In the Crosshairs1
by Dragon Voldemort2
CONTAINS LANGUAGE, SEX, NUDITY, VIOLENCE, AND DRUG ABUSE.
No infringement upon JKR's work is intended, this is done for personal fun and enjoyment. I hope you enjoy it too.
MILD SPOILERS MIGHT EXIST FOR OOTP, HBP, AND DH (though if you're reading this, you're likely done with those).
"Every guest in this Hall," said Dumbledore, and his eyes lingered upon the Durmstrang students, "will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again—in light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can only fight it by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.3"Chapter 1: Innocence Lost
Upon the stone dais, without benefit of support, stood a stone arch, below which was draped the Veil of Death within the Department of Mysteries in the basement of the Ministry for Magic. The curtain was smoldering, for beneath its gaze, on the edge of death was a simmering cauldron with black flame underneath. Floating in the foul smelling and boiling substance were a pair of eyes, both were blinking and staring, at Hermione, as if pleading. Hermione gave a look of scorn at those eyes, and then returned her gaze forward, not moving, for she was gagged and tied up to a stone column. Beside her, also gagged and tied up, was her best friend, love interest of another best friend, Gia, who didn't pay any attention to those eyes, but instead, the snake like red eyes of the figure beside the cauldron, the one scooping out the green acid-like substance into a goblet. He then swirled the cup.
"Behold!" Voldemort exclaimed, "The Elixir of Immortality!"
Two years earlier, more or less...
It started all so innocently, that hot summer after their fifth year. Instead of Harry going to the Dursleys, by tapping his inheritance Harry was planning on treating his friends to a trip4 across Europe.
We start on the morning of Monday, July 1st, 1996, in the county of Devon, just outside the village of St. Ottery, at a dilapidated and impossible building of the Burrow. Outside this building, Crookshanks was chasing a rat around the pond. Smoke billowed out of the kitchen window instead of the chimney; an open window that framed Fred's blackened, soot covered, face. Bees buzzed as they went among the flowers and foliage of the garden. Gnomes frolicked in the garden. Just Apparated, dressed in emerald green robes, McGonagall approached the front door.
However, ignoring the morning just below the attic, in the bedroom of Ron Weasley, were four occupants asleep on the pair of beds. A glow was illuminating the bedroom; this glow was from the curtains that tried shielding the occupants from the fact that Sun was in the sky and threatening to pass them by. Breeze through the windows moved the curtains, letting rays reach their tendrils inside, hitting the occasional metal. Pigwidgeon's cage was empty; he had paid attention to the day. The four on the two beds were still asleep, on one was Ron and Hermione, the other Harry and Gia5, a Muggle; however, Ron was about to be the first to take notice of the day.
Ron stretched his arms, then lifted the covers and looked at his firm tent pole. Though physical, he didn't need that to realize he was feeling good, for leaning on him from his left, under the covers, was the other starkers beauty, Hermione, and he could definitely feel her knockers pressed against his skin, her fidgeting hand grabbing at his red curly pubic hair.
Snorting, the other couple in the room, on the other bed in the top room of the Burrow, turned, almost coordinated, pulling the sheet which only left Harry's left leg to the imagination. Gia, was behind him, her left arm over his shoulder, and her hand was stroking his ear. Above them, the rays of the early morning sun helped the myriad of Chudley Canon posters continue in their fading.
Creaks from the door, then, in rapid fashion, it opened. Ginny, with her wet red hair, her towel was in her hands, doing nothing to hide her knickers. A quick glance at Harry and study of his todger, then her eyes met Ron's staring back at her. Seeing Harry's dick gave her a shrewd guess as to the common state and given that Rita Skeeter had, not long ago, published a lovely photo of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Gia, all caught skinny dipping in a hot tub.
"Twat--" Ron started.
"Dickhead--" Ginny replied.
Hermione snorted, turned, pulled on the covers a tad.
"Bug off--no butchers--" Ron said.
"Dishy bollocks--" Ginny's eyes darted at Harry's full monty, then returned to Ron.
"Not of your concern," Ron said, "Scram--" He threw some old stained boxers at Ginny.
Ginny dashed in, tripped to the floor, then looked at Harry's growing--
"You'll pay!" Ron threatened, "We're trying to sleep--fuck off you gormy--!"
"It's time to--" In quick action, Ginny pulled Ron's cover off. She then snapped her towel, hitting Ron in the bollocks.
"Ow!" A quick recoil, then Ron sprang up, holding his bruised bollocks under his stiffy, darted as fast as he could after Ginny. "Beastly arse--you're dead!"
Ron used his hands against the walls, leap stairs after stairs, chasing Ginny.
"He's coming!" Ginny shouted.
"What--?!" Ron stammered as he came out into the living room.
The flash of the camera had gone off, Colin was standing there looking. McGonagall was in the background, talking with Arthur Weasley in a pin strip suit.
"I was hoping for Harry," Colin said.
"Mr. Weasley--" McGonagall turned from Arthur to Ron, her eyes flickered across the pink skin.
"Showing your talent off?" Fred whispered at Ron.
With a flick of Fred's wand, Ron's volcano erupted. McGonagall waited until Ron's business stopped.
"The Hogwarts Board of Governors has elected to reward your efforts in freeing the school at the end of last term, please extend their gratitude to your friends," McGonagall said, "I have given your father the details of their generosity. I will look forward to seeing you in the fall."
McGonagall then turned around and went out the door.
"Oh," George said, "She'll definitely look forward to seeing you after this display--"
"Fred, George, everyone," Arthur said, "Give your brother some dignity."
"Whatever's left," Ginny said, grinning.
Ron turned around for the stairs.
"Get his ass!" Ginny said.
"Ginevra--" Arthur said.
"Family photographs," Ginny said.
Ron climbed the stairs. He couldn't believe it, ready to bang and spewing in front of Professor McGonagall, of all people! With the thoughts of that and that camera, Ron reentered his bedroom, closed the door, and then slid down it. He glanced around at the friendly faces. Ron glanced at Hermione, her busy brown hair, her brown blinking eyes, her knockers, the firm midriff, and down to her other features. Then at Gia, her blond hair and blue eyes, to her voluptuous knockers. He then glanced at Harry, the scrawny figure whose skin was too tight for his bones, with the green eyes looking back at Ron.
"Must've been exciting," Harry said.
"Shove it," Ron said, "Embarrassing more like it--"
"You ran after her like that," Hermione said, "What'd you expect--?"
"Cameras? Fred or George? McGonagall? Dad?" Ron said, "Can't believe--"
"Like a copy of those snaps," Hermione said as she sat next to Ron, she gripped him.
"What--?!" Ron exclaimed.
"Wank for them--?" Harry asked.
"You camp," Ron snapped.
"Likely thinking about McGonagall--" Harry said.
Ron snorted. "No way! She was appreciative about our last adventure." Elbows to the knees, he looked down. "Mum won't find out, she can't--"
"Being dead..." Harry started. 6
Ron glared at Harry, and then watched as leopard spots formed and danced on Harry's skin.
"Hmm," Gia said, "I could dig this."
"Went on the pull 'arry and--" Ron said.
"Watch it," Hermione said, "She's my friend too, so don't demean Harry's girlfriend--"
"Or what--?" Ron demanded.
"Hey shirty," Gia said, "Hermione'll likely stop being yours. Swot your stuff if you need to understand what you'd be wanking solo."
Harry looked at Ron and Hermione; saw the greening of the ears.
"So Colin--?" Harry asked.
"What do you think?" Ron said, "Like always, Mr. and Mrs. Founders of your stupid unofficial fan club wanted your signed starkers photograph along with your perspective on shagging--that twerp diddled her boyfriend onto me!"
Ron blew off.
"We do need to get moving." Gia grabbed Harry's bum.
Harry groaned, then got up. Gia sat up.
"One at a time for the khazi," Ron said.
"That's your Mum's--" Hermione said.
"She may be dead," Ron said, "but this is still her house--we need to abide."
"Never cared before--" Harry said.
"I do now," Ron stated.
Harry gave Gia a nudge; she grabbed a towel, and then after Ron moved aside, went out.
Downstairs, the kitchen table was already prepared much earlier; however, the food was being kept warm, by Dobby, who was on loan for that summer, for Professor Dumbledore thought it would help the Weasley family cope with the sudden and tragic loss of their matriarch, Molly Weasley, several weeks earlier. Charlie was sitting at the table, no plate in front of him; instead, he was reading "Students Rid Hogwarts of Dark Squatters" from the prior day's Daily Prophet. Fred was hunched over the sink, his hands were busy, when Harry and Ron came into the kitchen and sat down. Harry adjusted his glasses.
"At least you'll be able to properly floss with your curly--" Fred said
"Shove it," Ron said, "Like you're up to anything good--"
"I don't hear Mum complaining," Fred said.
"That's because she can't," Charlie said.
"Dickhead had something to do--" Fred said.
"It's not his fault," Charlie said, "Impressive what they accomplished, single handedly vanquishing You-Know-Who and lot from Hogwarts--"
"Where's George?" Ron asked.
"Getting ready to prank your room," Fred said, smiling.
"Pass the syrup," Harry said.
It flew down the table into Harry's hand.
"Dobby happy to serve Harry Potter. Dobby hopes Harry Potter is pleased with meal."
"Yeah, Ta," Harry said.
"Mum dies and you take off--!" Ginny exclaimed, coming into the kitchen.
"Haven't you done enough--?!" Ron demanded.
"Family comes--" Ginny said.
"Shove it!" Ron said.
"Ronald Weasley," Arthur said, coming into the kitchen, "Mind your manners!"
Ginny crossed her arms, her ears went green, her face went red.
"It is a family," Arthur said, "However, if Ron wishes to spend his summer like this, that's his decision to make."
"You have to excuse her Ron," Fred said, "She wanted more pictures--"
"Definitely not!" Ron exclaimed.
"Stay safe on the trip," Arthur said, "All of you."
"Thank you Mr. Weasley," Harry said.
Arthur Weasley returned to the living room, where he was keeping an eye on Edward Weasley, the latest addition, born to Molly and Arthur back in April. In the meanwhile, Fred took a quick step back from the sink.
"Trouble?" Ginny asked.
"See for yourself," Fred said, grinning.
Ginny turned on the tap, and then fell. Out of the faucet, instead of water, streams of butterflies came out, swarming and filling up the room.
"Hello Mr. Finnigan," came Arthur's voice, "Come on in."
Harry and Ron looked to see Seamus Finnigan coming through the door.
"Late morning, eh?" Seamus said, looming over the table.
"Why should they stress themselves out?" Ginny said as she left the room.
"Happy couple," Seamus said, his eyes following Colin and Ginny climbing the stairs.
"Especially when they're ambushing others," Ron said.
Seamus snorted, and then glanced about.
"There is plenty of room," Charlie said, "and even more outside."
"Weather's decent," Seamus said.
Ron shrugged. He and Harry stood; Seamus followed them outside for a bit.
"Killer Daily Prophet photo," Seamus said.
"Any advice for us poorer bastards?" Seamus said, "Thomas is absolutely. Suppose Professor McGonagall came to see you about OWLs--"
"She saw a bit more--" Harry said, his hand gesturing about his crotch.
"Shut it!" Ron said, "I'll kill--"
"How does Hermione like your double dating--?" Seamus asked.
"We already have full OWLs--" Ron said.
"What--?!" Seamus exclaimed.
"We tested after the little affair..." Harry said.
They continued chatting for a bit around the pond. A bit of horseplay ensued before Seamus started to leave.
"Would have loved to have seen Snape's face with your Order of Merlin, First Class," Seamus said. He then left.
Harry and Ron returned to the Burrow.
By the end of the day, all four had used the Floo Network and gone to Hermione's house in the city of Noigate7. Harry and Gia went first, and then headed for James Lane. They passed through a number of neighborhoods, going through parks, over streams, crossing the odd street here and there.
They then turned onto James Lane, the street of Gia's family residence. Only, there was no real house on the lot, the house that her father, Kevin Prescott, had inherited from her grandfather, they could not have afforded that home otherwise. Now, though, the house was missing, even though the birds among the trees did not know the difference. For, the house had been demolished, destroyed, by Death Eaters, several months earlier. In its place, as Gia saw when they rounded the corner, was a small RV parked in the driveway.
"What the--?!" Gia exclaimed.
"Hi Gia," said a man approaching.
This person was Bob Johnson, the neighbor across the street, he was jogging. The remaining wisps of his hair were combed over attempting to masquerade his near baldness.
"Thought Dad was crashing at your--" Gia said.
"Had to kick him out," Bob said, "Another relapse--it endangers us."
Gia rolled her eyes. She had seen her father kick his drug habit off and on through the years. To her, he had always drunk on occasion, but the pot and beyond, those started with the death of her mother so many years ago.
"You're welcome though," Bob said.
"Going on a trip for the summer," Gia said, "Might take you up come school."
Bob grinned as he adjusted his headband, he then continued jogging.
"Brace yourself, Harry," Gia said.
Harry and Gia approached the shaking RV. She knew this meant Dad was drunk after getting fired for the umpteenth time. Gia reached for the door, but it swung hard and fast, just missing her. In the doorway was Gia's step-mum, Ane, shaking with a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, she glared fiercely at Gia. Harry stepped in front of Gia, attempting to shield, as Ane flicked a burning ember at Gia.
"Blimey! Another whore?!" Ane shouted, "You stink! Fucking accident! Think your Mum even wanted you? Old man wants a bang--"
Ane stumbled, then lunged for Gia. Harry reacted, moved him and Gia to the side, both watched Ane hit the pavement.
"Fucking John!" Ane said, "He's saving you for himself! What'd he offer? Place in the beggar queue?"
Drawing Gia's attention, inside the RV, her Dad was busy with banging some young meat. Harry stepped on a discarded needle, breaking it, as he turned; he then Gia away.
"You don't deserve that," Harry said, "Let's go."
"Can we see Richard first?" Gia asked.
Harry shrugged, they left. They then meandered, first through a park, then making their way to 26 Oak, where they chatted with Richard, one of Gia's schoolmates.
The following morning, Tuesday morning, any hope for an early start was dashed, as none of the four teenagers bothered to wake before sunrise. Instead, Harry and Gia laid there, gazing upward at the ceiling mirror and the reflection of them laying there fully exposed. Harry studied his own features for a moment; every strand was bottle green, even the pubic hairs Gia was fingering.
Harry raised his eyebrows. "It's still green."
"Maybe you like it," Gia said.
A pounding came from the door.
"Hey four eyes," Ron shouted, "You said six, it's now seven thirty!"
A half hour later, Harry and Gia came into the kitchen. Ron looked up, and dropped his tea cup, the cup shattered on the floor into a myriad of shards—Crookshanks bolted from under the table and went under the living room sofa. Gia's grin met Hermione's look.
"Station!" Hermione said.
"You need a proper breakfast," said Linda8 Granger.
"No time," Hermione said.
"We'll manage," Harry said.
They made for the door.
"Have fun!" Linda said as they left.
With a running leap, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Gia managed to make the 0914 to Waterloo.
"Money money!" Ron snapped.
A gray cloud lingered over them, following them as they changed trains at Waterloo East. Ron remained content glaring at Harry. Harry watched Hermione walk about as she feigned an interest in studying the emergency instructions posted about. Gia watched the green of the fields and the hills roll past. An hour into the second train, Ron's eyes darted to glare at Gia, Harry spotted this, then grabbed Gia and took her down the corridor into the next carriage.
"That prat!" Harry exclaimed, his voice drifting back into their primary carriage, "Of all the ego-centric--"
"Sit and spin," Ron muttered.
"Ronald Bil--" Hermione started.
"Not you, too!" Ron snapped.
Hermione glared for a moment.
"You're doing this to yourself," Hermione said.
Ron continued his mood for some while. In the meanwhile, they arrived at Dover. Gia and Hermione went towards the waterfront, while Harry dragged Ron up to the Dover Castle9. Ron kept his distance from Harry as they poked about, eventually making their way into a tunnel leading to the outer gate guard shack.
"Blatantly gallivanting his rubbish--" Ron muttered.
Harry's small hands grabbed Ron by his shirt collar, magic flowed as Harry pushed him against the wall, Ron slouched until their eyes were level.
"Belt up you sour puss!" Harry said, "Gutted but this is supposed to be fun, all right? Or would you rather spend the summer with Ginny watching your arse?"
"Ew, Sick!" Ron said.
They both relaxed, exchanging smiles. Harry then leaned back against the other wall.
"She's got you by the bollocks," Ron said.
"Ya think?" Harry, after giving a quick look about, dropped his trousers enough to expose himself.
"Wicked," Ron said.
"Got some blue if you want," Harry said, pulling up his trousers.
"What's wrong with red--?" Ron demanded.
"Nothing," Harry said.
They continued down the corridor.
"Barmy," Ron said.
By the end of the day, all four had caught the ferry to Calais, then onto a train, before coming to a doze on their way to Brussels, Belgium.
They spent several nights in Brussels, waking up on their second (Thursday) morning there to Ron's now blue hair. All starkers, Gia, Harry, and Hermione laid on the bed looking at Ron, before a mirror. Hermione's eyes repeatedly traveled the handsome, a bit towering, still slender, figure standing in front of the mirror.
"It's a new me," Ron said, doing a strongman pose flexing his biceps, "I've got talent."
"It's better than yours," Ron said.
"Swotting it?" Harry asked.
"He's just jealous," Ron said to Hermione.
Gia turned her head toward Hermione, past Harry's head.
"Dunno about you Hermione," Gia said, "Could be a fluke, but how they talk the talk, can they even use their tools properly?"
Harry loosed his hands, and then buried his face into his pillow.
"If they could," Hermione said, "It'd still take them a fortnight just to get started."
"Stick to the self-admiration Ron," Gia said.
A while later, after all four of them were dressed, Harry took a confident lead and led them down a series of shops, until Ron lit up.
"Chocolate!" Ron exclaimed.
"Erotic Chocolate?!" Hermione stammered.
Harry opened the door to "Chocolats Érotiques", the blackened windows allowed the red illumination to maintain the atmosphere inside. Hermione picked up a chocolate dildo.
"Eww!" Ron said.
Harry meanwhile, was admiring some vanilla chocolate breasts. His hands mimicked the ones on display, his fingers on the glass guard; he then turned and placed them over Gia's.
"What about the sling shots?" Ron said, now next to Harry, looking at the display.
"Boys!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Like they'd ever grow out of it," Gia said, "hopeless. Reverse the charge though."
Hermione looked at Gia, and then grinned.
"What?!" Harry demanded.
Gia shaped her hands as the breasts, pressed them against Harry's chest. Hermione admired the light chocolate replica of the Greek statue David while Gia went towards the man in the back. Ron went and stood by Hermione, then looked at the statue himself.
"Who'd in their right mind...?" Ron muttered.
Gia came back, the man in tow with a camera, and then pointed at Harry.
"What the--?!" Harry asked.
Gia grinned wide. In a short while, they left the shop.
"You just consented to a chocolate statue?!" Ron, with a look of disgust at Harry, said, "Blimey!"
"Realize the fits my parents will have when that much chocolate arrives?" Hermione said, "They're dentists, remember?"
By Saturday, they made their way to Paris. In the Louvre, Ron stared at the motionless pictures, scorned the Egyptian artifacts section.
"I've seen better."
By the following Monday, Harry was sporting bright yellow hair as they passed a faded black door along a small black wall, within spitting distance of Notre Dame. A faded black sign showed a pointed hat, around which was printed "Chapeau Raccordé."
"Oh," Hermione said, "You have got to see this."
Hermione pushed the door open; they entered an old looking pub with a big fireplace to one end. People in robes and cloaks glared at these strangers, the old man behind the bar pointed a wand.
"Vous n'étes pas voulu, ne sortez pas!"
"Huh?" Ron said.
"Muggles are not welcome," Hermione whispered.
Harry pulled out his wand, levitated a nearby saucer.
"Don't dress like 'em then!" the barkeeper scolded.
"Secrecy?!" Harry asked.
"There is more than this," Hermione whispered, "Like back home."
Harry nodded. Hermione led the way into the back, through a brick wall after she had tapped her wand, and then into a row of shops.
"Smaller than Diagon," Ron said.
"Same idea," Harry said, "Look!" He pointed at Quality Quidditch Supplies, Paris.
Ron and Harry went into that store. Meanwhile, Gia and Hermione continued.
"Need any gift ideas?" Hermione asked.
Gia shook her head, and then stopped in front of another shop, Unofficial Harry Potter Fan Club Outlet Direct.
"Didn't realize--" Gia said.
