Author's Note:

Hi again. Apologies for the delay with getting this next chapter out. I have been on travel quite a bit recently (like every other week in a different country for work type of thing) and it's not getting any better for the foreseeable future. I write when I can but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the energy over the jet lag. Please forgive. I have no intention of abandoning this work after all of the time I have put into it but chapters might come out more slowly.

Now onto year 4 and the beginning of the end of Part I with the arrival of Tom.

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

Harry's emerald eyes darted around his room at Grimmauld Place. With a methodical and machine-like ease his vision passed over every nook and cranny to make sure that he hadn't left anything of note behind.

Not that it mattered too much, however. How could it after winning Kreacher's insane loyalty following the incident with the Horcrux and him now carrying on a modified version of Regulus's once noble quest to destroy the Locket. Ever since that moment in the attic, Harry knew that the elf would be all too happy to answer his summons at Hogwarts or anywhere else, popping wherever his master had need of him to be. It was an unexpected boon to say the least.

Satisfied that all of his belongings that he had intended to take to Hogwarts with him had been collected, Harry glanced towards his familiar and dependable school trunk. Aside from what he had been responsible for packing, he wanted to check on the elf's progress.

"Kreacher!" Harry called quietly, not wanting to draw attention from Sirius and Remus, both of whom he could hear speaking from the parlor below him.

In a flash the elf was before him, a look of sheer devotion on his face.

"Master called? How might Kreacher be of service to a proper Master?"

"Have you finished? Are they all here?"

The elf nodded excitedly and snapped his fingers.

"Oh yes, Master! Kreacher did not stop until all of the books that Master had requested to be copied from the Black Library were finished. Kreacher finished early this morning he did."

"Very good, Kreacher. I didn't get a chance to read through as much as I would have liked with Sirius wanting to make the most of the last few weeks we had together before returning for school. You know how can get…" Harry trailed off just as said Godfather's voice sounded from below.

"Harry, it's time to go if you want to make it to King's Cross in time."

In the privacy of his room he rolled his eyes; Sirius's concern over each and every little facet of his life had become predictable, tiresome, and most unnerving of all, oddly tolerable.

"I'll be right down, Sirius! Just making sure I have everything."

Harry waited until he heard the grunt of acknowledgment from his Godfather before returning his attention to Kreacher.

"Kreacher understands. Kreacher is proud to be useful for the important work that Master Harry is doing for House Black. Kreacher would do anything for Master."

The ends of Harry's mouth curled upwards in half annoyance and half amusement at how attached the elf had become to him. As grateful as he was for the elf's help – there was something about the elf that continually reminded him of his followers.

Or maybe that was just because they were always on his mind, for he longed to feel them close to him after making it through the summer with only an afternoon at the Quidditch World Cup were they had all been together.

At any rate, Harry felt slightly uncomfortable over his bond with the elf. It only went one way with Kreacher while with his followers it wasn't just their loyalty and devotion to him that connected them. Harry had also given part of himself to them and that made all the difference.

Still, the elf certainly had been useful and in the end Harry could only shake his head of the comparison to those whose presence he would be in the company of shortly.

"Thanks, Kreacher. You can take that downstairs now. I'll let you know if I need anything else while I'm at Hogwarts."

Harry nodded his head and the elf bowed low once more before popping downstairs with his trunk.

With that, it was Harry's turn to exit his bedroom. Harry pocketed his wand and made for the stairs.

He took a deep breath and the mask that he most frequently used around his Godfather and Remus slid into place.

"I'm ready to go," Harry announced upon reaching the bottom of the stairs.

Both of the adults turned towards him, and for the briefest of moments Harry saw pain in Remus' eyes before it turned into that look that adults give to children when they are growing up too fast.

"Have everything, Harry?" Remus inquired, stepping forward to greet the young man and pull him into a hug.

"Yep, Kreacher just dropped my trunk off by the fireplace."

Harry pulled back and tilted his head upwards, looking into the werewolf's eyes, still able to see snippets of the man's desire to go with Harry and Sirius to Hogwarts. But Harry couldn't dwell on the man's feelings of being left out and loneliness.

Remus had a much better life now than what he had had previously. No longer was he wearing second-hand clothes or worrying about what he was going to do to earn a living. He had comfort now, certainty.

