JKR ended HBP dangling like a half-played chess match between the light side and the dark side. Both sides have taken some of their opponent's pieces, and each side had strong pieces left. Riddle had just taken an important piece with the death of Dumbledore and seemingly had the advantage. Harry had discovered important information regarding Voldemort with the discovery of the Horcruxes. This story tells my version about how the rest of that chess match might play out. The story is not so much about ships as sides, and the struggle of a young man to rebuild and lead a broken army. Various characters will be hurt or killed during the course of this story. If a grey story isn't for you, please consider reading Udderpd's wonderful stories instead.


Wednesday 12 June, 1997 – 9AM - Granger residence

Emma Ganger was not having a good week. Three days earlier, she and her husband Dan had received notice that Headmaster Dumbledore had been murdered at the school where their daughter Hermione was attending. The previous summer Emma and Dan had begun expressing doubts regarding their daughter's safety within the wizarding world, and had been continually reassured that Hogwarts was the "safest place in the wizarding world," particularly with Professor Dumbledore at the school.

Emma and Dan were due to meet their daughter at 3PM at the Kings Cross station. They had agreed to hear her out before making any decisions. Emma and Dan owned and operated a successful dental surgery in Crawley, and were justifiably proud of it. While they both exhibited pride in ownership of their business, neither one of them were married to it. In fact, they had agreed to leave the country if necessary to keep their little family safe. They had no illusions that their daughter would give up being a witch – yes; they had become comfortable with the term. Yet they were aware that wizarding schools were located throughout the world, and they had confidence both in their own ability to relocate if needed as well as Hermione's to adapt, if necessary.

The news that they had been reading in the Daily Prophet seemed to center around two topics – the gradual darkening of the wizarding world and the prospect of hope that surrounded the speculation regarding one of Hermione's friends, Harry Potter.

They had subscribed to the Daily Prophet for the last year after Hermione had come home injured the previous summer. After several frustrating conversations, Hermione had finally admitted what had happened in the Department of Mysteries, and her parents were faced with the realities that her world had brought to them.

On one hand, they were delighted that their daughter had finally found a place in her world. Her school results indicated success, and she seemed to have found good friends at her school. On the other hand, they were deeply alarmed at the dangers that seemed to be teeming within her world.

They were fairly certain that Hermione would be highly upset if they tried to force her to transfer to another school. In reality, neither Dan nor Emma believed that they could force their strong minded, brilliant daughter to do anything that she wasn't inclined to do. At this point in her life, they felt that the person who might exert the most influence on her was Harry Potter. They hoped to invite him over for dinner this evening to get his viewpoint.


While the two dentists were discussing their situation, Hermione and her friends Ron, and Harry were finding a carriage on the train. Harry was emotionally shattered over the events of the last week. He had been on the Astronomy tower with the professor and had watched helplessly as Dumbledore had first been threatened by Draco Malfoy, then murdered by Professor Snape, a man who Dumbledore had insisted on trusting despite six years of Harry's comments to the contrary. Harry had barely spoken with anyone since leaving Dumbledore's funeral. After breaking off a budding relationship with Ginny, Harry had become introspective and packed his trunk in silence before taking a walk around the grounds.

The fallout over Dumbledore's murder within the Wizarding world was widespread. Some within the Ministry of Magic speculated that the Board of School Governors would not reopen the school for the next term. Many of the students had serious doubts that their parents would even allow them to continue back at the castle for the fall term if the school were to reopen. Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour had approached Harry immediately after the funeral. They hadn't really disagreed. Scrimgeour realized that Harry wasn't ready to talk and had kept the door open between them for future conversations.

It was a largely silent ride back on the train from the castle. Noticeably absent from the train were a handful of the sixth year students from Slytherin house. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Parkinson had been identified during the attack. Parkinson had been killed by Aurors, while Crabbe and Goyle had lacked the finesse to escape with Malfoy and Snape. They were arrested following the funeral. Many of the remaining Slytherin students felt that Malfoy and Snape had brought irreparable shame to the Slytherin house and somehow wanted to apologize to the other students. It was an apology that few people were prepared to listen to.

