Chapter 40 – Baba O'Riley

"On the table, in front of you, is a wand. It is a tool that is used to focus one's magic when casting a spell. No doubt you have seen them used a number of times recently."

He nodded.

"Have you ever held one?" McGonagall asked.

"Once, Harry's friend, Hermione, gave me hers, and told me to wave it."

"Did anything happen?"

"A couple sparks came out of the end. Harry said I probably couldn't do any magic."

"Yet, it would seem that you did, indeed, to do magic a short time ago, and not just any magic, but a powerful spell. And you did so without the benefit of a wand. Do you have any explanation for how this might have happened?"

He shook his head. "I had to do something."

"And you specifically had this spell, a flame strike, in mind?" queried McGonagall.

"No; all I could think about was protecting Vela."

"Did you specifically think of fire or burning?"

"No."

"I would like you to take this wand this wand in your right hand, and try swishing it."

"Like I did before?"

"Yes, if you would, please, Mr. Dursley."

Dudley picked up the wand that McGonagall had placed on the table in front of him, and gave it an experimental wave. Bright colored sparks flew from the wand, which caused Dudley to immediately drop it and pulled his hand back, as if afraid of being burned.

"I take it this was somehow different your previous attempt." McGonagall observed dryly.

"I felt that." Dudley was staring at his hand in disbelief. "I felt that, and there were all those sparks."

"Yes, Mr. Dursley, you would indeed feel something, with a display like that, if one were a wizard."

"But… but… I can't do magic; they all said so."

"Though it is quite rare, it is possible for abilities to lie dormant and then awaken late. And this may have indeed happened in your case. After all, you and Harry have the same maternal grandparents."

"You mean I can do magic? Like Harry?"

"Harry has the benefit of several years of training, but in time, perhaps. If you elect to peruse this path, it will undoubtedly require a great deal of work."

"I would go to school here?"

"That would be my expectation."

0== ) =======

"What are you waiting for?" Harry demanded. "Open it."

"I wanted to wait for Remus and Perenelle." Sirius hesitated before continuing, "And it suddenly hit me as I waited for Wormtail to come back out, that what he described is not what happened when James left messages with me and maybe Remus and Peter. That was two or three weeks before they were killed, and what Peter described was something Lily did just before it happened. I remember very clearly that it was James who left the messages. Peter was very specific about this was left by Lily. In fact, he said she wanted to make sure James was not aware of it."

"Why would that matter?" pressed Harry. "It is still from my Mum."

"I just don't want any more surprises or you trying to do something rash,' replied Sirius.

"Would it not be better to first consider that the Dark Lord is in Atlanta, and so are Janie and Ginny?" asked Draco worriedly.

"That's why I sent for Perenelle and told Arthur that Albus and Nicholas need to return here at once," said Molly.

"Harry, you were warned by Merlin himself not to interfere; and that he was watching," Hermione reminded him. Seeing his reaction, she continued, "He did say that both were safe and he would send Praetor for you if you were needed."

"And this time, for once, I'm going to be there." Sirius declared.

Harry could not help a grin. "You were there the whole time in Atlanta."

"I seem to remember that worked out pretty well," said Chris as she and Lupin entered. "Perenelle wants you – all of you – to come to the church." Harry started to object but Chris continued, "I really think you should, boss."

"We can read this just as well there, Harry," Sirius said, and then turned toward Vela. "You stay close to me, kiddo."

"What about him?" Molly's wand was pointed again at Pettigrew.

"I think Peter will behave himself. He made it quite clear his foremost desire was to return to Hogwarts as we walked back to the manor," said Sirius. "Right, Peter?"

Pettigrew nodded quickly. He had kept as much distance as possible between himself and Molly.

"I'll make a Portkey," Hermione announced. She looked around the room for something suitable and took a cane from a stand near the door. "Portus."

A minute later they were all in the old church. The opening to the passage in the stone floor glowed with a soft blue light. Perenelle was sitting in one of the pews with her head down, Cassandra standing beside her.

"Grand-mère?" Harry asked, concerned. Perenelle looked exhausted.

Perenelle stood, though Cassandra remained close beside her. "Fear not, lapin. Though opening the vault was taxing, I am no worse off than you were after the last time you summoned the Dragon." She looked around the room. "There is much we must consider. I understand Sirius holds a missive from your parents, and there is also the matter of the vault." There was a flash of light and Pymander appeared. The phoenix appeared to be carrying a number of roughly circular lengths of wood, between six and seven feet long. The phoenix allowed the wood to clatter to the floor and flew to Perenelle and dropped two parchments into her outstretched hand. "And perhaps other matters as well," she added. "How shall we precede, Harry?"

"Should not Jamie and Ginny be our first concern?" Draco asked impatiently.

"Your concern is not misplaced, Draco, but I believe a geas lies upon Jamie, and that events must be allowed to continue to unfold. Thus far Praetor has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect Jamie and Merlin himself said they were safe. And what we learn here may also have a bearing on the decisions made," Perenelle replied.

"Then Sirius' letter," said Harry,

Perenelle nodded and Sirius broke the wax sealing the parchment. He unrolled it, and began to read it out loud.

"Dearest Sirius,

"I have tried repeatedly to reach you, but am now forced to use another and perhaps better way. For reasons that should become obvious, I elected not to leave the actual message with Peter, and neither you nor Remus could be found in time.

"As our time approaches, I have been permitted to see more and more of what lies ahead. The last few nights in particular I have been shown many things that will unfold. I wish there was some other way for James and myself, but any path where we attempt to avoid our fate ultimately leads to a cataclysm, not for just us, but for you, for our children, our friends, and for our all of kind. Right versus easy, as Albus Dumbledore might say, or perhaps the needs of the many as weighed against the needs of the few.

"This letter will find you and Remus at great odds with Peter."

"Sweet Fanny Adams!" Sirius stopped reading, looking at the letter in total disbelief.

"Sirius?" Harry asked.

"May I?" asked Cassandra, gently pulling the parchment from Sirius fingers.