Besides, when Harry had firmly established his base he would make sure to reward the man that had provided the means for him to escape the Dursleys sooner rather than he would have been able to without his Godfather to serve as a suitable guardian. True, the man would never be in his inner circle but that didn't mean that there wouldn't be a place for Remus.

Harry's musings about Remus' new role as the steward of House Black and the fact that he wouldn't be going back to Hogwarts was pushed out of Harry's mind quite suddenly when Sirius thought it appropriate to give him a big bear hug before setting him down and giving him the once over.

"A forth year! Just look at you."

Apparently, it wasn't just Remus that decided to be maudlin today.

"Can hardly believe it pup. Feels just like yesterday that Lily and James brought you home from the hospital. And now look at you; why, I can hardly believe how much you've grown this summer."

Harry indulged his Godfather for the next few minutes, understanding that this situation of sending him off to school – even if he would be there the whole year teaching one of his classes – had more to do with Sirius than it had to do with him.

A few minutes later the ten-thirty chiming of the clock should have refocused Sirius on them getting a move on; however, it just made the inevitable end of their summer that much more palpable.

"Are you sure that you wouldn't want to come to Hogwarts directly with me? We could spend the whole day together. Perhaps go out to lunch at the Leaky Cauldron once more?"

It was obvious that Sirius was desperate for a few more hours of the comfortable rhythm life had become post Azkaban but Harry had no intentions of missing the train and his friends.

"You know that would look weird, Sirius, seeing as how you are going to be my Professor this year. Besides, I told Neville and Justin that I would help look over their summer homework on the train."

Harry had been ready to say more but, and to his credit, Sirius seemed to know that his proposition had been a very long shot.

"Can't blame a guy for trying, can you pup?"

Harry gave a half smile and rolled his eyes.

"Well, we should get going then," Remus announced, moving the pair onward until they were in front of the fireplace.

With a last hug and promise to write Remus often, Harry entered the floo with Sirius and they were off to King's Cross.

Harry was content. At peace - for the most part. All of his followers – minus Trelawney – were with him again. It was a most satisfying feeling, knowing that their magic was mingling once more with his as they sat in a compartment at the back of the train.

The others were at ease as well, and as the train left the station Harry took further comfort in passing his eyes over each and every one of those whose magic responded to his in the most delicious of ways.

Justin and Cedric sat across from him and to the left, and like always they had parchment in front of them that they were excitedly discussing.

Ginny sat next to Cedric and her focus was solely on the wand in her hand. It was so very like the warrior Harry saw in her as to how reverently she polished over the smooth yew wood with a cloth, and Harry could have sworn that he caught the reflection of the wand's core in her eyes.

Neville was the last person on their bench and all the way to the right. Like Justin and Cedric, Neville's attention was focused on the pages before him: a book on plant genetics and understanding the perils of breeding rare magical species.

On Harry's side and to his left sat Luna. Content as always, his youngest follower was looking out the window with both a terrifying and dreamy expression on her face. No doubt she was experiencing her steady state of a continuous stream of the very best and worst that lay both before and behind them. Of all of his followers, Luna had a special place in his magical core because last spring he had notice that he had sent a little bit more of his magic along their link – which, if Harry had to guess he was sure that some part of his subconscious desired to help ground and strengthen Luna's mind against the onslaught of images that never truly let her be at peace.

Roger sat on the other side of Harry and closest to the door. As the oldest among his follower's present, Roger naturally felt inclined to put himself between the group and the outside world. Especially relevant in his mind after hearing about what occurred last year on the Hogwarts Express with the Dementor.

As the train chugged along and into the countryside, leaving London behind them, the mere attempt from Harry to focus on his connection to their magic naturally drew their attention towards him.

"I trust that everyone will be ready for tomorrow… for me to test your abilities with Occlumency. As I said at the end of last year, things have happened, are happening, that require us to be as prepared as we can possibly be."

His followers nodded as one but it was Roger who spoke for the group.

"Of course we are prepared, my Lord. We have completed all that you have asked. We wrote to each other every day on our progress and what we learned, and a few times we even managed to train as a group."

"I truly wish that I had been able to join you more in person," Harry replied.

