A/N: I'm still here! Don't worry, I haven't disappeared. For those of you who like to hear good excuses; I had to finish making a cello before the new year. For those of you who don't care, you probably don't read any of the author's notes anyhow, and I'm wasting my breath. (By the way, Neville's chosen instrument was definitely an homage to my profession.)

This is the last chapter of this story, but stay tuned for a bit of a teaser to the sequel. When I'm almost finished that one, I'll post a little bit of it as another chapter tothis story, just to get you interested. (and perhaps forewarned?)

Dumbledore Disclaimer: I often like to think I'm perfect, and of course, I sometimes exhude an aura of complete serenity and intelligence, but these characters are actually the property of someone else, so sometimes they take on a mind of their own. I'll tell you next time I have this sort of problem, but I've got to keep some secrets to myself, haven't I? Oh here, would you like a Sherbet Lemon?

Chapter Fourty –

Going Back to Privet Drive

"I really understand what you meant now Harry."

Ron was staring forlornly at the long line of carriages that were going to take everyone and their possessions back to the train station in Hogsmeade.

"Understand what?" Harry asked, depositing his trunk on the ground beside his friend. He had so far been silent to them, per his promise, about the auror training program, but he didn't know how much longer it would be before something slipped out. He'd already told everyone about having to register themselves as animagi because Luna had confronted him. Apparently her pinky-swear charm had kicked in again just after his conversation with Fudge and McGonagall. She'd given him real flack for telling at first, but was quite understanding once she'd heard his reasoning, and Harry suspected that she didn't really mind registering herself.

"I understand about them." Ron answered him, pointing.

The eerie thestrals stood proudly in their harnesses, and many of the students who had been involved with the battle on the fourth floor had stopped, and were eying the black winged horses with fear. For most it was the first time they had ever seen them, Ron and Hermione included.

"They're very magestic." Hermioine whispered to Harry. "But Ron's right. I understand what you meant now. You see these creatures, and they seem almost harmless and beautiful, but they will always remind you of the reason that you can see them."

"Reasons." Harry clarified. "For me it's plural."

Ron shuddered. "I think it is for me too." He whispered.

"Who else did you see die?" Hermione asked, sounding as though she were trying so hard to be polite and understanding, when really she only sounded horrified.

Ron looked as if he were going to be sick. "I think I saw Charlie… I didn't even realise that I had until later." He whispered back. "He was fighting with three of them alongside Mad-Eye. One of them caught him with something… I didn't even know he had died then until after…"

Hermione put her hand lightly on his shoulder, and Harry looked at his shoes. How he'd hoped that Hermione and Ron would never have to see these creatures. It was like a mark of innocence lost forever.

Hermione spoke quietly to Ron. "Harry said, 'think of this moment when you see the thestrals.'" She reminded him. "In this case, It wasn't about remembering the death itself, Ron. It's about remembering that there are quite a few people in this world who choose to leave it honourably, with full understanding of their own mortality. Professor Dumbledore was one of them. Charlie was another."

After a few more minutes of staring at the black winged beasts, the students seemed to wake up from their stupor, and made haste to load all of their belongings onto the back of the carts.

All three of the detectives couldn't bear to leave their pets out in the back with the rest of the luggage, so they squished into the cart carrying two owl cages, and Crookshanks' cat carrier in their hands. No one else would fit inside. Seeing this, and understanding from their expressions that the three really wanted to be alone, Neville, Luna and Ginny all took different carriages.

The animals all seemed to understand their masters' upset. Crookshanks was hissing and spitting loudly, not letting anyone near his carrier. Pig was flitting around his cage looking frantic, and Hedwig wouldn't take her head out from under her wing throughout the entire ride to the Hogsmeade station. Even when Harry held an owl treat out to her, and tapped against the bars of her cage to get her attention, she simply hooted dolefully, and dug her head further under her wing.

