the price he paid for trying to help his sister. Harry was still convinced that Malfoy had ordered Crabbe and Goyle to beat his own sister up the first time and he didn’t feel one bit sorry for his Slytherin nemesis.

As he promised, Sirius had visited Jacinta at St Mungo’s together with Harry. They didn’t talk with her about moving with them or even the trial that was coming up as they didn’t want to scare her. Instead, they talked about everyday things as school and Quidditch. Jacinta had looked anxious when Sirius entered her room as the adults who had been in her life up to this moment hadn’t exactly taken great care of her. The fact that he was with Harry, however, together with the reassuring and calm demeanour Sirius had over him, reassured the girl greatly.

The fifth years weren’t blessed with an easy start after the holidays. The classes themselves weren’t really getting harder, but the homework load had even increased opposed to last term. Despite the fact that he was extremely busy keeping up with his schoolwork, Harry did keep making time for Dumbledore’s Army. Hermione had come up with a very convenient method to inform all the members of their next meeting without having to inform everyone in person. She enchanted fake coins with the Protean Charm, so that when Harry changed the date on his coin, it would immediately change on all the other coins too.

The first DA meeting was scheduled for Thursday night and when Harry and Ginny arrived in the Room of Requirement, together with Ron and Hermione, they saw almost everyone was already there. The DA had been an enormous success and although there hadn’t been need for their services yet, the meetings were the favourite time of the week for all of the members. Harry silently hoped that Dumbledore would never need them, but if he did, the DA leader knew they would be ready. The members had improved immensely over the last term, most significantly Neville Longbottom. The Gryffindor Prefect had always been self-conscious about his magic. Being named Prefect by Dumbledore, however, had given his self-esteem a boost and his skills had improved noticeably during the DA meetings.

Harry spend the first half hour of the meeting revising everything that they had been practicing before the holidays and to his happiness he saw that his members seemed to have remembered everything he taught them.

“Alright everyone!” he shouted. He waited until the last Stunning spells and jinxes had died out before he continued. “Good job everyone, really.” he praised. “I see that you have all mastered the basic duelling skills. We will keep practice duelling during our meetings, but I think you guys are ready to try some of the more advanced stuff now.”

There rose some exciting murmurs.

“Okay.” Harry said. “Do you all know what the Patronus charm is?”

Nearly everyone nodded, but Dennis Creevey said he hadn’t heard from it. Harry realized that Dennis, only a second year, had never seen the spell in class. As he came to think of it, he hadn’t either. Remus Lupin had taught him how to produce a Patronus back in third year, because Cornelius Fudge, in all his wisdom, had stationed Dementors at Hogwarts to protect the school from Sirius Black. Tonks had talked about it in her Defence Against the Dark Arts class, but they had never practiced the spell. Harry realized he was the only student he knew of who was able to produce a corporeal Patronus and he hoped he didn't start to early with it.

“Alright Dennis.” he said after shortly hesitating. “The Patronus charm is very advanced. When you are able to produce a fully-fledged Patronus, it will help you to ward off several dark creatures as Lethifolds, but most importantly, Dementors.”

“That will come in handy now they have sided with You-Know-Who.” Seamus spoke.

“I can’t believe the Ministry didn’t see this coming.” Luna said dreamily. “The Dementors were bound to betray them. They are of the same gender as Popperknockles.”

“What are Popperknockles?” Lee Jordan asked, genuinly interested.

“Never mind.” Hermione said quickly, before Luna could answer. “Go on, Harry.”

Harry realized he had been staring at Luna after her strange interruption and quickly regained his composure. “Okay right.” he said. “The incantation is Expecto Patronum. A Patronus is actually kind of an outward projection of happiness, so when you cast the spell, you will have to think of a happy memory. It will have to be powerful, so think of the happiest memory you can imagine.” He paused a minute while everyone thought of a good memory. “Now I don’t want you to think that you will master this spell just as quickly and easily as you have most of the other spells. I can’t express enough how advanced this is. It took me long to even produce a silver mist and weeks before I first produced a corporeal Patronus. There are a lot of fully qualified wizards who are not able to do it.”

“Can you show us?” Parvati asked eagerly.

Harry thought of Ginny and him on the couch in the living room at Grimmauld Place. “Expecto Patronum!”

The silver stag jumped out of the tip of his wand and galloped around the Room of Requirement. The members of the DA automatically began applauding. Harry grinned. “Okay, let’s see how you do.”

The rest of the meeting was spent by practicing the Patronus charm. Harry wasn’t surprised that only a few people were already able to produce a silver mist that lasted more than a few seconds. Nobody, not even Hermione, managed to produce a corporeal Patronus. Although Harry had warned them not to expect too much too fast, he saw that a lot of members were feeling disappointed.

“Don’t worry guys.” he encouraged them. “I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. We’ll keep working on it until everyone gets it right.”

He dismissed the meeting and the members started gathering their things to leave. The members from Gryffindor sat down in the soft chairs that had been placed in a corner of the room, accompanied by Luna. They talked about Voldemort and the war for a while.

“I don’t understand.” Dean said suddenly. “You-Know-Who is back right? He has all his powers again. Why doesn’t he show himself in the open?”

“We believe he doesn’t want to attract attention to himself.” Hermione said after a quick glance at Harry.

“Yeah I could believe that.” Dean agreed. “But everyone already knows he’s back.”

Colin nodded. “I would understand he would want to keep quiet if the magical world didn’t know about his return, but there’s really no point now, is there? The Ministry knows about it and they are actively looking for him and his Death Eaters.”

Hermione didn’t really know what to say and looked at Harry. The latter shifted uncomfortably in his chair and hesitated. Finally he said: “We believe Voldemort doesn’t want to start an open war before he has done something.” He ignored the winces and protesting shrieks accompanying his mention of Voldemort’s name. “Something he wasn’t able to finish last time.”

“What do you mean?” Dennis asked eagerly.

Harry remained silent. He didn’t want to tell too many people about the Prophecy. He couldn’t just assume that every member of Dumbledore’s Army was as loyal as Ron, Hermione and Ginny or even the twins. On the other hand, this were his friends and if anyone within Dumbledore’s Army was completely trustworthy, it was them. Before he could say anything, Luna interrupted his thoughts.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” she said matter of factly. “Voldemort wants to kill Harry.”

Harry looked at his Ravenclaw friend dumbfounded. That was the last thing he expected to hear and on top of that she said Voldemort’s name. She was the only other student he ever witnessed to do that.

Luna looked around her and smiled when she saw seventeen surprised faces staring at her. “It’s only logical. Voldemort wanted to kill Harry when he was a baby. He not only failed, his power was also broken. Voldemort must think that Harry is some kind of threat to him and he probably wants to kill him before he tries to take over the country.” She looked expectantly at Harry.

Harry nodded. “That’s more or less what we were thinking.” he said softly. A long silence followed.

“How the hell did you figure that out?” Lee asked them.

“It’s quite simple.” Luna said. “It’s important to know your enemy. And I think Voldemort is pretty easy to read.”

“Would you stop saying his name?” Ron snapped.

Luna smiled at him, apparently not caring about his rudeness. “Why? It’s just a name, you know.”

Ron glared at her, but Harry said: “She’s absolutely right. She should be asking you why you don’t say his name.” He had never understood that habit in the magical world. “It’s kind of ridiculous to be afraid of a name, isn’t it?”

Harry looked at his friends and saw that they were looking confused. They had all grown up with the habit of saying You-Know-Who or He Who Must Not Be Named instead of Voldemort. They had never asked themselves any questions about it.

From that day on, the members of Dumbledore’s Army always called Voldemort by his name. Harry noticed that Muggle-born students like Hermione, Justin and the Creevey brothers had actually little trouble with it. He supposed that they had, just like him, thought it strange not to say his name, but didn’t to fit in with the magical world. The purebloods on the other hand had learned not to say his name from the moment they could talk and it wasn’t easy to quit the habit.
________________________________________




Saturday started off great. When Harry and Ron came downstairs in the common room, they saw that Jacinta Malfoy had been released from the hospital wing. They invited her to go downstairs for breakfast with them and Ginny and Hermione. When Harry and Ron left for Quidditch practice the younger girl grabbed his arm and whispered: “Thank you. For everything.” She gave him a quick hug and returned to her seat.

Unfortunately, the day did not end as great as it began. When Harry arrived in Dumbledore’s office for his private lesson, he received some unnerving news.

“I am afraid that Voldemort has found a way around the blood protection, Harry.” Dumbledore said.

“What?!” Harry exclaimed. “Is that even possible?”

“I am afraid so.” Dumbledore said gravely. “It is an ancient potion. Naturally, Voldemort has instructed Professor Snape to brew it for him. He does, however, lack one very important ingredient.”

Harry could already guess what ingredient Voldemort needed. “My blood.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Unfortunately, that has not only put Voldemort in a tight spot, but us as well.”

“How, sir?”

“He has instructed Professor Snape with the task to obtain it from you.” Dumbledore said sombrely.

Harry felt his heart sink. He only saw three options. Snape would have to refuse to perform his task and openly show his allegiance to the Order of the Phoenix, or he would have to tell Voldemort the task was impossible to fulfil, which would probably mean his death. Or…

“He has to do it.”

Dumbledore looked up at Harry, but didn’t seem surprised. “I expected you would say that.”

“It’s the only way, isn’t it? He can’t refuse without openly showing his loyalty to you and the Order. The Order would lose its only spy.”

Dumbledore nodded slowly. Harry knew that his headmaster had also arrived at that conclusion before he told Harry about it, but he didn’t want Harry to do it. On the other hand, Severus Snape was an extremely useful spy. If they lost him, it would be a major setback for the Order of the Phoenix. Sending another person to try to infiltrate Voldemort’s inner circle would be too dangerous.

“Are you sure about this, Harry?”

Harry remained silent for a minute. He had really relied on the blood protection. He knew he was in danger, but he had always felt kind of safe, knowing that Voldemort couldn’t hurt him. For a moment he felt as stupid as Goyle for even considering giving Voldemort exactly what he wanted. But it seemed to be the only way. Then he nodded and was already preparing himself for the lecture he would receive from Ginny and Hermione.

When he arrived in the Gryffindor Common Room later that night, he saw that it was already empty. Almost empty. Ginny lay curled up like a cat in front of the fire, obviously waiting for him to get back. Harry sat down on the couch and put Ginny’s legs on his lap. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Ginny smiled. “How was your lesson?”

Harry decided he’d better get it over with. He braced himself and told his girlfriend about the potion and Snape.

Ginny narrowed her eyes. “That’s ridiculous, Harry. You can’t do that.”

Harry gulped. “I already did.”

Ginny sat up straight at once and looked at him outraged. He saw her ears turning slowly red and braced himself for what was coming. “You already did? What were you thinking? You couldn’t at least talk to me about it first?”

“There was really not much to talk about, Ginny.” Harry said. “I had no choice.”

Ginny growled. “I can’t believe Dumbledore made you do that.”

“He didn’t make me do anything. He didn’t even suggest it. I did.”

“You suggested it?” Ginny shrieked and Harry realized he had said something stupid again. “You just decided to give up the only protection you have against Voldemort and you didn’t even think to discuss it with your friends or – I don’t know – your girlfriend?”

She jumped up from the couch and glared at him. Then, without another word, she marched over to the door that led to the girls dormitories and disappeared out of sight. Harry sighed and leaned back into the sofa. He suddenly realized that he had his first real fight with Ginny. He decided he didn’t like it one bit.



The following morning Harry told Ron and Hermione about the potion and Snape. They didn’t like it either, nor the fact he had acted without talking to them, but seemed to understand better than Ginny. Harry didn’t see her all day until she walked into the common room late Sunday night, with her broom over her shoulder. Harry was the only one still awake in the common room, accept for the Creevey brothers. One look of Ginny in their direction was enough for them to quickly disappear to the boys dormitories.

“Hi.” Harry said warily.

“Hey.” Ginny said while she sat beside him. She felt slightly guilty when she saw Harry’s cautiousness. “Look, I’m sorry I lashed out at you yesterday.”

“That’s alright.” Harry mumbled.

“I know you really had no choice.” Ginny continued. “But you still should have talked to me first. I’m your girlfriend, Harry, you can’t decide everything on your own.”

“I know I should have talked to you, Ginny.” Harry said. “You’re right. You are my girlfriend. I guess I’m still not used to it yet.”