Harry sat silently looking out the window. His thoughts returned to the tower where he had watched as Dumbledore was murdered just feet away from him. Malfoy had stripped the badly weakened Dumbledore of his wand and a minute later Snape had taken his life. Harry wasn't sure how he had been immobilized while wearing his invisibility cloak, but he had never felt so helpless in his life.

As the train passed Sherwood Forest, he thought of Remus Lupin who lived nearby. Harry also thought of his parents and Sirius, desperately trying to draw strength from the few good memories that he had of them. For the first time in his life, Harry felt utterly alone. His father, his mother, Sirius and finally Dumbledore had all been taken away from him.

Harry's thoughts drifted back to the last few months and the Horcruxes or split soul pieces that Dumbledore had told him about. Harry thought back about the seven pieces of Riddle's soul.

Riddle's diary

Hufflepuff's cup

Slytherin's locket

Slytherin's ring

Something belonging either to Ravenclaw or Gryffindor

Nagini the snake

Tom Riddle himself

Harry had destroyed the diary four years ago, while Dumbledore had somehow broken Slytherin's ring. Someone with the initials R.A.B. had stolen the locket from the spot where Riddle had hidden it, and it was missing. Riddle's snake would be easy enough to find as would Riddle himself. Harry realized that he would have to have all of the Horcrux pieces identified and destroyed before it made any sense to go after Riddle himself. What he didn't know was whether Riddle knew that Dumbledore or Harry had known about them or not. Harry felt that his job would be a lot easier if Riddle or his Death Eaters weren't specifically guarding them. Harry worried about what Dumbledore might have told Snape, and what he would have reported back to Voldemort.

Harry noticed the door to their compartment open, and was vaguely aware that Ron and Hermione had quietly walked out of the compartment. Moments later the door slammed shut and Harry felt a very painful poke in his ribs. "Potter, I'm going to give you five seconds to get your head out of your arse or I'm going to hex you from here to Kings Cross."

Half in a daze, Harry turned and noticed a lithe redhead standing behind him with her wand pointed at his forehead.

"I'm not kidding you Potter. If you think you can just walk away from me, I'll hurt you so badly you won't even remember your name.

Harry looked at Ginny and gave her a sad smile. "What's up?"

The young redhead was furious and still gathering steam. "What's up? You sat at his funeral and came up with up with your lame, "I don't want to put you in danger BS," and you expect me to stand there while you go off by yourself and get yourself killed? You won't make it that far, Potter." She reached around and grabbed his hair, pulling his face to hers. Several minutes later they broke away, each gasping for air.

Delighted at her kiss, yet not changed of mindset Harry replied, "I'm sorry, Gin, I have to…"

Slap! Ginny hit Harry's cheek so hard that he spun around to the back of the high back seat.

"I don't want you to be sorry Harry. I want you to share your life with me. I want to let you into my life. I don't want you to protect me. I don't want you to hide things from me. I just want you." Tears were streaming down her face. "Don't you get it? I…"

But the words failed her. Looking into his emerald green eyes, she would have gladly stuck her elbow into any butter dish that he might have conjured. "I lo…"

Harry gently touched her cheeks with the tips of her fingers and she froze. "I get it Ginny. Me too." He pulled her closer to him, and just for a minute the wizarding world wasn't at war. For a moment the only thing on Harry's mind was the young witch leaning into him. For a moment, Harry felt peace in his heart.

Ginny faced Harry and asked, "What are you going to do this summer?"

Inconspicuously rubbing the spot where she had slapped him, Harry replied, "I need to spend a week or so with my Aunt, then I'm going to Grimmauld Place for a few days. Then I'm going to visit my parents' graves at Godric's Hollow. Bill's wedding is on the 12th. I'll be leaving after that."