It went without saying that the three students understood how strong an attachment they would need to these creatures in the month to come. Their pets would be all they had with them for the next while, other than insubstantial sporadic messages they would be getting from each other. Ron and Hermione didn't even know about the Auror training program yet, so they both assumed that it could be as long as two whole months before they saw each other again, although that length seemed unlikely, based on past summers. Before leaving the carriage, all three of them linked hands, and squeezed lightly. It was an awkward sort of private séance, but pleasant, nonetheless.

Once they had finally boarded the Hogwarts Express, and loaded their trunks up in the top compartments, they let the animals out again, and a bit of tension was released by making fun of Crookshanks' squashed nose.

"He looks like he's a nose amputee." Ron commented, and Hermione scowled at him, hugging her cat closer to her chest.

"How could you say such a thing! He's adorable!"

Harry snorted. "I don't know why he hasn't got more of a nose. By the way he talks to Ginny and I you'd think he always had it stuck snobbishly into the air."

The door to their compartment suddenly opened, and Mark Evans stood sullenly in the opening. "Hello Harry." He said.

"Mark!" Harry quickly stuffed his wand back in his robes. He had thought that he would finally be seeing Malfoy in the door, but his nemesis had been strangely absent for the last two weeks. "How have you been?" he asked innocently, hoping the comment wouldn't set him thinking about his friend Sarah.

Mark shrugged. "Not bad. I wanted to talk to you."

"Really? What about?"

"Well, er… I wanted to talk about Sarah."

So much for keeping his mind off his friend. Harry nodded, trying to aim for an expression of mature caring.

"She and I went to the battle together." Mark nearly sobbed. "I'm so sorry! It's my fault…"

"Oh, Mark." Harry consoled. "It's not your fault. It couldn't be!"

"You don't understand!" He yelled. "She came and woke me up when the others left, and she wanted to follow them… I didn't stop her. I knew I should have stopped her! I wanted to follow them too, so I did! We were there the whole time..."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged silent looks of horror. Hermione suddenly spoke up. "You can't possibly blame yourself for that! Curiosity is sometimes so strong in a person that it is impossible to stop an impulse like that! Sometimes the need to know is worth the price, but you'll only know the answer to that if you try! She did what she needed to do, and so did you. It wasn't your fault, Mark!"

Mark still looked sullen and upset, but at least he seemed to be considering Hermione's words.

"Er…" Harry interrupted the thoughts. "I'm sorry to hear about Sarah. She was a very nice girl."

They sat in silence again for a few minutes before Harry broke the silence. "Er… Mark?"

Mark raised his head, and looked sadly at Harry.

"I know it's off the topic, but was just wondering if you might know if we… well, if we might be related?"

Mark's eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

"My mother's maiden name was Evans." Harry clarified. "From the little I've heard, she was one of the daughters of Rose and Daniel Evans. I've heard my aunt mention their names every once in awhile, but I can only assume that they're dead. I've never met them."

Mark's eyes lit up. "I think I know who they were. My grandad had a brother named Daniel. Er… I don't know if he was married to a Rose. My family doesn't talk to me much. They think I'm odd."

Harry smiled. "Well, I guess there's a chance that we are related, sort of."

"Er… What would that make us to each other… Cousins? No not quite…" Mark trailed off thoughtfully, his eyes now sparking with hope at the prospect of being related to Harry Potter.

"Second cousins once removed." Hermione clarified for them, sounding quite authoritative.

"Well there you are then. Second cousins once removed." Harry laughed. "You know that family has to stick up for each other ay?"

Mark's eyes twinkled. "And you can do magic this year away from school right?"

Harry nodded, but very carefully added. "Once I'm seventeen I'll be seen as a legal adult and can use magic at my leisure. Until then, I can only use magic to defend, or to practice defense under the watchful eye of another wizard. I've gotten in trouble far too often to really push it, but it can't hurt to let your folks know that they have someone like me watching them. It's not like they know that we can't perform magic."

Mark looked starstruck. "So you could come over every once in awhile? Not to do anything, just make the rest of my family aware that I'm… being taken care of?"

