Author's Note: Wow, what a response! You guys are great! First, some answers to your questions. I received quite a few of them and most were so close to the answers that it surprised me.
Objects Sensei showed Rick/Sensei himself: Not telling yet. /Sensei is based on my own teacher, who is uncanny in many ways. The man can look at you and know if you've eaten your vegetables that day. I am not kidding. Uncanny, I tell you.
Hedwig: She's staying in Harry's room with Aunt Petunia. She's not had much to do, so she hasn't been mentioned. She'll make it back into the story sooner or later.
Wards: You guys are all over this one. Some of you have guessed correctly. All will be revealed in time.
Protectors: Those who were in the DA. As for why Hermione is not in the Protectors, it has something to do with her parents…
Remus: He'll be showing up eventually.
Draco: He's not easily manipulated. Most of your ideas are correct.
Sorting Hat: The Hat is a magical object. Key word: magical. That should give you enough of a hint.
Order's Protection: I mentioned in Chapter 16 that the Order members had been pulled from Harry's house and sent to Hogsmeade. I guess that was too subtle a hint as to why there were no bodyguards at Harry's house when he was removed and taken to St. Jude's. Dumbledore wrote to Petunia and said "due to recent circumstances". The event that caused Dumbledore to change his plans was an attack on Hogsmeade. Every Order member was recalled and sent to Hogsmeade, even Harry's bodyguards. Dumbledore was counting on the strong wards.
Now to the story!
Hermione and Ginny sat side by side in the Great Hal. Most of the prefects were milling around, talking to each other and catching up on what they had done over the summer. The Protectors were discussing something. Hermione noticed that many seemed anxious about something…or someone. She guessed that they were worried about the fact that Harry was not there. "What do you think this meeting is about?" Ginny asked Hermione in a low tone. Hermione pushed her hair away from her face and frowned.
"Most likely rules for the new school year, emergency procedures, and so on." Hermione told her. "The professors will want us prepared for almost anything." Hermione rested her head on her hand and sighed. A voice next to her startled her.
"That's what we're here for." Ron told her with obvious pride. "We're to protect the school. Prefects keep order." Hermione looked at him and decided not to argue. Ron moved to the other side of Ginny and pulled her into a conversation about various fifth year students. Hermione found her Mini-Messenger and whispered her password. She decided that no one would think it strange that the resident know-it-all would already be engaged in studies.
You there, Skywalker? Guess not. Well, you certainly missed a lot. Everyone is absolutely frantic over you. It is quite amusing when one is in the know. Ginny worked for the twins all summer. Do you remember how pompous Percy was? Ron would make him proud. Neville is still quiet, but seems genuinely concerned that you're missing. Luna noticed that you were missing forty-five minutes after the train left the station. Sharp one there. I can hear your thoughts…what about Malfoy? He's…different. He has a scar running down the right side of his face. He seems worn out and tired, but still alert somehow. He goes pale at the mention of Voldemort, but doesn't give much of a reaction at all. I doubt Ron has noticed. Ron doesn't do subtle. Malfoy has a nickname, Drake, which he has requested I use. He has been very polite and even kissed my hand and called me Miss Granger. He and Snape seem awfully close. I'll let you know anything I find out about that. As for your list, I think Neville may be the best bet. He is always eager to share what he is learning. He has already told me one spell "Constricti Appendia". It is an advanced spell that actually binds to moving parts and continues to contract until no movement is possible. The only danger is allowing it to wrap around an airway.
"Blimey, Hermione! Classes haven't even started yet and you're already studying!" Ron nearly shouted. Hermione slammed the book shut and put on her best glare, version 22, "how dare you interrupt me?"
"And people wonder at my grades." She said tightly. "Besides, this" she held up her Mini-Messenger, "is my planner. You do know what that is, right?" Ron blustered a moment before coming up with his response.
"Why are you so concerned about it now?" he demanded. Hermione put the book back in her bag and shook her head.
"Some people like organization, Ronald." She was saved from another lame retort when McGonagall entered the Great Hall and announced that Dumbledore would be with them in just a few minutes.
"Any organization tips?" A soft voice asked beside her. She turned and saw Draco sitting there. She gave him a tentative smile, which he returned full force.
"That depends on your objective." She told him. "Do you know what that is?" Draco nodded.
'I need to find more hours than there are in the day. I have school, training, and my estate to oversee." He told her. Hermione's eyebrows rose.