Ginny nodded and said, "Harry, I'm sorry that your year was so horrible, but please don't push me away. I know who you are, beautiful eyes and flaws, and I still want to be with you. Can't you understand that? There aren't any surprises between us."

Harry carefully looked at her and understood the message that she had pounded into him. He certainly felt something for her, but honestly didn't know how to act on his feelings. Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke. "I told the professor that Malfoy was conspiring with Snape. I heard them talking. For years that greasy git was sneaking around plotting, and all I ever heard back was, 'I trust Severus.' Look where his stupid trust got him. He was helping me this last year, and we weren't finished."

Unlike Hermione and Ron, Ginny didn't press Harry for details that he wasn't ready to give out. Rather she looked at him and nodded. A moment later he continued. "We think we found the reason that Riddle didn't die that night when I was a baby, and we think we found a way to make him vulnerable. I know what to do – I just don't think I can do it…"

"By yourself?" She looked at him, and after a minute, he nodded. She asked him, "Why do you need to continue this alone, Frodo?" She smiled at him knowing that he had also read the trilogy.

"It's my quest. The prophecy…"

Rage flew through Ginny. Seeing the red handprint clearly marking his right cheek, she resisted the option to give him a matching set. Instead she shouted, "Did the effen prophecy say that you had to abandon every one of your friends and anyone who might care about you? Did Dumbledore ever tell you to push everyone away? Is that what you want? Why won't you let anyone help you?" Somewhat softer she asked, "Why won't you let me…?"

Harry choked on the words, "I can't."

Whap! "Bull Harry. That's crap. Of course you can." She pushed him back into the seat and for a rare minute, he gave her his undivided attention.

Gasping for air Harry continued, "Dumbledore trusted…"

Ginny raged, "The wrong slime ball. Is that the problem? You don't know who you can trust?"

Harry considered her words for a moment, and realized that she had hit the crux of his concern. He nodded slightly.

Seeing that she had hit her mark, she asked, "Do you trust Ron?" Harry nodded.

"Hermione?" Harry gave another nod.

"Me?" Harry looked at her and nodded again. Seeing a tear slide down his cheek, she pulled his face into her, and ran her fingers through his unkempt hair. "After a minute she asked, "Can you spend a day or two at the burrow before the wedding?"

"Harry nodded, "I think so."

Still stroking his hair, Ginny asked, "What are you going to do for the next few days?"

Harry replied, "I need to go to Gringotts to get some traveling money, then visit with Scrimgeour for a bit. I'll find out if he really can help me or is just trying to help himself."

"Are we OK, Harry? I know Mum won't let me go with you right now, but that doesn't mean that we have to be mad at each other." Her hands gently brushed against his reddened cheeks giving Harry a very pleasant sensation. Harry looked into her bright eyes and nodded. They sat in comfortable silence, each thinking what the coming weeks would bring them. Harry had hoped that he would have had more time to prepare with the professor, but realized that some things couldn't be wished away.

Outside the compartment Ron and Hermione blocked the way of any onlookers. Hermione had cast a silencing charm over the compartment door and let her two friends work out their differences. Even with it, they had occasionally heard indistinct shouting and thumps as Ginny gained and regained Harry's attention. After ten minutes the noise quieted down and she glanced in to see the two holding each other.


As the students were traveling home, Alastor Moody called a meeting of Dumbledore's badly splintered militia, the Order of the Phoenix. Gathered in the transfiguration classroom were Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Popp Pomfrey, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Hagrid, Molly Weasley, Arthur Weasley, Arabella Figg, Dedalus Diggle, Elphias Dodge, Hestia Jones, Tom the bartender, Sturgis Podmore and Aberforth Dumbledore. Missing were Snape, Mundungus Fletcher and Bill Weasley.