Harry understood that he meant 'threaten'. "It's the least I can do, to make sure that no other Muggle raised wizard has to go through what I went through. Not that all muggles are like this of course." He nodded to Hermione, whose muggle parents had always been most understanding and accepting of Hermione's abilities. Hermione gave a wry smile, but didn't comment.

Mark smirked. "To protect the innocent, ay? I can see this becoming a bit of a motto for you."

"It already has." Harry assured him. "And I'll keep Dudley off your back with a few threats too. He's always been a little too gullible."

"Thanks." Mark said, standing up. He moved towards the door.

"And Mark?" Harry stopped him. "Any time you want to talk, just come and find me." Harry thought that it might be fun to see Mark every once in awhile. At the moment, he was feeling rather brotherly towards him.

Mark suddenly looked as though he might have cried. Harry completely knew how he felt. Mark nodded bravely and pulled open the door.

On the other side stood Luna, Neville and Ginny.

Mark slipped past them out into the hall, and the three moved in to the compartment, hauling what looked like the entire sweet trolley with them.

"It's my treat today!" Luna called out. "My dad has gotten a new sponsor for his magazine, and he sent me my allowance early."

"So you've spent it all on sweets?" asked Hermione. Mr. and Mrs. Granger were dentists, so Hermione sometimes got on Ron and Harry's case for eating too many sweets.

"Of course!" Luna answered, tossing her a chocolate frog. "That's what the quibbler will be telling everyone else to do from now on. The new sponsor is Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, and they're getting a couple of full page adverts printed up in the back."

Ron rolled his eyes. "It figures that Fred and George would be the only ones in our family to be making buckets of money."

Ginny chucked something at Ron, and it hit him on the shoulder. "Oy! The sweet trolley's got their zoology toffees too!" She turned around to show off her whippy lemur's tail. "The sweet trolley witch just told me they're offering ten percent discounts to all redheads, but only when you actually go into the store. She didn't know we were related, she just thought it was something I ought to know. As far as I can tell, it's the best sort of publicity they wouldn't bother to buy."

"Sounds just like something Fred and George would think up." Ron answered, shaking his head.

"Hey Neville!" Harry called, changing the subject. "I've got another cousin! Now I've got one on my dad's side, and one on my mum's side!"

"Really?" he asked. "Who else?"

"What?" Hermioine spluttered. "You two are cousins?"

Harry blushed, realising what he had just given away with his comment. It was high time Hermione knew anyhow. "Well, erm… Sort of…"

Ron sighed. "We might as well tell her, Harry."

"Sorry, I know you wanted to keep it a secret and hold it over her."

Ron waved his hand to let him know that it wasn't important.

Hermione was looking furious. "If you don't tell me what this is all about right now, I'm going to-"

"All right, All right!" Ron spat. "It was all in Ravenclaw's book." He started.

"I knew it!" Luna interrupted, before Ron had said anything else. "Ravenclaw will only let people read the book when they're related to the founders!"

"How did you know?" Harry asked, surprised.

"You mean she's right?!" Hermione shrieked. "How could you keep something like this from me? You're all related to the founders in some way, and you thought it was immaterial?!"

"I don't think she's happy that we've finally told her." Harry muttered to Ron, reminding him what they had talked about when they had first read the book.

Ron shrugged.

"You two…idiots have been keeping secrets from me! What else have you kept from me?"

"Hermione, there are more important things in the world than what gene pool you come from." Harry interrupted her rant. "Muggleborn witches and wizards above all people should understand that. Especially someone with the amount of power that you have."

Hermione stopped simmering abruptly. "Well, I guess so."

"Besides," Ron placated, "There's so little that we know that you don't. I just wanted to have a bit of fun, and feel intelligent compared to you for once."

She narrowed her eyes at him, but Harry could see that she was pleased at Ron's backward compliment.

"Here, we'll even show you the book if you want. Maybe Ravenclaw will give you her permission." Neville said, and raised an eyebrow at Harry.

