AN: This story is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Bearers of the Light. That story followed directly from book five and for the purpose of my plot book six does not exist. I hope that everyone enjoys this story and for the people who liked Light Bearers I hope this sequel lives up to your expectations.

Chapter 1 – Forbidden Legacy

Harry groaned as he lay uncomfortably in his bed on the second story of the Dursley home. The Dursley house at Number Four Privet Drive had been Harry's home for almost his entire life out of necessity. Powerful wards protected Harry from his nemesis, the darkest wizard in the world, Lord Voldemort. Voldemort, the very thought of him made Harry seethe with rage, which was unfortunate because the effort of getting angry hurt.

It had been over two weeks since Harry had returned to Privet Drive to recover from the ordeal that had left him physically and magically drained. Hermione had nearly been killed, again, because he had failed to listen to her. She had pleaded with him for months to confront Dumbledore about his strange activities. Had Harry done so he might have learned enough to uncover Voldemort's plot to kidnap him. Instead that succeeded and forced Hermione to risk her life to free him. Indeed, Hermione had very nearly died in a battle with Voldemort that she knew she couldn't win just so she could distract him long enough for Dumbledore to rescue Harry.

The result was Hermione's mind nearly destroyed by Voldemort in an insidious attack with his powerful legimency. Hermione had been lucky enough to barely escape thanks to the special bond she and Harry had developed between them. A process they had discovered, which was known as Itomency, had allowed Harry and Hermione to share a telepathic link. The link was virtually unknown to most of the wizarding world due to the fact that it took immense power for any couple to form one. They had discovered the magic during their studies of the more common skills of legimency and occlumency.

After Hermione's flight into Harry's mind to escape the destruction of her own it was up to Harry to repair the extensive damage that Voldemort had done. It had taken days without sleep combined with almost inhuman exertion on his part but he had succeeded. Hermione had returned home to her parent's to recover from her ordeal just like Harry had come back to Privet Drive. He had never been more relieved in his entire life.

Thinking about Hermione made Harry's heart ache from worry and longing to see her again. It was one thing to talk to her telepathically, a wonderful thing, but it was no substitute for being in the same room with her. Still, Harry found himself wishing that he could at least talk to her or failing that get some sleep. Of course right now those two goals were the same. They could only communicate with each other if both were awake or both were asleep and judging from Hermione's lack of responsiveness she was currently asleep.

Madam Pomfrey had been visiting them both and she assured Harry that Hermione was nearly whole again, which was somewhat consoling. Harry's condition was beyond her help though; he would either recover or not on his own. Harry's magical energies had been seriously depleted but he was confident that they would return. He could already feel his power returning, though slower than he would have liked.

Harry finally gave up and reached for the Dreamless Sleep potion that he had been given by Madam Pomfrey. He hated to use it since it induced unconsciousness instead of true sleep but he was aching too much to tolerate staying awake any longer.

The next thing Harry knew he was blinking his eyes blissfully for the couple of seconds between sleep and the dull throbbing pain of his existence. He groaned loudly and pushed himself into a more upright position so he could grab his breakfast. Dobby had been bringing him food ever since he had arrived. The Dursleys had been incensed at his early return, even though it had only been a little while before normal, and had refused to do anything for him. He hadn't seen them at all but that wasn't upsetting. If it weren't for the pain his seclusion would actually have been enjoyable.

Harry looked around the drab room as he munched on his toast. There wasn't much there anymore since all his belongings had been taken to Grimmauld Place because he couldn't use them. Even his faithful owl, Hedwig, was being taken care of by Remus Lupin while Harry recovered.

Depressed by his surroundings Harry tried to take his mind off of things by turning to the Daily Prophet. He should have known better. The Prophet had always been the worst kind of propagandistic rag that continually skewed facts and slandered the people it wrote about to serve the Ministry's agenda. These days the paper trumpeted brave headlines about how the Ministry was working to bring Voldemort to justice while at the same time glossing over the fact that the Ministry had nearly ceased to function as a law enforcement organism. Fudge, who was now in office well beyond any previous Minister thanks to the wizard equivalent of marshal law, had withdrawn all his forces to protect Ministry assets. The general public had been quietly left to fend for themselves.

