AUTHOR'S NOTE – MUST READ Sometime in the next week, I will be pulling my stuff from ffnet. Do not fear though, I am simply moving it to http: (slash) (slash) owl (dot) tauri (dot) org under the pen name of TheMuse. You'll be able to find all of it there. Keep in mind, later on in the chapter, that Michael and Ron are the same person. That way you don't get confused.

Chapter Six

(3 years later)

Ron looked over his notes again. He was collecting his notes in order to write a book on Defense Against the Dark Arts. He had decided to stick to curses, hexes, and various other things that he had learned in the war. He had plans to use this book for his older classes. The decision to write the book came about after two years of frustrated searching for a good text for his older classes. The idea itself to actually write the book, though, had come from an unlikely source. One Severus Snape.

Snape had been visiting from the beginning, though he never visited with Remus. Each of them visited him every two weeks, but they alternated weeks so that Ron had a visitor every week. However, they both had to visit him over the weekend due to the time difference.

Being that it was the summer holidays and almost no one was around, when Ron heard a knock on his door, he simply called, "It's open Conrad."

"I'm afraid that neither of us goes by Conrad, Ron," Severus sneered.

Ron looked up sharply when he realized who had entered his quarters. "It's the middle of the week and late in the afternoon. You certainly aren't here for our chess match."

Severus walked into Ron's quarters, revealing Remus Lupin standing behind him. "I'm sorry to say that we don't have good news for you."

"Remus! Please come in and sit down. If you have bad news, at least you can give it to me sitting down. It's not my family, is it? Harry's ok, right?"

"Your family, along with Potter are alright, as is Hermione," Severus interrupted. "Ron, Albus passed away last night."

Ron rand a hand through his ginger colored hair. "What happened?" he asked.

The two men sat in the chairs Ron indicated. "He simply died in his sleep," Remus began. "We knew it was coming. He was getting older and the war took its toll."

"How's Harry handling it?" Ron asked as he controlled the tears coming to his eyes.

"He seems to be alright thus far. It helps that Ginny's there for him, but it's really too early to tell for sure how he'll handle it. After Sirius died and they patched their relationship, he and Albus became very close. Perhaps closer than nay of us know," Remus remarked.

"Bloody hell Remus," Ron swore. He got up and starting pacing. "When's the funeral going to be?"

"Not for a few days," Severus said. "He had friends and associates all over the world. It will take a few days for the news to get around. For the moment, the tentative date is Sunday."

Ron stopped pacing to look at the two men he had come to call friends. "I feel like I need to be there, but I'm not ready to come home yet." He sat back down in his chair with his face in his hands, obviously distressed.

Remus looked over at Severus, who nodded. "Ron, we think you should come back for the funeral on Sunday."

Ron looked up sharply. "No, no. You have to be out of your mind. Do you have any idea what would happen if I went back? My family would never let me come back here. I really like it here. I'm not ready to go back home yet."

"Hold it Ron. We fully understand that," Severus told him.

"So then how can I go back?" Ron sneered.

"Were you or were you not part of the trip that made Polyjuice Potion in your second year?" Severus sneered in return. "Seriously Ron, did you think we would suggest you return for the funeral if we didn't have some semblance of a plan? I am a potions master and if you decide to go, you will assume someone else's identity for the day. Ron, Conrad also thinks you should go. He was a well-known friend of Albus', so he'll be there."

"Ron, we will all be there. You can do this," Remus encouraged.

"I just, I just don't know guys. I don't feel ready to go back yet. I realize I wouldn't be going back as myself, but I just don't think I could do it," Ron said.

Severus shook his head in frustration. "Foolish boy. You won't be doing it alone. Remus and I, along with Conrad, will be there. We will help you."

Ron sighed and mussed his hair before slowly nodding. "Alright, I'll go."

"You'll be using a version of Polyjuice that lasts for eight hours. Otherwise, it would look odd of you to be drinking from a flask every hour," Severus explained.

"Who will I be going as?" Ron asked.

"A simple Muggle. Albus knew many, so there won't be any magic detectors, just Dark Arts detectors. We'll help you come up with a cover story for you so that you have a chance to run through the details before then," Severus told him. "You will need to stay away from Harry. With his volatile emotional state right now, his control on his Legilimency may not be what it usually is," Severus told him.

Ron took a deep breath, gaining courage. "Alright, so what's my cover story?"

