Author's Note: Wow, it has been a long time. So here we go with the explanation. As you may have seen from a couple of my earlier notes, I got pneumonia. It was not a fun experience and it took me a while to recover. Then when I finally did recover, it was very hard for me to get back into the story. I had forgotten where I was going with some parts of it. I tried a couple of times to right the next chapter and it just wouldn't come out. It was very frustrating. I felt bad because I was getting emails from people who wanted to see how the story concluded. I also figured that it would be pointless to finish the story now that book 6 was out. But I kept getting emails from people who wanted to see me finish the story. So I sat down and plugged through it. I remembered some of my old ideas and thought of a few new ones. I'm not even sure if too many people will read this because it has been so long, but I figured I owed it to myself and to anyone who wanted to read it to finish. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 32

Dueling Towards the End of Term

The last two weeks of the term flew by quickly for Harry. The teachers had let up on homework especially since the end of term exams had been postponed. Ron saw this as the perfect opportunity to get some extra quidditch practice in. So he booked the pitch for a few early morning training sessions before class. On there way down to training one morning Harry causally asked Ginny if she would go to the ball with him.

"Hmmm." Ginny said starring at Harry thoughtfully. "Well Ron has arranged a scrimmage at the end of practice today. If you get the snitch before me, then you have a date."

"It's a done deal then." Harry said smiling mischieveously. "Because no one gets the snitch from me. Unless you have a pair of dementors hiding under your robes."

But Harry's cockiness would be short lived. Ginny definitely had talent as a seeker. She was giving him a real run for his money. She was fast and could stop almost as fast as Harry even though he had a far superior broom. Neither of them could see the snitch but they were having a time trying to get position on one another. Then all of a sudden Ginny dove towards the ground. Harry tore after her, keeping one eye on her back and searching for the snitch with the other and when she suddenly pulled out of her dive, Harry narrowly missed smashing into the dive.

"Come on Potter." Ginny yelled as she circled above him. "Don't make me find another date." She was laughing, but the joke was on her. As Harry looked up at her, he saw the snitch circling around her feet. She had no idea and Harry came towards her very slowly as to not draw attention.

"Don't worry." Harry replied. "You'll be coming with me." He said as he made a sharp move and grabbed the snitch which had settled right by her left sneaker. Harry saw an internal struggle break out inside Ginny. She hated to lose, but the scowl that initially graced her lips quickly broke into a smile.

"You know I let you catch it." Ginny huffed as they made their way back to the castle. Harry just smiled and threw his arm around her.

Quidditch was not the only thing that occupied the students that week. At night after dinner, the teachers would vanish all the furniture in the Great Hall and the entire school would participate in a DA training session. It seemed that the whole school looked forward to the meetings and Harry noticed that everyone was making a lot of progress.

"I have something special planned for tonight." Professor Lupin said after dinner on the last day of term. Professors Snape conjured a large soft mat in the middle of the room as Lupin continued his speech. "Since we have been having intense training sessions for the last couple of weeks, I thought that tonight we would have some fun. We are going to have some dueling exhibitions." A general murmur of excitement radiated through the Great Hall.

"The first contest will be between myself and Professor Snape." Lupin continued. "Now pay good attention and you may be able to pick up a thing or two." Snape glided towards the center of the map where Professor Lupin was waiting for him. They bowed to each other and then took about ten paces backwards before facing each other again. It seemed that each of them where waiting for the other to make the first move.

"Expelliarmus." Snape shouted. A jet of light shot at Lupin and a furious duel began. Lupin dodged the curse and threw one of his own that hit Snape in the right leg. It seemed that his leg was temporarily paralyzed as he began to hop on his left foot. Lupin took this opportunity to try and strike again. He sent another curse Snape's way. But Snape did a dive roll and hit Lupin in the chest with a jet of red light in the process. Lupin went flying across the mat about twenty feet and landed with a thud apparently unconscious. Snape got up still without the use of his right leg and quickly took the opportunity to counter Lupin's spell. Then with the use of both of his legs back, he approached Lupin casually and sent a disarming spell at him.