There were a few smattering of articles about the Order and even a new one about the Bearers of the Light, the organization that Harry created with the help of Hermione. It was actually Hermione's idea; a group designed to be their own version of the Order of the Phoenix, but loyal to an idea of universal sentient rights instead of to a specific person. At least that was the theory, although Harry suspected not everyone was as enthusiastic about their stated ideological goals as Hermione. Regardless, all members wore the emblems of a torch, symbolizing the light they carried, which also allowed Harry and Hermione to utilize a rudimentary communication with everyone.

Harry sighed as he finished the article on the Light Bearers. The Prophet knew nothing so it decided to make up something to fill in the gaps. All sorts of theories were expounded upon from the laughable to the downright maddening. However, since the Light Bearers had so far done little publicly, mainly due to their leaders being nearly fatally injured, the organization had also received little press coverage. That suited Harry just fine, they were still young and needed to be able to operate in the shadows unimpeded.

Fred and George Weasley had done an almost unimaginably good job when it came to operating by stealth. The two recruitment chiefs had added literally dozens of witches and wizards to their ranks. Moreover, Harry could feel additional people donning the emblem every day. It was reassuring that so many people were eager to participate in the struggle for the freedom of the magical world and were not content to merely sit on the sidelines.

"Harry, are you finally up?" Hermione's voice echoed through his mind. Harry smiled at her comforting presence.

"Yeah, I finally took a dreamless sleeping potion late last night and its effects last for a fixed period of time," Harry explained.

"Madam Pomfrey came by, she said that as far as she can tell I'm completely healed," Hermione said. Harry had known that she would be all right but nevertheless he felt a rush of relief wash over him when he heard the confirmation. "Is it okay if I come over?"

"Yes, please, I've missed you so much," Harry began but stopped when the air shimmered in front of him and Hermione popped into existence. She was wearing an old loose pair of jeans and a jumper that looked like had probably been handed down from her mother. Her hair was bushier than ever and looked like she hadn't combed it in at least a week but Harry found it oddly appealing.

"I missed you too Harry," she said as she rushed over to hug him, "but it makes it easier to be apart since we can talk to each other whenever we want."

Harry winced as he nodded. As eager as he was to embrace Hermione again his body was still sore from the severe physical toll it had taken. Not only had the nullification potion been breaking down his physical structure, the efforts that had healed Hermione had also taken an unexpected measure of his strength.

"Are you still in pain?" Hermione asked with concern. Harry nodded and described how his muscles felt whenever he tried to move.

"Have you not gotten up since Dumbledore brought you here?" Hermione asked incredulously.

"Madam Pomfrey told me to avoid doing anything except what I just have to. I've not gotten up very much." Harry replied.

"Typical, magical medicine is so advanced and yet so archaic. Haven't you ever heard the old phrase that if you don't use it you'll lose it?" Hermione said. "You need to get up and move around as much as possible to help strengthen yourself again. Bed rest isn't going to help you anymore, it's not like you have physical wounds."

With Hermione's help Harry had soon taken his feet and together they walked slowly to the door before heading downstairs. Hermione had her wand out just in case she needed to catch him if he fell. Harry noticed that she had his wand again and it looked like she had polished it because it was much shinier than it had been when he was taking care of it. Dumbledore told Harry that he had placed his wand inside his desk drawer but since Harry had no reason to use it he hadn't bothered to look. Harry and Hermione had traded wands since Harry, as the only one who could kill Voldemort, needed a wand that would work against the dark wizard's. On the other hand Hermione would be better served by the protective effects of prior incantato that Harry's wand would afford her.

"This isn't as bad as I thought it would be," Harry said as they reached the bottom of the stairs. "Where do you want to go next? If we went slow I think I could walk around the block."

"I'm sorry Harry, we can't go outside," Hermione said apologetically. "Dumbledore said that with Voldemort believing that I'm dead I need to stay hidden. He even sent in an obituary to the Prophet."

"I hadn't noticed," Harry replied. "I mean, I don't really read the Prophet cover to cover. I didn't even know they did obituaries."

"They usually don't. They've started the service up again since the war is expected to cause many untimely deaths," Hermione said quietly.

Harry grimaced again and tried to change the subject. "I just wish there was a potion I could take to recover instantly."

"Honestly Harry, you can't shortcut your way to everything with magic," Hermione said scathingly.

