Disclaimer: I do not own any Harry Potter stuff.
"When's Harry getting here?" Ron asked anxiously. He had been in the Burrow with his parents and Ginny for over a month. Sixth year had ended, strangely, without much drama from Voldemort. While there was a bit of a battle at the end of the spring term – as it always is with Voldie – no one was seriously injured or killed.
Wards had been put on the house ever since Molly had ordered that Ron and Ginny be sent straight home. She had caught them too many times listening in on top-secret Order meetings. She didn't want her children subjected to matters of the Order. Ron had, of course, objected – after all he had been seventeen for months. Ginny had grown more passive lately. She accepted that they were being shipped back to the Burrow without any yelling or screaming. After all, she wasn't quite as thick as Ron and realized that she and her older brother would have complete control of their house when their parents were sent on official Order business.
"In a few days," Mrs. Weasley replied angrily. "The same day as the last time you asked!" She went back to charming her egg beaters to whip up scrambled eggs. "Oh, Pig and Errol came back with the post. You both got your Hogwarts letters."
Ron jumped up from the table and went over by the window where Errol was trying to stand up and having a difficult time of it.
"Bloody bird. He's too old to fly."
"Oh, there's also a letter from Hermione," Mrs. Weasley said. Ron narrowed his eyes at his mother. Her face was a bit too happy at the notion that Hermione had sent Ron a letter.
Ron sat back down at the kitchen table. He tossed his sister her Hogwarts letter. She yawned and took it and opened it. She sighed.
"I'm prefect again," she murmured.
Mrs. Weasley clapped her hands together and made a fuss over her only daughter. Ginny took the hugs and kisses while Ron opened his own letter. He looked inside of it and his face fell. Molly caught on to his expression and ceased hugging Ginny.
"What? What's wrong? Are you not a prefect? Ronald!"
Ron looked up at his mother sheepishly. "Uh, no, mum. I'm not a prefect this year." He shot Ginny a nasty look as she sniggered behind her hand. She smiled at him.
"Ah, well, can't be perfect all the time, can we, Ronald?"
"As a matter of fact, Ginevra," Ron snapped back, "I'm not a prefect because I'm Head Boy." He threw his Head Boy's badge at his sister. She caught it and looked at it. She frowned. Ginny had barely gotten a good look at it before Mrs. Weasley snatched it out of her hand.
"HEAD BOY!" she screamed. "Wait 'til I tell Arthur! Third Head Boy in the family!" She danced around and hugged Ron so hard he thought he was going to suffocate. She squealed. "Imagine that. Our Ron Head Boy." She smiled brightly. "Old Lucius Malfoy can take that in his pipe and sm—"
"Mum!" Ginny interjected.
Mrs. Weasley stopped. She smoothed out her apron and composed herself. She handed Ron back his badge and went to her eggs, muttering to herself about Head Boys and prefects.
Ron didn't care to read through his list of books needed for his seventh year. He didn't want to think about all the NEWT classes he was going to have to take. OWLs were bad enough and while he did much better than he had expected, he didn't want to think about the stress he had been under to study – mostly imposed by Hermione's constant reminders about the importance of OWLs.
At the thought of his other best friend, Ron's face dropped again. It wasn't his idea of a fun year spending time going over rules with Hermione. He didn't know for sure if she was indeed Head Girl, but if anyone else got the position he personally promised himself to eat his own foot.
Hermione's letter was written in her perfect joined handwriting. Everything she did was perfect.Dear Ron,
Things are a bore at my house. Summer holiday is never as much fun without you and Harry about. I got my Hogwarts letter this morning. I'm Head Girl. I'm sure you're not surprised. It's exciting, though, isn't it?! Although, a lot of responsibility and work I imagine. I wonder who the Head Boy is. If it's you, don't expect any special treatment just because I'm your best friend – it'll be a year of hard work and looking out for all the new prefects! Ohh! Isn't it exciting though?Oh, and by the way, your mum said I could visit any time I wanted. Things are dull here. My parents are gone on convention for New Age Dentistry somewhere in America. Those Americans are always coming up with really strange things. They're very… Muggle over there I hear. They left this morning. I can have my trunk packed by noon if the invitation still stands.
Ron scratched his chin. If Hermione was coming he would need to shave. He was beginning to look a bit scruffy. Ron immediately felt the heat rise to his ears. Just because Hermione was coming didn't mean that he had to make himself pretty. He was a boy after all! And it wasn't even as if Hermione was his girlfriend. His face became even hotter at that last thought.
"Mum – Hermione wants to know if she can come for the rest of the holiday."