As the members were assembling, there was quite a bit of arguing. None of them had ever heard any succession plans regarding the leadership of the Order. Tensions were high between the haves and the have-nots in terms of knowing the most current information. The teachers and Tonks had been at the castle the day that Snape had killed Dumbledore, and had heard Harry's eyewitness account. Also the little fractions that had quietly remained beneath the surface between the members during Dumbledore's tenure had begun to surface. Diggle was arguing loudly with Sturgis while Minerva seemed to be lecturing Fred and George about something. By the time Aberforth and Hagrid arrived, most of the others were in various stages of arguments.

Aberforth waved his wand and a sound like a Chinese gong sounded, momentarily silencing everyone. He said, "You are doing my brother's memory a disservice by arguing amongst yourselves. Since Alastor is the remaining member with the longest tenure, please let him begin the meeting."

Molly gave Tonks one last scowl then sat down next to Arthur.

Minerva handed Moody an envelope and asked him to open it. Moody examined the envelope carefully for a moment and proceeded to break the seal with his knurled hands. After a moment, he stated, "It's a letter from Dumbledore." In his gravelly voice he began reading it aloud.

"To the members of the Order,

As you may recall, Sir Nicolas de Mimsey Porpington began the Order of the Phoenix over 520 years ago with several ongoing purposes.

1) To serve as a militia in the event of a dark, corrupt or inept Minister of Magic

2) To identify and fight dark wizards

3) To invite and guide the next generation to fulfill these goals as members of the Order

I have updated this letter at the close of each school year, and last revised it on June 6, 1997.

It has been clear to me for the last sixteen years that Harry Potter is the one who has been prophesied to defeat Tom Riddle also known as Lord Voldemort. I have been helping him acquire the knowledge this last year to aid him in defeating Riddle. I would ask each of you to give him your complete support as you have given to me these past years.

Harry will most likely need tutoring in advanced fighting skills as well as fighting skills. Kinglsey, Tonks, and Alastor, please do everything that you can to aid him in acquiring these skills.

Minerva, please assist him in any special spell work that he or his chosen companions may ask for and ask Filius and Poppy to do the same. Please grant them the latitude that they will need, as much of their work will necessarily take them away from the castle.

Remus please arrange to be by his side when Harry needs you. Much of his work in defeating Riddle will need to be done before they face off together. Harry doubtless has an idea of what needs to be done. He will need help with the actual tasks.

Molly and Arthur, please recognize that Harry stopped being a child the second time he faced Riddle, at age eleven. Despite his youth, he has faced death many times and has always done the right thing. Harry has never chosen the easy path. Either have his friends. The five students who accompanied him last spring all have earned their place in the Order. I ask you both to please do not quarrel with my decision in this regard. They have made their choice to fight for what is right. The Order always needs new blood, and Harry will be more comfortable if his closest peers are also members. He is a good leader and knows what needs to be done.

Dedalus, Harry may wish for some guidance as he comes into control of his rather extensive estate this summer. Please offer to assist him as you can.

Hestia, Arabella, Elphias, Hagrid and Sturgis, I ask you both to continue to serve as you have.

Fred and George, your marvelous inventions may well come in handy. I ask you both to consider how you might help protect those that need emergency protection from the Death Eaters.

Aberforth, we have spoken many times. I ask you to continue working as you have".

Moody growled and cursed several times as he read and skipped the last few lines. He muttered, "Effen greasy rat shite." He chose not to read Dumbledore's final instructions to Snape, who was currently on the run, wanted for the murder of Dumbledore.

Regaining some composure, Moody continued, "Minerva, please issue invitations to join the Order to Luna, Neville, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Harry as soon as practical." She nodded.

Moody skipped another line and swore twice. Rolling his eye, he muttered, "Effen thief." He would never forgive Dung for pilfering Harry's inherited property.

Finally Moody said, "Dumbledore also mentioned renewing the wards at the other place." He had intended to say Grimmauld place, but smiled when he realized that he couldn't say the name.

