Review offering insight to the story:

"wow. This story is one of the best that I've ever read, and I've read quite a lot. I feel as though I've gone on a journey when I think of this story. I look back to the beginning and I remember how I felt sorry for Draco/Jamie. I have cried and laughed, been happy, sad, content, and upset with how the story was going. I remember looking at how many chapters there were and thinking "Sixty?! How on earth am I going to make it through 60 chapters?" And I'm here! This one is definitely one for the record books! Not for how many chapters have been posted, but for the writing and the plot. Rowling could take some pointers from you, that's for sure. :) This story is meticulously well-written and planned. You have written each character wonderfully, never letting them get too out of character. Draco and Harry need to have a long talk about everything, get it all out on the table. You've made me believe that this could happen in the books, as crazy as that sounds. This story is slammed full of angst and sadness, but you have those little moments in there that make the readers laugh. I wonder why Draco really did pass out. Was it the Stone of Power, or was it the fact that things beween he and Harry had been severely messed up? Could it have been Draco's outburst? I hope to find out. This is one of the best Harry Potter stories that I've ever read. Until the next chapter! And cliffhangers are horribly evil! ;)" - angel17712 of FanFiction net.

Thank you to the following reviewers: laendra, the geek over there, Pam Briggs, dragoneyes5000, suferz, Jester08, Shaggy37, fictionwriter191, Hotkat144, Sam's Firefly, whenitallfallsapart, sasmith, bethygirl94, Anaya Rose Black, Zarroc, Brie H, missiemae2u, SeanEmma4Evr, Britt, legand-babe, J-R-R13, Steelo, MiKaYGiRl, Airi, mskiti, sarahyyy, senatorsarah, schwarzengel, Caligirl-HPLVR and especially angel17712, DCoD, impecabbleblahs (I think you'll like the beginning of this chapter:D), silver-roses15, silverlovedragoness, and galloping-goose (Zeus).

Note: I'm so sorry that this took so long to put out, but this story hasn't been abandoned, I assure you. I will try to update soon. What with the Horcrux Hunt coming up, the story is beginning to wind down. I'm thinking it should be about 65 chapters, give or take. I hope you enjoy this chapter, and thank you for reading steadily.

Dedicated to: GoldenDream, grebgreb and creampie.

Blood Is Thicker Than Tears
Chapter Sixty-One

We played king of the mountain out on the end
The world come chargin up the hill, and we were women and men

Harry laid in the center of the dark Quidditch pitch, staring up at the blanket of sky above him. Stars winked and shimmered above him, speaking of wishes unwished and a millennium of lives lived. A hand took his and squeezed it lightly, reminding him that he was never really alone. Luna and Ron were up in the Head common room pouring over books and debating with various Ravenclaw's about where the last of the Horcruxes could be. Draco was still holed up in the Hospital Wing, irritating Madame Pomfrey at every turn and being fawned over by Falesha. "Did you ever think it would come to this?" he asked his companion.

"Which part?" she replied, softly sighing. "I knew that one day we would be a part of war. I didn't think we'd be fighting for anything but freedom. I never thought you'd be on your way to becoming a father. I never thought you'd have a twin brother that was just as willing to put his life on the line as you," she said, rolling her eyes and smiling lightly. "There was a lot of things I never expected, but... I'm happy with a lot of it. I could do without the near death experiences, the fear that seems to shadow our every step, and the uncertainty about our future." She turned to him, her friendly brown eyes shining. "When this is all over, Harry, you'll be happy with the regularity, right?"

Exhaling heavily, he smiled, nodding, "Yeah, I think I could do with some regularity," he said, chuckling. "What about you?" The chilly air made his breath appear like a small grey cloud in front of him.

She pursed her lips, hiding her smile. "Well... while I simply love this grand adventure you've taken us all on. I think..." Her face cleared and she nodded slowly, "I think I could do with being just another witch, enjoying the freedom of friendship and love."

"You'll get it Hermione," Harry told her seriously, squeezing her hand. The green grass was prickly against the their bare entwined hands. "I think you were destined to be my sister."

"Oh?" she asked, smiling warmly.

"Yeah," he replied, turning his emerald eyes back up to the sky. "You and Ron were my first real family. I don't know what my life would have been like these last six and a half years if I didn't have you guys. Ron, he'll always be my brother in some way. But you, you're going to be my sister through Dr-- Jamie." He shook his head, chuckling, "Never thought I'd be saying or thinking that, but... I'm really happy for you, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, Harry, I knew that. In between your protective brother act and death defying adventures, I knew you were happy for me," she assured, smiling lightly.

"We've come a long way," he concluded, sighing. "There's still a ways to go." His mind was filled with all that had come to be and it boggled him still to remember the fighting, the worry, the tears, and the fear.

"We'll all get there together," Hermione told him in a unbending tone.

"Did you ever any doubts?" he queried, his brow wrinkling. He'd spent a lot of his time swamped in doubt. Whether they would get through any of it, whether he was truly destined to destroy Voldemort. If Draco would ever get over his anger and talk to him like he used to. If their brotherhood would fall apart like every family connection he'd ever had before it. If he was ever going to have the chance to just be happy and content in life, without the lingering obstacle of Dark Wizard's out to ruin everything he cared about.