Despite the fact that they had been going on for almost a year, Harry still felt as a rookie when it came to relationships. Ginny was his first girlfriend after all. He didn’t even go as far as a kiss on the cheek with any other girl. Except for Hermione of course, but that didn’t really count.

Ginny smiled for the first time that day. She took Harry’s hand. “Well in that case, I think you need to practice as much as you can.”

She leaned in and pressed her lips softly to Harry’s. After she pulled away, Harry said: “So we’re okay then?”

“Oh yes, we are.” And together they sank down onto the couch.
________________________________________




The day after Harry and Ginny’s one year anniversary, Gryffidor’s second game of the Quidditch season was planned. They would be playing Hufflepuff. The expectations after the demolition of Slytherin in the first match were sky-high. Hufflepuff had lost their first game against Ravenclaw without a chance. After the graduation of their captain, Cedric Diggory, the team had fallen apart. The new captain, Zacharias Smith, didn’t live up to his predecessor.

“And we’re off.” Lee Jordan shouted excitedly as Madam Hooch threw the Quaffle up in the air. Smith immediately grasped it and ten seconds later, Ron was beaten for the first time in his career.

The game went on and it became clear Zacharias Smith had given quite a pep-talk before the match. The Hufflepuff Chasers were easily outmatching the Gryffindor Chasers and despite some spectacular saves from Ron, the score quickly rose to 80-10 for Hufflepuff.

When Katie scored the second goal of the match for Gryffindor, Harry spotted the Golden Snitch. It was flying after the Gryffindor goalposts. He glanced over at Summerby, the Hufflepuff Seeker. He was floating over the stands where the teachers sat and obviously hadn’t spotted the Snitch yet. Harry raced towards the goalposts. The Snitch sped off towards the ground. Harry dived sharply. Stebbins who had seen Harry was racing towards him from the other end of the pitch. When he finally spotted the Snitch, it was already too late. Harry pulled up from his dive with his fist triumphantly raised in the air.

He was met in the middle of the pitch by the rest of the team. Angelina hugged him tightly and said: “You saved us once again, Harry. We were getting slaughtered out there.”

Despite the fact that the performance of the team wasn’t at all that good, Gryffindor was now comfortably in the lead for the Quidditch Cup.The party in Gryffindor common room again lasted until late in the night.
________________________________________




Life had never been more busy for Harry. Between his classes, homework, Quidditch and private lessons with both Dumbledore and Snape he barely had time for anything else. He spend as much time with Ginny and Ron and Hermione as he could, but he barely had time to hang out with his other friends. Therefore it took him quite some time before he noticed that Neville was acting rather strangely. He barely spoke with anyone but Luna, who was his best friend. He never participated in classes, didn’t talk to anyone in the common room and the only thing he did during the meetings of Dumbledore’s Army was work. That was of course the point of the DA, but the members generally considered it also as a time to have fun with their friends.

When Harry asked Ron about it, his friend merely shrugged. “I don’t know, mate. He’s been kind of depressed lately. Ever since we came back after Christmas actually.”

“Maybe we should talk to him.” Harry said.

“Already did man.” Seamus said as he was listening from his bed. “We’ve been trying to get something out of him for weeks now. He still just talks when you start a conversation with him, but when you ask him what’s wrong he shuts down.”

The mystery of the behaviour of Neville Longbottom was quickly joined by another mystery. The behaviour of another sixth year. Harry had noticed that Draco Malfoy seemed to have distanced himself from his friends. He still sat with the Slytherins during classes, but Harry had encountered him by himself a couple of times in the hallways. Those encounters also weren’t accompanied by the usual insults or taunts. Harry wondered if he maybe was not a copy of his father after all, but then he thought of Jacinta’s face as she lay in St Mungo’s and was reminded by the fact that Malfoy had sent his goonies to beat his own little sister up.

There was a new Hogsmeade weekend coming up, but first, on Friday night, there was another DA meeting.

They were still working on the Patronus charm. Everyone, even Dennis Creevey, was now able to produce a silver mist that didn’t vanish immediately, but Harry was still the only one who could produce a corporeal Patronus.

Harry walked around the Room, inspecting and helping his classmates. He inadvertently admired Neville’s dedication as he saw his sweaty face. Suddenly a silver otter formed itself in the middle of the room. There fell a silence.

“I did it!” Hermione squealed. “I actually did it!”

The whole room burst into applause. Harry grinned broadly. “Great job, Hermione. Brilliant!” he said as he patted her on the back. Hermione reddened slightly as he whispered: “I never doubted you’d be the first.”

After the meeting Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione were talking about their plans for Hogsmeade the day after when they were approached by Angelina Johnson.

“Is everything alright with Neville?” she asked. She nodded towards the wall with pictures, where Neville stood by himself. At first, there only hung a picture of the Order of the Phoenix, but the members of Dumbledore’s Army had decorated the wall with many pictures that were taken by Colin Creevey during the meetings.

“He’s been acting a bit… strange lately.” Hermione said softly. “We try to get him to say something, but it’s like he wants to shut himself off from us.”

Angelina nodded slowly. “We should go talk to him.”

The small group walked hesitantly over to Neville. Angelina put a hand on his shoulder. “You want to talk, Neville?”

To the surprise of the other four, he nodded. “She escaped.” he said softly.

Angelina looked at the younger student compassionately. “I know.” she said. “But she will pay for it. I'm sure about that.”

Harry didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. Suddenly, Neville seemed to realize that they were there too. He looked down and said: “Bellatrix Lestrange.”

“The Death Eater?” Hermione asked.

Neville nodded. Harry looked at Angelina and said carefully: “Wasn’t she the one who…”

“Who killed my parents, yes.” Angelina completed his question. She looked at Neville as if asking for permission, who nodded. “You remember when I said Bellatrix Lestrange was leading a little group of Death Eaters after the fall of Voldemort to search for him?”

“Yeah...” Harry said slowly. “You said they went after Aurors, because they believed the Ministry knew where Voldemort was.”

Angelina nodded and looked over at Neville. He shuffled his feet and said: “My parents were Aurors too.”

Harry felt a heavy weight fall into his stomach. Neville had been raised by his grandmother. He knew that, Neville had said so himself, but he had never wondered why. And now he knew. Neville was an orphan, just like him. His parents were killed when he was just a baby, he couldn’t have been much older than Harry was when he lost his parents.

“They were – ” Ginny stammered. “They were killed too?” Neville slowly shook his head.

“They weren’t that lucky.” Angelina grumbled.

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked. Her voice was not much louder than a whisper.

“Bellatrix Lestrange was convinced that my parents knew where V-Voldemort was.” Neville said. “So she tortured them.” He paused and gulped. His voice was shaking when he continued: “She used the Cruciatus Curse on them. She was determined to torture them until they would give her the information.”

Harry’s head was spinning. Ron was white as a sheet and Ginny and Hermione had tears in their eyes.

“They knew nothing.” Neville said harshly. “They couldn’t give her what she wanted, so she kept on torturing them.” Tears appeared in his eyes too. Angelina put a comforting arm around his shoulders. “Until they snapped.”

“They – “ Harry whispered. “They snapped? But you said they weren’t killed?”

“They weren’t.” Neville said. “They’re still alive today, but they don’t even know it themselves.” They looked at him dumbfounded. “They have lost their minds. They are at St Mungo’s. On a closed ward, because they are a danger to themselves and others.” Tears were now streaming down his face. “They don’t even recognize me.”

Harry felt sick. He looked at the photograph of the Order of the Phoenix and saw Frank and Alice Longbottom, smiling and waving happily at them. Not knowing what they would have to endure later. He stepped to Neville and gave him a firm hug.

“I’m sorry, Neville.” he said. “I can’t believe we never knew.”

“I didn’t want you to know”, Neville said calmly. “I was afraid of how you guys would react. I had a hard enough time to fit in here as it was.”

Harry looked at Ron and saw that his best mate felt just as guilty as he did. They had always liked Neville, but during their first years at Hogwarts they had often teased him and laughed with him. They never bullied him or anything from the sort and it was always good-natured, but they knew Neville had a hard time fitting in back then and they could have done much more to help him.

“They are heroes, Neville.” Angelina said firmly.

“I know they are.” Neville answered. “Gran told me a lot of their achievements during the wizarding war. I’m proud to be their son. And I’m glad I told you. I just don’t think the whole school should know about this.”

They all nodded. They knew exactly what Neville would have to endure from the Slytherins if they knew about his parents.

Harry looked at Neville and Angelina and knew that these two people had suffered just as much at the hands of Voldemort as he himself had. He had always thought he stood out because of his past. Sure that scar on his forehead meant that he was unique in his way, but he now knew that the war had touched many more lives. There were so many more people like him and Angelina and Neville out there. He just didn’t always know about it.

When he stepped into bed that night, he made a vow. It was all because of Voldemort. He had ruined so many people, in so many different ways. He had to be stopped. Harry knew he was far from ready to fight him, but he knew that one day, he would. I’m going to kill you, Tom, he thought, as he turned on his side. I promise you I will kill you.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war” – Plato

________________________________________
Chapter 22: Fallen


Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione had planned to go to Hogsmeade together and were joined at the last moment by Neville and Luna. After a quick visit at Honeydukes Sweet Shop (mainly for Ron’s benefit), they made their way to the Three Broomsticks to warm themselves up with a Butterbeer. They found an empty table in the corner of the tavern and sat down contently.


“I’m surprised Dumbledore still allows us to come to Hogsmeade.” Ron said. “With Voldemort being back and all.”


“Well he has been laying low for now, hasn’t he?” Hermione said. “He probably wouldn’t attack Hogsmeade with Dumbledore so close.”


“But is he?” Ginny wondered. “He has been away a lot lately. I haven’t seen him at all this week."


Harry nodded. He knew Dumbledore had left the school on various occasions. He had tried to ask him where he went during his private lessons, but his headmaster had merely said Harry would find out in time. Dumbledore was still teaching Harry advanced magic that would help him in combat, but he had also talked to Harry many times about Tom Riddle when he was at Hogwarts. He apparently thought it was important for Harry to know as much as possible about his enemy.


They had been sitting in the Three Broomsticks for about an hour when they heard screams coming from the High Street. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny immediately jumped from their seats with their wands drawn, quickly followed by Neville and Luna. Harry noticed that about half of the tavern had followed their example. Apparently, the better part of Dumbledore’s Army had been sitting in the Three Broomsticks as well.



Madam Rosmerta quickly ran to the door to see what was going on. She paled when she saw what was happening. “Death Eaters!”, she screamed, terrified.

Harry ran to the door and saw that a large group of at least forty Death Eaters had apparated into Hogsmeade and were attacking innocent bystanders. His heart dropped when he saw Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas were under attack from four masked Death Eaters and were struggling to keep up with them. Without thinking he made to go outside to help them, but Madam Rosmerta grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“Don’t be silly, Harry, you can’t go out there.” she said with a shaking voice. “We all have to stay inside and secure the building.”

Harry nodded. “Yes, you do that. But I am going to help my friends."

His five companions made to follow, but Harry told them to stay inside and keep safe.

“Like hell we will.” Ron said.

“We’re with you, Harry.” Ginny said, looking at him determinately.

Harry wanted to protest, but Neville cut him off: “We’re Dumbledore’s Army, Harry. This is what we have been training for. We can’t hide now.”
Harry looked around the tavern and saw that all the DA members that had been sitting there were standing with their wands drawn, ready to follow him.



“Alright then.” he said. He turned to Colin Creevey. “Colin, once you are outside, I don’t want you to fight – “



Colin cut him off immediately: “I can fight!”



“I know you can.” Harry said. “But I need you to go to Hogwarts as fast as you can to alert the teachers. We are going to need help. Try to find McGonagall or Snape if you can.”



Then, he turned to Anthony, Michael and Terry and said: “I need you three to give him cover. Make sure he gets out of here safely before you help others.” The three Ravenclaw fifth years nodded.



“Alright.” Harry said. “The rest of you, follow me. I don’t want you to seek unnecessary danger. Protect everyone who needs it. Don’t attack blindly. If you have stunned or petrified one of them, make sure you tie them up, so they can’t re-join the fight when they wake up.”



He was afraid his friends didn’t really know what they were getting into, but when he saw their determinate faces, he knew he wouldn’t be able to talk them out of it. “Let’s go.”