"Sirius, however, desired to spend a lot of time with me this summer in his attempt to make up for the last twelve years… and those times he was attending Order meetings with Remus were the only openings I had in freely searching through the Black Library."

The others tipped their head forwards slightly in acknowledgement, already knowing much of this – but knowing that Harry was telling them this anyways to convey just how much he would have preferred to be in their company. Because they understood that he would have joined them had he not been doing something important, so important that it could decide the very shape and path of their future.

"However, Kreacher has proved most useful and all of the contents of the infamous Black Library have now been copied into my personal library. Don't worry," he smiled devilishly as their eyes widened dramatically, "I will take my trunk to our trainings and make the library available to you as well."

Soon their Cheshire-like grins matched his.

"Now, moving on, we know that this year will be different with the Triwizard Tournament happening – thanks for the intel, Roger, Cedric," his viridescent eyes showering them with approval, "and as such we will have to be more cautious than ever with our usual meetings…"

"I think security may be lighter than what I indicated in my previous letters detailing the delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang who will be joining us this year," Roger interrupted.

"My dad seems to now think that each school will be staying in their own quarters outside of the castle. That should make it easier to keep to our regularly scheduled training and meeting sessions."

"But it doesn't hurt to be extra cautious," Cedric spoke up. "Besides, it gives us an opportunity to perfect Disillusionment and other stealth charms."

"I think you both have valid points," Ginny added in an almost bored tone. "Though, I would also suggest that we look into some offensive options, you know, in case we need to incapacitate someone and then make them forget they saw us."

Harry could only chuckle while nodding approvingly at her suggestion. After all, her comment had coincided with the use of her wand in first trimming her nails and then applying a most realistic, blood red coating to them.

"It never hurts to be prepared," Harry agreed with a gleam in his eyes.

"I, for one, can't wait to see a little action this year. Too bad you have to be seventeen to enter the tournament. With how annoying Ron was all summer over our seats at the World Cup, my wand is just itching to throw a few curses."

"He was worse than usual," Cedric shook his head. "There were times I thought I heard him whining from our house."

"Oh, is that what that cry was?" breathed Luna airily, "all this time I thought it was warring faerie tribes battling for dominance."

If anyone had thought that that comment was weird they didn't show it. In fact, Ginny even found it amusing and her sharp laugh filled the train compartment.

The others had grins as well, fully accepting their youngest and smallest without question over her peculiarities.

"Ron is insufferable, Ginny," Neville quipped when his smirk died down. "How you've managed to not put him in a permanent full-body bind by now I will never know."

"Patience is a virtue, Neville. Don't worry, he'll get what's coming to his lazy and self-absorbed arse, and it will be glorious," she grinned predatorily.

Enough for chills to deliciously trickle down Harry's spine. He could feel her plans for her brother through their link and Harry knew that he wouldn't miss her retribution for anything. It was sure to be killer.

"Speaking about the age limit and going on the offensive: Roger, have you given any thought to entering on behalf of Hogwarts?"

The group turned from Justin to Roger.

"I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't thought about entering, but with everything else going on this year – with what you have yet to reveal to us Harry…about our future… I'm not sure if I will have the time. Harry?" Roger questioned and his eyebrows rose ever so slightly.

Harry took his time with responding. True, Roger's thinking was very much in line with his own, and the boy would most likely decline entering after tomorrow night, when he filled them in on everything. But Harry was also very much of the opinion that his followers should be able to make the decisions for themselves.

Of course, he hoped that they would make the right decisions, but if he needed to have complete trust in them he needed to be able to trust them to make the decisions for themselves. Their decisions were their own; he would never be the Voldemort that Lucius was tied to.

"I would support whatever you decided, Roger. If you want to compete then I would expect you would have thought through all the particulars – much like you just described. However, it goes without saying that should you enter the Triwizard Tournament then I fully expect you to win; I don't see how anyone else would be able to stand a chance against you."

Roger inclined his head towards Harry, not quite able to hide the blush on his cheeks with Harry's faith and trust in him. Not for the first time, he realized how grateful and truly lucky he was to be a part of something that not even magic could explain.

And he was fortunate; they all were. Each had that thought firmly in the back of their mind as the train continued barreling on down the tracks to Hogsmead.