"He knows you love him," Hermione said, "Though you can always read up."
They were looking at the display of literature, like Harry Potter Quarterly which featured Harry and Gia on the front cover, or Understanding Harry Potter leather bound book by Doris Crockford in English and French, or Speculation on Harry Potter's Victory.
"How does he cope--?" Gia asked.
"Dunno really," Hermione said, "Though you could get a scar too--"
"Really." Hermione pointed at the racks of various articles for a person to look like Harry Potter, from the raven black wigs in assorted sizes to glasses to scar tattoos to Hogwarts robes with the Gryffindor lion and beyond. "Let's show him."
While Monday evening marked the end of the first week for their travels, more significant was Tuesday, which was Gia's birthday, the ninth of July. By the end of which, they had made their way towards the Eiffel tower, and adding another day to their outward travel, found a hotel room in sight of the tower. They stumbled, in the dark, close to midnight, into their room, for the power had gone out, predicted to last for a number of hours.
Harry opened the curtains, letting them see upon the darkened Eiffel Tower, he was then the last to strip. He then sat on the floor beside the bed, looking at the Tower, no effort was made to conceal his stiffy. Ron moved toward the balcony, turned, and his eyes met Harry's.
"Barmy!" Ron said.
"Is there ever a right time?" Harry said, "Make use of fortune."
Hermione came back out of the toilet.
"What are you two scheming--?" Hermione asked.
"Nothing much," Harry said, "Just a flight--"
"Starkers?!" Hermione exclaimed.
"I'm game," Gia said.
"Wicked idea," Ron said, getting out his Firebolt, his gift from Sirius the previous Christmas, "Some SEP and nobody should notice!" The Somebody Else's Problem (SEP) spell, tricks people into ignoring the wizard or witch. 10
Both Harry and Ron mounted their Firebolts, Gia got on behind Harry.
"Alright," Hermione said, "Don't forget I warned you."
Hermione climbed on behind Ron.
All starkers, with a quick spell cast11, flew out of the room. Up and down the Seine they flew, letting the light of the lit portion of Paris illuminate them for a short while. After an hour, they flew up and up, coming to a landing on top of the Eiffel Tower.
"Nice view," Gia said, now sitting with Harry behind her.
Harry started kissing her neck, his arms holding her tightly. Gia giggled.
"Going somewhere?" Gia asked.
"Maybe," Harry said.
Hermione looked at Ron.
"Does--? Is he--?" Hermione asked.
"Guess so," Ron said.
"On top of the--?!" Hermione stammered.
"Won't forget it," Ron said, "Less talk."
It started as a massage, Hermione lying down on the roof of the Eiffel Tower, Ron pushing. Harry, at the same time was busy with Gia. Both girls had already noticed that Ron and Harry were already aroused. During the course of the next few minutes, all would claim their first real shag, with precautions, for both Ron and Harry had made use of magic condoms. Harry had found this enchantment in the Romantic Wizard, though with a price of being Muggle-like for a day or two.
"We actually did it," Ron muttered.
A noise came from below, underneath the trapdoor, accompanied by boots stepping onto rungs. Startled, they immediately mounted the pair of Firebolts, and then shoved. They plummeted, barely missing the ground, and then leveled off. Just over the balcony of their room, as the lights came on, the brooms ceased supporting them, they crashed onto the bed.
"That was dangerous!" Hermione exclaimed.
Early Wednesday, they made for the station, and then boarded a train. Hermione held up a local paper and translated for all.
"Let's see," Hermione said, "Power out disables alarms ... Batteries ... Motion detectors ... recorded a presence ... Why unknown ... Guard saw bodies falling ... None recovered ... Guard ... within seconds of nabbing ... Investigation is proceeding. I wonder what the weather's like in Switzerland." She thumbed the paper and turned pages.
On the Thursday a week later, the eighteenth, they were several days into a hike along a remote trail, in the buff, across the Swiss Alps toward Austria. Looking toward the sunset, sitting on a big flat rock near the edge of a cliff, was Ron. This rock, in a field of many stretching hundreds of yards, was on the edge with a stunning view of a deep but narrow valley. Ron threw an empty ink jar down the steep slope; the shattering was heard several seconds later. Upon Ron's lap was a leather bound book, laid wide open, with tight writing on both pages of parchment around the many drawings. Ron's quill dipped itself in a new inkjar, and then continued writing.
"Littering?" Hermione asked, walking up.
Ron turned his head, looked at her knockers.
"Pervert," Hermione said.
"For days," Ron said, grinning.
Hermione sat on the rock, leaned into Ron's right shoulder, her legs were propped up. She looked at Ron's book.
"That's--?" Hermione asked.
"Nothing," Ron said.
"You're writing--" Hermione said.
"A journal," Ron said, "Not much, just little things since starting Hogwarts. Granddad gave it, at Mum's suggestion.
"Can I read--?" Hermione asked.
"No," Ron said.
"Harry won't like that biography of him--" Hermione said.
"It's either me or Skeeter," Ron said, "His choice."
In short order, hormones were in force when Harry walked up for a moment before turning around. A few minutes after that, Ron and Hermione returned to the small stone shelter that they would be spending the night.
"You wanted something?" Ron asked.
"Dinner's ready," Harry said, "Though playing with a wrapped sausage--"
"Hey!" Ears turning green, Ron glared at Harry.
By midday of July 30th, a Tuesday, Harry, Ron, Gia, and Hermione had made it to Romania, where they could then be found walking down a lane. This lane had already passed through a long line of painted stone trees, descended a few feet, with the same painted stones arching over the lane itself. Above and around them, both near and far, they could see--
"Dragons!" Gia exclaimed.
"Where's Norbert?" Ron asked.
"Better write Hagrid," Harry said.
Hermione snorted, and then explained Norbert to Gia.
In slow order, the buildings came close as they approached, eventually coming to the main office, in which, they met up with Charlie Weasley. After an orientation and talking with the other members of staff, Charlie led them across the road to a small assemblage of cottages. They entered the one marked "Weasley".
"Most definitely a bachelor pad," Hermione said.
Hermione's eyes, along with Gia, scanned the interior, noting the disorder, from the badly cluttered living room furniture to the refuse lined kitchen counters to the bathroom door, showing the toilet seat up and a near-empty roll on top of its tank. Harry stepped between them, walked across strewn newspapers to the ladder jutting up from the dining area.
"Sleeping can be the loft or the sofa," Charlie said.
Harry climbed up the ladder, stepping over the broken rung, and then looked about.
"Enough room up here," Harry said.
Harry swept with his arm; clothes tumbled down; and then placed his backpack down.
In the meanwhile, Hermione had shuffled her feet, blazed a path to the bookcases that lined the walls, and then glanced through some of the Wizard books. Ron traipsed the short distance to the sofa, and then sat down. Gia grimaced at the many stacks of dirty dishes, then, crossed through the tiny dining area crammed between the living area and the kitchen, to the bathroom.
By noon of the next morning, Harry found himself to be the only one up in the loft when he woke. A quick rummage for a pair of shorts yielded none—a look downstairs showed nobody and he could hear none, so he jumped down the ladder. Harry reached for the ladder but noticed he was too late—red hair materialized, one head kept flickering with a smile at his full monty.
"Ginny--" Harry stammered.
Around Harry were many Weasleys and his friends.
"Umm--" Harry muttered, "Must--"
"Birthday suit's appropriate," Fred said, "Plus food's getting cold,"
"Lets eat!" Ron exclaimed.
George's hand escorted Harry, starkers, to an open chair around the kitchen table, the table's height was lower at the height of a coffee table. Harry sat, then propped his feet on the wooden table in front of him.
"Make yourself at home," Fred said, handing Harry a plate of food.
Harry studied the English breakfast containing a side slice of cake. His fork reached for the cake—everyone watched him carefully—he took a bite up and chomped on it. With a serious concentration, Fred and George watched Harry's dick flash blue followed by a fast torrent—Harry blushed as he realized they were watching him peeing
"There is a toilet--!" Fred said, pointing.
"Make this cake?" Harry asked, swotting Fred's facial expression.
Charlie left then came back with a pair of Trigger 10's, a Cleansweep 7, and a Nimbus 1000. An afternoon of Quidditch later, Harry cleared the sofa and then laid down. Fred and George loomed over and looked down on Harry.
"We were going to sit down--" George said.
Harry grinned; Fred and George sat on top of Harry. Harry shrugged, and then let it be until Ron sat between Fred and George on Harry.
"Lumpy sofa," Ron said.
"How about a dragon?" Charlie said.
Tentacles came out of the sofa, wrapped around Ron tightly. Fred and George, startled, jumped.
"Your sofa!" George exclaimed.
Ron looked at Harry, smiled, and then shrugged. Charlie grabbed his wand, aimed at the sofa.
"Fred, George--?" Charlie asked.
"As much as we'd love to take credit--" Fred said.
"What's for dinner?" Ron asked.
"Seems to be you," George said.
Ron's face turned purplish, but the sofa vanished, causing Ron and Harry to hit the floor, hard.
"Ow," Harry said.
"Do you even want gifts?" Hermione asked.
After dinner, they turned to Harry's presents. From Hagrid was a note,
Happy Birthday! I hope you find this
helpful for the year. I tried sending chocolates, but the post
refused due to some export issue. Hope you're enjoying your day and
see you in September.
Attached to it, was a book, Sizzling Book of Dragons, which started to huff out flame, the smoke of which billowed and added a layer of soot to his glasses.
"Stun it!" Charlie said, recognition filled his eyes.
Harry removed his wand aimed it, the book calmed down.
"Any guesses?" Ron asked.
Harry continued with gifts, among which were Quidditch: Rules of the International Association of Quidditchfrom Hermione, Chudley Cannons T-shirt from Ron, a pocketknife from Sirius, a box of assorted gags from Fred and George, and something more private from Gia in a secluded corner of their little cottage enclave.
To the chagrin of his brothers, Ron continued with Harry and the girls taking the Muggle way back toward England. This took time, which is why they could be found on the Rotterdam to Harwich ferry three weeks later retelling their adventures for the umpteenth time. The gray cloud resumed its position over Ron, who was with Harry on the seats as the girls roamed.
"How'd you like it?" Ron spouted, "To be reminded you're--?"
"Rich with friendship?" Harry said.
Ron remained a quiet sour puss until they finally returned to Noigate late, late Saturday night. Hermione turned the key and opened the door to her home, her eyes leveled to meet the returning gaze from Linda Granger.
"Mum?" Hermione spat.
"My daughter is returning from a big trip--" Linda said.
"Fantastic!" Gia exclaimed, eyes wide, "Dragons! We saw dragons!"
"I'll call my Dad," Ron said, headed for the fireplace.
"Now," Linda said, sitting on the arm of the sofa, "Tell me all about it."
"Where's Dad?" Hermione asked.
"Sleeping--don't change the subject," Linda said, "How was it?"
"It was great," Ron said, returning, "Everything happened!"
"No it did not--" Hermione protested.
"Everything?" Linda asked.
"Mother!" Hermione protested.
"I'll tell," Ron said, now on the receiving end of Hermione's tickling, "I'll tell everything."
Linda looked at the interaction. "It can wait until morning." She went for the kitchen and then up the stairs.
"Nice try," Gia said, in response to Harry tugging her toward the back, "big day tomorrow."
"In the hot tub--" Harry said.
"You promised," Gia said, pulling Harry.
"I lied," Harry said, tugging back.
Hermione shoved Harry toward Gia.
"Conspiracy," Harry complained.
Ron crashed onto the sofa, watched Gia and Harry make it to the staircase. Hermione grabbed a banana, and then came back as Harry and Gia vanished along the upper corridor toward their room.
"Grumpy, isn't he?" Hermione said.
"Had the right idea--" Ron said.
Ron rubbed his cheek, looked up at Hermione standing there.
"It's not like it's a big deal or--" Hermione said.
"Her father not a big deal?" Ron said, sarcastically.
"It's just--" Hermione said.
"The diciest place for any guy to be," Ron said.
"Oh Dad--" Hermione softly called out.
Harry trembled the next morning, Sunday August 25, as he entered the living room. Kevin Prescott was waiting. Harry's eyes studied the thin frame for a moment, and then caught sight of a dentist's new boat dream, teeth that were in dire need of repair or replacement.
"Good to see you again," Kevin said, "I do insist on seeing them."
"Not the Dursleys!" Harry protested.
"You are dating my daughter," Kevin said, "You can either come along or worry about what they might say without your presence."
Harry grumbled. "They're out for the day--"
"Have you called?" Kevin said, "Gia."
"They'll be pissed," Harry said.
Gia dialed the phone. "Mr. Dursley? ... My troop is selling cookies, interested? ... Two pounds fifty per box ... Side door, ten boxes. ... Ta."
"There is no side door," Harry said.
"Then they are home," Kevin said, "Come."
Harry and Gia left the house.
"Gia didn't mention Harry's relatives," Hermione said.
"Hope they don't force a breakup, they'd be in their rights," Ron said.
"They wouldn't--" Hermione said.
"Just might," Ron said, "Depends on whether their hatred and contempt of Harry outweighs their fear of association with him."
Turn after turn, Harry trembled until they reached yellow police tape cordoning off Privet Drive. Under heavy smoke, many of the row houses were charred, all had collapsed, and more smoke billowed from the smoldering wrecks of the parked cars. Harry led the way, past a police cruiser, and ducked under the tape.
"Stop!" a police officer said.
"My family!" Harry said, pointing toward number four.
Harry bolted for number four, found a badly burned Uncle Vernon under the rubble, an Uncle Vernon that glared up at Harry for the last time. Harry blinked.
"You Bastard!" Vernon yelled, "You--"
"Didn't think you'd care--" Harry said as Gia and Kevin approached.
"Your uncle?" Kevin asked, uncovering Aunt Petunia.
"Found this unkempt scoundrel--?" Petunia asked.
"Never filed a missing person--" Vernon said, "Good riddance--"
"You should have shouted!" a medic scolded, arriving with a stretcher. A second was shortly behind.
Kevin, grunting, helped the medic move Vernon onto a stretcher.
"Runt likely did this--" Vernon said, "You'll wish you never were born!"
"On the verge of death and you're berating your nephew?!" Kevin said, "Look at--!"
"I have to ask you to leave," another police officer, who had just came over, said to Kevin, Harry, and Gia.
"They're related--" Kevin protested.
"You're upsetting them," the officer said, "Leave or I will have to arrest you--"
"We're leaving," Kevin said.
Kevin led the way back to the car, Harry and Gia in a fast trot behind. Kevin drove fast, tailgating the ambulances, toward the hospital.
"I don't want--" Harry said.
"And you'd regret it later," Kevin said.
Kevin parked in the handicap parking spot; they dashed into the A&E. Inside were gurneys, some draped in white.
"Dursleys," Kevin said to the nurse, "Mr. and Mrs--Just came in."
"I'm sorry," the nurse said, pointing toward two white draped gurneys in a queue as orderlies escorted them one by one.
Harry walked over, lifted the sheet of one, saw Vernon Dursley underneath. He then lifted the other, Petunia Dursley.
"You are not authorized--" an orderly said to Harry.
"It's over," Harry said, turning toward the door.
"Relation--?" the orderly said.
"Doesn't matter anymore," Harry said, walking fast out the door with Kevin and Gia behind him.
"Sir--" the orderly asked, following fast.
Harry spun fast, stared through his glasses, bearing at the orderly. "It matters no more--I'm nobody to them. Thank you very much."
Harry spun again, walked past the officer ticketing Kevin's illegally parked car. Kevin ran up, gripped Harry's shoulder.
"Very cold and callous--" Kevin said.
"The matter is over," Harry stated, "Good riddance--
"Services--" Kevin said.
"I'm likely banned," Harry said, "I'll live with it, better off I imagine."
Kevin opened his mouth.
"Don't press it," Gia said, "They were being unusually kind today."
Kevin turned, ran for his car, which was being threatened by a tow truck. They watched the car leave the parking lot without them. A few hours and hefty penalty later, they returned to Noigate. Harry entered the Granger's house first.
"--leveled today. Eyewitnesses report seeing three strange teenage boys moments before the incident. One is loosely described a strange pale face and blond hair; however all three were wearing black robes which will make identification of these culprits nearly impossible. At least twenty people have been reported killed. ..."
"Take it that things didn't go as planned," Hermione said, turning her attention from the radio to Harry.
"It's over," Harry said, "No more worrying--"
"Don't joke--" Hermione said.
"Blond hair," Ron said, "Any guesses? One or less?"
The next morning, Monday, Hermione came over and towered over Ron, for he was on the sofa.
"Diagon Alley!" Hermione said, "Come on! Get your list--"
"Later," Ron said.
"Things to study--" Hermione said.
"Start with Hagrid's book--" Ron said.
"Smolder my essays?" Hermione said, "Get your list--Stop right there!" Her gaze turned to Harry and Gia heading for the door. "We are going, NOW!"
"Alright, alright," Ron grumbled as he got up. He walked into the fireplace, dropped in Floo Powder, then shouted, "The Burrow!"
Green flame shot as Ron spun, for a moment, before being hurdled out of the fireplace. He tumbled, totally covered in soot, and fell to the floor beside Hermione.
"What the--?!" Ron exclaimed.
"No joking--" Hermione said.
Beep, BEep, BEEP!
Three ascending tones came from the fireplace, accompanied by a voice, "We're sorry, but the fireplace you're trying to reach is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please contact customer service, or try your Floo again."
"Use the good stuff," Hermione said, pointing to another bucket of Floo Powder.
Ron entered the fireplace, again, dropping the Floo Powder, yelled, "The Burrow!"
Again, Ron was thrown out.
Beep, BEep, BEEP!
Three ascending tones came from the fireplace, accompanied by a voice, "We're sorry, but the fireplace you're trying to reach is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please contact customer service, or try your Floo again."
"It's only getting worse," Hermione said.
Ron stood. "I'm trying! If you're not satisfied, try it yourself!"
Hermione grabbed Floo Powder, entered the fireplace, then yelled. She too found herself being thrown.
Beep, BEep, BEEP!
Three ascending tones came from the fireplace, accompanied by a voice, "We're sorry, but the fireplace you're trying to reach is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please contact customer service, or try your Floo again."
Harry grabbed himself a handful of Floo Powder and tried, he too got thrown out, colliding with Ron, knocking them both over. Harry's glasses flung halfway across the living room.
Beep, BEep, BEEP!
"Try this," Ron said, grabbing a new handful. "The Kirbys!"
After the same green flamed spin up, Ron was thrown out.
Beep, BEep, BEEP!
"There is the train," Gia said.
"Just as reliable," Linda said, lifting her eyes from a magazine, "Just like BT12."
"Be a few minutes," Ron said.
Hermione and Harry sat back on the floor. Ron grabbed another handful of Floo Powder.
"Some just never learn," Hermione said.
"Calling the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office!" Ron shouted.
In the fireplace, the face of Perkins appeared in the fireplace.
"Which Weasley is it?" Perkins asked.
"Ron," Ron said.
"Just a moment," Perkins said.
Perkins disappeared, replaced by Arthur Weasley a minute later.
"Yes?" Arthur asked.
"Dad," Ron said, "I can't get the Burrow--what's up with the Floo Network? It and the Kirbys are disconnected."
Arthur turned his face. "Perkins--? ... Thank you." He turned back to Ron. "Grangers?" Ron nodded. "I'll get back to you." Arthur disappeared.
Ron sighed. "Never had a problem before, though it gets me out of--"
"No it does not," Hermione said, "I do have my list and we do share some--"
"Ron?" Arthur's face reappeared in the fireplace. "Ours was abnormally disconnected at the source, Kirbys have some residual interference of some sort. I'm departing immediately." His face vanished.
"In the meanwhile, we're leaving--" Hermione said.
Arthur's face reappeared. "I cannot Apparate to the Burrow either."
"I'll drive you," Linda said, coming into the room with a set of car keys, "and I want to hear all about your trip on the way."
Arthur smirked. "I'll meet you out there." He vanished.
Linda Granger made good on her promise during the drive to Catchpole. All four teenagers tugged on their shirts as the details spewed forth. Ron guided their drive out from Catchpole to St. Ottery into the underused driveway for the Weasleys. Jaws dropped as they rounded the shrubbery. Ron opened the car door, they were still creeping forward, he stumbled as he gained his footing, and ran to the big pile of rubble where the Burrow formerly stood, and around the pile were other red haired individuals.
"WHAT HAPPENED?!" Ron demanded.
Harry stopped beside Ron. "Explains the Floo thing."
"Not funny," Ron snapped.
