The New Plan
When he returned to his dormitory room, Harry dropped off into a deep sleep quite quickly. It seemed that no time had passed at all when he was awakened by the sound of heels clicking as they ran up the dormitory stairs. Professor McGonagall burst into Harry's room, panting. "Wake up now Potter!" Even though he was foggy from sleep, he leapt to his feet. McGonagall looked pale and very worried. Before Harry could ask her what was happening, she shouted, "Come with me now… Weasley…Thomas…you too."
Harry fumbled for his glasses and wand as he watched Ron and Dean scramble blearily from their beds. "Follow me," insisted McGonagall, pushing them toward the door. She shushed their questions and led them part way down the stone stairs. They stopped at the door to the fourth year's dormitory. "Weasley and Thomas, there are at least two open beds in there. You will stay in there for the remainder of the night." They both started to question her at once, but she opened the door and ushered them inside hastily. Then she and Harry continued down into the common room and through the portrait hole. MacNessa was hurrying toward them, also panting. "Conner, will you stand guard here until I return? I'm taking Potter to Dumbledore's office."
"Of course, Minerva," said Mac, drawing his wand and taking up a position in front of the portrait hole.
"I'll be back directly," she said curtly and hurried Harry along the corridor, with her hand firmly locked around his arm and her wand out.
"Professor, what's going on?" asked Harry.
"The grounds are under attack Potter, and you are the likely target," McGonagall said in a hushed voice as she pulled him toward the stone gargoyle guarding Dumbledore's office. "Canary Cream!" she said clearly. The gargoyle leapt aside and she pushed him toward the stairs. "Go and wait in the headmaster's office, Potter. DO NOT leave until he tells you it is safe." As Harry rode the stairs, he saw the entrance reseal itself as McGonagall turned back down the corridor.
Harry opened the door to Dumbledore's office, which was empty. Even Fawkes was gone from his perch. He went immediately to the windows and looked through several until he saw some jets of red light on the ground far below. The night was very black and he could not make out any forms in the darkness. The flashes of light seemed to be near the gate. He wished he knew what was happening. Suddenly there was a loud bang and a huge ball of white light illuminated the ground and immediately dissipated. Still he could make out nothing.
At least a half an hour passed without any more sign from the lawn in front of the school. Harry finally took a chair in front of Dumbledore's desk. He was very tired and even the excitement below did not keep him from dosing off. He startled awake minutes later as he heard voices on the stairs. At first he relaxed, knowing Dumbledore would soon be telling him what happened. Then it occurred to him that the next person through the door could be an enemy. At least he had thought to bring his wand. Harry moved into a dark corner of the room and got ready to curse any foe who entered.
He held his breath. The door opened and Dumbledore, Kingsley and Moody came in. Moody's magical eye immediately fixed on Harry and he snorted. "Good boy, Potter. You were ready for an attack," he said, tapping the side of his nose. "Constant vigilance!"
Dumbledore did not appear happy at all; in fact, he looked quite infuriated. He waved his wand and cups of steaming coffee appeared on a small table. Kingsley gladly picked one up and took a seat. "What happened?" asked Harry. "What's going on?"
Dumbledore's eyes flashed in anger. Kingsley, however, responded first, "The gates of Hogwarts were breached tonight by a group of death eaters accompanied by five mountain trolls." Harry noticed then that Kingsley had a gash along his cheek from which a bit of blood was oozing.
"What?" Harry exclaimed, "But how…."
"Hogwarts in not impenetrable, Harry, as you saw during last fall's Quidditch match," began Dumbledore, "Its protections are mainly designed to keep muggles from finding it and in preventing certain types of activities, such as apparition. Still parents, teachers and students must be able to come and go at all times." Dumbledore was standing with his back to them looking out of one of the windows, as Harry had done, into the blackness of the night. Harry wondered if the headmaster could see more out there than he could. "I can detect a breach of the gates. When the trolls and the death eaters entered the grounds tonight, I immediately sent Hagrid a message to go investigate. Then I summoned the Order and the house elves. By then Hagrid had sent up sparks indicating grave danger. He was already fighting the trolls. The death eaters thought to keep us busy subduing the trolls, while they entered the castle unnoticed."
"They were aiming to get to you, Harry," said Kingsley.
Harry did not know what to say or ask; he felt great guilt. "Are you sure they were after me?" he managed finally. Dumbledore hesitated an instant before answering.
"There are, of course, other possible explanations, but since we did not catch any of them so they could be questioned, we will make the very logical assumption that you were the target," said Dumbledore.
Moody, sniffed in an annoyed sort of way. "We found a map on the ground marking the location of Gryffindor Tower. Of course Potter was the target, Albus."
Dumbledore seemed to ignore this comment. "The protections upon Hogwarts allowed me to know as soon as the death eaters stepped foot inside the gate and Dobby's troops were very effective in thwarting the attack."
"Wait… Dobby? What did he do?" asked Harry.
"Dobby has trained a group of house-elves to help guard the castle grounds. He came to me after Christmas and asked if he could be of service in some way. He wanted to be able to help you, Harry."
Dumbledore took a seat behind his desk. "Elves have very powerful magic, and they only required my permission to be allowed to use it. You see ownership of property and the chain of command is very important to them. In any event, he trained a group of thirty Hogwarts' elves to respond to an invasion of the castle grounds, and they did a magnificent job tonight. I dare say the death eaters will not be trying that again soon," said Dumbledore.
Moody clunked over to where Harry was sitting; wooden leg striking the floor with every other step. "Potter, you are in grave danger. The dark lord is extremely angry that you killed his disciples and escaped him again. He seems to have taken it as a challenge to get to you and kill you at all costs."
"Alastor!" said Dumbledore, shortly, "I appreciate your analysis of the state of affairs but scaring Harry to death will do nothing to help the situation."
"Wake up, Albus," said Moody. "The boy is being hunted, and you'd better have a good plan to protect him. Potter needs to know what's coming at him. He's brave and he has brains, so don't keep him in the dark."
"I don't intend to, Alastor," said Dumbledore. He turned to Harry. "It is true that I was not expecting an attack so soon; and not upon Hogwarts. It points up the danger you are now facing, Harry. I am greatly concerned about Privet Drive and how we shall protect it this summer."
Harry did not intend it, but he yawned deeply, "Sorry, sir…"
Dumbledore interrupted, "You are still tired and weakened from the kidnapping and this conversation will not contribute to a peaceful rest." He shot a quick look at Moody, who huffed but did not respond. "I would like you to sleep in this office tonight, until we can improve the defenses on the grounds." He immediately conjured a cot with blankets in the corner. "Gentlemen," he said, "let's leave Harry to sleep, shall we?" Then he left the office to escort Kingsley and Moody to the front gates. After they left the room, Harry sunk down on the cot and pulled a blanket over him. As he drifted off to sleep, Fawkes appeared with a small pop and settled on the edge of the cot next to his head. Harry stroked Fawkes' beautiful feathers and dropped off into a deep sleep.