"Yes," she admitted, exhaling a shaky breath. "That's normal though, Harry. Without doubt these moments are never cherished as much as they should be. I doubted Draco would make it through, or that I'd ever get to love him like I do. I wasn't sure that we'd make it to this point, not all of us. I had big concerns over whether we'd be strong enough to beat Voldemort." She shook her head, frowning up at the sky high above of them, so far and yet it felt as though Harry could reach out and pluck a star from the inky universe and pocket it for a dark day. "But look at us all now, Harry. We have an army of supporters, we're alive and ready, and we get closer each day to our goal." She smiled, letting out a happy chuckle that sounded as though it were just the beginning of how truly joyful she was. "This is going to be won for us, Harry. This is going to run in favor of the right side. Just you wait, you'll see I'm right."

Now theres so much that time, time and memory fade away
We got our own roads to ride and chances we gotta take

"Well, you're almost never wrong," he responded, sitting up and feeling as though his shoulders were just a little less heavy with worries. "I doubted it, too. But now I'm thinking maybe... maybe it was all just leading up to moments like this. Days where I feel like things are getting back on track." He snorted, "I mean, I know my brother is in the Hospital Wing, but... I never thought I'd have a brother, so that's got to say something. And well... I'm going to be a father in just six months or so. I'm completely and utterly in love with Luna, and for once..." He turned to her, smiling as she sat up and grinned at him knowingly. "For once I feel like I really have a future."

Hermione reached out, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him tight. "Because you do, Harry. You have a wonderful future ahead of you. And I just know that when this is all over, you're going to be a natural dad."

His arms tightened around her, his head cradled against her shoulder. "You think?" he wondered, not sure.

"I know," she told him, her hand running up and down his back to soothe his worries away. "You may not have grown up in a family that loved you, and you didn't get the chance to have your parents with you like you should have, but Harry... You know what love is and you already love your son and daughter. Your baby is going to have a wonderful father, because there quite simply isn't anyone who deserves a family as much as you do." She sounded emotional and he knew she was crying when she sniffled. "I'm so happy for you, Harry," she told him, squeezing him tight.

"Can't breathe," he mumbled jokingly. She chuckled, letting him go just a little bit. "Thanks," he murmured against her hair. "I was a little worried. I mean, the closest thing I had to parents growing up were the Dursley's and I don't ever want my son to know what that was like." He shook his head, "I'm never going to make him do what I had to do. I'm gonna tell him I love him every day and I'm never gonna let him think I don't care. I'm gonna be the best dad there is, Hermione. I am," he vowed, nodding.

"I know you are, Harry," she told him, her hand stroking his hair affectionately. Pulling back, she wiped at her face. "And I'll be the best aunt," she proclaimed, grinning.

Harry laughed, nodding. "Yeah, I'm sure he'll love that Encyclopedia set you give him on his first birthday," he kidded, rising from the grass and holding a hand out for her to take.

Hermione huffed, taking his hand and brushing herself off. "Reading is essential to a child's growth, Harry," she told him, looking at him with wide, serious eyes. "And I'll save the Encyclopedia's until at least his fifth birthday. I don't want to overwhelm him," she assured, nodding.

Laughing, Harry shook his head, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and enjoying the comfort of his best friend. "Harry Jr. appreciates your understanding," he told her.

Wrinkling her nose, Hermione shook her head. "You're not really going to call him that, are you?"

"It's much better than some of the names Luna thought of," he defended, wrinkling his nose at the thought.

"Oh yeah, like what?" she asked, looking up at him amused, while her arm wrapped around his back.

"Peabody," he told her, his voice shaking with his laughter.

"Oh," she said, surprised. "Er, well, that's... all right, I guess," she offered, looking up at him skeptically.

"No, it's horrible," he told her, shaking his head and grinning. "No better than Gunter!" he told her, shuddering for emphasis.

Hermione smirked, lifting her brow and looking up at him. "I dont' know... I kind of like the name Gunter."

"You do not," he said, sounding appalled.

She nodded, "Yes, I think I'll tell Luna that she was definitely on the right track with that one. Mm hmm. You'll have a little Gunter Potter running around here in no time," she bugged, chuckling.

Harry's brows rose and his expression turned to one of horror. "You can't! 'Mione, I don't want a little boy named Gunter," he protested, his voice sounding more like a whine.

"Well, what else did she think was good?" she wondered as they walked back to the school, smiling in amusement.

"Nothing good," he told her on a sigh. "I think she said Baldred was one she liked." He grimaced, his nose wrinkling.

Hermione's shoulders shook as she chortled, "Oh I like it! Yes, that one is definitely it!" she declared, jutting her forefinger into the air for emphasis.

"'Mioneeee," Harry whined, rolling his eyes upward. Harry relished in the feeling of being a regular person, hanging out with his best friend, talking about his future as a father.