Bill, staring at the pile from the other side, looked up and came around.
"Fortunately everyone is accounted for," Bill said, "I think the House Elves are holding themselves up in the tree house."
"Decades of memories." Arthur Weasley walked up. "According to the neighbors, a pale faced teenager boy with blond hair was asking around at the cafe about us, where Ottery Street was, that sort. His two male friends, both heavy build, took off in this direction. John, next door, said they walked past his place shortly before he saw the dust cloud. Took me an hour to walk from where I could Apparate to, definitely magic."
Charlie, who just arrived, started moving the rubble. They all pitched in.
"And they will pay," Ron promised.
"Remain the better man," Arthur said, "an investigation will ensue, after which, we can rebuild, if we desire to. In the meanwhile, I believe all can find suitable accommodation--"
"Can't believe it!" said the voice of Percy coming from a distance on a path obscured by the leafy vines and bushes, "Having to walk home. Juliet, I mean, I go to see Dad, told he's gone on an emergency. Can't Apparate or use the Floo Network. So what do I do? Have to Apparate to the Kirbys and walk from there--"
"Perce," said the voice of Juliet, Percy's current girlfriend, "it could be important."
"Yeah right," Percy said, "Fred and George again..."
Percy rounded the corner, in full and fancy dress robes, and froze in his footsteps. His eyes moved and he looked at the rubble pile for a minute before Bill looked up.
"Jams everything for miles," Bill said
"About time," Percy said.
All the other redheads glared. With the exception Percy who immediately left with Juliet, everybody else assisted in the recovery by rescuing a number of items, including their beloved VitalFamily™ kitchen clock. Harry and Ron loaded their stuff into the back of the Granger vehicle. As the light faded into twilight, Arthur took Ron and Harry aside.
"Have a fun year at Hogwarts," Arthur said, "I should see you on platform 9¾."
Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Gia climbed into the car. Ron squeezed into the back seat, his hand causing Hermione's shirt to bulge as he had slipped under and was feeling up her knockers until Linda gave him a very stern look.
"Up front," Linda said to Hermione.
Hermione moved up front, glaring. Linda got in and drove away, away from where the Burrow had stood.
By mid-evening, they stopped at a fast food restaurant back in Noigate. After which, Harry and Gia parted company, and started to walk.
"Certain?" Linda asked.
Harry nodded, and then joined Gia walking. A mile later, they headed down James Lane. Right before the S-bend to the house, a police cruiser was blocking the way. Flashing lights pulsed across the many homes and trees. Gia ignored the officer and cruiser, rounded the second bend to see the trailer on her driveway surrounded by police, firemen, and paramedics, even a medical transport was there and ready. Several officers had their weapons drawn and aimed.
"Sir--" the first officer chased Harry and Gia.
"But--" Gia protested.
"Back--" the officer said.
Within the swarm of responders, was one with the biggest hat, upon which was embroidered "Chief". She had just talked to another expert, when her eyes caught glimpse of Gia. Kristen Osborn jogged over to Gia, interrupting the officer.
"Gia, come," Kristen ordered.
Harry followed as Gia was led through the maze of cars, until they had sight of the bench outside the trailer. Upon which, sat three starkers individuals, sticks of dynamite protruded from a box, a big box underneath them, with wires to which the middle individual held down a trigger button.
"Experts believe releasing the button would detonate the device," Kristen said, "Gia--"
"Dad!" Gia exclaimed.
Sitting in the middle of the trio was Kevin Prescott, the detonator button in one hand and a pistol in the other aimed at Ane on his left, giggling on his right was the "Jane" that Gia had previously seen Kevin banging. Dilated and uneven pupils were glancing about the crowd in front of them. 13
"Not again," Gia muttered.
Kristen looked at Gia.
"He's been high before," Gia said, "Never this serious--"
"We could've intervened," Kristen said, "Now it's domestic and he's drunk--it endangers all of us."
Kristen handed Gia a microphone to the cruiser closest to the bench, Harry beside her.
"Dad--!" Gia pleaded, taking a step in front of the cruiser.
"Get back--" Kristen.
"Slut!" Kevin yelled.
Harry pointed at Jane, she was doodling using a small knife on Kevin's bloody thigh.
"Enough--" Gia pleaded.
Quick, Jane then stabbed Kevin in the bollocks as if going for a meatball.
"Exciting--" Kevin said, a grin formed.
The pistol went off, Ane started to slump as bits of her brain left sideways, but did not get a chance to finish the slump. Harry, meanwhile, leapt and spun, pushed Gia down and behind him. Kevin had let go of his pushbutton.
It exploded. Tearing through, the shock wave fractured the corpses, shredding body parts which flew, the lives draining from them as charring and burning continued. Most of them went up, then down, with the boiled blood going everywhere. Kevin's torso crumpled the minced fragments of the RV. Shrapnel, packed into the bomb as nails and other objects including shards of the former bench, went airborne, fast, toward everything in the vicinity, including the people and cars in front of the property. Piercing, many bore into Harry; he collapsed, falling hard onto the pavement. Harry's glasses shattered on the pavement.
"Harry!" Gia yelled.
Kristen plunged, ripped Harry's shirt off, saw the wooden shard going through his chest between the ribs. A paramedic was right behind, felt the neck.
"Still a pulse," the paramedic said.
Within thirty seconds, Harry was loaded onto a waiting helicopter and flown off, Gia alongside him. That five minute flight would forever be her longest; the hop to the hospital was not far. One flight nurse was gauzing the punctures while the paramedic continued hand pumping air into him. She followed as the paramedics rushed him into the hospital; she shoved a cameraman taking footage, the camera shattered. Gia ran into the hospital, only to be stopped by an nurse.
"He's--" Gia protested.
"In a moment," the nurse said, "I need more--"
"You've got his name--Harry Potter--" Gia said, trying to side step the orderly.
"And it's restricted!" the nurse said, "I--"
"Then come," Gia tugged on the nurse, dragging him toward the operating room.
After sanitizing herself, the nurse had an orderly escort her into the operating room. On a table laid Harry, his abdomen open, the surgeons worked, his blood colored their gloves. Gia turned, puked her dinner into a sink, and then stepped closer, saw the surgeons removing a fragment that was lodged near his heart.
Just before Gia bullied the nurse at the hospital, Hermione and Ron were laying on the carpet by the fireplace. Hermione was revising essays while Ron was enhancing her school books.
"You've got school books--" Hermione said.
"Not in mint condition--" Ron said, dipping his quill in the ink.
Hermione snorted, then looked up at the telly that Linda was watching. On it was a picture of a flattened trailer and many police investigating.
"In breaking news," said the news anchor, "We have word that a police standoff has ended in tragedy. At least three people are dead and a young man is being rushed to the hospital. Our crew is heading to the scene and we will report when we have further details."
"Bad day for somebody," Ron said.
Hermione grabbed her mobile, dialed, put it up to her ear.
"Something wrong?" Linda asked.
"That looked somehow familiar," Hermione said, "Harry's not picking up the mobile we lent him."
"Likely busy with somebody," Ron said, "Give him space--"
"Just feels funny--" Hermione said, "Oh no you don't!"
Ron had threatened revision of her essay.
"We can settle this in your bedroom," Ron said.
"No!" Linda exclaimed.
Hermione rolled her eyes and glared at Ron, her mobile rang.
"--and further reports are that a fourth victim was removed from the--"
"Hello?" Hermione answered, "Slow down ... we'll be there. Ta."
Hermione grabbed her coat.
"And--?" Ron asked.
"It was Harry," Hermione said, "He's in surgery now."
Linda grabbed her car keys. After Ron finished a call, they headed for Noigate hospital, which took an hour to get around a different accident tying up traffic. They entered the parking lot.
"Call when you need it," Linda said as Ron and Hermione got out.
Gia met them in the waiting room. Hermione looked at her.
"Still in surgery," Gia said, "He gave a couple of good scares--they thought he was dead twice, but he has seemed to have stabilized. They should be moving him momentarily."
Gia escorted them toward surgery in time to catch the orderlies moving Harry out; they followed into the Intensive Care ward. They neared a room, when Kristen Osborn approached.
"Miss. Prescott--" Kristen said.
"Sure," Gia said, moving off with Kristen.
Ron and Hermione entered the room. Harry had many tubes attached to him, a ventilator assisted. A nurse attached some electrodes to a heart monitor, then left.
"He's flirting--" Ron said.
"Isn't funny," Hermione snapped.
Gia came in.
"I'll let Richard know in the morning," Kristen said, departing down the corridor.
"What happened?" Hermione asked.
Gia explained the incident.
"High?" Hermione said, "I wasn't aware--"
"It's not like we publicized," Gia said, "Different each time--if he hadn't of died, I'd murder him myself for doing this."
"Gia," Ron said, "Did you get his--you know--"
"Ron!" Hermione snapped.
"It ain't dirty," Ron said.
"A paramedic found it," Gia said, "Didn't seem to care, and gave it to me for safekeeping." She showed the tip of Harry's wand.
Hermione glanced at it, then Harry, then at Gia. "One thing at a time."
Just after midnight, the door opened. In came, in a slow walk, Dumbledore, leading Madam Pomfrey. She went straight for Harry, her wand was probing. Dumbledore, though, carrying a bag with cloth straps around his arm, turned to Ron.
"Excellent guard," Dumbledore said, "Mr. Weasley, thank you for passing along the information, Miss. Prescott--"
"There was no time," Gia said.
"Heart was in the right place," Dumbledore said, "Poppy?"
"Nothing too serious." Pomfrey gave Hermione a flask. "Give this to Mr. Potter when he wakes."
Dumbledore set down his bag. "Tokens for Mr. Potter."
Dumbledore and Pomfrey left.
"Now that they've left," Ron said to Gia, "Dare you to--" He was pointing, alternating between her mouth and the middle of Harry.
"Ron!" Hermione snapped.
"Just looking out for his best interests," Ron said.
Around the same time as when the moon was trying to skirt behind the trees of the park, Harry's eyelids drifted open.
"What the--?" Harry stammered, "Ugliest nudes then this--"
"Nightmare," Gia said.
"Dumbledore--" Ron started.
"Him?!" Harry said, "Minor--"
"Major surgery is not minor," Hermione said, "Drink up! It's on Madam Pomfrey."
Harry took the flask, sniffed the contents, and then frowned.
"Ain't pumpkin juice Mate," Ron said.
"Your Dad--?" Harry asked of Gia.
"Dead," Gia said, "Nearly took you out--I'm tending to you."
Harry swigged the flask then downed the potion, sputtered a bit back.
"Definitely not pumpkin juice," Harry said, "Nor anything better."
Through the door came a person in a white lab coat, Dr. Patrick, carrying the clipboard. He shooed Ron and Hermione, both protesting, out, then closed the door.
"How long has he been awake Mrs. Potter?" Dr. Patrick asked.
"Several minutes," Gia replied.
"I'm the one being tortured," Harry said, "All for a mild headache--can I leave now?"
Dr. Patrick snorted. "Inadvisable."
Harry yelped like a lonely puppy as Dr. Patrick examined him. The doctor poked about, checking the surgical scars under the bandages. "Fast metabolism." The scars were already fading. However, Patrick looked at the forehead. "That one, though--"
"Tattoo--" Gia said.
Dr. Patrick shook his head.
"A few days at least," Dr. Patrick said, "You could stand to gain a bit of weight--you're definitely underweight Mr. Potter, unhealthy." He jotted several notes on his clipboard, then left.
"Not wanting us--" Ron said as he reentered, he was munching on a slice of pizza, "Cafeteria's just down the--"
"Food!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Said gifts?" Harry asked.
Hermione grabbed the bag, set it on Harry's bed. Harry dumped out the contents, some cards and packages fell out. Harry opened the package of chocolate frogs from Hagrid.
Harry rattled off the names as he went through the cards. "Lupin, McGonagall--" Ron blushed "--Flitwick, Sprout, and ... Dobby." He held up a pair of socks.
"Supposed to sleep," Hermione said.
"I'm not tired," Harry protested.
"He should be." In through the door came Richard Osborn. "Mum just told me Gia--"
"Hitting--" Harry started.
Richard threw up his hands. "Bagged my own man, you certainly blasted onto the news--"
"Not funny," Hermione stated.
"She's normally a sour puss," Ron said, "Positively--hey!" Hermione's elbow recoiled from his ribs.
"Going hiking--?" Richard asked.
"All you can think about?" Gia asked.
"You were starkers and excited," Richard said, "Guess it's casual--"
"We're not sides of meat!" Hermione protested.
"I wasn't complaining," Richard said, "Think Mum'd agree if you needed the guest room--"
"Cheap action?" Hermione asked.
"I'm working my way with my girl," Richard said, "Perhaps--"
"Go for it," Ron said, "Worth it."
Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry, however, had opened a letter addressed in Dumbledore's handwriting, out of which tumbled a pair of Hogwarts pins. Ron lit up.
"He agreed--?" Ron asked.
Harry read the letter.
Dear Mr. Harry Potter,
I hope you have a speedy recovery.
may be interested in resuming a particular arrangement. You may do so
under the same terms as before. Enclosed are two items that you need
for this. I do not mind Mr. Ron Weasley or Miss Hermione Granger
taking part in this liberty should they wish to.
Ron, Hermione, and Gia also knew what Dumbledore was implying. During the prior term, Dumbledore had consented to Harry commuting via Portkey.
"Perhaps you can help push Mum and Dad's away from their antiquated notions--" Richard said.
"Friendship first," Harry said.
"Right," Richard said, "Cafeteria then off." Richard left the room.
Ron slumped in his chair and started snoring, lightly. He continued sleeping as Gia's relatives started visiting.
Midday Tuesday, Dr. Patrick reentered the room; Ron and Hermione were not in the room. Patrick looked over Harry, his eyebrows raised.
"Remarkable," Patrick said, looking at the lack of surgical scars, "However, X-rays are warranted and I'll see to moving you to a regular room."
Dr. Patrick left. An orderly came in, moved Harry into a wheel chair, hanging the IV on the hook. Gia followed him through the X-ray room and then to a new regular shared room, three other teenage boys were in there, all of whom noticed the police escort.
"Wow!" one said, "Evil!"
"Don't anger him," Gia said. Harry rolled his eyes.
Through the door came more of Gia's relatives, Uncle Marty and her cousin Trevor.
"After what he did--" Gia said.
"I do not condone his final act Gia," Uncle Marty said, "However, do not condemn him for such a thoughtless act when it's obvious he was out of his mind. I thought he had gotten that under control a long time ago, before he married your Mum."
After a good hour, they were replaced by Uncle Milton coming in through the door.
"Uncle Milton!" Gia exclaimed.
"Hi Gia!" Uncle Milton said, "I just came over to get you."
"Huh?" Gia asked, "Get me?"
Harry studied Uncle Milton, looked at his eyes.
"With your Dad gone," Uncle Milton said, "I've assumed custody."
Harry's IV vanished.
"What?" Gia exclaimed, "Since when?"
"Just signed the papers earlier," Uncle Milton said, "You're to move to Surrey for a proper raising."
"NO!!" Gia shouted.
Harry jumped out of the bed, tugging at Gia's arm, dashed out of the room, his gown flailing off for all to see him starkers as he ran.
"It's final!!!" Milton shouted, "Detain her officers--!"
Milton found himself detained, long enough for Harry and Gia to slip down a corridor. Harry found himself clothed as he reached the nurse's station and slammed into Ron. Ron and Hermione joined in the run, the pen on the desk signed Harry out. They jumped into Linda Granger's just pulled in car.
"Go!" Harry shouted.
Linda drove off.
"What's that--?!" Linda asked.
"Barely know him," Gia said, "Yet he thinks he owns me--"
"Ignore that auto," Ron said, looking back at the tailgating car.
Mad behind them was Uncle Milton, threatening to wreck them both, flashing his brights and honking the horn.
"You need to sort this out immediately," Linda said, "I will not host juvenile delinquents."
They got a breather when a police officer pulled Uncle Milton over. Hermione punched numbers on her mobile, coordinated with Gia, and started talking. An hour later, Linda dropped Harry and Gia off at number 26 Oak, and then continued.
"Fast," Gia said.
"You count," Harry said.
They approached the green door of an orange red brick house, and knocked. Richard opened the door, revealing himself to be in a white T-shirt and blue shorts.
"Come in," Richard said.
They entered the living room, to the right was a staircase leading up, to the left, the ceiling dropped a foot half way across. Three couches were arranged into a square, finished by two metal chairs in front of the fireplace. Both chairs were occupied, one by a chubby balding older male, the other by a middle aged woman, both of whom were formally dressed. Gia and Harry sat on the sofa across the coffee table from the chairs. Uncle Marty was already sitting on one sofa, Uncle Milton on the other, both refusing to partake of the tea on the table.
"I'm Andrew Haller; the solicitor in charge of Kevin Prescott's estate," the fat man said, "Kevin retained me a number of years ago for this eventuality. First, let's introduce ourselves as we might not all be familiar with each other. I've been a practicing attorney for twenty years with experience in family matters and estates."
The mid-age lady next to him said, "I'm June Kaylor and I'm from the Family Services Division of Social Welfare. For twenty five years, I have helped families in crisis and in the aftermath of tragedy. I'm the mother of three kids and grandmother to two, three as of yesterday."
"Uncle Milton, Surrey."
"Uncle Marty, Liverpool."
"Richard Osborn, friend."
"Kurt Osborn, father to Richard."
"Harry Potter, boyfriend."
"Hi!" Gia waved.
"As I understand it--" Haller looked at his papers on the table "--Marty Prescott is handling the funeral arrangements. Is this correct?"
Uncle Marty nodded.
"I always let the families handle as much or little of that as they wish to," Andrew said, "Assets will be handled in probate, at which point, I will collect my legal fees. Today, the custody of Miss. Prescott is in dispute, for which, I have brought in Ms. June Kaylor to assist matters."
"Kevin Prescott failed to specify anything in his will," June said, "Miss. Prescott has expressed a strong interest in her own well being, this is respectable and it must be considered, despite what her relatives wish. Let us start with you Miss. Prescott."
"Harry--" Gia watched Harry's ear grow a tad pink "--I've got friends here, school and such--"
"From that bog that Kevin called a home?" Milton spat, "Glad it's gone--"
"Civility!" Kaylor snapped.
"Richard talked us into it," Kurt said, "We can offer her space."
"June and I discussed the options, legally," Haller said, "Relative--the easiest, adoption--impractical given the speed of the paperwork, orphanage--unlikely given the numbers here who're willing, and emancipation--possible--" He saw Gia's face "--it confers adult status on you a bit early."
"Gia needs to be raised in a proper environment," Uncle Milton stated.
"Same old bull, it gets tiring!" Uncle Marty said, "Repeatedly trying this dozens of times already--let her decide!"
"You're full of it Prat!" Uncle Milton said, "Besides, it's not a dozen--"
"Quiet!" Harry shouted, standing, "This is about her, not your egos!"
Harry walked, tugged Haller to the right, past a staircase leading down, another right and into a study where he pulled the doors closed.
"They're being nutters!" Harry said, "We need a resolution."
They talked for a good half hour, June joining them part way. Harry led the way back into the living room, he tucked Haller's card into his pocket.
"We have a proposal Gia," Harry announced to the group.
Uncle Marty and Uncle Milton looked at him. Gia glared for a moment. June sat down in her chair; Harry sat down next to Gia.
"Think you'll like this," Harry said.
"If you accept, Gia," June said, "We will push for emancipation on the condition you continue attending school. Pending that, I will assign temporary custody to Kurt and Kristen Osborn."
In short order, Gia left that house, leaving behind a disgruntled Uncle Milton, she was smiling. Harry walked with her.
"Thank you," Gia said.
"There's more," Harry said.
Gia gave a puzzled look.
"Similar conditions apply to me--" Harry said.
"What do you mean emancipation?" Sirius demanded of Harry as he stood in the guest room at the Grangers'.
"I can't list you as guardian, can I?" Harry said,
Sirius paced. "You are certainly out doing James Potter--Moony wrote about some near-death experience and I canceled my errand I was running for Professor Dumbledore--"
"Sorry," Harry said, "It wasn't much--"
"And what of your Aunt and Uncle?" Sirius said, "They--"
"Dead." Harry sat, and then explained both Privet drive and Kevin Prescott's bomb.
"Oh," Sirius said, "They certainly did not appreciate their callous toward them, but your parents would not have savored this news."
"This just makes legal what I have been doing," Harry said, "Making decisions for myself without having to get some stranger's consent. You are still my godfather, regardless of what the law says."
