Disclaimer: In the interest of saving time, I don't own Harry Potter or anything from the Harry Potter stories. Jo Rowling does own it all, so if I mess up it's all her fault.
A/N: Just a quick note, this chapter will be a bit longer than I've been writing and it will take us to the express and King's Cross. Also, based upon a suggestion from a review I will try scene breaks in this chapter. Please tell me what you think. There will be a very bitter Harry as the chapter progresses. No one can be as forgiving as Harry, I am sorry but no.
The sprint to the castle and ensuing sprint to the hospital wing was largely a tie between Ron, Snuffles, and Remus. The school was on complete lock down as the various heads of house were soothing the frazzled nerves of the students. Therefore it came as quite the surprise when the first three entered the hospital wing to see Dumbledore conversing with Madam Pomfrey as she forced a potion down Harry's throat.
Harry looked much better, as a bit of color was returning to his cheeks, and while he was trembling it wasn't as noticeable as before. Remus and Snuffles approached the bed with Ron and they were about to ask Harry how he was when Madam Pomfrey noticed their presence and shooed them away as she said, "Mr. Potter is not up for talking yet gentlemen. He only looks fine because of some fortuitous potions made by Severus. I assure you for the next thirty minutes he will be in a state very close to catatonia as the potions go to work on his nerves."
Remus frowned, "What's wrong with his nerves?"
Madam Pomfrey frowned, "He was placed under multiple cruciatus curses. The other damage isn't as serious but Mr. Potter will have complications from the cruciatus for the next couple of weeks. Fortunately his exposure was not so great as to do permanent damage."
Remus and Ron sighed in relief, and Snuffles managed to whine his relief before the two aurors entered the wing looking winded. The first one to catch his breath said, "I'm auror Dawlish and I am afraid that Minister Fudge requests Mr. Potter's audience."
Madam Pomfrey bustled over and succinctly replied, "Mr. Potter is incapable of any kind of conversation for thirty minutes at the bare minimum. He should be completely cognizant of his surroundings in an hour and I will allow your audience with Minister Fudge then, but not a moment earlier.
The aurors wanted to protest but one last scathing look from Madam Pomfrey quelled their protests and turned them into whimpers. Hermione and her parents came running into the hospital wing a moment later and she took up residence on the chair next to Harry's bed. The Grangers turned to Remus and he replied, "It appears that Harry was tortured for a time after he disappeared with the cup. We won't know exactly what happened for about an hour, so we simply have to wait." Bianca and Michael frowned but nodded as they glanced over at their daughter. Hermione was softly stroking Harry's hand.
It appeared that things were finally going to settle as silence reigned for a few moments before a blustering and winded Cornelius Fudge shakily waddled into the hospital wing. After a moment to compose himself and lower the color of his flesh from purple to light red he loudly proclaimed, "Albus, I demand to see Potter. This was a ministry sanctioned event, and it is my right to question him."
Dumbledore slowly walked over to the blustering politician and quietly replied, "Cornelius calm yourself, Harry is currently indisposed as he undergoes some treatment for multiple exposures to the cruciatus curse."
Fudge paled, "B-but why would anyone torture the boy-who-lived?"
Dumbledore frowned, "I can not confirm anything without speaking to Harry, but I have reason to believe that Voldemort has returned. In fact, if you join me over at Harry's bedside here I will show you why."
Fudge nodded dumbly as he followed Dumbledore over to the bed before he sat down heavily at the sight of the gruesomely carved V on Harry's left arm. After a moment to gather himself, a crazy almost manic look crossed Fudge's face and he said, "This doesn't prove anything Dumbledore. Without tangible proof I am afraid I can not do anything in response."
Dumbledore nodded and said, "Peter Pettigrew has already been taken into custody thanks to Harry's actions tonight. As I am aware he has already been questioned and his testimony indicates he was in the midst of a ritual to return Voldemort to a body. Without having the testimony in front of me I can only speculate that Harry's blood was needed in a ritual; Hence the gash in Harry's forearm."
Fudge's jaw snapped shut firmly and the room settled into a strange silence. The silence was only interrupted by the quiet conversation between Dumbledore, Remus, and the Grangers at the far end of the wing away from prying ears.
Remus softly said, "I know that all of this may seem to be rather jarring, but if you have any questions Albus and I will gladly answer."
Michael sighed, "Hermione has made vague mentions of this dark wizard, Voldemort, is it?" Remus and Dumbledore nodded as he continued, "This Voldemort is after Harry?"
Dumbledore simply replied, "I am surprised that your daughter hasn't told you the full story of Harry's life before, but perhaps it is a reaction that shows how she truly views Harry." All of those present quirked an eyebrow and Dumbledore clarified, "She does not view Harry as the boy-who-lived. She views him as Harry Potter a boy who she cares deeply for." The adult Grangers shared a knowing smile and Dumbledore continued, "Harry's parents were murdered by Voldemort when he was 15 months old. Voldemort attempted to kill Harry as well, but the killing curse rebounded back on to Voldemort casting him from his body but not destroying him completely."