He woke as the sun crept over the horizon, causing the portraits on the walls of Dumbledore's office to shift, stretch and yawn. He got to his feet and straightened the blanket on the cot, then left the office quietly. It was still very early and the Gryffindors were not stirring yet. Harry went up to his dorm room and then realized that Ron and Dean were sleeping with the fourth years. He thought over the conversations of the previous evening, while he changed into his robes and ran a comb through his hair. Moody had been pretty sure that the attack on the grounds was all about catching him. Was he now a danger to those around him? To the other students? He rifled through his trunk for some clean socks, and then went down to the Great Hall, even though it was very early.
Harry went to sit down at the Gryffindor table. There were a surprising number of fifth years scattered about the large room. O.W.L.s would begin today, and they looked pale and tired from studying late into the night. He helped himself to eggs and sausages, and was just pouring some pumpkin juice when he heard Dumbledore call his name. Harry turned to see the headmaster with a little knot of people in tow, headed in his direction. "Harry, Harry," said Dumbledore smiling, "I wanted you to meet the MacDonald family. Little Annie MacDonald is the child you rescued." Dumbledore said in a whisper. He then proceeded to introduce Annie's grandmother, her uncle, his wife, and a small boy of about five. The names were a blur to Harry, but he nodded and smiled.
"Thank you for saving my granddaughter, young man," whispered the elderly witch, as she wiped a tear from her eye with her handkerchief.
"It's ok," mumbled Harry, blushing slightly.
The uncle also thanked Harry, as did the aunt. "It was very courageous of you. We're very grateful," said the uncle solemnly.
"Perhaps you could show them to the hospital wing so they can pick-up little Annie," suggested Dumbledore. "I do believe that Natalie is there, watching her."
Harry nodded and led the way out of the Great Hall and up the staircase. He tried to make conversation, staying on the subject of the castle, which he thought was a safe topic. When they reached the hospital wing, Harry showed them to the room where Annie was being kept. Natalie rushed over to them when they entered and hugged her grandmother. Harry could see she had been crying. Little Annie was oblivious to the tragedy. Indeed, when he entered the room, she squealed with delight and reached her hands toward him. A veteran now, he lifted her carefully and placed her in the arms of the aunt.
Soon she was being smothered in hugs. She seemed very happy. The uncle pulled Harry to the side. "I can tell Dumbledore hasn't told us everything, but it sounds as though Annie would be dead along with my brother and his wife if it hadn't been for you. I wanted to ask if you saw either of them while they were still… well…still alive?" Harry could hear the strain in the young man's voice.
"I'm sorry, but they were dead by the time I got to them. I only had a moment to grab Annie before the death eaters caught up with us again," said Harry. He looked over at the small girl, feeling very uncomfortable.
"We will be eternally grateful that you saved our niece," said the uncle. His eyes had welled up with tears.
Natalie was sobbing. She looked as though she wanted to say something too, but couldn't, instead she gave him a brief hug. Then the uncle shook Harry's hand before turning back to his family. Harry walked despondently back down the stairs trying to banish the image of the dead MacDonalds lying on the floor in St.Mungos, while little Annie sat next to them.
Back in the Great Hall Professor McGonagall was hurrying about handing out test schedules. The examiners were talking to Professor Dumbledore at the head table. Little Professor Tofty waved enthusiastically at Harry when he spotted him entering the room. Harry waved back.
Theodore Nott came in with some of the Slytherins and took their usual seats. He nodded slightly to Harry and Harry gave him a nod in return. Perhaps they would never be great friends, but it was nice to know that they could still help each other out. He thought he'd try to get Nott alone before the term ended to thank him for going to Dumbledore.
Harry had lost his appetite for breakfast, and simply took a piece of toast and chose a seat at the back of the room. Ginny was sitting with her classmates and they were deep in concentration, looking something up in a large book. He remembered the stress of studying for O.W.L.s the previous year, and how relieved he was each test was finished.
Harry drifted through his own classes that day, occasionally wondering what the point of it all was. Mac called off his auror lessons owing to his being needed to help with the exams. Mac assured him that no matter what happened they were not going to lose ground. The kidnapping incident seemed to have made MacNessa very determined in his cause to train Harry. He was particularly impressed with Harry's account of his duel with Snape. Harry noticed a new and angry glint in Mac's eye.
"Ahh! Young Harry, I wish I could have been there when you called out Snape. I'd have liked to see that. I'm going to be showing you how to get control faster in a duel. The longer the fight is stretched out the more chance for injury or error on your part. Subdue your opponent quickly. That's the thing!" To Harry, the auror lessons were the only ones that made sense any longer. What did it matter if he knew the difference between a Mandrake and a Manticore if he couldn't kill Voldemort? Dumbledore had postponed his Elemental magic lessons until after the O.W.L. exams as well. He claimed he would be very busy and in and out of the castle until after the weekend.
Harry toyed with his homework that night but couldn't pull together the enthusiasm to finish it. Ron and Hermione exchanged looks of concern when they thought he wasn't watching. Ron tried to get him to play chess, but Harry decided to turn in early, and went off to the deserted dormitory room alone.
On Tuesday, Professor Sprout took him aside in class and asked if he was feeling all right and whether he wanted to go and have a lie down. McGonagall seemed to be treating him in a very kindly manner also and on Wednesday, gave him extra points on a test question that he wasn't sure he really deserved. Hagrid excused him from the final exam altogether, saying he already knew a lot about magical creatures and was one of the best students in the class. Harry was grateful for his teacher's consideration but he found that what he really wanted was to be treated just like the rest of the students. It was becoming harder to deny how different he was.
Hermione reported that Professor Grubbly –Plank had been brought in as a substitute instructor for Potions classes and no explanation was given for Snape's absence, which caused a lot of talk amongst the students. Since they had all had the memory of Harry and Snape's duel wiped from their heads, it was interesting to hear their speculations. Ron who felt he had always had the right take on Snape was tormenting Hermione, who had been shocked to learn of Snape's involvement. This, of course, caused several arguments between the two of them.
On the way back from the Library on Friday, Harry rounded a corner and ran straight into Draco Malfoy. He was not flanked by Crabbe or Goyle as usual, and he looked a bit different some how.
"Potter," he hissed malevolently. "You should be dead." Malfoy glared at Harry, with his hand darting to the inside of his robes. Harry realized suddenly that he had not seen Draco since the day in Hogsmeade. He wondered briefly, where Draco had been.
"Malfoy, you're lucky you're not in Azkaban right now," said Harry. "Just get out of my way; I can't stand being near scum like you." He brushed past Malfoy using every bit of self-control he could muster to avoid cursing him into a pile of dust. He raced along the corridor and then up a flight of stairs. Harry was seething with rage. He had been drifting in a fog all week, but the sight of Malfoy brought his anger right back to the surface. It seemed so wrong that Draco could continue to strut around the castle freely, after what he had done. Harry wanted to scream. Instead, he slammed his fist into a suit of armor that fell, banging and clattering to the floor.