Harry lead them outside and saw to his surprise that other members of Dumbledore’s Army had already joined the fight. Hannah Abbot and Ernie Macmillan had come to the aid of Dean and Seamus. Seamus was still standing, but Dean was on the ground, bleeding profusely from his head.



He saw a Death Eater fire a Killing Curse towards him. “Protego Yomorus!” Harry yelled.



A big gold shield appeared before Dean and the green beam bounced away and hit another Death Eater in the back. The Death Eater who had fired the Killing Curse turned to him and pointed her wand at him.



“Well if it isn’t the great Harry Potter.” a female voice sneered. “I see you have been training with Dumbledore. He is the only one who can block unforgivable curses after all.”



She pulled her mask from her face and Harry recognised Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius’ cousin and one of Voldemort’s most trusted Death Eaters. A blind hatred took over his mind. “Stupefy!” he shouted.



Bellatrix blocked his spell easily and laughed. “You want to play do you, dear Harry? I am afraid we don’t have time for games. I’m here to take you to my master.”



A familiar voice spoke up behind Harry’s back. “I’m afraid your master will have to wait a little longer.”



Harry turned around and saw that Neville had come to his aid. Bellatrix took advantage of this moment of inadvertency and quickly shot a binding spell at him, which was blocked by Neville.



“Well... Who might you be?”



“Neville Longbottom.” Neville said blatantly.



The eyes of Bellatrix dilated in recognition before she started laughing tauntingly



“Oh, I had the pleasure to meet your parents, dear boy. How are mum and dad?"



They started duelling heatedly. Bellatrix was outmatched two to one, but she held her own quite easily. She was an extremely talented and heartless witch, but she didn’t manage to incapacitate either of the younger boys, until suddenly she managed to disarm Neville. She instantly followed the disarming spell with a Cruciatus Curse and Neville writhed on the cobblestones in pain.



“Stupefy!” Harry yelled, at the exact same moment as someone from behind Bellatrix.



The two stunners hit her simultaneously and she was blown back from the force of the spells and disappeared behind Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet who were taking on four Death Eaters. Harry saw Angelina Johnson standing before him, wand in hand.



“Thought you might want some help.” she said simply.



“Didn’t need it though.” Harry grinned. “I had her.”



“Sure you did." Angelina smirked. “Duck!”, she yelled and pulled Harry to the ground as two Killing Curses flew over their heads.



“That I did need.” Harry mumbled. Angelina grinned.



They weren’t able to catch their breath as they were immediately engaged in a duel with five more Death Eaters. Neville had jumped to his feet again and came to their aid. They were able to take two of the five out and tie them up, before a series of pops announced the arrival of a large group of wizards. Harry’s heart sank as he thought that a Death Eater had left to get reinforcements, but then he saw Tonks and Lupin appear hand in hand to his right.



“Wotcher, Harry!” Tonks said cheerfully, before she easily took out a third Death Eater.



Harry looked around and saw that members of the Order of the Phoenix were helping the students and teachers from Hogwarts and inhabitants from Hogsmeade.



“About time.” Harry said.



The remaining Death Eaters were rounded up quickly. The two Death Eaters who were still standing were now outnumbered five to two against Harry and his friends, but they didn’t give up without a fight.



A Reductor Curse fired by someone behind them blew of the mask of the shortest of the Death Eaters and Harry was shocked to see the face of Peter Pettigrew.



Lupin’s face hardened when he saw his former friend and yelled: “Animagus Dolorius!"



Harry realized Lupin had prevented Pettigrew from turning to his animal form, so he wouldn’t be able to escape this time.


Harry and Lupin duelled Pettigrew, while Neville, Angelina and Tonks took on the other Death Eater. When the latter was incapacitated they joined the other duel and Pettigrew , who was barely holding his own against Harry and Lupin knew he was cornered. Instead of surrendering, he used the last means of resistance he had: “Avada Kedavra!”



Harry saw a body crumple to the ground in the corner of his eye when it was hit with the green beam of light from Pettigrew’s wand. A blind rage and hatred took over his mind. “Reducto!”



The Reductor Curse was so powerful Pettigrew was blown backwards and hit the brick wall of a house headfirst. A sickening crunch of skull against stone told Harry that the man who had betrayed his parents couldn’t possibly have survived. He was shaken for a moment by the fact that he had killed a man. Then he remembered that one of his friends had been struck by a Killing Curse from the now fallen Death Eater.



He turned around and felt his heart sink to his stomach when he saw Neville and Lupin kneeling by the lifeless body of Angelina Johnson.

________________________________________


“Where was Dumbledore?” Ron asked gruffly. “He should have been there.”



“He isn’t at school, according to McGonagall.” Ginny answered. “No one knows where he is. He probably still doesn’t know what happened."



Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Luna had all suffered minor injuries during the battle. Though not seriously harmed, Madam Pomfrey wanted them to stay the night in the hospital wing. Neville also stayed as he was still suffering from the after effects of the Cruciatus Curse.



There were no members of Dumbledore’s Army that were gravely injured. Dean and Seamus were in the hospital wing too, as were Hannah Abbott and Terry Boot, but they would all be allowed to leave in the morning. The scars that were left by the loss of one of their members would be much more difficult to heal.



Harry and Neville were probably affected the most by Angelina’s death, as they were there fighting with her when it happened. Especially the fact that she died when the fight was almost over and they thought they would be safe hit them hard. A terrible feeling of guilt plagued Harry as he realized this would not have happened if he had told everyone to stay in the Three Broomsticks and to secure the building.



Harry’s friends didn’t really know what to say to him. As they knew Harry, they realized he would be beating himself up and blaming himself. They wanted to comfort him and tell him it wasn’t his fault, but Harry seemed to have shut himself off from them. When he had returned to the school, he had rushed to the hospital wing to see if everyone else was alright, but he hadn’t spoken a word since he verified that all the other DA members would be fine.



After sitting silently with his friends for a while, he stood up without a word and left the hospital wing. He walked slowly to Gryffindor Tower and locked himself in the fifth year boys dormitory. The only advantage of the fact his friends were in the hospital wing was that he had the room for himself. He really didn’t want to see anyone.



He lied down on his bed and he grieved for his fallen friend. Angelina, the though Quidditch captain with the big mouth, but with a very good heart. He remembered Angelina comforting Neville the night before and her telling Harry about her parents in the Room of Requirement last fall. It was a soft spot Harry had never seen of her, but it was there. But now she was gone. She would never cheek him again, never lash out at the twins because they were goofing around at Quidditch practice. Tears were streaming down his cheeks when he fell asleep.



“Death is harder on those who are left behind” – Robert La Fosse

________________________________________
Chapter 23: It Has Begun


HOGSMEADE UNDER ATTACK

by Rita Skeeter

Last Saturday a large group of followers of He Who Must Not Be Named, commonly known as Death Eaters have attacked Hogsmeade, the only all wizarding village in the country. On the moment of the attack, the village was visited by students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reasons for the attack remain unclear, although many people believe that it was orchestrated with the purpose of capturing Harry Potter, who was also visiting Hogsmeade at the moment of the attack.

The Death Eaters were met by a group of students of Hogwarts, who were supposedly under the command of Harry Potter. They were quickly aided by Aurors and Hogwarts teachers. Unfortunately, one Hogwarts student found the death. Three Death Eaters have also been killed.

After some deep research we can uncover that the group of students that followed The Boy Who Lived into battle is known as Dumbledore’s Army. Many students of Hogwarts know of the existence of the group, but no one actually knows what their purpose is. The name of the group, however, indicates that it has been founded by Albus Dumbledore, current headmaster of the school, who was absent at the moment of the attack. Where Dumbledore was and why he apparently wasn’t able to help and protect his students is a question the Ministry of Magic will surely want to investigate thoroughly.

Hermione made a disgusted noise as she threw her copy of the Sunday Prophet on the table. She had been reading the article to Harry, Ginny and Ron at breakfast the morning after the attack.

“I can’t believe they blame Dumbledore.” Harry grumbled. It was one of the first things he had said since he had left the hospital wing the day before. “It’s like he could have known this was going to happen.”

“Of course he couldn’t have known, Harry.” Hermione said carefully. “But no one knows where he was. I think many parents will ask themselves the same question as that Skeeter woman.”

“Don’t you dare blame Dumbledore for this.” Harry blurted out. Although he had had the same thoughts at several moments, he didn’t want anyone to think bad of his headmaster.

“Of course I don’t blame him!” Hermione looked affronted. “I’m just saying that maybe if he had been here it would have been over sooner and – “

“And Angelina wouldn’t have died? Is that what you’re saying?” Harry asked aggressively. “Dumbledore will be blaming himself hard enough, Hermione. He doesn’t need you for that.”

He made to stand up and leave the Great Hall, but Ginny lay a hand on his arm. “Don’t go, Harry.” she said soothingly. “Hermione didn’t mean it like that, you know she didn’t.”

Harry looked at his best female friend who looked extremely anxious and suddenly felt bad for snapping at her. “I’m sorry.” he mumbled.

Ron changed the topic with a tactfulness that hadn’t been known until this day. “Well, so much for secrecy then.” he said, still looking nervously between his two best friends. “Skeeter found out about the DA.”

“You think someone blabbed?” Ginny asked.

“That’s impossible.” Hermione said quietly, still looking a bit nervous. “Everyone signed a magical contract.”

“Maybe you made a mistake.” Ron said. “It is very advanced magic to set up such a contract.”

“I don’t think so.” Harry said before Hermione could protest. “Look at the article. Skeeter is just writing about a group of students who call themselves Dumbledore’s Army. She doesn’t know anything about the purpose of the group. I’m sure some students have already heard the name. We’ve been talking about it openly quite a few times, haven’t we? And surely everyone who was at Hogsmeade must have noticed we weren’t just a random selection of students who joined the fight.”

Hermione smiled at him gratefully and Harry felt relieved. He had been afraid Hermione would be angry with him for lashing out at her like that, but he realized she wasn’t one to hold a grudge.

“I agree.” Ginny said. “I couldn’t think of anyone either. Even Smith has been rather civil lately.”

She looked at Harry, expecting him to act mockingly jealous like he normally would, but he didn’t give a reaction whatsoever.

“Yeah.” Ron said. “I can’t believe he actually fought yesterday. I didn’t think he would have the guts.”

Harry suddenly stood from his seat. “I’m going back to the common room.” he informed them flatly.

Ginny looked at him worriedly. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, I have some homework to do.” And without another word he turned around and left the Great Hall.

“He’s really taking it hard isn’t he?” Hermione said softly. “Angelina?”

Ginny nodded. “He’s blaming himself of course. No matter what I say, he keeps thinking she would still be alive if it weren’t for him. He doesn’t say much, but I can see it.” She sighed.

“What?” Ron asked astounded. “Why?”

“Honestly, Ron.” Hermione sighed. “You’ve known Harry long enough, haven’t you? Of course he’s blaming himself.”

“But how could this be his fault? Pettigrew killed her, didn’t he?”

“Yes.” Ginny said. “But he thinks if he hadn’t started Dumbledore’s Army, she wouldn’t have died. And he was fighting alongside her when it happened. He thinks if he had taken Pettigrew out sooner, Angelina would still be alive.”

“He did everything he could.” Ron protested.

“We know that, Ron, but you know how Harry thinks.” Hermione said. She turned to Ginny. “So Pettigrew’s really dead then?”

Ginny nodded. “He was still alive when the Healers arrived and they took him to St Mungo’s. They intended to treat him there, before he was healthy and could be taken back to Azkaban, but he died after a couple of hours. Harry got an owl from Sirius last night.”

“He’s probably beating himself up over that too.” Hermione said concernedly.

Ginny nodded again. “He knows he didn’t mean to kill him, but well… it was his curse.” She paused before she softly said: “He thinks he’s no better than V-Voldemort or his Death Eaters. I think in some way this is harder for him than we can imagine.”
________________________________________


Harry didn’t show himself for the rest of the day and his friends knew better than to force their company on him. They knew if Harry separated himself from everyone, it wouldn’t do to bug him. It meant he just wanted to be alone for a few hours and he would come back on his own accord. But when they came back from dinner, he still hadn’t left his dormitory.

