Standard Disclaimer: I did not create these characters, I did not create this universe. These are the sole creation and property of JK Rowling. I would have created these characters before her, but I was stupid and left the idea written down on a napkin in New York, the napkin was then stolen by an irate airline attendant who dropped it in England where it was found. If you believe this, email me, I have a bridge for sale too.
Author's Note: This story is a sequel to Dumbledore's Army. If you have not read that story, we highly suggest you do so before continuing to read this one. Dumbledore's Army takes place in the sixth year at Hogwarts, this picks up at the end of that story and goes to the end of the seventh year.
Harry Potter and the
Return to the Burrow…
The Weasley Family, including one Harry Potter, waited out in the car park of Kings Crossing Train Station while Ron and Hermione said goodbye one final time. Ron looked forlorn when he finally turned away and returned to his family. The Grangers got into their automobile and drove away with Hermione looking equally devastated.
This time the Weasleys were returning to the Burrow in style. As Deputy Minister, Arthur rated a government car, a driver and a member of the Ministry Protective Services. The protective services claimed to be better than Aurors, but they were much smaller in size and had a totally different mission than the Aurors did.
Although it was a Ministry car, it was a muggle vehicle. The only difference being that its interior had been enchanted to be much roomier than it should have been. According to Arthur, the ride was still going to be several hours long, but at least it would be comfortable.
Harry sat next to one window, Ginny next to him. Ron had another window, which he stared out of, lost in thought, while Molly and Arthur chatted among themselves.
Harry sat considering a conversation he'd had with Dumbledore just before he left for the train station in Hogsmeade. Dumbledore had caught up with him and drew him aside just before he left the building.
"Harry, before you leave for the summer, might I have a word with you?"
"Of course, Professor."
"Harry, this summer I want you to be careful. Just because you can apparate now, remember the restrictions. We will have people watching over you, but I want your promise that if you decide to go anywhere, you will either take Remus or another Order member along with you. No unescorted trips to Diagon Alley or to London. You may apparate from the Burrow and Grimmauld Place unescorted, but that's it.
"Around the Burrow we'll have Order members watching out for you, so the Burrow and nearby Ottery St. Catchpole will be alright for you to roam around in unescorted."
"I understand Professor. I didn't think I'd be allowed complete freedom and, to be honest, it's more than I expected."
"It's not just your safety we're worried about Harry. True you are our main concern, but we realize the importance of your family to you, and Miss Weasley in particular."
Harry nodded in agreement. Put that way, he couldn't help but to agree.
Ginny nudged Harry, who turned to look at her.
"He's taking it pretty hard I think," she said in a low tone, looking in Ron's direction.
"I know. I'd be heart broken if I had to leave you behind. But maybe I can cheer him up a bit."
Harry pulled his sketch pad out of his pocket and enlarged it to its normal size. He flipped through the book until he found the drawing of Ron and Hermione down by the lake. It was a nice picture, but it didn't fill up the whole page, just the center of it.
Ginny watched curiously as Harry began to add more pictures in the corner areas of the page. Hermione smiling, a small picture of the couple at the dance, holding each other closely, Ron and Hermione sitting at the table in the Great Hall. Finally, instead of adding another picture of Hermione or the two of them, he added a sketch of Hermione's hand, wearing her ring.
They were nearly to Ottery St. Catchpole by the time Harry was done. He finished the sketch by signing the back with a small 'HP'. Then he very carefully detached the sheet from the pad and passed it to Ginny.
"Go on Gin, give it to him."
Ginny looked at the sketch for a moment, then tapped Ron on the shoulder. When Ron turned away from the window to look curiously at his sister, she handed him the drawing. He glanced down at the sketch and his hands trembled for a moment.
He very carefully placed the sketch in his lap and grabbed his sister in a hug. "Give Harry a hug for me and thank him," he whispered fiercely in her ear.
Molly watched his very uncharacteristic display of brotherly affection and decided she'd find out later what this was all about.
A short while later they arrived at the Burrow. From the outside there was no damage visible from the Christmas attack. The real noticeable difference was the security, which made Harry curious.
"Arthur, you have three full time protective service people on duty here at the Burrow?"
This caused the MPS man riding with them to turn around in his seat.
"How did you know there are three MPS guards on duty?" He asked.
"We can see them Sir. Three of them in invisibility cloaks, right Gin?" Harry replied.
Ginny nodded vigorously. "I see them too. One by the gate, one next to the tree…" Then she pouted, "Harry, where's the third one? I can't spot him."
"He's next to the front door. He's using a cloak and a camouflage charm, that's why he's harder to spot."
The MPS man in the front seat frowned. They prided themselves on being unobserved. But then, the Minister had told him once the Weasleys had their family home from school, things might get interesting.
Ron, Harry, and Ginny made beelines straight for their rooms once they got home. Harry changed out of his uniform into a comfortable pair of slacks and t-shirt, then headed back downstairs to the living room. On the way, he bumped into Ron coming out of his own room. Ron stopped him, looking very embarrassed.
"Harry, um… well thanks mate. For the picture."
"It's no big deal. She'll be here soon, and you can still owl her. In the meantime, can I make one little suggestion? Just to irritate 'Mione?" He grinned as he said that.
"Think about this Ron. She's going to be spending her time thinking that she's going to arrive here and spend the next month pounding on you to get your summer homework done. If you and I were to finish our homework before she arrives… well let's just say I would think you'd be able to find other things to do with Hermione," he suggested.
This was an alien concept, totally alien. Summers were for fun, not homework, besides, what else could he do with Hermione… A light bulb went off in Ron's head and he grinned at Harry.
"Ron all we need to do is set aside a little time each day, say an hour after every meal. By middle of July, we should be done with all our homework. We'd still have most of the day to goof off."
"I'm starting to like this idea Harry…a lot!" Ron grinned broadly.
With that plan firmly in mind, they continued downstairs and into the kitchen.
Like most wizarding families, the kitchen was probably the most important room in the house. Since very few wizards availed themselves of muggle artifacts like television, the living room was generally reserved for quiet conversation or reading, while the kitchen was where most of the family gathered.
Molly had expanded the size of the kitchen when it was rebuilt. The large family sized cauldron still had a new gleam to it, and the larger pantries with their preservation charms could hold even more food than before.
With Arthur's job change at the ministry came a large increase in salary, which meant that Molly could be a little more generous in filling those pantries.
When Ron and Harry entered the kitchen, Molly, with Ginny's help, was already getting dinner ready. Ron, being Ron, sat at the table to watch. Harry asked Molly if he could help. He was, after all, fairly good in the kitchen. This startled Molly. While male participation in the making of meals was not unheard of in the wizard world, it was practically nonexistent in the Weasley Family.
She set him peeling and cutting potatoes, while she and Ginny went back to their own preparations. Personally, she approved of any man willing to help in the making of the family meal. The last time Arthur had tried, when she was pregnant with Ginny, they'd lived on cold sandwiches for nearly a month.
Ginny nudged Molly and nodded in Harry's direction. She frowned. Harry was peeling the potatoes expertly enough, but he was doing it the muggle way!
She leaned down to Ginny and whispered, "We'll have to show him how over the summer, but I'm not going to stop him from helping. Any man willing to lend a hand in the kitchen is a gem."
After dinner, Harry and Ginny went out to walk the property, holding hands. She showed him some of her favorite places where she grew up. As the day turned into night, they ended up back behind the shed where Harry had once appeared to her last summer as Wings.
Harry pulled her close, wrapping his arms tightly around her. "I think I like this spot best of all. My new life started here, with you in my arms."
She melted against him as they kissed. Soon they reluctantly stopped and headed back to the house.
An Evening with Molly and Mum…
As the evening wound down, Ron and Ginny both went up to their rooms, while Harry sat in the living room with Molly and Arthur. Harry realized that he had one very important piece of unfinished business he needed to discuss with the adult Weasleys.
"Molly, Arthur? Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Molly looked up from her knitting. "Yes dear?"
"I'd like to show you both something. I probably should have shown it to you earlier, but it just never seemed like we had the time when we were home."