"Harry!" said a surprised voice behind him. It was Hagrid, striding toward him.
Harry knew he should feel embarrassed at his outburst, but his anger was too strong. He flattened a piece of shoulder armor to the floor with his foot, and began gathering up the remaining pieces and tossing them roughly into the corner. "Hello, Hagrid," he said grimly.
"What's eating you?" asked Hagrid looking down at the fallen pile of tin.
"Malfoy," said Harry. "I'd like to kill that slimy little worm."
"Now, now Harry," said Hagrid, "If you do that, I'll lose my summer assistant." Hagrid grinned broadly and winked at Harry, conspiratorially.
"What?" asked Harry, bewildered?
Hagrid looked up and down the corridor, to check it was empty. "Well, Dumbledore called in Malfoy's mum… gave her a choice. Draco would either be thrown out of school, permanent like, or he could stay, but under certain conditions," explained Hagrid in a lowered voice. "Right chuffed she was. I can tell you. She screamed and threatened, but Dumbledore told her he'd report Draco to the Ministry and that he had the proof against him. He told her that if Draco was to be thrown out of school now, no other decent school would take him. Told her he thought they had openings at the Leaky Cauldron for dishwashers and that perhaps he could get him a job there." Hagrid grinned, "Oh I tell you, that one put her right over the top. So she accepted Dumbledore's conditions. I heard it all, cause I was to wait outside the door till I was called in, see," said Hagrid.
"Then Professor McGonagall brought in Malfoy, and Dumbledore called me in. Dumbledore told Draco the deal and then he cursed something fierce. What a family! His mum finally slapped him to shut him up."
"What conditions, Hagrid?" asked Harry now mildly interested.
"Well, he's not in a house any more. He can't wear the Slytherin colors. They have him living in a room off Professor Flitwick's quarters. Not allowed out of it except for classes. Flitwick's put charms and such on it. AND, Malfoy is to be my assistant for the summer. Not allowed home over the holidays at all. Lots of hard work and fresh air says Dumbledore. Thinks it'll be good for him," Hagrid chuckled. "He's not allowed his wand the entire summer. Don't imagine he'll like spreading dragon dung on the garden, nor hauling the firewood, but there you are."
"And his mother agreed to it all?" asked Harry, now very amused.
"She's already got a husband on the run from the Ministry. She might be proud, but she's not stupid. She was really angry when Dumbledore told her what he wanted Draco doing over the summer. Servant's work, she said, No Malfoy will be doing servant's work. But, Dumbledore told her it was part of the deal, take it or leave it. The Malfoy's have a lot to lose if Draco is hauled up on charges right now you know."
Harry could not help smiling at the thought of Draco Malfoy, hands blistered, toting logs and shoveling fertilizer. It was not quite the punishment Harry had hoped for, but he had it admit, it was satisfying.
By Saturday, Ron had decided that what Harry needed to lift his spirits was a good fly down at the Quidditch pitch. Ginny, although longing to get out into the fresh air, had declined owing to wanting to sleep in after a long week of late night studying and a very late end-of-exams party in the common room on Friday night. Harry had skipped most of the party and gone off to bed before it got into full swing. Even the news about Draco did not keep his melancholy thoughts at bay. He hoped Ginny had understood.
Ron and Harry headed out of the castle early in the morning with their brooms over their arms. Harry breathed in the air, now warming in the early summer sun. It did feel really good. Soon they were soaring over the field, chasing each other, diving and attempting some Quidditch moves that Ron had wanted to try.
After about an hour, Harry felt that he had left all his bad feelings back on the ground. When they finally landed, he thanked Ron for convincing him to come. "Oh, it's alright Harry. You did the same thing for me when I hurt my leg." As they headed back toward the exit, tossing a Quaffle between them, Harry was startled to see Professor Dumbledore standing under the shade of the stands, watching them. "Ahh…Harry, Ron, I do enjoy watching Quidditch. You two are excellent flyers."
Harry looked at him suspiciously, as Dumbledore fell into step with them. "Sir, why are you down here?" asked Harry.
"Well, Harry, I think you need someone watching your back, as the Muggles say," said Dumbledore lightly, surveying the grounds as though he were just out for a leisurely walk.
"You mean I can't be outside without protection," said Harry flatly. He looked over at Dumbledore, strolling along next to them. He was being watched again.
"Harry, I wanted a word with you concerning how you are feeling after the killings," said Dumbledore. Ron went very quiet at his side. "I wanted it to sink in a bit before talking to you about it."
"I don't know," said Harry impatiently, "Do we have to talk about it?"
"I believe we do need to Harry. I think Ron here can appreciate how having someone to confide in after a terrible moment such as that can help one get over it." Dumbledore looked over at Ron who nodded slowly in agreement.
"Mac…I mean Professor MacNessa and Moody thought I did fine, and that I should be happy that I killed evil people," said Harry.
"And how do you feel?"
"I don't know," Harry sighed. "Why does it matter? I had to do it, and I did it. You want me to kill Voldemort and now you know I can kill. You should be happy." Harry's answer had been surlier than he intended but it had just come out that way. Ron was standing open-mouthed watching.
Dumbledore sighed heavily. "I can not change your fate and I cannot do this thing for you. It is your task to perform or to deny. I won't pretend I am sorry that you can manage to defend yourself. It is very important that you can, but killing a man takes something out of you. It takes away a sort of innocence that can never come back. It is a burden usually reserved for those who are older than yourself, Harry and I am concerned about you." Dumbledore rested a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Please talk to your friends about it." Dumbledore paused, "I must also ask that you remain in the castle unless an Order member or teacher can be with you." He turned to Ron, giving him a smile and watched as they walked up the steps and into the castle.
The term was drawing swiftly to a close. Harry was not looking forward to the summer break at all. He had been enjoying his auror lessons very much and he had taken to visiting Mac in his rooms a night or so a week just to sit and talk for a while. Harry suspected this must be what it was like to have a father or grandfather to talk to. The thing that Harry liked most about Mac was his open dislike for anyone who tried to "manage" Harry. It made him feel that he could challenge what the Order wanted him to do, and even though it might not change the outcome, at least he felt he could assure a straight answer to his questions.
Leaving Hogwarts for the summer also meant being parted from Ginny, Ron and Hermione. Although he could keep up with Ron and Hermione well enough through owl post, the kind of correspondence he'd like to have with Ginny would definitely not be coming to Privet Drive tied to the leg of an owl.
