Disclaimer: Yup, I'm just another loser with no money. But, J.K. Rowling isn't a loser, nor is she poor. How did this come to pass, you might ask . . . ? Well, she wrote the Harry Potter series of course! Every word. As such, most of the plot and people you read about below belong to her, so please keep the law off my back. Thanks.

Continued . . .

Chapter four: Sirius Problems and Red Head Reunions . . .

Lupin was sitting in a high backed armchair before a fireplace, sipping from a steaming cup of tea.

The man had just lost the last link to his friends . . . family . . . past, present, and future. Images of Harry twitching and foaming at the mouth were still blinding his thoughts, and he didn't expect them to stop their torture anytime soon.

To be honest, Lupin wasn't even sure if the ritualistic event had even been successful, and that uncertainty was enough to push a lesser man into insanity. The book had said nothing of the experimental group's (Harry) reaction to the spelled-potion, and the old Marauder couldn't help but wonder if he'd done something wrong and killed Harry, instead of sent him back in time.

Two hours earlier . . .

Lupin finished the long Latin spell inscribed in the ancient tome and in response, heard Harry gasp. Lupin looked to his friends face in concern and saw that the younger man had his jaw clamped shut and his eyelids down tight. A bright white light, followed by a steady blue filled the room as a sound similar to a hungry stomach's growls was issuing from Harry's midsection, and Lupin hoped to whatever God there is that this was what was supposed to happen.

Harry's back arched up momentary like someone having a seizure and Lupin tossed the book aside to hold his friend down. Whether this was going properly or not, the book had specifically stated that the potion-infested test subject could not leave the confines of the granite circle. If Harry put even a toe over the edge, the spell would cancel out, and Harry would die.

Close to a minute of restraining Harry passed before Lupin could release him. Harry's muscles had lost their rigidity and his body was limp. In the process, Harry's facial expression had lost its pained look, and his eyes had opened, looking almost peaceful now. But he wasn't dead. He was still breathing; at least, he was a moment ago . . .

"Harry?"

" . . . " No response issued from his friend.

"HARRY!" Lupin yelled into his face as tears erupted from his own eyes. Lupin held Harry's wrist up to check for a pulse and found none. Lupin looked back up into the face of his only company for the last seven odd years and found the boy's skin was slowly loosing its healthy color.

Lupin started muttering prayers, and wishes, and apologies without even thinking. This was as sorrowful, if not more sorrowful, than the day he was informed of Harry's parents' deaths.

Through his steadily streaming eyes, Lupin choked on a sob as Harry's facial muscles twitched in a pathetic, yet obvious attempt at a wink. Then, after everything they'd seen . . . those startling, trademark, bright green eyes dimmed and glazed over for the first time. The life left the orbs, and Harry died.

"Good-bye Harry."

End Flashback . . .

Harry's body was still on the granite slab. Lupin hadn't the heart to move him yet, the event was just too fresh in his mind at the moment. So, there his best friend lay, under a large white linen sheet. The only change Lupin had made was in closing his lifeless eyes. Eyes such as those should never have to bear witness to anything more.

Lupin was drawn out of the serenity within his mind by the sound of thundering footsteps. Someone was running through the corridors of the Ministry, opening, then slamming doors shut. But who? Lupin and Harry had never had someone breach their wards. Even if someone that knew the where-abouts of the British Ministry, the many charms erected around and within the confines of the monument would send them else where.

Lupin stood up quickly, looking for possible places within the room that he could use for cover in case of a duel, but before he could come to a decision on where to hide, the door to his small study was whipped open and a familiar face entered the room.

The man's hair was sweaty from all the running, and was currently matted down all over his face. His eyes were wide in horror and he looked almost hysterical. Seeing Lupin seemed to agitate him more, and tears joined the sweat on his face.

"Professor?" The man all but cried out. Lupin starred in horror, almost as shell-shocked as the young man before him.

"Harry?"