This piqued their curiosity. Arthur looked up from his paper. "What would you like to show us, Harry?"
"At the beginning of last summer, Jack Parsons and I snuck to Diagon Alley so he could get some chocolate frogs. I needed to go to Gringots to get some galleons and he needed to change his muggle money into galleons. In Gringots, the goblin taking me to my vault made a mistake and took me to the Potter family vault instead of my trust vault. I didn't stay long in the vault, just long enough to scoop up some galleons and grab a small box that was addressed to me.
"Inside the box was a book written by my Father, Sirius and Remus. And a very special letter.
"The letter was enchanted by my mother. When I first opened it, it was blank. Then, slowly, words started to appear, almost as if she were writing it to me right then and there. I've spoken with Professor Flitwick and he told me my mother was probably one of the few witches he knew of that would be capable of such a thing. He said it was very advanced magic.
"I'd like to show you the letter, but I wanted you to understand parts of it are actually in response to what I was thinking, so it may seem a little disjointed. I want to share it with you because, in a way, they are still talking to me. This past year, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna and Neville bought a locket for me to keep the letter in, and it's given me several warnings over the year. If you remember at Christmas, right before the attack, I got a warning from the locket. That's how I knew trouble was coming.
"I think my parents and you would have been friends. With them gone, this is really the only way I can introduce you to them."
Molly and Arthur moved over to sit with Harry on the couch. His explanation had them really curious now.
Harry reached up behind to the back of his neck and fumbled with the clasp. It wasn't easy for him to open it with his hand still sensitive. Finally getting it open, he gently placed the locket on the table and tapped the locket once with his wand. Like a Pensieve, the letter appeared, hovering above the locket. It expanded until it was easily readable.
Molly started sniffling early on in reading the letter, even Arthur's eyes misted up with tears.
Harry waited, watching them both for signs that they had finished reading, when Molly gasped. Harry turned back to the letter. The letters had scrolled up and new writing was appearing in the gap at the bottom, in that same feminine script.Harry love,
We've been waiting for you to show this letter to Arthur and Molly. What took you so long? We had expected you to show them this letter the same night you asked them for Ginny's hand. Your father is, by the way, quite insufferable about you picking another red head, but even I have to admit, you and Ginny were fated to be together.
Molly, Arthur, words cannot express the gratitude that James, Sirius and I have for what you've done for our Harry. I was so grateful he had you to hold him after Cedric's death and so many times since. I know you would have taken him from those muggles much sooner if you could. You two have opened your home and your hearts to him and for that we are deeply grateful. We also know how important Ginevra is to you both. Take comfort from the fact that their relationship was destined to happen long before either were born.Molly, Fabian and Gideon send their love. They are very proud of their nephews and their niece and say they always knew you would do well.
Harry sat back stunned. "That wasn't there the last time!" He gasped out. "That's new!"
The three of them sat in silence for a while, then the image above the locket wavered and collapsed. Arthur picked up the locket and handed it to Harry.
"Don't lose it Harry. I can think of few things more precious than this," he said softly.
Molly was sobbing softly next to Harry. She dabbed her eyes with her apron. "Arthur, did you see? Fabian and Gideon!" Suddenly she engulfed Harry in a massive hug.
Arthur let them hug for a moment before he coughed politely. "I think a cup of tea might be in order?"
The three stood and moved into the kitchen, where Molly made them some tea. Harry still clutched his locket in his hand. The new addition to his letter puzzled him. There were pieces of it that he didn't understand. He fumbled with the locket chain for a bit, then Molly spotting his trouble and pushed his hands away.
"Here let me do that, dear. We don't want you losing that locket."
"Thank you Molly. Did that last part make sense to you? Who are Fabian and Gideon?"
Molly sat the table, twisting her apron in her hands for a long moment. "They were my brothers. They died very early in the first war with Voldemort. Even before we knew there was another Dark Lord. I was still dating Arthur at the time. I was about your age. One night they just never came home. To get a message, even second hand like that, is so special Harry."
Arthur broke in at that point. "Now I understand why you've had so many problems with Dumbledore this past year Harry. I can't say I understand the magic behind it, but it's very powerful, and very personal. I take it the first part of the letter was what nudged you to start taking an interest in Ginny?"
"Oh no Arthur. All the letter did was force me to admit what I was trying to deny. Since my fifth year I've known she was there. I guess I was just fooling myself."
He paused for a moment, before lowering his voice and continuing. "Before I found the letter, I was pushing Ron and Hermione away. Ginny too. When Dumbledore told me the prophecy's full contents, I decided to keep them at a distance. That way they couldn't get hurt. I was wrong about that, I guess. It may come down to Voldemort and I in the end, but I need help getting to that point."
Arthur and Molly both shivered at the mention of Voldemort's name, and the idea of Harry having to face him.
"I don't know how you can say that so casually Harry," Arthur whispered.
Harry looked at Arthur with a haunted expression. "Do I have any choice Arthur? If I don't, everything we have will be lost. Everyone I love will die in this war. Maybe not at once, but it will happen." He looked out the darkened kitchen window for a moment before continuing. "He's out there, waiting for me, and he knows we'll have to meet soon."
His voice trailed off and he sat staring into the blackness, his thoughts in some dark place.
Molly broke his melancholy reverie, changing the subject. "Well you're not meeting him tonight young man! Ginny told me about your wonderful drawings. Perhaps tomorrow you could show them to me? Do you have enough drawing paper and pencils to continue through the summer? I'd love to see what sort of drawings you can do around here."
With the mood lightened, they talked for a while longer before Harry decided to turn in for the night. He gave Molly a goodnight kiss and went up to his bedroom. The two adults watched him leave.
Somewhere in England, Location unknown…
Voldemort sat brooding in his chamber. His defeat at Hogsmeade had dealt a major blow to his forces and it was forcing him to re-evaluate his entire strategy. Wormtail was off on assignment for him, arranging to bring in fresh forces. But even Voldemort had to admit, at this point he was dreadfully weak.
His servants had been unable to find out exactly what had happened in Hogsmeade. Only one thing was clear. They had been winning, and suddenly Potter appeared on the battlefield and he was defeated. POTTER!
As usual, the very thought of Potter made him check his link to the boy. In the past six months the link had been fuzzy, indistinct, as if it were smothered. But today that wasn't the case. Today the link was clean and clear!
Ruthlessly he struck out…
Molly was just passing Harry's room when she heard a heavy thud of something hitting the floor and a whimpering sound. Cautiously, she opened the door and peered into the room. She knew Harry had just taken his morning shower and she didn't want to intrude on his privacy.
Harry lay on the floor, his towel still loosely wrapped around his waist and both hands clenched to his forehead.
"Harry!" She exclaimed and rushed to his side. She knelt down beside him, then pulled him up to her, but she wasn't sure what else to do.
Ginny, hearing her mother's cry, came rushing into the room. She took the scene in with a glance. Running to his nightstand she grabbed the pot of salve off the stand, then hurried over to Molly and Harry.
"Mum, grab his hands! I can't put this on with his hands in the way."
She scooped out a small dab of the salve and waited while Molly pulled his hands away. As soon as they were clear, she rubbed the salve onto scar. Almost immediately, Harry shuddered and went limp, his eyes closed.
Ginny relaxed. "He'll be ok in a few minutes. Mrs. Snape, er… I mean, Professor Snape, made this salve, which blocks Voldemort from causing Harry pain. It's easily washed off, though. He mustn't have had time enough to put some more on after he got out of the shower."
Molly eyed the small pot gratefully. "Is that all he has? It doesn't look like a lot. And why are your fingers green?"
"It doesn't take much Mum, just a small dab to cover the scar. But Professor Snape gave him several pots of the salve to carry him through the summer. My fingers are green because the salve is made specifically for Harry. The Professor said something about pH balances causing a skin color change in anyone else who touches the stuff."
Harry blinked his eyes and looked around, confused. Molly was holding him, he was sitting on the floor, Ginny was kneeling next to him, and the towel around his waist was really, really loose!