Mrs. Weasley shrugged. "I don't care. Owl your father and see if he won't get a portkey together for her. I daresay she hasn't had enough Apparation training to Apparate here."
"She's not seventeen," Ron said. "Not until September."
"Oh, fancy that," Ginny said, drinking some pumpkin juice. "You remember Hermione's birthday but you can't remember your own sister's."
Ron slumped down and chewed on his eggs. His mother handed him some parchment and a quill.
"Write your father first. Then, Hermione."
Ron swallowed his eggs and picked up the quill. He gave Ginny a quick glance but she was reading her Hogwarts letter thoroughly.
Exactly one week ago, Harry turned seventeen. He had counted down the seconds until midnight and as soon as it was officially 31 July he picked up his hand and pointed it at his bedroom door and said "Alohamora." Immediately, the twelve new locks Vernon had put on the door unlocked themselves. Harry walked out of his room and went into the kitchen.
"Accio cookbook!" he had said. He found all the ingredients needed to make himself a birthday cake and with several swooshes of his wand the large wooden spoon began to stir everything together.
"And just what do you think you are doing, boy!"
Harry turned around and looked at his over-sized prune of an uncle. "Making myself a birthday cake."
"But, you're using magic! You'll be expelled! Then what'll you do without your freaky little friends?"
Harry smiled. "It's my birthday. I'm seventeen. I'm legal. You can't stop me from doing magic." He looked back at his cake almost sadly. "Besides it's not as if you would ever make me a birthday cake anyway."
"I will not allow magic inside my house!" Vernon roared, turning a dark shade of fuchsia. "If you continue to use it I'll have you kicked out!"
Harry smiled widely. "Why don't you ask Aunt Petunia before kicking me out. See what she has to say."
Now, a week later, Harry was enjoying being able to hold out his hand at the dinner table and having the salt fly right into it. He no longer had any use to speak to any of his relatives. Dudley would no longer look at him – although it was down right difficult not to see Dudley, as he was now the size of a small bus and about nearly as smelly. Harry reckoned Dudley couldn't get all the dirt from every skin fold of his – and he had a lot.
Arthur Weasley had already been to Privet Drive to pick up Harry to take him to the Ministry to apply for his Apparation License. Harry was having a most excellent time popping in and out of rooms with a loud CRACK!
Dudley whined that if Harry could get his Apparation License then he should be allowed to apply for his driver's one. Unfortunately, as Petunia had to remind her son, normal sized cars wouldn't hold Dudley and therefore he was unable to drive until he stopped eating so many cookies (or stealing Harry's chocolate frogs).
Harry levitated his dishes to the sink and had the sponge begin to wash them for him while he ascended the stairs to his bedroom. Hedwig was waiting for him. She nipped at his ear as he picked up the letter waiting for him on his bed. The handwriting was unmistakably Ron's. He only had to read it four times before he had deciphered all the words in the letter.
Hermione's getting here this afternoon. Owl dad when you want to come if you want to come early. He'll arrange everything. Ginny wants me to ask you if she can use Hedwig to send a package to one of her bloody boyfriends. Errol is on his deathbed and I think Pig's too small to carry whatever it is Ginny insists on sending. Dad's going away on Order assignment, which means I'll be stuck in the Burrow with Ginny and Hermione. For MY sake, GET HERE SOON!
PS Did you get your letter? I'm Head Boy
Harry looked around his room. He spotted Pig sitting on his windowsill, catching his breath from the long flight from the Burrow. Hedwig was nipping at his fingers, pulling them towards the floor. Harry spotted his Hogwarts letter, obviously having fallen from Hedwig's beak. Inside it was the usual list of school supplies and books and a reminder to bring dress robes. His book list was extensive. He inwardly kicked himself for taking so many advanced classes to prepare himself for Auror training. He almost stuffed his letter back in the envelope when he noticed a second sheet of paper inside it. He looked at it.
As Miss Bell as left Hogwarts last year I am appointing you Quidditch captain for Gryffindor. I thought you might like to know ahead of the impending season. I expect the cup to remain in my office for another year, Mr. Potter!
Harry held in an excited shout. At Umbridge's defeat the first thing Dumbledore did was reverse Harry's ban on flying. He also gave him back his Firebolt, which Harry didn't like to have out of his sight.
Harry immediately wrote Ron back. He told him he hadn't had enough fun using magic around the Dursleys. He'd come to the Burrow in the next couple of days. Harry reread the letter from McGonagall and wondered when the best time would be to tell Ron he was going to be captain. If only he could defeat Voldemort then seventh year would be the best year yet.