Harry nodded, and immediately pulled his trunk down from the top shelf. Ravenclaw's book sat almost eerily beside Sirius' chipped two-way mirror, the little lion tamer figurine that Ron had given him for Christmas, his invisibility cloak, and the marauder's map. He eyed each of the items wistfully before he pulled out the book and set it carefully on the seat beside him.

He opened it one page at a time, while the rest of the pack sat and watched the ritual of turning the thousand year-old pages, one by one.

He finally came to the picture of Ravenclaw. She was looking rather bedraggled today, and her eyes were red and puffy. "Are you all right?" Harry asked.

"I shall never be all right again." She sniffed. "I have lost him."

Harry nodded. He knew the one she meant. "We've all lost him." Harry told her. "He was a great man."

"He was, wasn't he?" She said sadly. "And I have so few. I will not likely see another. They are all so far away, and so few."

"Can I ask you something?" Harry nearly whispered.

"I cannot tell you my secrets. That is for Gryffindor to do." She almost looked angry at this.

"I don't want you to tell me your secrets. I was wondering if you might let my friend read your book. She's been so upset that she can't get it open, and she's a bit crazy about history. Yours in particular."

Ravenclaw's eyes widened. "She craves knowledge?"

"She does." Harry grinned. "She's been a long time fan of yours."

"I was almost put into Ravenclaw." Hermione said. "The sorting hat decided in the end that I would do best in Gryffindor, but I still think I would have been very content in your house."

"Are you able to keep the secret?" She asked.

"I will swear it with my life."

"Me too." Said Luna. "I'm even in your house."

"Are you also seeking knowledge?"

"I am."

"Then I will take you both for my own." Ravenclaw said, seemingly coming to a decision. "From this point on, you and your descendants will be equal to those of mine."

"Will we?" Hermione asked, sounding stunned. "What does that mean?"

"I will tell you my secrets. All of the things I know about the Castle Hogwarts are available to you."

Hermione looked accusingly at Ron, and tsked loudly. "And you didn't want me to know."

Ravenclaw sniffed disdainfully. "Helga and Godric were always more inclined to play a trick on others. I find it horribly distasteful. It is not ladylike or gentlemanly."

Hermione's lip quirked up in a half smile, as if she were trying not to laugh.

"Thank you." She told Ravenclaw. "I'll take you up on that offer. May I read your book now?"

"Touch your index finger to my hand." Ravenclaw ordered. Hermione did, and the page glowed blue for a moment. Ravenclaw sighed, and smiled widely as if she had just woken from a very pleasant dream. Luna did the same from over Hermione's shoulder, and it happened again.

"Now you are both of my heart." Ravenclaw promised, placing her hand above her bosom. "And you may read."

"Thank you." Hermione nodded, looking quite pleased. "We'll be back."

Harry flipped forward to Gryffindor's page. He passed over Slytherin's page as quickly as possible. He felt a little strange doing it. It was a painting in a book, for Merlin's sake. But Harry partly held this particular founder responsible for everything Voldemort had ever done. Voldemort was his ancestor after all. Besides that, Slytherin had killed Harry's many times over great grandfather, and had his men display the decapitated head to the man's own helpless children. It made Harry shudder to catch a glimpse of green as he flipped the pages one by one.

"Hello again!" Gryffindor said cheerfully once he had lowered his sword. "I was hoping to see you again. Thought we might be able to plan another coup together."

Harry shook his head. "Not this time. I just wanted to ask you if you know anything about the secret passage on the fourth floor."

The rest of the pack fell silent. They hadn't thought of asking Gryffindor for his opinion. Harry himself had hardly realised that he wanted to ask this until the words were already out of his mouth.

"Certainly! That one is my favourite!"

Harry felt a pang of anger, and thought that if it was his favourite, he should have mentioned it long before now. "Well, I had some friends who found the passage four years ago, and they told me that it was collapsed. Next thing I know, it's wide open, and people are attacking the castle through it!"

"An attack?" Gryffindorlooked quite alarmed at the prospect and automatically gripped his sword a little tighter.