Molly smiled down at him. "Harry, dear, are you feeling better?"
"I'm just a little woozy, but I'll be fine Molly." Ginny could sense his discomfit and started to giggle. He shot her a glare.
"Oh Harry, lighten up. Mum's raised six boys, she's seen it all before."
Molly carefully released her hold on Harry and stood up. "Well I think we should leave him to finish getting dressed Ginny. When you're dressed, come down to the kitchen, Harry."
Somewhere in England, Location unknown…
Voldemort flew into a rage. He had the link open and it slammed shut. Now it was back to being muffled and indistinct again. How dare Potter defy him like this!
He spat. POTTER! Enough! It was time once and for all to find out what was the secret of his protection!
"Send for that Irish sneak, Murphy. I would speak with him!"
One of his servants rushed from the room to send the summons.
Harry walked into the kitchen, still a little shaken by the attack, but otherwise fine. Ginny and Ron were seated at the table, having their breakfast.
"Harry, are you feeling better now dear?" Molly asked him, concerned.
"Yes Molly. Ginny got the salve on pretty quick."
"Well dear, sit and have some breakfast. I've already given these two their chores. I'll have you go with Ginny today when she goes into town. But I can assure you young man, tomorrow you'll have your own chores to do."
"Oh that's alright Molly. I don't mind doing the work. But I've managed to convince Ron to spend an hour after every meal with me, doing our summer assignments. Would you mind? I think if we did them a few hours a day, we'd be done before the end of next month. I think it's going to be necessary. I know there are people who are going to want to talk with us over the summer."
Molly froze. Ron doing his homework early? Molly smiled to herself. If I knew Harry could convince Ron to do his summer homework like this, I would have insisted on his living with us much earlier, she thought to herself.
"Actually, I like the sound of that Harry. An hour after every meal is fine by me," she said, smiling at him.
"Ginny's the lucky one this summer, no homework for her," Harry replied, smirking at Ginny, who stuck her tongue out at him.
Later, he and Ginny walked into Ottery St. Catchpole. It wasn't an impressive community by any means. It had a small, discrete Wizarding population, but was largely muggle in makeup. The town itself was small, only a few stores, a grocer, a farmers market, a movie theater, a feed store and a few other shops.
The theater gave Harry an idea, so he carefully noted the viewing times as he passed it.
Ginny pulled Harry into a shop that looked like a muggle shop, until he noted some of the signs were moving. He helped her pick out some of the vegetables that Molly didn't grow in her garden, along with some other items.
The pair walked back to the Burrow, holding hands.
Later that day, with Molly's permission, Harry placed a firecall to Remus, asking him to change enough galleons into muggle money that he'd have about fifty pounds. Remus called back an hour later and handed Harry his money with a grin. He had an idea why Harry was asking for it.
Ginny was out in the garden picking some vegetables, leaving Molly and Harry alone in the kitchen.
"Molly would it be all right if I took Ginny to a movie tonight?"
Molly frowned. "A movie, Harry? What is a movie?"
"It's a form of Muggle entertainment, quite a lot of fun really. I know Ginny's never seen one before, and I think she'd really enjoy it. There's a movie theater in town. We could easily make the 7pm movie and be back before 10pm."
"Hmmm… I don't know Harry…" Seeing the disappointment on his face she added, "How about you ask Arthur over dinner? He knows about muggle stuff. I don't really know much about them. If he agrees, then it would be ok."
Later at dinner Harry tried again, but this time with results he didn't quite expect. Although considering Arthur, he really should have.
"Would be ok if I took Ginny to the movies tonight?"
"A movie? A MUGGLE MOVIE?"
"Er… yes. There's a cartoon playing in town. I thought, since Ginny has never been to the movies, she might enjoy this."
Ginny was watching the conversation intently. She wasn't sure exactly what Harry was talking about…a movie? But it sounded interesting. And what was a cartoon?
"A car tune, Harry? Is that some sort of singing car thing?"
"Oh no sir! It's… well it's hard to explain. Going to the movies is something muggles do when they're courting. It's a lot of fun I think, but I've only seen a few movies on TV. This would my first time going to one in the theater."
"Is it safe, Harry?"
"Yes it's quite safe. No danger in going to a movie."
"Well this sounds like jolly good fun! Why don't we all go!"
Harry realized that if this was the only way he'd get to take her, so be it, so he readily agreed. "Sure. I had Remus get me more than enough muggle money."
"Well then its settled! We'll all go! This is going to be fascinating!"
"I think I'll stay here. I want to write a letter to Hermione tonight Dad," Ron said.
"Good enough, Ron"
And so Harry found himself walking down the road, hand in hand with Ginny, while her parents walked two steps behind. He sighed inwardly, but Ginny seemed so pleased to be doing something different, that maybe taking Ginny and her parents on their first real date wouldn't turn out to be too bad.
Once at the theater, he bought the tickets, then stopped at the concession stand and purchased four large drinks and two large tubs of popcorn. Ginny's eyes bulged when she saw the size of the tub of popcorn he handed to her. He grinned at her reaction. Leading them into the theater itself, he selected two seats for himself and Ginny. Molly and Arthur picked two seats right behind them. The house lights were still on, and the theater was nearly empty.
Ginny looked around. She didn't understand what was going on. She was sitting in a seat facing a big blank white wall.
Harry chuckled to himself. Arthur was trying to look in every direction at once, and Molly was sure that something bad was going to happen. He had to say something.
"It's all right Molly. In a little while, the lights will turn off and the white wall will have pictures on them. This movie is part comedy, part drama, and part love story. This movie company makes pictures for kids a lot younger than us to watch."
To be honest, Harry ended up getting more enjoyment out of watching the reaction of his family than the movie itself. Ginny sat wide-eyed through the entire movie, almost mesmerized by the story unfolding before her, every few seconds she reach down for some popcorn. Both she and Molly started sniffling when the heroine died and sniffled some more when the hero saved her from the underworld and the clutches of the evil villain.
Arthur kept muttering, "Fascinating!" under his breath.
When the movie finally ended and the house lights came back on, all three shook themselves like they were coming up from a trance. Ginny was surprised to see she had eaten most of her popcorn without even knowing it!
Outside the theater, Harry was surprised when first Molly, then Ginny, hugged him and thanked him for taking them to see it. He was also surprised to find that, as they walked back to the Burrow, both of them were humming tunes from the movie.
As the week progressed, things settled into a comfortable routine. Harry had been lucky enough to not experience any more attacks by Voldemort. He and Ron worked on their homework, he did the chores Molly asked of him and took long walks with Ginny. It was, to Harry, perfect.
The Meeting at Grimmauld Place…
A week later Harry, Ron and Ginny met with Remus and some others at Grimmauld Place. Molly was off delivering dispatches for the Order. This was to be the first meeting with Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry had asked specifically that Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape attend, as well as getting his squib friend, Jack Parsons, to come.
They all filed into the Order's conference room. With the exception of Harry's friends and Remus, everyone was a little startled by the presence of Jack, and they weren't sure what to make of him. Harry waited for everyone to sit before he started to speak.
"Director Shacklebolt has asked us here to help him address the issue of rebuilding the Auror force. That's why I've invited my good friend Jack Parsons here. In a few moments, I'll turn this meeting over to him, but I'd like to give you a little background on him first. Jack is an American, a squib. His father was a wizard, his mom a muggle. When Jack's mum died when he was young, his dad turned his back on the American wizarding world. As a result, Jack grew up knowing about the Wizarding world, but was out of touch with it for many years until he and I became friends last summer. Jack is a former member of the American muggle military, and many of the things he taught me I incorporated into the training of the DA."
Harry refused to use the name Potter's Companions, despite it having become nearly universally accepted.
"I asked him here today because it was his methods and ideas I used, clumsily I might add, and probably improperly. Jack is not a wizard, but he represents a source of knowledge that I feel we need desperately. I ask each of you to listen to him, get to know him, and remember that the victory at Hogsmeade came from the use of muggle knowledge. I'll also add that, other than speaking funny, he's really an ok bloke."