Forgetting about the coming war, the truth of the lives they were living, and the weight that consumed their usual thoughts, the two friends walked back to the school, enjoying the company of just each other. For that moment, they were back to being just Harry and Hermione, best friends. There was no fear, no risk, no Death Eater's around the next corner. It was a regular night for two regular people living a regular life. Their laughter rang throughout the silent night, echoing to the shimmering stars. At least for that night, there was peace.

We stood side by side each one fightin' for the other
We said until we died we'd always be blood brothers

Later that evening, Harry found himself standing in the Hospital Wing once more. After returning to the Head common room, they found Ron, Luna, and a few Ravenclaw's shouting in glee. After gathering up those his brother would want to see when they shared the news, Harry and Hermione were standing in front of Draco, who was glowering in annoyance at having Madame Pomfrey tell him he wasn't allowed visitors, speaking over his brother as he told him of what they had found. Giving up, the medi-witch through her arms up, told him they had five minutes, and walked off muttering under her breath.

"Then we go now," Draco announced emphatically after hearing the news, throwing his blanket off of him and dragging himself off the bed.

Immediately he had three people coming at him to push him back. He glared at them, his expression one of irritation. They looked hesitant as to what to do and then Atlas said, "I'll get Madame Pomfrey."

"No," Draco said quickly, shaking his head. Harry assumed he'd had about enough of the nurse's overwhelming presence. Sighing, he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Look, we can't put this off any longer. I've been stuck in this stupid bed for two days. I'm dying for fresh air and I feel fine," he told them, crossing his arms. He stared up at them defiantly, looking all the ready to hop out the window for escape if it came to it.

"You got fresh hair yesterday," Harry reminded, smirking. His brother was getting stir crazy, which he could understand completely. They were used to getting out more, to being outside three-quarters of the day, so it wasn't that surprising that Draco wanted out of the confining bed as soon as possible.

"I was barely out there an hour before Madame Pomfrey came chasing after me," he muttered, his expression dark. "Woman can run fast for someone her age."

"I'm not that old, Mr. Potter. These grey hair's come from students like you giving me such a hard job," the medi-witch called out as she walked by.

"It's like she has extra sensitive hearing. She always knows what I'm talking about and what I'm planning," Draco told them in a stage whisper. Shrugging, he frowned. "Now, I know she said I should stay cooped up for another day or two, but I swear, if you lot leave me here, I'm breaking out the second you all fall asleep! I want those Horcruxes found tonight and that's final," he told the people around him.

Harry smiled lightly. His brother was naturally commanding and he almost always got what he wanted. It helped that most of his demands had to do with the betterment of things. He only wanted the Horcruxes found and destroyed so that they could move onto bigger things. If it meant putting his health in danger, Draco didn't much mind. Harry could remember more than a few times that Draco sacrificed his own well-being for others. Though Harry was inclined to make Draco stay in bed and recuperate, he was well aware of how little time they had and just what could happen if they put it off. Luna was pregnant, and that news could well cost her and their baby's life if it got out. Plus, if Voldemort chose to move the Horcruxes, then they were basically screwed. They'd been training hard and researching constantly. Draco's illness couldn't have come at a worse time. All in all though, Harry had to say his brother was looking much better than he had when he collapsed. And if his managing to outrun Madame Pomfrey for an hour the day before, until she stunned him anyway, was any indication, then Draco was physically feeling better.

"Mr. Potter, another day or two couldn't hurt," MacGonagall tried, sound both exasperated and anxious.

"Yes, it could," Draco replied, his eyes widening with irritation. "Look, it's going to take a lot of man power. We have to rush three places at once and I don't want any casualties on our side. We also have to remember that he's going to start this War very soon. When he realizes that we have the Horcruxes and they're destroyed, he's going to want to attack quickly." Clenching his jaw, he nodded. "In fact, he'll likely try and send us a message right after we get the Horcruxes, he'll want us to think that we accomplished nothing and he's still more powerful." Draco fell into his thoughts as he considered what should be done. "We're moving tonight," he told them all finally, turning to Ron. "Gather twenty of our best," he ordered.

Without waiting for disagreement from the others, Ron gave a sharp nod and turned to leave. Harry watched him leave, wondering for just a moment when it was that Ron grew such a serious and commanding presence all to himself. While he knew that Ron wasn't always the funny guy with no understanding of how serious everything was, Harry wondered when his best mate became so much more mature. True Harry hadn't been exactly close to Ron or Draco in the last while, but he hadn't really noticed just how much Ron had grown. He still had his great sense of humor, a way about him that could bring most out of dark moods. But he looked older now, wiser in the ways of the world. He was taller, too, more broad in his shoulders and Harry could visibly see that his arms and torso were more muscled for fighting and defense.

Harry glanced down at himself, wondering if he too had become more lithe and sinewy. His brows lifted when he found his own body had transformed from that of a boy. Looking up, he could see a mirror across from him, magicked to the wall. His hand lifted, brushing his jaw, he needed to shave. There was a dark scruff around his mouth that scratched his hand as he ran the back of it from one ear to the other. His shoulders were broad and straight, leading to long, muscled arms that appeared right on his new frame. He wasn't the skinny boy the Dursely's had underfed all those years, but a fit man who appeared more soldier than student. He wasn't a boy at all, he was a man.