"This letter will find you and Remus at great odds with Peter. Even though I now see how this will come to pass, I must ask that you and Remus set aside what will have happened and once more join forces and become a team. I can foresee that he will betray James and me, but I will not prevent James from making him our secret keeper. You will doubtless think I was wrong in allowing this to happen, but I know in my heart this is a choice between us and our children, and all of our kind. And in the end, our fate would be the same.

"Please remember it is only your united strength that will help Harry to do what he must, and for Jamie and Ginny to come into their own. Peter was a leaf swept along in the winds of a mighty storm millennia in the making, and he was unable to withstand the currents. But with your help and with Remus', he can become strong, as, indeed you all must be.\ There are powerful forces at work, Sirius, but redemption is still possible for Peter. I beg you both, help him find it.

"The event that will trigger Peter's memory is Petunia's son casting a powerful spell; though this part is not clear to me; he casts it to save a fox. For some reason I do know this will be important to you, Sirius. I do not understand how this will come about, but I know that somehow Dudley's care will have fallen to you like Harry and Jamie. I also ask that you do what you and Remus can to give him what help and guidance, as he also has a role to play.

"Sirius, tell Harry that two nights ago, as I sat before my chalice mirror, I saw Ginny and how it shall unfold that she will come into his life. For this, beloved friend, I thank you most of all, for she will made him whole. Oh, Harry, she is a magnificent girl! I find it easier to face what must unfold knowing that you shall find Ginny, who will love you as I have. Bless you, Ginny.

"And to Jamie, I now know that I did, indeed, ultimately prevail as to your name. Beloved daughter, you will finally heal the wounds that I tried and could not, and more; others that existed for centuries. How I wish I would be able to hold you. You will be stalwart in following your heart, but you must learn to let go and trust as well. Remain steadfast.

"I know some of what I am asking will not be easy for you, Sirius. Even after many years, I can see there will be much anger and guilt in you. You did not fail us, beloved friend; none of what happened was in any way your fault. Even though you knew exactly what to say to Harry, you will not liv by your own words. None of what unfolded is your fault. You must now move beyond it, and help make a world in which it is worth living.

"There is so much more I want to say, but my time is short and I must yet take steps to ensure this reaches you when it should. All of my love to you, Sirius, and Remus, and to you, too, Peter, I forgive you. And much love to Harry, Jamie, and Ginny, and to all who will care for them.

"Lily."

Harry turned abruptly and strode towards the door. Sirius started to follow but Cassandra placed a hand on his shoulder and said, "Wait, Sirius, give him time. All of you, give him some time," And turning toward Peter, who had withdrawn into the corner furthest from the group, "Fear not, Peter; a great gift has been offered to you. You could do worse than to accept it."

"Am I the fox?" Vela asked softly, reflectively, looking at Sirius. "My mum said I was named for a constellation, that the Black family had often used star names."

"Vulpecula is a constellation known as the fox; your mom named you after my great grandmother, whose name had been miscopied from a star chart. Your mum knew about that." Sirius replied, staring at the floor. Vela stepped closer and took his hand in hers.

"Lily saw truly," said Perenelle. "What incredible courage she had."

"Indeed," said Cassandra. "And how shall we go forward?"

"Nicholas and Brian heavily engaged at the moment, and ask that we continue to address matters here as long as we can." replied Perenelle. "I do not wish to proceed without Harry, but let us give him a moment more. Lily's words weighed heavily upon him."

"And on you, Sirius, and Remus, and you as well, Peter," said Cassandra. "How can we help?"

After a pause, Lupin answered. "I think we both need a little time."

"Yeah," muttered Sirius.

Several minutes passed. "I shall…" Perenelle began as Praetor appeared in a burst of flame. Seemingly ignoring those present, he proceeded to drop a number of objects including what appeared to be feathers beside the lengths of wood Pymander had brought some time before. He then perched beside Pymander on the back of one of the box pews. "I shall go to Harry."

"No, let me," said Sirius. Perenelle looked into his eyes for a moment and then nodded.

Sirius walked out into the fading twilight. He did not pause or look about, but went to around the left side of the church into the graveyard. A lone figure ahead of him was kneeling on the ground near a large marker. Sirius continued walking until he reached Harry, and placed one hand on his shoulder. After several minutes, Harry finally spoke. "She could have stopped it, Sirius. Damn it all, Sirius, she didn't just know, she could have stopped it."

Several more minutes passed before Sirius replied. "Would you have done any differently, Harry? How many times have you risked your life for us? When it was for me, you didn't just risk your life, but you scratched and clawed like hell for a chance to go and risk it. Perenelle showed me, Harry. I know that if Hermione's crazy idea hadn't worked, there would have been no stopping you from coming in after me. And I'm not the only one. We've talked a little about the life debt Draco owes Ginny, but how many of us owe you, and how many times over? I certainly do. Jamie, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Vela, Sissy, those people in Hogsmeade; the list goes on and on."

Harry still knelt, unmoving. "The only reason you were there was because you came to protect me."

"As I should have been; when James and Lily made me your guardian, it was because I asked them to. I wanted this. I've told you this before, I'm not here because I have to be; I'm here because I want to be."

Harry finally spike again. "How many more have to die, Sirius?"

"I don't have all the answers, kid. But I do know this, and it's a lot of people, including James and Lily have given a lot to get us where we are now. We owe it to them..."

"Yeah." Harry rose to one knee, and then stood. "We owe it to do more than just stand here; especially with Ginny and Jamie missing." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I'm sorry Mum, I'm sorry Dad. I'm sorry it took me so long to come here. I'll try to make you proud." He turned and started back toward the church. Sirius wrapped an air around his shoulders and walked with him.

Harry pulled the door open and they entered. Molly moved to stand next to him on the side opposite Sirius; Harry nodded briefly toward her so that she would see that he was okay, and then turned to Perenelle, all business. "What next?"