"An estate would complicate things." She told him. She whipped out her parchment, ink, and quill. "Your school schedule is solid. I am guessing your training schedule is as well?" she started drawing a chart. Draco nodded and pulled out a piece of parchment. He unfolded it and handed it to Hermione. "How in the world did you get your timetable so early?" She demanded. She could hear Ron moaning that she was going to corrupt "Drake". Hermione ignored the comment for Ron's own good.
"Severus." Draco said with a small smile. Hermione nodded and filled in his classes on the chart. "Training is six a.m. until breakfast every morning, and seven to nine at night, when we start patrol." Hermione filled in those times on her chart. She paused and looked it over.
"Quidditch?" She asked, remembering that he was on the Slytherin team.
"No Quidditch this year. Too dangerous." Hermione nodded. She pushed the paper in front of him.
"I've marked in your class times, training times, and the best time for you to study. Do you have staff at your estate?" She asked.
"Yes, why?" He said, studying the parchment.
"You're going to have to delegate some of your responsibilities to one of your staff. No one can do everything that you want to do, even with magic behind them. If you delegate some of the lesser responsibilities to one of your staff, whatever they may be, you'll free up some of your time for the really important things that require your time." Draco nodded his understanding.
"I'll have to take that into consideration. Thank you for the suggestions." Hermione smiled and nodded.
"You're welcome. Ron and Harry never seem to appreciate them." She paused and frowned. "I hope he is alright."
"We do not have any other reason to believe otherwise." Draco slouched against the table. Hermione's eyes grew wide. "What?" He asked.
"You're slouching!" He shrugged and closed his eyes.
"I'm tired. I believe that it's a normal reaction." Hermione smiled. She was startled when every Protector jumped to their feet. Dumbledore had entered. The old wizard smiled and motioned everyone to their seats. Draco appeared alert now. Hermione wondered how much of it was real.
"Welcome back to another year at Hogwarts." Dumbledore said happily. "You will find this year's rulebook and guidelines in front of you, Prefects. Please study this and be familiar with the contents. There are several changes. You will find the outline in the first few pages." Hermione looked it over. She frowned at some of the items. This was going to be a rough year. She was glad that Harry had decided not to come back. "Please remember that these new rules will help to keep the students safe." Hermione waved her hand in the air. "Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Headmaster, I've noticed that students are not allowed on the grounds. How will we have Care of Magical Creatures?" She asked. "We need that class." Dumbledore gave her an indulgent smile.
"The Care of Magical Creatures class will be moved to the inner courtyard." He told her. "Do not worry, Miss Granger. Lesson quality will not suffer from these new rules. Also, I must announce that Qudditch has been cancelled this year due to Voldemort's return." Hermione nodded to herself and turned back to the rulebook. "I am requiring both a Protector and Prefect on a team for nightly patrols. No one should make a patrol by themselves." He said. He paused and looked around the Hall. "I cannot stress this enough. These are dangerous times. No one can be too cautious." He smiled at them all again, as though he was a grandfather dismissing his grandchildren for the evening. "Duty schedules will be handed out tomorrow with the class time tables." Ginny raised her hand. "Yes, Miss Weasley?"
"Please, sir. I know that I speak for everyone here when I ask. Where is Harry? Is he okay?" Dumbledore's eyes twinkled a bit for the first time that night.
"Harry is fine. I've sent two professors to his home to bring him to school. He'll be back with you soon." Hermione smiled, knowing everyone wore the same smile of relief. She only hoped that Petunia Dursley was going to be a match for the professors and the headmaster. She knew that Dumbledore would make a personal appearance if he felt it necessary. The meeting was dismissed shortly thereafter and she went to Gryffindor tower with Ginny. She couldn't wait to tell Harry everything.
Harry was lying on a blankets with his eyes closed. It was almost lunchtime and he could smell the hamburgers cooking. Everyone was outside and looked like they were having a good time. All of the teachers were trying their hands at a grill. Professor Bevington had an apron on with the message of "To grill, or not to grill", while Skye was trying to show any student willing to listen how to make dessert. Harry was interrupted in his thoughts by a voice. "Hey, buddy." Paul dropped onto the blanket next to Harry and handed him a soda. "How are you doing?" Harry sat up and looked around. No one was near them. He pulled his legs towards him and rested his chin on his knees.