Harry smirked at Jack with that last comment. Jack chuckled and struggled for a moment with his cane, before standing up.
"Thanks kid. I'll see Santa gets ya an extra large lump of coal this year." Looking around, Jack continued. "I ain't one for pretty speeches, so I'll cut right to the chase. Mr. Shacklebolt, you're barking up the wrong tree with your mission."
Seeing the puzzled looks, Jack tried another approach.
"What I mean is, you train Aurors, which are wizarding world versions of muggle policemen. Policemen are trained to capture, trained to use deadly force as a last resort. One of the reasons why Harry's group was so effective was because they went into that battle, ready to kick ass… I mean they went into that battle using spells that would wound, maim and kill. Not capture, not stun, but kill.
"Society needs policemen, they capture bad guys. But they don't use policemen to fight wars. Wars are fought by armies, soldiers trained to follow orders and trained to use deadly force as their primary tool. Mr. Shacklebolt, what you need to ask yourself is, do you want policemen, or do you want soldiers? Harry's action in Hogsmeade illustrates quite clearly the differences between the two, and explains why he had so few casualties and you had so many."
Seeing confused looks from many in the room, Jack barked, "Harry!"
"What?" Harry asked, startled.
"How many spells did you have in your spell set that would be considered non-lethal?"
"Well, discounting medical, shields and diversionary spells, every spell we used could be considered lethal, depending on where it hit a target. I'd say eighty percent of our spells could be considered lethal without prompt medical attention."
Jack nodded approvingly before turning back to Shacklebolt and the rest. "That's the problem in a nutshell, gentlemen. You can create an army, or you can make policemen. Harry created his army in less than a year, on the sly, under everyone's nose. And he didn't even do it full time!"
Shacklebolt sat there for a long moment thinking before he began to speak. "I can certainly see the sense in what you're saying. This is something I'm going to have to discuss with the Minister. It's a lot different than what we're used to. On the other hand, the Minister has shared with me information concerning when and where the next big attack is bound to occur. Information which Professor Dumbledore here has provided. Training up the force needed to defeat that attack isn't going to be easy."
Harry broke in at that point. "Director Shacklebolt, you won't be alone in this. I fully expect to be able to put over one hundred, possibly as many as one hundred and fifty people into the field."
Kingsley smiled. "Harry, I think you and the other kids have done more than your fair share…"
"No Sir!" Harry cut him off. "Understand this. The DA will be there. I wish they didn't have to be, but they will. As will I."
"I don't think you understand, Mr. Potter," Shacklebolt began, looking annoyed.
"You're the one who doesn't understand," Harry said firmly. "Let me ask you a simple question, Mr. Shacklebolt. Can you kill Voldemort?"
Kingsley straightened in his chair, saying, "I'm sure once the Auror force is rebuilt, we could take Voldemort and his followers out."
"Really?" Harry asked. "Then why haven't you? Why are my parent's dead? Why do I have this scar? Why was Hermione's home attacked last Christmas? How many muggles have died?"
As Shacklebolt stared at Harry in disbelief, he continued. "You can't kill Voldemort, no matter how many Aurors you throw at him. You may be able to take out his Death Eaters, but the Dark Lord will remain. Without the DA and me, you'll lose this war. If you don't believe me, ask Professor Dumbledore."
Shacklebolt looked startled and glance at Dumbledore.
"Tell him!" Harry hissed at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore closed his eyes for a long moment.
"There is a prophecy which Harry, myself and perhaps a few others in this room know of. But I'm sure you do not Kingsley. A Seeress, who has already had at least one additional prophecy in this matter come to pass, made it shortly before Harry's birth. Listen.
"…The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...
"All of these fights, the pitched battle in Hogsmeade, what will come at Hogwarts, it all boil down to one inescapable conclusion. Harry will have to face Voldemort, one on one, probably at Hogwarts, and only one will leave that field alive. It is his right, his destiny. You may be in charge of the Aurors, but he's the one leading this fight."
Ginny always flinched when she heard about the prophecy. The thought of Harry not surviving was too brutal for her to bear. She grabbed Harry's hand and held it tightly in her own. Hearing it again shot an arrow of fear through her heart. She knew, sooner or later, she was going to have to spill her fears to someone. But without Hermione here, that left only her Mum.
Kingsley stared at Harry, his expression wavering between shock and awe. "Does the Minister know about this, Professor Dumbledore?"
"Yes. I told her about it shortly after she took office."
Jack stumped his way around the table to Harry and placed his hand on his shoulder. "Kid… Harry, I'm sorry. Whatever you need, asked. If it's in my power, I'll do it."
Harry eyed the lanky American carefully, and then said, "I'm glad to hear that Jack, because if I can get the Professor's permission, I'd like to offer you a job."
Dumbledore leaned forward. This was something new and interesting. "What do you have in mind, Harry?"
"Professor, Jack here isn't a wizard, and I know that's a problem, but he's the closest thing we have to a professional strategist. He would be invaluable in advising us regarding defense of Hogwarts. He would also be useful in helping us train up the DA to a higher standard."
"Yes, I can see that. I think we can make an exception to the rules, and even offer him apartment space at Hogwarts. It would certainly be easier than arranging transportation back and forth. Mr. Parsons?" Dumbledore asked, turning to Jack. "Would you be interested in helping us?"
Jack smiled widely. "Me? Let me tell ya, I wouldn't miss this for all the bourbon in Kentucky! Where do I sign up?"
Dumbledore winced, while Harry snickered. "That's a 'Yes' Professor. He's got a colorful way of speaking, but you'll get used to it."
Turning serious, Harry said, "Sir, there is one other issue which I'd like to bring up with you. I don't have a solution for you, but it concerns me greatly, and I think it's something you will need to discuss with the Minister and the Board of Governors…"
Dumbledore flinched slightly at that and wondered what club Harry was going to beat him with this time.
"It's the issue of the NEWTS Sir. As I see it, training this year is going to take more time than last year. But it's a NEWT year for many of the DA members, including myself. I don't see how we can train to defend the castle and study for NEWTS at the same time."
"Ah. Well Harry, I had anticipated that this possibility might arise. The teachers and I are trying to arrange a schedule, which should give you at least five hours per day of regular schooling, as well as four hours for your training. I will, of course, discuss this matter with both the Minister and the Board of Governors. I'm sure we can make arrangements for something suitable, even if it means delaying the NEWTS for a few months."
Harry smiled at Dumbledore, and then turned back to Jack. "I realize that you can't just up and quit your job right away, and even if you could, no one will be at the school until September. If you speak with the Headmaster, he can make arrangements with you to arrive a few days early, to familiarize yourself with the castle. In the meantime, I'll have Remus open up a Gringots account for you to draw from. I'm afraid you'll be well immersed in the wizarding world by the time we're done with this."
Jack chuckled before replying, "Sure thing kid. Heck, I might even like it enough to stick around after this is over, especially if I find me a nice witch. One almost as pretty as your little redhead."
Ginny blushed. She wasn't too sure about this strange man. He seemed nice, but it was hard to tell and he talked so strange!
Harry laughed at her reaction. "As long as she doesn't use a bat bogey hex on you, you're all right, Jack." Harry looked around the table before adding, "Does anyone else have any business they would like to discuss?"
Dumbledore peered over his glasses. "I have one final thing I would like to add Harry. When Miss Granger returns from her holiday, I would like for you all to visit me at Hogwarts. I have something that will interest all of you, but her the most, I think."
Harry nodded agreeably to that. The meeting broke up shortly afterwards.
Somewhere in England, Location unknown…
Voldemort sat in his chamber pondering his plans when a servant scurried in and groveled at his feet.
"Well? Speak dog or I will kill you here and now!" He snarled.
"My lord, the Irishman, Murphy, is here as you requested."
"Send him in now!"
Voldemort leaned back in his chair. Murphy was not a Death Eater, not a servant. Not yet at any rate. And he represented a powerful, illegal cartel among the wizard community of Ireland. Voldemort had, upon occasion, hired their services. Some day soon, he promised himself, he would absorb their cartel into his organization, but not today. Today was a day for business.