"Thank you Harry James Potter," Sirius said, "Write Professor Dumbledore immediately--"
Harry glared. Sirius studied the bottle green looking at him.
"Downside is you can't blame the Dursleys--"
Harry snorted. "Only downside there is--"
"With this publicity--Gia's safety--" Sirius said.
"Is germane," Harry said, "You'll be following her, all the time--"
"What--?!" Sirius exclaimed.
"I need it," Harry said, "She's agreed to it."
Sirius studied the face of the teenager in front of him.
"Where are your glasses?" Sirius asked.
"Destroyed--" Harry said.
A knock came from the door.
"Harry!" Hermione shouted through the door, "Some reporter--"
"Send them packing!" Harry replied, opening the door, "Tell them Surrey, or Catchpole, or Brum!"
"Won't work," Hermione said, "Mum accidentally spilled--she tried not to, but reporters--"
"I won't take this." Harry stormed out of the room.
Harry glanced over the ledge of the balcony in the vaulted Granger living room, the cameraman was aimed at the kitchen doorway, and the staircase could be seen on the telly, live. With a push on the balcony, Harry leapt, crashed onto the cameraman--static showed for a brief moment on the telly, only to be replaced by the smoldering wreckage of the hospital. Dennis, the reporter, glared at Harry.
"This just in--" the anchor said.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" Harry yelled, "BLIMEY! NOTHING GIVES YOU THE DAMN RIGHT--WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?! INVADING MY PRIVACY?! I DON'T WANT THE FUCKING PUBLICITY!" He flipped Dennis off.
"The people have a right to the truth!" Dennis shouted.
"SHOULD WE FILM YOUR GENITALS?!" Harry yelled, "THEY HAVE A RIGHT--"
"You are trespassing," Charles Granger informed Dennis, "Leave immediately, the police have been summoned."
"People got killed and you survived!" Dennis yelled, "They need to--!"
"BUGGER!" Harry yelled, "FUCKING MORON PRYING--BUZZ OFF!"
Harry spun around, dropped his trousers, and mooned Dennis. A second cameraman caught this, which then appeared on the telly for a moment. A moment later, the picture was replaced by a test pattern.
"See what you just did?" Dennis yelled, "We get penalties for that type of stuff."
"YOUR OWN FAULT FOR FILMING WITHOUT MY CONSENT!" Harry yelled.
"--serious situation," the news anchor said, "Noigate Hospital leveled with many casualties--"
"SEE WHAT YOU FUCKING DID?!" Harry yelled.
Charles opened the front door.
"Your moment of fame--" Dennis yelled.
"GOOD!" Harry shoved Dennis out.
That evening, Linda Granger helped Harry and Gia move their stuff to 26 Oak. After they unloaded everything into the living room, Linda paused for a moment.
That evening, Harry and Gia arrived at 26 Oak, Linda Granger had driven them. They unloaded their stuff into the living room.
"You're always welcome," Linda said, then left.
Snuffles, the Animagus form of Sirius Black, laid outside on the front step, Harry closed the door. Richard came down the stairs.
"Well," Richard said, "You need the tour."
"Others?" Harry asked.
"Mum's at work," Richard said, "Dad's taken Ant in to the shrink."
"Ant--?" Harry muttered.
"His sister," Gia replied.
They passed a stairway, and then headed down into the basement. Richard pointed out the storage in the middle, the work area to the left, and the laundry with toilet in the far corner. They walked over to the work bench; upon it were numerous electronics and projects. Harry picked up a small circuit with funny pieces mounted on green plastic.
"Ah," Richard said, "Variable Frequency Oscillator."
"He's into amateur radio," Gia said.
Harry placed the circuit back onto the work bench. They looked at the furnace and water heater before returning up the stairs. Richard then showed them through the study, the dining room, the kitchen, past another toilet and a upward flight of stairs then back into the living room. They climbed the stairs up into a small landing with five doors -- Andy to their immediate right, Richard's to the immediate left, another toilet straight ahead flanked by the parents on the left and an open door on the right leading to a cluttered room.
"Your room, now," Richard said, "It's getting cleaned up--later."
Gia pushed inward enough to see the myriad of boxes, books, clothing littering the floor and covering the bed, However, Richard gently pulled her out, and then opened the door to his room--this room was also cluttered but with a quite different flare. He pointed to the girl painting.
"My bird, Jen," Richard said.
Gia moved over, looked at the painting in progress which was far enough along to discern a starkers Richard as the subject. Harry looked up at many plastic models including one dangling from the ceiling.
"MIR space station," Richard said.
"Cool," Harry said.
Gia looked through the sliding glass door out to a roof deck; on it was a hot tub.
"Accessible from here, those other stairs, or Mum and Dad's room," Richard said, "Even have blinders for sanctuary."
Richard walked through the open door onto the deck. Gia followed, looked at the blinders obscuring every view. Richard sat on top of the spa, which was covered, facing them.
"Welcome to the family, with it comes great responsibility," Richard said, "First, it is acceptable to be less than decent. Second, never make your bed. Third, your floor can be your cupboard. This is now your home too--so do not act like a guest. Finally, treat Ant with disrespect." Richard smiled. "Now, your moon shot--brilliant!"
"When you shove a camera at me--" Harry said.
"Mum deals with that all the time," Richard said.
Harry and Gia went back in, then downstairs, and began to move their stuff up the stairs.
Both Harry and Gia were woken next morning, a Wednesday, by a fourteen year old girl shaking them. Harry looked up, saw the girl's knockers.
"What the--?!" Harry demanded.
"Ant!" Richard shouted, coming toward the bedroom door.
"Look at them--!" Andy protested, pointing to Harry and Gia's mutual full exposure, for their covers were on the floor.
"Let them sleep!" Richard demanded.
Andy walked toward Richard, pulled his boxers down, and then shoved. Richard fell backward onto his rear. Harry pulled the covers back over him and Gia as Kristen Osborn came out of her room.
"Andrea Osborn, you are on restriction!"
"He started it!" Andy protested, tears rolling down her face.
"Your bedroom, NOW! Stephen is to leave!" Kristen glared Andy back into her room, and then turned toward Gia's room. "Sorry about that, good morning."
Out of Andy's room came Stephen Stewart, who turned and went down the stairs. Andy's door slammed shut. Boldly modeling their underwear, Harry and Gia went down the stairs. Snuffles sniffed and looked up from his place in front of the fireplace.
Later that morning, Snuffles tagged along as Harry and Gia left the house. Snuffles ran around them, first checking out a neighbor's car, then the fire hydrant. As they took a foot bridge over a creek, Snuffles plunged into the water, came back out, and then shook vibrantly.
"Cut that out." Harry smiled. "If the doggy wants a bath, I'm sure we can find the most embarrassing--"
Snuffles knocked Harry onto the wooden bridge, towered over Harry, and growled.
"If you're going to be like that," Harry said, "we could stop by the vet, get you fixed--"
Snuffles whimpered loud, put his tail between his legs to tightly guard things, and moped off. Gia gave Harry a hand in getting up. Gia was chuckling.
"You two can be so funny," Gia said.
"I'm sure Snuffles will find more ways," Harry said, "after which, he'll need a flea bath tonight."
"Richard could've come," Gia said.
"Not to Diagon--" Harry said.
"You've got an appointment--" Gia said.
"Appointment?" Harry scowled.
Gia tugged, Harry followed reluctantly to the eye doctor. After the appointment, he left the doctor sporting a new pair of glasses. Snuffles then came wandering back over to them.
"You've never been to Diagon Alley before..." Harry said.
Snuffles darted, next to Harry, who grabbed Snuffles tight.
"Maybe some shots--" Harry said.
Snuffles growled, wrenched forward out of Harry's grasp, and ran ahead. Snuffles chased several cats before he disappeared; he returned to Harry and Gia with Crookshanks on his back.
They returned to Hermione's home, and then entered, with Snuffles closing the door. Ron and Hermione were on the floor. Harry spotted Hermione, her panties were the only article saving her from starkerdom compared to Ron, who was partially dressed--all of their clothing had the telltale signs of a fast dressing.
"Toying with fate there Mate," Harry said to Ron.
Ron looked from where he was laying up to Hermione's bare knockers.
"Only if her parents were home," Ron said.
Snuffles, however, was sniffing about them. Hermione got up, grabbed some of her clothes off of the sofa, and then ran across toward the toilet. Gia looked at her mobile, and then pushed buttons.
"Get your list mate," Harry said, "About time for--"
Ron got up; they both went up the stairs.
"Hello?" Gia said, "Yep ... Yep ... Yep ... Bye."
Harry returned with his list, Ron was right behind. Gia was looking out the window when Harry jumped onto her back, wrapped his legs around her waist, arms about the neck, and he was looking down her front.
"Piggyback?" Gia stumbled for a moment under Harry's weight, and then recovered. "Uncle Marty called--he's picking me up--"
"Forgive him," Harry said to Gia, "Got something under that collar--"
Snuffles leapt and transformed.
"Speaking of parasites--" Sirius said, removing his black dog collar--which was a gift from Harry the prior year.
"Fleas, Ticks, or is it Lice?" Harry asked.
"Fleas?" Hermione said, coming in from the kitchen, "Get Out!"
"Glad I burned James' flea joke list," Sirius said.
Harry sniffed at Gia's neck.
"Coming?" Ron said, going to the fireplace.
"Already have 'em," Hermione said, "I'm woefully behind--" She laid onto the floor, Crookshanks started walking on her back and started pawing her shirt. "Ow!"
"Just a minute," Harry said.
"Woman studies?" Ron said to Harry.
Sirius changed back to Snuffles, and then pounced, taking Gia and Harry to the floor. He started licking Harry.
"Gross!" Ron said.
Harry quickly got up and joined Ron into the fireplace. A moment later, they waltzed through the Leaky Cauldron to the backyard and into Diagon Alley. After a stop by the Apothecary, they were stopped in their tracks by the biggest of crowds in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies. On an elevated platform was a brown and long haired individual--
"Whitehorn!" Ron exclaimed.
People looked at them and scowled.
"Yes," Whitehorn said, "There is always a prototype, some work, some do not. As to the Firebolt, it will prove to be the best broom for quite some time; you will not be dissatisfied with this broom."
"And we have a pair," Ron whispered, referring to the broom that Sirius had given him during the previous year.
"Will it be discounted?" one gentlemen asked.
"No," the shop keeper, standing near Whitehorn, said.
"How fast can your fastest prototype go?" a lady asked, her pink clothes fluttered and a quill moved.
"Let's go," Harry muttered.
They moved along, around this crowd and the small one around Flourish and Blotts, to pass into Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
"Don't have the key--" Ron muttered.
"Stay here then," Harry said.
Harry followed the goblin into the cart, Ron got in beside him. The cart moved along the maze of tracks until it came to a stop in front of Vault 687.
"Don't look," Harry stated.
Harry gave his key and the goblin opened the vault. Ron looked over Harry's shoulder as coins tumbled into Harry's purse. After returning to the surface, they left Gringotts, when Harry noticed Ron's look.
"Not again!" Harry grumbled.
"Must be--" Ron exclaimed.
"You came!" Harry snapped.
"Buy Hogwarts!" Ron replied. He glared at Harry before looking away, he slumped his arms against his chest.
"Fine sour puss," Harry said.
Ron wandered off while Harry went into Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. After picking up new robes, Harry came back out to find Ron sitting at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, eating the smallest of small of sundaes. Harry went to Mr. Fortescue, handed him several sickles.
"I do not think your friend is happy Mr. Potter," Fortescue said.
Harry sat down, in the corner away from Ron.
"He's jealous," Harry said, "He's richer in many ways--"
"People generally look past what they have and focus on what they do not," Fortescue said.
"It's going to tear us apart," Harry said.
"Money has destroyed the most treasured of friendships before," Fortescue said, "Tread carefully."
"Ta," Harry said, getting up.
Ron noticed Harry leaving Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, he followed. Harry was slowed by a crowd outside the bookstore.
"Excuse me," Harry said, parting the crowd to enter, "Oh no!"
A sign next to the store read, "Book signing today by Gilderoy Lockhart."
People, however, stayed clear of the steam rising from a vat of water outside the store. Outside, the manager stood, saw Harry and Ron approaching.
"Hogwarts?" the manager asked.
"Sixth year," Harry said, handing him the list.
"Oh no," the manager said, "and I thought Monster Book of Monsters was bad."
With tongs, the manager reached into the vat--
"Dry one--" Ron said.
"Burned to a crisp," the manager said, bringing out a book that shot out flame, "Have your dragon hide ready?"
Harry grabbed the book, it immediately calmed down.
"H-How?" the manager stammered.
Harry shot a look at Ron, then grinned, he then handed it to Ron.
"Talent then," the manager said, "Good luck."
Harry and Ron entered the shop, avoiding the centered desk in the back, got their other books, and paid for them. On their way out, hands gripped both of their shoulders.
"Just a minute, boys," said the familiar voice, "We have unfinished business."
Harry spun; standing in front of them was Gilderoy Lockhart.
"Absolutely amazing," Lockhart said, "Fortune and years later--"
"Ill advised," Ron said, "waste of--"
"Not our teacher nor more," Harry said.
"True Mr. Potter," Lockhart said, "A good memory charm--"
Harry spotted Lockhart's wand showing, he concentrated, and the wand flew. Ron caught the wand, and then dropped it in the vat of smoldering books in front.
"Boys--" Lockhart complained.
Harry whispered a few words to Lockhart, who then withdrew. Harry and Ron left Flourish and Blotts.
"Irking," Ron muttered.
"Gets on my nerves," Harry said.
Ron looked at his list. "At least he's not going to Hogwarts, though Hagrid's still there--"
They both snorted and chuckled. After they finished their school shopping, Ron took Harry to 93 Diagon Alley, Weasley Wizarding Wheezes.
"It's finally taking off," Ron said, "Or so they claim."
They entered 93 Diagon Alley, behind the counter stood Ginny.
"George, Fred," Ginny announced, "we have guests."
"You don't need to announce every customer." George came through an open door from the back, he saw Harry and Ron. "Then again--"
"Who?!" Fred shouted from the back.
"Enjoying the holiday?" George said, "Come--stay Ginny."
Harry and Ron followed George into the back room. Harry spotted a beetle scurrying about the floor; he kicked it out the door, and then stuffed a towel into the crack.
"Hate bugs?" George asked.
"Not when it's Rita Skeeter--" Harry said, "She's unregistered."
"Real wizards yet?" Fred asked, coming into the back room from the stairs from below.
"Show some tack Gred," George said, "Are you?"
"Like we'd tell you," Ron said.
Fred conjured up party hats. "Celebration!"
Some party paper blowouts appeared and were going full swing, fell from the ceiling, balloons floated upward. Ron's face went bright pink.
"Rubbing it in?" Ron asked.
"Rubbing was--?" George asked.
George's chair started galloping like a bucking horse. George moved wildly as the chair shook him about before it finally threw him against the upward going stairs. His chair then walked, ran, the wooden legs moved, taking itself down into the basement.
"Wicked--" Ron asked, "Something new?" Ron saw Harry's look, then grinned.
"Ow--" George moaned, getting up.
"Still lacking--?" Harry asked.
"No!" Fred protested.
Ron perked up, looked up at his standing twin brothers.
"Who--?" Ron asked.
"Like we'd ever tell--" George said.
"Gin--" Ron whispered.
"You wouldn't--" Fred said.
"That's extortion--" George protested.
"We've got some product ideas," Harry said, "While I don't have the time--"
"Our silent partner at work--" Fred said.
"Ss--what?" Ron asked.
"We had to finance," George said, "We listed Harry as a silent partner--"
"That was f'ing blood money--!" Harry said.
"Did you miss Cedric's photo in front?" Fred said, "It's over the front doorway."
"Condoms," Harry said, "Magic 'em to shrink a man's asset or, using their mother's voice, scold 'em--"
"And we'd decimate the Wizarding population," George said.
Harry looked at a watch. "Best be going."
"Any more ideas--write," Fred said.
Ron shrugged. Both he and Harry left.
By late Thursday afternoon, Hermione's pestering had started to pay off, for Harry and Ron started realizing that their remaining time until start-of-term was dwindling fast. While Ron was already at Hermione's home, Harry and Gia were walking toward that home. Snuffles was being Snuffles and was encouraging Harry to play as they went. Snuffles gave Harry a stick to toss, Harry faked the toss but Snuffles still ran for it, Gia chuckled. Gia, had glanced up at Harry's face, not for the last time, her eyes landed where glasses used to be.
"How's the contacts working out?" Gia asked.
"Thanks for suggesting it," Harry said.
Harry grabbed a tennis ball from the pavement, he threw it down the walkway, and Snuffles lunged after it. Harry then stepped around an overturned wagon on the walk.
"Dad's funeral is Saturday," Gia said.
"I'm going too--" Harry said.
"Ta," Gia said.
Snuffles dropped the tennis ball, barreled into the shrubbery -- birds squawked and flew out of the bush.
"Annoying, the homework they assign before school even starts," Harry grumbled.
They paused, she ran her finger up his nose up to his forehead, then smiled. They continued. Snuffles darted for the back when they returned to the Grangers. Ron and Hermione were at the kitchen table, books cluttered, with Crookshanks curled up in Hermione's lap napping. Harry looked down at the essays Hermione was preparing.
"So," Ron asked, "Anything interesting happen today?"
Harry sat down his backpack, then sat down himself. Harry took out Portkeys: Theory and Operation, Hermione rolled her eyes--Ron caught this.
"A guy's got to do what a guy has to do," Ron said.
"It's not an excuse--" Ron said.
Hermione shook her head.
"Where are your glasses?" Ron asked, looking at Harry.
"Contacts--" Gia said.
Ron raised his eyebrows. Harry looked at Ron, then turned his attention back to the Hogwarts Pins he was messing with.
"It's a better look," Hermione said while rearranging Standard Book of Spells, Grade 6.
Ron gaped, looked at Hermione, and pointed to Harry.
"Contacts replace the need for glasses," Hermione said.
Ron looked at Harry.
"He just obliterated many lines of the Unofficial Harry Potter Fan Club merchandise," Hermione said.
"Ginny'll be very upset," Ron said.
"Where is he?" Hermione demanded, she hung up the phone for the umpteenth time Sunday morning, the first of September.
"It's Harry," Ron said, lifting Harry's trunk into the car.
Ron and Hermione walked back into the living room. Linda Granger was pacing.
"Train's at eleven," Linda said, checking her watch, "Five minutes--we're leaving with or without him."
Hermione picked up her phone, hit redial. "Gia--where's Harry? He needs to hurry over ... We're leaving in five minutes--don't want him to miss--but-- ... Ta."
"And--?" Ron asked.
Harry stumbled and fell onto the entry way--clothes in hand but not on him, Linda looked at the teenager scrambling and fumbling while attempting to dress.
"Come--" Hermione snapped.
Ron grabbed Harry's shoulder, then paraded him outside, letting anybody in the neighborhood see Harry climbing, starkers, into the Granger car. Hedwig hooted when she saw Harry. Linda got into the driver's seat and started the car.
"Cutting it a bit close?" Hermione asked, looking over the seat to Harry scrambling to dress in the back.
"We'll make it," Harry said.
Ron saw Hermione study Harry dressing, then stuck his head in her line of sight, he slowly waved his hand. Hermione snorted.
"Your friend will make us--" Hermione said.
"As usual," Ron stated, "Perfectly normal to run for the train--" Ron reached over the seat, grabbing Hermione.
"Not in front of your Mum-in-law--" Harry warned.
Ron blushed, Linda spat out tea, Hermione glared.
"We're not--" Hermione stated.
"Proposed--?" Harry asked.
The car lurched to the right, a horn blared, then Linda wrenched the steering wheel and brought them back between the lines. Hedwig hooted.
"Gah--" Linda exclaimed.
"Should've happened ages--" Harry said, watching Ron's ears turn even pinker.
"Harry--" Ron squeaked.
"Anything interesting this year--?" Linda asked, attempting to divert the subject.
"Muggle studies--" Harry paused as Hermione snorted "--his woman studies--" Harry gave Ron a slight nudge.
"Are you mad--?!" Ron exclaimed.
Harry smiled back.
"Moron," Ron said.
A speeding citation later, for going 92mph in a 60mph zone, they reached King's Cross at 10:52. With a warning of the train, they leapt aboard as the train rolled down the track, with Harry having jumped several feet as the train nearly left without him.
"Wicked!" Ron said, "Can we cut it closer next time?!"
"NO!" Hermione exclaimed.
"We could jump back off and miss--" Harry said.
"There's one," Hermione said, pointing at the compartment at the end.
