Chapter 23

Susan's birthday had come upon Harry like a lightning storm, which means to say it was fast and furious. With the girl turning sixteen now Amelia Bones had insisted that they throw a formal party at Bone's Manor, and then at least informal party for just her friends and family at Potter Manor with the consent and help of Sirius and Remus whom were of course the only adult occupants at the manor. This had thrilled the two marauders whom had been doing nothing, but research and doing their best to aid Harry in his training for the summer.

Harry himself was glad for a bit of a break because he had been training very hard, and it was getting to be more than he thought when his friends after the press conference asked if he would hold a class for some of the DA this summer at Potter Manor, twice a week, once for everyone, and then a private meeting with no more than ten to fifteen people including himself. Harry was at first reluctant to accept, but then Susan managed to convince him that one of those classes he wouldn't have to do much, and the second class is when he could just help the teachers of the DA, so they could learn some of the advanced dueling he had been practicing and sharpening their skills to help teach.

This had led to some of the finest days of Harry's life. There was one afternoon where over thirty kids from Hogwarts had come over to train with Harry on the grounds of Potter Manor, and the entertaining thing was that some of the parents had even come to watch. Harry loved teaching the big group outside of Hogwarts, and he even loved training with his friends, because they mostly did it late at night. There were some nights that everyone would come over at about ten PM, and then they would stay up training till 1 or 2 am having fun and working on their spell work. It wasn't all seriousness all the time, and the adults seemed to realize that when a few of the parents of his senior members came to watch their practices.

It was after all pretty at ease, and Harry was not harsh with any of them, and they all seemed to genuinely enjoy using their magic, which was exactly how it was supposed to be.

The party at Potter Manor for Susan's Birthday was spectacular and in full swing. Most of the DA members were there, and of course all his senior members were there helping his girlfriend celebrate with style. Madame Bones was evening seeming to take off her working hat and enjoyed having good fun with Sirius and Remus, along with many other adult parents that were good friends of the Potter's and Bone's family.

The group had even set about to playing sand volleyball in a court that they had conjured earlier that day with lots of help, and the teenagers were having a right blast. Harry couldn't even help showing off to his girlfriend as he prepared to serve the ball, and had it levitate above him as he stretched his arms and acted like he was getting into the zone. This had some catcalls come from some of the girls, that Susan merely grinned at and Harry called out, "Its coming to you Longbottom think you can stop it?"

The boy whom had grown quite a bit since his days as a small quiet Gryffindor shouted back, "I don't have to think about it Potter I just do it."

Susan who was standing to Harry's left winked at him when she called at, "Yeah, tell Hannah that!"

The boy blushed and lots of people laughed, but Harry took this moment of distraction and leaped into the air pounding the ball over the net towards Neville who was unprepared merely bumped up into the air where Hannah tried to get some vengeance and blast the ball back with a bit of unnatural power, but Colin who was guarding the front of the net jumped back to stop the ball from being spiked onto his side, and managed to get it back into the air for Heidi Macavoy to jump and smash the ball down onto the other side of the net effectively ending the game 25 to 23.

This led to great cheers, and for Harry to grab his girlfriend and give her a searing celebratory birthday kiss, and some cat calls followed, but Harry just grinned as they separated. Heidi whom was walking by said, "Are you going to pass some of that love around to the rest of your teammates Potter or does Bones not like to share."

Susan flashed a wicked grin at the girl, "Bones does not like to share."

This caused some uproarious laughter, and Harry threw his arm around the girl, and Colin who ran over and high fived him hard in celebration of beating Ron and Hermione's team. The trio walked up to the campfire with most of their friends in toe. Chatter was light and friendly while the party came together up at the top of the hillside in which Potter Manor lied on. It had been a good day for Harry and his friends, and the night was still going a few hours later when the sun had gone completely down, and they were sitting around a bright fire with smiles on everyone's face. Susan said, "So what are we going to do for you and Neville's birthday Harry? I think you two are next in line, right?"