"Now Draco, I'm not sure that--" Falesha started, looking around with wide eyes and twisting her hands together. She had been so confident in the beginning, when she first arrived, but it seemed that the twins constantly being in danger had her on edge. She'd lost everybody so far, she was just scared that they'd go, too. Harry understood that, appreciated how attentive she could be. But he knew that now was not the time for softness. War wasn't soft, and neither were the people that walked into it. Not unless they didn't want to walk out.

Draco had climbed out of bed, wearing nothing but a pair of loose pants. Harry glanced over at his brother and found he too wasn't the thin, angular boy he once was. His long torso was packed with hard muscle, looking vigorously dangerous rather than beefy brawn. All of the work outside had worked off for him, Harry, and Ron easily, and Harry found that the boys he had grown up with during the last six years of school had been replaced with stronger, wiser, more able men. Even Hermione's body had changed, becoming more long and curvy, with a flat stomach and toned arms. She stood tall, her hands on her hips in a short but confident stature that looked like more of a strong opposition than most men did. Standing next to Draco while he searched around for the rest of his clothes, she didn't look all that out of place. Some women would look small and frail compared to Draco's toned frame, but she was far too much of a presence herself to go unnoticed.

Now the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away
Makin' a fools joke out of the promises we make

"Look, I realize that you're all worried because I had a... thing," he muttered, shaking his head and pulling a shirt on over his head. Hermione straightened it out and tucked it into his pants while he stared at Falesha and then looked over at MacGonagall. "We're on a tight schedule and whether you two want to admit it, war is coming. This is a big step, I know. I know you guys don't really think that everybody is ready, but I do." He bent down to slip some socks on and then pulled his shoes over. "We trained them. Hard," he told him, lifting a brow at them as if asking them to protest. "You both still look at them as students, but they're not. They're soldiers now. They're going to war and they're going to lay their lives on the line. That was their choice." He tied his shoes up quickly and rose from the bed, his arms slipping around Hermione out of habit. "We can't put this off any longer. We found the Horcruxes and we're going to get them tonight. If you want to come, be my guest, but don't think for a second that just because you're there you can take over this assignment."

Harry found himself on his brothers side, knowing that Draco was right. They had a good group of soldiers behind them and they already knew at least two of the places they were going to. He also admired his brother for warning MacGonagall and Falesha that while he would appreciate their coming along, they weren't in charge. The torch of leader had long passed to the Potter twins and they weren't about to relinquish it just because something dangerous was happening. They had been through enough over the years to have the ability and agility to keep themselves and others safe. True various times lives had been put on the line, but war wasn't pleasant or forgiving.

Ron appeared in the room before anybody could reply. "They're waiting by the front doors," he informed Draco.

Draco nodded, "Go get ready," he told him before turning to Harry. "You too, little brother."

Harry rolled his eyes but left to get his gear on. He turned around, backing out of the room. "Am I bringing the sword?" he wondered.

Draco shook his head. "No, we're keeping those for the final battle."

Harry bobbed his head and waited for Luna to join him as she began walking after him to the door. He looked over at MacGonagall and Falesha, who were both frowning, but not saying anything, and then left the Hospital Wing. Luna was quiet while they walked but her arm was strong around his waist and her mouth was set in a small frown. She followed him into Gryffindor Tower, paying no mind to those who milled in the common room, talking about what might be taking place. Very few soldiers knew anything about the Horcruxes, having only told a select group of Ravenclaw's so they could get their expertise while trying to track them down. Draco and Harry had agreed that the fewer who knew, the less likely it could get out what they were doing in the background of training. Luna disengaged from Harry and sat down on his bed while he looked through his trunk for the best attire. He needed to wear something that wouldn't get in the way, but also keep him as safe as possible. Over Christmas break, he had acquired some dragon hide robes and boots, which would keep most spells from damaging him, but were sometimes hard to move in. The boots were extra heavy and he hadn't worn them much, so he decided not to wear them until he was sure he could move around easily in them.

Tugging his shirt up and over his head, he tossed it to the side and pulled on a black long sleeved sweater, one that fit a little snug around his torso, so it wouldn't snag on anything. He felt soft hands tugging it down from around his shoulders and watched Luna smooth it out over his stomach. She wasn't looking at him, her eyes turned down, but he knew she didn't want him to say anything just yet. Opting to wear the dragon skin pants instead of the robes, he reached for his trouser button, but Luna beat him to it. Her nimble fingers popped the button and pulled the fly down quickly. She smoothed them off from around them and he kicked them off from his ankles. Slipping the other pants on, he left them open and watched as she put them together, before tucking his shirt inside the waistband. Her hands slipped around to sit on the small of his back and she rested her chin against his chest for a moment. Her long blonde hair trailed down her back, tickling his hands as he held her against him. Briefly, his mind reminded him that she had a checkup with Madame Pomfrey for the baby the next day and he told himself he would have to be there, no matter the circumstance. He hadn't missed one yet and he wasn't about to start.