Harry entered the empty compartment first, then opened his truck and removed his books, some parchment, and an ink jar.
"Don't tell me--" Hermione said.
"Just a little bit--" Harry said.
"With Fudge--" Hermione said to Ron.
"A Mr. Victor Fallerschain," Ron said, "Dad mentioned him--seems clean and decent, even Skeeter can't seem to find anything. He's currently interim until the Wizengamot can ratify--new blood is what's needed. Dad's worried about him possibly sacking the old--"
"Like we'd be soo sorry for that!" Malfoy entered the compartment, followed by Crabbe and Goyle. "Suppose it'd be another sign of the errors of your ways Potter. Protecting Muggles, Mudbloods, and other rubbish; leads to consequences such as poverty, dead mothers, and broken homes. That shack wasn't worth much anyways."
"Out, Malfoy!" Harry was now standing, wand drawn. "Your presence is unwelcome--"
"Careful Potter, you're picking up their bad habits." Malfoy sniffed the air. "Easy to follow the stench--they can't afford clean their diapers14, but you--"
Red light shimmered in the compartment as stunning curses flew. As the smoky haze cleared, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were on the floor. Ron and Harry dragged them into the corridor, Ron slammed the compartment door.
"I--" Ron stammered.
"Why'd he even know?" Hermione said, "Write--"
Ron realized the truth of Hermione's question--Arthur Weasley had taken efforts to keep the news contained. He got out parchment and quill, then wrote a quick note. Harry held the window open for Ron to toss out Pigwidgeon. Pig tumbled before the fluttering fuzz was out of their view.
Harry returned to his essays, pestering Hermione as the train traveled. Clouds started to form and then bunch up as they traveled. It started as a light mist around York, then was a solid rain as they passed from Edinburgh to Glasgow, it became heavier until it seemed they were riding under the water of a lake. Harry closed his books, putting his quill away, as the train slowed to a halt at Hogsmeade.
"Firs' years, this way," Hagrid called out.
Harry merely waved, between the hard breeze, the rain pouring buckets, and the cold weather, Harry and the other students headed for the carriages -- all were soaked through their cloaks and other clothes. Ron, Hermione, and Harry saw the skeletal figures pulling the carriages. Seamus Finnigan climbed into the same carriage as Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
"We might be floating across." Seamus looked at the rising lake water. "Did you have fun?"
"It was okay," Harry said, "Nothing exciting--"
Ron spat, opened his mouth, but shut it upon Harry's look.
"What did you--" Seamus looked at the castle approaching "--Blimey!"
Seamus studied the castle and its lack of a North Tower. Where there was a tower before, there was a rubble heap, the ruins of the structure that Voldemort had collapsed the previous June. Illuminated by the glow of the castle, shards of the stump rose just enough for its shadows to be seen.
"Curse was interesting--" Ron said.
"Ronald--" Hermione snapped.
"Indigo--web of magic," Harry said, "Fascinating, actually, though the result and the caster are deplorable."
Seamus looked at Harry and Ron.
"You wit--?" Seamus asked.
"Death Eaters galore," Ron said.
Their carriage came to halt under a short canopy in front of the castle.
"Prophet mentioned some damage..." Seamus said.
Harry took the first steps out of the carriage. The others followed. Up the stairs they went, through the Entrance hall. Ron and Hermione entered the Great Hall, taking a seat at the Gryffindor table near the back of the Hall; they were sitting across the table from each other. Hermione looked around, eyes darting back and forth.
"Where's Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Went to give Moaning Myrtle a Cheering Charm," Ron said. His stomach growled.
Hermione snorted. Professor Flitwick entered the Great Hall with a long line of wet, wet, first years. After the Sorting Ceremony, Harry came into the Great Hall and sat down next to Ron.
"Where--?" Hermione asked.
"Talked to McGonagall," Harry said, "Later."
"Feed me--" Ron said.
Dumbledore rose with grace, but slowly and taking his time.
"Welcome," Dumbledore said, "Please enjoy."
Dumbledore placed his hands to his mouth, then waved them off; platters of food appeared. In no time, that food had been relocated to the hundreds of plates present then into the stomachs of the hundreds of students. However, Harry proceeded to take half a biscuit and a goblet of pumpkin juice. Hermione looked up from her salad to Harry's plate, she frowned.
"Always a pleasure to have you."
Out of the table came the silver shadowy figure of Sir Nicholas -- some of the first years spilled their pumpkin juice at the sight of the ghosts entering.
"Hello," Harry said, his eyebrows were arched and he was glaring, his arms were folded.
"Good to see you," Sir Nicholas said, "Unhappy--"
"He'd rather be elsewhere," Ron said.
"Hogwarts is a grand opportunity--" Sir Nicholas said.
"It's something else--" Ron said.
Sir Nicholas studied Harry for a moment.
"Grand sacrifice," Sir Nicholas said.
Hermione snorted, Harry grinned. Sir Nicholas moved onto the other Gryffindors.
"Three empty seats," Neville said.
"Three?" Ron said, counting on his fingers, "Hooch and Trelawney murdered--"
"Murdered?" Neville spat.
Dumbledore stood up, slowly, all watched. All hushed, the few who did not already clean off their plates, paused, though the Slytherins kept up their chatter until McGonagall chimed her cup.
"I have been well fed and watered ... Similarly I hope that you have too ... First years please note ... The forest is forbidden to all students. ... "Mr. Filch, ... our head caretaker, has ... added several things to ... the list of prohibited items including ... several lines from Weasley ... Wizarding Wheezes. ... New teachers--"
Harry's jaw dropped at the sight of their new teachers coming out of the Antechamber. Madam Pomfrey came carrying a flask to Professor Dumbledore, he drank it.
"Thank you Poppy." Dumbledore turned back to the students. "Dana Caldwell will assume the Divination Post. Nymphadora Tonks will assist Professor Lupin in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Lastly, Oliver Wood has agreed to take the post in Quidditch and he will be balancing those duties with those demanded of him at Puddlemere United."
Dumbledore sat down. Harry hurried up to the Staff Table and went for Wood.
"Hi!" Harry exclaimed.
"It is good to see you Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said, slowly standing with the assistance of Madam Pomfrey.
"Still have that Firebolt?" Wood asked.
"Great for skirt chasing--" Ron said.
Hermione nudged Ron.
Dumbledore grabbed a cane, shook as he bore his weight. The tap of his cane hitting the floor slowly echoed. Harry led the way, following Dumbledore out of the Great Hall.
"Professor McGonagall has informed me about your new arrangement," Dumbledore said, "That matter is settled."
Dumbledore paused his journey, Harry had given over two Hogwarts pins. Dumbledore tapped them with his wand, then returned them to Harry. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled when he saw the pins self-transfiguring themselves into cloth patches. They resumed the procession.
"North tower--?" Harry asked.
"Bureaucracy is to blame," Dumbledore said, "Our esteemed planning commission is treating it as a new addition, meaning permits and an environmental impact statement. In the meanwhile, it leaks, so it has been cleared of nearly anything that could be affected by our weather."
Dumbledore headed down the ground floor corridor while Harry and Wood led the way up the marble stairs.
"Since when has he used a cane?" Harry asked.
"All week," Wood said.
"Will you be refereeing?" Ron asked.
"A nice tame--" Wood said.
"Tame?!" Hermione exclaimed, "Gryffindor vs--"
"You obviously haven't seen Pro," Wood said.
"Want to sign up Harry?" Ron asked.
"Trouble of being a Professor--work is not over after the feast," Wood said, "Ta."
Wood took off down the fourth floor, while Harry led the way up the stairs to the fifth floor. Harry encountered the crowd on the seventh floor outside the portrait of the Fat Lady.
"Password?" the Fat Lady asked.
"Sex," Dean replied.
The Fat Lady did not budge.
"Aren't you Prefect?" Ron demanded.
Harry pushed through.
"Hot tab!" Harry said.
The Fat Lady moved, the portrait swung open. Dean gaped as Harry walked through and up the stairs. Ron followed Harry up the stairs.
"Remember?" Harry said, "Dumbledore changed it before we left last year."
Ron snorted. Harry then ran up the stairs. Ron entered the dormitory in time to witness Harry vanishing. Behind Ron came Seamus, Dean, and Neville. Seamus looked at Harry's empty bunk.
"He'd better--" Seamus said.
"Cut him a break," Ron said.
"Just want to know his--" Dean said.
"Butt out!" Ron said, "Try the north tower if you're desperate--in the meanwhile, I'm--never mind."
Ron left the dormitory.
A few moments earlier, Hermione entered her dormitory, then crossed and sat at the foot of her mattress. She shuddered at the thought of the room being full of Draco Malfoy's victims in June. She laid back and zoned out for a bit, her thoughts drifted to that day on the train many years ago when she first met Harry and Ron. She then opened her trunk, tossed aside a pair of Ron's boxers, then grabbed her things and went for the bathroom. As she returned, Parvati was holding up Ron's boxers.
"Out of my--" Hermione demanded.
"Any action?" Parvati asked, holding the boxers forward for Hermione to examine.
Hermione ripped the boxers from Parvati's hands, threw them into her trunk as she slammed it shut.
"She did--" Lavender said, "Likely a real--"
"I am NOT a--" Hermione protested.
"How was it?" Parvati asked.
"It's none of your business--" Hermione protested.
"Malfoy it was--" Parvati said.
"Extortion--" Hermione protested.
"Where?" Lavender asked.
Hermione fumbled the pockets of her robe; a Dungbomb fell out and lit off. Coughing was heard from all over the room, Lavender and Parvati went for their bunks. Hermione's eyes, though, landed on the Daily Prophet picture posted on the bulletin board, the one with her, Harry, Ron, and Gia in her parents' hot tub. Hermione sat and then laid down on her bed, she jumped after feeling someone else under her bed covers.
"Anything wrong?" Lavender asked.
"N-No," Hermione said, "Forgot pajamas--" She could see strands of flaming red hair.
"What's it really?" Parvati said, "You've slept starkers like the rest of us--"
"Nothing!" Hermione said, "Seamus is--"
"He's out of the loop," Lavender said, "Though you're right."
Lavender, using a towel to shroud her femininity, left the dormitory.
"And Ron--?" Parvati asked, holding her bed curtains closed, facing Hermione.
Hands came out of the curtains, seeking her. Parvati moved to keep her exposed starkers body between the bed and Hermione. However, the sounds of someone blowing came through.
"Lesbian--?" Hermione asked.
Parvati's bed snorted.
"Sheets are just out of--" Parvati said.
"House-Elves everywhere are cringing--" Hermione said.
Hermione's bed covers snorted then started laughing.
"Oh-h-oh--" Out of Parvati's bed came a starkers Ernie Macmillan, he was peeing uncontrollably as he dashed for the bathroom.
"What'd you--?" Parvati was glaring at Hermione.
"Nothing." Hermione shrugged.
"Me, on the other hand--" Ron pulled down the covers to Hermione's beds, showed his bare head and chest.
"You--" Ernie returned "--I suppose--" He ripped the covers off of Ron, showing that all were starkers in that room. Ernie blushed as he got aroused.
"Go your way," Ron said, "I'll concentrate--" He pulled Hermione onto the bed and closed the curtains.
In the meanwhile, nearly a thousand miles away, Gia was settling down from a rather dull day in her new bedroom at her adoptive home, 26 Oak in Noigate. She was sprawled on top of her bed covers, imitation silk knickers covered her essentials, and she was staring at the light on the ceiling.
Rapidly, the door opened and then closed, Richard came in modeling his boxers.
"Blows big time!" Richard said, "Jen--on restriction--"
"It happens," Gia said, "There is Andy--"
Richard's look of indignation made Gia giggle.
"Need to change--Harry--" Gia looked at the clock radio.
"It totally--" Richard said, "Tomorrow we were--"
"Harry will be along--with me like this and you--" Gia looked at Richard.
"Nearly fifty quid--in advance!" Richard said, "She wanted--"
Gia threw a pillow at Richard.
"Didn't mean to dump," Richard said, "It's just totally--"
Harry appeared, dressed in his school uniform, landing from his Portkey, he fumbled as he tripped over Richard's feet. Gia looked at the overly dressed teenager--Richard, however, was rubbing his eyes and blinking extensively.
"Do you mind--?" Richard said.
"Sorry," Harry said.
"How--?!" Richard stammered.
"A trick," Gia said.
"Out of thin are?!" Richard exclaimed, "Laws of Physics--"
"Don't explain everything," Harry said.
"You broke them--ironclad!" Richard stated.
"Pay attention--" Gia said.
"I did!" Richard demanded, "What happened?!"
Harry sighed, walked over to Hedwig. Gia rolled over to the side of the bed.
"Got to swear, absolutely swear," Harry said, "To never squeal, to anybody, about this--"
With a draw and a flick, Harry's wand was drawn; Richard flew up and landed hard onto the bed.
"I'm a wizard," Harry stated, "I attend Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry--magic."
Harry and Gia explained. Harry stripped down to his briefs as they talked, he then knelt on the bed.
"Wicked," Richard said, "Scary too."
"Yes?" Gia answered.
Andy cracked the door open.
"Yo Dickhead," Andy said to Richard, "On the pull?" She turned to Harry. "Scored a pair--"
"Bloody Ant," Richard asked, laced with sarcasm, "Want something?"
"Your dog is on Cody's favorite chair--"
"Explain it to Snuffles--" Harry responded.
"It's a dog--" Andy protested.
"Threaten him with Sirius Black then," Harry said.
Gia chuckled, Richard looked at them on the bed.
"Where is he--?" Andy asked.
"Try it stupid dick breath--!" Richard snapped.
Andy punched Richard in the stomach, Richard gave chase, and both left the bedroom.
Harry and Gia woke Monday morning to Snuffles nosing and prodding them. Harry then looked to Richard whose towel had just failed him.
"He wanted in--badly," Richard said.
"I'd have appreciated another hour--" Harry said.
"Worse than Pussy Ant--" Richard then looked at Harry. "Care to run--?"
In short order, Harry was leading Richard in running outside of 26 Oak, both bare-chested. Harry's wand was secured under his running shorts.
"Always carry that stick--?" Richard asked.
"You can never be too careful," Harry said.
"Why haven't we heard of--?" Richard asked.
Harry regurgitated Hagrid's comments five years earlier, then explained the racist "Pureblood" issues. They returned to 26 Oak.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione made arrived at Hagrid's Hut for their Care of Magical Creatures class, the first lesson for them. The sun was peaking through some of the clouds; the rays cast a modest shadow across the waiting and smiling Hagrid.
"Uh-oh," Ron whispered.
The rest of the class including a not-so-pleased Malfoy gathered around.
"Now," Hagrid said, "yeh should open up your books."
"How?" Draco Malfoy said, "It burns when we try."
Harry took out his Sizzling Book of Dragons, opened it, and shot Malfoy a grin -- Malfoy returned with a glare of mad rictus of rage at Harry. With the exception of Ron and Hermione, both of whom also had their books out, the remainder of the students had theirs soaking in bags of water. Hagrid beamed at Harry.
"Seems that 'arry figured it out," Hagrid said.
"With third degree burns no doubt," Malfoy snapped.
"Stun it," Harry said.
"Should've known," Malfoy said, with sarcasm, "Stunning--!"
"S'mething ever' proper Wizard should know," Hagrid said.
Harry and Ron stifled their laughs, Hermione mimicked a camera, all three were memorizing Malfoy's look of horror.
"Most important magical creature is the dragon," Hagrid said, "Which is why we're going teh spend the entire year studying them. If lucky, I might be able teh get some as class projects."
"Doubt Dumbledore knows," Ron whispered to Harry. Harry snickered.
"What's so funny Ron?" Hagrid asked.
"When are we getting them?" Ron asked, "Eggs, Hatch-lings, or fully grown?"
Malfoy returned his glare at Ron.
"Not next week," Hagrid said, "Eggs'd be best; Hatchlings though may 'ave teh do."
Hagrid lectured on the basics of dragons and their magic. At the end, the class returned to the castle.
"That Oaf teaching about dragons!" Malfoy complained, "Doubt he's ever raised one."
Harry and Ron remained silent, watched Malfoy go down the ground floor corridor, they walked the marble stairs, Hermione was behind them. They reached the third floor and entered the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, in front was not Professor Lupin, but rather, Professor Tonks. Tonks walked back to Harry.
"I see one displeased student," Tonks said.
"I thought Lupin--" Harry said.
"That is Professor Lupin--five points," Tonks said, "Now, Mr. Potter, Professor Lupin considered the matter and I am your instructor for the year."
Tonks returned to the front, waited for all to sit.
"In previous years, you studied about the Unforgivables," Tonks said, "This year, we start by learning to actually cast them; it's not the only thing as there will be more, but we'll cover that when we reach the material."
Later, they left the classroom.
"Teaching--!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Embarrassing more like it," Harry said.
"She didn't compare you--" Ron said.
"Once she started talking about helping my Mum change my nappies--" Harry said.
They passed the school armor touching itself inappropriately and blowing a wad of gum.
"Keep up the good work Peeves," Harry said.
They entered the Great Hall; Hermione took delivery of the Daily Prophet as she sat down. Ron looked at her as she ruffled the paper. Harry, however, grabbed the paper and read it.
Monday, September 2, 1996
The Daily Prophet
Victor Fallerschain New Minister of Magic
In a ceremony this morning, Victor Fallerschain was formally installed as Minister of Magic. Victor Fallerschain then gave his inaugural speech.
"Today marks a bold new era for the Ministry and the Wizarding community. Under my reign, the Ministry will devote itself to empower ever Wizard and Witch to overcome their challenges in life. Like them, the Ministry faces challenges. Under my predecessor, expenses increased which forced taxes to be raised no less than fifty eight times.
"Under my reign, processes will be streamlined, expenses will be trimmed, burdens will be lifted, and greater security will be had for all. These are among the many improvements that I am committed to bring to the Ministry.
"Now, my first official act as Minister of Magic will be to address a serious concern among my fellow Wizards and Witches. This concerns the threatening encroachment on Diagon Alley from undue influences. As my first act, I hereby ban all further Dark Arts shops from opening on Diagon Alley. The existing one, Fun and Power, will remove itself at the end of its current lease in two years.
"I look forward to changing each of your lives in the future. In this pursuit, I have reluctantly accepted an appointment to the vacancy on the board of governors for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I hope that my presence will leave a permanent mark on the children of our future. Good day."
This indeed marks a new era of the Ministry. Fallerschain has been the interim Minister for the past three months ever since the resignation of Cornelius Fudge. Fallerschain has the respect of those serving under him.
Fallerschain's Executive Assistant, Percy Weasley, commented, "The Ministry benefits have not been wasted on him and he has proven to be one of the Ministry's larger investments. He is willing to take risks. I find that his core values show through in his work. His full capabilities have only been recently discovered. The quality of his work is well known. Mr. Fallerschain is not afraid to ask questions that check the assumptions of others and he appears ever productive and has been seen dropping in at off hours."
"Well, he's in," Harry asked, "Wonder what he'll do differently?"
"Probably what they always do after promises of reforms," Ron said, "Fire the department heads, bring in new blood, and stifle hopes of promotions; either that or a Chinese fire drill. Dad's hoping his two person office is small enough to avoid real scrutiny. If anything, he needs more people like he's been requesting for years under Fudge."
In a short while, they left the Great Hall and started up the marble stairs. Ginny came running up from behind.
"Is it true--?" Ginny asked, "Does Harry actually have Herpes?"
"What?!" Harry stammered.
"I heard from Romilda," Ginny said, "She heard it from Natalie who heard it from Euan who heard it--never mind, you're going to deny it--"
"Oh no--" Hermione muttered, her eyes now avoiding Harry.
"What-?!" Ron asked.
"Thought it's have died out--" Hermione said.
Harry turned around, pointed at Ginny.
"I got tested last week," Harry stated, "I am clean."
"Yeah right--" Ginny said.
Ron jabbed Ginny. "Butt out!"
Ginny went up the stairs as they walked down the second floor corridor.
"Great!" Harry said, "My sex life has become Hogwarts favorite topic?!
Hermione rolled her eyes.
Harry returned Tuesday morning, Ron grabbed him.
"Guess what?" Ron said, "What do you suppose you've got--"
"What now?" Harry demanded.
"Pixie mites, apparently," Ron said.
"Hope it dies down," Harry said.
Things did not die down; rather, the rumors reaching their ears grew through the day to include Gonorrhea, Cliodna's Crawling Chlamydia, Gregory the Smarmy's Souring Scabies, Syphilis, Lice, HIV, among others. They passed the Hospital Wing when Madam Pomfrey came out.
