Disclaimer: Do I look like J.K. Rowling? (The answer is, "No, you look like a computer screen who just told a very lame joke.") I do have some spoilers from her sixth book in this story though, so if you haven't read it, turn off your computer and all other appliances which might distract you until you've done so.
A/N: All right... Not surprisingly, HBP left some extremely glaring loose-ends of the type that I would much rather not wait two years to see resolved. So I have determined instead to write my own version of Harry's seventh year so as to achieve some early resolution and hopefully entertain some of my fellow Harry Potter fans (None of whom, of course, are actually obsessed with the series. Of course not.) So, anyone who's got me on their author alerts list because they want to see when my next parody comes out, this is most definitely not it, although I quite hope it will be worth the read anyway, and I do hope there will be some funny parts in it. So, without further ado, I introduce this relatively long first chapter of what now appears will be a 30 chapter story, although this is, as of yet, the only chapter which has technically been written.
Return to the Dursleys
The ride back to London on the Hogwarts Express started out quite awkwardly, which Harry was doubly annoyed about considering that he wasn't even sure there was any point in him taking the journey back to Platform 9 & 3/4. He had sent a letter by owl post to Uncle Vernon on the previous evening, but was not quite sure whether the letter would arrive at the Dursley's house in time for him to know Harry was coming, whether Vernon would open the letter when it arrived even if he did get it in time (considering how opposed he had always been to the very concept of owls that carried mail), or whether Vernon would condescend to come to the station on short notice even if he did find out that he was supposed to.
Admittedly, Harry realized that it wasn't completely reasonable to expect Uncle Vernon to drop whatever plans he might have for that day (it was a Thursday, so Vernon probably had to work) to come and pick him up, especially considering that it was common knowledge how little Harry was wanted in that house in the first place. But as bad terms as Harry was on with the Ministry of Magic at the moment, he still did not consider it to be wise to break their laws if he could help it, so rather than simply apparating to the Dursleys', he would take the train back to see if his uncle was waiting for him in London. He was quite sure that he would be able to apparate there if he needed to, even though he had not yet passed his apparition test, because he had apparated, carrying Dumbledore side-along, under quite a lot more pressure only days before.
But Harry had pushed that thought out of his mind as soon as it came, considering that the thought of Dumbledore's death still caused him a good deal of sadness. And quite apart from the sadness was the feeling of apprehension that thinking of Dumbledore's death was starting to bring along with it as well. The thought that a wizard as powerful as Dumbledore could be killed brought home the feeling of how vulnerable every person was to death.
Worse, Harry remembered that Dumbledore had not faced death cheerfully at all. He had actually pleaded with his murderer, Snape. It was a thought that Harry was having quite a hard time pushing out of his mind. Harry had put a great deal of thought into the way Dumbledore had pleaded when he saw Snape, when he must have been realizing that he was about to pay for the gravest error he had committed in his long life: trusting Snape, the Slytherin, the Potions' Master, the Half-Blood, the killer. The previous night, when Harry had been lying awake, thinking about Dumbledore's approaching funeral, he was puzzling over the way that Dumbledore had faced death. Dumbledore, who had once told Harry that death could be regarded as simply the next adventure, had been unwilling to face his own death. After much thought, Harry had decided that the reason Dumbledore had been so unwilling to die was not for his own sake, but for the safety of those around him. Level-headed and modest as Dumbledore usually was (even his occasional mentionings of his own intellect, which might seem at first glance to be cases of bragging, were actually quite understated in the final analysis), he undoubtedly realized how important he was to the continued existence of the Order of the Phoenix, Hogwarts, and the Wizarding World as he hoped it to remain.
And indeed, that was exactly what made Harry most nervous about Dumbledore's death. How would the Order carry on in hte absence of Dumbledore? Would they be able to keep their heads about them? Would the war start to go even worse than it had before Dumbledore's death? Would they scatter in the absence of a leader?