The coming Friday was the leaving feast and Saturday would see them all on the train home. The Dursley's home, not his, he thought bitterly. The imminent return to Privet Drive loomed large before him. He had to admit that the time he needed to spend there was not so very long in the larger scheme of things, six weeks or so. It was the foul treatment he could expect; it was the vexation of avoiding anything magical that was so difficult now that it was a part of his very being. He wondered about the explosion that had nearly destroyed the house and injured his aunt last summer. He knew Aunt Petunia's memory had been modified and the house restored, still could the same thing happen again this summer. Would the Order have to stand guard this summer? The Dursley's would never allow such a thing, he was quite sure.
Dumbledore called Harry to his office on Thursday before dinner. Harry entered the familiar room and took his usual seat in front of the headmaster's desk. "Harry," said Dumbledore, "I am expecting a few guests, who should arrive shortly, and then we will talk about your summer holiday…." Dumbledore was interrupted by Remus, Fred and George Weasley who all streamed into the room chatting amongst themselves. "Hi ya Harry," said Fred brightly.
Dumbledore magiced enough chairs for everyone and then took his seat. "I have asked you all here to discuss the options for Harry's protection this summer. Harry, you will have the final say in this, however we may have found a plan that will suit you. First, you may of course, choose to go to your aunt's house. I believe that you would need to stay with her for a month at the very least. The Order would have to post guards much more aggressively than ever around the house and neighborhood. You would need to stay inside the house at all times to minimize the risk. I know no other way to protect you there. I am rather afraid that Voldemort will become reckless in his attempts to kill you, now that you have escaped him yet again."
"An alternative would be to require your aunt to live with you at an alternative location for a month. This too should renew the blood protection you receive from her. We could put you in a more secure location and I believe a safer one.
Harry interrupted, "You don't know my aunt. She hates everything to do with magic. She doesn't care for me at all. She'll never agree to be away from Dudley and Uncle Vernon to protect me." Then Harry remembered something that Remus had told him over Christmas. He turned in his seat and looked at Remus who smiled and winked. "You mean, you'd threaten her if she refused?" he said slowly, turning to Dumbledore, "You'd threaten her with Dudley's life?"
Dumbledore cleared his throat, "Harry, your aunt made a bargain with me. I saved her son and she took you with the full understanding of what that meant. I will not reverse the charm protecting your cousin. It was a calculated risk that drove us to that course of action in the first place but it would be cruel indeed to reverse it now. I am merely suggesting that I remind her of our bond and hope she will agree without the need of a threat."
Harry thought for a moment how complicated things were. He sighed, "If she agreed to come, where would we go?" he asked, "Grimmauld Place?" Harry found the Order headquarters a depressing old house, even though Dobby had tried to make it more cheerful. It held memories of Sirius and of many dark decisions that he had had to make.
"Well, as luck would have it, we have an alternative," said Dumbledore in an upbeat tone. "Your parent's old home in Godric's Hollow is empty. I believe I explained to you that we rebuilt it after Voldemort's attack. We are prepared to put the Fidelius Charm upon it. It is a lovely cottage in the country and no one would suspect that you would go back there. I had a high stone wall with a gate erected around the perimeter some time ago, to keep people out and long ago I established a secret trust for the house so that it appears to be owned by a non-wizard family, and not by you. It has much to recommend it. It is reasonably isolated. We can arrange certain magical defenses and we can set up some escape routes that will be hard to breach. If we keep your location secret, it should suffice. On the other hand it may make for an incredibly uninteresting summer for you I'm afraid."
Harry wanted to interrupt with a question, but Dumbledore talked on. "Fred and George have indicated that they are eager to help the Order, and have agreed to spend the summer there with you as your guards and companions. They will trade off, I understand, in minding their very fine shop. Conner MacNessa has also consented to spend the summer with you, if you would like, and continue your auror training. We will encourage your aunt to come and then we will see what happens. Oh, and we will of course bring in Dobby to manage the house. He will feel quite put out if we do not, I think."
There was the feeling in the room of everyone holding their breath as they all looked at Harry, waiting for his answer. Harry looked around at them. "Of course," said Dumbledore, "If you think that Godric's Hollow would be too painful for you, we can devise a different plan…"
"No," said Harry quickly, as though he was snapping out of a day dream, "I mean…well, it would be great…better than great. I don't know what to say…Could I really go there?"
Everyone relaxed. "Certainly, Harry," said Dumbledore.
He could not believe it. He would be living in his own house. He would be with Fred and George…and Mac. If Aunt Petunia were there too, it would be her living in his house this time. It was far more than he had hoped for or expected.
"Thanks," he said to the room in general.
"Fine then," said Dumbledore. I will finalize the arrangements and Remus, I'd ask that you pay a visit to Harry's aunt, and… encourage her to cooperate?"
Remus nodded and smiled.
"If she doesn't?" asked George.
"I am very worried about using Privet Drive again, in any case. We have been watching the area closely since your kidnapping, Harry. Voldemort has been sending spies around and we fear for the safety of the Dursley's. Voldemort might choose to kill your aunt in order to eliminate your safe haven. We no longer have inside information now that Snape has turned against us."
"He could have been passing Voldemort secrets right along," said Harry.
"I don't believe he could have been, I would have known. He now has a mark upon his hand, which he would not have been able to hide. He did not know that the mark would appear if he disclosed an Order secret or betrayed us in some way. Giving you, Neville and Professor Trelawney up to Voldemort was his betrayal," said Dumbledore. "I believe that Severus was working both sides to see what gain he could make, but he was doing it for himself and not for either cause. He was a fool to think he could win that game."
They all started to rise as if to leave. "Harry, there is one last thing that you must agree to if you chose Godric's Hollow."
"What's that?" asked Harry.
"No one outside of you, myself and your guards will know the location. No owls will be able to find it and your friends will not be able to come. It may be much too dangerous. You can send letters out with Fred or George and they can bring mail in to you. Can you agree to these terms?"
Harry now had to consider the possibility of an entire summer alone. "Buck up, mate," said Fred. "We are known for being quite entertaining, aren't we George?"
"Right you are, Fred," said George, leaning on Fred's shoulder. "Life of any party, that's us!"
Harry could not help but grin. "Ok, I'll do it."
Harry strolled down the corridor on his way back to Gryffindor tower. He felt his spirits lift a little as he walked along. He would be going to his own house in the country. It was a distinct improvement over Privet Drive. Not seeing his friends at all would be very hard.
"Harry! Wait!" shouted Ron from somewhere behind him. Harry turned and waited as Ron snaked his way through the students moving down to dinner.
"I sent mum and dad an owl asking them if you could come straight home with us this year. That protection thing at the Dursley's didn't work too well last year, so I thought maybe it would be ok," said Ron in a rush. Harry felt pleased that Ron had tried to intervene like this, and he would have liked nothing more than to spend the summer at the Weasley' where he could be close to Ron and to Ginny, but he knew that he would be putting Ron's family in a great deal of danger if he did. "Mum wrote back and said that you might not be able to come at all," said Ron angrily. "What's that about?"