"As you saw, lapin, Pymander delivered two parchments to me. One was from Vivianne, my mother, the Lady. The only thing of import is she is now agreement that the paths must be reopened, and shall open the gateway from her side. The rest was of concern only to me; though from what we shared earlier, you might find it of note that she now feels the choices I made may not have been completely in error.

"The other was from Nimue. Praetor, as we have speculated, does indeed still do Merlin's bidding; and she confirmed a geas was placed upon Jamie to seek part of the means of opening the paths through the mists. Another portion we will find here, in the vault beneath the floor."

"What are those pieces of wood Pymander carried?" asked Hermione.

"They are branches from the rowan tree that grows in the center court in Avalon," replied Perenelle. Nimue only said that their purpose would be explained, but, Harry, while you were outside, Praetor dropped several items beside them. I do not think this is unrelated." She paused and then walked toward the opening in the floor. "I do not think we can all fit within the passage. Harry would you and Hermione accompany me? And you as well, Cassie?"

Perenelle lead the way into the passage. It was illuminated by the blue light that filled the entrance; rough-hewn stone steps lead down under the floor; there was a short hallway carved from rock ending in a more or less circular room. The only feature of the room was a stone pillar standing in the center of the room, holding what appeared to be a large, silver bowl. It was plain, other than a raised border which was marked by runes.

"This is the Mirror of Gwydion," Perenelle said softly. "Long ago, the mirror was housed in a stone tower in what is now Wales. That was where the entrance to the paths was anchored in the mortal realm. This would perhaps be best taken to Hogwarts."

"I remember reading this was only a myth; that no such thing ever existed," said Hermione. "Yet there it lies."

"Why is it called a mirror?" Harry asked. "It looks like a bowl to me."

"It is a scrying mirror or vessel; it is filled with water, and then used much like a crystal ball. This is known as hydromancy. Lily's message stated that she had used a chalice mirror, which would have been quite similar to this," Cassandra replied. "I have always found hydromancy to be superior to a crystal ball."

"And this is used to open the way to Avalon?" asked Hermione.

"Yes," Perenelle replied. "But to do so also required a sigil, and that is not here. I suspect that is to which Jamie is being drawn. Will you carry this, Hermione?"

Hermione picked up the ancient vessel reverently and the group followed Perenelle as she left the underground crypt. "Are there any things remaining, Harry, which you need to do in Godric's Hollow?" asked Perenelle.

"No, Grand-mère."

"Then I believe it would be most prudent if we return to Hogwarts. Ron and Draco, would you gather the Rowan wood and other items Praetor brought? Molly, would you, Sirius and Remus gather our things and close the manor?" Perenelle said, as she walked to the opening of the passage. She raised her hands over head, slowly lowering them in an arc until they reached her sides. The blue circle of light that had filled the portal faded. "And Chris would you and Cassandra remain here until the Aurars who were posted return? Should they inquire, we are still unable to pass the barrier."

Chris nodded and asked, "And then back to Hogwarts?"

"Indeed. Harry, I believe that Praetor will carry you and the other young folk back to Hogwarts, along with Mr. Pettigrew…"

"Let Peter go back to the manor with us," Lupin interrupted. "The three of us need to talk."

"Very well," Perenelle agreed. "Sirius, will you permit Vela to go with Harry's group? And Harry, may I depend that you will remain at Hogwarts until we rejoin you?"

"Yeah, it shouldn't take long, kiddo," said Sirius to a dubious looking Vela. Harry nodded resignedly.

"Then let us be off," Perenelle said. "But Sirius, may I have a word outside before you return to the manor?"

Sirius nodded as Ron, Hermione and Draco gathered the lengths of wood, feathers and other items as Perenelle and those returning to the manor stepped out of the church. Molly, wand in hand; Lupin, and Pettigrew continued on toward the manor; Sirius and Perenelle stood together and watched as their companions traveled up the hill. After flash of light shown through the windows, Perenelle said, "Earlier, we agreed that Peter would become my concern, but I fear Lily has changed that."

"Yeah; I… I really don't know what to think."

"Lily saw truly, Sirius. Consider: that sixteen years ago, she knew that Harry and Ginny – not yet born - would find each other and the role that you played in it. And that Jamie would heal the rift between you and Severus. If she knew those things then, how can you doubt the other things she wrote?"

"She even forgave that sodding, back scuttling bastard."

"Lily gave her life for Harry and Jamie, and for her friends, like you and Remus, and for all our people. Can you not honor that choice and give Harry, Ginny and Jamie something they may need? And live by your own true words?"

"Isn't prophecy perilous?" Sirius asked after several moments passed.

"So I have often said. Acting on an incomplete understanding of it is fraught with danger. My Nicholas once overheard a part of what Nimue told me concerning his successor, whom she called the parted one. That one of us – gifted, or perhaps cursed – with second sight would die most horribly and almost destroy his successor. Nicholas attempted to prevent this by trying to prevent Brian and Cassandra from continuing their relationship. His actions ended up fulfilling this prophecy.

"I was unaware at the time he had ever heard this. It was not until after she was returned to us that he finally told me why he had done what he did. Nicholas loves both of them as if they were our own; he had attempted to protect them both. If I only had known at the time," Perenelle sighed.

"But Nicholas only heard a small part of it; he does not see what we call the myriad ways, all of the possibilities that are, were, and can be. I think this was true of Lily. I believe that she, as both Cassandra and I have on occasion done, acted to ensure the best; or at perhaps the least bad path is taken. It is not something we do casually, but with great fear and trembling."

It was again several moments before Sirius spoke. "If it were only what happened to me, only Azkaban…"

"Mon vieux, Lily holds you blameless, you heard it from her own hand. Even if you cannot accept this, consider: Harry set aside not only his personal history with Draco, but strife between their two houses that goes back before the founding of Hogwarts, for Jamie's sake. And his trust – at first, grudgingly given – in Jamie, was repaid, many times over. Draco not only saved Hermione, upon whom Harry relies, but has offered to share all he knows with Brian."