"Yes. Through your passage!"

Gryffindor sighed disconsolately, and tapped his sword against the side of his boot. "It was not my passage."

Harry fell silent.

"That was Salazar's pass."


"I can only tell you about this now, because you seem to already know about the passage. Otherwise I wouldn't have thought twice about keeping it to myself. It was not my secret to tell."

"Tell what?"

"He used it irresponsibly. He often brought women of the evening through it. Into a school! Can you imagine?! So I set it to collapse. I didn't want it to completely collapse because the greenhouses were set just above it. They wouldn't be able to stay standing if the earth below were unstable. Helga would likely have murdered me in my sleep. Instead of a permanent collapse, I set it to appear as if it werefilled with rubble for five years, then the rubble would disappear for another five years and the passage would be clear again. Every five years the pass would change itself, either opening or closing. This meant that students who somehow discovered the passage wouldn't become too forward and expect it to be available to them."

"What purpose would that serve?" Harry asked, feeling rather duped. He hadn't bothered to check the passage himself. Obviously Malfoy had discovered it, and had heard the story about it being open every five years. He'd probably been checking on it ever since. He had known somehow about the tunnel's magical alterations, and Harry wondered angrily where he was getting his information, and why he was giving it to the Death-Eaters if he was so obviously frightened of them.

Gryffindor continued. "The last time Slytherin looked at the passage, it was collapsed. He never bothered to use it again after that. It allowed me to continue to use the pass unimpeded. It was selfish and childish, I know. I should have made it permanent." Gryffindor sighed. "I don't understand how Salazar's heir knew about it. Salazar himself never discovered this particular charm, and I told no one."

Harry's eyes darkened again. "Malfoy must have told him. I don't know how he discovered it, but he must have been using the passage entrance for something."

"Mal-Foi? You mean the Parisienne family?"

"You knew them?"

"I did indeed, unfortunately. They were some of Salazar's most trusted advisors after he left the castle. In my time, Mal-Foi had three sons." He said the name so that it sounded French, and Harry remembered enough from his one term in French at preparatory school to know that it meant 'evil-doer'. It fit the family almost too well.

Ron shuddered at this. "A whole family of them… I can't imagine having to deal with any more. Two is bad enough. Even Malfoy's mother is a real nut-case."

They spent quite a bit of the afternoon on that train ride, talking to Gryffindor. It made Harry a bit upset that he hadn't learned any of these things from Gryffindor before the battle had taken place. He had to remind himself that people didn't keep information to themselves out of spite. He had to expect that there was going to be a certain number of misunderstandings in his life and he couldn't blame them all on himself. Nor could he reasonably set the blame on otherpeople'sshoulders. It was just something that happened, and it could not be avoided. If he was going to blame someone, it was better for it to be Voldemort.

"Thank you for your help." Harry nodded to the page, feeling angrier than he had in a long time.

"It is a knight's duty." Godric saluted them.

When they flipped to her page, Helga Hufflepuff looked just as upset as Rowena Ravenclaw had been, and when Ginny asked her what was wrong, she just kept bawling things like "Poor young Sarah. Didn't have a care in the world!" and "My poor brave Charles! Oh, to lose so many!" They spoke to her for awhile, and by the end of the conversation, Ron and Ginny were convinced that not only had they lost a brother, they had also lost a cousin they didn't even know that they'd had. They were both devastated.

The flutter of wings and a loud hooting rent the air as two official looking owls flew through the open carriage window.

"What…" Ron furrowed his brow as one of the envelopes dropped into his lap. The other fell into Hermione's, and the owls flew awayout the window.

Harry smiled, biting his lip a bit in anticipation, noticing the symbol on the envelope seal. "I know what this is about."

"Who are they from?" Hermione asked, checking the seal. "It's from someone in the ministry, is it?"

"As far as I know, they should be from the minister himself."

"Huh?" Ron asked blankly, pausing halfway through unfolding his letter to stare at Harry. Hermione was wide eyed too as she slowly pulled hers from the envelope.