But those questions will be answered later in the course of this narrative, which has incidentally strayed quite far away from the description of the awkward nature of the beginning of the train-ride which had been mentioned at its outset. So, for the moment, the topic shall return to explaining just exactly why Harry felt so awkward. The reason was that as he, Hermione, and Ron found a compartment (Ron and Hermione had been excused from their prefect duty of patrolling the corridor because several teachers had ridden the train back, for security purposes, and they were patrolling the corridor in the prefects' stead), the one they walked into was occupied by Ginny Weasley. And after having informed Ginny only earlier that day that they would no longer be able to have a relationship, he did not want to be in the same room with her, lest she try to convince him to back down on his pronouncement, which he was quite sure was the only way to keep her safe.
It was quite bad enough that Ron and Hermione seemed to be so insistent about staying at his side through what promised to be his most difficult and dangerous adventure yet, he was not going to allow Ginny to risk her neck any more than was necessary. As he stood there, frozen for a moment of the threshold, he frowned as he reflected upon his choice of the words "allow Ginny." It seemed quite odd to Harry that he presumed to be in a position to "allow" Ginny to do anything. In fact, he was quite surprised that there hadn't been more of an argument about his choice to stop seeing her. But, she had listed, hadn't she? It seemed that Ginny understood what Harry needed from her, and was therefore willing to stand aside.
This willingness further manifested itself in what happened when Ginny noticed Harry standing uncertainly on the threshold after Ron and Hermione had entered the compartment. As Hermione and Ron sat down, Ginny stood from her seat, and said simply, "Yes, well, I suppose you want me to leave, then?" before sweeping out of the room. She had said it quite evenly, been quite calm about it, but once again, as he took a seat across from Ron and Hermione in their now-private compartment, Harry got the feeling that the encounter had been far to easy. He suspected that there would be more argument from Ginny at some point in the future, but for now Harry was quite content to wait for that encounter as long he could. He knew he would have to stand his ground on this matter, but was quite afraid that doing so might hurt Ginny, because he felt that even now, she was holding out hope as she formulated an argument no doubt engineered to convince Harry that he was wrong. He thought Ginny would be happier for as long as she believed that, even if Harry himself knew that he would stand firm in his position. Thus, he wished that she would not argue with him soon, but would continue avoiding him for a good long while.
After Ginny left, Ron looked curiously at Harry, seemingly intent to ask exactly what that had been about, but Hermione nudged him, and he fell silent. Harry had not yet told Ron and Hermione his decision about ending his relationship with Ginny, although it seemed Hermione had already picked up on the new situation. Harry was quite grateful that she was also smart enough to know that he would not want to talk about it.
She changed the subject. "So, will there be enough room in your Uncle's car for the two of us?" she asked.
"So you two still think you're coming with me to my aunt and uncle's house?" asked Harry with a slight smile on his face. After Dumbledore's funeral, they had seemed to intimate that they wanted to come with him, but he had rather taken this offer as more of a kind gesture than a serious plan of action.
"Yeah, Harry. We er... We don't think you should be alone right now," said Hermione tentatively.
"None of us should," said Ron. "But we sure as Hell can't let you stay at those horrible Muggle's house without any contact with the wizarding world. How long are you planning to stay there, by the way? Until you come of age?"
No, that's several weeks from now, and I don't think I could stand being there that long, with you two there or not, although I'm still not convinced they're going to let you stay there," answered Harry. "When's Bill and Fleur's wedding, by the way?"
"It's going to be on July 15th. Three weeks and two days from now," answered Ron.
"Well, then, since we'd have to leave to go to that anyway, we might as well not go back. The two weeks of Dumbledore's protection that I might lose out on that way won't make much of a difference, and from the way Dumbledore said it, I think part of the magic might stay in place until I reach 17 just so long as I get them to say that I could come back again if I wanted to," Harry said, ignoring the pang of grief that he felt when he mentioned Dumbledore's name.
They sat in silence for several moments. "you haven't answered my question yet," Hermione reminded him. "Will there be enough room in the Dursley's car for all of us to fit? I can apparate if necessary," said Hermione.
"So could I," said Ron defiantly, apparently disapproving of the fact that Hermione had called attention to the fact that she was the only one of the three who had her apparition license.