Ron walked the grounds with Conrad on Friday afternoon. "I really think this will be good for you Ron," Conrad said.

"I'm going, but I'm not really sure it is the best thing for me. I understand I'm not going as myself, but I'm still concerned."

Conrad's brow furrowed in thought. "Why are you concerned Ron?"

"I'm not sure my fears are logical. I guess I'm really afraid that any more of my family and friends will see through whatever disguise I may have. And then, of course, there's the scene that would inevitably follow. I'm not ready to go home Conrad."

"You're not going home, not really at least," Conrad stated. "The funeral will be at Hogwarts. You'll never see The Burrow. Remus, Severus, and I will all be there to help you. Severus and Remus are obviously busy right now, so I'm going to run through your story."

Ron nodded. "I'm a forty-five year old Muggle. I've been good friends with Albus for fifteen years. Severus sent me an owl telling me of Albus' death, along with a portkey to Hogwarts."

"What's your name?" Conrad asked, grinning.

Ron smacked his forehead. "Michael Sanken."

"And just how did you meet Albus?" Conrad asked.

Ron thought for a moment. "The summer I met him, I bumped into him at the carnival the town holds every year. It was my first summer in the town. My wife and I had just separated."

"Good. Any other details one of the three of us can back you up. The three of us were known to be good friends of Albus and so if we vouch for you all should be good. Honestly Ron, you're worrying over nothing. Trust in us Ron. We won't let you down."

Ron took at deep breath. "I do trust all of you. And I told you my fears weren't exactly logical. But I do trust you and at least part of me knows that everything will be fine. I also know that I need to stay away from Harry without looking like I'm avoiding him."

"Alright, so here's your costume for the day Mr. Weasley. It will only last eight hours, so your return portkey will activate before then. Now, even if the Aurors have implemented a polyjuice detector, it will not detect this. It has been tested extensively by myself, so you need not worry." Severus explained all of this to Ron before handing him a vial. "Drink up."

Ron took the vial and downed it in one gulp, in spite of its awful taste. Moments later, Ron looked like someone none of them recognized. "Alright, for the next eight hours, I am Michael Sanken."

Severus handed Ron a book. "Here is your portkey. It is time activated to go off in five minutes. It will bring you back six hours from now. We will be waiting for you when you arrive at Hogwarts." His features softened briefly. "Good luck, though you won't need it." He nodded to Ron and promptly left, leaving Ron to his thoughts. Ron thought only of the book he was writing, for he knew he would go mad if his thought were allowed to wander. Exactly when Severus had told him it would, the portkey whisked him away. He made an error though, when he arrived. He kept his balance, whereas a Muggle would not. Ron realized this, but only have he had arrived. He hoped no one had noticed.

"Michael, welcome," Remus called as he walked over. He firmly shook Ron's hand.

"Thank you Remus. I only wish were meeting again under better circumstances," Ron remarked.

"I don't think I know you," Hermione said, coming up the small group. Severus and Conrad had joined the group only moments after Remus did. "I'm Hermione Granger."

"The name is Michael Sanken. The reason you probably don't know me is that I'm what you'd call a Muggle," Ron answered, wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers.

Her interest peaked, Hermione couldn't resist asking more questions. "Oh, how did you meet Albus?"

"Fifteen years ago, I met him at the annual carnival my town holds every year. It's the same town where Albus has a cottage. We started talking and we've kept in touch ever since." Ron began to relax, realizing that he could just talk to Hermione. "After awhile, I learned to keep sweets in the house."

"So you're the reason why Albus knows all those Muggle sweets." Believing Michael wouldn't understand, she rushed to explain. "He used them as his password to his office." Ron nodded, knowing that's what she expected to see. "Do you know anyone here?" she asked.

Ron nodded again. "I've met with Remus, Severus, and Conrad here many times over the years."

Hermione furrowed her brow. "Conrad?"

Conrad nodded in her direction. "That would be me Miss Granger. I'm currently the Headmaster at the Colorado Institute of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, I taught Defense Against the Dark Arts here at Hogwarts back in the 1970's."

"So you knew the Marauders then," Hermione stated.

"Yes, I did. Since then I've discovered how they pulled off some of their pranks by speaking with Remus."

"Have you met with Harry then," she asked.

"We've met briefly, but haven't really had the chance to talk," Conrad responded.