Ron looked back down at the parchment in his hand. "What do you know? It really is from the minister!"

"Honestly?" Ginny asked, and she and Luna tried to get close enough to read over his shoulder. Neville read over Hermione's shoulder. As their eyes moved progressively further down the page, their expressions changed to stares of disbelief. The minister may have been a pompous know-it-all, but his title still garnered some respect and awe.

"Holy cricket!" Hermione shouted, finishing her letter first, dropping the parchment to the floor, and covering her mouth in surprise. Neville reached down and picked it up to finish reading.

Harry smiled at her, and waited patiently for Ron to finish.

"Is this real?" Ron asked him, holding up the parchment with a stunned look.

"The auror department wants to 'pre-train' you?" Ginny asked, staring at her brother.

Harry grinned. "All three of us." He clarified. "That is, if we accept."

"He asked you this already, and you haven't accepted?" Ron said, looking dazed.

"I wanted to see what you two thought about it first."

"It says here, that no one other than family, professor McGonagall and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for next year is to know." Neville read. "Does that include us?" he asked with worry in his eyes.

Harry shook his head. "We wouldn't dream of keeping this from you guys. Besides, you're sort of family Neville, and Luna's now considered to be one of Ravenclaw's along with Hermione. I would say that makes her family too, but you guys can't tell anyone else."

"All right." Ginny said, smiling. "Put in a good word for me will you? I can't do it right away, because it says you need to pass your apparition exam, but maybe I could join in my seventh year same as you?"

"You want to be an auror too?" Ron asked, staring at his sister with alarm. "You can't do that! It's dangerous!"

She glared at him. "What, and that makes it all right for you?" she sighed in exasperation, and shrugged. "Besides, I haven't really decided yet, but Auror was on the list."

"I'll put in a good word for you." Harry told her.

"No! Harry, you can't!" Ron nearly screeched.

"Calm down Ron! She's in this war no matter what! It would be better if she knew how to defend herself properly!" Harry yelled back angrily. "Auror or not!"

Ron looked unhappy, but seeing that he was outnumbered, he shrunk back in his seat looking slightly defeated. "I'm sorry Gin. I just want you to be safe. I know you're good at it, but please keep yourself safe."

"It's all right." She told him. "I understand. I want the same for you." She hugged him awkwardly with one arm.

"What about you two?" Hermione asked.

Neville shook his head. "I'm happy just taking care of my plants. As much as I want to know how to defend myself, I'm pretty sure I can learn whatever I need in the DA. I don't really want to be involved in this war any more than I have to be."

Luna was nodding in agreement. "I was thinking about going into historical study for the ministry or maybe working for my dad. Researchers at the quibbler are always very highly regarded, so I'm not really interested in fighting."

"So we'll all three be accepting then?" Hermione asked.

"I will if you will." Ron told her.

"I will if both of you will." Harry answered.

Hermione sighed. "Then I guess it's up to me, isn't it."

Everyone nodded.

After a moment of silence, Hermione nodded. "I'll do it."

The whole cabin erupted with cheers just as the train began to slow down, and they were still congratulating each other while collecting their things, preparingto disembark.

"Harry, mate, I've been meaning to ask… how did you know the password to Dumbledore's office?" Ron gave Harry a quizzical look as they helped each other lug their trunks from the upper compartments.

Harry grinned. "I've made it a matter of personal pride to get myself sent to the headmaster's office at least once a week, if not for any other reason, then just to make sure that I always know his password in case of an emergency. I heard McGonagall say it right after the incident with Ginny and Nagini. It obviously hadn't been changed since, but I didn't expect it to. It was only changed about once every week and a half. Bit of a securityrisk to be so timelyif you ask me."

Hermione stepped out onto the platform behind them. "Don't you think that maybe Professor Dumbledore knew about that? Couldn't he have been sort of secretly giving you the password each time just so that you could get hold of him if you needed to?"

Harry had never thought of it that way before, and it certainly sounded like something Dumbledore would have done. "Well, maybe we were working in tandem."