"I didn't know that."

"It was the night of Harry's birthday. Draco chose that night, to do more than break ties with his father, but that he would fight with Jamie, on the side of the light. And all of this unfolded because Cassandra saw the possibility among the myriad paths, and gave Jamie the means to take it – by instructing her in the creation of a Portkey. This is how even a small act can have profound ripples through time." She waited till he looked at before continuing, "Would you now choose to do less than Harry?"

"There were days in Azkaban where the only thing that kept me going was the thought of Wormtail in Padfood's jaws."

"You said a short time ago, that you could set that aside," Perenelle observed.

Sirius eyes flashed. "He got James and Lily killed. And the hell he put Harry through."

"And?" Perenelle's eyes bored into him.

"Damn you! I was to be the secret keeper. I let Peter talk us into letting it be him, just like Voldemort wanted." Sirius glowered. "I should have been the one who died."

"Lily did, indeed, know of what she spoke." Perenelle looked at him thoughtfully. "Permit me to ask you, that if the positions were reversed, what James would now do?"

Sirius turned, facing the graveyard and stared into the distance. "He'd do whatever he had to for Harry if he had been mine."

"I have no doubt you would have arrived at this conclusion on your own, in time, mon vieux, but time is short and I am unsure that events now unfolding will carry us all to the same places. For now, permit me to return to Hogwarts."

0== ) =======

"What are these things, anyway?" asked Ron, staring at the objects they had carried, now lying on a table in the Transfiguration classroom. For some unknown reason Praetor had brought them back here; McGonagall and Dudley Dursley had been seated across from each other at one of the tables near the front of the room. McGonagall had at first seemed annoyed at the interruption, until Hermione had managed to explain Praetor had chosen their point of arrival. She had finally motioned for them to place what they carried on the table.

"The feathers, as you no doubt recognized, are Phoenix feathers." McGonagall peered carefully before continuing. "I believe the scales are from a leviathan. The thorn-like objects appear to be spikes from the tail of a manticore. The wooden rods are rowan wood, but there is a strange dweomer on them."

"We don't know what they are for, at least yet," Harry said, speaking quickly before any discussion could commence. "But for now, get ready to travel."

"Harry, you told Madame Flamel you'd wait," objected Hermione.

"I intend to. But if we do go, or Ginny or Jamie need help, I'm going to be prepared," replied Harry as Draco nodded in agreement.

"What do I need?" Vela asked, and then continued after a brief pause. "I wasn't with you before."

Harry exchanged glances with Hermione before replying. "You'd be better off staying here."

"My dad's not leaving me behind again," Vela said firmly. "That's why I went there with him. And he said where ever you were going, that he was going to be there."

"That was Sirius' intent, at least with regards to Godric's Hollow," said McGonagall.

Harry nodded then asked Vela, "Do you have a wand? Can you fly?"

"I have a wand, and I've flown a little, both on brooms and magic carpets," she replied. "I don't have a broom though."

"Then pack clothes, mostly for warm weather but pack some heavier things too. And a robe, try to be ready for anything." Hermione said.

"But it will still be up to Sirius," Harry added.

"Do you have a particular destination?" asked McGonagall.

"It looks like Atlanta," Harry said, and he and Draco explained what they knew of Ginny and Jamie's whereabouts, and their concern Voldemort was in the same location.

"A lot of our stuff is going to be at headquarters," said Ron.

Harry nodded. "Ugh, you're right. Do we know if anything happened there?"

"None of the wards appear to have been triggered," McGonagall replied, "Even so, I would exercise a great deal of caution."

Harry thought for a few moments. "Ron, will you, Hermione and Draco go and get what we need, and fast? Be careful; look through the flu before you go in, and get the heck out of there if you see anything that looks the least bit out of the ordinary. Stay together. Get the same sort of kit we took last time, and brooms all around, including you too, Hermione. Ron, see if you can borrow as many brooms as you can from your brothers, and grab my stuff. Hermione, I would also appreciate if you would get things for Ginny, Jamie and Vela. Make sure you get their spare wands. And Hermione, soon as you are back, would you look at the flak armor and transfigure a set for whoever doesn't have any, including Jamie. And then gather anything that you have here and meet back up at the top of the Gryffindor tower."

"What are you going to be doing, Harry?" Hermione asked pointedly.

"I need to something do here," he replied, staring at Praetor.

"I want one of us to stay with you," Hermione insisted. "If for no other reason, so the rest of us know if something happens."

"Right," Harry muttered sarcastically. "I won't go anywhere before you get back. Okay? Satisfied? Go get our kit. And hurry. Go!" He turned toward Praetor again as Hermione, shaking her head, led the other teens from the classroom.

"Harry," McGonagall said, "A word first?"

Dudley had started to follow Vela from the room, but McGonagall had asked him to remain as well. "Did Sirius make you aware that Mr. Dursley successfully cast a sizable flame strike?"

Harry nodded.

"I have since tested him with a wand. Perhaps it would be better to demonstrate." She held out the wand to Dudley. "Again, Mr. Dursley, if you please."

Dudley swished the wand. Though he flinched, this time he did not let go. "As you can see, the results are consistent with a wizard rather than what one would expect from a Squib or Dunsel, and quite different from what he reported from experimenting with Hermione's wand some time ago."

"What does it mean?" asked Harry, not wanting to waste time dealing with Dudley at that particular moment.

"It is not unknown for abilities to awaken late, though it is exceedingly rare. We shall investigate this further, of course, but it would seem that Mr. Dursley might indeed be a wizard."

"Reckon this means welcome to my world, Dee," said Harry wryly, quite willing to leave Dudley for McGonagall to investigate further.

"Thank you, Mr. Dursley," said McGonagall, nodding toward the door in dismissal. Dudley walked out the door; Harry glimpsed Vela apparently waiting for him. "You may also be aware that Perenelle had discussed with the possibility of your cousin staying here for the next school year, even before he exhibited any magical ability?"

"No, she's not said anything to me."

