Edits by: The Ink Stained One, Zayne, snarkyroxy and leiselmae
A standard disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter depicted in this story are the legal property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, and AOL Time Warner, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made off this story, and it is being used for entertainment purposes only.Chapter 1 – Dursleys Have Their Day
It was an overcast afternoon when the small car pulled up to Number 4 Privet Drive. This time, Harry brought nothing home.
"Where are your trunk and your ruddy bird?" Vernon asked with a scowl and a glare.
"Ron has my trunk and Hedwig is off on an errand and will return when she is done," Harry returned contemptuously. "Speaking of Ron, I'm expecting Ron and Hermione tonight to talk with all of you about our living conditions this holiday."
"What! We're not going to have more freaks inviting themselves into our home just to tell us what is … to tell me how to run my own household!" Vernon bellowed.
Just as he expected, the Dursleys were resistant to even discussing any changes. "Just four more weeks, just four more weeks," Harry kept repeating to himself to calm himself down.
"Uncle Vernon, they will make it worth your while," he promised.
Vernon and Petunia's faces contorted with thought as they tried to figure out what he meant. The promise seemed to pacify them enough that they did not complain or say anything through dinner. Remembering that Harry was an heir to an estate that included a house and a dirty, ugly creature, they were expecting to take more than their share of this windfall.
Shortly after 8:00, there was a knock at the door. This time Harry was truly expecting his guests and was waiting by the door to greet them. "Hermione! How has your day been? We missed you on the train," Harry exclaimed.
Hermione looked disheveled and gave him a worried look. Ron, on the other hand, looked entirely terrified.
"What's wrong, mate?" Harry asked.
"Mum," Ron moaned. "She went bloody ballistic! If Hermione wasn't with me, I'm sure that she would have put a Full Body Bind on me." Ron shuddered as his nerves racked him.
Hermione placed a consoling arm around him and held him tight. "Ron," she said. "You shouldn't worry about it. It's expected that she would react that way. It's called 'empty nest syndrome.' She will get over it, you'll see." She wanted to say 'Just be glad you're not Ginny,' but she thought it would be better not to mention it with Harry present.
Harry invited them in. Dudley was too involved in the telly program to even take notice of the guests as they entered the foyer. Harry made the introductions and requested that they all go into the dining room and leave Dudley at peace with his telly.
Judging by the expressions on their faces as Vernon and Petunia observed Harry's guests, they did not approve of the way Ron dressed, much less Hermione's protective and somewhat possessive arm around him.
Agitated, Vernon snapped, "Well, let's get on with it."
Discovering they were one chair short, Ron suggested that he just conjure up another one. "No!" Harry quickly interceded. "I'll just go grab a folding chair from the laundry." Petunia went pale when she finally realized what Ron was implying.
When he returned, everyone had the opportunity to be seated. Harry paused to gather his thoughts. "Well," he said, "I guess I better start. Because of the threat of Voldemort, I must once again return to this house. This year is different from the previous years because I have a lot of work that needs to be completed during the days. The three of us are preparing ourselves to face that monster and we need every bit of time possible. In other words, this is not going to be a holiday for us. Also, we will only be here for three to four weeks. That is all the time needed to renew the protection staying under this roof provides for me."
"We?" Petunia and Vernon screamed at once.
"Erm … yes, that's Ron, Hermione, and me," Harry said.
"Actually, and I'm dreadfully sorry, Harry, but it will just be you two." Hermione added. "See, I agreed with my parents that it would be better if I just came during the days and stayed with them at night."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked.
"Yes, I think it would be best," Hermione stated with a grim expression.
Vernon looked as though he was going to pop. "And just how is this supposed to be 'worth our while'?" he asked.
"Well, if you just agree to give room and board to Ron and Harry for this next month, then I would give you rent in return," Hermione replied.
Harry added, "We still reserve the right to use the guest room in case Hermione or someone else needs to stay as well. Since both Hermione and Ron are adults, they will be allowed to use their 'talents' in the house, when out of sight of other 'normal' people."
That would normally be enough to put Vernon over the edge, but greed got the better of him this time. "Just how much rent are we talking about?" he asked.