She sniffled and then pulled away from him, leaning down to grab his black boots and holding them out for him to slip his foot in. It was a little awkward, but he managed. She knelt down, tying up his laces with precision and then moved the other one in front of his other foot. The same routine occurred until she slipped back up from the floor and pressed her palms against his abdomen before slowly moving them up and to the side, to rest over his ribs. "Just be careful," she told him, finally.

"I will," he promised, leaning down to press a kiss against the top of her head. "Don't worry too much. It's not good for the baby," he told her, hugging her close. "You should get some sleep, too. And have something to eat. And maybe--"

"Harry," she said, her voice sounding amused. "Don't worry, it's not good for you. You have to be focused." She turned her chin up, looking him in the eyes, her own red rimmed.

Harry ran a hand over over her cheek, slipping his fingers into her flowing hair. "It's going to be fine. I'll have eight or so people with me. Our top soldiers."

She nodded, her mouth quivering. "I know," she said, sniffling. "It's just pregnant hormones. I know you'll be fine." She wiped a hand under her nose and shook her head. She pulled him closer and hugged him tight before letting go just as quickly as she had hugged him. "Go," she told him, nodding sharply. "Jamie wants it done before anybody can convince him or you it's not a good idea."

He looked down at her, uncertain about leaving her while she was crying. "Are you sure?"

She nodded, giving him a shaky smile. "Of course. Go on, Harry." She leaned up, kissing him warmly and then pulled back. "I should get some sleep anyway," she assured, moving over to lay down on his bed.

"All right," he said, walking toward the door but then pausing. Stepping back, he moved over to the bed and brushed her hair off her forehead, pressing a small kiss against her warm skin and then moved down. He lifted the end of her shirt a few inches and ran the back of his hand over her stomach, before kissing it gently. "I'll be back before your appointment," he promised, half-smiling at her as she stared up at him with watery eyes and a soft smile. He left the room, his shoulders straight and his mouth set in a determined line. He glanced briefly at the people sitting near the fire, giving them a quick nod and then leaving the Common Room.

And what once seemed black and white turns to so many shades of gray
We lose ourselves in work to do and bills to pay

Harry arrived by the front doors just after his brother walked to the front to stand in front of their twenty best soldiers. Ron moved to stand on one side of Draco and Harry moved to take over the other. Hermione was off to the side, standing next to Falesha and Atlas as they spoke in whispers. Hermione cast them side-long glances, but didn't interrupt. The group of Ravenclaw's that had helped figure out the location of the last Horcrux were standing to one side, holding books and maps.

"We have an assignment," Draco announced, loud and precise, his voice garnering complete silence. "You have been asked here because you are the top twenty soldiers we have. You can be proud of that later," he told them firecely. "War is approaching, as you all well know, but before we can fight Voldemort, a task has to be completed." He stepped forward, his hands clasped behind his back. "Can any of you tell me what a Horcrux is?" he asked them, lifting one brow questioningly.

Confused expressions passed through the men and women standing in a line in front of him. "Don't worry, it wasn't taught here. It's a piece of soul placed inside an object of some kind. To make a Horcrux a person must be murdered. Voldemort made six Horcruxes, two of which have been destroyed and another found. To kill Voldemort, all of his Horcruxes must first be gotten rid of," he explained to them, in a very shortened version. "Over the last few months, heavy studying of Voldemort's past and present have been underway and we have found the last three needing to be taken care of. Tonight we are going to rush all three places and find the Horcruxes to bring back here. You are coming on this mission, should you choose to accept," he told them, walking from one end of the line to the other, his eyes set on the men and women staring steadily ahead of them. "You will not be looked down upon if you do not want to take up this mission. There will be three groups of nine going to a place you've never been where there will be an unknown amount of Death Eaters waiting to kill you. You can choose now to return to the Great Hall and wait for the war, or you can help move it along another step," he told them, stopping in the center. "If anybody wants to back down, take a step back now," he commanded, his voice loud and booming, echoing above him.

Nobody stepped back.

He nodded shortly. "Remus, you're with Ron. Atlas, you're with Harry. Falesha and Hermione, you're with me," Draco told them, motioning behind them. "Smith, Brown, Parker, Collins, Jacobs, Boot, Patil, you're with Ron," he said, moving his hand back. "Hall, Allen, Young, Corner, Finnegan, Longbottom, Thomas, you're with Harry." He turned to the last remaining six and nodded, "And the rest of you are with me." He turned then, crossing his arms and looking at the group of Ravenclaw's. "Locations?" he asked them abruptly.

One of the girls stepped forward, her curly red hair thrown up in a tight ponytail on her head and her thin wire rim glasses slipping down her nose. She pushed them back up and waved her wand making the map unfurl and hover in the air. "If our calculations are right, and we have no doubts they are, then you have a very widespread area to cover," she informed them. "Now, per your previous instructions, a portkey was made for the last two and the last has just arrived for the new location. We haven't been able to scout the area, as that could be far too conspicuous or somebody could be caught."