"Protego." Lupin shouted as he sprang to his feet. He was obviously playing possum. Snape's spell bounced off the shield that Lupin had erected and flew right back at him. The potions master had to dive out of the way to avoid getting hit. Here, Lupin took advantage. He shot three spells at Snape in succession. Snape got a shield up in time to nullify the first two, but the impact of those spells had vanished the shield and the third hit him directly in the chest. Snape stumbled backwards and landed on his back but in the same motion had fired a curse at Lupin that didn't hit but bought him some time. Lupin had to move quickly to avoid the spell and the next second both men were back on their feet starring each other down, wands at ready. This time Lupin was the first to act. He shot water out of his wand at Snape that quickly turned to ice as it surrounded Snape. Then the ice started to rise and form a wall around Snape. Lupin approached cautiously as the ice had completely overtaken Snape. It looked to the crowd as the Lupin had won. Until fire ripped through the ice, and a jet of blue light came from the flames and his Lupin in the leg. It caused Lupin to trip and he went flying into the mat face first. Professor Snape then emerged behind the flames and sent ropes from his wand that hog tied Lupin. Lupin quickly vanished the ropes, but Snape had already fired another curse that hit Lupin in the chest causing his wand to go flying in the air. Snape threw his hand up and the wand sailed gracefully into it. There were a few cheers for Snape's victory, but not many. He took Lupin's wand and handed it back to him and then they both bowed to each other.

"Well done Professor Snape." Lupin said aloud to the crowd. "The most important parts of dueling are to never underestimate your opponent and to stay aggressive. Remember that." Harry was disappointed that Lupin lost, especially to Snape but he reasoned that Snape would have had a lot more practice over the years than Lupin would have.

"Now, for the rest of our time, I thought we'd take volunteers. If anyone would like to duel come forward." As if by instinct, Harry immedialty thrust himself onto the mat. Everyone knew that Harry was the best in Defense class so initially no one stepped forward. "Will no one take on Mr. Potter?" Lupin asked the crowd.

"I will." Neville squeaked as he made his way on to the mat opposite Harry. The two Gryffindors grinned at each other and then bowed before starting the duel. It really wasn't much of a duel. Neville acted first trying to disarm Harry. Harry got out of the way and then sent a similar disarming spell at Neville. Neville was able to get a shield up at the last second to deflect the curse, but Harry had shot an immobilizing spell that was too much for the shield and Neville went down stiff as a board.

Lupin asked Harry if he wanted to stay on and take challengers and Harry quickly agreed. Over the next hour, people lined up to get there chance at Harry. He made quick work of Seamus and Dean. Blaize Zabini had been somewhat of a challenge, but Harry had never been in danger of losing. He took on two Ravenclaws that he didn't know and Hannah Abbot from Hufflepuff beating each of them soundly. Ginny took her shot and was able to give Harry a pair of her signature horns on his head before he hit her with a well timed shocking curse in the hand that caused her wand to go flying. He smiled as he caught the wand in mid air and returned it to her.

"Very well done Harry." Lupin exclaimed. Nearly everyone in the Great Hall was clapping. "I expect that will be enough for tonight. We will resume our training sessions after the holiday break. Now would the prefects please escort the students back to their dormitories." The great hall was buzzing as they made their way back to Gryffindor Tower. People kept coming up to Harry and congratulating him on a great job.

"Thank you." Harry said for about the tenth time as he caught up with Ron and Hermione. Ginny was busy leading the younger students back to Gryffindor Tower.

"That was really good Harry." Hermione stated. "I don't even know if there is a teacher here that could beat you."

"I don't know if that's true." Harry replied. "But I was hoping that you two would give me a go."

"Oh I wanted to." Ron responded puffing his chest out. "I was just waiting till the end. You know save the best for last, but then professor Lupin ended it so quickly that I never got the chance."

"Best for last huh." Hermione smiled slugging Ron in the arm. "Well I've never really liked dueling personally."

"Plus she hates getting beat at anything." Ron added slyly.

"Rubbish." She replied. "I wouldn't mind losing to Harry. But I am fairly confident that Harry would beat me and if I were to duel I want to face someone that I know I could beat. Like you."

Ron's face flushed and it looked like he was about to blurt something out, but instead gathered himself for a minute.

"Anytime." He ended up saying. They smiled at each other and Harry took that opportunity to jump in.

"I'm sure we'll get another opportunity." Harry said. "I think I'll suggest a tournament to Professor Lupin. That would be fun."

"Oh yes great fun." Hermione added. "So when are we leaving for Grimmauld Place?"

"Were supposed to report to Dumbledore's office at 9:00 tonight." Harry replied. "They're going to briefly hook up Grimmauld Place to the Floo Network for us."

"That only leaves us an hour." Hermione replied. "We should get our things together."

Harry grabbed Hedwig packed a few light things and headed down to the common room with Ron to meet up with the girls. They would be coming back in a few days for the ball so he didn't feel the need to pack too much.