Harry looked around. The hallway was fairly crowded. "I'll explain later tonight, ok?"
Harry gathered Ron, Hermione and Ginny in the Room of Requirement after dinner. It was now his favorite hide out when he wanted privacy. "Look," he said when they had all arrived and sat down. "I had a talk with Dumbledore about this summer. He's convinced that Voldemort is going to do whatever he can to find me and kill me. He reckons Voldemort is really angry that I got away again. Dumbledore has a plan to keep Voldemort from finding me, but it involves total secrecy about where I am going to go and I had to agree to keep it secret. I don't want it this way, but I don't want a lot of people at risk because of me either."
"So they must be putting you at headquarters then," said Ron.
"No…No they aren't," said Harry. "But please don't start guessing, because I swore I wouldn't tell. I'll be able to get letters. You just have to send them to Fred and George. If you try to send them directly to me, Dumbledore says they won't get through. He's put a lot into my protection this time."
Dumbledore had told him that in order to maintain the best possible security, only a few individuals would be allowed to know his true location. That list did not include Ron, Hermione or Ginny. Harry recalled Dumbledore's words: Your safety is too precious to risk at this time. Our intelligence says Voldemort is in a tall terror over the death of Bellatrix and is seeking a way to take you as soon as it is possible. Harry had decided not to argue now. Perhaps something could be arranged in a fortnight or so.
"That must mean that Fred and George are guarding you," said Ron. "I could have helped with that too." Ron sounded displeased to be kept in the dark.
"Look, it's a compromise and if everything goes alright, I'm going to ask to have visitors. If I can't then I won't see you until next school term. They are going to keep giving me training over the summer in the Elemental spells and…other stuff," he'd almost said auror training but then they would have known that Mac was going to be staying with him. "All I can say is that it's got to be better than Privet Drive."
His friends looked downcast. Ginny looked away. "Well Harry, It's probably for the best. I'm sure it won't be pleasant and we'll all miss you, but your safety has to come first," said Hermione, practical as always. "I'll send loads of letters."
"Will you be coming back to London with us on the train?" asked Ginny.
"No, I'll be apparating," he relied sadly. It shortened, even more, the time they would have left. He met her eyes and they looked at each other for a few moments.
"Ron," said Hermione, "Let's leave these two alone, shall we?"
"Why?" asked Ron looking as though he had been deep in thought.
"They won't be seeing each other for quite awhile, will they?" she retorted in an exasperated way.
"Neither will we…" he said looking at Hermione. "Oh!" said Ron cottoning on. "Umm, yes, well we'll see you later."
Ron and Hermione left the room together and Harry released a long slow breath. He turned to Ginny. "I have something to show you," he said as brightly as he could. He raised his hands, concentrated, and a shower of flowers drifted down out of the air into Ginny's lap. He had been practicing his earth spell and had found some new uses. He was, however, only able to conjure this one kind of flower, still they had a nice scent.
"They're lovely!" said Ginny gathering some up and smelling them. "Thanks," she said softly.
"Ginny, you know this summer arrangement is not what I want. I'm afraid that if I come to your house your whole family will be in danger," he said as he sunk down on the sofa next to her.
"I know, Harry," she said, turning to him and running her fingers across his forehead. "I know." Harry waved his hand and extinguished all the candles except the ones on the fireplace mantle. Ginny smiled at him. They moved together slowly until their lips met. Harry could never get over the wonderful feeling of kissing someone who wanted to kiss him, and to hold someone who wanted to hold him. All his young life he had watched as other children were embraced by caring parents. He had grown to feel unworthy and unlovable in his relatives care. When he was with Ginny, he drunk in her affection as though he were a man dying of thirst.
They kicked off their shoes and were soon lying next to each other on the cushy sofa.
"Will you be able to send letters to me?" asked Ginny breathlessly, between kisses.
"They'll have a job trying to stop me," said Harry. "I'm sure I can send them by Fred or George."
"Better seal them up well, "she said. "Those two might read something…Oh Harry," she whispered, as he kissed her neck, "something that they shouldn't."
After while, Harry lost all track of time and forgot everything except how much he loved being here with Ginny. His head was spinning. The more he kissed her, the more intoxicating he found her. It was like a great whirlpool pulling him in. He felt excitement and frustration all at one time. She was his, she loved him, and he loved her. He felt sure of it. When he was with her, he could escape from the feeling of impending doom for a while. He could pretend that he might have a normal life. He moved his lips over her throat and down to where her blouse was buttoned. Harry stopped and looked at her. It was hard to say what made him do it, but with a slightly shaking hand, he fumbled to undo the buttons of her blouse. She looked into his eyes with a mixture of longing and trepidation.
Underneath she was wearing some sort of wispy silky top with thin satiny straps. She shrugged off the blouse and then she undid the front of Harry's shirt, now damp from the heat of their contact, and pulled it off him. There was nothing between them now but the thin white fabric. Harry caressed her tentatively, as she ran her fingers over his shoulders and down his back. His skin tingled where she touched him. He shut his eyes for a second to clear his head, but the moment was too stimulating. She was running her fingers over his chest very slowly as he tried to control what he was doing and thinking. One of those little straps hung loosely off the side of Ginny's shoulder. Harry kissed her bare skin near where it hung and then lifted the tiny straps and slid them both down her arms. As she lay there flushed and almost holding her breath, he pulled the top lower.
The rune necklace glimmered in the candlelight that washed over Ginny's fair skin. Harry had a fleeting image of beautiful Greek statues in a book he had once seen. They were however, not so beautiful as Ginny at this moment. He pulled her to him. His hand cupped against her breast. Bare skin on skin. For several long moments, they kept their mouths' pressed together, tongues exploring, for several long moments Harry ever so carefully touched her soft skin.
Ginny gave a little gasp and pulled away as she sat up "Oh, Harry," she said breathlessly. "We have to slow down!" He swallowed hard and then lay back, looking up at her. Her hair was gently tousled, looking soft and intimate, and she was holding the frail fabric against her, putting the straps back in place. He tried to control his breathing. He looked down wondering if she knew the effect she had on him. He wanted her more than anything. He wanted her safe and happy more than his life.
Ginny ran her fingers through her hair, trying to straighten it. Then she slid back into his arms. Harry felt her wrap herself around him, against his chest. His heart was still pounding. They shifted around and now he lay on top of her. Ginny's skirt was hiked up around her thigh and he found he had his hand on her leg as they kissed again. He felt her quiver beneath him. He could slide his hand up along her thigh, and then…
A little voice in the back of his head told him they really should slow this down and perhaps say goodnight and go back to Gryffindor tower, but he was sure he lacked the will power to pull away. Still, he couldn't do anything to hurt her. He couldn't do anything that would cause her family pain. Harry was in uncharted waters. No adult had ever informed him about what was proper and what was not. Mr. Weasley's concerned face swam into view, followed by Ron's accusing one. This time, Harry sat up, "Ginny, I think we have to be careful…I mean…If this goes much further, I don't know how I could stop." He was breathing hard and his whole body was tingling.