"I think it's starting now." Severus motioned to the people beginning to sit down. The funeral was set to take place on the quidditch pitch, as it was the only place that could accommodate everyone. The group of five moved to sit down in chairs on the pitch. They were lucky enough to have seats on the pitch itself, rather than in the stands.

"I'll talk with all of you later," Hermione said. "My seat is over with Harry and the Weasleys." She left and Ron was left with Conrad, Severus, and Remus.

"Come, there are four seats for us towards the front," Remus remarked.

Ron looked at Remus incredulously. "You mean to tell me that there are assigned seats?"

Remus chuckled. "We realized that too many of the foreign dignitaries didn't get along real well. In order to avoid trouble, the seats here on the pitch are assigned. However, if you're sitting in the stands, you can sit where you like."

Ron laughed. "That's really funny. Assigned seats at a funeral."

Severus smirked. "They're starting now."

Arthur Weasley began to speak. "We have gathered here today to remember a great wizard. Albus Dumbledore. This memorial service will be conducted exactly as Albus wished. For reasons I will never understand, he asked that I speak first. After that, those who wish to remember him may come up here to do so. However, Albus asked that his service last no more than two hours.

"I first knew Albus as Headmaster. It wasn't until after I graduated and joined the resistance against Voldemort that I really began to know Albus Dumbledore. I remember a few nights where I stayed up most of the night just talking with him. He helped me to see that we fight evil because we must. He helped me to see that there simply is no other choice. Albus also helped me realize that while my family has not always been wealthy in terms of money, we have always been well off in terms of love. My family has always known love, from my oldest son down to my only daughter.

"My youngest son is not here at the moment. I don't know where he is, but I know he's safe. I hope he knows how much he is loved and how much we miss him. It is because of Albus that I was able to let him go and become his own man." Arthur returned to his seat on the makeshift stage.

Harry was the next to stand and speak. "Albus was part of the family I gained when I started Hogwarts. I didn't get really close to him until after my fifth year. As many of you are aware, my sixth year was as ugly as my fifth, and this time Albus was there when I needed him. I stopped seeing him as infallible and instead saw him as the grandfather I never had. We grew closer as my sixth year wore on. When I woke up in the Hospital Wing the summer after my sixth year, he was the first person I saw. He had spent the night by my bedside, waiting for me to wake.

"Even after he retired, we kept in touch. Albus became the person I went to for advice. Albus was the one that taught me to survive. Starting the summer after my fifth year, Albus taught me to duel." A smile came over Harry's face. "I couldn't believe the first time I beat him in duel. It was just as my sixth year was winding down. There have been times where I've wondered if he let me win. It was my last session with him before school finished for the holidays. That duel gave me the confidence I needed to deal with Voldemort just a few weeks later. I later asked Albus if he had let me win, and he just gave me that infernal twinkle of his. Albus was there for me when I needed him after the war ended and I didn't know how to go about my life. I'll always miss him, but I'm sure he's having fun wherever he is."

Harry sat down and Minerva McGonagall got up to speak. "Albus was unlike anyone I've ever known. Even with all the responsibility he carried, he preferred to see the brighter side of life." Her voice broke, causing her to pause. "Many years ago, Albus and I were married in a secret ceremony. There were still Grindlewald supporters that wanted revenge and then Voldemort rose so we never told anyone. I loved him dearly and I'll miss him just as much. But I'll go on with my life because that's what Albus would have wanted. We'll all go on with our lives." With tears falling down her face, Minerva McGonagall returned to her seat.

Next to Ron, Remus got up from his seat and walked to the podium. "It's only fitting that I get up here and speak of Albus. Many years ago, I was getting ready to go to Hogwarts, even though I was a werewolf. Albus allowed me to receive an education when I otherwise wouldn't. More importantly, because of Albus, I met some of my best friends. One of them betrayed us, and three of them are dead. But I was grateful for them. Albus believed in me and believed that I wasn't dangerous. Albus was good to me when no one else was.

"My first year at Hogwarts I spent a lot of time talking to Albus. I had dealt with the idea of not attending Hogwarts early in my life. Albus helped me to understand that I did belong at Hogwarts,. He also helped me keep the secret, at least until the Marauders began helping me keep it. I will always be thankful for Albus to helping me to be more than I ever believed I could be." Remus returned to his seat next to Ron. To Ron's surprise, Severus got up next.