"Five thousand quid," Harry said.
"Four thousand pounds," Hermione said at the same time. She shot Harry an irritated look.
"Done, five thousand, then." Uncle Vernon boomed jubilantly, shaking Harry's hand.
"Not quite," Hermione interjected. "We still have a contract to sign." She pulled out a multi-page legal document for everyone to sign. After the contract was completed, Hermione pulled out a checkbook, wrote out a cheque for five thousand pounds, and gave it to Harry to sign.
Vernon was beside himself when he saw this. He knew a fair amount of law from working at Grunnings, and he knew he had Harry where he wanted him.
"Harry," Vernon barked, "You are still my dependent and my charge. You will put me on this account tomorrow. This cheque is drawn on a normal bank, and thus falls under normal laws."
Hermione gave out a sigh of resignation, and Ron just went pale.
Harry got irritated and yelled, "That is all MY inheritance; you can't have it!"
"Technically, Harry, he can," Hermione corrected. "Well, our business is done for tonight. See you tomorrow," Hermione called out to Petunia and Vernon.
Ron finally came out of his stupor and called out, "Wait, Hermione, we'll walk you out to the alley."
Harry and Ron returned to the house just a few minutes later. They did not know what to expect when walking out of the house to the alleyway, but they knew that they were not alone. Judging by Harry's experience last summer, they supposed that someone from the Order of the Phoenix was watching them every minute they were away from Harry's Aunt and Uncle's home. They did not believe that would change even now that Dumbledore was gone.
Dumbledore's death: This was another concept that was still hard for Harry to swallow, though it was still easier to cope than the passing of Sirius Black. At least this death was accompanied by a funeral. However, it still hurt. Year after year, he had come to depend on the adults in his life to always be there to protect him and guide him. This was not the case this time. Now, he could only depend on his two best friends. Both were adult wizards, meaning they could do magic outside of school, but Harry still felt like it was he that should be taking care of them.
As they settled back into the Harry's bedroom, Ron cast an Impeturbable Charm and a Silencing Charm on the door. Ron pulled the owl cages out of his pocket and placed them on top of the dresser. With a quick charm, the cages were restored to their full size. The trunks were a little trickier. Seeing that the room was a little small, Ron cast an Enlargement Charm on the inside of the room. This was the same one he used on the back seat of the Dursley's car on their way back from the train station.
With the room a bit, well, ah… roomier, there was plenty of space to conjure up another bed and bedding and still have space for the trunks. The problem was Ron had never been that good at transfiguration, especially conjuring something from nothing. He ended up settling for a simple cot and bedroll. In consideration, Harry actually thought the cot still looked more comfortable than his old bed and blanket.
As they settled into their beds for the night, Harry's mind started to wander through the events of last few hours. Thinking of his best mate, Harry asked, "So, Ron, what happened at the Burrow?"
Ron tensed up at the memory. "Mum started to explain what her plans were for us over the summer holiday, and I just corrected her. Mum is still treating me as a child. Just because a normal 17 year-old adult would be going back to school for another year doesn't mean that he can't start to make a life of his own. I just don't see what Mum's problem is. She acts like I'm another Percy by walking out with Hermione to come here."
"Oh… I'm sorry I have caused problems for your family," Harry said.
Ron looked at Harry sternly and replied, "Harry, this isn't your fault. This is my choice. If I had to make it again, it would be the same. I'm with you for the long run, mate." Ron paused, and then added, "Harry, you may want to steer clear of the Burrow for a while. She's equally upset at you as well."
Harry had every intention of staying away from the Burrow. He was afraid if he went back there, he would lose all self control and start begging Ginny back into his life.
Interpreting the silence, Ron decided to change the conversation. "I wasn't the only one to abandon her summer plans. Ginny told her that she is going to work at the twins' joke shop in Diagon Alley. I think she just wants some money so that she can buy some clothes and books that aren't second hand. I know she gets embarrassed each time someone notices her wearing something they used to own." Again, this was met with silence from Harry. Why did he have to put his foot in his mouth again?
Before going to sleep, Harry pulled out some parchment and quill to start writing a letter. He had a good start, but he just wadded up the paper and threw it away in the bin.