"Yes, but that'd be illegal," said Hermione. Then she smiled, "which means that we won't do it unless there isn't space for either of us." Ron seemed to approve of Hermione's ever-increasing willingness to break the Ministry's law. Such a willingness was not too surprising, considering that Hermione had realized since her fifth year at latest that the Ministry was made up of humans just like any other organization, and that lately, it seemed that the particular humans who made up the leadership of the Ministry were increasingly substandard in nature.
"Well..." Harry answered, "I'm not entirely sure Dursley will even show up. If he does, the car he drives is a 5 seater. But he might bring Petunia, as he has during the previous years, and he might bring Dudley along too. If so, Dudley's worth about two and a half people, so there probably wouldn't be room for any of us, but I'd be expected to squeeze in anyway. Still, Dudley may have some mischief planned in the neighborhood this afternoon, assuming that he's even home from his school, which I'm not sure of. In other words, I have absolutely no idea."
"I see," said Hermione.
"So. Fancy a game of Wizard's Chess, Harry?" asked Ron.
"Sure, I guess," said Harry. But he did not concentrate much on the game, nor did Ron, so that both of them were rather surprised when Ron's last castle was defeated by Harry's knight who then proceeded to checkmate the king.
The trio had been talking about things quite unrelated to wizards' chess while they had been playing, specifically what Harry planned to do about the Horcruxes now that Dumbledore was gone.
"Well..." the first step seems to be finding out who this R.A.B. chap is," said Harry. Hermione had looked as if she was about to say something to the effect of 'how do you know it's a chap?" but Harry continued. "That's the only way I can even know whether there's 3 Horcruxes left or 4. I'm not quite sure that any other wizard will have been able to destroy the Horcrux. Dumbledore himself nearly got killed when he was messing around with the first one, and that's Dumbledore. So they can't be easy to destroy," concluded Harry, who was still having a hard time saying the name. But he figured that it was important to discuss the Horcruxes, an the point that he had been trying to make about them was quite a necessary one, and Dumbledore's mistake seemed to be the best way to illustrate it. And Harry knew instinctively that it would not do to let his grief for Dumbledore get in the way of his mission. The mission that Dumbledore had inadvertently weakened himself for, resulting in his death. Harry once again clutched the locket which they had retrieved from the cave.
Harry felt that a change of conversation topic might be in order, so he said, "Do your parents know that you're coming with me?"
"I owled them just before we left school," said Hermione. "I'm sure they'll let me stay with you, though they won't like it. They understand that I'm of age now and everything. I would like to go back and stay with them for a couple of weeks though, if you're going to be at the Dursely's for three weeks."
"That's probably not a bad idea," said Harry. Then, anxious not to sound ungrateful of her company, he added, "I mean from the Dursley's perspective. They probably won't mind having as few magical guests at their house as they can manage. What about your mum, Ron. Will she be surprised when you don't turn up this afternoon?"
"Er... Not quite," said Ron, with a hesitant smile. "Actually, I'm here under Mum's orders. She says the ministry thinks you ought to have people staying with you. Aside from Hermione and me, there'll be some Order members headquartered at Arabella Figg's house. She agreed to that today."
"So, you're helping to baby-sit me then, eh?" asked Hary.
"No, of course not," said Ron hastily. "I'd've come to stay with you whether she told me to or not."
"It's okay, Ron," said Harry smiling. "I was just joking. I'll be glad for your company, no matter who's responsible for it."
Ron looked relieved.
A few minutes after Harry and Ron finished their chess match, Luna Lovegood walked dreamily into the compartment. Ron looked over at Harry, and then at Luna, seemingly about to ask her to leave, apparently under the impression that Harry wanted to be alone with Ron and Hermione, having still not completely understood the reason that Ginny had left the room when Harry had got there. But Harry preempted this request from Ron by saying, "Hello Luna. How are you?"
"I've been quite better, of course. It's a shame about Dumbledore. But I'm glad that they at least let us all attend the funeral," she said.
"Yeah, that was good. McGonnogal had suggested sending us all home immediately," said Harry. Then, after thinking for a moment, he asked, "Luna, are you going to come back to school in the fall? Will your father let you?"