"I didn't mean it that way Hermione," he replied.

"I know you didn't," Hermione said quickly, looking abashed. "It's just that I already thought of the perfect cure and brought it up with Dumbledore, but he dismissed it out of hand. I didn't mean to take my frustration out on you."

"Don't worry, after fifth year you're entitled to take out as much frustration on me as you want," Harry joked. "So what was the cure?"

"The Elixir of Life," Hermione replied. "Its healing properties are nearly endless."

"But isn't that the substance created by the Sorcerer's Stone?" Harry asked.

"Precisely," Hermione said, "all we have to do is recreate the stone and we can make an endless supply of the perfect medicine."

"All we have to do?" Harry voiced skeptically.

"The stone's original creator, Nicholas Flamel, was not an especially powerful wizard, merely knowledgeable in the art of alchemy. The stone may have been destroyed but the knowledge was not. All we have to do is piece together how its done, experiment, and eventually we can make another stone for ourselves." Hermione said enthusiastically.

"That could take years though. We don't really know anything about alchemy." Harry replied.

"This war could take years," Hermione said somberly. Her voice grew bitter as she continued. "I tried to move the process along by enlisting Dumbledore's aid since he knew Flamel but he wouldn't help. He said that the stone was too dangerous and that anyone who couldn't uncover its secrets for themselves were not wise enough to use it."

Harry sputtered indignantly, "Then why teach magic at all? By that logic anyone who can't discover how to use spells on their own isn't wise enough to use them."

"I know Harry, I said as much and a bit more, but he wouldn't listen." Hermione replied. "So shall we attempt it?"

"If you think it's a good idea then I'm sold. I'm sick of Dumbledore's endless scheming and arbitrary rule making." Harry spat. He had secretly thought it foolish to destroy the first Sorcerer's Stone but he had only been eleven at the time and had figured that Dumbledore knew best.

"I was afraid that you wouldn't want to try if Dumbledore didn't want to," Hermione said slowly.

"Hermione, I trust you, implicitly, and frankly in my eyes you're far wiser than Dumbledore," Harry said firmly.

Hermione blushed and looked down, "I wouldn't go that far."

"I would. Your track record blows his away recently and that's no exaggeration," Harry said. It wasn't either. Hermione had been right repeatedly about Dumbledore needing to tell Harry important information, Sirius, and a whole litany of other things that Harry couldn't even begin to detail.

"Anyway," Hermione began, blushing even harder at the compliment, "I've already asked the twins to start researching and they need to give us a report on the Light Bearers too. I thought maybe we could combine those two meetings if you feel up to it."

Harry groaned as he remembered the pain in his limbs. "Actually, all this talk was taking my mind off of the aching. A nice long boring meeting might do nicely. I'll need to change my clothes though."

"Where do you keep them at, your closet?" Hermione asked.

"Er, yeah, but I can go get them while you summon the twins," Harry replied.

"Honestly Harry, I'm a witch remember?" Hermione said with mock exasperation as she waved her wand. Instantly Harry's usual muggle outfit of jeans and a T-shirt replaced his pajamas.

"I forgot about that," Harry laughed.

Hermione grinned. "I'll be back in a few minutes then, don't go anywhere."

Harry didn't think that was likely but before he could say so Hermione shimmered away using the noiseless apparation technique that only the most powerful wizards could master. Harry could do it, so could Voldemort and Dumbledore, but no one else that Harry had ever met could. It was rumored that the avatar warriors that Voldemort had created were able to as well, which made sense since they possessed most of their master's powers, but so far no one had actually survived a close encounter with one.

The avatars were fearsome people made weapons by a dark ritual that turned them into exactly what their names implied. They were empowered with the magic of the one that created them and in exchange they lost their free will when it came to their master's orders. Harry feared that it was only a matter of time before Voldemort decided that he was strong enough to unleash his minions without restraint. Thus far Voldemort had contented himself with targeted attacks or attacks on the muggle born and others he considered as being worthless.

Two sharp cracks interrupted Harry's thoughts. Fred, George, and Hermione had arrived carrying armfuls of assorted materials Harry concluded must be research for the Sorcerer's Stone.

"Wow, you guys have that much information on the stone already?" Harry goggled.

"Er, well, sorta," Fred said.

"Actually most of this is stuff for the Light Bearers," George added.