He was about to climb into bed and start his Occlumency exercises when Ron asked, "Harry, why didn't you choose me to be your guardian for your accounts?"
Harry paused to reflect on the question. He did not want to hurt Ron's feelings, but the choice was quite obvious. Harry answered, "Ron, you know how Hermione is always taking care of us?"
Ron said, "Mmm-hmm."
Harry continued, "Well, it just made more sense to go directly to Hermione, since she would probably be looking over your shoulder to make sure everything is done right. Besides, she is older."
"Oh, I guess that makes sense," Ron said. "Well, goodnight."
Deep down, Ron was worried that Harry did not trust him, especially with money, and he was partially right. Harry did not really trust Ron as much as Hermione, but it was because Hermione had more experience in banking and law than Ron ever had. Harry actually had started the process by immediately sending Gringotts instructions assigning Hermione to be guardian of his accounts. He also asked them for assistance in giving her full legal guardian status in the wizarding world. Hermione agreed and immediately took it on as a project, researching all of the laws and submitting all of the right forms.
Rather than returning to London on the Hogwarts Express with the rest of the students, Hermione had immediately Apparated over to Diagon Alley and went to Gringotts to process all of the paperwork. She also created an account at a Muggle bank for him and transferred a fifth of his gold from the trust account into it. This Muggle bank account was the account that she wrote the cheque from, and it was intended to masquerade as being the extent of his inheritance, which Dumbledore had made known last summer. They hoped this account would be large enough that the Dursleys would not become suspicious. Otherwise they might start poking around for other assets and stumble upon his trust vault.
The next morning, everything went as planned. Vernon took them to the bank, and his name was placed on the account, as per his request. Having been sufficiently impressed with the one hundred and twenty three thousand pounds that was there, Harry's worries were relieved. Harry and Hermione left Vernon at the bank and returned on their own to the house.
Before they met up with Ron in the living room, Hermione reached into her purse and pulled out a small rolled up invitation. Hermione said, "This is from Professor Slughorn. He is having a summer party. This time it is not just students but some of his other friends. I want us to go to this together."
Harry started to say, "I don't know…"
Hermione cut in, "Oh Harry, stop it. It will be fine. When they bring up the 'Chosen One' business, just tell them that it doesn't matter and go on. Besides, we could really use some more help, and you never know who you could run into. Come on, Harry, at least promise me that you will think about it."
Harry relented by saying, "All right Hermione. I'll think about it."
The three of them went up to the room and started to strategize what they needed to accomplish in the summer to defeat Voldemort.
With some quick swishes of the wand, the beds were removed and replaced with a table and three chairs.
Hermione was instrumental in organizing all of the work that needed to be done. Under her direction, they established what the goals were:
A) Find the horcruxes and destroy them.
B) Kill Voldemort.
C) Live for another day.
D) Have some fun.
Ron insisted on the last item.
From each of the goals, tasks were listed to support the success of accomplishing the goal.
A) Find the horcruxes and destroy them.
1) Find out who is R.A.B. is.
2) Identify the other treasures.
3) Identify the location of each of these treasures.
4) Recover the individual treasures.
5) Destroy the treasure.
B) Kill Voldemort.
1) D.A. - organize and train.
2) Study battle strategy.
3) Learn spells useful for the battle.
4) Train physically, build strength and endurance.
5) Train in Occlumency.
6) Train in Legilimency.
7) Find a way to kill the dementors.
8) Find weakness in the giants.
9) Find allies.
10) Determine a way to communicate in battle and out.
C) Live for another day.
1) Find a safe place to live after Privet Drive.
2) Find spells to protect from dementors, Cruciatus, Killing,
and Imperius curses.
3) Find a potion to protect from Cruciatus and Imperius curses.
4) Study defensive spells.
5) Learn First Aid and Healing spells.
6) Find out where Godric's Hollow is.
7) Buy new clothes.
8) Buy body armor.
9) See optometrist.
D) Have some fun.
1) Prepare for the wedding.
2) Watch some movies.
3) Go outside once in a while.
4) Schedule time to get on a broom.
5) Go to the beach.