She nodded at Draco and then pointed up at the map, muttering a spell and making it zoom in on the one area. "The first is Hufflepuff's Cup and we've figured it to be here," she said, pointing with her wand, "There is a house owned by Antonin Dolohov that he technically should have lost when he put in Azkaban, but instead, it was paid for by an unknown source. However, after talking to Draco we learned that Lucius Malfoy was keeping the place going. Now, in the house, there is a locked and charmed room that nobody is allowed near. Numerous Auror's have been staking out the place since the Azkaban escape, sure than Dolohov would return, but he hasn't so far. If the Cup hasn't been moved, then it should still be there, hidden in that room. We have no idea how strong the wards around the room are, however. If they were smart though, then Dolohov's blood would be needed to open it. Given that it's his house, he may just be one of the Death Eater's there," she informed them, nodding sharply. She looked back at the others and then stepped back.

A dark skinned boy with close cropped brown hair stepped forward, lifting his wand and motioning for the zooming charm to move to another place entirely. "The second Horcrux is Rowena Ravenclaw's shield," he announced, his voice deep and thick. "Here, in Black Village, which was abandoned some years ago, there is a museum holding family shields of all the Black ancestors. There's a room in the back filled with all of the Black's stripped of their heritage though, and we're certain that hidden there is Ravenclaw's shield," he told them. "The village itself hasn't been in working order since Walburga Black died and Bellatrix Black and Narcissa Black married off and left the area. Sirius Black had been imprisoned shortly before and the village was seen as a dark area from then on. Visitors were immediately considered Dark wizards or witches and were arrested until they could prove they weren't." He shook his head, frowning, "The area hasn't had many visitors since, and Auror's no longer take it seriously when the area is breached by magical folk because nobody stays long and there's nothing there to prolong Dark magic. The area was cleared completely, all but the Black museum because it had such strong wards on it and the magic holding the shields up couldn't be tampered with." He nodded to the soldiers and then stepped back again, having to push the last girl out so she could explain the last of what had to be said.

Harry smothered a laugh when he saw the young girl who was visibly shaking and had her hair up in a peculiar knot on her head. She had dark black hair and large blue eyes. She was short and looked even smaller standing next to Draco. She didn't look like a fifth or sixth year, hardly appearing old enough to even attend Hogwarts and Harry almost questioned her age, before she began speaking. There was no sense in talking to her about it now, she was here to help and she had done her job.

She cleared her throat, motioning her wand at the map and then looking up nervously at Draco, who was staring at the map instead of her but still managed to look like he was looming near her. "The l-last Horcrux is Godric Gryffindor's portrait, which we've deduced is in Godric's Hollow in--"

"What?" Draco said, his brows lifting and his shoulders stiffening.

She looked over at him sharply, her eyes widening a little more and then said, in a louder voice, "B-Before your parents were killed, we think that they managed to find one of the Horcruxes. We're a-almost certain that he didn't know it was there. We've tracked the movement of the portrait, as it was p-previously in a sh-shop in Knockturn Alley, but was then sold to a young couple, one who had very bright green eyes, the shop owner told the author of the book," the young Ravenclaw girl told him, nodding vigorously. "We believe it's--"

"In the upstairs left bedroom, hanging over the cribs," Draco muttered, a scowl coming to his face.

"How do you know that?" Harry wondered, his brow furrowing.

"I saw it," Draco muttered, shaking his head and fisting his hands by his sides. "When I died, I saw it up in our old room. Mum showed it to me, but she didn't explain what it was. Guess she thought it was pointless, my being dead and all," Harry heard Draco's voice in his head. He nodded to his brother, before motioning for the girl to continue with her explanation.

"Yes," she said nodding. "Well, that should be the e-easiest to take, given that we're certain that he doesn't know it's there."

And its a ride, ride, ride, and there ain't much cover
With no one runnin' by your side my blood brother

Draco nodded at her briskly before turning to Ron, "Which do you want?"

"Black Village," he said simply, shrugging his shoulders. "Open space, dark area, easy to navigate conspicuously."

"Done," Draco said, nodding before he turned to Harry. "And you?"

Harry shifted on his feet a moment, thinking it over with a frown. "Godric's Hollow," he finally said, his voice thick.

Draco nodded, "Right," he turned, looking at the first girl. "D'you have the portkey's with you here?"

She nodded, stepping forward and handing him six items. "They haven't been set yet, not for times anyway. The locations are ingrained inside and ready to be used."

Draco took them from her hands and said, "Thanks, you've been a great help."

"Our pleasure," she told him smiling, before she turned and waved the others to leave. "Good luck," she called back.

"Won't need it," Ron called back to her, half-grinning.

On through the houses of the dead, past those fallen in their tracks
Always movin' ahead and never lookin' back

Ron's expression soon turned serious and grave though as he took on his role as commander and left his humor behind for a moment. He wasn't sure when it happened, but he had grown up. Sure there was always the lingering understanding that he wasn't a little boy anymore. That he wasn't a child to be coddled or to be distracted by things like Quidditch and the innocence of games and childhood. He had been forced into adulthood, though he wouldn't go back and change it now. Things were as they should be, he knew that now. Some part of him hated that he had to give up acting dumb and being able to blame it on being a teenager, but when the world was on the brink of annihilation, whining is the farthest thing from the mind. There were days when he ran the Quidditch field and dodged spells wishing he could instead be playing in the air or visiting Hogsmeade. There were nights when he wanted to snog Katie in a closet rather than search through dusty old tomes looking for a piece of a dark wizard's soul. But those days paled in comparison to what would be achieved if he grew up.