"Some of these papers are deeds to houses that we've been buying and converting into staging areas or supply depots for our forces," Hermione explained. "I insisted that strict documentation be kept on everything so we know where the money is going."

"Yeah, and we need some more mate," George added. "We've been withdrawing on your behalf using Hermione's key while you were out of it, but now that you're back you should have some input."

"I suppose so," Harry said dryly.

"Yeah, we need about fifteen hundred galleons for various supplies, wand cores, potion ingredients, dark detectors, and what not," George said as he handed Harry a list.

"Also, we need about forty thousand muggle pounds to buy an old abandoned house and the surrounding grounds," Fred said, also handing Harry some more papers.

"Ron has drawn up the coverage and material demands of each cell," Hermione said. "We're positioning each stronghold strategically for minimal overlap. Also we're trying to take into account the amount of space we may eventually need to house the families of our members should they become targets or in case of their identities getting leaked."

"Whoa, slow down," Harry said. He rubbed his temples. "I trust you guys to handle the details. It sounds like you're doing a far better job than I could anyway."

The twins beamed. "Right then, business as usual it is. Now, here is the stuff we got on the old magic rock thingie," Fred said.

"Basically, the short of it is that you must somehow crystallize a synthesis of every element, both muggle and magical, into a stable latticework structure and imbed a corporeal core of pure magical essence into it," George said.

"What the professor here is trying to say is that you've got to put enough of yourself into it to make it able to perpetuate itself and you've got to put in a sample of everything that exists so it can take one substance and transform it into another." Fred said.

"Er, actually the elements are the base for the elixir and the magic core is like its engine." Hermione said. "The effect of turning things into gold is really more of a side effect."

The twins scowled at her. "Why did you ask us to research this again?" Fred said sarcastically.

"Sorry guys," Hermione grinned, "I was hoping you'd find out something I hadn't."

"Well you've got everything we have now, though we can't vouch for the accuracy of all of it. Some is just hearsay. The stone was originally created several hundred years ago now and Flamel wasn't exactly transparent with his research. I'm afraid you two will have to recreate most of the process on your own." Fred said.

"I suspected as much," Hermione replied. "Is there anything else?"

"Well, not really," George began.

"Actually," Fred interrupted, "there is something, just not much of something."

"You see, the Light Bearer intelligence branch is infantile to be generous," George continued. "But right now everything we've got points to a big Voldemort operation sometime in the…er, intermediate future…to achieve…uh, unknown goals."

"Yeah, real helpful," Harry rolled his eyes, "I could have predicted that."

"We'll take anything we can get though," Hermione added quickly. "We know everything is still in its beginning phase."

Harry opened his mouth to reassure the twins that he hadn't meant anything derogatory by his statement when the door burst open. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had made it home. They stared at the scene in front of them, which was complete with papers strewn about and the twins dressed in odd wizard clothes standing in front of the sofa. Vernon immediately turned his traditional color of purple and began working himself into an indignant rage.

"Boy," he yelled, "how dare you bring these, these, freaks into our house and make such an unsightly mess. What if we had of had company? What if someone wanted to make a delivery? We won't have ourselves sullied with your unnaturalness."

Harry cringed and started to apologize but the usually jovial twins had suddenly become very serious.

"Are you bloody stupid or something?" George asked him darkly.

"You do realize that you're standing in front of the most powerful witch and possibly the most powerful wizard in the entire world don't you?" Fred huffed. "They could turn you both into frogs with a glance."

"They wouldn't dare," Aunt Petunia sniffed, "Its against the rules."

"Actually I'm of age," Hermione said coolly, "and you know Harry will be soon too."

"More than that," George interjected, "They're the only two people that can save this world from Voldemort and protect you from enslavement or death. If I were you I'd try not being such an arse to them."

Petunia had paled at this news regarding Voldemort and even Vernon looked a little unsettled.

"Reckon we ought to tell them the prophecy bro?" Fred asked as he cast a sidelong glance at George.

"I think they deserve to know," Fred replied meaningfully and then proceeded to repeat the prophecy that everyone in the world of magic now knew by heart. Dumbledore had accidentally allowed Voldemort to find out the prophecy when he told the Minister of Magic in order to secure an alliance with the government. After Voldemort knew there was no point in keeping it secret so it was released to the general public soon thereafter.