Bianca's eyes were wide as she asked, "Now you suspect that this Voldemort has regained his body after taking some of Harry's blood."
Dumbledore corrected, "He regained form Madam, his original body was quite destroyed on the fateful night of his first banishment."
Remus let out a heavy breath before he said, "Rest assured Harry and Hermione will be given the best guards possible this summer. In fact, if you are willing we have arranged training for both of them at a friend's house. In fact, with any luck my friend, who is Harry's godfather, will be able to formally accept guardianship of Harry; thus giving him a caring place to live during the summers."
Dumbledore once again softly corrected, "Remus, Harry will still need to stay a week at the Dursleys. But, I believe that we can arrange for some canine companionship to ensure Harry's treatment."
Remus grinned before Michael broke in, "Those relatives of Harry's are quite ghastly people I must say. I scarcely believed it when I talked on the phone with Harry's uncle and the man had to restrain himself from calling his nephew a freak."
Dumbledore winced and admitted, "I agree that the Dursleys are not very pleasant people. But, I hope that the one week Harry must stay with them every summer until his age of majority will be as pleasant of an experience as possible."
Michael and Bianca shared a look before she said, "Harry will be welcome in our house whenever he wants. He is a very nice young man, despite his upbringing."
Remus smiled and replied, "His parents would be very proud to know that. I think that everyone who knew James and Lily were the only ones not celebrating like idiots when Voldemort was vanquished the first time."
Michael nodded and then he asked, "How does this Voldemort operate?"
Dumbledore answered, "I believe the muggle equivalent would be a terrorist perhaps in the form of the Irish Republic Army."
Michael frowned, "That's not exactly a fair comparison based upon everything you've stated. The IRA seeks freedom even if it is a bad way of seeking it. This Voldemort only seeks power, am I correct?"
Remus furrowed his brow, "He is a terrorist Mr. Granger, but yes he only seeks power through his actions."
Dumbledore twinkled slightly, "At any rate, if Voldemort is back, in the past he often operated between cycles of activity and inactivity so we should expect more of the same. He will attack specific targets; typically those are the greatest threat to him and his legions. In fact, James and Lily escaped Voldemort thrice before they finally succumbed. He is persistent if nothing else, Harry and your daughter can attest to as much."
Glancing across the room at Fudge, Dumbledore noticed that the man was beyond his initial stages of shock and denial and had moved on to measuring the strengths and weaknesses of his own position. Reaching a hand into his robe he pulled an old watch out and with a glance realized that Harry would be ready to talk in about ten minutes. Once Harry was completely aware of his surroundings then things would indeed get very interesting.
At the ministry of magic, news of Harry Potter's reasonably safe return had already begun to permeate from department to department. Due to the relative issues during the tri-wizard tournament the various department heads were having a meeting to discuss the state of the ministry.
Amelia Bones led the most influential department and with Barty Crouch Sr. she had amongst the most seniority of anyone in the ministry. Glancing around she quickly dealt with the topic that most were already discussing, "Peter Pettigrew was indeed captured tonight and has been questioned. Revelations from the questioning include the exoneration of Sirius Black. I have already contacted my peers in muggle law enforcement and ordered the cessation to the manhunt for the man. Additionally, Pettigrew alluded that he was to undergo a part in a ritual to restore Voldemort to his body."
Bones sighed heavily as the majority of those present flinched at Voldemort's name before Barty Crouch Sr. stood, "I now am willing to accept my responsibility in refusing Black a trial, whatever that may be."
Bones glanced around and saw that the rest of the department heads were of a split opinion so she made a political decision, "That won't be necessary Barty. I think that everyone here can agree that we don't want Fudge taking any more power in the ministry by appointing a puppet in your position."
Arthur Weasley stood and said, "I quite agree Amelia, but we have to discuss what you-know-who's return might mean for the ministry."
Bones nodded, "Well, I think all of us present can remember what it was like during Voldemort's first reign. We made mistakes collectively, but I can think of a few things we could institute soon that would help: Mandatory checks for the dark mark, random testing for the imperius and Verisateum questioning. Fudge will fight this because of his anonymous benefactors won't want such a change, but if we provide a united front it will pass. We will need to restore the auror squad to numbers comparative to the end of Voldemort's first reign, and for that we will need Fudge's complete approval."
Amos Diggory, still slightly shaken from visiting his trembling son a few moments earlier offered, "I'll send ministry delegations to the giants, registered werewolves, and the dementors to ensure their respective loyalty."
Bones looked around, happy with the progress of the meeting as she said, "I think that we'll know more tomorrow. If Voldemort has indeed returned, we will follow through on each of these contingencies. But, we can't risk another full meeting like this, because Fudge wouldn't look kindly to plotting behind his back. Everything else on informal channels from here until Fudge is out of office. Good night every one. Try to get some sleep the next several days I fear will require our very best."