"Everyone ready?" Ginny asked as she and Hermione led the way through the common room door.

When they got to Dumbledore's office, Hermione said the password which Harry couldn't hear and the familiar spiral staircase began to rise. Harry took the lead and when he got to the door he heard voices being raised. He quickly penetrated the office to find out what was going on.

"It's a bad idea!" Snape yelled. "Keep the students away from Hogwarts." Aberforth was sitting behind his desk and looked like he was about to respond to Snape when he noticed Harry and the others emerge.

"I think that will be enough for now Severus." Abeforth said and shifted his eyes towards Harry. Upon seeing the students, Snape turned and quickly exited the office.

"Hello kids." Aberforth proclaimed.

"What was that all about?" Harry asked sternly.

"Oh nothing to worry about. The floo network is set up now so why don't you three go while I have a quick word with Harry." Harry nodded to his friends and one by one they shouted out Grimmauld Place and were vacuumed up through the fireplace.

"So, what was that all about?" Harry asked again now that they were alone.

"Severus and some of the other teachers seem to think that it is irresponsible to hold the ball this year." Aberforth started.

"Well maybe they have a point." Harry added. "It does seem that it is likely that the Death Eaters are going to try to attack Hogwarts at some point. And since all the students disappeared, that day could be coming soon."

Aberforth seemed to gather himself for a second. "I don't think anyone gives enough credit to the protections that are in place around Hogwarts. Trust me Harry; no one will be able to enter the school without me or the other teachers knowing it."

"But if there was an attack…" Harry began.

"If there is an attack, we will have all the teachers and a good amount of very talented students there to take care of it." Aberforth interrupted. "Now I don't want you to worry about a thing. Have a good time."

Harry nodded and sensing that the conversation was over, he went over to the fireplace and flooed over to Grimmauld Place. Hermione, Ron and Ginny were all waiting for him when he came tumbling out.

"So what was that all about?" Hermione asked as Harry straightened himself up and took a seat.

"It seems that some of the teachers think that it's a bad idea to hold the ball this year. Harry explained. "They think there could be an attack."

"Well it's not as though that's unexpected." Hermione replied.

"Well Aberforth said not to worry. He said that Hogwarts is more protected than most people think."

"It is true." Hermione began. "I read in Hogwarts a History that the school has never been completely taken over by any outside forces."

"But that doesn't mean that it's impossible for an outside force to come in and do some damage." Ron added.

"Right." Harry agreed. "So we have to be extremely alert."

"I thought I heard voices in here." Mrs. Weasley said as she swept through the room and started pulling each of the kids into back breaking hugs. "Arthur they're here."

"Hello kids." Mr. Weasley said as he entered the room and quickly gave a hug to Ginny and a firm handshake to Ron before turning on Harry and Hermione and offering a hello. "I can't stay long. As you can imagine, things at the Ministry are hectic."

"We never see him anymore." Mrs. Weasley said as she began tiding up the room even though it didn't need it. "Between his duties at the Ministry and the Order he is stretching himself to thin." Harry could tell that she was talking more to herself than to anyone in particular.

"Now Molly." Mr. Weasley started and stopped quickly obviously not wanting to get into an argument. "Uh Hermione, your parents will be arriving tomorrow. They have agreed to stay until your next term starts."

"Brilliant." Hermione responded.

"I'll have a ministry car escort them tomorrow." He stated. "Now I have to be getting on." He briefly went over to his wife and kissed her on the cheek while whispering something is his ear and then was gone with a large crack.

"Are you okay mum?' Ginny asked as Mrs. Weasley seemed to gather herself.

"Of course dear, just a lot of stress on everyone these days." She replied. "Now I expect you're all hungry. Go get cleaned up, dinner is almost ready."

Harry could tell that when Mrs. Weasley was stressed she relieved it by cooking because she made a truly magnificent meal. When they were done, the kids went up to their respective rooms and unpacked.

"So did you ask Hermione to the ball properly?" Harry asked Ron once they were alone.

"Yea. But it wasn't easy." Ron replied. "I went up to her and told her that I assumed we were going together. She didn't appreciate that so I had to er make more of an effort."

"So what did you do?" Harry asked.

"Oh you know…" Ron said as he began to get really red in the face. Harry started to laugh and was immediately pelted with Ron's pillow. At that moment Hermione and Ginny walked in.

"What's so funny?" Hermione asked.

"Well Ron was just about to tell me about how he asked you to the ball." Harry replied.