"That's…that's you boy?" Vernon said shakily once Fred finished. "You're the only one that can stop this Lord Whatsit?"

"Yeah," Harry said dully.

"Can you do it?" Aunt Petunia asked in a strained voice.

"I don't know," Harry replied, "maybe."

"He can," Hermione said hotly, "Harry is strong and he has all of us helping him."

"Thanks Hermione," Harry said softly as she slipped her hand into his. The twins arched their eyebrows questioningly.

"Not a word you two," Hermione said suddenly when she realized they'd given themselves away, "to anyone."

Thankfully the Dursley's missed the significance of what had transpired because the twins decided that it was time for them to take their dramatic leave.

"We've got to return to the shop and get ready for business tomorrow," Fred said stiffly.

"If we're no longer required here," George added in the same reverent tone.

"You're both dismissed," Hermione said formally as she caught on to what they were doing. Harry was still completely confused. "Until our next scheduled meeting be prepared to answer our summons in an instant."

"As you command," the twins said in unison as they clamped fists to hearts in an ancient wizard version of the salute. An instant later they disappeared with the loud cracks that accompanied apparation.

Vernon looked utterly cowed by the fact that Harry apparently had loyal followers ready to appear for him at a moment's notice. He grabbed Petunia and beat a hasty retreat out of the room. Harry turned to Hermione with a questioning look.

"So what was all that about?" he asked.

"Part of it was Ron's idea and part of it I think they just made up on the spot," Hermione said, then elaborated. "The salute part was Ron's idea. He thinks it builds solidarity in the ranks for people to salute each other. I was skeptical first but everyone seems to have gotten into it so maybe he was right. I think the other bit was the twins trying to put a little fear and respect for you into the Dursleys. It seems to have worked a little too."

The sky was getting dark and some silent lightening was flashing in the distance. Harry leaned over and kissed Hermione gently on the lips.

"I've got such wonderful friends," he said solemnly. "We've just got to win Hermione. We've got to save them…everyone."

"I know Harry, I know," Hermione said softly as she wrapped her arms around him. "Let's just enjoy the moment for now."

"I love you Hermione."

"I love you too Harry."

They must have nodded off for a while because it was getting very dark by the time Hermione shook Harry awake.

"I've got to get home for the night but I'll come back tomorrow. I'll go get a cauldron and we can start experimenting with alchemy." Hermione said. With a final heartfelt squeeze and Harry's assurance that he could make it back to his room without difficulty Hermione shimmered away back to her home.

Harry moved slowly back up the stairs and thankfully made it to his room before Dudley drug himself back in from his usual night of rabble rousing. The trip back upstairs was slightly easier than the trip down had been and Harry found himself being thankful yet again for Hermione's good advice.

The next morning Harry made it down to the living room early to await Hermione's arrival. She had told him via their link that they would need the space in the living room for their experiments. Harry made himself some toast and sat down cross-legged on the floor. He found the cold hard surface somewhat refreshing as he tried to wake himself up.

The air shimmered for an instant as Hermione apparated in front of Harry carrying several packages and dangling a cauldron from her arm.

"Sorry it took so long, I had to find some things from the potions lab at Grimmauld Place," Hermione explained. The mansion that Harry had inherited from his godfather Sirius had contained many useful things including the well-stocked potions lab.

"So long?" Harry grinned, "I just got up."

Hermione reddened slightly, "I've been anxious to get back to work for so long now I guess I'm just impatient."

Even though they were literally in a struggle for survival the adventure of learning new things was still irresistibly exciting for Hermione. Harry smiled to himself as he helped her unpack all the equipment that she had brought. Anytime Hermione had the opportunity to do something new she always took on an aura of delight that was really quite infectious, at least to Harry.

"All right, I think we're about ready to begin," Hermione said. She conjured up a long silver disk about a meter in diameter and an inch thick. In the center of the disk she lit a tiny blue fire and over it she erected a silver tripod to suspend the cauldron from.

"What's that?" Harry asked as he pointed to a bottle of thick metallic Hermione had set aside first.

"It's a specially treated form of mercury that we will use as a base for the Sorcerer's Stone," Hermione replied. "Don't worry, its safe for us to handle like this, part of its treatment is a modified containment spell."