Harry lie on his back on his bed with a book on his chest he hadn’t opened all day. The only thing that he had done was just lie there and think about the events that occurred the day before. The images of the battle played before his eyes over and over again. Neville being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, Angelina falling to the Killing Curse of Peter Pettigrew, the same Pettigrew being blown backwards against a wall and dying because of Harry’s actions. Maybe that was the toughest thing to process. He was no longer an innocent teenager, he was a killer. He didn’t spoke the curse with the intention to kill his opponent, but still. It were Harry’s actions that ended Peter Pettigrew’s life. Harry felt like he had crossed a line and that he would never be able to go back to the other side again. Maybe Voldemort was right back in first year when Harry stopped him from stealing the Philosopher’s Stone. Maybe he wasn’t as good as everyone thought he was. Maybe he was a dark wizard.

He had barely noticed it was already dark outside. Suddenly someone softly knocked on the door of the dormitory. Harry rolled his eyes, but didn’t answer. It was probably Hermione trying to get him to talk to her about everything. Ron and Ginny knew perfectly when to leave Harry with his thoughts. Hermione did too most of the time, but she usually felt so bad about it that she still tried to get Harry to talk to her.

After a few moments, the door slowly opened and Sirius entered. “Hey kiddo.” he said softly.

“Sirius!” Harry said surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to talk to you.” he said.

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Did Hermione send you an owl?” he asked suspiciously.

Sirius laughed his bark-like laugh. “She didn’t.” he answered. “Kind of surprised me. She was terribly relieved when I showed up downstairs though.”

He sat down at the foot of Harry’s bed and said: “I kind of forced Dumbledore to let me come. I needed to talk to you after what happened.” He remained silent for a few moments before he said: “Quite of an appearance I made. A lot of your housemates were apparently anticipating a murder attempt.”

Although Sirius had been cleared of all charges and his name had been cleared publicly, it was still strange for some people to see him in public. They had been hearing he was a dangerous mass murderer for fourteen years after all.

“I’m sorry I didn’t see you yesterday, Harry.” Sirius said. “I was on a secret mission for the Order of the Phoenix and I only heard about the attack when I returned to Grimmauld Place in the late afternoon.”

Harry nodded.

“I’m really sorry to hear about your friend.”

Harry felt tears sting behind his eyes, but was determined not to cry. “You knew her parents, didn’t you?”

Sirius nodded. “They were in the Order of the Phoenix. Extremely talented witch and wizard. Two of the finest Aurors the Ministry had back then. Together with Frank and Alice of course.”

“Neville’s parents?”

“Yes.” Sirius said slowly. “He told you about them then?” Harry nodded and Sirius sighed. “Poor guys. I sometimes think I’ve got it the easiest of all of us.”

Harry hardly thought that twelve years in Azkaban could be categorized as easy, but he didn’t elaborated. “So you heard about Pettigrew then?” he asked softly.

Sirius nodded. “Dumbledore told me you were the one that…”

“Killed him.” Harry finished.

Sirius noticed his godson had a haunted look on his face and knew he had been right to come. Although Harry would never say it, Sirius knew he felt extremely guilty about killing Pettigrew. He remembered how James had acted after he first had killed a Death Eater.

“First of all, Harry’, he said, carefully pondering his words. “You didn’t mean to kill him. The intention is always more important than the action. Remember that.”

“Yes, but he’s dead.” Harry said. “He’s dead because of me. What does that make me? Am I any better than Voldemort?”

“I think you can answer that for yourself, Harry.” Sirius said calmly. “When you realized you had killed Pettigrew, how did you feel?”

Harry remained silent for quite some time, but Sirius didn’t do anything to break that silence. “Horrible.” Harry finally admitted.

“And that’s exactly what makes you so different from Voldemort, Harry!” Sirius said firmly. “Do you think Voldemort feels anything if he kills someone, however innocent or young that person may be? Do you think he ever thinks of their faces again? Of course he doesn’t. You killed Peter Pettigrew inadvertently Harry, a man who has taken so much from you and is responsible for so much of what you have been through, but here you are feeling extremely bad about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel that way, cause I know better than anyone you don’t choose to. But it proofs that you are a more good-hearted and admirable person than Voldemort or any one of his Death Eaters will ever be.”

Sirius’ little speech was followed by a long silence. Harry thought about what his godfather had said. He still hated the fact that he was responsible for the death of another person, but he knew that this was a war and death was inevitable. And if he was the only one who would be able to kill Voldemort, he would be facing a lot more Death Eaters and battles in the future before he got to him.

“He wasn’t the last one, was he?” he asked flatly.

Sirius looked at him sympathetically. “I’m afraid not. This was the first time the Death Eaters have openly showed themselves since Voldemort returned. There are bound to be other attacks soon. There will probably come times that you have no other choice than to take a life, Harry, but there is nothing we can do about that. Your safety and the safety of your friends always comes first.”

Harry nodded. Voldemort had been laying low until yesterday. He knew what the attack on Hogsmeade meant. Snape had given Voldemort his blood and had finished the potion. Voldemort was now able to harm him. The only thing he didn’t understand was why Voldemort didn’t come to Hogsmeade himself.

When he asked Sirius, he merely shrugged. “Voldemort rarely shows himself. During the last war I only saw him twice. He usually lets the Death Eaters do his dirty work.”

“Do you think I did a stupid thing?” Harry asked tentatively. “Giving my blood?”

“Oh right.” Sirius said. “Well, I wasn’t happy about it, I must admit, but Dumbledore talked to me and I think you did the right thing. Voldemort was bound to find a way around the protection one way or another and this way we still have our spy. And I am fully confident you’ll be able to defeat him one day without the protection.”

Harry looked at him sceptically. “He’s so powerful”, he said. “And I’m just.. I’m just me.”

“Well, I think ‘just you’ is pretty powerful as well.” Sirius said.

“I’m nothing special.” Harry said. “I’m just an average student.”

“You are.” Sirius agreed. “But I think that’s mainly because your priorities are more outside the classroom.” He grinned. “Besides, Remus told me all about your achievements when he taught you Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry.” Sirius said more seriously. “He said you were by far the top student in your year and better than a lot of the older students. He said even your parents couldn’t have matched your level and that is saying something.”

After a short silence Sirius said: “Well, there’s someone outside who’s been dying to see you. You think you’re up for some younger company than me?”

Harry nodded. Sirius walked over to the door and opened it. Jacinta Malfoy entered the room anxiously. When she saw Harry sitting on the edge of his bed, she didn’t seem to be able to withhold herself anymore. She ran towards him and hugged him tightly.

A smile appeared on Harry’s face for the first time since the previous morning. “Hi.” he mumbled as Sirius sat back down on the edge of Ron’s bed.

“I was so worried.” Jacinta said with a small voice.

“It’s alright. I’m okay." Harry said reassuringly, but Jacinta seemed reluctant to let go of him. Harry didn’t realize he had had such an impact on the girl.

Harry’s stomach grumbled and he realized he hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Sirius laughed. “Let’s go down to the kitchen, I bet those house elves are still as helpful as they used to be right?”

Harry grinned. “Don’t let Hermione hear you.”

Sirius laughed loudly. “You want to come?” he asked Jacinta.

“I can’t” she answered softly. “It’s passed curfew for the first years.”

“No problem.” Harry said, as he pulled his Invisibility Cloak out of his trunk. “I think it’ll cover both of us.”

As he saw Harry standing there with his Cloak, Sirius got hit by a memory of James standing in that precise dormitory holding the same Cloak. His smile faded.

“Something wrong?” Harry asked.

“Nah.” Sirius answered quickly. “I’m glad the Marauders still have their heirs in these halls.”

Harry laughed, but when he followed his godfather to the door, Harry thought about what Sirius had said before Jacinta had come in. Just before they entered the common room he stopped. “It has begun, hasn’t it? The second wizarding war?”

Sirius stopped too and looked more serious than Harry had ever seen him. “Yes. It has begun.”
________________________________________


“Come in, Potter.”

Harry entered Snape’s office for the umpteenth time that year. His lessons had improved dramatically since Snape had been acting more civilly towards him. He knew they would never become the best of friends, but a sort of mutual understanding had risen between them. Harry had finally made great progress with Occlumency, he was now able to push Snape completely out of his mind. Today they would be starting on Legilimency, which promised to be even harder.

“Good evening, Professor.”

Snape nodded at the chair in front of his desk and Harry sat down a bit nervously. Snape had never asked him to sit down but always started the lesson immediately.

“First of all I want to offer you my condolences for the loss of your friend.” Snape said.

Harry looked at him unbelievingly. Snape had never shown any interest in students that weren’t in his own house. “Thank you.” he mumbled.

“Secondly I wanted to congratulate you.” Snape said. He smirked when the disbelief dripped of Harry’s face. “Don’t look so surprised, Potter. You have done a great job on Saturday. You stayed calm and you evaluated the situation well. I believe your decisiveness and your efficient actions have spared a lot of lives that day.”

“Not all of them.” Harry mumbled.

Snape looked at him almost sympathetically. “Not all of them.” he affirmed. “But a lot. I am afraid no mortal has the power to save everyone, Potter.”

Harry was waiting for him to add ‘not even the Boy Who Lived’ with a sneer, but Snape considered the topic closed.

“Now, I recall we were planning on starting with Legilimency.” Snape started. “But first I want to teach you some useful magic. Magic that will help you in situations like last weekend.”

“I am already practicing defensive magic with Professor Dumbledore, sir.” Harry said.

“I realize that.” Snape said. “But there are spells – lesser common spells – that Professor Dumbledore would not be able to teach you. Spells that are not known by many witches or wizards.”

“Why wouldn’t he be able to teach me?” Harry asked. He knew Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard alive and that he was extremely smart. He would have thought that he would know even the lesser known spells.

“Because I invented them.” Snape said smoothly. “There is a chance the headmaster may not like what I intend to teach you, but I think that it will be useful to you.”

Harry nodded. He realized Snape left it up to him to tell Dumbledore about it or not, but he had made it clear the headmaster wouldn’t hear it from him.

“Okay.” Snape said. “Let’s begin with one of the easier spells. This spell is very useful to keep your conversations private. The incantation is Muffliato…”
________________________________________


By the end of the week Harry was approached by several members of the DA to ask when there would be a meeting. Harry had been putting of changing the date on his coin, because he didn’t exactly look forward to it. Right after the battle at Hogsmeade, Harry had wanted to quit the DA, but his friends had quickly talked him out of it. He realized last Saturday had shown exactly why the DA was needed, but Harry asked himself how he could expect anyone to turn up for the next meeting after it became so painfully clear how dangerous it was. The constant inquiries of the members, however, showed him at least most of them still wanted to go on with it. By Friday, he was constantly stopped between classes by members. His answer was every time the same. “I’ll let you know in the usual way, but it’s not tonight. I’ve got an appointment with Dumbledore.”

Indeed after dinner, Harry made his way to Dumbledore’s office for his private lesson of that week. Dumbledore and Harry had agreed on a fixed day for their lessons at the beginning of the year, but seeing as Dumbledore had been away a lot and Harry had a lot of other commitments, it varied a lot.

Dumbledore, like Snape, started with praising Harry for his bravery and actions during the attack on Hogsmeade. Despite all the praises and consolations he had received over the past week, Harry still felt slightly guilty about the death of Angelina. He was no longer sorry he had started the DA, but he did still believe he should have been able to take out Pettigrew sooner.

“Secondly, I owe you an explanation, Harry.” Dumbledore said seriously. “I am extremely sorry for the fact that I was not here when the Death Eaters stroke. If I would have been here the battle would probably have ended sooner and maybe…” His voice faded and Harry saw tears blinking in his eyes.

He realized he had been right. Dumbledore felt at least as guilty about Angelina’s death as he had felt. “I have received quite some angry letters from parents about that matter.” Dumbledore continued. “And of course they are right in their concern.”

“No one of the students blames you”, Harry said firmly. “We know you wouldn’t leave without a good reason.”

“Thank you for those words, Harry”, Dumbledore said. “On a more positive note. I have heard that your group has done a great job in the battle.”

Harry shrugged. “Actually, I wanted them to keep safe, but they all wanted to help.”

Dumbledore smiled at him. “A great sign of loyalty.” he said. “I must congratulate you for composing this group. It seems you have chosen the right people. Thank you for that.”

“I don’t think we have done so much good.” Harry said. “They are all talented, but to put them against Death Eaters…” He paused. “And we lost a member.” he quietly added.