Minerva stood and said, "Filius took care of it three days ago. He will hand it over to Potter tomorrow afternoon."

Moody said, "Good. There's also another letter here." He opened it and said, "It's a copy of his will. After examining it for a minute, Moody summarized, saying, "Briefly he requested that his Gringotts account be divided up equally among each of the current Order members in good standing. I guess that's sufficient reason to exclude Snape and Dung. His home in Wales goes to Aberforth. Finally he asked that his personal property not already spoken for be given to Potter. Minerva he asked that you provide a list of those who would receive a share of his vault cash to the Gringotts trust department as soon as practical."

Comfortable with her assignment Minerva nodded, compiled her list, and replied, "Right. I'll see to it this afternoon."

In the past week, the Board of School Governors had named Minerva Headmistress of the school and given her a two-year contract. In reality, Minerva knew that she was a much better administrator and follower than leader. She honestly didn't expect to remain as head more than a term or two before retiring.

Dumbledore had never been a wealthy man in the sense of the Malfoys, Bones, Potters or the Blacks, but working continuously for the last 140 years had given him the opportunity to build quite a nest-egg. As such, the gold that he chose to share with the members of the Order would come in handy for all of them, and be a true blessing for Remus, Molly and Arthur. The meeting ended with the understanding that Moody would call the next meeting.


As Minerva was delivering Dumbledore's distribution instructions to the Gringotts trust department, Tonks was back on Auror duty meeting the train at Kings Cross. The majestic steam engine slowed and students disgorged from the twelve cars. Harry and Ron helped unload Ginny and Hermione's trunks then went back and got their own. As Harry was coming out of the train, Ginny had found him a cart for his trunk and cage. They made their way past the platform barrier and out into the Kings Cross station. Harry saw Petunia waiting for him and waved to her. He waved bye to the Weasleys and Grangers, kissed Ginny goodbye and made his way to the Petunia's car.

"Hello, Harry," she said to him in a surprisingly civil voice. She had received a visit from the Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour. He had explained that Voldemort had ordered an attack on Dumbledore and that Harry had done his best to stop it. The reality of Voldemort's return had hit Petunia hard, and brought back memories that she's managed to push away for nearly sixteen years. As a Senior Auror, he had gone to see her years ago to have her confirm Lilly's identity after she had been murdered.

"Hi Aunt Petunia. Where's Dudley?"

"Vernon got him a position at Grunnings for the holidays. They're both at work today," she said as they reached the car. As they had been walking, Harry noticed that the Grangers who were walking a ways in front of them seemed to be arguing with Hermione. Harry waited for Petunia to unlock the boot and lifted his trunk into the car. As he was closing the lid he noticed Mrs. Granger walk over to them.

"Hi Dr. Granger." said Harry, not certain what she wanted.

"Hello Harry. Hello Mrs. Dursley. Harry, I was wondering if we might invite you over for dinner this evening. I apologize for the short notice. Your Aunt would certainly be welcome as well if she wished."

Harry could tell that Petunia was very intimidated by Hermione's mum. Dr. Granger was dressed casually, but quite expensively. He looked at her and nodded, then replied, "I think Aunt Petunia already has plans for the evening, but I'd be happy to have dinner with you."

Petunia looked relieved and said, "I'll have Dudley put your trunk in your room, Harry."

"We'll have him home early in the morning then," said Dr. Granger. "Harry, do you need anything out of your trunk? We've plenty of extra toothbrushes." Harry avoided smirking at the thought of a loo lined wall to wall with packaged toothbrushes.

Knowing that Petunia would be petrified if Harry were to open a wizarding trunk out in public, Harry replied, "I'll be fine. Thanks." Waving again to his Aunt, Harry said, "I'll see you tomorrow. Bye." Harry walked over to Tonks, who he realized was one of his minders, explained what he was doing, and followed Dr. Granger back to their car.

Hermione's mum got into the back seat and invited Harry to sit in front next to her husband. As Harry got in the man held out his hand. "Hi. I'm Dan Granger. You met my wife Emma."