Harry picked up one of the reference books Hermione had brought as she emptied the bottle of liquid into the cauldron. Now came a process that was barely better than trial and error as they added different amounts of various materials to see what effect they would have on the mixture. In theory they knew all the materials that went into the stone and even something of the basic process. In practice however they didn't know the precise method or amount of materials needed. Even the order in which the potion would be made wasn't entirely clear. On top of that there were literally hundreds of slight variables that only someone with advanced alchemy knowledge would be able to narrow down.

"Boy!" a shout came from upstairs, "What in blazes are you trying to do, burn us out?"

Harry groaned audibly. A thin tendril of green smoke was curling up from the cauldron now but apparently that was enough to set Vernon off. Heavy footfalls sounded on the stairs as Vernon lumbered down for another round of yelling. Harry glanced at Hermione with an exasperated look at what was coming.

"This is the last straw you freakish little ingrate," Vernon roared. Apparently the twin's show hadn't done as much as Hermione had hoped. Vernon surveyed the piles of supplies surrounding the couple's cauldron for a moment before continuing his rant. "I take you in, feed you, clothe you, let you go to your freak school, and what do I get in return? A bloody chemistry lab in the middle of the floor making who knows what kind of devilish rubbish."

Hermione had heard Vernon's rages described before but actually seeing one go on in full force was still an eye-opening event. Her mouth was slightly agape as she collected herself.

"Actually, this rubbish we're trying to make is known as the Sorcerer's Stone," Hermione said with a mock sweet voice. "Its main use is the production of a rare substance known as the Elixir of Life. The elixir can heal virtually any illness or wound and grants the regular drinker eternal life."

Vernon goggled at them with open disbelief. He had never imagined that magic could do something like that.

"You're lying," he said when he finally found his voice. "That's impossible and if it were possible then your bloody lot would all be living forever."

"It's not a simple thing to do," Harry said. "Only one other wizard and witch managed to create a Sorcerer's Stone. That stone has since been destroyed."

"So this bloody, well this ruddy, so this immortality thing, you two can make one of those?" Vernon sputtered.

"Well possibly if we're left alone," Hermione replied tartly.

"Right then, well, mind you I'd better not find any burn marks on the floors or the furniture," Vernon said sternly before waddling back up the stairs shaking his massive head.

"How did you put up with that?" Hermione asked Harry as soon as the insufferable man had left.

"No choice," Harry replied shortly. "I generally tried not to be noticed."

Hermione clutched his arm gently in a sign of support before they both redirected their concentration back to their potion. For hours they worked, although Hermione did the most difficult parts since Harry was still recovering. In the end though all the cauldron yielded was a fine sand like powder.

"This is good Harry," Hermione said excitedly as they examined the light pink material.

"How so?" Harry asked. It looked like an utter failure to him.

"That's right, you didn't read that part yet," Hermione said as she rummaged through her pack for a book. "Basically the fact that we've already got the end product down to a more or less crystalline substance means we've skipped through a lot of the process Flamel pioneered. We could be what amounts to several years into this already."

"So we're close then?" Harry asked.

"Well, actually, from what I can tell by the time Flamel got to this point it still took him another fifteen years to make the stone. But the fact that we've come this far already bodes well for our chances at cutting down the rest of the process too." Hermione said optimistically.

Over the next few days Harry found himself getting very aquatinted with the various types of powder that the process could produce. There was rough powder, gravely powder, and even pebble sized smooth looking rocks that Hermione really got excited over. At no point however did they get anything even remotely close to a crystal, let alone to a large crystal stone with a corporeal magical core.

Dudley had taken to observing them at odd intervals when his parents weren't around to keep him from it. Vernon might grudgingly allow Harry and Hermione to work on the secret to eternal life so that he could perhaps enjoy the benefits himself but he would never allow his precious Dudders to get mixed up in "freakish business."

Of course Harry didn't think that Vernon needed to worry about Dudley mixing up potions anytime soon. The oafish boy could barely see his way to walking straight most of the time let alone understand the subtle complexities of potion making. Harry flinched at that thought as he realized it sounded suspiciously like Snape.

"Pay attention Harry," Hermione interrupted his thoughts. "Did you get those last notations recorded?"

"Er, yeah, I think I got…" Harry stopped speaking abruptly as someone knocked on the door loudly.