Ginny pulled on her blouse slowly, doing up the buttons, and then gently pulled Harry's shirt back on him, leaving it hanging open. "I know…" said Ginny. " I didn't want us to stop either," her voice almost at a whisper. "I've never felt quite like this before. I guess I should have…"
"No, it's me," interrupted Harry, "You're…perfect." He smiled at her.
Ginny smiled back, "It's both of us, Harry."
Harry pushed her hair away from her face and kissed her. They leaned back into the sofa and she curled up next to him, with her legs across his, knees bent and leaning against his chest. They just sat holding on to one another, smiling but not saying anything. Harry fought his urge to resume what they had been doing and tried not to look down at her bare legs, but it was one of the harder fights of his life.
They walked back to Gryffindor Tower a half hour later and he said goodnight to her at the dormitory steps. In his dormitory room, he felt too frustrated and elated to think of sleep. Harry was worried that he might be acting very rudely. They had kissed long and diligently before but he had never tried to do more than that. Tonight just felt different somehow… and she had gone along with it too, but perhaps he had taken the thing entirely too far. It didn't feel that way, but he had very little experience to draw upon.
Harry would have liked to discuss the subject of girls with Ron, and indeed they had talked about girls many times. Yet their discussions had not turned on the practical matter of how one ought to behave toward a girl with whom you were having a serious relationship. They had joked about couples they knew and they had speculated about certain things. Harry always felt a bit backward on the subject so he listened more than talked. Yet the thought of asking Ron at this point would be impossible because he would know Harry was talking about his own sister and not some nameless future conquest. In addition, Harry was not sure he would want Ron to reciprocate and tell him what he and Hermione were doing in blazing detail. They were both his friends, and he didn't think he'd want the resulting images stuck in his head.
No, he'd have to talk to someone else. Mac had always given him good advice, but he was rather old, and Harry was reluctant to try him. While any of the Weasley brothers would have been a good choice under normal conditions, they were ruled out in this situation. Sirius would have been the one that Harry asked, but that was now impossible.
Hogwarts students were not to go about kissing in the halls, but Harry had known several to do it when teachers were not watching. Out on the lawns, in more secluded spots, one might encounter a pair of students snogging. What, Harry wondered, were they doing when no one could be watching?
There were few people he could ask or trust, in fact, only one that he dared ask advice of this type. He decided to ask before he lost his courage. Harry left the dormitory, went down the steps and across the common room. He climbed the stairs to the owlry with a piece of parchment and quill to pen a letter to Remus. Remus would take him seriously.
As he entered the tower, he realized he had his communications mirror with him. If Remus was not busy, he could get an answer immediately. Harry quickly checked the sky. No full moon. He pulled the mirror from his pocket. "Remus Lupin," he said clearly.
The surface of the mirror clouded and then Remus's face came into focus. "Harry, what's wrong" asked Remus sharply. He looked as though he had been sleeping and was startled by Harry's call.
"I'm sorry, Remus, did I wake you up?"
"It's fine Harry, are you all right?" his tone was still concerned.
Harry sighed; he was now wishing he had sent Hedwig with a letter. Still, he had to ask now that he'd contacted Remus. "Ummm… I had a question. I was wondering about something." Remus waited. Harry avoided looking directly into the mirror. "Well, how does a person tell if they are in love? Is there a way, because I really like Ginny a lot and I don't know what I should do? Aunt Petunia made Uncle Vernon talk to Dudley once a few years ago. It was about how to behave with girls. She said I didn't need to know, as no proper girl would ever have me. So, I was just wondering if there were things that I should know, or anything." He had said all this in one breath. "And please don't tell Mr. Weasley I asked."
Harry grimaced and looked into the eyes of his father's friend. Remus's look of concern softened. "Oh Harry, we keep forgetting what a dismal upbringing you have had. You must know you're worth ten Dudley's and that all sorts of proper girls would love to have you, I'm sure. I don't think this is a talk we should have by mirror. I want to give you my full attention. Tell you what, go down to the entrance hall and I'll come meet you there in about fifteen minutes. After all I'm rather a night creature, and now I'm awake, we may as well clear this up," he chuckled. "I'll let Dumbledore know I am coming."
As he waited in the entrance hall fifteen minutes later, Harry was surprised to see Remus coming from a door down the hall and not from out on the lawn. "I seem to be spending a lot of time at school these days," he said with a laugh as he approached Harry.
"You were here already?" asked Harry.
"Umm...yes...well…just arrived." Remus said to Harry's query, "It seems we need to have a talk."
Harry looked at Remus nervously. "I'd like some fresh air," said Harry. "Could we sit outside?"
Remus frowned at that suggestion. "Dumbledore would have my skin…," he said, thinking. "I know; how about the Astronomy Tower. We can sit outside, and no one will overhear."
Harry agreed and they began to climb up through the castle. Harry, who had been running up and down these steps each morning for almost two months, found he needed to slow his pace so that Remus could keep up. Remus was a bit winded by the time they reached the top turret. The night breeze was cool but not unpleasant as Harry filled his lungs and exhaled. Remus and Harry sat down on the stone bench. It reminded Harry of sitting there with Ginny, and thinking of Ginny made him feel like jelly inside.
"It was very remiss of all of us not to realize that in matters of the heart and… related issues," Remus cleared his throat, "that you might need some guidance. I'll tell you what I can and then perhaps you'll have some questions."
Harry reddened slightly but even though he felt a bit uncomfortable, he was grateful to Remus for taking him seriously. Over the next hour, Remus explained a few things about girls that Harry definitely had not known.
"Can I ask," said Remus, "what specifically you're concerned about?"
Harry blushed bright red. He swallowed and looked away. Remus remained silent and waited. Harry knew he had brought up the subject and that Remus was trying to help him. It was just so damned awkward. Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then launched into his question. He was sure he had mucked it up, but Remus smiled at him in an understanding way and proceeded to give him some general advice.
Remus finished with, "Love is beautiful and perilous and confusing at your age. Harry…the long and the short of it is, don't rush the situation. You should wait to consummate your relationship until you are ready to make a more permanent commitment. The marriage between a witch and a wizard is a magical contract and it can be sealed without a ceremony. Your solemn promise to one another is all that is required. Take it slowly, Harry," said Remus smiling, "and it will be all right," he paused, "Of course there are magical protections too. The witch is the only one who can perform these. Still, you are right to be concerned about your own actions, and it's very decent of you to ask."
"It's just, I'd never want to hurt her," said Harry earnestly.
Remus turned away and Harry thought Remus wiped the corner of his eye before turning back to face Harry. "Well, young man, just tell her how you feel, and you won't have to worry about such misunderstandings."