XXXXXX

An unrecognized sound woke Harry. He felt rested and loved how the comfortable bed felt under his body. He went to stretch his legs out when the feeling of silk brushed along his exposed skin.

His eyes snapped open, and the he sat up quickly. The calm state he'd been in earlier was long gone now. His bed didn't have silk sheets! He was sure of that.

Harry's eyes adjusted, and as the red and gold Gryffindor colors faded into view, his mind recounted the last day or so. The tension in his muscles left and Harry lay back down.

It hadn't really dawned on him until now, since this was the first quiet, private time for him to think and reflect.

'So I'm back . . ." Harry thought. He was optimistic for once, looking on the bright side. Here, he could set the rules; no more hiding behind his parental figures' wings, or being kept in the dark about stuff that pertained to him and him alone. Here, Harry knew the Prophecy. Here, Harry knew magic most could only dream about. Here, Harry had power, and he intended to use it.

The sound that Harry suspected had woken him repeated itself, coming in through the open window near his bedside. Silently drawing back the heavy covers, Harry slid out of his bed and crept to the window to inspect the source of the nightly disturber. Looking down, Harry saw Hagrid trying to feed the exceptionally large palominos that pulled the Beauxbaton carriage. Hagrid was in his element, and Harry couldn't help but smirk happily for the man. He would bet every galleon in his Gringotts' vaults that Hagrid had a massive smile buried under his mass of facial hair at that very instant.

A snort, followed by a long slur of undeterminable words issued from behind Ron's curtains and Harry almost chuckled. The noises Ron used to make while he slept once drove him bonkers, but Harry doubted he would find a Ron-Snort, or a Ron-Snore annoying ever again.

Yes, this definitely looked good to Harry. He was especially happy to find no differences between here and his old timeline; at least, not yet. Harry hoped that any differences here were very small. He padded across the floor to his trunk and opened it to make sure he had most of everything. Harry found, among other things, his dad's cloak, the Marauders' Map, a pair of Omnioculars, and the Golden Egg he took possession of the previous day. But Harry's brief relief at seeing some off his most prized possessions was ended when he found a thick stack of letters from the previous years. At the thought of letters, someone came to mind . . .

'Sirius.' Lupin and Harry had decided on a few things, and one was to get Sirius' name cleared of all crimes as soon as possible. Harry didn't need Sirius cooped up in Grimmauld Place, or living on rats; it wasn't humane, or fair to the man. A quick decision later and Harry was robed in his dad's cloak, the Marauders' Map in his left hand, and some parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink in the other. He needed to talk to Sirius and convince the over-protective Godfather that he was fine at Hogwarts with out his protection.

Creeping down the stairs soundlessly, Harry flipped the hood of the cloak over him to make himself totally invisible, then entered the common room. A low fire was dieing in the grates, and the room was dead silent . . . almost. A small whimpering sound, accompanied by heavy breathing, was coming from a couch near the fireplace. Harry approached slowly, careful not to rub his legs together or let the cloak 'swish' around him as he walked. Looking over the back of the couch, Harry's heart stopped.

'Ginny . . .' Her long red hair, for the most part, was spread out around her small form like a great mane, but one lonely cluster was sticking to her tear stained face. She was having some kind of nightmare, or so it seemed. The youngest Weasley was in her night clothes, and a Gryffindor scarf was being abused in her flexing hands as she pulled and twisted it vigorously.

Harry swept around the couch quickly, forgetting to be stealthy; for, in his opinion, it didn't matter if he was quiet. Ginny needed help and comforting. Harry pulled back the hood of the invisibility cloak—one, because it blurred his vision, two, because it was bloody annoying the way it kept brushing across his face—and went down to his knees once he was in front of the couch.