"Her concern was that as your blood relative, he would be at risk in any Muggle school, and the order lacks sufficient resources to offer any sort of protection. This may have been rendered moot; if Mr. Dursley is indeed a wizard and desires to be in the magical world, this is where he should be."

Harry nodded, deciding to leave the mention of Dudley's in his mother's message for Sirius or Perenelle to deal with, but McGonagall seemed to expect some sort of reply. "Whatever Sirius decides is okay with me."

"Thank you, Harry. You might consider if you want to leave these items here. While no one else should be using this room, manticore spikes are exceedingly rare."

"I will, professor. Thank you." Harry stood there as McGonagall left the room and then turned again to face Praetor, who had sat perched on a chair back the entire time watching. He held out his wrist as he had seen Perenelle do. "If you will come with me, I want to send a message." The regal bird peered at him for a moment, then trilled a single note and flapped its wings twice and landed on his wrist. Surprisingly, the bird seemed to weigh almost nothing; its talons lightly gripped his arm. There was a flash of flame, and Harry suddenly found himself in the study atop Gryffindor tower.

Praetor jumped from his wrist to sit upon a perch Harry hadn't noticed that stood to one side of the desk. Harry sat, took a roll of parchment and a quill, wrote out a message and placed it in Praetor's outstretched claw. "Please take this to Merlin." Praetor bowed and vanished in a plume of flame.

0== ) =======

"Thanks, Dobby," he said as he took two Firebolt cases from the little house elf. "There are some wooden rods, a silver bowl, feathers and other items on a table in the Transfiguration classroom. Would you bring those up, please?"

"Dobby will be fetching these at once for the noble Harry Potter."

Harry turned back to the two open backpacks in front of him. He reduced the two brooms and placed them inside the backpacks and closed them. He lifted one in each hand, and walked back into the sitting room from the master bedroom. Ron was there, apparently waiting for him. "Hermione is transfiguring the flak stuff, and Draco went to get his Nimbus; I was able to nick the twins brooms again, and Ginny's and my old ones."

"That's good; at least it's a better than what we had before."

"How are you feeling, mate? Really/"

Harry shook his head. "I'm trying not to."

"I'm worried about Ginny and Jamie, too. And I'm not sure how to take what your Mum wrote about Wormtail."

"I can't even think about that yet. Sirius and Remus will have to deal with him; if I stop to think about what she said, all I can heart is that she knew… and let it happen anyway. She knew what was coming and she still gave her life for me and Jamie and all of us. The only way I can keep going now is to stay too busy to think and make sure what they did matters."

"Harry," Ron said gently, "Remember your Mum also knew about you and Ginny; about how got your life together, and about how you finally found what had been there all along. She knew that you'd have a family, and not just Ginny, but six brothers and two sisters; a godfather and close friends who would stand by you no matter what - to the gallows foot – and after. Your Mum got to see that, Harry. Focus on that."

"Yeah." A ghost of a smile passed across Harry's face. "But I don't intend to just sit here and be Merlin's mushroom. Have you seen Vela do any magic?"

"I've only seen her to pretty simple stuff; makeup and that sort of thing."

"If Sirius is going to be bringing her, I'd like some idea of what she can do. Would you mind trying to find her and see? Maybe use the Room of Requirement?

"Why don't we both go?"

"I'm hoping Praetor will be bringing me reply."

"A reply?"

"I sent a message."

Ron raised an eyebrow. "He's a phoenix. He'll find you. Besides Hermione will hex me into next week if I leave you here alone again. She wasn't very happy about all of us going to get our stuff you know. Cone on."

Harry gave Ron a wry smile, set the packs on the sofa and followed him towards the suite door. Before they could exit, Perenelle opened the door and stood facing the two teens. "Lapin, what are you planning? Hermione has become quite concerned."

"I'm getting us ready to travel. Ron, Hermione and Draco already gathered the sorts of things we carried to Atlanta before. One way or another, I'm not going to sit here waiting while we don't know what's happening to Ginny and Jamie. We're packed," he nodded toward the backpacks he had left on the sofa and on Ron's sitting nearby on the floor. "And Vela said that Sirius would be bringing her. If that's true, I have no idea what sort of skill she has, so we going to try to get a feel for what she can do."

Perenelle looked closely at Harry. "One way or another, lapin?"

"It's up to Merlin," Harry said defiantly.

"How so, Harry?" asked Perenelle.

"I owled… um, sent him a message via Praetor. I said if he would undo whatever it is that blocks Ginny and I from communicating, I would wait until – or if – he sent for me, as long as they were okay. Otherwise, I was going to Atlanta or wherever else I had to and would find them. That Voldemort was there and seeking the same thing as Jamie."

"Many of the stories I have heard told of Merlin suggest defying or challenging him is unwise; however, in my admittedly brief encounter I found him to be both a gentle spirit and a fierce protector, not only of our people but all living things. I would ask you share his response before moving forward."

"I will Grand-mère."

"For now, continue as you planned, I will likewise prepare, and direct the others to do so as well as they return."

0== ) =======

"Do you know the ictus curse?" Ron asked. They had found Vela the staff quarters; they had gone to the Room of Requirement as Ron had suggested, and he and Vela had squared off as Harry watched.

"Yes," she replied.

"Okay, cast it at me."

"Ictus." A jet of blue light streaked toward Ron. His shield, raised at the last second, blocked it.

"Not bad. Can you put more power behind it?"

She nodded. "I didn't want to hurt you."

"That's okay," Ron grinned. "Give it all you've got. Mess me up if you can."

Another jet of blue streaked toward Ron. He again raised a shield and blocked the curse. "Pretty good, you made me work that time. Now, let me throw the same curse toward you. Pick your best shield and block."

This time the blue light streaked toward Vela. Her shield easily held against Ron's weak cast. "Okay, now, I'm going to put a bit more power behind my attack. Block again," Ron directed.