"Mr. Potter," Pomfrey said, "Please come with me--"
"Wha--?!" Harry exclaimed.
"Let's not debate this out here--" Ron said, giving Harry a slight push.
Shadows in the background moved, a first year darted out of view.
"But--!" Harry protested.
"Professor Dumbledore has made the recommendation--" Pomfrey said.
"Going over--" Harry snapped.
Ron shoved Harry, dragged him into the Hospital Wing into Madam Pomfrey's office.
"R--" Harry scolded.
"Wanna debate this for all to hear?" Ron asked.
"Thank you Mr. Weasley," Pomfrey said, "It has come to my attention that you are suffering from a myriad of ailments that, for the safety and security of the general student body, must be addressed--this way."
Ron shoved, escorted Harry back into the Hospital Wing where Pomfrey drew a curtain around her and Harry.
"Dirty lies--all of them!" Harry protested.
"That is for me to determine," Pomfrey stated.
Shattering glass, howling, and protesting echoed throughout the Hospital Wing. Hermione came into the Hospital Wing, looked at Ron.
"Not there!" Harry exclaimed.
"Torture?" Hermione asked Ron.
"You know the rumors," Ron said, "Yes."
"Probably would love to have someone else poke him like that," Hermione said.
"Not by an old hag--" Ron said.
"Old hag?!" Hermione snapped.
"Correction," Ron said, "Madam Pomfrey."
They could hear something pulling back on the bed behind the curtains.
"What!?" Harry exclaimed, "You want me to do that?"
"A urine analysis requires urine!" Pomfrey stated.
"You're looking!" Harry protested.
"Fine," Pomfrey said, "I'll be right outside."
Pomfrey emerged from the curtains looking quite frazzled. Her tension eased when they could hear Harry filling a sample jar.
"Rough time," Ron whispered, "Wonder which one has it worse?"
"Got it," Harry announced.
Pomfrey took a deep breath, then entered the curtain. Several moments later, a dressed Harry and Pomfrey emerged.
"Mr. Potter," Pomfrey said, "I'll inform you of the results tonight."
Harry briskly walked for the door; Ron and Hermione followed. Malfoy, however, was passing the Hospital Wing at the moment.
"Ill already?" Malfoy said, "Sex wearing you down?"
"Going in for your wood?" Harry said, pointing to the Hospital wing.
"Give him a break," Ron said, "He needs help wanking--"
"You'll pay." Malfoy pointed at them, then spat at them.
Harry led the way away from Malfoy. As he passed through the corridors, the students gave Harry a wide berth. Rumors failed to abate, instead, Harry kept his thoughts about a thousand miles away.
Friday, he landed in Gia's bedroom carrying a backpack, already starkers he looked at Gia doing a charcoal sketch on some canvas in her lap. He shoved the canvas aside, then sighed as he sat in Gia's lap.
"I was--" Gia said.
"Bloody hell," Harry said, "Madam Pomfrey did more examinations--two of them today! It's only fueling those STD rumors!"
"I'm clean," Harry stated.
Gia reached, her hands cuddled his assets.
"She's getting her jollies off of my dick!" Harry exclaimed.
Gia grunted, her head on his shoulder.
"You--different matter," Harry said, "She's--well, old, and it's not right--"
Harry shuddered. Gia put him at ease until they had another spent condom on the floor. Before the evidence had vanished, shouting and stomping came from the hallway.
"I did not!" Andy yelled.
"You did too!" Richard yelled.
"Mum!!" Andy yelled.
"She started it!" Richard yelled.
"He started it!" Andy yelled.
Andy and Richard kept bickering for ten minutes.
"To sleep, both of you!" Kristen shouted, "I do not care who started it!"
Saturday morning, Kristen Osborn drove Harry, Gia, Richard, and Jen.
"Though I'm letting you go anyways," Kristen said, "You're still on restriction Richard."
"But Mum--!" Richard protested.
"You knew those smoke grenades--" Kristen said.
"Thank you for driving us," Harry said, changing the topic.
"You're welcome," Kristen said.
They made their way to the trail head at a local preserve. Kristen drove off. They started up the trail.
"What was that all about?" Harry asked.
"Ant--," Richard said, "Well, she got this lice colony--all of my clothes, sheets, have to be burned--borrowing these."
"Your spare wardrobe on my floor is a good idea after all," Gia said to Harry.
Meanwhile, Ron escorted Hermione out of the Gryffindor Common Room, with a picnic basket in hand; they walked out of the castle.
"Does the Forbidden in Forbidden Forest enter your brain?" Hermione said, "There's a reason--"
"No witnesses then," Ron said, "You can thank Dobby for lunch."
Ron led the way into the forest and then to Hermione's favorite pond. Mist floated in the air under the cold overcast sky above.
"We always come here," Hermione said.
"Want the Shrieking Shack--?" Ron asked.
"Years ago, I'd have turned you in," Hermione said, "Funny how things change."
They came to sitting on the pond.
"Suppose Harry--" Hermione said.
"Hiking," Ron said, "Having to screw Pomfrey--"
"Hey!" Hermione snapped.
"He deserves the break from it," Ron said, "Dreadful rumors--somebody started it and did so with a very mean streak--well, things can't get any worse."
Ron turned their attention away from Harry for most of the rest of the day. They returned to the castle as the sun was threatening to set.
In the middle of the Entrance Hall was Neville; his skin was pale, he was sitting on the floor, his eyes were glazed over, but his he was constantly rubbing his head.
"Neville?" Ron asked, "Alright?"
Neville kept gazing into nothing, but kept rubbing his head.
"A bit early--" Neville said, "Aw, a breakfast date."
Hermione's eyebrows rose with interest, her curiosity was piqued. Ron glanced at Hermione then back to Neville who was now rubbing his shoulder.
"What--?" Ron asked.
"Just had breakfast," Neville said, "Must've fainted, as I was heading to the library. Done your dragon essay yet? This headache--" Neville groaned.
Ron grabbed at the missing spot of hair on Neville's head.
"This way," Ron said, "Madam Pomfrey can cure your headache."
"Sure--?" Neville asked as he stood up.
Ron nodded. Ron and Hermione escorted Neville into the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey came over. Ron explained.
"Five points to Gryffindor," Pomfrey said. She escorted Neville to a bed and drew a curtain around them.
They turned, saw Gia waving at them; she was sitting next to a bed with a bandaged Harry laying on it. They walked over, Ron towered over the bed looking down at Harry.
"For somebody who despises Hospitals," Ron said, "You're a frequent visitor."
Green eyes looked up into Ron's brown eyes.
"What happened?" Hermione asked.
"Slight disagreement with some rocks," Harry said, "I'll be alright." His green eyes looked at Hermione.
"Broken leg, fractured vertebrae, and lacerations," Gia said, "other trivial things as well."
Harry looked at the picnic basket Ron's carrying. "Well, you two had a nice day. Any action?"
Hermione glared at Harry.
"Neville had a mystery earlier," Ron said.
Harry's green eyes looked up at Ron, a mild grin on his face. Ron explained.
"Sounds typical--" Harry said.
"Felt funny--" Ron said.
"Found his brain--" Hermione stated.
"Can't get action without--" Harry said.
Ron glared at Harry and Hermione; Gia chuckled.
"Want your head made fun of?" Ron snapped at Gia.
"Hermione knows she can get away with--" Harry said.
"That is not--" Hermione said, "At least I am not using the hospital bed for a--"
"What?!" Harry exclaimed.
"As Professor Lupin, I have the right and duty to." Lupin entered, then looked down at Harry. "So the rumors are true."
"It's nothing," Harry said.
"You are in a Hospital bed," Lupin said.
Ron studied Lupin. "Careful—do not harass him for seeking these services--"
Ron and Lupin locked eyes, Harry's green eyes darted between the pair.
"Pomfrey said--" Harry said.
"That is Madam Pomfrey—one point," Lupin said, looking at Harry, "Do not get me wrong, I am happy that you came in, however, I still would like to know why."
"Freak accident," Harry said, "Rocks fell—it's normally safe to use."
"We came immediately," Gia said.
"Do you have any idea the seriousness of the situation?" Lupin sat down on a stool. "This time you were lucky—what if you were knocked out? They'd--"
"As happened during the summer," Ron said, "Muggles would--"
"A patient is trying to rest!" Pomfrey rounded around the corner. "OUT!"
Neville joined up as Lupin, Ron, and Hermione left.
"Better?" Ron asked.
"Much," Neville said, "Veritaserum—whatever that is—was in me--"
"Follow." Lupin escorted them into an empty classroom, Lupin sealed the door. "Explain Mr. Longbottom."
Ron explained their finding Neville. Neville backed up the explanation.
did right Mr. Weasley," Lupin said, "You and Miss. Granger may
leave. Mr. Longbottom—this is serious for someone--"
Ron and Hermione left the classroom. An hour later, they were both on the sofa in the Gryffindor Common Room when Neville returned to them.
"Big mystery." Neville scratched his head. "Professor Dumbledore and Professor Lupin think I was given a Memory Charm—like I really needed--"
"You're alright," Ron said.
"Ta." Neville went for the stairs up to the dormitories.
Late Sunday morning, Harry knocked on the door to Hagrid's Hut. Hagrid opened the door.
"Been wondering if yeh forgot where I live," Hagrid said, "Come in."
Harry entered. Already around the table were Ron, Hermione, and Gia.
"Your Madam Pomfrey gave me the boot," Gia said, "It's not like we were doing anything--"
Hermione snorted. "One more minute and--"
"Assist in my recovery," Harry stated pompously.
Ron's face went pink.
"Spending the night without--" Harry said, "Did you come back? Swore somebody tugged at my hair—likely a dream or the draft. Those pajamas were quite uncomfortable and itchy."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
They continued talking for most of the afternoon, Hagrid lit up as they described their trip, especially the dragon reservation.
By that evening, Harry and Gia returned to the bedroom in Noigate; shouting came from outside the bedroom door. Harry and Gia looked at each other, Gia shrugged.
"Why the fuck--" Andy shouted.
"And your--" Richard yelled.
"did you lock--"
"their DOOR!?" Andy shouted.
"SO?!" Richard exclaimed.
"KEYS for your thieving accomplices--"
With a sigh, Harry opened the door. "Mind keeping it--?!"
"See?!" Richard pointed to Harry.
Harry eyes darted between the two; he quickly surmised their readiness for bed given Andy's knickers and Richard's boxers.
"Headline—ASSHOLE's ASSHOLE SPEAKS!" Andy snapped.
"Jackass!" Richard snapped.
Richard went for Gia's door; Andy lunged and ripped off Richard's boxers.
"Careful you arse kiss--" Richard yelled.
Andy kicked from behind Richard, her foot came up swift and got him right in the--
"Oww---" Richard tumbled into Gia's room, clutching his--
"Bloody bullocks," Harry said, closing the door.
"Can't escape--!" Andy banged on the door.
Harry's wand was now drawn; a black mark was on the door where his curse had just hit it as it passed through onto Andy.
"Sshit!" Andy slammed the bathroom door shut.
"Ta," Richard said as he moaned for another minute.
"She's got a fetish--?" Harry asked.
Richard snorted, then blushed as he saw Gia looking back at him; her eyes focused on his clutching hands underneath his todger, the blush went deeper as the todger snapped to attention.
"Sor--" Richard said.
Harry reached down, grabbed Richard's hand and pulled him up.
"Mum's furious about us not escorting you out--"
"Hogwarts was quicker--" Harry said.
"Try explaining to her--" Richard said.
thought it right," Richard said, "They—not convinced."
"See what I can do," Harry said.
Both Harry and Richard left the bedroom, Richard to his room, Harry downstairs. Gia pulled the covers over her and laid on her side staring at the unblinking eyes of Hedwig.
"Nice to see that you're better," Kristen said, laying a book to the side of her easy chair, "Richard mentioned—it seemed rather serious for you to just run off like that. And your insisting they not follow—I have seen far too many situations where that turned fatal. Perhaps you can shed some light on it."
"It's nothing--" Harry said, "I'm fine now."
"Jen was very anxious about it," Kristen said, "It certainly wasn't minor--"
"Can't explain it--" Harry paused for Snuffles growl "--Seemed right--"
"Legally, you're an adult," Kristen said, "You should act like one--"
"I did." Harry got up, went for the stairs. "I do have school tomorrow."
Snuffles followed Harry, up the stairs and into Gia's bedroom. Harry turned around to face his godfather.
"Sirius--" Harry said.
"And I'd like to know," Sirius said, "I hear just fine as Snuffles--"
"I was going to tell you—honestly," Harry said, "Just went to the Hospital Wing--"
"Sane, but in front of Muggles?" Sirius said, "You must remember that--"
"It was just a small--" Gia said.
small or minor with you Harry," Sirius said, "Everything is
"But--" Harry protested.
"As much as you would like to be average," Sirius said, "You are not average—"
"What--?!" Richard exclaimed, coming quickly through the door.
Sirius froze, but returned the look to Richard. Color drained from Richard's face, his wide eyes were fixed and glazed. Harry pulled Richard in, then closed the door. Sirius looked over the pale, and still naked, teenager.
"Memory Charm---" Sirius said.
"No—we'll explain--" Harry said.
"Are you mad--?!" Sirius exclaimed.
"Would you mind?" Richard said, "Mum'd freak--"
Still in his Gryffindor dress trousers, Harry pressed his right fingertips against Richard's chest and his left hand against Sirius, his eyes landed on Richard.
Harry looked at Richard. "Keep your cool." He then looked at Sirius. "I do not want to risk a Memory Charm—he did see me use the Portkey--"
"In violation of the decree--" Sirius said.
"It was an accident--" Harry said.
"Given this family forgets to knock," Sirius said dryly, "Strong defense there--"
"Just sit, both of you," Harry said.
Richard and Sirius sat.
"Mum's not just any police officer," Richard said, "Hosting him isn't favorable to the career for a chief of police--"
"So she won't know," Harry said, "Don't get me wrong, you deserve the explanation."
Harry delved into the affairs of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.
innocent," Harry said, "And my godfather--"
Richard choked for a moment.
"Tops Ant's shoplifting--" Richard said, "Still, he slipped in--"
Harry explained the Animagus transformation.
"Sirius is Snuffles, literally," Harry said.
Richard snorted. "Tall tale."
Sirius transformed, then Snuffles started sniffing at Richard's bollocks.
"Now that's just not right," Harry said, pulling Snuffles away.
Snuffles transformed back to Sirius.
"Don't get it thought," Richard said, "With your emancipation—this isn't right."
"And list him as my legal guardian?" Harry said, "Are you mad?! Blimey--!"
"Protection," Gia said, "There are people out there who want to murder Harry—I'd make an excellent hostage to lure him in--"
"Mum could assign--" Richard said.
"This is out of her league--" Sirius said.
"At least somebody knocks," Sirius whispered, then transformed.
"Richard, Gia," Jen shouted, "Can I come in?"
"He'll be out in a moment," Harry replied.
Richard looked at Harry.
"Swear," Harry said, "Swear you'll tell nobody."
"I swear," Richard replied.
Still starkers, Richard stood. Harry opened the door, both Richard and Sirius left, then Harry closed the door.
Gia glanced over at the alarm clock, then back at a naked Harry.
"Fast--" Gia said.
Harry climbed onto bed, then crawled over Gia's legs. With a U-turn, she was staring straight up at his dangling bollocks and the todger snapping to attention. He was helping her strip.
"You could lock the door and avoid accidents--" Gia said.
"Guess I'm trusting--" Harry said.
With a quick thrust of her arms, Harry was tipped over onto his back, Gia then sat to the side on his stomach. She looked down at the grinning face staring at her.
"You're either totally trusting or distrusting to the extreme," Gia said, "Great for us or your friends like Ron and Hermione, but lousy for defense and precautions. I've heard it stated in those defense classes I went to—constant vigilance is the principal lesson. So practice it and lock the damn door—this should be your escape as you want it to be, but you need to protect it. Snuffles helps with this, but we all must work to protect—remember, we've got the local Police Chief in the next bedroom, she'd kick us out if she found out. Promise you'll do this--"
"Alright, alright." Harry struggled for a moment, Gia was still sitting on him. "It's just that you're a bit--"
"A bit what?" Gia asked.
Harry paused for a moment, then smiled.
Gia groaned, then got off of Harry. Harry rolled off the bed, past Hedwig's approving eyes, and locked the door. Harry turned off the lights and climbed back onto the bed.
Next morning, Monday the 9th, Harry reached the door to leave DADA when a hand gripped his shoulder and closed the door. Harry spun and saw Tonks standing there.
"I'm a bit worried Mr. Potter," Tonks said, "You're hesitating on the curses—spiders aren't--"
"Well ... I ..." Harry drifted.
"It's understandable," Tonks said, "If you wish to sit out--"
"Never," Harry stated.
"Then you need to convince yourself to learn them," Tonks said, "All of them are horrible, I'd give you a note for your next encounter--"
"You're a nice young man," Tonks said, "Far too nice to have to use these curses, but my note wouldn't buy you more than an antagonistic laugh. I'd even cast one on your behalf, if that'd work, but I fear it won't. For those who are at ease with casting these, we are fighting—I was forced to use one once, never again if I can avoid it, the memory still haunts me today."
"Ta," Harry said.
Tonks opened the door and Harry made for his next class.
After the last class of the day, Harry and Ron dashed to their dormitory.
"Quidditch, Quidditch--" Ron chanted.
They grabbed their Firebolts, then Harry grabbed Ron's shoulder.
"Hey," Harry said, holding his other hand outstretched with a badge, "McGonagall wanted me to give this to you--"
Ron snatched it up, Harry watched his grin form. "Captain?! W-Why? How?"
"You're simply the best for Quidditch Captain," Harry said.
They slung their Firebolts over their shoulders then left the dormitory.
"Feels like charity--" Ron said.
"Not again!" Harry exclaimed, "Just say 'Thank You' and be happy!"
Harry and Ron approached the Quidditch Pitch, already flying around was Josh Brenner, the only other returning player. Ron looked around the stands, numerous Gryffindors and their brooms were waiting. Harry spotted Oliver Wood.
"Aren't you supposed to be neutral--?" Harry asked.
"And supervising all Quidditch activity," Wood said, coming over, "Besides, we'd hate to see Gryffindor disqualified on some technicality, unless you're rooting for Slytherin--"
Ron snorted. Wood's eyes fell onto the captain badge pinned to Ron's tee shirt; he looked at Harry then back to Ron.
"Given that you seem to be Captain Weasley--" Wood paused for Ron's pink blush to pass "--Make certain each and every player is eligible—Slytherin will nail you if you don't. Otherwise, the show is yours."
Harry surveyed the crowd, spotted six first years, and pointed.
"First years off!" Ron announced.
"Potter was allowed--" one snotty first year boy snapped.
"Special dispensation—the rules have since been tightened," Wood said, "We can no longer bend on this."
Slamming the school broom onto the ground, the snotty first year and two accomplices stormed off. The other three first years, a girl and two boys, ascended into the stadium and watched.
"Can you get the Shooting Stars?" Harry asked Wood.
"Cruel, cruel, Harry--" Ron said.
"Talent," Harry replied.
"And I run the show," Ron said.
Shadows and the sun moved throughout the day as Ron ran the hopefuls through their paces. In the dim and rapidly fading twilight, Wood blew his loud whistle, Harry and Ron flew down to him.
"Need another afternoon?" Wood asked, "A whole week?"
Ron shook his head, then announced, "Tryouts are over—the decisions will be posted later."
They all made their way up to the castle,;however, Ron, Harry, and Josh Brenner made their way up to the sixth year Gryffindor dormitory. Several hours later, just before curfew, Ron came into the common room and tacked up a list.
Ronald WeasleyCaptain & Keeper
Ron returned to the dormitory, his eyes landed upon the brown bushy haired and brown eyed Hermione, she seemed to be sizing up Harry as he finished striping to his white underwear. Hermione looked at Ron.
"Dye them red and you've got a new Quidditch uniform—" Hermione said.
"Doubt Professor McGonagall would agree," Ron said.
"Lemme see--" Hermione stepped next to Ron, then pulled his clothing off save the underwear, then stepped back "--definitely, this'd be better--"
"Hmph," Ron grumbled.
"While you two get some more fun in--" Harry, with his right hand on Ron's shoulder, tiptoed up to his ear, then whispered, "Cool it Mate, she'd like you to play starkers--" he paused for Ron's snort "--Talented, girls will bonk—they dig you. Remember that." Harry gave a smile then vanished.