Dumbledore nodded sombrely. “Unfortunately you did. The loss of Miss Johnson has hit us all rather hard. But the first part of your statement could not be more wrong, Harry.”

Harry looked up at him, surprised. “What do you mean?”

“I left Alastor in command of the Order of the Phoenix in my absence.” Dumbledore said. “Professor Tonks immediately apparated to Grimmauld Place when Mr Creevey came with the news of the attack and the Order members immediately alerted the Auror Office and apparated straight to Hogsmeade, under Alastor’s lead. He told me if you and your friends hadn’t been there, they would have been outnumbered three to one until the Aurors got there. The presence of the DA has saved a lot of lives that day, Harry.”

Harry nodded and couldn’t help but feel proud of the members of the DA. This was the first test they had, the first time they were ever exposed to real danger and they had all fought more bravely and valiantly than could be expected from them.

“Now Harry, I realize you have been very curious as to where I have been all those times I left the school.” Dumbledore said. “But I am afraid the truth is far less exciting than the many theories you have undoubtedly formed yourself.” He smiled serenely. “The truth is, I have been tracking an old friend and colleague of mine.”

“All this time?” Harry asked puzzled.

“Yes.” Dumbledore stated. “He is an extremely intelligent and competent wizard and he has been trying very hard to remain undetected.”

“Why?”

Dumbledore stood and walked over to the cabinet that he used to store his Pensieve. He took the Pensieve, sat it carefully on his desk and sat down in front of Harry again. “The man I am talking about is Horace Slughorn. He was the Potions master when he was at Hogwarts. Among others, he has taught your parents, Sirius, Hagrid and Tom Riddle.”

“He has taught Voldemort?” Harry asked eagerly.

“Indeed”, Dumbledore said. “The reason Horace was in hiding is that Voldemort has people looking for him ever since he came back. Luckily for him, those Death Eaters do not possess the powers – forgive me my immodesty – and means I possess to track him.”

“Why does Voldemort wants to find his old Potions master?” Harry asked. “It can’t be for the potion to get around the blood protection. He has Professor Snape for that.”

“Indeed he has.” Dumbledore agreed. “But there are some things that Horace knows that could be dangerous for Voldemort to get out in the open. He could have spared himself the effort. It has taken even me hours to persuade Horace to give me this.” He took a glass phial out of his top desk drawer that clearly contained a memory. “It has affirmed to me what I expected, but the problem is more complex than I initially thought. I would like you to see it.”

Harry and Dumbledore entered the Pensieve together and watched a memory of the sixteen year old Tom Riddle who asked his large Potions master about some very dark piece of magic.

When they resurfaced from the Pensieve, Harry immediately said: “A Horcrux! Did he create a Horcrux?”

Dumbledore nodded as he indicated for Harry to take his seat again. He took his own seat after his desk before he said: “Yes. I was fairly certain that he made one even before I found Horace. It seemed to me that was the only way he could have survived when the Killing Curse he fired at you backfired and hit him instead. Normally he should have been killed on the spot, but he wasn’t.”

“So if you find this Horcrux and destroy it...” Harry said slowly. “He’ll be mortal again.”

“That’s the general idea.” Dumbledore said. “But I am afraid it will be a bit more complicated than that.” He paused. “You can barely call Voldemort human anymore. He has a human body, but his features have been so twisted and distorted… I can hardly believe that is the work of one Horcrux.”

“You mean he has split his soul more than once?” Harry asked disbelievingly. “He has made more than one Horcrux?”

“Do you remember what the young Tom Riddle asked Horace in the memory, Harry?”

“Isn’t seven the most magical number…”*, Harry mumbled. Dumbledore nodded. “Seven Horcruxes?!”

“Actually, six. The seventh part of his soul still resides within his body.”

“So all of the Horcruxes, which could be any object hidden anywhere in the world, have to be destroyed and only then there is a slight chance of defeating him?”

“Yes.” Dumbledore said. “That is quite correct.”

“Well, we’d better start thinking than, hadn’t we?”
________________________________________


The first thing Harry did when he was back in the Gryffindor common room was tell Ginny, Ron and Hermione everything Dumbledore had told him, after performing Snape’s Muffliato charm. Dumbledore had asked him to keep the information secret, but agreed with Harry when he said his two best friends and his girlfriend ought to be trusted.

“Wow.” Ron said. “So there are six Horcruxes out there that have to be destroyed before he’s even mortal?”

“Actually five.” Harry said with a nervous look at Ginny, who was sitting beside him. “One has already been destroyed.”

“By Dumbledore?” Hermione asked.

“No”, Harry said, hesitating. “By me, actually.”

“By you?” Ron asked non understanding.

Ginny didn’t seem to follow either, but Hermione gasped. “You mean the diary?”

Harry nodded and looked at Ginny who had paled. “That was a piece of his soul?”, she asked softly. “I was possessed by an actual piece of his soul?” She looked disgustedly.

Harry put a comforting arm around her as Hermione and Ron left the two alone. “It’s okay” Harry said softly. “It’s destroyed now, isn’t it?”

Ginny nodded, but she was still looking appalled.

After a few moments Harry said: “Look Ginny, I’m really sorry about how I acted towards you after – after what happened.”

Ginny looked at him surprised. “You don’t need to apologize, Harry. We were all shaken by what happened. And quite understandable at that.”

“No, I do.” Harry said determinedly. “I know you don’t deserve that. You have done so much for me. Much more than you know. And you’re always so good to me, even when I’m an ungrateful prat.”

He hugged her closely and she rested her head on his shoulder. “I love you, Ginny.”

He had said it before he realized he had formed the words in his mind. Ginny looked up at him abruptly. “Did you just say…?”

Harry felt himself reddening when Ginny looked at him with wide, brown eyes.

“I guess I did.” he said softly. Ginny pushed him backwards on the couch forcefully and kissed him passionately.

“I love you too, Harry.”



“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” – Love Story (film)

*Quote from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

________________________________________
Chapter 24: Moving On

Saturday morning, a week after the attack on Hogsmeade, Angelina would be buried in her hometown, Mould-on-the-Would. Dumbledore had granted the members of Dumbledore’s Army special permission to attend the funeral. They took a Portkey together with a delegation of teachers and Dumbledore himself.

The cemetery where the funeral would take place had been charmed with Muggle repelling charms and the service would take place in a tent on the adjacent lawn. Harry regretted to see how few relatives Angelina had had left when he took his place somewhere in the middle of the tent.

The service was led by a small wizard who probably was a Ministry official. He talked for a while about the innocent life that had been taken and coping with loss for those who are left behind. Harry couldn’t really relate to his words much.

After that there were short speeches by Professor McGonagall, who talked about Angelina’s achievements in school and on the Quidditch pitch and Alicia Spinnet, Angelina’s best friend.

After the funeral, Harry was approached by Oliver Wood, Angelina’s predecessor as Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

“I just can’t believe she’s gone.” Oliver said after shortly greeting Ginny, Ron and Hermione . “How did she ever deserve this?”

“I know.” Harry said sombrely. “She was always the toughest of us, wasn’t she? Well, after you of course.”

Oliver managed a watery smile, but just for a second. “I just feel so helpless.” he said. “She was out there fighting Death Eaters and all I am doing is playing Quidditch.” He sighed. “I read you formed a group at school that helped fight that day.” he continued. “Too bad I’m not at school anymore. I would have loved to join you.”

“You could join the Order.” Ron blurted out. “Ouch!” Hermione had given him a punch on his arm. “What was that for?”

Oliver looked at them curiously. “The Order?”

“The Order of the Phoenix.” Harry explained. “It’s a secret society. They try to oppose Voldemort and his Death Eaters.”

Oliver seemed very interested. “Could anyone join them? I’m not the best dueller or anything, but if I could do something to stop those gits…”

“I guess…” Harry said. “Maybe if you talk to Dumbledore. He’s their leader.”

Oliver nodded, apparently not surprised. “Maybe I should do that soon.” he mumbled.

When he had left, Ginny took Harry's hand and squeezed it gently. “Come on.” she said softly. “They’re waiting for us.”

They took the Portkey back to Hogwarts and appeared in the Entrance Hall. Harry looked at the DA members and said: “Tonight at eight. The usual place. Alright?”

They all agreed and went their own ways.

When the DA had gathered in the Room of Requirement that night, the atmosphere wasn’t excited and cheerful like usual, but rather depressed. Over the last week Harry had been able to put what happened out of his mind sometimes, as he was busy with classes and his private lessons, but attending Angelina’s funeral had hit everyone pretty hard. They were still waiting for one member before they would start the meeting.

“Did he say anything?” Harry asked Seamus.

The Irish boy nodded. “Yeah, he said he was working on something. Has been at it for quite some time actually. He said he would be right here.”

As if on cue, the door opened and Dean Thomas entered, carrying what looked like a large rolled up sheet of Muggle drawing paper.

“What do you have there?” Harry asked.

Dean shrugged. “It’s a drawing. I thought maybe we could hang it out somewhere.”

“Let us see.” Seamus encouraged him.

Dean rolled the drawing out and showed it to everyone. Harry’s heart gave a painful stab when he saw the drawing. It was Angelina, naturally, sitting on her broom in Gryffindor Quidditch robes with her captain badge proudly pinned on her chest.

“It’s Angelina like I remember her.” Dean said softly.

“It’s beautiful.” Padma said with tears in her eyes.

Harry looked around and saw that a lot of other DA members were choking up.

“Let’s hang it over here.” he said and walked to the wall where there already hung various pictures. Harry and Dean pinned it to the wall next to the picture the DA had taken in happier times.

“I’m very glad that you have all come tonight.” Harry said when everyone had sat down again. “Even after what happened last week.”

There fell a silence while everyone was staring at him. “Now I want you to know that none of you have any obligations whatsoever to be here. The contract you signed states that you won’t give away any information about us, it doesn’t bind you to us. Whenever you want to leave this group, you can. No one will think any less of you.”

“What are you talking about, mate?” Seamus said. “We’re Dumbledore’s Army.”

“I know." Harry said patiently. “But we have been forced to fight last week, at a terrible price and no one can guarantee that that was the last time.”

“No one was forced to fight, Harry.” Parvati said. “We chose to.”

Harry had been convinced that would be the reaction of the members from Gryffindor, but he wasn’t so sure everyone would think the same way. He glanced at the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws.

“Not only Gryffindors are brave, Harry.” Luna smiled.

“It’s the same for us.” Ernie said. “No one forced us to fight. We wanted to.”

Harry nodded. “But now you know what’s out there.” he said. “You know what can happen if you stay with us. We lost Angelina. What if this happens again…”

“Then so be it.” Fred said harshly. “We knew perfectly well what we got into, mate. All of us did.”

“We all know what can happen.” Ginny spoke up. “But that’s precisely the reason why we have to do it. Everyone will have to contribute if we want to end this bloody war.”

“But we’re teenagers.” Harry said slowly.

“That didn’t ever stop Voldemort or his Death Eaters from killing anyone, did it?” George asked. “We can’t expect the grown-ups to take care of everything. We might have had when we were kids, but it doesn’t work that way. Not anymore.”

“It’s more or less what Oliver meant this morning.” Hermione said. “Whatever someone can do to make a difference, they should do it. However little that difference may be.”

Harry nodded and looked at his fellow DA members with a strange pride. These were the real heroes. Not those people at the Ministry who were too afraid of Voldemort to even speak his name.

“Very well.” he said. “I have one more thing to say. I spoke to Dumbledore yesterday and he didn’t seem to think the difference we made was that little. He told me our participation in the battle has probably spared many lives. I realize I haven’t said this to any of you, but good job!”

The spirits lifted noticeably after that. However they didn’t practice at all that meeting. They just sat and talked. Mostly about Angelina, but also about the battle and memorable achievements from various DA members.
________________________________________


On Monday morning, Harry and Ron got a note from Professor McGonagall at breakfast.

Mr Potter

Please report to my office at 5 o’clock this afternoon.

Professor M. McGonagall

Harry looked over at Ron’s note and saw that it was exactly the same. “What’s that about?”

“Dunno.” Ron said. “Ginny and Hermione didn’t get it.”

Harry looked around and saw that Fred and George had received an identical note. If the twins had anything to do with it, it would probably mean trouble. Although Harry couldn’t recall of breaking any school rules lately. Not more than usual anyway.