They did this a few more times until Ron broke through her shield. As Vela was forced back, there was a scream of, "NOOOOO!" and Dudley rushed though door, a wand in his hand. As he skidded to a stop, he swished the wand toward Ron and a jet of flame erupted from the tip. Ron raised a shield as Harry leapt forward so that he was near Vela and raised his as well. Harry's shield held while Ron's almost did, and then buckled as the flames faded.

"What the bloody effing hell was that, Dursley? You could have effing killed someone!" Ron yelled, his hair and eyebrows singed and his clothing soaked from the jet of water Harry had directed towards him. His mood was not improved by Hermione and Draco laughing as they had followed Dudley into the room. "What bloody muppet gave this effing berk a wand?"

"Sorry! I'm sorry! I thought… um, that…"

"You thought?" Ron spat as Harry joined the laughter and Vela went to stand beside Dudley. "You thought WHAT? If Sirius is actually going to take Vela where something could go down we need some idea what she can do, or if she can defend herself."

"The wand came from McGonagall," said Harry, still chuckling. "She was testing him when we came back."

"That was certainly some flame strike," Hermione commented as she walked toward Ron and cast a drying spell. "I wouldn't have thought that possible from the time he swished my wand."

"That's changed, too," Harry said as Dudley nodded. "I'm not sure how, but Sirius and McGonagall can sort that out. Dee, you need to look carefully before you fire that thing off again. I doubt you'll need it inside the castle. Are you lot packed?" All but Dudley nodded. "Then let's head back to the tower. Madame Flamel was to meet us back there."

0== ) =======

"I'm going to have to spend most of today downtown; I've got several meetings and am going to have to get enough stuff from my office to work from here for the next three weeks. That part of Atlanta will be impossible get to by car during the games," said Joe the next morning. Ginny and Jamie had both woken early, no doubt from having come from a time zone five hours ahead of Atlanta time. They had mostly enjoyed a large breakfast, though Ginny was not quite sure what to make of a peculiar dish called 'grits'. "There's bread and sandwich stuff in the fridge; you can read or watch TV."

"We weren't exactly prepared for this," Ginny said. "I'd like to try and find a shop and find a change of clothes if that thing is a couple of days away. These still smell like smoke."

"That should be pretty easy." Jamie grinned. "It'll be fun to actually go in a store here rather than digging around behind it."

Joe smiled. "You two sound exactly like ordinary teenaged girls.'

"We are," Ginny replied, also smiling.

"If we're all going to be out, I'll leave a note on the door in case any of your friends arrive. Do you need any money?"

Jamie dug into her pocket, brought out a slim wallet, and pulled out a black Barclaycard. "We both have plastic."

"I'll say," Joe laughed, "You two are loaded for bear."

"He means these are pretty good cards," Jamie whispered to Ginny.

"I was going to suggest that if you wanted to go out this morning, you might want to walk over to Ansley Mall, but maybe Lenox would be better instead. I could call a taxi for you," said Joe.

"Lenox – that was where the fireworks were the night we finally found you; I remember the cab driver saying that was where we should go," Ginny said.

"It's a huge mall," Joe said, "They have a big fireworks display every Fourth of July."

"I can get us there," said Jamie.

"That'd be a very long walk," Joe pointed out.

"We wouldn't be walking."

Joe raised an eyebrow. "Okay, I don't pretend to understand what you can do, just be safe and don't do anything that might get you noticed."

"I don't know if there are rules or laws here about underage Apparition here," said Ginny. "Maybe we'd better not risk it."

"We can take a taxi, then," conceded Jamie. "Buying clothes shouldn't draw any attention."

Half an hour later the two girls were in the back of a taxi heading toward a mall. Ginny, seated on the passenger side, suddenly gasped and pointed. Jamie slid across the seat and looked where she was pointing. Ginny was staring at a digital sign that alternated between the time and temperature, and the date. Jamie took a sharp intake of breath when the date flashed again: July 17.

"That can't be right," Ginny whispered. "It's August, it's only about a week until my birthday."

"Sign's probably just screwed up. It happens. Hey, when is your birthday?"

"It's the 11th."

"Cool. Going to be another big party?"

Ginny laughed. "I hope not; as much fun as that was I'm not sure I'm up for another one quiet yet. I'd rather just have a quiet day at home with Harry and everyone." Her expression became wistful. "I just hope we're back home by then."

"Yeah, me too, though I'm kinda looking forward to this. I was chased out of this place a couple times."

"Chased out? Why?"

"Well, there's a food court there, and a lot of people would leave stuff on the tables; it was pretty good pickings. But doing that sort of thing doesn't go over real well if they see you doing it. My clothes didn't help either."

"Will be we okay like this?"

"We'll be fine; we'll fit right in with other kids. You never saw me like I was when Joe found me. If anyone even notices the smoke, the worst they'll think is we were smoking a little weed."

"Weed?"

"Marijuana; it's a drug, kinda like alcohol, but you smoke it. It's something you want to stay away from; I've seen people really get messed up on it."

Ginny nodded. "I've never really been shopping in the Muggle part of London. What else should I know?"

They arrived at the front of the Mall a few minutes later. Jamie explained how the cards they carried worked, and had Ginny pay the cab fare. The cabbie seemed amused at Ginny's obvious nervousness and asked, grinning, "Is this the first time you've 'borrowed' your mom's card, hun?"

"I've just never used one before."

The cabbie laughed. "What I thought. Go spend your allowance."

They spent several minutes just wandering from window to window, and then Ginny spotted a display of t-shirts in the window of a store called The Gap. Jamie suggested they have something better than jeans and tees for the Olympic event, so they picked identical skirts and tops. "Everyone says we look like twins, so we might as well look the part," Jamie said with a grin. "We'll look phat in these."

"Fat?" Ginny looked puzzled. "I don't understand."

"No, phat, P-H-A-T; it means pretty hot and tempting."