Murphy walked into the room. Unlike his servants, the man did not grovel. Voldemort had to suppress the urge to Crucio him right then and there. Instead, he adopted a more conciliatory tone.
"Ah, Mr. Murphy, so kind of you to come. I have need of information and your organization is noted for its abilities in that particular area," he said.
"Ah 'tis kind of ye to say so m'lord. Now, how can we be of service to ya?" Replied Murphy.
"There is a boy living near Ottery St. Catchpole. He has managed to block my penetration of his mind by doing something to a very noticeable scar on his forehead. I want you to find out what he's doing."
"Seems simple enuff, m'lord. I be settin' one o' my people on it. We'll find out what Potter is doin'."
Voldemort hissed at the mention of that name. Murphy's lips twitched briefly.
"As ya said yourself m'lord, we are noted for findin' out things," Murphy said.
"Quite so Mr. Murphy. You'll receive your usual compensation when you have news for me," the Dark Lord said, sounding bored.
"Fair enuff, m'lord. I best be on me way then, I've got work to do for ya."
Murphy tilted his head in gesture of respect and walked from the room.
Voldemort's hands twitched as he glowered at the retreating man's back.
Later that night, back in the Burrow…
Harry and Ron were already asleep when Molly checked on them. She knew they were well past the age where she needed to treat them like small children, but old habits died hard. No matter what age they were, she'd always consider them her boys.
Molly paused outside Ginny's door. A faint light shone from under the door and there were sounds coming from the room. She cracked open the door and saw Ginny sitting up on her bed, her knees pulled tight to her chest. She was crying softly.
Molly walked in and sat on the bed. Ginny looked up at her, her eyes filled with a kind of pain Molly hadn't seen since the summer after Harry had rescued her from the chamber.
Molly reached over and pulled her daughter into a hug. "Ginny, what's the matter, love? You can tell me."
"Mum, I'm so scared. What if he doesn't live through the battle? I'm afraid I'm going to lose him. I try to hide it from him, but at night, like this, I can't hold it back. I know we agreed to wait until I graduate, but by then he could be dead! I don't want to wait because if I do, I may never know what it would be like to love him, mum! I don't know what to do anymore."
There it was, out in the open at last. It was the same fear that had been gnawing at Molly ever since Christmas. She was afraid for Harry, and terrified for Ginny.
Molly looked at her daughter and saw the woman she was growing into. Her eyes misted over with tears, but she said softly, "You be strong for him, Ginny. He needs you and your love. His love for you is so powerful. He'll win Ginny. He'll win because he's fighting for you. But you need to follow your heart. While I'm not going to tell you to give yourself to him, I'm not going to forbid it either. Have faith in him. He'll survive the fight because of you. You give him the strength no one else can. I believe, in the end, he'll spend the rest of his life giving you his heart. I always felt you two were meant to be together."
Ginny looked up at her Mum and gave her a weak smile. "Thanks. I knew I could talk to you about this."
Molly kissed her on the forehead and brushed away her tears. "Of course you can, love. We're all afraid for him. But I refuse to believe he was born into this world to suffer so much only to be killed by that monster. He'll win and then you'll both give me lots of beautiful, green-eyed grandchildren to spoil."
Molly helped Ginny get under the blankets, and then brushed her hair back out of her eyes. For the first time since that terrible summer after the chamber, Molly sat on the bed, humming, until her daughter fell asleep.
Harry woke to a soft, barely audible, melodic sound. He sat up, put his glasses on, and looked around. Glancing out the window, he could see the moon as it slowly dropped behind a hill in the distance.
The moon suddenly flared brightly and Harry was elsewhere. And he wasn't in his phoenix form this time.
It was a chamber of some sort, but there were no visible doors or windows. In the center of the chamber, above a raised platform, floated an exquisite crystal, the likes of which he had never seen before.
Harry stared at the crystal. He could almost see its structure, its every flaw. As it floated there, slowly rotating, it flickered with a faint light. It was a strange light, almost dark in nature, and it made Harry uneasy. It seemed alien to the crystal, but also a part of it. The more he watched it, the more troubled he became.
Again the light flared. When it cleared, he was standing in a familiar place. He was near a small, thatched cottage. Nearby was a pond. Seeing the smoke still rising from the chimney, Harry smiled and decided to pay the old man another visit.
The door opened and a merry voice from within called to him. "Come in, my boy. I'm so pleased to see you again!"
Harry entered the simple room and sat at the table across from the old man.
"Hello Sir. I had hoped we'd meet again."
"Well Harry, I did tell you we would, didn't I?" Asked the jolly old fellow.
"Yes Sir, you did. May I ask who you are?"
"Names, names! Why people attach importance to such trivial matters is beyond me. Let me say this. I am but a guide, Harry. At this point of your life, I'm here to nudge you along in the right direction, as I have nudged others, for longer than I'd like to remember.
"What you saw before you came here is a little clue for you. If you get stuck, give it to your witches to ponder.
"You've done very well, Harry. Very well indeed! And I don't think you've realized it just yet, so let me be the one to break the news to you my boy. You, and you alone, engineered the collapse of your first vision!"
The old man laughed and slapped his knee with an infectious glee that even had Harry smiling. He was just so happy!
"Bet you hadn't figured that out yet, did you my boy?"
Harry was at a loss. It hadn't been him. It had been the DA who'd done it!
"No Harry, there would have been no DA without you. They wouldn't have been so loyal to the cause without you. It was all your effort. The DA had its role to play and still does, but it is your creation, your work."
Harry was stunned. Could the man read his mind too? Harry pondered his words carefully and, as he did, he felt a new sensation grow in him. It was a feeling alien to him.
He felt good about himself. Harry slowly sat up straighter. If I could make the first vision fail, then I can make the second one fail as well! He thought to himself. I can do this! I must! For Ginny and everyone else!
The old man leapt from his chair with an agility that gave lie to his apparent age and gave a shout. "By all the Gods, he's got it! I'm proud of you Harry. You will do well! You have more to do, but I'm sure you can do it, my boy. Just remember to trust in yourself and in the love of those around you. Your love for your Ginny, and hers for you, is your greatest strength."
The distant bells started to peal like last time, and the room started to brighten slowly.
"Wait! Will I ever see you again?" Harry cried.
The words came to him softly, as if from a great distance, "Perhaps Harry. The future, as you've learned, is malleable."
Harry could have sworn he heard a happy laughter at the end. When the light faded, he was back in his bed, still staring at the moon. He smiled and snuggled down under the blankets for a restful sleep.
The next morning…
Something was different. Molly, Ginny and Ron could see it immediately when Harry walked into the kitchen. He carried himself differently. The fire behind his eyes burned with a sparkling intensity. He smiled at them, wishing them all a good morning. The three watched him warily. This wasn't the normal, sleepy, just-gotten-up Harry.
Ginny eyed him suspiciously. "Harry," she said, gaining his attention. "I know you. Something's happened, hasn't it?"
"Really love? What could have possibly happened?"
She stood up and walked over to him. Narrowing her eyes, she glared at him. It was one of those Weasley women patented glares that said, 'You will do what I tell you to do!' And normally, it worked quite well on Harry.
It didn't work this time. He slid his hands under her arms, picked her up off the floor, spun her around and kissed her soundly before releasing her. She tried to stifle her laughter.
Ron was torn between laughing and making gagging sounds. Molly smiled, watching the two.
Ginny was surprised. Her glare had failed! Not only had it failed, but he had a counter for the glare! A counter-glare! It was unheard of! It wasn't allowed! Harry put his arm around her and guided her back to her seat.
Ginny sat down completely confused. Did Harry just pat my bum? She thought to herself. Sure, Ron and Mum wouldn't have seen it, but he did, didn't he?
Her wandering thoughts were reined in when Harry asked, "Gin, you remember that old man from my vision last year?"
She nodded, bewildered. What did this have to do with him patting her bum?