"I think he shall. He normally lets me do what I want, anyway. Besides, he won't think the school's any less safe now than normally. He has a theory that Dumbledore did not make the school quite as safe as everybody else thought he did," she said. Harry opened his mouth in preparation to retort this theory, but Luna was already continuing. "It's one of the few things that I disagree with my father about, but it will at least be useful in securing permission to come back. Will you come back?" she asked.
"I won't," said Harry. "I've got other stuff to do." Obviously, he could not reveal the secret of the Horcruxes to Luna. He had not even told McGonnogal about them.
"Nor will I," said Ron, confidently.
"Nor I," said Hermione with some difficulty. It was quite plain that she was not at all pleased about this.
"Don't make that decision quite yet," advised Harry. "You may be able to be just as much help at school as outside it. And I'm not sure you'll even be able to help me."
Luna did not seem at all put off by the fact that Harry was obviously keeping something from her, but simply said, "I suppose that means there won't be a D.A. next year?"
"Actually," said Harry, "I think we ought to reinstate the group. We saw recently that there is still a need for the D.A. at school. I can't help but think that if we had had more regular meetings this year, more people might have been checking their coins and been able to answer Hermione's summons. And if they had, then maybe it would have been easier to defeat the Death-eaters. That's why I think that Ron and Hermione might be jumping the gun in assuming that they shouldn't return."
Ron seemed to consider this, and Hermione looked hopeful. The thread of the conversation changed to less serious subjects, Luna mentioning some article that had recently been featured in her father's magazine, and Ron finding it quite amusing to hear more details about it. Luna seemed quite grateful for the audience and went into some depth about the matter, as Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry found his mind wander, as it had done so often that year, to Ginny Weasley. He pictured the two of them flying around a Quidditch pitch together, laughing as they both chased after a golden Snitch. Harry felt a pang of sadness as he remembered the conversation that he had had with her earlier that day.
As the train pulled in to platform 9 & 3/4, Ron, Hermione, and Harry bade goodbye to Luna. As she left, Hermione had a bit of a sour look on her face. Ron detected it and said, 'Surely, you're not jealous of Luna Lovegood? Look, I was just curious about that article. I needed the break from reality."
Hermione considered this, then broke into a small smile. "No, of course I'm not jealous of Luna Lovegood. She certainly could use some friends, couldn't she?" asked Hermione.
"Yes, I think we should make a point to write to her a few times this summer," said Harry thoughtfully. Ron and Hermione nodded.
"Neville as well," added Hermione.
"I wonder if he'll be back?" asked Ron.
"I bet he will be," said Harry. "He'll want to, and I don't think that his Gran will stop him. From what he said of her reaction when he had come with us to the Ministry of Magic, she seems quite more keen for him to prove himself than for him to remain close to her."
The three of them searched the platform for Uncle Vernon, but did not find him. Tehy did, however, find Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, talking with the Grangers.
"Did you get my letter?" Hermione asked them tentatively.
"Yes," answered her mother. "We did. And while we shall not stop you from staying with Harry, we urge you to be careful. We understand," -here she gestured at the Weasleys- "that things are very dangerous right now. You're only staying with him while he's at his aunt and uncle's house, right?"
"Well..." said Hermione, keeping up her hesitant tone. "I was going to stay with him for a week, then come home for two weeks. Then, we'll stay with the Weasley's for a while. Then I was going to go with him to a place called Godric's Hollow. It's a small Wizarding enclave on the outskirts of a small village. We'll probably stay there for a little bit. And then... I might go back to school for my seventh year."
"Wait," interrupted Mrs. Weasley. "You're thinking of not going back to school next year?" I thought you were only going to stay with Harry this summer. That's all I had suggested."
"Mum... We haven't decided yet. We'll do whatever Harry needs us to do," said Ron.
Mrs. Weasley looked from her son to Harry, and nodded helplessly in a way that showed that, as much as she disliked the thought, she knew this situation was out of her hands.