"Who could that be?" Hermione asked nervously. There was no way they'd be able to hide everything in time.

"Let me check, maybe I can just send them away," Harry said. He scurried over to the door and peered through the peephole.

"Dumbledore!" He exclaimed as he opened up. "This is a surprise."

"Not really," Hermione's voice echoed in his mind. "He undoubtedly is here to try to convince me yet again to abandon the research on the stone."

"I'm glad to find you recovering so well Harry," the elderly Headmaster of Hogwarts said sincerely. "I see Miss Granger has been keeping you company. Where is Mr. Weasley?"

"Uh, he's been pretty busy lately," Harry said sheepishly. Ron, along with the twins, was doing the bulk of the work for the Light Bearers right now while Harry recovered.

"He's helping the twins with their work," Hermione said evasively. Neither of them had actually lied to Dumbledore yet, instead walking the fine line of misdirection in a very Dumbledore like way. Harry flinched again. First thinking like Snape and now acting like Dumbledore…what was the world coming to?

"Yes, I'm sure he is," Dumbledore said smoothly, "You two appear to be quite busy as well. Attempting to resurrect something that perhaps should be left buried I see."

"The stone could be the difference between victory and defeat," Hermione said defiantly. "Voldemort already has his body back and perhaps some sort of invincibility as well if rumor is to be believed. There is no reason imaginable not to recreate the stone."

"Death is a part of life," Dumbledore said darkly, "Those who seek to cheat death often succumb to the lure of the dark powers that immortality give one the leisure to study. Those who have everything want more, just as Voldemort ultimately wants more than just eternity."

"Flamel didn't have that problem," Harry pointed out.

"Nicholas was an uncommon wizard, but it was difficult for him to give up what he had even when he knew that it would be taken from him by Voldemort if he did not," Dumbledore said sadly.

"That's what this is really about isn't it," Hermione said scathingly, "Your old friend died and you can't bear to see someone else bring back his creation so soon."

Dumbledore looked like Hermione had punched him in the gut for a moment before he hid the pain. Harry felt a twinge of guilt and sorrow for the old wizard. Dumbledore had worked tirelessly his entire life trying to do what was right and even though he had made errors his heart was in the right place.

"Regardless of what you believe my intentions to be the stone should not be made again," Dumbledore said coldly. "We have already been through this discussion Miss Granger and as you so ably pointed out there is little I can do to stop you from your headlong pursuit of magic you don't understand. That is not the reason I came here. We have a more pressing problem."

Dumbledore took a heavy parchment from beneath his robes and flung it towards them. "This is a copy of an article soon to be published in the Daily Prophet. I managed to obtain it but was unable to prevent its release."

Harry felt his blood chill as he read the headline of the paper.

Hermione Granger Alive and In Love With the Boy Who Lived?

Despite the fact that Albus Dumbledore recently reported that sixth year Hogwarts' student and prefect Hermione Granger was killed in an accident the Prophet has recently uncovered evidence to bring this story into question. Sources inside the Ministry of Magic report that Miss Granger may have indeed been seriously injured but not in a simple school accident. Shockingly allegations have been made that Miss Granger may have confronted He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in a duel and in the process foiled a Ministry plan to bring about the final defeat of the Dark Lord. No official Ministry comment has been made at this time but one unnamed source is reported to have said that this is just the latest in a long line of interference from outside forces that have hampered the ongoing efforts to contain the forces of darkness.

In addition, the Prophet has obtained exclusive photos of Miss Granger and the Boy Who Lived in what can only be described as a romantic situation. This paper has reported such a relationship in the past but until now both Miss Granger and Mr. Potter always vigorously denied it. While neither of them was available for comment the facts seem to speak for themselves. (Story continued page 7, details of Mr. Potter's past relationships explored on page 10)

Under the headline was a moving photograph of himself and Hermione sitting on the sofa right here in the house. Hermione had her arms wrapped around Harry and his head was leaning on the top of hers. They looked to be asleep, but every once in a while they would wake up and kiss gently before going back to sleep.

"It's actually rather sweet looking," Hermione said softly as she looked over Harry's shoulder.

"If Voldemort doesn't know about you being alive he will shortly," Dumbledore interrupted. "Any advantage that we would have had in that area has been squandered."