"Well let's just say that he and I had another chat last night. He told me a few things about myself that I had been trying to deny. What he told me was good Gin, things everyone's been telling me. Things I didn't want to believe. But for some strange reason, I couldn't disbelieve him," he said cheerily. Then he leaned closer to her and whispered in her ear, "I'm going to beat that monster Gin. You can count on it."
She jumped, startled. He'd patted her bum again! No mean trick, since she was still seated!
Her gaze locked with his and, in an instant, she could see the love he felt for her, like it was fueling the fire behind his eyes. His very soul was open before her.
They probably would have sat like that forever had Molly not broken their reverie.
"I don't know about this vision you speak of, but it seems to me that it's done you a world of good, Harry. I must say, you remind me of Bill or Charlie at this point. It's hard to put my finger on, but its good to see, dear."
Ginny spent the rest of the day in a slightly bemused state. She was used to what she called her 'Harrys'. The angry Harry, and the scared Harry, even the commanding Harry who led them all into battle. This Harry was new to her. She could see all the other Harrys were still there, he was still modest and unfailingly polite, but he seemed surer of himself now. And it showed in the way he walked, the way he carried himself and dealt with others.
Previously, Harry would do something in a muggle way and get all embarrassed about it. Now, he'd laugh it off and ask someone to show him how to do it. He was, in her opinion, still her Harry, only improved. He even seemed to be less embarrassed by public displays of affection. And that was a change she wholeheartedly approved of.
Headmaster's office, early July…
Albus Dumbledore gazed at his desk on this late June morning and sighed. He had a mountain of paperwork to plow through. The changes the Minister was ramming through the Wizengamot were coming fast and furious. She had years of mismanagement and petty policies to undo. Unfortunately for Albus, this translated into tedious paperwork.
He looked out the window and wondered what it would hurt if he were to slip off his shoes and socks and walk barefoot in the grass. Oh to be sure, Minerva would probably see it as another sign of his approaching senility, but it sounded so appealing!
He was startled out his wandering thoughts when the Sorting Hat burst into speech on its shelf.
Shaken, he quickly wrote down what the hat had said and called Minerva on the floo, asking her to bring the Snapes and Professor Flitwick to his office as soon as possible. The hat rarely spoke, except during the sorting ceremony, although it did speak to Harry Potter during his second year.
He had tried to engage the hat in conversation several times over the course of his tenure as Headmaster, but with no results. History had shown that, from time to time, it would speak to a Headmaster. But it hadn't spoken to Dumbledore until now. And what it had to say seemed most ominous.
After a short wait, the staff entered the office and took seats. The Snapes had recently returned from holiday, visiting Serena's sister in the States. Severus looked somewhat strained however, and Dumbledore couldn't decide if he had enjoyed his first real holiday in years or not.
"Ah.. so good of you all to join me today. It seems we have something of a mystery on our hands. A short while ago, the Sorting Hat spoke, unbidden. This is what it had to say."
He waved a slip of parchment in front of them before passing it to Professor McGonagall.
Minerva took the parchment and read:Hogwarts oh Hogwarts, the time is nigh,
War comes and fire will burn the sky.
The path is clear from four to one must be,
A united Hogwarts the world must see.
And the blade bearer
must lead the one,
Else the danger will not be undone.
In this our hour most dark.
She looked up, startled, and then passed the parchment to the other teachers.
Dumbledore waited until they had all read the Sorting Hat's message before continuing. "There isn't a lot that is known about the hat or it's making. Legend says Godric Gryffindor made it, shortly before he died, for the purposes of sorting the houses. Some contend that, since the hat has given warnings in the past when the school was threatened, it was much more than a mere sorting device. A few Headmasters have even called the Hat 'The Voice of Hogwarts'.
"What concerns me is that this sounds almost like prophecy. It's a puzzle that I think we all must ponder."
Minerva gasped and paled. "Oh Merlin, Albus. 'From four to one'? You don't think it means Mr. Potter and his friends? That three of them will die? Harry wouldn't survive the loss of his friends. Miss Weasley most of all."
Serena hitched in her breath at that thought and Severus frowned. They sat there for a moment before Dumbledore finally broke their morbid speculation.
"No Minerva, I do not believe the first stanza refers to Harry and his friends. The second stanza does speak clearly about Harry. But the first stanza is the big puzzle. I am unsure as to what it means."
Serena spoke up at that point. "Albus? How does the second stanza refer to Harry?"
Severus answered her question. "In his second year, Harry rescued Miss Weasley from an echo of Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets. Down in the Chamber, he killed Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk by summoning Godric Gryffindor's sword to him. During the battle, the Basilisk bit him. After killing it, he ripped out the fang that was embedded in his arm and used it to destroy the artifact that was bringing Voldemort back, and draining Miss Weasley of life in the process. The poison would have killed him had it not been for Fawkes, who healed him. The term 'Mark' is probably a reference to Harry as well, because of his scar."
"I never knew about that! Merlin has that child ever had a normal year in this school? And that explains part of Miss Weasley's fierce loyalty to him," Serena said, shaking her head.
"Yes, Harry is clearly the blade bearer. He is the only one I know that can wield that weapon, for it does not allow those it considers unworthy to touch it. Alas, even I cannot wield the sword. As to Miss Weasley's affections for Harry, I'm now convinced that they were destined for each other long before the chamber. But we're getting off topic. I think the first stanza refers to the school itself, but I am unsure just how. I would ask that you each take the time to research this. You would all approach it from different directions and perhaps, between us, we might come up with an answer to it."
Dumbledore paused reflectively before continuing. "You know, it is ironic. This is not the first time in my tenure as Headmaster that I have witnessed the hat speak unbidden. It spoke to Harry in his second year. He questioned it about why the hat had wanted to place him in Slytherin House."
Severus looked startled that at. "I never knew that! Why did the hat place him in Gryffindor then?"
Dumbledore twinkled at him before replying, "Because Harry asked not to be placed in Slytherin. It is no slight to you, Severus. He and Mister Malfoy had developed an instant dislike for each other on their first meeting in Diagon Alley, and he didn't want to be placed in the same house. In many ways, Harry exhibits qualities that would have placed him in any house. He's as brave as a Gryffindor, as loyal as a Hufflepuff, as smart as a Ravenclaw, and he proved last year he could be as sneaky and ruthless as any Slytherin, by building an army right under my nose. Harry would have done well in any of the houses except, perhaps, yours Severus, where he already had enemies waiting for him."
Severus nodded thoughtfully. Then, placing the parchment back on Dumbledore's desk, he duplicated it for the teachers.
"Unless there is something else to discuss, we have some research to do. Thank you all for coming," the Headmaster said, as the teachers rose to leave.
Snapes Quarters, minutes later…
When they entered the apartment, Serena hurried through the living room and went into the library. They had a puzzle to work on, and while she was sure they didn't have any books that would help, it never hurt to check. She'd found stranger things in some of the older volumes, after all.
Conjuring a pot of tea on the desk, she turned to ask Severus to pour, only to find he wasn't in the room with her. Grumbling under her breath, she stalked from the room to round up her wayward husband.
She found him in the living room, staring out a window. He turned as she entered and sent her an unreadable look. Pausing, she watched him walk to the couch and collapse on to a cushion.
"Severus," she called softly. When he didn't reply, she joined him on the couch, albeit with more dignity.
"What's wrong?" She asked, softly.
"Harry," he said simply.
"The prophesy? I know. It's a bit overwhelming, isn't it?"
"That's not what I meant," he said, shortly.
"Then what's bothering you?"
"Yes, yes, I get that. It's about Harry. Is it the Sorting Hat's little puzzle?"
After a moment of silence, she smacked him in the back of the head.
"Ouch! Serena, what the hell was that for?" He asked her angrily.
"It's easier than playing twenty questions with you, Severus! Either tell me what's bothering you, or I swear I'll smack you again," Serena exclaimed in annoyance.
"Harry, a Slytherin?" Severus said, puzzled.