Harry left the tower with a very clear perception of where things stood. He was enormously grateful to Remus for taking him seriously and coming all this way just to talk to him. "Thanks, really," he said as Remus made to depart in the entrance hall. Remus patted him arm. "I'm glad I could help."
Fresh from his talk with Remus, Harry thought he should clear the air with Ginny lest there were any misunderstandings. When he found her going toward lunch the next day he pulled her into an empty classroom and before he lost his nerve said, "Ginny, I just want you to know that I don't ever want to do anything to make you feel uncomfortable," those were Remus' words and they felt strange when he said them, but he plunged on. "I hope you'll tell me if I ever do."
Ginny stood looking at him for a moment as though he had just spoken Bulgarian or something. She seemed be trying to work out what he meant and was having difficulty.
Harry helped, "You know, about the other night in the Room of Requirement. I got...ummm… carried away."
Ginny's face cleared and she gave him a look of sweet exasperation. "Oh Harry, you're such a….a….I don't know what to call you, really." She set down her bag, took his shoulders in her hands, and looked him square in the eyes. "Harry you can believe me when I say that if you try to go further than I want, I'll say so. Have no fear. If need be I'll put you right in your place." Then she put her arms around his neck. "The thing is, I'm in love with you and I'm more concerned that I won't want to stop."
Harry grinned and blushed. "I love you too," he said. As they kissed, he thought how lucky he was.
The next day the students readied themselves to return home. The carriages were called up to the castle entrance and began to move off toward Hogsmeade station. Harry helped Ron load the trunks then he helped Ginny into the carriage. Hermione and Ron followed and then Harry climbed in. It would be his last chance to talk to them for a while. He held Ginny's hand tightly as the carriages trundled down to the station. Before he got out, he put his arm around Ginny's waist and kissed her. "I'll send you an owl as soon as I get home," she whispered.
"To Fred and George, remember," he told her.
On the train platform, Harry helped his friends load their things aboard and then stood with Hagrid as the train steamed slowly out of the station. It was very sad in a way. Harry remembered the trips home toward London on the train. He had always dreaded the thought that the Dursley's would be waiting for him at the end of the ride, but it was also a time to say his last good-byes to his friends. He felt as though he was robbed of that this year. He was feeling rather sorry for himself as he stared down the track at the departing train.
Hagrid's large hand dropped onto Harry's shoulder. "Well, another year done. Summer ought to be more interestin' for you, Harry, what with Fred and George around," Hagrid said optimistically. Harry looked up at him. "I have a surprise that I've bin keeping for some time now. I reckon you oughta have it, as you're nearly of age," Hagrid winked and his eyes were twinkling.
Harry knew all about Hagrid's surprises and he steeled himself for whatever this one would be. "A surprise for me?" he asked, trying to match Hagrid's enthusiasm.
"C'mon, Harry and I'll show ya what I've got." They walked the path back toward the castle and then cut around toward Hagrid's house. "Actually had this stored since, well, since just after….after your mum and dad was killed."
Out behind the cabin, was a wooden lean-to that contained various items, such as wooden buckets and slug repellant. In the corner was a brown tarpaulin covering a large lumpy object. Hagrid made a show of having Harry stand back while he pulled off the cover. Underneath was a shiny chrome motorcycle. One might have expected that something stored in this location would be rusty and covered in cobwebs, but it gleamed as though it was brand new. Harry stared at it for a moment, speechless.
"Hagrid, you're giving me a motorbike?" asked Harry finally.
"Actually, Harry, this is Sirius's old enchanted motorbike. I borrowed it the night I took you out of the wreckage of your parent's house. Sirius asked me to use it so I could get you out of there. Then he was caught and sent to Azkaban, so it just stayed here. Once he was free again, I asked him if he wanted it back. But Sirius said, no Hagrid, you just keep that bike safe for Harry. It's for him once he's old enough. So I says, alright, but it's fer you to give it to him, Sirius, and he just laughed….." Hagrid's voice trailed off.
Harry was glad Hagrid stopped there because he didn't need to be fighting any more emotion today. He swallowed the lump in his throat and walked over to the bike. Stroking the seat, he turned to Hagrid, "Can you show me how it works?"
Hagrid happily came forward and explained all the mechanisms. It seemed it would go on a normal road or it would fly like a broomstick. Hagrid helped to push it out on to the lawn and then made Harry ride it around the lawn a few times to make sure he could handle the shifting. Harry killed the engine several times before he got the hang of it. Then Hagrid showed him how to use the flying gear. Harry was keen to have a go in the air. Hagrid looked around to check if anyone was watching. "Well, go on with you then, but just a quick turn around," said Hagrid, "Dumbledore will be having my head."
Harry grinned broadly and revved up the motor. He shifted into flying mode as Hagrid had told him as the bike started down the path and began to rise off the ground. It moved faster than a broomstick, and rumbled loudly as it streaked through the summer air. Harry raced above the surface of the lake and then over the forest before returning to the ground in front of the gamekeeper's cottage. Hagrid lumbered over toward him with a laugh, "You remind me of him… Sirius… flying that thing."
"Thanks Hagrid, really, this is great!" said Harry, "Do you think I'll get to take it with me?"
"Dunno why not, you'll be old enough to use it soon," said Hagrid. He promised to take up the transportation of the motorbike to Godric's Hollow with Dumbledore. According to Hagrid, it would need to be flown there and Harry was sure no one would agree to allow him to do that himself. "Dumbledore won't be letting you ride it right now. I'll ask him if Fred or George could bring it along for ya, how would that be?"
Harry left Hagrid's and strolled slowly back up to the castle to wait for Dumbledore who was taking him to Godric's Hollow. Harry was excited to see his parent's old home…his old home, but he was, as always, sad to be leaving Hogwarts. The castle was unusually quiet with all the students gone. Harry did not want to wait alone in the Gryffindor common room, so he wandered into the Great Hall and took a seat at the end of his house table.
It was in moments of solitude such as this that the strangeness of his life overcame him. Born to parents who died before he even knew them, raised by relatives that despised who he was and what he was, finding out at age eleven that an entirely different world existed in and around the one he knew, finding out that he was destined to do a thing that no one else had been able to do, that he alone must do. He would be seventeen in a month. In the wizarding world, it meant he was of age, a man.
His thoughts were interrupted as Professor McGonagall walked into the hall. "Potter," she said as she saw him. "When are you leaving?"
"Professor Dumbledore said around six," said Harry.
"It's hours till then," said McGonagall, but her voice immediately softened. "Why don't you come with me and have something to eat."
Harry went off to McGonagall's office with her. She produced a plate of sandwiches and a jug of iced pumpkin juice. He hadn't had any appetite in the morning, facing the proposition of losing his friends for two months. Now he found he was quite hungry. After the lunch, McGonagall asked if he'd like a game of wizard's chess. Harry was taken aback. "Uhh…Sure," he said.