When he arrived at Professor McGonagall’s office that afternoon, Fred and George were already there, along with Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell.

“Ah Mr Potter, good you’re here.” McGonagall said. She gestured to the only empty chair in front of her desk for him to sit down. When he had sat beside Katie she said: “I think you all know why I called you here today. I did not want to do this too close after the devastating events of the weekend before last, but after the unfortunate passing of Miss Johnson the Gryffindor Quidditch team is one player short.”

The six remaining players of the team looked at her silently.

“I wanted to consult with you before I made any decisions. You have after all been playing together for five years now, except for Mr Weasley, and I think it is best if you make arrangements for a replacement yourself. That is, if you want to.” She looked at them inquisitively.

“She can’t be replaced.” Fred said.

“I understand that the Quidditch Cup is the least of your worries now.” Professor McGonagall said soothingly. “But – “

“I wouldn’t say the least of our worries.” Harry interrupted her. “Angelina was supposed to be graduating. This was her last year on the team. She wanted that Cup. We owe it to her.”

Alicia nodded. “It’s the only thing we can do for her.” she said softly.

“Well, Gryffindor is comfortably in the lead at the moment...” Professor McGonagall said.

“Exactly.” George said. “We don’t need a new Chaser. We’ll win that Cup with the six of us.”

When they all agreed, Professor McGonagall said: “Very well. I suppose that you don’t want to appoint a new captain too then?”

“Angelina is our captain.” Harry said.

Professor McGonagall swallowed and seemed to have a hard time to keep herself together for a moment. “Very good. It will be as you wish. Normally a team would not be allowed to play without a captain, but I am sure Madam Hooch will be willing to make an exception for these – “, she hesitated, “special circumstances.”

They all nodded. “Alright then. Off you go.”

“We did the right thing, right?” Alicia asked as they walked back to the common room.

“Of course we did.” George said. “You know what she would say to us though, right?”

“’Are you bloody crazy?”’ Harry said. “’If we lose that Cup because of your foolish sentimental feelings, I will come and haunt you for the rest of your lives!’”

They all laughed and it felt strangely relieving. It was the first time they had been remembering Angelina and it made them laugh instead of cry. Harry thought that would probably be more like how she wanted to be remembered.

“Well, you sure are going to have a lot of work next year.” Alicia said to Harry as they entered the common room and took a seat by the fire.

“What do you mean?”

“Fred, George and I will be gone too next year. You’ll have to form half a new team.”

“Who says I’ll be the new captain? Ron and Katie are still here too.” Harry said.

“Well yeah, but Ron has only been with the team for one year. McGonagall won’t choose him over people who have been with the team for so long. And Katie, well – “ She smirked.

“Let’s just say I’m not really the captain type.” Katie said merrily. “Do you see me lead a training? No one would pay attention to me.” She laughed.

Shortly after Ginny and Hermione entered the common room, returning from the library. They seemed extremely satisfied with something.

“What’s up?” Ron asked.

“Malfoy’s busted.” Ginny said happily. “Pince heard him call Justin a Mudblood. She took him straight to Dumbledore. You know, zero tolerance and all.”

Ron shrugged. “So? He’ll lose some points from Slytherin. It’s not that big a deal.”

Neville, who had come to sit with them as Ginny was talking, answered: “Nah. Remember when he called Hermione – “ he paused, “that word? McGonagall was furious. She said at the next Prefect meeting that he was a pathetic excuse for a Prefect in her opinion and she would make sure he lost his badge if it ever happened again.”

“Yeah but it’s not her decision, is it?” Ron asked. “He’s a Slytherin. It’s Snape’s decision.”

“Not if Dumbledore overrules him.” Hermione said.

Harry wasn’t very interested in whether or not Malfoy would lose his Prefect badge. Malfoy had been unusually quiet since Christmas. He hadn’t thrown one insult in their direction in the corridors or during class and he seemed to be almost always on his own. It struck him as rather odd he would return to his old habits so suddenly.

“What happened?” he asked the girls. “With Malfoy and Justin I mean?”

Ginny shrugged. “Dunno. We only heard him saying something about not needing help from filthy you-know-what’s.”

“Help?” Harry asked. “Like homework or something?”

“I don’t know.” Hermione said slowly. “Didn’t seem like it. Why?”

Harry ran his fingers through his hair. “Where there others there?” he asked as the other members of the Quidditch team left for dinner.

“Yeah, just his two gorilla bodyguards.” Ginny answered. “What are their names again?”

“Crabbe and Goyle.” Hermione said.

“Didn’t they kind of stopped being friends?” Harry asked.

Ron shrugged. “Seems like they are hanging out again. Come on, let’s go to dinner. I’m starving.”

Harry was quiet the whole way down to dinner, thinking about what Hermione and Ginny had told them. He didn’t really believe that Malfoy had jumped back to his old behaviour. He was sure something was going on with the Slytherin and he was determined to find out what.
________________________________________




After the next DA meeting Harry hung back in the Room of Requirement and asked Justin to give him a hand to clean everything up. The real reason was of course to ask him about Malfoy. He had told Ginny, Ron and Hermione to go on without him and that he would catch up with them later. He knew they would try to get his mind of the whole Malfoy thing, especially Hermione.

“I don’t really know, Harry.” Justin said when he asked him. “I happened to run into them in the library. They seemed to be arguing about something, but I couldn’t really make out what exactly.”

“Do you remember anything they said at all?” Harry asked exasperated.

The Hufflepuff shrugged. “Goyle didn’t actually say anything. I don’t think I have ever heard him talk now I come to think of it. Crabbe said something about where Malfoy’s loyalties lie and Malfoy retorted that he knew perfectly well what he was doing and something about his father.”

“About Lucius?” Harry asked curiously.

“No, Crabbe’s father I think” Justin said. “I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t want to go any closer or they might have seen me eavesdropping.”

Harry nodded understandingly.

“Anyway. Whatever he said must have been insulting because Crabbe grabbed him by his robes and Goyle was right behind him of course. They looked like they were going to give them a good pounding and well… Malfoy may be a git, but it seemed a bit unfair. So I used that Bat Bogey Hex on them you taught us before Christmas. Crabbe mumbled something about Malfoy’s new friends helping him and that’s when Malfoy said he didn’t need help from filthy Mudbloods like me.”

“Something’s going on with Malfoy.” Harry muttered.

“Yeah, it didn’t really make sense to me either.” Justin agreed. “You don’t reckon it has something to do with his sister?”

They had shared Jacinta’s story with the DA after Christmas, so the members could all keep an eye on her during the year.

“What do you mean?”

“Well he had some injuries when we came back after Christmas right?” Justin said. “He had clearly been beaten too. Maybe he tried to stop his father.”

Harry nodded. That had been his own theory too, but he didn’t see what this had to do with it. “Yeah I think he did.” he said. “But that doesn’t explain his change of behaviour.”

“Maybe he doesn’t agree with his father’s beliefs anymore.” Justin said. “Maybe he finally formed a mind of his own.”

Harry looked at Justin, thinking deeply. He knew it was in the nature of Hufflepuffs to think the best of people. Cedric Diggory was the best example of that, he thought. He briefly considered talking to Malfoy, but he quickly dismissed the thought as ridiculous. This was Draco Malfoy for Merlin’s sake. If there’s one person in this world who would never change, it was Draco Malfoy right?
________________________________________




Harry didn’t tell Ginny or his friends anything about his thoughts about Malfoy, but whenever he encountered him in the corridors or they shared a class with the Slytherins, he paid special attention to him. It was like the argument between Malfoy and his former best friends had never taken place though. Nothing had changed, except for the fact that Malfoy’s Prefect badge had indeed been taken away.

Ron and Hermione remained oblivious about Harry’s interest in Draco Malfoy, but Ginny was not that easily fooled. She felt a little insulted that Harry hadn’t told her anything about it, but decided she wouldn’t ask anything until he said something himself. She managed to hold out until Saturday night. Harry and Ginny were again the last people that were down in the common room and had snuggled up onto their favourite couch in front of the fire.

“So when are you planning to tell me?” Ginny asked suddenly.

“Tell you what?” Harry asked slowly.

“Where this sudden interest in Draco Malfoy comes from.”

Harry looked at her. Her brown eyes were twinkling softly. “What makes you say that?” he said.

“Oh please, Harry.” Ginny laughed. “You may have Ron and Hermione fooled, but I know you better than that.”

“Do you now?” Harry said mischievously. “So you think you know me better than Ron and Hermione do?”

“I’m quite certain I do.” Ginny said as she lay her head on his shoulder. “I know you always have treacle tart for dessert on the Welcoming Feast, because it’s your favourite and you missed it all summer. I know you always run a hand through your hair when you’re thinking hard about something. I know your Firebolt is the most precious gift you ever got, not because it’s a world class broomstick but because it was the first present Sirius ever got you. I know that I’ll always say no if someone asks me again if I’m not jealous of Hermione because she spends so much time with you, because you think of her as your obnoxious, brilliant sister. I know Hogwarts will always be your favourite place in this world, because it was your first home. I know you love coming to The Burrow because you never had a real family and everyone considers you family when you’re there…”

Harry didn’t say anything. Ginny looked at him with a more brilliant twinkle in her eyes. “I bet not all of your friends know all that, do they?”

Impressed, Harry cleared his throat and muttered: “No, I bet they don’t.”

And then he pulled Ginny closer and kissed her more fiercely and passionately than he had ever kissed her. When they pulled apart, he hid his face in her long, red hair and breathed in her flowery scent. “I love you.” he whispered.

“I love you too, Harry.” Ginny said softly. After a few minutes she sat up and said: “Don’t think you’re getting away that easily. You’re still going to tell me.”

Harry smiled and told her everything, from the moment Malfoy returned after Christmas up to his conversation with Justin in the Room of Requirement after the last DA meeting.

“And Justin thinks Malfoy may have turned around?” Ginny asked sceptically.

“Yeah and the more I think about it, the more I think he might be right.” Harry said.

Ginny looked at him thoughtfully. “It may seem to fit, Harry, but we’re still talking about Malfoy here.”

“I know it doesn’t seem very likely.” Harry said. “But stranger things have happened.”

Ginny laughed. “I guess that’s true. Maybe you’re right.”

“I don’t know what I have to think, really.” Harry said. He was glad he told Ginny. He knew if he had told Ron and Hermione they would have thought he lost his mind. He knew Ginny would never mock a theory, however far-fetched it may be.

“Maybe you should talk to Dumbledore.” Ginny said.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. He has enough to worry about with everything that’s been going on.”

Since the Hogsmeade attack the Death Eaters had also attacked both Diagon Alley and Ottery St Catchpole. They had received the news that the Weasleys had permanently moved in with Sirius and Lupin at Grimmauld Place as they couldn’t be sure The Burrow was save anymore.
________________________________________




The last Quidditch game of the season was approaching fast. Gryffindor and Ravenclaw would decide in a direct confrontation who would win the Quidditch Cup. Gryffindor currently had 250 points more, however the spirits of the team had never been lower. They still practiced together, but only one time in a week and they didn’t do much more than flying around a bit.

The day before the Quidditch final however, Harry and Ginny had another commitment. The trial against Lucius Malfoy was scheduled that morning and Harry and Ginny had both been called as witnesses. They were expected at Dumbledore’s office 9.45 am sharp to take the Floo Network with him to the Ministry. When they arrived Dumbledore was already waiting, together with Draco Malfoy. It seemed like they had been discussing something, but both stopped talking when Harry and Ginny entered. The Slytherin didn’t acknowledge the presence of the couple in anyway so Harry and Ginny did the same.

“Ah Harry, Ginny.” Dumbledore said. “I trust you are both ready to go?”

They nodded. “Isn’t Jacinta coming?” Harry asked.

Malfoy looked at Harry briefly when he mentioned his sister’s name.

“No, she is not.” Dumbledore said. “The Wizengamot believes it is best she is not present during the trial. I will read her statement to the court myself as I was the one who executed the interrogation.”

Harry was relieved. He didn’t know how Jacinta would react if she would stand eye to eye with her father again. Maybe she would even be too frightened to testify against him. It was also reassuring that Dumbledore had been the one to interrogate her and not some unknown member of the Wizengamot.