Harry scanned the Staff Table in the Great Hall towards the end of the Sorting Ceremony. He was grateful that, as so far as he could tell, Sirius had managed to restrain himself and act more or less like the other faculty members. Sure, Harry had already made the decision to start revealing more and more of his true self this year as he began to slowly work his way towards others recognizing how brilliant he was. That, in and of itself, would attract a certain kind of recognition.

But that wasn't quite the same sort of attention that Sirius' antics would have brought him.

The noise died down with that thought as the final student took their seat with their new house. Dumbledore, however, was still clapping as he swept up to the podium.

"Another welcome to our new students."

The Headmaster then paused to sweep his eyes over the heads of the hundreds of students seated before him.

"Take in this moment where anything and any path about where your future lay is possible. Think of the friendships that will soon be formed or strengthened and the studies of magic that will fill your mind with wonder and knowledge. Most important of all though, is the growing that each one of you will do… and it is not just the first years that I am referring to now," the Headmaster's glance again took another pass over the house tables.

His blue eyes were not twinkling but they were sharp – the sort of sharpness that could easily command attention.

"This year, in particular, I urge each of you to think about the sort of person that you would like to be. To think about the type of person that you want to be remembered for, long after you leave this school and far into the future."

If Harry had not been paying close attention to the man he would have missed the slight – ever so slight – linger of the old man's eyes as they remained focused on the Slytherin Table just a fraction of a second longer than they had on the other houses.

"For it is never too late to reflect on one's behavior and start a new course, one that will take advantage of new friendships and new opportunities. Never forgetting to enjoy and build upon each of those moments as you continue your journey within Hogwarts and then beyond the Castle's walls. We never know quite where we will end up, but as someone who has lived longer than most I know how important it is to remain true to one's self and to one's conviction when facing the unknown."

Harry continued to pay attention to Dumbledore's most illuminating speech as Justin slyly whispered in his ear.

"Is he for real?" Justin breathed just loud enough for Harry, and only Harry, to hear.

"I mean, why doesn't he come right out and say that he thinks Voldemort is back and that soon everyone, but most importantly those who are Slytherin, will have to make a choice about which side they are on… he has to know that the majority of the school is far too thick to understand what he is trying to get at now. And him knowing that and going down this route anyway is almost…no, definitely worse."

"I think that Dumbledore thinks too highly of his words and the impression they give upon the students. I think the man hopes that his words will leave an impression in the back of their minds without them being aware about it. But still, we must be grateful for how much easier our path could be because this was how he chose to deliver this message," Harry whispered back.

Justin nodded and leaned away from Harry's ear.

"If everyone is looking to the left, then no one will even see us coming from the right."

Justin's word had been the barest level of audible sound that even he wasn't sure if Harry had heard him.

But Harry did, and he knew that magic was the reason. Just thinking about how special his interaction with his followers were brought him back to the end of Dumbledore's speech. No matter the end that Dumbledore was trying to reach, Harry did agree with part of the man's message.

For he knew exactly the direction that he wanted to go and the people that he wanted along on his journey – and he knew the steps that they needed to take to ensure the best chance that they would someday stand tall and make that vision of his most desired future come to life.

Just then, however, Dumbledore's tone changed to a more lighthearted feel. Since Harry was following along he surmised that the Headmaster had planned this little intervention to go alongside the introduction of the Triwizard Tournament.

A guess which proved to be correct as Dumbledore spent the next several minutes providing an overview of the other schools, how the selection of each school's champion would be handled, the tasks, and leaving the lack of Quidditch to last.

The Weasley twins were the most vocal opponents to that last bit but most of the school was so caught up with the excitement as to what the next few months would bring that Harry was sure they hadn't heard what Dumbledore had said about their being no Quidditch.

In fact, Harry almost became positive of that fact since the man's introduction of Sirius Black as their new Defense Against the Dark Arts' Professor hardly received anything more than the most polite of applause.

One would have thought that the once most wanted mass murderer in Britain being at Hogwarts would have stood up better against news of the Tournament. Of course, kids and adolescents were sometimes hard to predict and Harry just shrugged the thought off when Dumbledore finally finished and the food appeared.

Harry dug in like everyone else. He was hungry, and not just for the food. He had a lot planned for this year and he wanted to get started. He was so close to being reunited with his seven followers.