Harry had always been a polite boy. He greeted Hermione's dad, shook his hand and closed the door.

As he began driving, he said, "We're sorry for the short notice Harry. We're quite concerned about what's happening in your, in the wizarding world right now and we wanted to ask your opinion about things as well as to get to know one of Hermione's friends a bit better."

Harry smiled and nodded. Dan's remark somehow seemed in contrast to what he had seen a few minutes earlier. At the same time, Harry was in no hurry to return to his Aunt's house and was happy to have dinner with his friend's parents.

They arrived at the Granger home in Crawley. Harry helped Dan carry Hermione's book laden trunk inside. After settling in, Dan asked Harry what he wanted to drink. "We don't have the butterbeer that Hermione talks about. I have Harp, or Fosters."

"Either would be fine," replied Harry who wasn't certain that he'd had either before. "Can I help with anything?"

"No, thanks," replied Dan handing Harry a pint. "Dinner will be ready in a half hour. Please give these to Hermione and Emma," he said, handing Harry two half-pint glasses.

Several pints and a really great dinner later, the conversation shifted from talk of football and the Royals to events closer to them. Emma asked Harry, "Please tell us what really happened in the last year."

Harry looked at Hermione, who nodded. Harry took that to mean full disclosure. Beginning with the battle at the Department of Mysteries, Harry began telling them what happened within the Wizarding world. Hermione let him go, backfilling only to explain about the D.A. club that they had organized.

Dan and Emma asked specific questions regarding Fudge and Scrimgeour. They were amazed that Harry had spoken with both men many times. Neither he nor Emma had ever personally met the PM.

Hermione let Harry and her parents go for the better part of two hours, during which time Dan refilled everyone's glass a time or two. Finally she told them of the prophecy and the concept of the Horcruxes. Reflecting on her words, Harry muttered, "He knew."

Emma replied, "What did you say, dear?"

Harry said, "He knew. Professor Slughorn. He knew that Riddle knew about Horcruxes because he'd told him about them when Riddle was sixteen. That was Voldemort's name when he was a student at Hogwarts in the early 30s. Riddle committed his first murders when he was in sixth year. First he killed Myrtle then he killed hid father and grandparents in Little Hangleton, probably the summer between sixth and seventh year. By the time he had graduated he probably had created two or more Horcruxes, beginning with his diary, a ring and locket that originally belonged to one of the school's founders, Salazar Slytherin. He may have killed Morfin Gaunt as well.

Dan asked, "What does that have to do with Professor Slughorn?"

Hermione replied, "When Voldemort disappeared after murdering Harry's parents and the killing curse rebounding off of Harry when he was a baby, Professor Slughorn knew that he hadn't been killed. Apparently he never told anyone about it." She looked at Harry in shock, as he nodded confirmation of what she was thinking.

Harry continued, "Riddle had figured out a way to split off bits of his soul and embed them within other objects to keep them bound to Earth. When he got his body back in the graveyard, he told his Death Eater followers that his 'soul had been ripped from his body,' but since it wasn't all free, he didn't die. Ten years later he inhabited the body of one of the school teachers, Professor Quirrell, grew stronger and started on the path of coming back. My point was that Professor Slughorn could have told someone like Professor Dumbledore what he knew and they would have had years to find and destroy the Horcruxes."

Hermione and her parents nodded, each taking in information that was both fascinating and quite frightening.

Harry continued, "Riddle must have left his diary with Lucius Malfoy for safe keeping without telling him what it really was. I bet Riddle was really pissed when he found out that Malfoy had given it to Ginny and it had been destroyed."

Hermione asked, "Did Professor Dumbledore ever say where he got the ring from?"

Harry replied, "No. I don't know if he'd hurt his hand getting the ring, or destroying it."