Harry was thinking about how to go about finding a new place to live. He decided that it was time to bring it up with the others. "Guys," Harry said, "I think we should ask Neville to find us a safe place to live and be the secret keeper for it." He was surprised to be met with immediate protest.
Ron angrily shot, "Neville hardly hangs out with us. He could turn out to be the next Peter Pettigrew for all we know."
Hermione was next in saying, "You know, I would have to agree with Ron on this. I'm not to sure about him and whether he could even do a Fidelius Charm."
Harry took what they said into consideration, and then said, "I actually have three reasons why I suggested him. First: out of all my friends, he is by far the most underestimated by the Death Eaters. I mean, if he were seen checking out Grimmauld Place or some other Black or Potter residence, no one would think anything about it. He could also write letters to others without raising suspicion. Second: I trust him with my life. When I went into The Death Chamber in the Department of Mysteries, he refused to let me go in alone. I have a feeling that he would be the first to give up his life to save mine. Finally: it just feels right. He will need some help, and Professor Lupin should be the best person to ask.
Oh, there's something else I would like to cover," Harry started, "The both of you are putting your life on hold to help me, yet to do that you are leaving the support of your parents. I don't know what each of you has for money, but it can't be much. You two need to have some money to cover your personal expenses, and with all of this work, I don't want you to work jobs on top of this. Please accept some money to cover your expenses."
Hermione was first this time to retort, "Harry, we are not sticking by you for the money. We just want to see you come out of this alive."
Ron agreed, "Yeah, I appreciate the thought, but it is wrong to pay us for being your friend."
"Nevertheless," Harry said, "you still have expenses. While you are spending all of your time working with me on this, there is no time for you to get a job. I should at least give you some money, a stipend. This way you at least have a little bit of money for personal expenses and gifts. I would expect all food, housing and lodging expenses to be paid out of my money. I would feel funny if you had to ask me to buy you something you want for yourself."
"OK, but how much are you talking about?" Ron asked.
"A hundred Galleons a month," Harry said. "Isn't that about the same as a waitress would make?"
"Very well, Harry" Hermione said, "I see your point, and with that amount, we are not going to get rich at your expense. There will be no favoritisms. If someone else like Neville helps you out full time, they also get the same amount."
"Good, that's settled," Harry said.
They each picked out a few things from the list that they would start working on. Hermione said that she was going to the Diagon Alley Public Library to start searching for books. She promised to see them the next day and bring them lunch.
A few days had passed since Molly Weasley picked up her children from the train station, and she was starting to worry about Ginny. She had been holed up in her room when she was not at the shop. The twins even voiced their concern at her down-in-the-dumps behavior. Molly went up the stairs to Ginny's room and knocked softly.
"Ginny, can I come in and talk?" Molly asked. From behind the door, she could hear some sniffles and things shuffling about.
"Not now, Mum. Come back later," Ginny croaked out, trying to sound as normal as possible.
"Ginny please, you don't sound right, and you have been hiding from me since you came home from school. This is not the Ginny I know. Let me in." her mother insisted.
Trying to avoid the pending mother/daughter talk, Ginny tried a different approach. "What is it Mum? Do you want my laundry, or do you want me to clean the living room?"
Being a mother of seven children, Molly recognized and expected this tactic from her daughter. To counter this she said, "No, it's not that. I want to talk. I need to know why you are in the doldrums. Come on young lady, open the door and invite me in."
It did not look like she would be able to avoid this for much longer, so Ginny decided to face the problem head on. After all, she may be able to pacify her mother with vague answers to avoid the issue.
"Yes, Mum, come in," Ginny said.
'Or maybe it is time to talk about this,' Ginny thought. She knew she could not keep stewing about this forever. After all, if she could not confide in her own mother, then whom could she confide in?
"All right Ginny, what is going on? What's got you so gloomy that you're shutting out the world?" Molly asked tenderly.
"Mum, you know how I wrote you last about Harry, and how the two of us were seeing each other?" Ginny asked.
Her mother's face lit up with the memory. When she got that letter, she was practically jumping in the air with excitement. Not only did she love Harry as a son, Ginny had fancied him ever since she saw him on the train platform 6 years ago.