"As all of you know, I was a spy for Albus during the last war. Albus showed me that I could change my life for the better. I went to Albus, not knowing exactly what would happen after telling him I had taken the Mark. I ended up turning spy for him and teaching at Hogwarts. Albus was my emotional rock, to use a clichéd phrase," he sneered. Continuing, he said, "Albus tried to make me see that though I had made mistakes in the past, I was still a good man. Only recently have I begun to believe him."

Severus sat down and Conrad got up next. "It just wouldn't have been right if I didn't get up here. I first met Albus when I applied for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position way back in the late 1960's. Albus was still the Transfiguration Professor, but a year later he would be Headmaster. I was hired in 1969, and I remained as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor until 1982 when I left for the Colorado Institute of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I am now the Headmaster there and Albus was the one I went to for advice. I watched as Albus at time covertly encouraged the Marauders. As a teacher, I didn't really understand why he did that. However, as a Headmaster, I completely understand. At a boarding school, some laughs are needed to rid some people the monotony. Albus Dumbledore was a figurehead for our world and we will all miss him, but it's time for us to move past the dark times that have plagued us. Good-bye Albus."

Conrad sat back down and Arthur Weasley got back up. "And now we say good-bye to Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore with the customary farewell. If everyone will point their wands in the air and speak the farewell.

"To Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
We say good-bye
We wish you well
On your new journey
We do not mourn your passing
Instead we wish you well
Good-bye Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

"So now what?" Ron asked, confused because he'd never actually been to a proper wizard burial. The ones during the war had been deemed too dangerous to attend and there hadn't been any light side casualties from the final battle.

"Now there's food. The house elves have been cooking for days. Originally we were going to eat outside, but then decided just to have the feast in the Great Hall," Remus explained. "In fact, we'd better head that way now."

"You'll be sitting at the Head Table with us. If you sat with everyone else, it would be too easy for you to slip up. If you're sitting with us, we can help you," Conrad said. "Of course, the downside is that you're closer to Harry."

"You'll be sitting between us to make things easier on you," Severus said.

"Wait, if I'm sitting between all of you, how could I possibly run into Harry?" Ron asked as they walked into the Great Hall.

"It is customary for members of the family to thank the distinguished guests for coming. You're included in that list by sitting up here with us," Remus explained. "Albus asked that Harry be considered family."

"When the receiving line forms, you'll want to be close to the front. His control will be better in the beginning. If his control is good, he might just have a bit of déjà vu. If his control isn't so good, then it's entirely possible that he may realize who you are," Severus said. "Usually, none of this would be a problem, but Harry's legilimency and occlumency are closely tied to his emotions. As we know, Harry's hold on his emotions is tenuous at best."

The four men found their assigned seats at the large table and sat down. When the Great Hall was filled and everyone seated, the food appeared on the tables. The feast itself went smoothly enough. However, Ron's nerves crept back up as it came time for the receiving line to form. Lady Luck, however, was not with him when he found a place in the receiving line. He had gotten sandwiched in the middle. He felt like he had sweated buckets when it came time to meet Harry.

"Thank you for coming," Harry said.

"It was an honor to attend," Ron replied.

They shook hands firmly, but briefly. "Do I know you from somewhere?" Harry asked.

Ron shook his head. "I don't think so. I'm simply a Muggle living in the middle of nowhere that was honored to know Albus Dumbledore."

Ron continued down the receiving line, though Harry stared at him for a few seconds more before turning his attention to the next person in line. Ron looked at his watch and realized he still had an hour before his portkey would take him back to the Institute. That would mean finding Conrad, Severus, or Remus before someone from his past found him. Again, his luck held. He spotted Severus up ahead.

"Severus," he called.

Severus turned, spotted Ron, and walked over. What can I do for you, Michael?"

"There's still an hour until my portkey goes off. Is there a way for me to get out of here before then?" Ron asked.

Severus smirked. "Eager, are we, to get away before running into your past?"

Ron rolled his eyes. "Please?"

Ron handed him the book and Severus re-charmed the portkey. "You're headed back in one minute. One of us will be by next weekend, and I'm sure you'll see Conrad tonight or tomorrow."

Ron nodded. "Okay. Severus, tell my family that letters are okay if they're sent with you or Remus."

Severus looked shocked. He had wondered if Ron would ever allow letters. He nodded slowly. "I will let them know."

And then Ron felt the tug behind his navel and appeared in his quarters at the Colorado Institute of Witchcraft and Wizardry. "I'm home," he thought.