Hermione grabbed at the badge on Ron's shirt, tore it off with his shirt, then fingered the badge.
"Quidditch Captain," Hermione said, grinning at Ron, "We'll just have to see—wait a moment."
Hermione picked up a letter from the stand next to Harry's four poster bed, she read it.
"And more damn--OWW!" Ron jumped back as his toe had hit Harry's trunk.
Hermione spun around, her finger pointed at Ron.
"No wonder you're still poor!" Hermione said, "You wouldn't know what to do with a treasure—you've got the most precious of treasures, a true friend, and you're pissing on him! You've got friends, friends who want you to be happy, and you have family, a real family, with parents and siblings. Count your blessings Ronald Bilius Weasley! Count your blessings!"
Ron stayed quiet, but trembled a bit.
"Let him win!" Hermione said, "You will both be richer for it, far richer than Malfoy ever could be."
"Hermione..." Ron started.
Hermione looked over the nearly starker Ron, her eyes started at the red hair then worked their way down. Her right hand went over his chest; her left grabbed his right hand. She then looked at the white briefs, frowned slightly. Her right hand dropped his briefs.
"We'll do something about these later," Hermione said, "In the meanwhile the Quidditch Caption should be loaded."
Hermione's eyes studied Ron's V as it converged with his curly red pubic hair—she then grabbed his dick.
"Heard a rumor that Malfoy's paying good money—not nearly as good as this," Hermione said, "And he has to pay a fortune to use it—count your blessings."
Ron let Hermione guide him to his four-poster.
Adjusting to life at Hogwarts meant to Harry that he had to get accustomed to a level of scrutiny, and by association, Ron and Hermione had inherited this scrutiny upon becoming Harry's friends. Like all things, this scrutiny waxed and waned over time, however, the next morning, Tuesday, the intensity was beyond what they had previously experienced.
After Ron had retrieved Harry from Noigate, Ron waited for Harry to finish the shower. As Harry left the shower, Ron took a step; both looked over at the door which just opened. Harry and Ron, both starkers, collided.
Colin was standing there with a camera, smiling. Leaving all else behind, Ron and Harry pursued, both stark naked, with haste. Colin took a step back and fell, letting himself tumble down the stairs. Colin fell faster than Harry flew down the stairs, at the bottom Colin stepped to the side. Coming fast out of the stairwell, Harry collided, Ron piling behind him, both toppled Hermione to the floor.
Another camera went off, snapping a picture of both Harry and Ron starkers, on top of Hermione and her tight clothes. Applause came from around the room; Ron glared at Ginny and Colin. Hermione followed Harry and Ron back up the stairs.
"What the--?!" Harry exclaimed, re-entering his dormitory.
Hermione fidgeted in her clothes, her hands constantly readjusting, Ron looked her over.
"Um--" Ron said, "Did you grab the wrong clothes?"
"Guess," Hermione said as her clothes got tighter and tighter.
"Don't you have others?" Harry asked.
"Last set," Hermione said, "Somebody did this!"
Ron rummaged his trunk, threw a dress shirt and jumper at her. Harry found some spares in his trunk.
"But I'm a--" Hermione protested.
"Either that or go starkers for all," Harry said.
After a quick dress, Harry, Ron, and Hermione went down the stairs. As they crossed into the common room, the entire room filled up with pink ribbon fluttering down. Cards, cards with Adam, Eve, and Steve written on them, came floating down.
"Any guesses?" Hermione said.
Scrutiny and gimmicks did not ease. People noticed a smiling Harry casually looking at Hermione when he grabbed the Daily Prophet, they watched as Hermione picked food off of Harry's plate, they watched when Ron bumped Harry's shoulder and Harry not complaining, and while Ron's staring at Hermione's bosom was usual, they noticed Harry wiping up some spilled food from Ron and pumpkin juice from Hermione's shirt.
This scrutiny continued, for after breakfast, people trailed the three leaving the castle and arriving at Hagrid's Hut for Care of Magical Creatures. They noted the three catching and grouping each other; they watched the three head into the first floor boys' bathroom, only to come out with slightly rustled clothing. Several timed this excursion, then looked at their watches with a disapproving face.
By lunch time, the three entered an empty but pink Gryffindor Common Room. Ron rested on the sofa, Harry and Hermione stood in front of the fireplace.
"Weird," Harry said, "Normally Malfoy would've chastised us in lessons—we can guess to what everybody's thinking. All of those eyes and this pink!"
"It's the rumor mill," Hermione said.
"Don't want to imagine--" Ron shuddered "--the Great Hall--"
Harry poked his hand into the side of his trousers.
"You know, we could--" Harry said.
"No way!" Hermione said, "That is for--"
"I'm not hungry," Ron said over his growling stomach, "Really."
"Practicing tonight--" Harry said.
"Oh gimme!" Hermione snatched Harry's Hogwarts Pin and went up the stairs.
"See?" Ron said, "Have her trained already."
After that afternoon's Transfiguration, Hermione went for the library while Harry and Ron headed for Gryffindor Tower.
"First day of practice!" Ron shouted.
They finished climbing the stairs to the third floor, then turned onto the corridor.
"Got a strategy?" Harry asked.
Faint footsteps echoed underneath their own, they turned down the long corridor that was lined with suits of armor on both sides.
"Have to watch the interaction," Ron said.
"Teamwork is--" Harry stopped and looked around "--sup..."
Quidditch left their minds, replaced by the sudden realization that the armor was moving. Blades, an assortment from the armor collection, had all been relocated, sandwiching Harry and Ron between two intersecting fronts. A brief shout, Harry shoved Ron down onto the floor, pushing his friend out of line of fire. Harry lunged, but the first of the daggers punctured and tore into his shoulder, and a quick glow of light shimmered across him, his body remained levitated as the deadly instruments went to work. An axe bit into Harry's left bicep, a morning star tattooed itself into his buttocks, a pole arm burrowed through his chest and lung, and a sword hurled itself at his neck.
Shot from a wand at the end of the corridor, magic struck and disintegrated the sword. A second curse and the other weapons fell with a loud clang to the floor. A third curse conjured up a stretcher underneath Harry's falling and bloody body. Another curse and the stretcher moved rapidly down the corridor toward the Hospital Wing.
"Blimey!" Lupin ran and grabbed Ron's bicep, he pulled Ron up. "What the bloody hell--?"
"Fucking attacked!" Ron said.
With his first footing of his dash to the Hospital Wing, Ron's step into the small pool of Harry's blood caused him to leave a short trail of bloody left footprints as both he and Lupin bolted for the Hospital Wing. Both of them arrived at the Hospital Wing just after Pomfrey, Pomfrey was at working frantically. Silver and green sparks shot out of Lupin's wand, the sparks flew out of the Hospital wing.
"What happened?" Pomfrey demanded, but her focus remained on Harry.
"An attack," Lupin said, "Ron--?"
Ron's eyes looked at Pomfrey's scramble, then the bloody bed in which his best friend was badly torn.
"I'm getting her," Ron stated.
"Go!" Lupin ordered.
Ron made for Pomfrey's office. Lupin looked at the lack of sparkle in Harry's green eyes, then looked at Pomfrey.
Several minutes later, Ron and Gia came out of the office – Gia dashed to the bedside. She looked at Harry still laying there with some bleeding and an IV dripping in fluids into his left arm. Lupin grabbed Gia by the shoulder, pulled her back.
"Let her work," Lupin said, "It's serious and up in the air."
"He's lost a lot of blood--" Pomfrey said, "Remus—reserve blood."
Lupin nodded, went for the cabinets, "We're out of both Potions and reserve blood."
"You've got willing donors--" Gia said.
"Get the pump," Pomfrey said.
Lupin grabbed a pair of small boxes, he rushed them over. Pomfrey waved her wand, both boxes opened; each contained a small pump with tubes. Each pump attached itself with one tube to Harry, then the other tubes attached to Ron and Gia. With a whir, the pumps started draining blood from Ron and Gia, pumping it into Harry. Gia rubbed the only truly intact part of Harry, she stroked his right hand.
"We'll risk two pints each," Pomfrey said, "Stop the transfusion and notify me the instant you get dizzy or otherwise feel bad."
Pomfrey tended to Harry as footsteps slowly approached accompanied by a tapping of onto stone. Into the Hospital Wing came Dumbledore, Hermione was right behind him. Hermione did a run around and beat Dumbledore to the bed. Dumbledore steadied himself near the bed, Pomfrey glanced momentarily at his small shaking.
"I came as quick...as quick as I could," Dumbledore said.
"Quidditch practice has been canceled--" Ron said.
"Quidditch?! Quidditch?!" Hermione exclaimed, "That's all you could think--?!"
"Civility!" Pomfrey snapped.
"I'm a bit tied up at the moment." Ron kissed her angry face with her flashing brown eyes. "Be a darling and inform the team. Please?"
"Alright!" Hermione snapped. She left the Hospital Wing.
"I would appreciate an explanation," Dumbledore said.
Ron describe the attack.
"I heard a shout and rounded the corner to this barbarism," Lupin said, "I have not investigated yet—saving Harry came first."
"Understood," Dumbledore said, "I will look into the armor."
With a slow and deliberate gait, Dumbledore left the Hospital Wing and the tapping of his cane echoed for a short while after.
"Mr. Lupin," Pomfrey said, "Please remind me to as Albus for an assistant—I know expenses, but tending to Mr. Potter has become a full time job in of itself."
"Complaining--?" Ron asked.
"I mean no disrespect Mr. Weasley," Pomfrey said, "I love helping and healing, that's what keeps me here. However, with the frequency of Mr. Potter's visits, I get rather busy and need another skilled hand."
"If you'll excuse me," Lupin said, "I have an investigation to assist."
Lupin left the Hospital Wing. From Ron to Hermione, one of the pumps had its tube change arms.
"Wha--?" Hermione exclaimed.
"He needs it," Ron said, pointing to Harry.
sighed and the blood started transferring over.
"Replenish yourselves." Aiming her wand, Pomfrey conjured up a table with pumpkin juice and sandwiches. "And when he comes around--" Pomfrey pointed at Harry "--shove twice as much down his throat—he needs to fill out." She prodded at Harry's clearly protruding ribs.
"Is—is he--?" Hermione asked.
"I wish I could say yes," Pomfrey said, her wand stitching another laceration shut, "time will tell."
"He promised--" Gia said, "Thing after another—it's constant--"
"That's Harry," Ron said.
"Attracts trouble like steel to a magnet," Hermione said, "It's not him, it's other doing it to him."
"He is definitely not doing Quidditch Practice," Pomfrey said, "Neither are you Mr. Weasley--" She closed the last of his lacerations "--I will be back momentarily." Pomfrey went for her office.
"So it's true!" Malfoy pushed his way forward to the front of group coming into the Hospital Wing, he spat at the foot of Harry's bed. "I should've known! Potter seems to have let the springs of Weasley's dilapidated mattress get to him. Sorry fellows, looks like your so called stars canceled practice for a little fudge packing!"
Josh Brenner led the Gryffindor Quidditch team in shoving Malfoy out of the Hospital Wing. Brenner and Ginny came over to Harry.
"Will he recover?" Ginny asked.
Ron looked at his sister. "Unknown."
"OUT!" Pomfrey yelled as she rounded back out of her office.
Nobody budged, that was, until a bang and sparks came from Pomfrey's wand.
With Harry stable, Ron and Hermione left Gia to tend to him, it was just past curfew as they departed the Hospital Wing.
"You're late," the Fat Lady said as her portrait swung open.
Despite the giggling from behind the curtains in the corner, Hermione pulled Ron onto the sofa and cradled his head in her lap. Her hands stroked his ears beside the blue15 eyes that were watching the glint of fire in the brown.
"Two trips to the Hospital Wing in just as many days!" Hermione said, "Doesn't that bloke realize--?"
"It's Harry," Ron said, "Trouble's stuck to him like Spell-o-glue. So those pills--?"
"That perked both of you up--" Hermione said.
"Harry for once had no complaints about that examination--" Hermione said.
"All that talk of the magic replacing the egg to let the normal cycle progress—wishful thinking!" Hermione said, "Just looking--"
"For a reason? I don't see why—you're the smartest witch here! It did cut down on Harry's whining and with all those nasty rumors--"
"Infections and Infestations?"
"At least we set the record straight--"
"By offloading the dirt on the entire and all of the student bodies--"
"Don't forget those boils and all that we've seen--" Ron said.
"Did you see her eyes go--?"
"She really harassed Harry too—she got Gia to persuade him into staying the night. Pomfrey's being wise--"
"That's Madam Pomfrey Mr. Weasley!" Lupin said, coming through the portrait hole and into the common room, "You are sixth year and almost of age."
"Sorry," Ron said, sitting up.
"It was definitive that the armor was cursed to attack," Lupin said, "However, they did a good job covering their tracks so we unfortunately have no leads. I will keep you apprised of further developments, but I would not keep my hopes up if I were you."
"Ta," Hermione said.
Lupin turned around and left Gryffindor Tower. Ron turned around and looked at Hermione.
"Your place or mine?" Ron asked.
Hermione grabbed Ron's wrist and escorted him up towards the girls' dormitory.
The next morning, Ron and Hermione were a bit tardy when they caught up with Harry leaving the Hospital Wing.
"Freedom!" Harry exclaimed as they went down the stairs.
"Did she--?" Ron asked.
"Ron--!" Harry complained.
"We know you," Hermione said.
"For your information," Harry said, in a pompous manner, "Madam Pomfrey did release me."
Grumblings met them as they entered the Great Hall, McGonagall was handing out revised schedules and handed just one to Harry.
"For those who are concerned about their punctuality Mr. Potter," McGonagall said.
"I'm sorry," Harry said.
"Why--?!" Neville muttered as Ron sat down at the Gryffindor Table.
Ron glanced at the food and started dishing some out to his own.
"Unbelievable!" Dean exclaimed.
Ron forked several sausages onto his and then Harry's plates.
"Blimey!" Seamus yelled.
Harry looked at Ron, but Ron kept his blue eyes on his plate and ate. Dean pointed at Harry, his mouth opened, but died with the other mutterings as Dumbledore, at the Staff Table, slowly stood up. Heads turned to look at him.
"Madam Pomfrey will explain ... the schedule change," Dumbledore said.
Pomfrey stood. Dumbledore slowly departed while Pomfrey started.
"It has come to my attention that a focused lesson on the issues of adolescent health is warranted," Pomfrey said, "Therefore, each year is to report to the Hospital Wing classroom at their designated time. Thank you for your cooperation."
Madam Pomfrey quickly left the Great Hall.
"Sexual awareness..." Neville moaned.
"We're all quite aware—boys versus girls," Seamus snapped, "Girls not arses--"
"Condoms--" Dean snapped.
"Cut 'em off—" Seamus grabbed a knife and then Harry's shirt, "Problem solved!"
Ron and Colin Creevey pushed Seamus back. Malfoy lead a pack toward the Gryffindor table.
"Falling for Slytherin bait and fodder?" Hermione asked.
"Balls to catch them in the act--" Seamus said.
"Easy!" Malfoy shouted, "Potter's a whore—sleeping around--"
Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs watched the showdown.
"Easy Draco," Pansy Parkinson said, "Potter's got a rough life—fucking fan after fan, weasels, Mudbloods, and other filth--"
"Weasel family fun--" Blaise Zabini said.
"Got your Herpes under control?" Harry asked, looking right at Malfoy.
"Do not slander--" Malfoy sneered.
"Relax," Tracey Davis said, "They're just trying to cover the emotional damage that weasels inflict on their bitches—family affair, you understand. As evidenced by this Mudblood, looks like Potter's in on the family secret on how to expertly hide the bruises."
"Careful--" Ginny whispered to Ron, both of whom had their wands drawn.
"Aw," Malfoy said, "Looks like they want some family time everybody!"
Malfoy lead the pack of students out of the Great Hall.
"Adam, Eve, and Steve have fifteen minutes," Seamus Finnigan said, joining the crowd.
After a miserable day, Harry landed in Gia's bedroom in Noigate. Gia, on the bed, watched the naked boy jiggle as he fell; her eyes looked at his fully aroused bit below the waist and smiled at her side profile view of the indecent exposure.
"Awful day--" Harry said to the topless girl in trousers on the bed.
He climbed onto the bed.
"Nothing too exciting for me," Gia said.
"Can we talk?" Richard asked through the door.
Harry got off the bed, unlocked the door, then got back onto the bed and used the covers to shroud his manhood, then leaned back across Gia's chest.
"Ready!" Harry said
Richard came in and then closed the door. Gia surveyed this boy's green and blue boxers that spared him from starkerdom.
"Mum freaked at Harry's incident--" Richard said.
Harry fixed his eyes onto Richards.
"Didn't have to say anything," Richard said, "Ron didn't say much, just that it was critical--"
"Wasn't too serious--" Harry said.
"Not serious--?!" Gia exclaimed.
"When they swore to take you in—they meant it," Richard said, "Which means they worry about you and your boyfriend here. Oh, Ant noticed your door being locked—ticked her off. Of course, the locks aren't really secure—I caught her in here last night. She found your birth control pills--"
"Their school doctor prescribed them--" Gia said.
"Well," Richard said, "Ant was frustrated at being unable to open the container--"
"They're not hers--" Harry said.
"Gotta understand how she thinks," Richard said, "If it's hers it's hers, and if it's ours, it's also hers. Even Mum knows she's a habitual thief."
Harry hopped over to the shelves, looked through a pair of trousers.
"My debit card is missing," Harry said.
"Mum's got it," Richard said, "Ant tried to use it today and got caught—it rang up as stolen—since you didn't realize--"
"Have to give goblins credit there," Harry said.
"Goblins?" Richard asked.
Harry turned back around and looked at Richard.
"They run the Wizarding bank," Harry said, "No fooling them—and it's trouble to attempt to do so."
"Expect some questions about it from Mum," Richard said.
Harry sat onto the bed.
"So where is Andy?" Harry asked.
"Jail," Richard said, grinning, "Mum's punishment for her—and she only doles that out when it's really serious. Did it once after that car incident a few years ago, but Ant's in there every few months."
"Richard!" Jen shouted through the door, "Stop trying to pick up other women and get out here!"
"See ya," Richard said to Harry and Gia. He then opened the door and left.
Harry went over and locked the door shut and returned to the bed.
The next morning, Thursday the 12th of September, Harry joined Ron and Hermione in the Great Hall. Ron was finishing up his plate while the remainder of the dishes had been cleaned up. Up at the Staff Table, to the right and behind Dumbledore, stood a warlock who was tall and slender. McGonagall handed Harry a revised schedule.
"It would help if you were on time for a change Mr. Potter," McGonagall said.
With a slow rise, Dumbledore's hand trembled on his cane as he stood; the other hand gripped his chair.
"Good morning," Dumbledore said, " ... Another day. ... To my right is ... Victor Fallerschain, ... the Minister of Magic. ... During his stay, ... you are to ... give him ... your full cooperation."
Victor Fallerschain swept past Dumbledore, his eyes roved across the hall at the various students.
"As you are all aware," Fallerschain said, "I am crusading against the waste and corruption that has gripped the Ministry for so many centuries. This crusade has caught the eye of your board of governors. At their request, I will be personally conducting an audit into the affairs of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Within several days, with your help, we should be able to find efficiencies to be had and reduce the unnecessary overhead expense to better allow your teachers to better educate you.
"Over the next day or two, with the help of my assistants, we will interview every student. Professor McGonagall has graciously reworked your schedules to accommodate the interviews. Together we can improve Hogwarts so that it can still be a beaming icon of Britain, an institute that has produced the finest of Wizards and Witches through the ages.
"Thank you for your valuable input."
Neville raised his eye as he peered at the schedule.
"Professor McGonagall appeared frustrated at last night's Prefect meeting," Dean said, "With all of the demands of the week, I think she gave up trying to make it work. It's a small break for everybody, save the interviews."
Ron looked at the schedule. "Bugger, likely saving the juiciest for last."
"More than we needed to know," Seamus said.
By mid-Friday, only Harry, Ron, and Hermione were left on the schedule for interviews. They entered the foyer of the fifth floor office.
"You're late!" Fallerschain snapped.
"Where's Dumbledore--?" Harry asked.
"Unnecessary--" Fallerschain said.
"We were told--" Harry protested.
"I AM running this show!" Fallerschain said, "Unless you're saying you're guilty of something, you won't need him. Mr. Ronald Weasley will be first--"
"Just start asking--" Ron said.
"Unless you intend to obstruct official Ministry business..." Fallerschain said.