Just thinking about it made his core pulse and he had to clamp down on his magic quickly to avoid it searching out his followers. 'Tomorrow,' he told himself over and over again as he focused on his food and not looking up to the Head Table, where Trelawney sat.

His magic was just itching to be close to all of them and it had already mingled with the six he rode in with on the train. His magic didn't like that it would have to wait another day before seeing the last who had pledged her life and magic to him.

But tonight was out of the question. The teachers had a staff meeting and Harry was needed in the Hufflepuff Common Room for their house's buddy system kick-off event.

While he was no longer a buddy, he needed to be there anyway because of the changes implemented by Justin, Neville, and Cedric. They had had the foresight to try and have more and more upper years be present that first time the new Hufflepuffs entered the dorm, to support them. And Harry had seen how it had cultivated more and more of that Hufflepuff loyalty and support with the more fifth, sixth, and seventh years that they had gotten to be present.

So Harry would wait one more day, and he would savor their reunion.

The next day was the first day of classes and it was no surprise to Harry that fourth-year Hufflepuffs started off with Defense Against the Dark Arts. In fact, he preferred to just get through any awkwardness out of the way sooner rather than later due to having his Godfather as the Professor.

As expected, when they first took their seats and Sirius hadn't arrived yet all of the Gryffindors were animatedly discussing just how wicked it was that the recent escapee of Azkaban was actually going to be teaching them. Even Ron Weasley was running his mouth to anyone that would listen – an act that Harry found amusing considering that Ron's behavior had been the complete opposite at the end of last year. Apparently, the youngest male Weasley fully subscribed to any selective amnesia involving his pet rat.

You know, the one who was a rather disgusting human who had shared his bed for more than a decade and was also the little reason why Sirius was now a free man.

Harry's fond musings over some of the tantrums that Ginny had said that Ron had thrown about Pettigrew earlier in the summer were interrupted when the door to Sirius' office opened.

The class instantly quieted as they took in Hogwarts' newest faculty member.

They had seen pictures of the man throughout all of last year, and, of course, they had seen him at the Welcoming Feast – but they had been focusing on other, more important news.

Which meant that the full weight of this moment hit them right then and there. So they were entirely unprepared for what it was like to be in Sirius Black's presence when the man had it turned on.

Suddenly, even the thickest among them knew why this man had been an Auror and why he remained the only person that ever escaped from the inescapable prison.

It was more than just the way he walked down the steps like he owned them or stood in front of the class with a confident smile that left no one doubting his ability in the subject of Defense. A characteristic that Gilderoy Lockhart had always tried to show off but even his winningest smile would have fallen flat in comparison to the effortless aura that Sirius was giving off.

For whatever it was the man had it in spades.

"Good morning class," he smiled handsomely.

Some of the girls felt their hearts flutter; boys too for that matter.

"I understand that I need no introduction; however, just to be clear: I am Sirius Black and am here to teach you all Defense Against the Dark Arts."

And just because he could he winked at them.

Harry suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. From his time with him this summer he knew the man thrived in the limelight but he also knew that the man craved to be seen as that cool professor that the students would look up to.

"This year we will be focusing particularly hard on the first D in Defense Against the Dark Arts."

With this his eyes hardened somewhat, and while some in the class took it as smoldering – Harry knew that Sirius was very serious in preparing the students for Voldemort's return.

Having Trelawney on the inside was a godsend.

"The class won't always be easy," the new professor continued, "and there will be times when each of us will have to confront something that we don't think we can win against."

His dark eyes scanned the room in a manner that both further elevated the class's opinion of him and also managed to be a very real indication of 'this class has relevance to the outside world and if you pay attention you might just survive sort of thing.'

"But I am here to tell you that it can and we will. It might not always be pretty or fun but work hard and in the end we will see just how much of my knowledge as a former Auror I can pass onto you."

Harry was actually pretty impressed that his Godfather had managed his theatricality just right. Normally at home he was all over the place.

"So with that," Sirius clapped his hands and leaned backwards onto his desk, "we are going to go over the this syllabus for the first half of the year so you can orient yourselves better to the workload, subject material, and physical effort required for some of the more demanding spells. In this way, any trouble spots can be identified early and anticipated ahead of time– because I would hate to leave anyone behind when a good bit of effort now can see us over those particular hurdles later."