"I've told them they should go back to school," said Harry quickly. "But they seem to be intent on accompanying me. I don't know enough yet to know whether that'll be useful, or even possible. So, it's not really decided yet."
"Wait... Where are you going?" asked Mr. Weasley.
"Er... I can't really tell you that," said Harry uncomfortably.
There was silence for a long moment.
"Look," said Mrs. Granger after a moment. "You can stay with Harry at his relatives' for the next week, and then you can stay with him at the Weasleys' when he goes there. But the rest of it, we'll discuss when you get home. We just came here to say goodbye, as we've already gotten your letter telling us you wouldn't be coming home."
Ron and Hermione both hugged and kissed their parents goodbye, then Mr. Weasley spoke up.
"We rather expected that you might not have transportation home, Harry," he said. "So we've arranged a Portkey to Mrs. Figg's house. You can get yourselves across the street in the muggle fashion, I'm sure, as it will be enough of a shock for the Dursley's to find that they have two additional summer guests, without them appearing out of thin air in their living room."
Harry agreed with this sentiment, but was still nervous about what the next few minutes might bring as he knocked on the Dursley's front door five minutes later.
Uncle Dursley opened the door and jumped slightly, obviously picking up right away that Ron and Hermione had more in common with Harry than their presence upon his doorstep, and apparently being made quite nervous by the fact that he now had three magical people on his doorstep.
"You are not welcome here," Vernon informed them, and Harry was irresistably reminded of the reception the Ministry of Magic agent had received at the House of Gaunt in the first memory Dumbledore had shown him that year. "Er... Well... You are," he motioned to Harry, " as we don't want that white-haired bloke showing up around hear again and telling us off. But you two..." he trailed off.
"The white haired bloke will not be showing up, as he is dead," said Ron irritably, "but we will be staying. We have quite convincing ways of making ourselves welcome."
Harry was rather surprised to hear Ron make such a threat like this, but was still rather glad that he had done it, as Harry did not feel in quite the mood to argue with his Uncle at that particular moment.
"You can't use magic outside of your freak school... Harry's told us so," Uncle Vernon countered angrily.
Ron took out his wand. "That'd be quite true, if I were underage. But I'm not. Hermione and I are both of age, and therefore are confined by no such restriction. Of course, we can still only curse a muggle in a case of self-defense, but if you did anything to try to make us leave, the anything we did would be self-defense."
But Ron ended up finishing this speech on the inside of the house rather than on the doorstep, where Vernon had grudgingly kept him to this point. The mere appearance of the wand had been enough to convince Vernon that this boy needed to be kept indoors where the neighbors could not see him.
"Well, we're certainly not letting you stay in the guest room," said Uncle Vernon with the air of someone trying desperately to prove that they were still in control of a situation despite copious evidence to the contrary. "We might end up having a guest whom we actually like, and we must keep the room clear for them."
"That's reasonable enough," said Hermione patiently, apparently unwilling to sink to the point of arguing with someone like Vernon Dursley. "Ron and Harry can sleep in Harry's room. Ron will kip on the floor, I've brought a rollout cot in my trunk. And I'll just sleep on your couch, if that's all right," she finished sweetly.
Uncle Vernon eyed her up for a moment, then nodded grudgingly, apparently quite unwilling to let himself be cursed by a seventeen year old girl if he lost his temper.
As Ron, Hermione, and Harry levitated their trunks up to Harry's room (Mr. Weasley having informed the Ministry that two Hogwarts students who were of age would be staying at Harry's house that summer and the Dursley's house consequently having been removed from the list of houses with underage wizards in it) and Vernon watched the display in terror, Harry smiled and reflected that if it were not for the task looming ahead on the horizon, this would be the best summer ever.
A/N: Right, so... Hadn't really expected the first chapter to last all that long. But, whatever. Hope you've liked it so far, and I hope you'll come back and look for future chapters, which should be up soon. I've actually got a rough plan for the story already (which is not necessarily my normal style: having a plan before I've written a story...). Also, reviews would be appreciated to tell me what I'm doing right and wrong. I want this story to be good, and therefore would much appreciate it if you tell me your opinion on this, and future, chapters. Thanks for reading!