When Serena simply gaped at him, he sighed in frustration. "Look, I know I'm a prat when it comes to my house, but I'm not sure how to…I mean, he can be sneaky sometimes but…would he…I just…"
"Severus! For Merlin's sake, would you concentrate?"
"What?" He asked with a scowl. "You asked what was wrong, didn't you?"
"Gods, you can be such a …never mind. Listen. We have a problem. Remember the Sorting Hat? We need to work on that. And you're sitting here worried about whether Harry would have made a good Slytherin? Where has your focus gone? Since we came back from vacation, you've been walking around in a daze. If this keeps up, we're not going on holiday next year!"
"If that means no more trips to your sisters, I'll be sure to restrain my disappointment," Severus muttered sarcastically under his breath.
Unfortunately, she heard him.
"Excuse me?" She asked, in a polite, if chilly tone. "What's wrong with my sister?"
"Nothing," he replied, innocently. When she reached up to smack him in the head again, he caught her hand and glared. "Serena, you have to admit that it wasn't exactly the most relaxing holiday."
"Of course it was," she replied, puzzled. "At least, I thought it was. You didn't enjoy it?"
"Would you enjoy an eight year old following you around, day in and day out, questioning and correcting you?" He asked her in annoyance. "I mean, honestly! Every time I turned around, that bloody child was there. She even burst in to ask questions while I showered!"
When Serena's lips twitched, he squeezed her hand. When she grinned, he growled at her. When the giggles finally started, he pushed her down on the couch and pinned her there with his body.
"And what," he asked silkily, "is so damn funny?
"You," she chortled. "Severus, you're a teacher. You deal with children every day during term. You know they ask a lot of questions. How else can they learn?"
"You've obviously never sat in on one of my classes," he muttered.
"Alright, I'll admit that Cari can be a bit…loquacious at times. But you have to admit, she's also very bright. We start a child's magical education at a much younger age than the Europeans do. We have to."
"Have to?" He asked.
She rolled her eyes at him. "Have you ever had to explain to a muggle neighbor why your daughter just levitated her playmate out of a pool? Magical children are taught earlier to avoid such things. We don't have a Muggle Relations Department like you Brits do, you know."
"No, actually I didn't know that," he said, a bit sheepish.
"If it isn't British, it isn't worth knowing, is it?" She baited him.
Refusing to take the bait, he kissed her. When he raised his head a few moments later, he grinned in satisfaction. Her dazed, dreamy expression was well worth the argument!
"So, about the Sorting Hat's little puzzle," Severus began.
"What?" Serena asked vaguely, staring at his lips.
"Never mind," he said, narrowing his eyes as she licked her lips. Lowering his head once more, he murmured, "It can wait."
The Burrow, mid July…
Harry padded silently down the corridor from the bathroom to his bedroom, a towel wrapped around his waist. He glanced out his window and smiled. The flowering vines that grew along this side of the house were in full bloom, and insects and birds buzzed from flower to flower.
It's rather relaxing, he thought. I must remember to make a sketch of that today after my chores are done.
Sitting on the bed before getting dressed he grabbed his salve and put a small dab over the scar. It was another blissfully quiet day in the Burrow.
Outside his window, a hummingbird hovered for a moment longer before taking a lazy course away from the Burrow.
Somewhere in England, Location unknown…
Voldemort was bored. He sat in his chamber, occasionally tormenting a servant, but he really had little to do at the moment. Wormtail was off on a mission for him and, for once, the little rat was sending back progress reports, which were positive in nature.
His attention was diverted when a servant scurried forward, feel to his knees and cringed before him.
"Well? Speak dog!" He snarled, his boredom turning instantly to anger.
"My Lord, Mr. Murphy has returned. He begs you to grant him an audience," the man whimpered.
"Send him in at once!"
Suddenly this day was looking up. He might have some fun after all!
Murphy entered his chamber carrying a small object in his hand. He stopped a few feet from Voldemort's chair and nodded his head in a gesture of respect.
"So Mr. Murphy, what have you found out for me?"
"T'was a difficult job, m'lord. We did not know Ministry Protective Services guarded the house, but we managed to sneak in anyway. We discovered that Mr. Potter has been applyin' a salve ta his scar every mornin' after he showers. 'Tis this salve which we feel is preventin' ya from reachin' him. We've also noted that Mr. Potter goes outta his way ta prevent his head from gettin wet, which suggests this salve is easily washed off."
"Most excellent Mr. Murphy! And would your spy be able to tell me when Potter goes in to take his shower?" Voldemort asked, with a greedy glee.
Murphy smiled evilly. "We have anticipated yer request m'lord." He handed Voldemort a small brass bell.
"When the bell rings, it will mean that Potter will be enterin' his shower. We suggest waitin' two or three minutes before ya begin, to allow him ta rinse the salve away."
"You have done exceedingly well Mr. Murphy, exceedingly well indeed! You will be well rewarded for this."
"We are here ta serve, m'lord." Murphy nodded his head at Voldemort and left the room.
Voldemort cackled evilly. Now he need only wait for the bell to ring.
Your mine Potter! I've got you now! He thought.
The figure in the window never even glanced out. He merely picked up a towel and left the room, never noticing the small humming bird as it darted to a particular flower and shook it vigorously.
Breakfast was nearly over and Harry was no where in sight. Molly frowned. "Ginny, be a dear and go see what's keeping Harry. I heard him wake up. He's going to miss breakfast if he doesn't hurry."
"Ok Mum. I'll light a fire under him."
Molly was serving a second helping to Ron and mentally preparing the dinner menu when she was interrupted by a scream.
Both Ron and Molly bolted upstairs. They spotted Ginny in the bathroom, struggling to pull a limp form out from under the still flowing shower. Molly turned the water off with her wand.
"Ronald, go floo Professor Dumbledore. We need Madam Pomfrey and Mrs. Snape, if they are available. If not, we need another healer. Step aside, Ginny. I'll levitate him to his bed."
Ron dashed back downstairs.
Molly moved Harry out of the bathroom and into his bedroom. Ginny pulled back the blankets long enough for him to be placed on the bed, before pulling up the sheet to cover his nakedness.
Harry was trembling violently. He had hit his head against the tub when he fell and was bleeding from a bad cut on the back of his head. His eyes were rolled up and his scar bled freely, pulsating an angry red.
Molly used her apron to dab away the blood from the scar, then she quickly applied some of Harry's salve to it. Almost immediately his tremors ceased, but he showed no other signs of rousing.
"No need to shout Molly. Poppy, Serena and I are here," Dumbledore said as he walked into the room. "Might I suggest that we leave the room, while Poppy and Serena see what they can do for Harry?"
They were sitting around the kitchen table twenty minutes later when Poppy and Serena entered. Molly twisted her apron in her hands and looked at the two of them fearfully. Ginny looked almost as frightened.
Poppy smiled at the both of them. "Relax, he'll be fine. He took a nasty bump to the head when he fell in the tub, and he'll have a headache today. Fortunately, there's no sign of concussion. He's sleeping right now, and probably will for another hour or so, but he'll be fine."
Molly leaned back in her chair, limply. "Thank Merlin for that!"
When Ginny sagged in her chair, Dumbledore gestured for Poppy and Serena to sit down.
"Molly tells me that he had another attack a few weeks back, although of much shorter duration. It seems to me that Voldemort may be aware of the salve, and must be probing Harry constantly to see when it's been washed off. There may be a charm that can keep the scar, and the area around it, dry. I will ask Filius to look into this. Perhaps even a modification to the bubblehead charm."
Once the Weasley women were assured that Harry would be fine, the group sat around the table, talking. Ginny asked Professor Snape to recommend a book or two for her to read, since she had no homework this summer.
When student and teacher began discussing various works, Dumbledore sat back, smiling. It was strange to find a studious Weasley. Not that any of them were unintelligent, far from it! The twins had an astounding intellect, when they chose to apply it. But it was rare to see a Weasley child voluntarily read a book. Although, Ginny's always been much different from her brothers, come to think on it, the Headmaster mused.