While they had been talking, Emma had been taking notes. After Dan cam back from the loo, she summarized saying, "This Riddle needed to have committed one or more murders for each of the soul splitting procedures that he did." She showed them her notes.


1943 – Myrtle

1943 – Riddle's father

1943 – Riddle's grandfather

1943 – Riddle's grandmother

Horcruxes created

Diary – CoS

Ring – 1943

? – 1943

Cup – 1945

Locket – 1945

Snake – 1945 – 1980

Emma said, "Harry you mentioned that Riddle came back shortly after he had graduated from school and had asked for a job. Does anything seem odd about that?"

Harry thought long and hard, trying to recall the different conversations that he'd had with the headmaster. After a few minutes one came to mind. "I remember talking to Riddle when I was in my second year. He said that Dumbledore began keeping an eye on him and, he wasn't able to get back into the Chamber of Secrets."

Hermione nodded, and replied, "Maybe that's why he wanted to come back to the castle, to be able to go back and retrieve something that he'd left there."

Dan quipped, "He couldn't come up to the headmaster and say, Excuse me, I left a bit of my soul in one of the dungeons. Could I possibly go and retrieve it?"

Harry wasn't certain if it was the effects of the beer, or the grim humor of the situation, but the four of them had a good laugh together.

It was getting late when Dan asked, "So who's really working on getting rid of this wanker?"

Harry said, "Professor Dumbledore and I were out searching for one of the pieces the day that…"

"Emma saw the pain that Harry was in, and finished adding, "The night that he was murdered?"

Harry nodded, and she went over to hug him.

Dan asked, "What happened?"

Hermione put her hand to her mouth, shocked that her father would ask, but Harry seemed to want to talk about it. "We arrived back to the village by the castle and saw the Dark Mark over the astronomy tower. A student named Malfoy had found a way to sneak a bunch of Voldemort's Death Eaters into the castle. We flew on broomsticks up to the astronomy tower. I was wearing my invisibility cloak and when we landed, I think the professor immobilized me. I could see everything but I couldn't move. The professor was very weak at the time from the effects of a potion that he'd drunk while we were out."

Finishing his beer, Harry continued, "Malfoy managed to disarm the professor. Dumbledore tried to get as much information from Malfoy as he could, and I think to stall for time. Anyway, Malfoy didn't have much of an appetite to murder an unarmed headmaster. A minute later, one of Dumbledore's instructors came up and killed him. Dumbledore was pleading with him, and Snape killed him, just like that."

Hermione and her mum both had tears streaming down their faces as Harry finished. "A moment after Dumbledore died, they ran away. His spell wore off, and I chased them, but I didn't catch them. The Aurors killed one of Malfoy's accomplices, and captured a few of the Death Eaters, and a couple students had been arrested immediately after the funeral."

Dan asked, "So how is this your fault, Hermione?"

Harry had no idea what Dr. Granger was talking about and turned to his friend as she sobbed, "Harry told me that Malfoy was up to something. He'd been telling me all year, and I ignored him."

Dan was stunned, and for once the normally quick thinking man, couldn't find the right words to say. Harry responded, "Hermione, it's no more your fault than Flitwick's. I told you, Ron, Mr. Weasley, Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore himself several times. No one caught on with what he was doing in the Room of Requirement. A lot of things went wrong. No one blames Tonks for surviving last year at the Ministry of Magic. I'm just glad that you're alive."

Dan was glad that he'd said nothing. Hermione's friend had found better words than he'd ever have been able to come up with.

A lot had been said, and emotions were spent. They all sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes. Finally Emma said, "Harry it's late. We all need some rest. Let me show you to your room. When they reached the door, she said, "Thank you for sharing your story with us. It cleared the air about a lot of things for us."

Harry looked at his friend's mum and said, "You're welcome. Goodnight Dr. Granger." He closed the door behind him and slept fitfully in the comfortable bed, thinking over and over that Slughorn wasted ten years. Harry wondered how many lives would be lost trying to make up that time.

… --- … ---