“Let us go then.” Dumbledore said as he took a pot of Floo Powder from the mantelpiece. “Sirius will be waiting for us in the Atrium. He wanted to be there.”

Harry nodded. Sirius had written him already, colourfully describing the fact that he wanted to see that child-abusing prat go down. He had used some words in his vivid description Harry never expected to hear from an adult.

“Ladies first.” Dumbledore smiled to Ginny.

They met Sirius by the Fountain of Magical Brethren and together they made their way down to the courtrooms. When they reached courtroom ten, where the trial would be held, they saw Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy already waiting by the door for the trial to begin, accompanied by two Aurors. Draco immediately went to sit with them. Lucius, despite the charges still a respected man in the wizarding community had been granted permission to await his trial at home, but Malfoy Manor had been guarded by Aurors day and night.

Dumbledore gave Harry and Ginny an encouraging smile and entered the courtroom to take his place with the Wizengamot. Harry felt himself getting more nervous by the minute and wished they would get it over with. He felt Ginny take his hand and squeeze it reassuringly but he saw she was just as nervous as he was.

“You’d better be ready for this.” they heard the silky voice of Lucius Malfoy saying softly after the Aurors had left. “I hope you rehearsed your story very well.”

Apparently Draco had received specific orders about what he would have to say.

Sirius looked about ready to punch Malfoy in the face. “Pathetic ferret.” he grumbled.

Harry caught Ginny’s eyes and they both grinned. They had never told Sirius the story of the amazing bouncing ferret, so the older wizard didn’t realize he had said something funny.

The doors to the courtroom opened on their own accord and they all got to their feet and slowly walked inside. The trial was again led by the Minister of Magic himself, together with Dumbledore and Madam Bones. The only difference with the last time Harry had been called before the Wizengamot was that the benches around the room were empty. Apparently this was to be a closed trial and not even the press was allowed inside the courtroom. Sirius was probably only allowed to be here because Harry was still underage and Sirius was his legal guardian.

After Scrimgeour opened the trial, Dumbledore read the statement of Jacinta to the Wizengamot. Then, the friendly Healer that treated Jacinta at St Mungo’s entered and told them everything about the injuries the girl had when she was brought in and by what possible ways she could have gotten him. She was beyond all doubt the girl had been beaten severely when she was brought in.

When he was done with the Healer, Scrimgeour interrogated Harry and Ginny about the time they had found Jacinta when she had been beaten up by Crabbe and Goyle. When they finished their story Scrimgeour turned to Dumbledore. “These students were expelled, I trust?”, he demanded.

Dumbledore looked extremely uncomfortable. “I am afraid not.” he answered. “I am not authorized to make that decision by myself in such an extreme case. I asked the board of school governors to let the accused students appear before Hogwarts High Court, but they refused.”

“What do you mean they refused?” Madam Bones asked flabbergasted.

“There were no witnesses to the incident. The only proof we have is the word of young Jacinta Malfoy.” Dumbledore said regrettably. “The governors didn’t think that was sufficient evidence to call together the High Court.”

Scrimgeour nodded, but Madam Bones didn’t seem to accept that so easily. “But that’s outrageous! If those students are guilty, there is no place for them in a school!”

“I quite agree, Madam Bones.” Scrimgeour said firmly. “But unfortunately that is a decision that rests with the Board of Governors and the Board of Governors only. It is not within our powers to overrule their decisions.”

He turned to Lucius Malfoy. “As for you, we can do something.” he said. “Witnesses for the defence?” he added dully as if there really wasn’t a point in still listening to his defence.

“My wife and son, Narcissa and Draco Malfoy.”

Narcissa was called to the stand and hung up quite a nice story of a devoted husband and father who would never harms his kids. When asked about the injuries Jacinta suffered, she stuck with the story she had told at St Mungo’s back on Christmas: she had fallen down the stairs.

“The Wizengamot calls to the stand: Draco Lucius Malfoy.” Scrimgeour said after Narcissa’s interrogation. “Mr Malfoy will be questioned by Albus Dumbledore.”

“Do you confirm the story of your mother, Draco?” Dumbledore simply asked.

Malfoy looked down at the floor and slowly shook his head.

“What?” Harry said. He couldn’t have been more surprised. He looked at Ginny and Sirius. They seemed just as baffled as he was.

“Jacinta had been beaten when she was brought to St Mungo’s last Christmas.” Dumbledore said. “Severely beaten. Could you tell us who was the one that did that to her?”

Draco looked at him hesitantly. Dumbledore looked piercingly into Draco’s eyes.

“My father” he finally mumbled.

Lucius jumped from his chair. “You filthy traitor!” he shouted and tried to get to his son.

“Incarcerous” a deep voice said from by the door and Lucius was immediately bound in ropes, still shouting and cursing at his son. They saw Kingsley Shacklebolt had been one of the two Aurors who had taken the place of their colleagues. Kingsley subtly winked at them.

“Order!” Scrimgeour shouted. “Mr Malfoy, please sit down and be silent or you will removed from the courtroom.” He nodded to Dumbledore to continue.

“Was that the first time your father attacked your sister?”

“No.” Draco said, still looking shocked by his father’s reaction. “He has beaten her before. Repeatedly.” He swallowed. “I have heard it a lot, but I… I always acted like I didn’t know it. Like it didn’t happen… He made sure he never did it front of me.”

“Until last Christmas.” Dumbledore added and Malfoy nodded. “What did you do when he started hitting her?”

“I was frozen.” Malfoy said. “I never really wanted to believe it and as long as I never saw it… I could imagine it wasn’t real. He kept hitting her and…” Harry was shocked to see tears appear in Malfoy’s eyes. “I was afraid he would kill her. It was like he hadn’t any control over himself anymore. So I tried to stop him. And then he turned on me.”

“What did your mother do then?” Dumbledore asked.

“She took Jacinta to St Mungo’s. She knew father would never hit me to the extent he did with Jacinta.”

“Alright, Mr Malfoy. Thank you for you testimony.” Dumbledore said friendly. “I have one more question. Could you please tell the Wizengamot the reason your father justified his actions of last Christmas with?”

Draco looked back at the floor. “She spoke the Dark Lord’s name.”

Harry couldn’t believe his ears. Lucius had beaten his only daughter into the hospital, simply because she had the nerve to speak Voldemort’s name? It took all the self-control he had not to pull his wand and curse Lucius on the spot.

The Wizengamot didn’t need to consider long about the verdict. Lucius and Narcissa both lost their parental authority and Lucius was sentenced to one year in Azkaban for intentional assault and battery. They would search for a solution for the Malfoy children shortly.

Harry looked at Draco Malfoy as Dumbledore guided him out of the courtroom. He was even more pale than usual and it seemed like he started to realize what he had done. He had blown up the ties with his family. He would never be able to go back home and he probably shouldn’t expect a warm welcome in the Slytherin common room when they got back. Harry wondered what would happen to him now and even felt slightly sorry for him. But then he realized that this was Malfoy. Despite the fact that he had done the right thing today, he had still ignored the abuse of his sister for years, acting like it wasn’t real. It was a lot harder to worry about him when he had acted just like his own cousin had all those years.

“Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard” – Dave Mustaine

________________________________________
Chapter 25: A New Home


After saying goodbye to Sirius, Harry and Ginny accompanied Dumbledore and Malfoy back to Hogwarts. Malfoy left Dumbledore’s office without another word, but Harry turned to his headmaster.

“You knew, didn’t you?” he asked.

Dumbledore nodded. “Mr Malfoy came to see me a couple of days ago. He told me everything that has been going on in Malfoy Manor and he asked me to make sure Jacinta would never have to return there. I persuaded him to testify against his father, in exchange for protection.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Who does he need protection from? He’s one of them, isn’t he!” He conveniently forgot about the fact that he had doubted that himself.

Dumbledore smiled serenely before he answered. “I do not blame you for thinking that, Harry. He has never given you a reason to believe otherwise. But I can assure you that Draco Malfoy would never join the Death Eaters.”

“He only cares about himself, Professor.” Harry said.

Ginny nodded. “Maybe he doesn’t agree with everything they stand for, but he would join them in a heartbeat if he thought he would be safe that way.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Indeed he would have done. But the Draco Malfoy that came back after Christmas is not the same boy he was for the last years. I am certain two perceptive young people as yourselves have already figured that out for yourselves.”

“I just thought he felt guilty about what happened.” Harry said. “That doesn’t change everything he stands for.”

“You are quite right about that, Harry.” Dumbledore said calmly. “But it is my believe there is much more to Draco Malfoy then meets the eye.”

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.

“Mr Malfoy spent the first eleven years of his life being brainwashed. His views on Muggles and Muggleborns are just the same as those of his parents, because that is how he was brought up.”

“Jacinta had the exact same upbringing and she doesn’t think that way.” Harry protested.

“And Harry spent all those years with the Dursleys and they hated everything about the wizarding world. That hasn’t influenced him about it.” Ginny spoke up.

“Yes indeed, but you have an entirely different personality than Mr Malfoy.” Dumbledore stated. “You and Jacinta have far more bravery in you than Mr Malfoy will ever have. But that does not automatically make him a bad person.” He smiled. “I do not expect you to become the best of friends. All I ask is to try and understand where he came from.”

He walked over to the door and opened it. “And now you had better go down for lunch. I have to speak to young Miss Malfoy about the trial.”

“What will happen to her now, Professor?” Ginny asked softly.

“She will be placed into a foster home.” Dumbledore answered. “Do not worry. I will make sure that we find a good family for her.”

Harry and Ginny went down for lunch and joined Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna and the twins at the Gryffindor table. Luna generally sat with them during meals now as she had few friends in her own house. Her first three years at Hogwarts had been quite lonely. Her eccentricity put off a lot of people. Neville had been her first real friend and she was happier about being accepted in his circle of friends than she let on.

Harry and Ginny told their friends everything about the trial and what Dumbledore had said in his office.

“Dumbledore’s definitely off his rocker.” Ron said. “Malfoy would be too glad to join the Death Eaters.”

“I don’t know.” Hermione mused. “He has been acting rather odd lately, hasn’t he? He hasn’t insulted me in months.” She looked over at Malfoy, who was eating by himself at the end of the Slytherin table.

Harry and Ginny grinned at each other. They shouldn’t have doubted her. Nothing goes past Hermione.

When they left the Great Hall after lunch they bumped into Malfoy at the double doors. Malfoy stood there staring at Harry for a moment. Then he muttered: “Thanks” and disappeared towards the dungeons.

“Bloody hell.” Ron mumbled. “Did Malfoy just thank you? What did you do?” He looked at Harry as if he had affronted him terribly.

Harry shrugged. “No idea.”
________________________________________




The next day, the last Quidditch game of the season was planned. Normally this was one of the most exciting events of the school year as the game normally decided who would win the Quidditch Cup. However, the fact that one of the teams had lost their captain during the attack on Hogsmeade created a grim atmosphere around the match.

The six remaining members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team changed into their red robes without saying a word. When everyone was ready to go, they seemed to be waiting for a pep talk that would never come. At last they just nodded and walked upon the pitch.

Lee Jordan, who was commentating as usual, asked the spectators to join the players in a moment of silence as a tribute to Angelina. Even the Slytherins in the stands seemed to realize this wasn’t the time for snide remarks or taunts.

“Let’s do this.” Fred said softly, as Madam Hooch released the Bludgers and the Snitch. “For Angelina.”

The five other team members nodded. “For Angelina.” they repeated.

The least you could say was that the game was over quickly. Alicia and Katie put up a good fight against the three Ravenclaw Chasers, but weren’t really a fair match.

Cho didn’t use the same approach as she did the last time Gryffindor played Ravenclaw. Back then she had tailed Harry instead of looking for the Snitch herself. This time however, Ravenclaw was behind Gryffindor in the ranking and she had no choice but to look for the Snitch herself. She had spotted the Snitch when Ravenclaw was leading 180 to 20. If she caught the Snitch Ravenclaw would win the Quidditch Cup.

Harry reacted quickly when he saw Cho diving towards the ground and speeded after her. He thought of a Wronksi Feint first, because he didn’t spot the Snitch right away, but then he saw it had changed direction and was speeding towards the Gryffindor stands. This change of course was an advantage for Harry. He turned swiftly and now he lay several feet before Cho. He knew Cho was no match for him when it came to speed and he easily caught the snitch right above the Gryffindor stands.