Sure, he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived, or even the twin of the great Harry Potter. But he was their best friend and he had come far along to become his own person. He was Ron Weasley, strategist and hard working soldier. He commanded his own part of the elite group of students turned soldiers that were working to finally bring the darkest wizard of their time to the ground. He was fully trained in handling a battle axe, defending himself against the darkest spells known, and commanding soldiers during War. He was no boy, no child, no teenager on the brink of manhood. He was a man. One who would stand beside the strongest of the strong in the last battle against evil. He would look out across the great expanse of darkness and light and whether he lived or died, it would end in him knowing that he wasn't just a silly child with a stick in his hand. He would rise up from the depths of good and take down anything that thought to destroy the world that his parents wanted their children to grow up in, that he himself hoped to have for his own children one day. That his little godson would grow up in as soon as Luna hurried up and brought him into the world.

Turning to his seven soldiers and one adult, Ron's face took on the recognizable glint of commander and he stood a little taller without consciously trying to. His shoulders were much broader than they had been when he first returned to Hogwarts for his seventh year. His jaw was more chiseled, his face more masculine with an unshaved texture that his girlfriend seemed to enjoy rubbing her cheek against. It wasn't so long ago that he was doing push-ups in the mud, thinking that maybe seconds and thirds at breakfast weren't a good idea. But now he was taller, leaner, had muscle trimming him all around and he found that self conscious feeling he sometimes had when around beautiful woman or more intelligent people seemed to fade. He found his place in the world, next to the Chosen Twins and the brightest witch of their age. He wasn't the smartest, maybe not even the best looking (unless Katie's opinion was involved), but he had a place. He was strong, courageous, confident, and ready.

Now I don't know how I feel, I don't know how I feel tonight
If I've fallen 'neath the wheel, if I've lost or I've gained sight

"You ever been to Black Village, Remus?" Ron asked, turning to the man who was old enough to be his father. There was a comfort in that, not that he felt he was incapable in his position, but there were seven others that needed reassurance that they were with reliable allies.

Remus nodded, "Shortly before Sirius went away we took a tour of the place. He hated it, mocked it the entire time."

"Ever been to the museum?" he queried, hoping he'd have a navigator right there in his ranks.

"I passed by it," he told him, nodding slowly, his eyes squinted. "Depending on where the portkey takes us, I think I can get us there."

"Good," Ron finalized before turning to Draco. "How long do we have?"

Draco walked towards the map still hovering in the air and waved his hand to make it return to show him Black Village. It was an overhead view, not close enough to really make buildings or anything out, but it gave him a good understanding of how large the area was. "Let's say you have three Death Eater's each to deal with, an area the size of three Hogsmeade's, how long would it take you to get in to your destination and find what you need?" he asked, his hands resting on his hips as he turned to Ron.

Ron clenched his jaw in thought, his eyes thinned. He didn't want to overestimate the power behind his soldiers but he didn't want to underestimate either. He looked over at the seven former-students: Smith, Brown, Parker, Collins, Jacobs, Boot, and Patil. Three girls, all of which turned out to be hard working and much less giggly than he expected. Lavender had surprised him most, with her strong dueling skills and ability to run long distance while dodging some very well placed hexes. He didn't think any less of them because they were women, they had stood out drastically despite or maybe because of their gender. In the end, he knew he had a strong group behind him. The other four boys were amongst the most dedicated he'd trained with. They didn't mouth off unless they knew Ron was in one of his humorous moods and would join in with their banter. They knew when to keep a serious position and had even taken on helping some of the other struggling students. On top of that, they were strong physically and could move with stealth hardly ever seen in people of their age.

"Forty minutes," Ron said, nodding sharply. He stared at his group, looking for any uncertainty or doubt, but nothing flickered over their faces. "We'll have it."

Draco nodded, taking him at his word and then turned to Harry. "Despite what they said about the lack of Death Eater's, you need to be on your guard. It's just as likely that the house is being staked out to see if either of us will arrive, so they can have Death Eater's there at any time. There're two floors and the front entrance leads you to the stairs. The bedroom at the end of the left hall is where the portrait is, it should still be in tact. It's a Muggle village, but it's too late for visitors or people seeing you anyway. How long d'you need to get the portrait?" he asked, his arms lifting to cross over his chest.

Ron wasn't sure if he thought Harry going to Godric's Hollow was a good idea and he could tell that Draco agreed. Having never been to his childhood home, Harry could be distracted or caught off guard. It wasn't the safest route but then Draco going wasn't exactly reassuring either. He too could be distracted by the memories of the house, seeing as he apparently had been there while he was "dead". Ron kept his mouth shut though, he wasn't about to interfere and question their decisions in front of everyone. If they said they could do it then they would, and that was all there was to it.

Harry, like Ron, looked back at his group and gave a quick nod. "Half hour," he said confidently. "It's not a large area, the likelihood of running into a large contingent of Death Eater's is low." He nodded again, his arms crossing behind him, one of his hands clasping his wrist. "Thirty minutes and we're back."