Again, simply the flash of his confident smile and the way his hair bounced off his shoulders cause a few more hearts to flutter with the beginnings of a silly crush.

The quick swish of Sirius' wand that then caused the chalkboard to fill out the detailed outline only further cemented his ability to command attention and respect.

Sirius then spent the next few minutes in making sure that everyone understood what was coming up and when and what would be expected of them to pass.

With half of the period remaining Harry knew that Sirius had planned to demonstrate some of his more flamboyant spells to ensure that he won over the students the way that he wanted to – and hence where Harry's primary concern over just what sort of spectacle he was about to witness lay.

But just as Sirius was about to move some of the desks to the side a familiar hand shot up into the air.

Pausing in his moments, Sirius called on her, "Yes, Miss…?"

"Hermione Granger," the girl sitting alone in the first row responded.

"Miss Granger," Sirius nodded, "did you have a question about the lesson plan?"

"Yes, sir," she blinked rapidly.

"I was wondering if we were going to cover the effects of Dementors in the second term? They weren't identified in any of the upcoming topics you just went over. I find that topic fascinating and would love to hear about your one-of-a-kind experiences with them."

She finished with her quill upright, ready to take notes.

The rest of the room just stared at her like she had just breathed fire.

Even if Hermione had been facing the other students it was unlikely that she would have understood the cardinal sin that she had just committed.

As it was, even Harry had half a mind to ask her how it felt to always be alone with no one by her side; no matter if on some level he understood her question had been purely academic in nature and that they were in Defense Against the Dark Arts and that Sirius was a unique case. It had just been very insensitively carried out against someone Harry liked.

But he didn't even have to say anything because the atmosphere in the rest of the room had instantly soured and some of the light in Sirius' eyes had left with the hollow and lonely thoughts from his time in Azkaban returning. His winning smile had also shortened and began to curve into a frown.

But Sirius had known that someone would have commented on this right away – hell, he had almost addressed this right out of the gate but assumed that the students would have had the wherewithal to be polite and let him bring it up.

However, it wasn't like he had been the model student and could admit that he had probably done similar things of equal shit value during his tenure as a student. So he chose his reply carefully, understanding why the girl likely sat alone and not trying to make her situation any worse. Besides, he was fully committed to this whole teacher thing and saw this as a teaching opportunity.

"You are right, Miss Granger. I've had more experience with Dementors than I ever thought I would – and can tell you with one-hundred percent certainty that it is not something I would wish upon anyone."

No matter how much he tried his voice couldn't keep out the pain of his incarceration.

"To be in the presence of a Dementor is to know despair on a level that you can't even imagine. To have every whole and good thought sucked from your mind and soul is not something I can adequately describe or prepare you for."

Looking around the room, however, Harry thought that Sirius was doing an adequate job at just that, judging by the rapt attention he held everyone with his words.

"Any worthless thought or doubt you have ever had about yourself is magnified and for most people that is a place from which there is no return. It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to last against them for very long – and I would consider myself fortunate indeed for not having had experienced the worst of them."

Sirius tried not to look at Harry, to draw attention to him, but couldn't help it. He locked eyes with his godson and found that Harry was not shying away from what was happening.

Rather, Harry knew that this was most logical course of action he could follow because of their relationship. And it wasn't like he was totally faking, either. Sirius was important to him on some level.

"I was spared the worst of the Dementors because I knew I was innocent. You see, that is not a good feeling in that situation and so it allowed me to retain much of what I would otherwise have been forced to give away. I was able to remember the people that I cared about because I thought I had failed them – and it was that very drive that gave me the strength to escape."

Sirius looked like he had been about to say more but then the end-of-class chime rang.

Hermione had of course scribbled down everything the man had said and then promptly packed her things and left at the end of class, still oblivious to how others perceived her or the grace in which Sirius had answered her question.

The rest of the class, though, and the Hufflepuffs in particular – led by Neville and Justin, showed that characteristic loyalty that the badgers were known for. One by one they went up and tipped their heads to the professor and expressed how much they were looking forward to learning form the man and thanking him for coming to Hogwarts.

Even Zachariah Smith – the diva of Hufflepuff – was resolute in solidarity.

Everyone slowly trickled out of the room, leaving Harry alone with Sirius.