Neville shrugged saying, "Probably do exactly what you did Sue, will have a formal party at Longbottom Manor, and then something a little less formal, probably either somewhere in the muggle world or something I don't know for sure. It seems like every day these days is a blessing, and I will gladly celebrate it anywhere as long as I have you guys."

Harry raised his butter beer toasting the boy, "I'll drink to that mate!"

This caused everyone to raise their glasses, and Harry said, "Speaking of drinking too, I want to propose a toast…To the witch beside me, we have only been together about seven months, but she has given me everything I have ever wanted in life. She gave me my family that I have with Sirius, a home that I may never have been able to get too without her, and she has shown me something that I only heard in fairy tales…everyone here knows I love this girl, so please raise your glasses to Susan Bones, or as they are calling her in press these days, the girl who stood."

Ernie McMillan stood shouting, "To the girl who told us all to curse Voldemort while he was injured!"

Roars of laughter and approval rang throughout the campfire as people rose their glasses in a toast to the girl who blushed hard. Harry however turned to the girl and gave her a kiss on the cheek, and reached into back pocket in his cargo shorts, "And this is your birthday present my lady."

The girl smiled at him, and took the black velvet box, and she opened it and gasped, "Is this…"

"A real charm necklace? Yes. The last person to wear it was my mother I believe. It is passed down from Lady Potter to Lady Potter."

The girl looked at him shock written are her face, and she looked at him in almost disbelief, "Are you asking me…"

"No not yet, but not because I don't want to. Sirius explained to me how Wizarding culture works, particularly among purebloods, and that should keep any unwanted attention coming towards you or your aunt. That necklace says you are with the Potter family, and I promise you one day I attend to make it legitimate, but we are still young, and it is soon, so I hope you will take this as a promise that it will come one day, and that if not it was because I left the world earlier than I intended and didn't get to make it official. Never take it off if you believe in us, because now it stands for our relationship, and my promise." Harry said quietly.

Everyone around the fire watched in serious interest, and a few with even broken hearts. Not because they wouldn't have the boy who lived, but at the thought that perhaps no one would. It suddenly became very real in the minds of even the youngest of what Harry was sacrificing, and what he was prepared to sacrifice. Susan looked like she wanted to cry, but instead she took a huge smile saying, "Put it on me."

Harry's smile lit the rest of the dark night, as he fastened it around her neck, and gave her hand a soft kiss, while she laughed, "You've been talking to Sirius to much you cheese head."

A gruffer voice however came from nearby as it exclaimed, "Ms. Bones I will have you know that I was quite the ladies' man growing up, and I intend to pass it on to my Godson, so that way he knows his way around the gentleman's vocabulary!"

Madame Bones, and a few women close by to him that had followed rolled his eyes, and even Remus had joined them while the kids laughed, and parents started calling for the kids telling them that it was time to head back, and that they would all be returning for training or future parties soon. Susan however was staring at her necklace, and noticed something odd, "Harry I am pretty well acquainted with the history of your family, and some of symbols on the necklace, but what is the dome building here?"

Madame Bones laughed behind her and said to her niece's boyfriend with a bit of incredulity, "You didn't tell her the part of your gift that you went the most trouble to do."

This caused the boy beside Susan to blush as he said, "I was going to tell her in private, but she was to clever for her own good."

Susan looked confused while Harry explained, "My family owns a little villa outside of Rome, and with your Aunt's permission Sirius and I are going to go there and power up the wards, and even stay for a little visit, and of course I wanted you to come with me, so we could do some sight-seeing. You know it might be our last chance before everything hits the fan."

Harry had known from several of their conversations that Rome was Susan's most desired place in the world to visit, and the girl looked from shock to her aunt to Harry multiple times before asking loudly, "Are you serious?"

Sirius took the perfect time to announce, "No matter how hard my son may try Miss Bones I promise you he can't beat the original!"