He gently put one hand to her forehead; the other hand he placed over her convulsing hands in an attempt to calm her down. The reaction was instantaneous. Ginny's hands settled and her whimpering stopped. She had always calmed under his touch, and he was proud of that. He gently pried the scarf away, and in doing so, saw a name written on the tag that he was very accustomed to: Harry Potter. Harry's eye brows rose in amusement. He could remember, however vaguely, losing at least one scarf during his stay at Hogwarts, but having one STOLEN? He wasn't angry of course. This was Ginny after all.

Setting the scarf by his side, Harry looked up into her face. Even at thirteen she was something to behold. How had he never noticed? Reaching up, Harry pulled the tendril of wet hair out of her face, an action he would later berate himself for. As he pulled her hair away, her eye lids opened the smallest amount. Her beautiful, chocolate brown eyes were still easy to see, even though the room's only light was coming from the dieing fire. Harry froze as their eyes made contact.

"Harry?" She asked sleepily. Harry did the first thing that came to him. He reached out his invisible arms and pulled her close; one hand wrapping around to land on her back, the other going up to stroke her hair. She fell asleep almost immediately, without question, and Harry was very grateful. When her breathing reached a steady pace, he was reluctant to release her, but knew he had to. The time to hold Ginny, his Ginny, would come, soon, but right now, he had to contact Sirius.

Wandlessly conjuring a thick blanket, Harry covered her so she wouldn't grow cold. Then, before leaving, he rolled up the scarf and tucked it behind her head as a make shift pillow. She could keep it. He wanted her to keep it.

Breaking off his lingering gaze, Harry leaned down and gently kissed her forehead, then picked up his discarded possessions and left the common room, intent on going to the Owlery and sending a letter to his Godfather.

XXXXXX

The curtains pulled away; the sunlight spilled in, and Ron moved to wake Harry.

"Harry mate," Ron spoke quietly. "Get up or we won't get breakfast." Harry rolled over to look at his friend. Ron was exactly the same—red hair and freckles, pajamas that were much too short for him, and a strong obsession for food. Breakfast hadn't even started yet.

Fifth-teen minutes later, he and Ron were showered, dressed, and both eagerly awaiting nourishment.

Harry made sure to enter the Common Room ahead of Ron, his eyes scrutinizing the couch before the fire. Needless to say, Harry was happy to find the couch empty, but he also felt a little disappointed. He would never admit it, but part of him wanted to see Ginny still on the couch sleeping, safe. Images of her lifeless body on a camp bed, in a tent, alone, had damaged him beyond repair.

The two agreed to leave without Hermione that morning; their stomachs growled approvingly.

The Great Hall was already filled with the sound of students' voices when Harry and Ron arrived. Most of the Ravenclaws were already present, as were most of the Slytherins. Close to half of the Hufflepuff table was seated, and all but a few Professors were in attendance. Not surprised in the least, Harry saw that only a handful of Gryffindors had journeyed to breakfast thus far. 'The Brave' needed their sleep after all.

Once they themselves were seated, Ron ate with as much vigor as Harry could remember. The amount of food the red head could put away was astounding. Harry was determined to match him bite for bite though. A quick look in the mirror earlier that morning revealed just how skinny he truly was. Harry needed to put on some weight.

As the rest of the Hall filled, Harry and Ron were greeted by their class mates as usual, but the two grew worried when Hermione still hadn't joined them. She, according to Harry's memory, was never one to be late.

At last, Hermione had found her way to the Hall, but she wasn't alone. She and Ginny walked the length of the table until they found Harry and Ron, then seated themselves across from the boys—Hermione opposite Harry, and Ginny opposite her brother.

"Finally!" Ron exclaimed as he swallowed yet another spoonful of porridge. "Breakfast is almost over Hermione." The disapproving look on Ron's face, however, went unnoticed. Hermione was paying no attention to Ron; in fact, her gaze was locked on Harry. Looking up, Harry found her eyes boring into his own; they were filled with a calculating suspicion. Something was up, and Harry had to admit, Hermione was good. Only her eyes gave away her ulterior motives; other than that, the rest of her face displayed a perfect facade of disinterest.