"I'm…" he paused. What was he? Scared? Frightened? Nervous? "apprehensive." Yeah, that sounded about right. "I'm worried that Professor Dumbledore will be here soon and take me to Hogwarts." Harry rubbed his eyes behind his glasses and sighed. "I don't want to go. I want to stay here." Paul nodded his understanding, hoping that Harry wouldn't start pacing. Harry usually managed several rounds when he talked about Dumbledore for any length of time. "I feel like I should be doing something, you know?" Harry laughed a little. "Stand at the gates with my wand raised, ready to show him that I'm staying here. Not just…wait here for him." He finished. He hid his face on his knees again and took a deep breath. Paul broke out of his listening phase and realized what Harry had said.
"Wand?" Paul asked. Harry raised his head and stared at Paul. He smiled at Paul's face and obvious wonder.
"How did you think we did it?" Harry asked. "Snap our fingers? Do a little jig?" Paul smiled and shook his head. Harry looked around again and seemed satisfied that no one would disturb them. He pulled up his pants leg and Paul saw, well, a wand tied to his leg with what looked to be a shoelace. Harry removed the lace and put the wand down on the blanket in front of him. "That's my life there. A wizard is useless without his wand. Defenseless."
"May I?" Paul asked. He didn't want to touch it without Harry's permission.
"Sure. You can't use it, anyway." Paul reached down and took the wand into his hand.
"You carry this with you all the time?" Paul asked, rolling it in his hand.
"All day, everyday." Harry answered. "It used to be my best friend. Now…" He shrugged.
"Now?" Harry had been about to reveal something. There was more to it and Harry needed to tell it.
"A necessary burden, I guess. I need it." Paul placed the wand back on the ground and looked at Harry.
"I've never seen you use it." Harry looked up from the wand and nodded.
"Yeah, I know. I'm not allowed to use it outside of school until I am seventeen. I'd be expelled if I did. Nearly was last summer, after some Dementors showed up at my house and tried to hurt me." Paul blinked and looked at Harry.
"Dementors?" Paul asked. What were they? "Are they something like vampires, werewolves, or unicorns?" Paul knew something of the magical world, right? He had read fairy tales as a kid, just like everyone else.
"I guess they would be like a vampire. They suck out happy feelings from you. Every good emotion, just gone, until you have nothing but the bad left. Even Muggles can feel them." Harry clenched his hands around his legs and stared off into space. "When they're near me, I can hear Voldemort murdering my mum." Paul reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I know a spell to get rid of them, but it needs happy memories, the more powerful the better."
"I see. It's a good thing you have the wand then. Can you live without your wand?" He asked, truly curious.
"Well, yeah, I can. In the Muggle world, at least. I was raised as one." Harry told him. "I would have a few problems in the magical world. That's where Voldemort can really find me. All he has to do is follow the crowds." He smirked. "The only time I am allowed to use it is when my life is danger. That's happened a few times."
"Well, with your looks, who can blame the girls for trying?" Paul's joke broke Harry out of his depression. Harry fell back on the blanket and laughed. "I'll handle your headmaster if he shows up. Legally, he cannot remove you. He has no say in your life or where you go to school." Paul said, pulling Harry back up to face him.
"The Ministry will most likely give Dumbledore permission to do whatever he wants, with Voldemort now officially back." Paul cut him off.
"Let's not borrow trouble until it comes to our door, alright?" Paul asked. "Promise me that you'll let the adults handle this." Paul studied Harry's face for a few minutes. "Look at me, Harry." Harry moved his eyes from the blanket to meet Paul's. "Please allow me to handle this." Paul said, taking Harry's hands in his own. "Please?" Harry dropped his eyes and nodded. "Thank you." Paul said, getting on his knees. "Thank you for the privilege. I will cherish it forever." Paul hugged Harry's shoulders and rested his body on him. "Oh, no. You've put a spell on me. I've increased in mass!"
"Paul! Gerroff!" Harry pulled himself out from under Paul. "Off, you crazy therapist!" Paul laughed as Harry shoved him away. "You're mental." Harry said as he brushed himself off.
"Takes one to know one." Paul said cheerfully. He saw someone sneaking up behind Harry. "Have a good flight." Harry's smile faded.
"What are you-?" Sensei grabbed Harry around his waist and tossed him over a shoulder. "Sensei! Put me down!" Sensei proceeded to carry Harry over to the food. Harry looked back at Paul. "You! You knew he was sneaking up on me!" Harry accused, pointing at Paul with a look that promised a lot of hurt once Harry felt the ground beneath his feet again.
"Time to eat. Everyone must eat." Sensei told Harry. Harry rolled his eyes and allowed Sensei to take him where he wanted. He didn't want to argue with the man.