Ginny selected several pairs of jeans, "I don't think I've ever seen stitching like this on the pockets," a couple rugby shirts, a number t-shirts; and a pair of wedge-heeled sandals, "I've never seen sandals with heels like this before." Jamie followed her example, and after an hour they found each of them carrying a number of shopping bags. They ducked into a rest room where Ginny reduced their purchases so they fit easily into a single bag, and then they continued on through the mall. Jamie suggested a gift for Joe; they finally selected a huge basket of chocolates and other treats from Neiman-Marcus.

Three hours after they started found them at the food court in the back of the mall, enjoying burgers, fries and ice cream. Jamie pointed to a theatre marque across the cluster of tables from where they sat, "Hey, that's the movie Joe took me to before, Independence Day. Let's go, it's really good."

"Hadn't we better be getting back?"

"Joe said he'd be gone all day and it's only lunch time. Com'on, you'll enjoy it."

"Well, okay, Sirius likes Muggle movies too; so why not."

Ginny had expected something not unlike the movies they had watched on the VCR and TV in the underground bunker, but like Jamie found the immersion in the story offered by the big screen and darkened theater to be enthralling. As they walked out, Ginny commented, "That was really something." She paused. "Are there really creatures like that?"

"No, not really, at least as far as anyone knows, it's just a good story. Glad we came?"

"Yeah; when we get home we're taking Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco to this; I can't believe this isn't more widely known and popular in our world." She pointed to a poster for Phenomenon, "It's only a little after three; can we see that, too?"

"Sure," Jamie replied, laughing. "I thought you were worried about getting back to Joe's."

"Maybe we should, but I think we're really waiting till Friday and that opening ceremony. Joe said the papers that girl brought said that he was on the guest list; whatever it is we're supposed to do seems to be part of that."

"Yeah; I'd be happier if you could reach Harry, but my communicator was in my pocket. I think that is part of it, too."

"So why not see another?"

"I already agreed. But this time let's get some popcorn."

Another two engaging hours passed. As they left, Ginny again examined the posters lining the walls of current and coming attractions. Pointing to a poster for The Frightners, she gasped, "That says it starts July 19th; could that sign we saw earlier be right?"

"I don't see how, probably just an old poster," Jamie said. "Wait a sec," she said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out the receipts from her earlier purchases. Scanning them, she said, slowly, "What the hell, these all say July 17th too. How could that be?"

Ginny shrugged. "Somehow we've come back in time."

"But how?"

"I don't know. Time travel is possible; there's a thing called a time turner that will take you backwards a few hours. But this far back, I just don't know. All I can think of is Praetor must have somehow done this. I don't know what we can do about it – or if we should even try."

"Head back to Joe's?" asked Jamie.

"Yeah; maybe we can come back tomorrow…" Ginny began as Jamie jumped two velvet ropes marking off ticket lines for the theater and toward some sort of commotion on the other side of the food court. Ginny followed, though she walked around the barriers instead of jumping them.

"Hey, stop it!" Jamie yelled at two men dressed like police – Jamie had called them rent-a-cops - wrestling with a struggling teenaged girl. Her clothing appeared to be of good quality but had dark stains; her light blond hair was tangled. "She's with me, leave her alone!"

The girl stopped struggling as she looked at Jamie. "Cat?"

"Here with you?" one of the guards challenged. "I don't think so. She was scavenging tables and looks like she just crawled out from under the lube rack at some filling station."

"Amber, if you wanted something, why didn't you just say so?" Jamie she pulled her card from her wallet as Ginny joined them. "Let's get a burger." She turned to the guard still holding the girl by the arm. "You'd better let her go. Do you know who my father is?"

The black credit card was not lost on the guards. "Fine, fine, have it your way, Missy, she's with you. But her in here again scavenging we won't show her to the door; next time we'll arrest her." The two security guards walked away, grumbling.

"Thanks, Cat," said the girl, who Ginny assumed was named Amber. "Like, what happened to you? And who's that with you?"

"I'm Ginny."

"I found my family," Jamie said. "Or actually, they found me, and it's been really good. My name's really Jamie and I meant what I said." She waved her arm toward the food court. "Pick anything you want."

"Wow, okay," she said, walking toward one of the counters. She looked and Ginny and said, "Hi. I'm Amber. Are you guys, like, sisters or something"

"No, but we're family," Ginny said. "But a lot of people say we look like sisters."

"Like, you're from England?" She stopped to face Ginny.

"Yes."

Amber looked at her with wary interest. "So is my stepfather. It was bad enough when he was dating Mom and would come here for a couple days for meetings and stuff, but when they got married and he moved in, he started hitting on me and I split." She shuddered. "He was a major league asshole."

"That's horrid. How long have you been on your own?" Ginny asked sympathetically.

"I dunno, not long, like three or four weeks," Amber replied.

"We hung out together at Little Five Points," Jamie said. "It's a place where a lot of kids hang out; we camped out there until the cops ran everyone out. That was when I got that cut on my leg."

"It's sucked since then. Remember that TV reporter that came around? She did a story about all those poor, helpless run-aways; that's why the cops came, and why that area is now crawling with cops, do-gooders, and creeps trying to score. That's why I came this far north; that and because it was on the rail line."

"Com'on, let's get some food," insisted Jamie.

Amber wolfed down two burgers, fries, a giant pretzel, and a waffle cone. Afterwards, Jamie led them to a rest room where she insisted Amber wash up the best she could. Amber started trying to brush out her hair with Jamie's brush. Ginny saw she was becoming frustrated and offered, "Here, let me help." Ginny took the brush, and standing behind her, slipped her wand from her pocket, whispered something and flicked it as she brushed. A moment or two later she announced, "I think that's got the worst of it."

"Yeah like, that's the best it has in a while. Thanks, Ginny. You're amazing."

"She is," Jamie agreed. "When they found me, she and another friend made me over. I looked halfway civilized for the first time in years."

"I didn't do much," Ginny protested, "You have such nice hair."

"You don't know just how different it can make you feel," said Jamie. "That's why going to get you something to wear next."

"Are you turning into a do-gooder?" Amber asked.

"No, but you shared what you had with me. It's my turn now."