"Good morning," she finally responded once she broke off the eye contact. Small talk continued for a few minutes as Hermione and Ginny ate breakfast, and Harry couldn't help but notice how the youngest Weasley never looked or spoke to him. Eventually though, Hermione asked what was on her mind. "So . . . Harry, you . . . ahh . . . stayed in bed last night, right?" She asked in a would-be casual voice. At this, Ginny looked down into her eggs and her face flushed crimson.

Harry looked back and forth between the two girls' faces and recognized the signs of him 'getting played.' They were after something . . . but what? Harry didn't want to use his Legilimency skills on his friends, but he wasn't one to be manipulated. He'd come to the conclusion many years ago that he'd risk probing his friends' minds if it either protected them, or, in most cases, saved his own arse.

Reaching out with his mind, Harry gently tapped into Hermione's memories and received odd looks from his friends when he started chuckling for seemingly no reason . . .

Hours earlier: In Hermione's head . . .

Hermione woke with a start when she heard someone barge into her dormitory without respect to its inhabitants. The door slammed against the inside wall and the heavy breathing of the assailant reached Hermione's ears.

"Hermione! HERMIONE!" The intruder screeched. Hermione knew that voice well.

"Over here Ginny, what is it?" She asked with only a little bitterness. Hermione liked her sleep; all Gryffindors did.

"Get up; I need to talk to you!" Ginny ranted. Hermione growled inwardly, but recognized the desperate tinge in her friend's voice. The bushy haired brunette had a trouble turning away people in need.

"Ok ok, give me a minute," Hermione mumbled. She stumbled out of bed gracelessly and walked over to the only window in the room, under which was a pitcher of water and some disposable drinking cups. After a long draught of the cool, refreshing mixture of oxygen and hydrogen, she turned her gaze over to Ginny, who looked the definition of disheveled. "What's wrong?" Hermione asked, concerned now. The red head ran over to her.

"Hermione, I . . . I had a . . . umm," Ginny looked around the dormitory, her sight lingering on the other beds. Hermione answered the silent question with a wave of her wand, placing a strong silencing charm around themselves. Ginny gave her a grateful look, then continued. "Hermione, I had a dream—at least I think it was a dream, I mean, I don't know, it was just so real and . . . and I hoped you could tell me what it meant maybe. Please?" Ginny pleaded. Once again, Hermione couldn't turn down 'help' when it came calling, even if did call so rudely.

"Alright, tell me about it . . . everything you can remember, and be specific." Ginny blushed a little, but held her composure enough to describe the dream.

"Well, I couldn't sleep last night. You know, what with Harry and the dragon and . . ." She trailed off quietly. "But anyway, I went down to the Common Room and just sat on the couch and tried my best to keep my mind off of all the things that could have happened, but eventually, well, I fell asleep, and I started having a nightmare. Harry was burnt out of the air, then he'd walk back out of the champions' tent again, only to get stomped on by the dragon, then again, and he'd get bitten, and—ohh! Hermione, it was horrible. But then, right when Harry was getting shish kabobed by the dragon's tail, everything faded out. All of a sudden I felt calm Hermione, it was so . . . . odd. Ok, well this is where it got weird. I woke up in the common room, dreaming or not, I don't know, but I must've been dreaming, because of all of a sudden, there was Harry's head, Hermione! It was just floating there in front of me, like the rest of his body was invisible or something! And then I fell asleep again, but I didn't have any more nightmares, and I woke up just moments ago." Hermione wasn't stunned. Ginny had come to her many times to discuss things like dreams, Harry, school work, girl problems, and Harry. As such, not much could confuse her. This was a first in a long time.

'Harry's head . . . floating in mid-air . . . unaided; the rest of his body invisible.' Hermione thought this scenario sounded strangely familiar. Ginny had mentioned how real the dream seemed, and maybe it was just that. But what would Harry be doing out of bed last night, and with his invisibility cloak no less? Ginny didn't know about the cloak, and if this had truly happened, Hermione didn't want to jeopardize Harry's trust. So, she'd have to white-lie.