Harry had just sat down to finish his science homework when he got the oddest feeling. He wanted to say that it was that last hot dog he had eaten (what was in those things, anyway?), but couldn't dismiss it as indigestion. Something was wrong. Not right. The only funny thing, well, besides having feelings of that kind in the first place (Professor Trelawney would die of happiness), was that the danger was not coming towards him. He pushed back from his desk and paced. What was it? It wasn't malicious in the first place. Aunt Petunia. Something was after his aunt. Oh, I can hear Hermione now… "It's your people saving thing again, Harry." Harry left his room and slid into the hallway. Adult. Adult. He needed to find an adult. "Jack!" Harry ran up to the nurses' station. "Jack, where's Paul? I need Paul."
"What's wrong, 007?" Jack asked as he stood up from his seat. He came around the desk and knelt in front of Harry.
"I need Paul's help. Only Paul. Where is he?" Harry danced in place. They were running out of time!
"In his office. Do you want me to call him?" Harry shook his head and took off for the stairs. "Evan!"
"No time!" Harry ran down the three flights of stairs and narrowly avoided a collision with the doors at the bottom. No wonder Rick said running was good for you. He knocked on Paul's door and threw it open when Paul answered. "I need to call home. My aunt, I think she's in trouble." He explained. Paul dropped his pen and stared.
"Harry, is this a Voldemort thing?" Paul asked cautiously.
"No, it's not! Can I call first and explain later?" Paul nodded and pushed the phone to Harry. Harry picked it up and dialed the phone number that his teacher had pounded into his head in primary school. "Come on, come on, come on!" He visibly relaxed when his aunt answer. "Aunt Petunia! There are wizards on the way. From Hogwarts. I don't know. I got a feeling. No. Remember, the wards will protect you if you really don't want them there. All it takes is force of will. Don't let them intimidate you." Paul was becoming slightly concerned. Harry was starting to sound hysterical. "Yes, he's here." Harry held out the phone to Paul. Paul took it.
"Hello?" Paul said into the receiver.
"Tell him that I'll call back after it's over; if there are wizards on the way. Calm him down, please." A doorbell sounded on her end. "Good-bye." Petunia disappeared. Harry stood next to the desk, obviously trying to get a hold of himself.
"Deep breaths. Deep breaths." Paul told him. Harry nodded. "Sit down. Your aunt said that she will call back after the wizards leave." Harry nodded again, giving Paul the feeling that Harry was not hearing anything he was saying. "Darth Vader's in the doorway, asking him to join you." Harry nodded again. Uh-huh. "Harry!" Harry jerked and blinked. He looked at Paul.
"What?" He asked.
"Your aunt will call back when it's over." Paul handed Harry a bottle of water. "Drink some of that." Harry nodded again and did as he was told. "I'm proud of you, Harry." Harry looked confused. "You did exactly as we discussed. Letting the adults take care of things." Harry smiled.
"I guess I did do that. It was automatic." Harry explained, finally relaxing enough to talk.
"As it should be." Paul told him. "As it should be."
"What are our options, Severus?" Dumbledore asked. "Surely she will not be able to resist Veritaserum?" Severus pointed his wand at his eye and mumbled a word before answering Dumbledore. The bruise faded away and he sat up.
"Headmaster, you know that Muggles and potions do not really mix, especially such a strong one. It will either be ineffectual or kill her." Snape explained.
"Legilimency?" Dumbledore asked. Snape stopped, considered it, and nodded.
"I had not attempted more than a cursory glance. William?" Professor Zareh shook his head.
"I'm not good enough at Legilimency to do that. I need them almost unconscious." He explained. "Just enough to fit in under the Aurors' requirements." Dumbledore nodded and waved it away.
"Do not worry. I told you that only Occlumency was required. You are the stronger in that, and that is what is important." Professor Zareh nodded. "Very well. Let's get to Privet Drive and find Harry." Snape fought back a groan and took hold of Fawkes's tail as Dumbledore ordered. All three appeared on Privet Drive. Fawkes let out a cry and disappeared.
Dumbledore could feel the wards pressing in around him, holding him to the spot and smothering his magic. He started "talking" to the wards, trying to convince them that he was the primary caster, that he set them, and that he meant no harm to the boy or his family. They responded faster than they had for Snape. He gestured for the other two wizards to follow him and led the way up the short walk and to the door. Dumbledore thought that he heard Snape mutter "told you so", but couldn't be sure as he had rung the bell at the same time. Harry's cousin opened the door. He studied the three wizards, shut the door and yelled for his mother. "Mum, wizards are here!" Petunia opened the door just a few seconds later.