"I don't see why not." Ron said as they stepped through the barrier. "Maybe it's sort of the same as when you 'accidentally' let us overhear about the Order. You both knew it washappening, but you didn't talk about it, so that you can't be blamed for telling later on."

Harry shrugged, but Hermione put her finger to her lips in warning.

Before them on the platform now stood the expected gaggle of redheads, as well as a number of Order members. Harry was immediately grabbed and greeted enthusiastically by almost everyone. Mrs. Weasley gave him a kiss on the cheek in greeting, and he asked her to come to stay at Grimmauld place in a month, saying that Ron would explain everything. She in turn asked him to come by the burrow that Saturday so they could have a quiet memorial for Charlie.

He hugged Ron and Hermione both tightly, and congratulated them again in a whisper for becoming auror trainees, and reminded them to reply to the minister as soon as they got home.

He hugged Ginny, and thought a little too much about how grateful she had been for his assistance with her Defense OWL. He caught her gaze as they separated and he blushed, thinking that he ought to say something more meaningful in parting. In the end, they just smiled contentedly at each other, and moved away.

He hugged both Luna and Neville, and promised to write them over the summer.

After all of this, he looked cautiously around for the Dursleys, but they didn't seem to be anywhere nearby.

Instead, what caught his eye were two terrified looking muggles standing off to the side, where Mad-Eye Moody had their shirts caught in two tight fists. Harry recognized Mark snickering a little at the predicament his parents seemed to be in.

"Mark! What's going on?" Harry moved forwards to help them out. He wasn't sure if he really wanted to stop Mad-Eye from shaking the stuffing out of them after what he'd heard from Mark, but the situation warranted a little less noise. People were beginning to stare. The white medical eye-patch Moody was sporting was pulling itself away from the side of his face. Strips of what looked like cellotape were flapping on his cheek and a corner of spinning blue eye could be seen from the side. Harry pointed it out. "Moody, your eye patch is falling off, you might want to stick it back down."

Instead of repairing the faulty eye-patch, Mad-Eye spoke to Harry gruffly. "Hello Harry. Thought you should know that your aunt and uncle were somehow not informed about your return today, and these kind folks have just volunteered," he said the word fiercely, dragging them a bit closer to his half hidden revolving eye, "to convey you to your house."

Harry raised his eyebrows. "The Dursleys weren't told I was coming?" He realised that Dumbledore must have always taken on the job of telling his family where to be, and at what time. Most other students had at least enough contact with their families to let them know when the train would be arriving. Harry had always just expected them to be there. The thought made him a little sad to think about how much personal attention he'd been given by Dumbledore. How much attention he would likely not be getting anymore. It was a slightly selfish way to look at things, but right now it was all he could think about.

"Come on Harry. It'll be okay. I'll make sure they get you home." Mark reassured him. He looked pointedly at his parents, and Harry understood that he had not told them about the fact that he wasn't allowed to use magic during the holidays. He had probably already threatened them a bit with a hex or something. Mad-Eye nodded at Mark with approval, as if to say that he would do nothing to disprove the notion.

This war really had changed Harry's life, and it would only be getting harder from here on. Harry had the distinct impression that this summer would be especially difficult for him. He was a bit light-headed realising thatmorepeople he cared about could still die at Voldemort's hands…

He waved morosely to the Weasley's who were still trying to figure out a way to get everyone outside and into their cars. Ron and Ginny distractedly waved back. Harry carefully picked up his trunk, with his firebolt broomstick and a nervous-looking Hedwig balanced precariously on top.

Once Harry was led out to the Evans' car, with certain unseen shadowed Order members tracking his every movement, he placed the trunk and broominto the boot, and cautiously reached down to be certain that he still had his wand stuck into the waistband of his jeans.

These days, one could never be too cautious.


A/N: As I mentioned, stay tuned for a brief bit of the sequel. I still haven't given it a finished title, but as soon as I have, I'll post a bit of it here to keep you interested! Thanks to everyone!