Suddenly, it started to make sense to her before Ginny even said anything. At the end of the funeral, and on the train platform the following day, she had not seen them together at all. They must have broken up.
"So, you broke it off with him?" Molly asked.
Ginny shook her head, 'No'.
In disbelief, she asked, "He dumped you?"
Ginny's expression said everything. Tears were streaming down her face as Ginny started to sob. Molly comforted her daughter as she cried. Ginny didn't say anything more, just cried until she fell asleep.
Molly tucked her tenderly into bed. This was her baby, the daughter she always wanted. What had Harry done or said to her that would crush her so? What ever it was, she was not going to stand for it. She resolutely went down stairs to talk to Fleur about the wedding invites, and make sure that Harry was NOT allowed to attend.
In Voldemort's lair, miles away, the excitement of the death of Dumbledore from a week ago was just starting to wane. Voldemort now needed action. Harry Potter would be coming of age in less than a month, and that was making him uneasy. He could not show his fear to anyone. "Wormtail!" Voldemort bellowed.
Moments later a shaking, frightened servant with a silver hand quickly scampered into his presence and prostrated himself at the hem of his robe. "Yes master, how can I serve you?" Peter Pettigrew asked.
"Wormtail, fetch me my most loyal servant, Severus," Voldemort commanded.
Fifteen minutes later, Severus Snape billowed into the room like he had practiced many times before with his entrances into his Potions and later his Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. In stiff obedience, he knelt and bowed in front of the Dark Lord. "My Lord, you called for me?" Snape asked.
Voldemort sneered. "Severus, now that the fool, Dumbledore, is out of the way, what is our plan to kill Harry Potter?"
Snape said, "We should attack him, and all of the students who dare to return to Hogwarts, on the train platform at Hogsmeade Station. I can have all of the arrangements properly planned by that time."
"No!" Voldemort yelled. "We must attack sooner! There must be an opportunity available before then."
'Why would he want to attack so soon?' Snape thought. He realized that the Lord Voldemort did not want Harry to come of age. Snape knew it would not matter. Harry was too much of an imbecile to be any threat, even when he did turn seventeen.
Snape said, "Currently he is staying at his Aunt's house on Privet Drive in Little Whinging. There, he is under the protection of ancient blood magic. So long as he is staying there it is very unlikely we would be successful in attacking him. The spell is one which only protects children, so when he comes of age, that protection should be lost." It was then that he remembered something else.
A gleam returned to his eyes as he passed on a better idea, "The Weasleys are having a wedding on the 24th of July. I'm sure we would find him there at the Burrow in Ottery St. Catchpole. This not only would be the perfect time to kill Harry Potter, but also a majority of the Order of the Phoenix members."
"Yes, this sounds like a good opportunity to stomp out that whole family of foolish blood-traitors," said the Dark Lord.
Manically, Snape sneered while in deep thought, "Yes, stomp. We can do that. I will get to work on the plans immediately, My Lord. This should be…most pleasurable." It was the kind of smile that would make a child cry, but Severus Snape actually smiled.
The next morning, back in Harry's bedroom on Privet Drive, Remus Lupin just arrived bringing many books he had purchased for Harry. They made some small talk about the books, and then Harry decided to ask him, "Prof… Erm … Remus?"
Chuckling, Remus said to Harry, "It's okay, Harry, you can call me Remus. I'm definitely not your professor anymore and from what I understand, you don't need a guardian either."
Harry sensed where this conversation was going, and he felt he needed to at least address it. "Well, I did consider asking you," he started, "but it is only for another month and Hermione is doing a bang-up job. You would be proud of her."
"Yes," Remus said, "Hermione never ceases to amaze me. I always knew she was a very bright witch."
Taking this as his opportunity to direct the discussion, Harry said, "I want to go visit Godric's Hollow, but I don't know where it is. Could you take us there?"
"Oh… Harry, you know that it is just a pile of rubble. It is protected with a Fidelius Charm, but I can allow you and whoever you want to look at it." Remus said.