Harry slowly flew a lap around the pitch with his fist in the air. He was met halfway by his teammates. He noticed that Alicia and Katie had tears in their eyes and even the Weasley brothers seemed to be lost for words. They had lost for the first time that year, 180 to 170, but they had won the Quidditch Cup for the second time in a row.

The team slowly descended towards the pitch and they walked over to the platform where Dumbledore was waiting for them with the big silver Cup. They looked at each other uncomfortably. Normally the Cup would be presented to the captain of the team. Finally, they all grabbed the Cup, three on each side, and lifted it in the air.

It was the strangest feeling Harry had ever felt. The pride and happiness about winning the Quidditch Cup were mixed with the feeling of utter loss.
________________________________________




Harry and Ron were the last ones left in the locker rooms. They weren’t in any rush. Neither of them fancied going to an overcrowded common room to celebrate. When they finally left, they saw that Ginny and Hermione were waiting for them outside.

“Fancy a visit to Hagrid?” Ginny asked. The girls had guessed Harry and Ron wouldn’t be in any mood to attend a victory party at the moment.

They happily agreed and they made their way across the grounds towards the Forbidden Forest. Harry felt slightly guilty as he realized his visits with the gamekeeper had decreased greatly this year, but he just didn’t have time mostly.

Hagrid was as happy as he always was to see his favourite students.

“Come in, come in.” he said eagerly. “Sit down. Want some tea?”

Hagrid put a plate of his famous rock cakes on the table, but they remained untouched.

Hagrid congratulated Harry and Ron about winning the Quidditch Cup. They were talking for a while when Hagrid turned to Harry. “So did you already hear from Sirius today? Dumbledore said he had to appear before the Wizengamot this morning.”

“He what?” Harry asked dumbfounded. Sirius hadn’t said anything about it to him when he saw him yesterday. “Why?”

Hagrid looked at him startled. “I don’t really know. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you.”

Harry stood up immediately. “Come on”, he mumbled to the others and they followed him outside.

They walked straight to Gryffindor Tower. Harry crossed the common room without saying anything to anyone and ran up the stairs to the fifth year boys dormitory with Ginny, Ron and Hermione in his wake.

“Harry, what are you doing?” Ron asked pressingly, but Ginny and Hermione seemed to understand.

Harry opened the drawer in his nightstand and grasped the Two-Way Mirror Sirius had given him for Christmas. “Sirius Black.” he said clearly to the glass.

After a few seconds Sirius’ face appeared.

“Harry!” He looked at him worriedly.

“Why did you have to appear before the Wizengamot?” Harry asked before his godfather could say anything else.

Sirius’ face seemed to relax. “Oh. How do you know about that?”

“Hagrid told me.” Harry said. “Now tell me! They aren’t sending you back to Azkaban, are they?”

“Don’t worry, Harry.” Sirius smiled. “It’s nothing of the sort. I can’t say anything now. I have to go back this afternoon for – “ he paused. “For the decision.”

“But – “

“I have to go now, Harry. Sorry.” Sirius said quickly. “Go to Dumbledore’s office after dinner tonight. I understand you have one of your lessons planned with him later anyway, yeah? I’ll meet you there.” And he disappeared.

Harry looked at his friends, who looked just as stunned as he was.

“What was that all about?” Ginny wondered.

“No idea.” Hermione said. “Well, you’ll hear it tonight I guess.”

None of them felt like going down to the common room or to the Great Hall for lunch, so the four of them stayed in the dormitory and hung out together.

“I wonder where Jacinta is.” Ginny suddenly said.

“What do you mean?” Ron asked. “She’s downstairs, isn’t she?”

Hermione shook her head. “I don’t think so. I haven’t seen her all day. We didn’t even see her at the game and she loves Quidditch.”

“I don’t think it’s Quidditch she loves.” Ginny laughed. “She loves Harry.”

Harry looked at her stunned.

“Oh, I don’t mean it like that.” Ginny said. “But she’s really fond of you. You made quite an impression on her.”

The silence that followed was only interrupted by the grumbling of Ron’s stomach. “I’m famished.“ he said, but he didn’t seem to be eager to get up and go downstairs. “We should have a house elf.”

Hermione looked at him severely. “You’re just lazy, Ron.” House elf rights were still a sensitive topic with her.

“I wonder if Dobby would come if I called him.” Harry mused.

Hermione had discovered last school year that Harry’s old house elf friend Dobby was working at Hogwarts now. Dumbledore had been the only person Dobby could find who was prepared to pay him.

“You shouldn’t – “ Hermione began.

“He gets paid, Hermione.” Ginny said quickly. “Try it”, she said to Harry.

“Er, okay.” Harry hesitated. “Dobby!”

There was a loud crack and Dobby appeared in the middle of the room. He looked around confused for a moment, but then he saw Harry.

“Harry Potter, sir!” He bowed deeply.

“Hi Dobby.” Harry grinned. He had grown to like the little elf since he freed him back in his second year. “So I am able to call you.”

“Oh yes, sir.” Dobby said. “Every inhabitant of the castle is able to call Dobby, but not many people know him, sir.”

He turned to Ginny, Ron and Hermione and bowed for them too.

“Do you think you could bring us some food here, Dobby?” Harry asked friendly.

“Of course, Harry Potter! What do you wish Dobby to bring you?”

“Some sandwiches will do, I think.” Harry said and Ron nodded approvingly.

“Right away, sir!” Dobby said and he vanished with another crack.

After they had finished their lunch, Hermione started another long discussion about the suppression of house elves.
________________________________________




When Harry entered the Great Hall that night for dinner, he wasn’t surprised to see that Dumbledore wasn’t sitting at the staff table. He ate quickly because he was eager to hear from Sirius.

“Ton Tongue Toffee.” he said to the gargoyle. The statue jumped aside and revealed the stone staircase that led to Dumbledore’s office. When he entered the room, he was surprised to see that not only Dumbledore and Sirius were there, but also Jacinta.

“Harry!” she said happily when she saw him. “I’m coming to live with you!”

“You – what?” Harry asked stunned.

Sirius grinned at him. “I filed for custody this morning. They had their doubts because I had been in Azkaban for so long, but when they saw it would be Jacinta’s first choice too it was a formality really. They already decided this afternoon.” He smiled at Harry. “You have a little sister” he added.

Jacinta hugged Harry tightly. “That’s great.” Harry smiled, rubbing her back. “You sure you’ll be able to handle a girl in the house?” he grinned at his godfather.

Sirius grinned back broadly. “We’ll survive. We still outnumber her.”

Dumbledore looked happily at the scene before him. He had strongly supported the idea of Jacinta living with Harry and Sirius before the Wizengamot. The idea that a man who recently spent twelve years in Azkaban gained custody of a child was controversial at the least, despite the fact Sirius had been proven innocent and his name had been cleared. Finally however, Dumbledore had been able to persuade them. The headmaster knew Jacinta couldn’t find a better home. He also knew that having Harry and Jacinta to take care of was the best thing that could have happened to Sirius. The light-hearted, sometimes irresponsible, young man he knew from before had grown up and changed into a caring father figure.

“What will happen to Draco now?” Harry asked Dumbledore with a quick glance at Jacinta.

“Mr Malfoy will spend his holidays at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore stated. “When he graduates, he will have to live on his own.”

“Is that even allowed?” Harry wondered.

“Normally students are not allowed to stay at Hogwarts during summer break, but in this case the board has made an exception.” Dumbledore said. “He will be given his own living quarters within the school. I am afraid I cannot let him stay in the Slytherin dormitories.”

“Why not?” Jacinta asked softly.

Dumbledore sighed. “There have been several – “ he hesitated, “several incidents in the Slytherin dungeon since yesterday.”

He looked at Harry meaningfully and Harry realized Malfoy had been given a hard time because of his testimony against his father.

Sirius and Jacinta both left soon. Harry stayed as he had a private lesson planned with Dumbledore, although the word lesson wasn’t really an accurate description of their meetings anymore. They still practiced duelling, but Dumbledore hadn’t showed Harry any new spells lately. Harry had mastered everything Dumbledore had taught him and had even started teaching some of it to the DA. Over the last few weeks however, every time Harry and Dumbledore met they discussed the Horcruxes and possible hiding places.

They knew there were still five Horcruxes out there. Dumbledore was convinced that Hufflepuff’s Cup and Slytherin’s locket were Horcruxes too. He also thought the ring that belonged to his grandfather was one. He had showed Harry all three objects in the Pensieve. Harry had offered that the final two Horcruxes might be relics of the other two founders, but Dumbledore didn’t think it possible. It was there where they had left of in their last meeting and Dumbledore continued as if they had only interrupted their discussion for a few moments.

“There are only two objects that were known to belong to Godric Gryffindor, Harry.” he said after Harry had sit down in front of his desk. “And they are both still here.” He gestured towards the sword and the Sorting Hat. “And I am certain neither of them is a Horcrux.”

“Alright.” Harry said. “What about that diadem you told me about?”

Dumbledore nodded. “The only known relic of Rowena Ravenclaw. A very curious object. Legend tells us that it sharpens the brain of the wearer. There are a lot of stories about it, but there is no proof that the diadem even existed. It is lost.”

“Well, maybe it’s lost because Voldemort hid it.” Harry tried.

Dumbledore shook his head slowly. “I do not think that is a possibility, Harry. The diadem is not lost for a few years. It has been lost for centuries. No person alive has ever seen it.”

Dumbledore stood up from his chair and started pacing around his office. “I have the feeling we are looking too far. Every Horcrux he made has to do something with Hogwarts or the founders, I am certain of that. The ring once belonged to Slytherin, as did the locket. The cup belonged to Hufflepuff…”

“What about the diary?” Harry asked. “That never belonged to one of the founders.”

“Indeed it did not.” Dumbledore said. “But the diary was the proof that Voldemort was the one who continued the work of his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin. In his mind it did bind himself to Slytherin in some way.”

“Bind himself to Slytherin…” Harry mumbled under his breath. “Professor...” he spoke out loud. “Is it possible for a Horcrux to be a living thing?”

Dumbledore looked at him confused. “I would think so, Harry, but it seems unlikely Voldemort would choose that. I do not think he would trust any creature with a mind of his own to harbour a part of his soul.”

“What if there was a creature who’s mind can be easily controlled by Voldemort?”

Dumbledore looked at him for a second. “Nagini.” he said.

Harry nodded. “Voldemort thinks he’s the only Parselmouth alive.” he said. “I’m sure he would think that binds him to Slytherin.”

“He certainly would.” Dumbledore said. He looked impressed. “It is a possibility. I will look into it.”

“Did you try the orphanage already?” Harry asked.

They had come up with several possible places where Voldemort could have hidden his Horcruxes. Dumbledore had already checked out Borgin and Burkes, Godric’s Hollow and the Riddle House and the orphanage where Voldemort grew up was next on the list.

“Yes.” Dumbledore said. “Nothing.”

He didn’t seem the least bit agitated about the fact that another one of their theories had been proven wrong. “I will travel to the Gaunt house next weekend.”

“The Gaunt House?” Harry asked. “I thought you would have checked that out when you went to the Riddle House.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes I intended to, but I am not comfortable with leaving the school for too long anymore. After what happened in Hogsmeade…”

Harry wished he hadn’t said anything. He knew his headmaster still felt terribly guilty because he wasn’t there when his students were in danger. “Okay”, he said quickly. “And will you still take me?”

“Yes, Harry. Once I find a hiding place, I will come and get you.” Dumbledore smiled at him. “But remember, keep as quiet as you can about this. It would be catastrophic if Voldemort found out what we knew.”

“Of course, Professor.”

“Then you can go, Harry.”
________________________________________




The lonely cloaked figure stared up at the gates of Hogwarts before him. The protective enchantments that had been installed after the Dark Lord’s return would prevent him from entering, but he had to get inside. It was of vital importance that he talked to him. He remembered one of the secret passageways that his brother had discovered during their time at Hogwarts. He would have to take the slight risk of being caught breaking in, but it would have to do. He turned around and made his way towards Honeydukes.
________________________________________

“The truth is: you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride and nothing is guaranteed” – Eminem



A/N: Please tell me what you think. Every review is highly appreciated.



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Next is 26.
1 comments

Anonymous readerReport

2014-04-09 20:39:47
your stories keep getting better and better please continue making them •^•

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