"Oh well it was actually very sweet. He…"

"NO!" Ron cried. Interrupting Hermione before she had the chance. He ran over to her and threw his hand over her mouth. Harry and Ginny were now laughing hysterically.

"Don't worry." Ginny whispered into Harry's ear. "I'll find out from Hermione and let you know.

Ron on the other hand wasn't laughing as he chased after Hermione who had walked out of the room muttering something about Ron be embarrassed of their relationship.

By the next morning, Ron and Hermione had made up as they normally did. No sooner did Mrs. Weasley sit the whole lot of them down for breakfast than did Hermione's parents arrive. Hermione's mother couldn't stop talking about how number twelve Grimmauld Place just appeared out of nowhere right before her eyes.

"Then, they told me to read this little piece of paper and the house just magically appeared." Mrs. Granger explained. Hermione reintroduced Harry, Ron and Ginny to her parents and then proclaimed that she was going to take them on a tour of the house and show them to their room.

"Hermione's mom sure seemed excited to be here." Harry noted as Hermione left the kitchen with the Grangers at her heel.

"It must be hard though…" Ron started. "To see that your daughter is part of a world that you know nothing about. If they only knew…" Ron stopped suddenly and seemed to drift off into his own thoughts. But Harry knew exactly what he was thinking. The Grangers had no idea what kind of danger Hermione was in simply for knowing Harry. It was something that Harry struggled with constantly. Of course it wasn't his fault, and the war was going on well before he was born, but Harry still felt a certain responsibility for those closest to him.

Later that night, they were all sitting in the front room in front of the fire. Hermione and Ginny were were showing off there dress robes to Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Granger and talking excitedly about the upcoming ball at Hogwarts while Harry and Ron were locked in another spirited game of wizard's chess.

"What's that you're playing?" Mr. Granger asked as he got up and approached Harry and Ron. He had obviously heard enough about how much potion it would take to straighten Hermione's hair and how much makeup Ginny would be permitted to wear.

"It's wizard's chess." Ron said as his knight ceremoniously knocked the head of Harry's queen. Even though the game wasn't officially over, Harry's king darted straight off the board and began hiding behind some of his other discarded pieces.

"Well looks like this game is over." Harry said as he began putting the pieces back on to the board including the king who was fighting with all his might to stay off it. Ron called over to Hermione who did a quick spell that restored all of the pieces to new.

"Would you like to play?" Ron asked Mr. Granger who was eyeing the board curiously.

"Is it any different than regular chess?" Mr. Granger asked glancing at his daughter.

"Nah." Harry answered. "It's just a little violent and the pieces move themselves once you tell them where to go."

"Alright then." Mr. Granger agreed eyeing Ron intensely. "I used to be a pretty good chessman in my day. Let's see what you've got." And with that, the finest game of chess that Harry had ever seen erupted.

Each man took what seemed like ages to make their moves. After about an hour of play, everyone gathered around the table to watch the match which seemed to make Ron a little uncomfortable because the second Hermione started watching he made an ill advised move with his knight that Mr. Granger immediately capitalized on.

As the night wore on and the game went into the second hour, Mrs. Weasley went off to bed taking Ginny and Mrs. Granger with her. Hermione seemed to have a permanent grin tattooed to her face as she watched Ron and her father do battle. But in the third hour of the match, that grin turned to exhaustion. Harry was feeling pretty tired himself and upon examining the board realized that the end didn't seem to be immediately in sight.

"Come on Hermione." Harry said as he got up yawning. Hermione had fallen asleep and jolted awake at Harry's prodding. They said goodnight to Ron and Mr. Granger as they walked out the door but Harry got the distinct impression that they hadn't heard a word that they said as they were so involved in their game.

Harry and Hermione quickly ascended the stairs to the respective bedrooms and bid each other goodnight. Harry couldn't remember being as tired in a long time and was into a dreamless sleep before his head even hit the pillow.

Harry was awakened by the opening of his door in the middle of the night. He squinted to see who it was but quickly realized that it must be Ron. He was whispering something that Harry couldn't hear. But then Harry heard another voice.

"Remember what you promised." Mr. Granger said softly.

"I will sir." Ron whispered back.

Harry was immediately intrigued. However, exhaustion flooded over him once more and he fell back asleep vowing to remember to question Ron about that encounter.

Author's Note 2: The story is coming to a close soon. I never meant for them to finish their entire 6th year at Hogwarts in this story and you will see why. I would say that there are probably only 3 or 4 chapters left. I also have a sequel in mind. Thanks