"I thought I told you that he was not here." She demanded. "You!" She opened the door and allowed Dumbledore to enter. "I didn't think that you were going to listen to your little professor." Snape blinked and fingered his wand. Oh, which curse to use on this annoying Muggle? Something painful, definitely. "I suppose you can all sit down, since you are here disturbing us normal people." She pointed sharply to the living room. Dumbledore entered and took a seat as she ordered.
"Mrs. Dursley, I know what you told my professors, but I must insist that you talk to me as well. Harry is in danger away from your house. The only safe places for him are here and Hogwarts." Dumbledore explained patiently. "I am doing this for his own good."
"His own good?" She demanded. "His own good?" Her folded hands clenched in anger as she hissed Dumbledore's answer back to him. "Do you know what that boy was like when he came back from that place you call a school?" She demanded. "I do not know more than you told me, Professor, but that boy was hurting. None of you…wizards…did anything to help him." She told him.
"Potter's always enjoyed a bit more consideration than good for him, I assure you." Snape sneered from next to Dumbledore. Petunia rounded on him.
"Consideration? Consideration!" Professor Zareh discreetly moved away from Snape and closer to Dumbledore. This was his second time facing this woman, and she still scared him. "I had a fifteen year old boy sleeping during the day so that I could wake him from his nightmares. Those nightmares not only prevented him from sleeping normally, they also made him lose what little food he was able to stomach. He looked on the verge of nervous collapse, and you dare to tell me that he's had 'consideration'?" Snape stared her down, one eyebrow raised, as she ranted. He did get vague images of what Potter had been like his days at home, but nothing more than that. "I know you." Her statement broke him out of his concentration. "You're Professor Snape." She said, pointing a finger at him. "You're Severus! Lily's friend." Snape's face slid into its usual mask and he proceeded to intimidate her. "I remember you now." Intimidation! Longbottom exploding a cauldron, which harmed other students, Slytherin students. "You certainly grew up." She said.
"Yes, well, time does that to people. Now, where is Potter, so that we may get him back to the safety of his fans?" He asked, thinking that Petunia would be more willing to reveal the boy's location now that she thought she knew him.
"Fans? He would shudder to hear you say that, I'm sure. I've sent him to school, and that's all you need to know." She said, with a hard little smile clearly telling him he had lost. He got a vague image of Potter (the boy looked ghastly, he would admit that) standing with a man, obviously a Muggle, holding some kind of bag. The man looked like a teacher at the school. No name of the institution came up.
"Mrs. Dursley, please remember that Voldemort can find and attack Harry at any time while he is out of this house." Petunia turned to Dumbledore and smirked.
"Exactly. Voldemort can find him, and has found him. At. Your. School. He has managed to find Harry at Hogwarts several times. And you let him." Petunia was about to pull a large bluff, but she needed to make her point. "Oh, yes. The boy told me. He told me that you allowed an untrained boy to face a fully trained wizard. Not anymore." She paused, glaring at all three wizards in turn. "I am formally announcing now that Harry Potter will not be attending Hogwarts this school year. If you show up here again, I will notify the authorities. Harry taught me how to do so." She stood, ending the interview.
"Mrs. Dursley, I do not think you understand this situation." Dumbledore said, allowing his anger to show through.
"I believe my wife told you the boy will not be going back to your school." Vernon Dursley entered the living room and glared. "We've followed your instructions about the boy up to this point. My wife told me he almost died. No more, Dumbledore. He is our nephew, our responsibility, and now we will do what we like, including keeping him from the magic you're so fond of." Vernon Dursley stepped forward and glared at Dumbledore. "Get out." He spat at the three wizards. "Now." The wards tightened around Dumbledore again, threatening his magic, as Petunia and Vernon Dursley glared at him. Dumbledore backed away from the couple, telling the wards he was leaving and that he wasn't going to harm anyone there under protection. Dumbledore led the others from the house, seeing the boy's cousin sitting on the stairs, directing a gaze full of hate to their backs. Fawkes appeared again and transported all three back to his office.
"Gentlemen, I believe that we have a serious problem." Dumbledore told the two professors. "Call the Order." Professor Zareh nodded and disappeared down the stairs to send off messages. "We have a serious problem." Dumbledore said to himself as he petted Fawkes.
Author's Note: Okay, so I'm not quite finished with the events of September first. This chappie was getting a little long, so I thought that you would like a shorter chapter sooner, than a longer chapter later. Err, yeah. Let me know what you thought!