Draco nodded, "Good."

I don't even know why, I don't know why I made this call
Or if any of this matters anymore after all

Turning back to the map, Draco studied the overhead of Dolohov Manor quickly, before turning back around to stare at the people who would be watching his back. "How long?" he asked them, his eyes moving over the three boys, three girls, Falesha and Hermione. "You have a house to navigate, a room to break into that supposedly needs the blood of its owner, and you have an unknown amount of Death Eater's around you."

"I studied curse breaking," Falesha spoke up, stepping forward. "Top of my class until everything happened with Sirius and your parents," she said it lightly, but there was a darkness in her eyes.

Draco nodded at her undersandingly, but Ron could see that his focus was more on how useful her trade would be. He didnt have time for emotion and Falesha understood that or she wouldn't have tried to act aloof.

"Do we know what floor the room is on?" Hersh asked, stepping forward and staring at Draco squarely.

"First floor," he said, nodding.

"Where will the portkey drop us?" Kelsey wondered, tipping his head and cocking his brow. A deep frown sat on his usually grinning face.

"Likely outside of the gates, much less conspicuous and the odds are better on not appearing in front of the enemy," Draco told him, his eyes flickering to Hermione.

"It'll probably be the area most populated with Death Eater's. It's easy to hide in and the house is probably charmed to the max against intruders," another of his called out.

Ron nodded, leaning to one side and crossing his arms. "Are Auror's still watching the place?"

"Tonks said they gave up on it a couple months ago. They check in every once in awhile but never stay around long. It seems like a pointless task to most Auror's," Remus informed him.

"Forty five minutes," Hermione called out. "At most an hour, but if you charm the portkey for forty-five, give it a fifteen minute add-on in case of emergency."

"Any problems with that?" Draco asked them, looking around at his group. He received all shakes of the head and so he banished the map and handed the portkeys to Remus to place the time charms on. Turning, Draco left to stand in the center, where Ron and Harry immediately moved to stand next to him. Hermione walked toward him, taking her place rightfully in front of him and Draco's hand lifted to rest on her shoulders.

But the stars are burnin bright like some mystery uncovered
I'll keep movin' through the dark with you in my heart

Draco's voice was strong, loud against the quiet of the silent front entrance. "Remember, this is just a prelude to what's going to be happening soon. Keep your eyes open and sharp, don't leave anybody behind. If they fall, move them somewhere safe. I don't care if they're dead, move them to the side and on your return, make sure to get them back, too. We're not leaving ours behind." He paused, his hazel eyes meeting each person with a strength born from a past of darkness and a future of hope.

Ron watched everyone before them all stand straighter, wanting to be worthy enough to meet their leader's gaze head on. Draco had that effect. He could bring the strongest to their knees it seemed. He wasn't like Voldemort, he didn't tell them they were unworthy, but every one of his soldiers wanted to meet his expectations. Ron wasn't sure when the loyalty grew, but he felt it himself. It was the same for Harry. They were the Chosen Twins, after all. They were the two who would bring victory and peace, freedom and future. How could they not pledge themselves to that cause? How could they not feel nearly unworthy to be in their presence? Ron had been working to stand next to the likes of Harry since first year, and only now did he feel like a true equal. Standing there, next to Harry and Jamie Potter, leaders against the Dark side and all that it entailed. And he felt pride swell inside, not only because he was worthy, but because those same looks of admiration were being directed at him, too.

Draco's face took on a hard expression, one meant for war and battle, not classrooms and childhood. "Take no prisoners, have no mercy. Kill or be killed. Watch your back and the backs of those around you. We are not alone. We are not fighting for ourselves. We fight together, we die together, we live together," Draco told them, his gaze fierce, his meaning strong.

His face softened just the slightest and he stared out, his chin raising an inch. "If death takes any of us, then know that I'm proud of you. All of you. I'm proud to stand here beside you, to fight with you, to have trained you," he told them, and Ron noticed his hands squeeze Hermione's shoulders. "Know that whatever your fate is, victory will be ours. Freedom will be won, and it will be because of each of you."

Draco turned then, meeting Harry's eyes and then Ron's, his hands reaching out to the sides to rest on their shoulders while Hermione leaned back into him. "WHAT WILL BE WON?" he yelled, his voice booming and confident.

Ron's spine stiffened, his heart widening. His mouth opened to shout with them all, with soldier and leader, student and friend, allies and equals. "FREEDOM!" they bellowed back, their voices raising high into the school, reaching its crevices and the ears of the soldiers still walking the halls; planning, training, both mind and body. And it echoed back, from the other soldiers, from the deep hollows of the hallways and ceilings, from the heavens and the fates. FREEDOM!

My blood brother

A/N I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Next one is an action packed one! I hope to update soon, and YES! I will be updating "Growing," as soon as I can. On the exciting side, Monday is my 20th birthday:D Thank you all for reading, please leave a review. It's greatly appreciated!

The song used in this chapter was "Blood Brothers," by Bruce Springsteen.

Much Love,