Ron paced back and forth in his room. Mrs. Weasley had left hours ago. She wouldn't say where – she never did. Ron didn't tell anyone, but he secretly checked the clock in the kitchen over and over again to make sure none of his family was pointed to Mortal Peril. Oftentimes, his parents' hands were pointed to Lost but they always pointed back Home. Percy's hand stayed on Lost all the time nowadays. No one had heard from him. Arthur hadn't seen him in the Ministry for almost three weeks. If Ron hadn't been so disgusted with his brother he might have been worried.
Mrs. Weasley had added Harry to their clock last Christmas. Ron checked Harry's hand almost as much as he did his parents. Only once had his parents ever been in Mortal Peril, during his fifth year, and Ron wasn't cotton on the idea to see it happen again.
"Why are you pacing?" Ginny asked, leaning against the doorframe to Ron's ridiculously orange room.
Ginny sniggered at him for the second time that day.
"I really wish you'd stop doing that."
Ginny shrugged. "I don't know why you're so bloody anxious to see Hermione. You've seen her plenty of times before. She can't have changed that much in a month."
Ron didn't respond. He ran his hands through his hair. He ran away from his mother the last time she came charging at him with scissors in hand, threatening to give him a haircut.
"You look like Bill," Ginny mused.
Ron turned to look at her. "What?"
"You look like Bill," Ginny said. "With your hair getting long. Mom reckons Bill's a bad influence on you. She's afraid you're going to pierce your ear next."
"Bugger that," Ron said. "Mum wants me to cut it."
"I wouldn't. It looks like Bill. And all the girls like Bill." Ginny laughed loudly as Ron's face heated up a nice shade of red. "Hermione thinks Bill's cute. Is that why you're trying to grow out your hair?"
Ron picked up one of his pillows and threw it at his little sister. "Sod off, Ginny! You don't know what you're talking about." Ginny's laughter trailed down the hallway and disappeared into her room.
Ron ran his fingers through his hair and looked at himself in the mirror.
"She has a better idea of what she's talking about than you think," the mirror told Ron.
Ron frowned and spat on his mirror. "You can sod off, too."
He flopped down on his bed and looked at the Keeper of the Chudley Cannons wave to him from a poster above his bed. He began to doze off. Ron wasn't sure how long he had been sleeping when he woke up. He heard a strange squeaking from outside his window. He jumped off his bed and opened up the window and looked down.
The three-decker Knight Bus had braked and a thin girl with a bushy ponytail was getting off, lugging her trunk behind her.
"Hey, Hermione!" Ron called, waving.
Hermione looked up, using her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. She smiled and waved back. The Knight Bus pulled away from the house and disappeared from view.
Ron looked at his friend, dressed in jeans and a white tank top for summer. Her skin was darker and she looked thinner. Ron cursed himself as his heart gave a small leap inside of his chest. He looked past Hermione at the woods behind her. He could see two hooded figures coming from out behind the trees. Ron's leaping heart began to race. How did two Death Eaters get through the wards?
"Hermione, look out!" Ron called. He grabbed his wand from his bedside table and flew down the stairs and out of the back door. By the time he reached the side of the house and Hermione one of the hooded figures already had a hold of Hermione. She was kicking and fighting to get free.
Ron raised his wand at the Death Eater. The second hooded figure pointed his wand at Ron while the first had his pointed directly at Hermione.
"Put the wand down," the first Death Eater said. "Or we'll make your worst fear come true!"
Ron furrowed his brow. "My worst fear?"
The Death Eater nodded.
"My worst fear?" Ron repeated. "You're going to turn her into a spider or something?"
It was everything the Death Eaters could do to keep from laughing.
"No, you stupid boy!" the second Death Eater shouted. "We'll kill her." He nodded towards Hermione.
Ron's face paled.
"That is your worst fear isn't it? To watch her die? To watch her heart slowly stop beating?"
Ron swallowed. "I…" He looked at Hermione. Her eyes were dancing all over his face. Tears were about to swell over. She kept struggling.
"Keep still!" the first Death Eater said.
"What, you thought your biggest fear was spiders?"
Ron looked at the second Death Eater. He shook his head. "No."
"That's what we do. We make people's worst fears come true. We kill the ones they love. We kill those who get in the way. And this little girl fills two of those requirements." He laughed a raspy laugh. He pointed his wand more steadily at Hermione.
"Please…" Ron said. He lowered his wand. He dropped it to the ground.
"Ron! No!" Hermione squealed.
"Don't hurt her," Ron whispered.
"You don't want to watch her die?"
Ron shook his head. "No."
"You admit this is your greatest fear? To watch her die?"
"And what do you have to say for yourself?"
Ron looked back and forth between the two Death Eaters. "Take me instead."
A/N: Far from over. Review please! I love the idea of reviews!