"Well, I still would like to visit it. I know it is strange, but something seems to be calling me to it…. No, I must be nutters. Just the same, I would like to look at it the day before Bill and Fleur's wedding," Harry said with sincerity.
"OK Harry that would be fine. You're not expecting Neville to make that into a hideout, are you?" Remus asked.
"Oh good, then Neville did contact you." Harry said. "No, I think if Voldemort was looking for me, he may still return to the scene of the crime. I was hoping that you would know enough of the Potters and the Blacks to find other places that may be more suitable for us. I don't want to use someone else's property or create a fresh paper trail for someone to find us. Thank you for helping him out."
Remus confessed, "I must admit I doubted your choice in using Neville, but after I saw how loyal he is to you and the energy with which he took on this task, I knew that again you had made the right choice."
"Remus, could you help him with the warding spells and the Fidelius Charm?" Harry asked.
"Actually Harry, you would be surprised on how industrious he has become. He asked me to cast the spells, but he has found all of the usual spells and a few new ones that I haven't seen before." Remus reassured him.
Remus took this opportunity to change the discussion. "Harry, you can call on me whenever you want. I will always be there for you. During these dark times, it is important that we keep the ones we love close by. Just call me if you need anything."
Harry became a little ruffled at this and said, "I don't need an adult to take care of me anymore."
Remus could tell that he had touched a nerve. "That's fine Harry, just look at me as a friend. Even adults call upon the council of other adults every now and then. It is all right to ask for help, and I would be more than willing to lend a hand to a friend."
This did the trick. Harry relaxed and said, "Thank you, Remus."
Ron walked into the room with Tonks on his heals. He had just come back from the local Muggle library when he ran into Tonks on the step. She said that she wanted a word with Harry, so he had invited her in.
"Harry," Tonks greeted.
Harry immediately noticed that something was up with her. She usually greeted him with a cheerful "Wotcher Harry," but not this time.
Tonks continued, "I'd like a word with you if you would."
"Erm … sure," Harry said.
Tonks glanced at Remus and Ron, and then considered the present company as being a non-issue. She jumped right in with what she wanted to say, "Harry, what you did to Ginny was pretty low. I guess you broke her heart because you loved her too much to put her in danger with your presence. That's not noble, that's stupid! You are only hurting her and probably yourself. That is, if you truly love her. In the meantime, Ginny is moping around with a hole in her heart the size of Grawp." Tonks just paused to let the words set in and to make sure he was listening.
"Harry, understand that I'm speaking from experience. My boyfriend," she said, glancing at Remus, "did the same bloody thing to me. I wasn't the same for months until he fixed it. Don't let months go by until you fix it."
In a huff, she turned to leave, but Ron stopped to ask her, "Tonks…erm, could I talk to you out in the hall?"
Unsure what he wanted, Tonks hesitantly said, "Sure."
In the privacy of the hall, Ron whispered, "Tonks…would you teach us how to dance? We have the wedding coming up...and please don't tell Hermione. I want it to be a surprise."
Surprised, she asked quietly, "Are you sure you want me to teach you to dance? Remember, I'm the one with two left feet."
Timid and embarrassed, Ron said, "Please, I want to do this for Hermione. At some point, Harry will also need to know how, when he overcomes this phase with Ginny."
Curiously, she asked, "So, you think that this is just a phase for Harry?"
He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "I've seen him like this before. He has his logical argument for his reason, but he is struggling with it deep inside. He won't admit it, but he always decides from his gut eventually. Harry still thinks about Ginny. Maybe 'obsesses' would be the best word. However, being her brother, I avoid that subject with him."
Tonks considered this for a while then said, "Sure, why not? I'll try to show you how to dance. I'll be posted on patrol here off and on for a while."
As she was leaving, Tonks did not have to worry about opening and closing the door with the invisibility cloak, because Dudley was at that moment eagerly holding open the front door for the movers.
"Oi Ron, what's with the movers?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, your relatives have purchased a Big Screen Telly," Ron answered.
"Why don't they use their new mini-van to move it?" Harry questioned.
"Look out the window; that thing is huge. It would never fit in that car," Ron replied.
"Well, there is one good thing with them playing with that money. At least they are staying out of our hair." Harry surmised.