This however just confirmed it with her aunt nodding with a smile, and she launched her arms into her, and then turned and launched herself like a catapult at her boyfriend who made it all possible, and whispered in his ear, "Think about all the fun we can get up too in the most magical city in the world.

Harry grinned at the girl and kissed her on the head as he wrapped his arms around her, "Happy Birthday Susan!"

"Duck down you are way to slow Colin."

With those words, Colin barely dodged a hex that Neville had flung at his head, as he took cover behind a nearby tree, and then began returning spell fire the moment he felt safe.

Harry was surveying the battlefield, as the final few people were still standing. Harry liked to break the senior members up into groups and have them duel to disarming in different locations and environments, and today they were in the forest by Potter Manor. On one team was Colin, Susan, Ron, and Hannah, while on another team was Hermione, Neville, Ernie McMillan, and Ginny. Luna whom had hurt her ankle a bit during training was standing next to Harry watching as he did and said, "Oh dear I think Ronald is going down."

Sure, enough as she said this Hermione and Ginny flanked him on both sides, but Harry said, "Don't count him out yet."

Most people would have looked at Harry as if he was crazy after saying that he thought Ron wasn't out of a fight against his fire cracker of a sister, and best mate whom knew more about magic than most of them ever dreamed of, but Luna merely smiled respecting Harry's insight. When the spell fire began towards Ron, he quickly dove behind a tree and cast the gemino charm on himself to create two extra clones of himself, as he had all of them dive out of the way and fire at the same time, "Stupefy."

Three spells flew, but two of them went towards Ginny whom spent so much energy to bat the first curse that was a fake away that the second curse caught her in the shoulder and downed her instantly. Ron however had a fully irate Hermione on him who was blasting him to shreds for taking out one of her teammates, and just when Luna was going to say I told you so, Susan came out from nowhere and began blasting Hermione with stunners, disarming hexes, and body bind curses. Hermione however was too smart to be overwhelmed, but cried for help which proved to be a bad decision as Neville came surging forward to have to duel with Ron while Susan was trying to destroy Hermione's cover to bring her out. Susan quickly found herself against Hermione and Ernie whom had come from nowhere. Neville had managed to take down Ron at the end of this, which quickly turned into a three on one duel and the tides had turned rapidly. However so caught up in taking down the skilled witch they didn't see Hannah whom had managed to flank them from behind come up and take out Ernie with ease and square off against Neville whom she had partially hit with a stunner, and more importantly forced Hermione out from her cover. This allowed Susan to properly duel the girl, and not allow her to retreat behind anymore trees for cover as she was now freezing the ground around Hermione so that way she could not try to run on the slick ground. This led to a fierce duel with excellent charm work, and Luna in a sing song voice said, "They are going to win."

Knowing who they were Harry shrugged, "Susan can handle Hermione, it's not like it used to be."

Proving him right Susan managed to push Hermione back onto the ice caused her to slip onto her bum and catch an immobilizing charm in the chest and disarming her with practiced speed. This brought it down to Neville whom was trying to get Hannah out of her hiding spot having to fight spells coming from two different directions, and eventually the two witches caught him with their spells and brought him down in ropes, and binded him tightly.

Harry grinned at the girl, but she smiled back, "I was still right about Ron."

However, the boy shook his head, "Ron sacrificed himself to take one of his opponents down, and to give his friends a chance to flank the enemy, it wasn't my favorite strategy because he could've been killed, but it did work for the purposes of the game, and situational practice. I could see many Gryffindors attempting to make this move."

Harry walked over and helped revive the downed members, and then walked over to Susan, "Congrats on the win, you lost two of your teammates, but I am not sure you could've won without their sacrifices. Let me ask you though did you know where Hannah was?"

Hannah grinned at the girl who blushed, "No we were split up at the beginning, I thought she was out of the fight."

Harry nodded, "Well good job concealing your surprise in her interference, but what were you going to do against all three of the duelist? Your good, and I think with some luck you could've taken two of them, but there is no way you were going to take Neville, and Hermione."