McGonagall produced a very nice chess set, and placed the board on a small table near an open window. Harry and his professor spent a pleasant afternoon playing several very tough games. McGonagall was as aggressive a player as Ron, and Harry had to really concentrate in order to avoid losing stunningly.
At around five, Harry was enjoying watching his bishop annihilate McGonagall's queen having finally managed to checkmate her. "Thanks professor," he said. "I should go now. I shouldn't keep Professor Dumbledore waiting." McGonagall smiled at him.
He extended his hand toward her. She looked at him and then took it. "Thanks for everything this year; for bringing Mac here and all."
"Oh Potter, I said I would see you become an auror, and I mean to keep that promise."
Harry was once again back in the entrance hall. The plan was for him and Dumbledore to apparate to Godric's Hollow. His trunk had been magiced there earlier in the day. Dumbledore was again acting as secret-keeper and had told Harry there were last minute preparations to complete before he arrived.
Dumbledore came in through the front doors as the sun was sinking low in the sky. "Are you ready, Harry?"
"Umm, yes, I think so," Harry said. He wanted to ask something, but he hesitated. "Sir, could we possibly stop off somewhere?"
"What did you have in mind?"
"I'd like to visit this fountain, in the park near Privet Drive."
"A fountain you say?" Dumbledore asked in with a note of amusement in his voice. The headmaster looked over the rim of his spectacles at Harry for a moment.
"Would it be ok?"
"Harry, it is quite dangerous for you to be away from a protected area just now."
"It will only take a minute and it's nearly dark, and the park won't have many people at this time of day."
"I see," said Dumbledore finally, "To the fountain then, but, if I say go, you must apparate immediately to Godric's Hollow as I've explained. Are we agreed?"
Dumbledore and Harry walked to the gates where Hagrid met them. Dumbledore had his wand out as the three of them walked through the gates and toward Hogsmeade. Dumbledore stopped under the trees. "This should be fine. Are you ready Harry?" He nodded and Hagrid patted his back. "Oh, and Hagrid, the Weasley twins are more than happy to transport the motorcycle and will come for it in the next few days," said Dumbledore winking at him.
Dumbledore and Harry disapparated as the sun was setting. The park was quiet when they apparated near the fountain. Dumbledore stood quietly looking around but didn't ask Harry any questions. He was grateful. Water was splashing gaily from the center of the fountain basin as Harry approached. The mirror shards he had placed in the cement last summer sparkled through the rippling water as Harry touched the rim.
"Sirius," said Harry very quietly, "I avenged your death. I killed Bellatrix. I didn't plan it…it just happened." He dropped his head staring into the water. "I didn't like killing, but I had to do it. I wish you were here to talk to. You always gave me good advice. Like a father. I'm sure my dad would have given me good advice too, it's just, I never knew him, did I." Harry paused. "Sirius, you risked your life for me, and anyway… I avenged your death."
The first stars of the evening were coming out, and darkness was falling. The water stopped bubbling and the pool became still and smooth. Harry placed his hand over the glassy surface and summoned the water. A thin stream rose up from the surface at his command and touched his outstretched palm. He released it and it sank back. He closed his hand on the wetness, sighed and turned to face Dumbledore. "That's all I wanted from this place."
"What does this fountain mean to you, Harry?" asked Dumbledore gently.
"It's kind of …private."
Dumbledore smiled and patted Harry on the back, "I guess you're entitled to that. Are you ready to go?" Harry nodded. Dumbledore and Harry disapparated in the gathering dusk without being noticed.
Two days later, Harry stood in the dappled sunlight of the large beech trees within the high garden walls of his parent's home in Godric's Hollow. He stood at the gate waiting. Fred and George were lounging in the grass nearby, discussing advertising tactics for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. A pleasant breeze wafted through a bed of flowers as bees hummed, flitting about. Out in the lane there was a loud pop followed by the appearance of a violently purple triple-decker bus. Harry stepped out in to the lane and watched as the bus ground to a sudden halt next to him. The door opened and Harry heard Stan Shunpike's voice, "Come along now… that's it Miss… there you go now." Aunt Petunia appeared at the top of the bus steps, her hat was askew and her coat was hanging crookedly from her shoulders. She wobbled on her high heels as she descended to the ground. Stan hoisted a suitcase out on to the ground, shaking his head in apparent disgust behind her. She fumbled in her bag and pressed a shilling into his hand dismissively. He tipped his hat and turned the coin over in his hand in amazement, as he climbed back aboard. As soon as he had cleared the steps, the bus streaked forward and disappeared with a pop.
Aunt Petunia gasped, looking out in the direction that the bus had gone. Then she rounded on Harry like an angry wolverine. "I consented to come here, out of the pure goodness of my heart, but not to be nearly killed riding a…a….whatever that thing was!" she looked wildly around, "and where are we?" she screamed. "Don't tell me we have to walk from here…it looks like we are in the middle of no where…" Harry ignored her tirade and handed her a small piece of parchment.
"Read this," he said calmly.
Aunt Petunia pursed her lips and scowled as though the last thing she intended to do was comply with such a request. However, as Harry didn't move, she bent her head over the parchment and then looked up. Her mouth dropped open and Harry knew she was seeing his stone garden wall and the house beyond it materialize in front of her. He took the paper from her hand, hefted her suitcase and led the way through the gate.
The End Harry Potter and the Dangerous Choice
Chapter Note: In case you are thinking of flaming me for the H/G scene, let me spread the following flame retardant, then have at it:
Harry is nearly 17 and Ginny is nearly 16. They are, presumably normal healthy teenagers. They have been a couple for over 5 months. Harry is displaying the remnants of his rotten upbringing in not knowing anything about girls. He has to go to Remus to find out what is appropriate. Being the decent guy he is, his is concerned about his behavior. I could have been more obscure about what they did in private, but I did not want the reader to assume they did more than what I am stating they did. I wanted the reader to see Harry's angst over what he did. In true Harry fashion, he did not try to "sneak up" on Ginny in some way. He did a very straight forward thing which she could have reacted to if she was uncomfortable. (If the story continues, this will be important in an early chapter)
Authors Final Note: A year ago, I had never considered writing fan fiction, and now, I'm hooked. Writing this story has been extremely fun and challenging. I've really enjoyed it. I have been asked if I will do a sequel. I think the reader can plainly see that the seeds of a sequel have been sown in the chapters of this story. I'd love to know if you would find a sequel interesting, knowing that HBP will be published before I could ever hope to finish "book seven". If I continue, the title will be Harry Potter and the Elements of Valor.
I truly thank you all for reading and reviewing. Fiction is nothing, if not read. I also wish to thank Chris and Amie who were my trusty beta's, and Sandy who helped me with some particular passages. Big Hugs to you all. Please, I would love a final review.