Jamie led them back to The Gap, where Amber ended up with three bags of cloths and other items. Jamie persuaded Amber to change in the dressing room and wear one of the new outfits. After paying for the items, Jamie turned to Amber. "Now, I'd like you to come with us. There'll be a guy there who I think can help."

"I'm not going back home," Amber said flatly. "No way, no how; I should have left the first time he came for a few days, but I kept hoping Mom would like, wise up and dump him. But she didn't, even when she found out he was still married while he was dating her."

"The guy I'm talking about helped me," Jamie said.

"Yeah, and put you back with your family. I'm glad that worked for you, but it that's not going to work for me. He gives me the creeps, and some of the people who've come to see him are worse."

"The guy I'm telling you about could have turned me over to the cops, but didn't. I was burning up and passed out from an infection I got from a cut when we ran from the cops; he took care of that and even got me glasses. He runs a mission downtown. He's cool," Jamie insisted.

"I still don't know…" Amber began.

"Can it hurt just to talk to him? Com'on, come with us; let's get a cab."

0== ) =======

Back atop Gryffindor tower, Harry and the other teens, including Dudley who had followed them from the Room of Requirement, found Perenelle and Cassandra waiting for them. "Lapin, the others have returned. I suggested that they prepare themselves to for travel, which Cassandra and I have done. It was Sirius' intent that they should do likewise, then he and Remus would continue their conversation with Peter in the Gryffindor common room. He also intends to speak with you soon."

"Has Praetor returned," asked Harry.

"Not as of yet," replied Perenelle.

"Then peril be damned," Harry said as his look faded from thoughtful to defiant. "Can either of you tell me anything."

"No," said Cassandra, "I cannot. All I can see is a discontinuity among the paths. I do not understand it."

"Nor I," Perenelle said. "The only insight I can offer is there are similar anomalies surrounding your bonding. These are beyond my knowledge and experience."

"Then I am going to back to Atlanta," Harry said. "If nothing else, I can try and make sure Voldemort is too busy with me to go after Ginny or Jamie."

Perenelle looked troubled. "Harry, will you not first take council with Brian and Nicholas? If you desire, I will ask they put aside the ministry and come here at once."

Harry's reply was lost as Praetor appeared in a burst of flame in front of him, his claw holding a parchment. After a second, he reached out and took the parchment, walked to a table and unrolled it. He motioned for Perenelle and Cassandra; they came to stand by him, one on each side; Hermione read over his shoulder.

"Young champion,

"I have yet to have full meet of the tongue as is now spoke, but I would rede that thou shalt not assayt to kaire unto thy bond-mate and sibling. Thou cannot reach thy bond-mate as despite thy courage as she is apart from thee not by leagues, but in time. Thou doth not yet understand the nature of time enow to wit how to touch her over that gulf, nor doth thy companions. Fear not; be siker thy enemy is not with them. I shalt watch and keep them. If thou art needed, Praetor shall bear thee and thy companions to them.

"I have a task for thee. Take thou the rowan staves, feathers, scales, and spikes to Ollivander and make him graithe as I have caused to be written here. The wands thou hast cannot withstand the sad power needed. Be swithe.

"Merlin magum Camelot

An incomprehensible diagram was below the signature.

0== ) =======

"You girls have …" Joe began, then laughed before continuing, "I could have sworn there were just two of you this morning."

"This is Amber," said Jaime. "Before, er, I crashed in your door, we hung out together. She's like I was. I thought you could help her.""

"Welcome, Amber," Joe said. He looked at her closely. "I've seem your picture. There was a flyer in the mail about a week ago about you, and there was a lady who came to the soup kitchen asking about you. Somebody's looking pretty hard for you."

Amber started backing toward the door. "I'm not going home, not now, not ever again."

"Okay, no one here has seen hide or hair of you, then. You're safe here. Please, come back and sit down. All of you sit. Will you tell me why you feel that way? And how can I help?"

Jamie spoke first, "When I first came here, I told you I was good for a fair trade. You said to give someone else a hand up when I could. I owed Amber; I met up with her a day or two after she left home. I'd not had much for a couple days before that finding food. She had some fruit and candy bars she brought from home. She shared that with me."

"Like, Cat got me out of a bind today with the mall security, and then she and Ginny got me food and clothes," said Amber.

"And I don't know what you can do, but you were ready to take me some place that would be safe," Jamie said. "Do that for her. If it's a matter of money, I'll get it."

"It's not a matter of money, Jamie, but Amber, I need to understand why you feel like you can't go home. How old are you for starters?"

"I'm sixteen," Amber replied.

"And what happened that you left and don't want to go back?"

"I was like maybe two years or so ago my mom started dating this jerk she met at some conference. He was always so sweet and considerate of her but he hated me. He'd always be yelling at me, or making nasty remarks. Any time he was there I just stayed in my room, which seemed to suit him just fine. I kept hoping my Mom would wise up and dump him; particularly after she found out he had a wife and kid back in England. But when she confronted him about it, he told her he'd been in the process of getting a divorce for some time; that his wife was involved in some sort of satanic cult and he wanted no part of it.

"They flew to Vegas and got married not long after that; he moved in, and my life became hell. In the first week I was grounded till I graduated; I wasn't allowed out of my room unless it was to do chores. When school started, he made it clear that there would be no activities, no sports, unless I started acting grateful. He started hitting on me; he made it clear any privileges would be based on my giving him what he wanted.

"He didn't care about me; I was nothing but a toy to him. He said he wasn't going to make the same mistakes with me as he had before, whatever that meant. I don't think he cared about Mom; I think it was all about the stocks my father left her when he was killed in a wreck. I don't think he cared about anyone except himself, and maybe some kid back in England. It wasn't even his son, but some kid whose parents had died and he was responsible for, and he was going to bring here. Apparently there was big money involved with that too; I heard him talking about it with some creepy woman that came one night."

Ginny's blood suddenly ran cold. "Amber, what was his name?"

"Vernon Dursley."