"You handled that brilliantly, Sirius."

Immediately, Sirius pulled the younger man into a hug.

"Hope I didn't embarrass you there by bringing up the past in front of everyone."

"Not at all," Harry's muffled reply came before he pushed back.

"I don't think you could have given a better answer. Unfortunately, that probably won't be the last insensitive question that she gives you."

"Well, I will be more prepared for next time. You better run along now; don't want to give Severus any reason to give you a detention the first day back."

Harry laughed at that.

"Like I've ever gotten a detention."

Harry grabbed his books and began to walk towards the door, leaving Sirius with a gobsmacked expression on his face.

"You've never what?" He called out to Harry.

"That is unacceptable behavior for a Potter! I'll give you a detention if that's what it takes."

Which only made Harry shake his head as he walked out the room.

"No you won't!" he replied as he met up with Justin and Neville and the trio made their way to the dungeon.

The rest of the day passed without incident and finally dinner was over and nothing stood in the way of their reunion. Like a dam that couldn't hold back the flood anymore Harry's magic burst free and went about their hidden room in every direction. Finally, it was content now that it could mingle and reunite with the magic of his followers. The wait all the more sweeter because of how much this moment meant to them.

Again they were alone – truly alone in their little unused part of the castle, and Harry could finally bring them up to speed on Tom Riddle, Horcruxes, and their destiny.

And he didn't waste any time in testing the strength of their minds.

"It pleases me how well you have prepared yourselves." Harry's green eyes were especially viridescent when he was finished with his Legilimency.

"Not that I ever doubted the extent of your abilities, but I'll admit that getting past your mental defenses just now was more difficult than I had anticipated. I feel confident that you will be able to protect what I am about to tell you from all but the most accomplished of Legilimens."

His words of praise washed over them – and without a doubt they knew that they had spent their summers appropriately. They had gotten in touch with their magic, and now that it was laced with a part of Harry they truly felt like they could accomplish anything. Nothing was too great for them to overcome.

"Given that we have so much to discuss I think we should start at the beginning," he began.

And then he told them. All about the first prophecy that Trelawney had made that had sent the gears of fate in motion all those years ago. How the Dark Lord had then survived that fateful Halloween night on account of his Horcruxes – which then led to a thorough overview on exactly what Horcruxes were.

Something that Ginny and Cedric found to be extremely interesting since they had been both directly and indirectly affected by the Diary in second year.

From there Harry went through the second prophecy. Line. By. Line. Harry even provided his memory of the vision that he had had upon latching onto Trelawney while she had been in her prophetic trance.

This was the crux of why he was revealing everything to them – the stakes were just too high to chance leaving them ignorant and in the dark. What if the key to getting everything he ever wanted depended on something that only they could do?

If he wanted to be able to depend on their independent decision-making abilities than he needed them to have al the information to be able to make informed choices. Which meant they needed to know. Everything.

Besides – this involved their future just as much as his.

Still, Harry was being vulnerable in a way that he never had before – never even thought he would have been capable of only three years ago.

And yet, as he sat there watching his followers, his friends, reflect on his words he had no doubt that it had been the right thing to do. If he had thought that they were devoted to him before, the look of resolve that collectively appeared on each and every one of their faces made him believe, with one-hundred percent certainty, that it was only a matter of time before they succeeded.

With that settled, they wasted no time in divvying up the different parts of the prophecy to analyze, to study. Some would cover trying to understand the first prophecy and some would try and break down the second.

However, the brilliance to how the various roles and responsibilities were assigned was in their overlap; every line would have at least two sets of eyes and thus at least two, independent analyses. Of course, Harry would add a third vantage point in seeing how everything came together.

And they couldn't wait to get started. Each was itching to begin, feeling that the sooner they solved this problem the sooner they could meet their destiny.

So much so that Luna just couldn't hold it in any more. This particular thought had been flitting around in her mind all summer – having caught a glimpse at the end of last year when their circle had been completed.

She just knew that now was the perfect time.

"I think we should have a name. Yes, in fact, I'm sure of it," her soft voice echoed around the room.

"A name?" Harry clarified, a curious expression on his face.

"We need something to call us – to identify us," Luna added.

"Like the Death Eaters of the Knights of Walpurgis?"