Hermione bristled at his tone. "It would have happened with or without the picture. Do you really think that reporters just happened to be lurking around Harry's home for a lark?"

"They were tipped off about what really happened by the Ministry," Harry said as he caught on to where Hermione was going. Hermione had shown him everything that happened in her memory after he had been kidnapped. "They knew that Hermione was going to confront Voldemort, they may have even seen me bring her back. They got suspicious and decided to see if everything happened as we claimed it did."

"Right," Hermione said. She glowered at Dumbledore. "Now that the Order and the Ministry are no longer allies Fudge is out to ruin us again. If that happens to paint a target squarely on me yet again then so much the better, isn't that right? The Ministry thinks it can sell us out while it comes up with a way to stop Voldemort. With any luck we'll all die in the process of killing Voldemort and Fudge will be left to pick up the pieces."

"We knew this would happen eventually," Dumbledore replied to Hermione in a serene voice while pointedly ignoring her conspiracy theory. "As soon as I finish here I'm going to go inspect the wards on your home."

"There's something else?" Harry asked. He already felt his chest contracting painfully at Hermione's mention of her being a target again. Harry had long ago accepted Hermione's dangerous role at an intellectual level but his heart still refused to go along quietly.

"I'm afraid that the wards I placed here which contain part of the magical protection your mother left for you are also due to begin fading as you come of age. I don't expect them to disappear instantly as soon as you turn seventeen, of course, since magic works gradually and each individual comes of age at their own pace. The law says seventeen because it's a sort of average." Dumbledore said.

"How will I know when they're gone?" Harry asked. "Or even when I come of age for that matter."

"I can show you how to feel their presence," Dumbledore replied. "As for when you come of age, there is really no way to know for sure. Basically a wizard comes of age when their natural magical abilities have fully manifested themselves. After that point you can only become stronger by knowledge and training."

"It's a lot like your physical body then," Hermione broke in. "As you mature your muscles grow stronger but then you reach a point where only exercise can strengthen them further."

"Precisely," Dumbledore said, "That's why we call ourselves wizards and not sorcerers. A sorcerer's power is purely natural and emotional with no knowledge and very little training required. Of course sorcerers are very rare, but surprisingly powerful."

"I'd never even heard of such a thing," Harry said. Hermione didn't say anything so he suspected she hadn't either.

After they finished talking Hermione stayed to watch the final stage of their experimental potion while Harry and Dumbledore went into another room to focus on sensing the wards. Harry had little trouble attuning himself to the wards since he was the recipient of their protective powers. It felt like a warm heat radiating out from the invisible locations where the wards were set. Almost like how a bright lamp feels on a cold day, as if you had a little piece of the sun next to you.

Even though it only took a short while when they returned to the living room Hermione was already packing their experiment away for the day. She had apparently been put off by Dumbledore's presence or else decided that they didn't have time to undertake the lengthy experimental process again in the few hours left remaining of the day.

"I must be going now," Dumbledore said, "but I do wish you would reconsider Miss Granger. In any event I recommend that both of you stay inside and prepare to come to Grimmauld Place as soon as Harry has his birthday."

"Do I have to wait until then?" Harry asked.

"Its just a few more days Harry," Hermione said with a roll of the eyes. He knew she sympathized with him though.

"We want the wards to maintain some effectiveness for as long as possible. Staying here until your birthday will help ensure that the wards will fade slower or perhaps never fade completely." Dumbledore explained.

Harry nodded in acceptance. After all, with Hermione able to keep him company and their experiments to busy them the final few days wouldn't be so bad. Still, he vowed that as the very minute he could apparate without the Ministry detecting under aged magic he'd be leaving Privet Drive.

Dumbledore disappeared in a twirl of robes before Harry could say anything more. Hermione snorted and shook her head derisively, still ruffled over the old wizard's adamant insistence that they abandon the Sorcerer's Stone.

Harry picked up the paper again and stared at it. Hermione came over and stood by his side, clutching his arm. Harry wished he could will away the sense of dread that pressed down upon him. He could feel a similar sensation coming from Hermione across their link. Even more disturbing was the fact that the Ministry, though fully aware of the prophecy, seemed to be more than willing to undermine people who should be their allies.

"Don't worry Harry, it'll be all right," she said softly.

"I hope so."