Ron followed Fallerschain into an inner office. A solitary chair was beside the door, while a desk was on the other end of the office. Ron sat on the chair while Fallerschain sat on the desk. With a flick of Fallerschain's yew wand, the door locked itself and shimmered for a moment. Another flick and the illumination in the office shifted and concentrated the light onto Ron, for Ron could no longer see Fallerschain or the bare walls. A scratching of a quill onto parchment could be heard.
"A Quick Quotes Quill will be used," Fallerschain asked, "Will that be alright?"
"Um..I guess so."
"For the record, state your full name, your date of birth, and describe your wand."
"Ronald Bilius Weasley. March 1st, 1980. Fourteen inches, unicorn tail-hair in willow."
"Do you have any friends?"
"Yes, Harry and Hermione."
The interview continued for a half hour. Hermione spent another half hour. Finally, Harry was interviewed for over an hour. The walked along the corridor.
"That was an interrogation—not an interview," Harry complained, "Wouldn't take no for an answer--"
"Your fault for not taking an adult!" Seamus said, coming quickly upon them, along with Parvati Patil, "Quit your whining—he's a great Minister! With this audit—he's fantastic! We spent the time talking about Quidditch and the Falmouth Falcons--"
"He had it in for me--" Harry said.
"Just because you couldn't exert your influence on him?" Seamus said, "In the two weeks on the job, he's boosted donations to St. Mungo's by fifty percent, slashed tons of Ministry waste. That waste will be used for research into better ways of fighting the Dark Arts!"
They passed Peeves plugging gum into another door lock.
"Not only that," Parvati said, "He's banned Dark Arts shops from Diagon Alley and revoked the lease for Fun and Power. Rumor is that Knockturn Alley will be cleared out and called Diagon Lane."
Harry turned into the courtyard; Ron and Hermione were two steps behind. Seamus and Parvati took one look at the gale force wind and pounding rain, the drenching was turning the grass into a swamp.
Their shoes sunk several inches as they made it into the middle of the courtyard. Hermione cinched her cloak about her, but Harry allowed his shirt to seriously soak itself.
"Harder to overhear us," Harry said, "This audit—fishier than fish and chips."
"Efficiency is good--" Hermione said.
"Why the focus on us then?" Harry said, "You heard Seamus and you heard Fallerschain make a ruckus about our wanting Dumbledore with us."
"We do interact with him more," Ron said, "It just happens."
"And Fallerschain thinks of it as unhealthy," Hermione said, "Like... like--"
"I'm not worth it," Harry said.
"Don't say that," Ron said, "Dumbledore does have to spend more on security--"
"Favoring me--" Harry said.
"But none of the other students has a madman after him," Hermione said.
Harry looked at the water streaming down Ron's face.
"Any dirt on Fallerschain?" Harry asked, rubbing his scar
"Skeeter's found nothing so far," Ron said, "So he's clean—why?"
"Harry--" Hermione said, "Spit it out—you felt something--"
"Nothing significant," Harry said, "Just a mild tingle—it was slight--"
"You're scaring us—" Ron said.
"Like you're expecting me to say 'I sneezed and my scar tingled!' to Dumbledore!" Harry said, "If it sears like a hot poker, then I'll tell him. Until then, it's just my imagination--"
"Has it ever tingled before?" Hermione asked.
Harry shook his head.
"Give him a break--" Ron said, "It's likely all that blood I gave him Tuesday--"
"Let's just keep our minds open for now," Harry said, "If it gets worse or continues, we'll go to Dumbledore. In the meanwhile, though he seems a bastard, he is doing right."
"Constant vigilance!" Ron stated.
Harry gave Ron a shove. They started to turn, but stopped when a voice thundered.
"POTTER! WEASLEY! GRANGER! GET OUT OF THE RAIN!"
Harry lead the way, the drenched trio got under the stone covered causeway around the courtyard.
"Twenty five points each for trying to catch pneumonia," Snape stated.
Harry went fast; the soaked and shivering three left a trail of water as they headed for Gryffindor Tower. In the dormitory, Harry beat Ron to the shower, then Ron watched as Harry started putting on a suit.
"Formal dinner in the Great Hall--" Ron said.
"Called a date," Harry said, "Try it with Hermione--"
Ron threw a pillow at Harry.
"Tell you at practice tomorrow afternoon--"
"Which is now the morning," Ron said.
"Don't pull a Wood—I will join you in the afternoon."
Ron went for the door. "Need to talk to Dumbledore."
"Like that?" Harry said, glancing at the naked Ron, "Besides, I talked it over with him and McGonagall, they're fine so long as I keep my marks."
"You included her on this--?"
"Have to--" Harry looked about, then leaned in close "--Dumbledore is dying--"
"What?!" Ron exclaimed.
"Keep this to yourself and don't tell Hermione, not yet," Harry said, "Supposedly last spring was rough, really rough on an old man—they didn't elaborate, but Pomfrey said that he's is in the process and will likely succumb in a year, two at the best."
"Have they consulted—how can they be certain?"
"Dumbledore said that he's decided to accept fate and focus his efforts on the fight. Pomfrey will do what she can to make that as long as possible, but in the meanwhile, McGonagall is effectively the Headmistress with Dumbledore retaining the title until the end."
"What if, what if Dumbledore goes first?" Ron asked.
"Don't think about it," Harry said, "Anyways, I have to dash."
Harry fingered his Portkey and vanished.
Ron, not bothering to dress, sat on his four-poster bed and then leaned back, his arms were spread behind his head as he stared at the ceiling.
Saturday morning, dressed in a plaid over-shirt and blue trousers, Ron entered the Forbidden Forest, carrying a picnic basket with his left hand and his wand with his right. The crush of red and yellow leaves under his footsteps complimented the music of the birds. Working through the ever denser groves of light barked trees, Ron skirted vines and bushes to come across a huddled mass sitting near the tranquil clear water of a modest pond. The red sullen eyes around the brown, the bushy eyebrows and hair, Ron recognized Hermione. With the tattered cloak, the torn blouse and missing knockers, Ron knew she was not alright. Torn and soiled panties at the bottom of the pond, Ron knew something was wrong. However, the slow breathing, the occasional whimper, the tears flowing, and her face repeatedly buried into her knees informed him that she was alive though very miserable. Ron felt her cold skin, but she was not shivering.
"Coming back for another round?" Hermione snapped.
"Wha--at--?" Ron stammered.
"Oh, it's you."
Ron sat down next to Hermione.
"I missed you," Ron said.
"I'm sorry," Ron said.
"Think an apology--"
"Honestly, I'm clueless to what I did—you're upset--"
Hermione's gaze went from her own tattered shoes to Ron's badly worn walking shoes.
"Been missing since yesterday evening--" Ron said.
"That long? Feels like it happened five minutes ago--"
Ron wrapped his arm about her, but she shrugged it off.
"Too promiscuous--" Hermione said.
"That's what I was accused of--"
Hermione let Ron wrap his arm about her. With his other hand, he grabbed a flask from the picnic basket and brought it to Hermione's lips, she sipped it.
"Tea--?" Hermione said, "Thoughtful--"
"Pansy, she, she had Parvati hold me as she started ripping my clothes. Accused me of having lice that they were checking for—after I had left the library where I overheard Padma and Lavender—gah! Ive woken to condoms with smeared mayonnaise having been stuffed into my mouth, my shorts, littered about the floor of my four-poster, and tossed into my trunk. I've had my knickers inspected, my clothing scattered, my books hidden, my pills confiscated—it's so frustrating. And the rumors, oh the rumors, that we've got every disease known and unknown, that I've supposedly have had abortion after abortion, that you and Harry have supposedly raped and beat me into submission, the Madam Pomfrey's lessons and complimentary examinations were an excuse for her to help cover up our myriad of supposed problems!
"It makes me, it makes me want to quit Hogwarts—yes, I really do! So frustrating after spending countless time, meeting friends and supposed friends, studying, to toss it all over this!"
Ron sighed. "This is what we're going to do." Ron pulled the charmed blanket from the basket, laid it out. "First we're going to warm you up—you're absolutely freezing." Ron stripped starkers and sat on the blanket. He stripped Hermione and pulled her in front of him. Then he pulled the charmed blanket about them, the blanket expanded to let him to totally shroud them. Thus, Ron was sitting cross legged; Hermione was sitting in his lap, and his aroused length lining her fleshy crack. Her cold skin against him gave him goose bumps. She leaned back, so Ron leaned and stretched until they were lying down.
Hermione snorted, but did rotate until she was facing him downward. Blue eyes looked up at the brown as she started to shiver.
"You just wanted--" Hermione said.
"You are too cold, but if it helps you warm up--"
"Boys," Hermione said softly.
"Second, we report the assault--"
"That'd make matters worse."
"Third, you're staying with me—in the boys' dormitory—"
"Like that'd help."
"Or girls' if you prefer--"
"Well, we're guarding you so this can't happen twice," Ron said, "Harry'll help see to that."
"Hogwarts is supposed to be safe," Hermione said.
"Was it for Harry?"
They settled down for several hours when the two-o-clock chime sounded from Hogwarts. Ron reached for the clothes.
"So soon?" Hermione asked.
"Well, I am Captain of the Quidditch team and we need to practice."
Ron aimed his wand and Hermione's torn clothes knitted the tears a bit, but the threads became quite singed. They moved to rise, but Ron held Hermione back, for the sound of quickly approaching footsteps reached his ears. They laid low, sliding under the dense brush – Ron pulled the blanket over them. From the Hogwarts side came the greasy black haired Snape with his billowing black robes; from the forest came the short balding Wormtail, his right hand reflected a bit of the sky above. They stopped an arms length apart, Snape looked into Wormtail's face, but Wormtail kept trying to duck the stare.
"I am incredibly busy--" Snape said.
"Master is no longer interested in Potter--"
"Do not get me wrong, Potter's death would still please him, it is no longer required."
"Potter's habit of sticking his nose where it does not belong--"
"Kill him, if you can," Wormtail said, "but you know where the focus must remain."
"Unless you have anything further--"
"Master does question your commitment--"
"Has he failed to read the Daily Prophet?"
"Surely you have opportunities--"
"Without betraying my position?" Snape said, "I have the confidence of the Headmaster—this conversation is terminated."
Snape spun around and walked for the castle. Wormtail transformed and the rat scampered off.
"That was interesting," Hermione said as she crept out of their hiding space.
Hermione brushed the dirt from herself and then Ron.
"You're interesting," Ron said, his eyes were tracing her curves.
"How?" Ron said, "We've always suspected--"
"I don't envy Snape," she said, "Trying to keep his feet on both sides."
"His choice," Ron said, "I know mine."
Ron licked his lips, brought his mouth down toward her neck, but only got air--Hermione had taken a step and kept going. Ron caught up, pulled her close as they walked.
"Womanizer," she snapped.
"You're a woman?" Ron said, "Thought you're a girl--"
Hermione jabbed Ron in the stomach. They poked and jabbed as they came through the front oak doors of the castle. McGonagall came off the marble stairs and stopped them in their tracks.
"Mr. Weasley, Miss. Granger," McGonagall asked, "Where have you been?"
Ron held up the picnic basket and grinned.
"And Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked.
"Elsewhere," Ron stated.
McGonagall escorted them to the first floor and into her office; she stood behind her desk and looked at them.
"Where?" McGonagall asked.
"Noigate I think," Ron said, "Didn't ask for details last night."
"Ron--" Hermione muttered to scold.
"'Mione," Ron said, "McGonagall knows about the commute."
"That's Professor McGonagall," McGonagall corrected, "Five points."
"Sorry," Ron muttered.
"Why worry--?" Hermione asked.
McGonagall maintained her thin mouth and stern look.
"Mr. Longbottom was found, beaten, on the third floor," McGonagall said, "While he was successfully treated in the Hospital Wing, you can understand our concern. Upon questioning, Mr. Longbottom was reluctant and trying to find some other plausible explanation, but he clearly remembers seeing Mr. Potter as the perpetrator."
"That isn't like Harry," Ron protested, "He'd never do that."
"You loyalty is admirable," McGonagall said, "However, Professor Dumbledore agreed with my assessment; we are certain that Mr. Longbottom was not trying to deceive us with it, to his credit, he was looking for anything to avoid naming Mr. Potter."
"Impostors?" Ron said, "Costumes in Harry's likeness are sold from a store in Diagon Alley, there's even a catalog!"
"Professor Lupin and Professor Tonks combed the spot thoroughly, Madam Pomfrey checked Mr. Longbottom for clues during her examination," McGonagall said, "We found no shreds or other evidence of a costume."
"Po--" Ron said.
"Until we ask Harry," Hermione said, "We won't know where he was earlier, for we were otherwise occupied."
"Thank you for your cooperation," McGonagall said, "I will want to speak with Mr. Potter as soon as he is available. Enjoy the rest of the day."
Hermione followed Ron into the boys' dormitory, she sat on Ron's four-poster. Harry was changing into his Quidditch Robes.
"You're early," Ron said.
"Got practice," Harry said.
"Recommend the windows—things are getting vicious." Ron explained finding Hermione and the assault.
"Are you hurt?" Harry asked, eyes focused on Hermione.
"Physically fine," Ron said, "We're late for practice but you are requested to see McGonagall first."
Harry flew out the window on his Firebolt. Ron and Hermione left the dormitory through the door to the stairs. Ron led the way across the common room.
"Hey bitch!" Parvati shouted from a table, "Find a different motel, this one's full!"
Monday the 16th, Hermione was in the fifth floor girls bathroom, near the library, when several sixth year Hufflepuffs entered. Hermione checked the bolt on her stall.
"Heard they did it in their common room," Hannah Abbott said.
"And the Prefects bathroom," Megan Jones said.
"Potter and his sidekicks--think they own Gryffindor," Susan Bones said, "and the castle."
Hermione stayed in her stall.
"Heard they plan to use their fellow Gryffindors to test new devices," Abbott said, "So stuck up, so spoiled."
"Wouldn't be surprised if more stuff happens due to them," Jones said.
The rumors became so rampant that Harry and Ron were unsurprised when they encountered McGonagall on the first floor just before Wednesday lunch.
"Mr. Potter," McGonagall said, "Follow."
Ron and Harry followed McGonagall into her office; she stood behind her desk with a thin mouth and no mouth.
"Mr. Finnigan was found lying beaten on the fifth floor," McGonagall said, "While Madam Pomfrey has tended to his broken nose, Mr. Finnigan swore that it was Mr. Potter who did it."
"But I didn't!" Harry protested.
"We just came from Charms," Ron asked, "Why was Seamus on the fifth floor?"
"That is beside the point," McGonagall said, "Mr. Finnigan asserted the culprit was Mr. Potter. Professor Dumbledore concurs that Mr. Finnigan is not lying."
"Delusions? Hallucinations?" Ron asked, "Could the injury affect his memory?"
"Remote," McGonagall said.
"I didn't do it!" Harry said.
"Fortunately, Professor Dumbledore is of the same opinion," McGonagall said, "I strongly advise you refrain from scandalous behavior -- that includes anything contributing to the rumors that I have been hearing regarding certain indiscretions."
On Thursday, the 19th, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Gia celebrated Hermione's 16th16 birthday with Hagrid. The celebratory mood evaporated Friday when Dumbledore stopped Ron and Harry.
"Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said, shaking on his cane, "Two first year Gryffindors, ... Mr. Ruff and Mr. Alison, ... were found beaten in a ... desolate part of sixth floor--"
"We didn't!" Harry protested under Dumbledore's penetrating gaze.
"Honestly!" Ron protested, "We haven't a clue."
"Stay vigilant," Dumbledore said.
Despite a hike on Saturday outside of Noigate with Richard and Jen, Harry, Ron, and Hermione would not enjoy fellowship at Hogwarts anytime soon.
On Monday, the 23rd, they walked past a statue.
"Hail the Faggot Potter!" the statue exclaimed, its arm and hand saluting.
On Tuesday, the 24th, in the fifth floor girls' bathroom, Hermione overheard another conversation.
"Potter hated Trelawney," Lavender said, "Gave some excuse for her murder, likely he had a hand in it, that's what Parkinson said."
"Heard from Ernie that Weasley offed Hooch to get a better Quidditch teacher," Jones said, "Unfortunately it worked."
"Sick, both of them," Lavender said, "Especially Weasley's pushing his dick at Granger so much."
"Like he's trying to cover something?" Jones asked.
"Wouldn't doubt it," Lavender said.
However, Harry, Ron, and Hermione's spirits were lifted on Wednesday when they read a notice on the common room bulletin board.
"Hogsmeade!" Ron said, "Saturday. Bringing Gia?"
"Are you kidding?" Harry said, "She'll love it."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
The thought of Hogsmeade helped her mood until that evening in the library. She was leaving through some books on the self while Ron was guarding his books and notes at a table. Parvati was thumbing through a book as she passed Hermione.
Parvati screamed and writhed.
All eyes in the library and Hermione's own looked at Parvati Patil collapsing to the floor and convulsing for half a minute.
"Parvati!" Hermione demanded, "What--?"
"You!" Parvati accused, "Thinking you could use me as a guinea pig for your Unforgivable!"
"I didn't," Hermione protested.
"No use denying it now," Padma said.
"Hermione," Ron pleaded, notes and books packed.
Ron and Hermione quickly left the library.
Their time passed quickly until the morning of Saturday, the 28th came. Harry had arrived with Gia and promptly headed down for the village of Hogsmeade. They visited the Three Broomsticks, Honeydukes, the Post Office, the Hogs Head, and the Shrieking Shack.
"So," Gia asked, "Is this where we came to last spring?"
"Yep," Harry said.
Harry gave a quick kiss to Gia, then escorted her back to the village where they then entered Zonko's Joke Shop. He demonstrated a nose-biting tea cup, Gia snickered.
"Useful," Gia said, smirking.
Ron and Hermione joined them.
"Anything good?" Ron asked.
"Could visit Dervish and Banges—see the recent Transfiguration Today or something," Hermione said.
Ron twiddled his index finger beside his head. Hermione pulled on his hand, though, and assisted Ron toward the bookshop. Harry and Gia followed.
Inside the bookstore, Hermione took her time browsing the shelves, picking at the books, and then pulled one out. She skimmed the table contents and flipped through the pages rather fast as Ron poked in the Quidditch book section. Harry was watching over Ron's shoulder.
Screams came from outside the book shop.
Harry and Ron bolted for the door, Gia and Hermione in their wake. Not looking as their feet pounded on the shop porch, Harry tripped first over a person slumped on the steps, then Ron. Both tumbled as the last of some very bloodied people collapsed to the graveled road. Blood splattered. Harry's hands broke his fall into a puddle of bile tainted blood, Ron fell onto a body. Gia and Hermione stopped in time to avoid tripping, both looked around at the Apparating witches and wizards who all had wands drawn.
STUPEFY! STUPEFY! STUPEFY! STUPEFY!
Ron and Harry started to stand, blood on their clothes and hands, and stood up into the web of crossing Stunning Curses. Along with Gia and Hermione, they blacked out.
1"In the Crosshairs" (ITC) is THE sequel to my first fanfic Red and Green Patches and is post-GoF/pre-OotP HP fanfic. OotP/HBP/DH material may be incorporated into ITC at my leisure.
2I am an American Author, the Britishese is not guaranteed to be perfect.
3GoF, Ch 37
4Yes, a "trip" may be bit cliché, however, it is kept short to the essentials.
5Gia is Harry's girlfriend, the relationship was solidified in the prequel Red and Green Patches. She is a Muggle and a childhood friend of Hermione's.
6Post-GoF, remember? ITC was started prior to OotP release, Molly Weasley was my guess at the fan who died.
Even though OotP etc have since been released, I have decided to stick with her demise.
7Canon, through HBP, simply describes Hermione's as living in a suburb south of London. Noigate is a fabricated name.
8Canon through HBP list Hermione's parents as Mr. & Mrs. Granger, or Dr's as they're dentists. For this fic, they are Charles and Linda Granger.
9Dover Castle is an interesting place to visit. If you do visit, be sure to check out the wartime tunnels too.
10Borrowed from Douglas Adam's "Somebody Else's Problem Field" depicted in his stories.
11In RGP, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had perfected wandless spell casting.
13Don't do drugs – I mean it.
14For those paying attention to Britishisms, diapers is valid but with a slight twist. British babies typically have nappies, however, the diaper is a nappy made of rags.
15Ron's eye color will now comply with DH, which was unstated until then – these were stated brown in the earlier ITC revisions, but blue works just as well for Ron and better in some of Ron/Hermione scenes.
16ITC predated JKR's revelation to Hermione's age. For ITC, she was born in 1980 which makes this her 16th birthday.