"But it needs to be mean something more, to reflect on the bond that we share and the power that we will one day yield. It could be important."

Luna then closed her eyes and hummed, leaving the others to debate her words while she drifted off to focus on the images that never stopped.

"Well, there are seven of us plus Harry," Justin carried on, "perhaps we could start there."

"That would make sense. Seven was specifically called out in the second prophecy," Roger paused. "It is the most magical of numbers."

"And there are a lot of references that we could base this on, but where do we begin?" Neville questioned. "Why, I could think of dozens of possible starters… the seven hills and emperors of Rome, any of its uses in Arithmancy, or the number of planets that can be seen by eye. And let's not forget about seven continents or seven seas or that there are seven years of a Hogwarts education…"

Neville's eyes grew wide at the thought of narrowing this down.

"Hmmm," Ginny came to his rescue.

"You know, the prophecy makes specific reference to Egypt with Isis and with what I learned last year when we visited my brother Bill... " she paused for a minute trying to remember the story.

"Isis was married to Osiris – an all important figure and the god of the dead and the living," she continued, "Legend has it that Osiris was killed by his brother, Set, who cut up his body and scattered the pieces all over Egypt. Isis, however, set out to recover and reunite Osiris's body, and she did so under the protection of seven scorpions."

Immediately the others saw where she was going with this.

"We are very much like the seven scorpions, protecting Harry as he seeks out the severed pieces of Lord Voldemort's souls – in order to reawaken one to rule by his side."

"But seven scorpions doesn't sound quite right," Cedric shook his head.

"They were seven scorpions but they were called the seven; at least that was all that was needed since no one went up against them and lived. They protected her at all costs and eventually she was successful."

"Well, I don't know how I feel about just 'the seven,' even in Latin that would simply translate as septem… it would have to be something more."

Just then Trelawney's eyes widened.

"Oh ho!" she gasped. "What about septem sumus?"

One by one they turned to Harry, knowing that it fit; that no other term would ever be as perfect for them.

Even Harry couldn't deny the way the mere thought of the word made his magic sing.

"We are the seven or we are seven, both appropriate for what you are – for what you will become."

And then Harry's magic did something that they didn't expect – but when they looked back on this night they should have seen coming. How could it not have reacted like it had given how they were tethered to each other?

Harry's own core pulsed outwards brightly, its color matching his verdant eyes. At the same time the sliver of Harry's magic that resided within each of them also began to beat widely and soon a thread of green connected them again.

The feeling of completeness overwhelming their senses, but in the next moment all of the color in the room was drained into darkness; the viridescence of Harry's magic extinguished. Slowly, seven small balls of light began to form, growing in brightness to provide enough light for them all to see that sliver of Harry's magic that resided within each of their cores to move down the length of their arms and hover over each of their right wrists.

At the same time, a part of their own magic began to glow and those seven bits of different colors stretched outwards towards Harry. As they reached him a sliver was severed and the rest of the colored magic recoiled into the body from which it had come from.

Then, the different colors joined into a heptagram over Harry's wrist, each point representing and forever linking Ginny, Luna, Neville, Justin, Cedric, Roger, and Sybil to him. One by one each color brightened as the heptagram sunk into Harry's skin, forming a mark that matched how his core felt: knowing without question which point represented each of his followers without even having to look at their colors.

As each color was showcased on Harry's complete seven-point star, the corresponding pattern was burned onto the skin of his followers in the exact same orientation, leaving seven incomplete points. And then the colors disappeared, leaving slightly raised and flesh-colored lines as the only evidence of their bond.

But it had been done and the change immediate, and each of them could feel Harry just as much as he could feel them. They could feel his love, his trust, and his need of them and in turn Harry saw the depths of their devotion to him.

As one they rose and moved to form a circle around Harry.

"Septem sumus," they chanted in unison, bending down onto one knee while reverently touching the raised mark Harry's magic had left on their arm.

"My septem," Harry whispered, the ends of his mouth widening and curling upwards, "you will change the world."

And only Merlin knew just how much they would.

So, I didn't know where to end it. Decided that this was a good place because I would like to do the next three chapters encompassing the Triwizard tournament so they will be longer than usual (and slightly different than how they were portrayed in the books). Again, apologies for the delay.