The creaking of the floorboards above them caused the conversation around the table to halt. Molly rushed out of the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with Harry. He looked paler than usual, but otherwise all right. He grinned at the group around the table, the intensity of the light behind his eyes and the sparkle in them very noticeable. He sat heavily in a chair next to Ginny, his hand automatically seeking hers, while Molly bustled around the kitchen, fixing Harry something to eat.
"How are you feeling, Harry?" Asked Dumbledore.
"I've felt better Sir. But frankly, if he doesn't stop this game playing, I'm going to personally hunt him down and give him a headache he won't forget."
Everyone at the table blinked at him in various degrees of disbelief. Harry had talked about fighting Voldemort before, but never so casually.
Dumbledore leaned forward and looked at Harry intently. Something had changed about him. He exuded a presence now that was clearly noticeable. He caught Harry's gaze, his eyes twinkling merrily. It took a moment for Dumbledore to realize that Harry's eyes were sparkling back at him. Matching him sparkle for twinkle.
Ginny started to giggle as Dumbledore twinkled and Harry sparkled at each other. It was enough to make them both break eye contact.
"I should have warned you Professor. He learned your trick a week or two ago," she said. "He used to have the most intense green eyes and I could stare into them forever. But now…" She sighed before continuing, "It's like looking into them and seeing a reflection of your soul," she said dreamily, eyes closed.
When no one said anything, Ginny opened her eyes. Madam Pomfrey and Professor Snape were grinning at her. Professor Dumbledore smiled benignly while Molly sniffed tearfully into her apron. Harry looked at her as if she'd gone bonkers.
Mentally reviewing what she'd just said, she blushed three shades of scarlet. "What I meant to say was….his eyes…they…well, it's different…see…"
Harry leaned over, kissed her forehead and quietly suggested she stop sputtering before she choked on her foot.
"Harry, something's obviously happened. Can you tell me what it was?" Dumbledore asked, as Ginny sent him a grateful look for changing the subject.
"Professor, do you remember that vision of the old man? He and I had another talk about two weeks back. He told me things I'd been denying to myself for a long time, and pointed out certain truths. I can show you the vision in a Pensieve sometime. He didn't have much information concerning our problem though. It was a personal chat. When I woke up, I could feel there had been another power increase, and my eyes were like this. Ginny likes them, so I'm not going to worry about it."
Serena seemed startled by Harry's gaze. "I see what you mean, Ginny. You better be prepared to fight them off with a stick, next term. Those eyes of his are going to drive every girl, from the first to the seventh years, crazy."
"She'll have a bigger stick Professor. I'm replacing her ring with an engagement ring on her next birthday. Unless she's changed her mind and hasn't told me," he said with a grin.
Ginny smacked him on his arm and grabbed him by an ear, pulling him down to eye level. "You're mine Potter, and don't you forget it!" She snarled at him, and then she smoothed his hair.
"Going for the other foot, love?" Harry asked her.
She wasn't sure what he was talking about until she heard Madam Pomfrey.
"Ferocious little thing, isn't she?" The medi-witch asked blandly.
"A bit violent too," Serena said, stifling a snicker. "That young man's ears are going to be a foot longer before school starts, if he isn't careful around her."
Ginny groaned as she felt a blush once again heat her cheeks. Gods, she really needed to pay attention! It's all Harry's fault! Ginny thought. With him around, is it any wonder I can't think?
Harry chuckled at her, then turned back to Professor Dumbledore. "Seriously Sir, the only piece of information that wasn't aimed at me personally in that vision involved a new crystal type I've never seen before. At the moment, I have no idea what it does."
Harry pulled out a sketchpad from his pocket and enlarged it. Flipping it over to a particular page, he handed the sketch to Dumbledore. The Headmaster gazed at the image thoughtfully. It was a crystal all right, and Harry had drawn it from multiple angles. The back of the page contained notes and his observations on it, along with some guesses as to its chemical makeup.
"It was one of the most beautiful crystals I've even seen Sir," Harry continued. "But it flickered oddly with a disturbing dark light. I don't think the light was natural to the stone, and it made me uneasy to look at it. The old man told me that if I got too stumped by it, I should turn the puzzle over 'my witches', which I presume to mean Ginny and Hermione. You can make a copy of that page if you want. Maybe you can dig something up on it as well."
Dumbledore made two copies of the sketch and passed the book over to Poppy, who wanted to see if Harry had followed her advice.
Harry looked somewhat ashamed as he watched Madam Pomfrey look through his book.
"I'm sorry Madam Pomfrey, I tried to follow your advice, but drawing images from… before… it wasn't helping me, it only made me feel worse. I found drawing images from now worked much better for me."
Serena smiled as she looked over Poppy's shoulder. Lots of drawings of Ginny, some of Ron and Hermione, the Burrow, school, Molly and Arthur, the twins and a large troll with a branding iron. Remus and Tonks. Even a picture of her and Severus and another of Poppy.
Poppy handed him the book saying, "That's alright Mr. Potter. The creative outlet helps you deal with your issues, even if you're not drawing them."
They sat and talked for a while longer before Dumbledore, Poppy and Serena left.
With her guests gone, Molly bustled around the kitchen, setting the dishes to washing and making a list of things needed from the garden. Once done, she called for Ginny a few times. When she didn't get a reply, she went in search for her daughter.
She didn't have to go far. Ginny sat in the living room, shooting her mum an apologetic look. Harry was stretched out on the couch asleep, his head in her lap. Molly smiled at Ginny, nodded and returned to the kitchen.
A bird in hand…
As the week progressed, things became tenser at the Burrow. Harry had suffered through several addition attacks that were both draining and depressing. After the last attack, Dumbledore made a careful survey around the Burrow and came to a decision. He had thought that Voldemort was just continually trying to attack him, but now he was certain there was a specific trigger for them.
Harry's health was being affected by the assaults. He had started to drop weight, and Molly was having trouble getting him to eat. Ginny was becoming frantic. Filius was working on a modification of the bubblehead charm and expected to have something for Harry in a week or so. But with each attack draining him so much, everyone was worried about what such a delay would do to the young man's spirit.
Less than a week before Harry's birthday, Dumbledore decided to do something about it. He'd had an idea a few days ago, but he needed help. So, he enlisted the assistance of Remus and Tonks and arrived at the Burrow very early one morning. Molly nearly shrieked when they all stepped out of the floo.
Motioning for her to be silent, Dumbledore explained in hushed tones that they were going to try something. The three crept silently outside and positioned themselves at a corner of the house, where they could watch Harry's window.
It wasn't long before Harry appeared near the window, a towel in hand. Dumbledore stepped around the corner with Remus and Tonks close behind. All three had their wands out.
Dumbledore raised his wand and intoned in a loud voice, "Aperio transtuli!"
There was a sudden shimmering near the window, and then a figure of a small man was falling to the ground.
"Stupefy!" Tonks yelled.
"Incarcerous!" growled Remus.
The falling man was hit by both spells as he struck the ground.
"Interesting," Dumbledore murmured as the three walked over to the bound, stunned man and turned him over. "Well that explains that. Patrick John O'Reilly. He's an animagus for an Irish criminal syndicate. Voldemort has used them in the past when his own people couldn't get the job done. Somehow, he was signaling to Voldemort whenever Harry went in to wash up."
Molly ran around the corner and skidded to a halt. She nearly screeched in fright when she spotted the man on the ground. There was a swish of an invisibility cloak hitting the ground as a Ministry Protective Service man appeared.
The man swore and asked, "Why didn't the wards warn us of this?"
"He obviously flew in, in his animagus form. The wards are designed to only detect the change within the their sphere of detection, not detect an animagus who's changed outside of the detection range before entering," Dumbledore replied.
Tonks snapped a pair of anti-apparation handcuffs on the still form, while the MPS man went to place a call for a pickup.
"Molly, I think Harry will be fine now. This man was telling Voldemort when to attack. Without him, Voldemort's back to the hit or miss approach."
Authors Notes: Please read and review.
In case you haven't noticed, we decided not to name this story Harry Potter and Bob for fear of Microsoft suing us for the use of MY name.