"Hmm, I'm not exactly sure what your dream means Ginny. Can you give me a little while to think on it?" Ginny nodded, but wasn't ready to quit their discussion just yet.

"Do you think it's a sign? I know you said acting normal around him would help him notice me, but . . . I don't know." Ginny looked a little excited, and Hermione knew why. Ginny had been infatuated with Harry since before she'd even seen his face. It was a crush at one time, but Hermione suspected deeper feeling were present now.

"I don't know Gin. Maybe," Hermione said. She didn't want to kill Ginny's hopes, but both Ron and Harry were so thick when it came to the opposite gender, she doubted Harry would notice the change in Ginny's attitude any time soon. "Can you come back in a little bit Ginny? We'll go down to breakfast together. Besides, you need a shower as much as I do." Hermione pointed out. Ginny smiled. The red head knew she must look a wreck. A night of nightmares on a couch will do that to you.

"Sounds good." With that, Ginny left to her own dormitory. In her excitement, she'd failed to mention the fact that a blanket had found its way around her body some time in the night, and that one of her most prized possessions had found its way under her head.

A few soap problems, a rogue toothbrush, and a robe disaster later, and Hermione and Ginny had found their way to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Present . . .

Harry was chuckling lightly, a response to Hermione's question that intrigued the future Prefect.

"What's so funny?" Hermione asked as innocently as she could. Harry noticed and decided to play along. He had nothing to hide. His feelings for Ginny were more concrete than any of them could possibly know.

"Actually no, I didn't stay in bed last night." Harry smirked inwardly at the way both of the females' heads snapped up to look at him; one, accusingly, the other, hopefully. Harry left it at that, wondering how long Hermione could last before her curiosity took hold . . . not long.

"Oh?" Hermione inquired after only a minute. "And?"

"I forgot to send a letter to Sirius yesterday to tell him how I did, so I went to the Owlery last night and told him I did fine and that I'd like to visit him as soon as possible." Harry let his voice drop in pitch at the end of the sentence; a sign of conclusion during a conversation. The smirk found its way to Harry's exterior then, but as he watched Ginny's face fall in sadness, he felt like he needed to do something. He felt guilty, like he'd committed a crime. Leaping to his feet suddenly, Harry leaned forward and whispered. "Ohh, and Gin, you really need to sleep in your own bed from now on . . . couches reek havoc on your back." That said, Harry literally sprinted from the Hall.

Ginny was once again fully flushed in the face, but confused at the same time. She would be notified of the invisibility cloak's existence at a later date. Confused or not though, a beautiful smile now lit up her face.

Ron was just plain confused. He didn't quite understand what had just happened, but it was nice to his sister smile. She didn't do so that often . . . bloody Chamber incident. Feeling his confusion ebb away, he dove back into his plate of food.

Hermione seemed to be the only one of the three that hadn't recovered somewhat yet. She was sitting back in her seat; her shoulders were hunched; her brow was furrowed in thought, and her eyes were unfocused. Under her breath, she thought, "Who's Sirius?"

To Be Continued . . .

----

A/N: There it is. I wrote that in a ski lodge yesterday, so I hope my distraction doesn't show in the writing.

-You might be wondering . . . why do the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and most likely the 5th chapters all take place between two to three days? Well, the answer is simple, at least from my point fo view. You remember the first couple days of school more than the . . . say . . . 53rd day, am I right? Well, if that's true, then Harry's first couple days back HAVE to be rather memorable, and memorable situations take A LOT of discription, so, in conclusion, the first handful of days are requiring more and more words than I had originally expected. Eventually though, the 'time' covered per chapter will increase, so don't fret. Besides, I want to write the Yule Ball pretty badly, so I'm eager to hurry up and get there.

R&R

Thanks,

Ben