She shrugged, "Survive as long as possible, and hope that reinforcements would arrive. For the sake of the game I just thought I had lost and was preparing to make a stand and like you said try and take two of them down, and leave only one standing. Of course, we all know how the power goes in this group by now, so I was going to take Ernie out, and try to take it down to two on one and attempt to take out Hermione next."

Neville asked with bewilderment, "You thought I was the bigger threat than Hermione?"

Hermione patted the boy on the shoulder, "You've got more raw power than me Neville, and she could easily match me in regular magical prowess, so she would beat me with her admittedly very creative tricks."

This seemed to make sense to Neville, but still surprised him none the less, "Blimey."

Harry laughed a bit then said, "Hannah Susan may have taken out more opponents, but I think you got the MVP you wanted. Had you not gone around and flanked she would've gone down almost certainly. You may have only stunned one for sure, but you are responsible for 3/4s of the team going down. Well done."

Everyone patted the girl on the back at this as they began walking back to Potter Manor grounds, and Harry gave more words of encouragement, and Ernie said, "Would love to see you back in there with us Harry. Teach us a lesson or two."

Ron snorted, "Harry has more instinctual tactics than any of us combined, if he entered the fray even against four of us at once I think he would win. Not because of his power, but his trickery, and ability to give anyone the slip."

Hermione agreed having seen a lot of Harry's tactics first hand, "Ron and I have almost beaten him dozens of times, but never actually managed to do it, even with Susan's help a few times we couldn't take him down."

Collin then suggest, "Well why not ask Padfoot and Mooney to have a go with us to even it up. Maybe have just one of them at first, and if he still wins then we throw both into the match."

The idea had some credence, and Harry was feeling more in tune with his magic than ever. He had even dueled his dog father to a standstill the other day for nearly five minutes when he slipped up just a bit and caught a stunner to the face. Ever since they had started his animagus training he had felt more in the zone with his magic than ever before.

Before Harry could offer a suggestion, a voice came from behind them, "What if I offered my assistance instead for one round."

The whole group turned drawing their wands and pointing it at the new arrival, before they all lowered them seeing someone they hadn't expected to see, "Headmaster, what are you doing here?" Harry asked inquisitively.

The man smiled jovially, "I came here to speak with you my boy, and your godfather sent me out here, which led me to see you and your friends engaging in that wonderful game of tactics. I would love to play myself as this old wizard does not get to experiment much with such things anymore, but I assure you in my youth I would have loved something like this."

This caused some excited chatter, but Harry shrugged, "I don't know if there is any fair way to divide up the teams Headmaster."

The man frowned for a moment before shaking his head, "The 9 of you vs. myself, your godfather, and Remus Lupin. That allows you three to every one of us. Just for a bit of fun I assure you."

At first Harry just stared at the man, and most of the group thought he was going to tell the man to bugger off, and perhaps when he had a Horcrux in his head he might have, but he was not that man anymore, and proved it by smiling, "You get to tell the two old men the rules, while I prepare my troops. You are on Professor."

This caused cheers to go up on his side, and Harry smiled at his friends as the man apparated away. Hermione however breathlessly said, "We are in way over our heads, you all saw how he dueled Voldemort right?"

Susan however said, "That was for real though with lethal magic, and anything that goes. I actually think we are at the advantage here."

Everyone but Ron and Harry looked at her like she was crazy, but Ron agreed first, "She is right. Dumbledore must seriously limit what he does to us, and he will not have done anything like this before. We all however know the forest and know the rules and tactics. I think we have a chance if we can gang up on him quick enough."

Harry agreed, "If we try and fight the three of them or let them gang up on us were going to get wrecked, so this is what we are going to do."

The green-eyed leader started quietly talking over his plan with his friends and they all grinned evilly when he finished and asked, "Well?"

Susan put an arm around him, "I think its very sexy, when you get all smart and tactical."

This caused some groans for the group and Colin to laugh, "Get a room you two."

That is when Dumbledore appeared coming from the house with two marauders at his side.

(A/N) More to come!