Crouch Sr. was the last to leave the large board room as he mused in his thoughts, Bones' attitude and initiative was surprising, she is an excellent administrator but had no political aspirations. If he could firmly align himself as her solid second he could complete his peaceful coup in far less time than working alone. All things considered tonight had gone as well as he could expect.
Harry slowly felt the fog in his mind dissipate and he slowly began to take stock of his night, he had been helpless to stop Voldemort's return and his parents or an echo of his parents had helped save him. He knew he was in the hospital wing, and based upon the numbed pain he was still in, he figured the pair of crucios would have some lingering effects. As he blinked his eyes open he could only silently muse that considering he had faced Voldemort in the flesh for the first time, he was quite content to deal with a little pain in exchange for his own life.
Hermione immediately noticed that Harry's eyes were opening and she slid his glasses onto his face before she quietly asked, "How do you feel?"
Harry quietly replied, "As well as can be expected I guess. Did you catch Wormtail?"
Hermione smiled and nodded as the adults in the room finally took notice that Harry had rejoined those amongst the living. Snuffles jumped onto the bed and curled up at Harry's legs and the adults all walked over to the bed, Fudge standing next to Dumbledore as the old wizard asked, "Would you care to tell us what happened tonight Harry?"
Madam Pomfrey handed Harry a small glass of water and they all watched as trembling hands, aided by Hermione's gentle touch, tipped the glass back and the fluid quenched his potion parched throat. Harry quietly spoke, "I was transported to a graveyard somewhere. I noticed that it was where Riddle's father was buried."
Fudge frowned, "Riddle?"
Harry sighed, "Tom Marvolo Riddle better known as Lord Voldemort."
Fudge's eyes were wide as the name, struck a chord of some sort, but he quickly masked his expression as Harry continued, "I managed to stun Pettigrew and injure another dark haired wizard. I summoned the tri-wizard cup but Riddle's snake prevented me from taking it back to Hogwarts. It landed and Wormtail and he vanished just as the snake bit me on my leg. It was painful enough that I blacked out."
Dumbledore quickly clarified, "Yes Pettigrew has been dealt with Harry. With any luck, your dream from last year may come true for the coming summer."
Harry managed a small smile, well aware that Dumbledore wasn't in the clear to refer to the black dog on his bed as Sirius. Harry shuddered as a residual tremor shot down his nerves, and every adult present grimaced at the pained expression on his face. Hermione merely wrapped her arms around him and offered all of the comfort she could. After a moment he continued, "When I came to I was tied to Riddle Sr.'s tombstone and the same black haired wizard I had injured earlier was walking towards me with a dagger of some kind. But, one of his hands was missing and a cauldron behind him was billowing smoke. Anyways, he cut this V in my arm and said something along the lines blood of the enemy forcibly taken you will revive your foe."
Dumbledore's eyes flashed with some jubilant emotion for a fleeting moment, which Harry noticed but didn't comment upon other than to nod at the old wizard and continue, "Then he put the blood from the cut in the cauldron and Voldemort climbed out with a new body. He was bald, and if I'd never seen his eyes before I would have been terrified by how much they glowed red." Harry shuddered once again as Hermione gently squeezed him to show that she wasn't going anywhere.
The Grangers had watched the entire thing with something akin to shock, this wasn't the same polite boy they had hosted during the summer; this was a powerful young man shaken but not destroyed by a night of sheer terror. Hermione's actions also sent a strong message to Michael and Bianca, their daughter would stand by Harry through it all and they could do nothing to change that.
Harry sighed as he continued, "He hit me with the cruciatus after he eased my pain and healed the snake bite wound on my leg. He held it for awhile before he summoned some of his other deatheaters using the dark mark."
Fudge began to hold his breath as Harry continued, the minister of magic knew he wasn't going to like what came next, "I really didn't recognize any of them..." A tremor shook Harry's body; Fudge misconstrued it as the end of his statement before Harry continued, "…aside from Lucius Malfoy."
The aurors shared a look at this before Fudge said, "Well he was obviously under the imperius curse, which would explain his presence."
Dawlish spoke up, "Minister Fudge sir, the imperius would have to have been placed upon Malfoy at the third task tonight. Considering he was clearly not under the curse at the task I think we can assume this means that he was lying before also."
Fudge frowned but nodded, "Mr. Potter, how can we know that you speak the truth. I think most are well aware there is no love lost between your self and Lucius' son Draco. This would be an excellent opportunity to pay vengeance upon the boy."
Harry shrugged, "I'd take Verisateum to testify to what I saw if I thought it would matter."
Fudge nodded, "I will put in a request for an appointment this summer to verify your claims."
Dumbledore added, "Cornelius I want you to rethink what I know you are doing. Lucius Malfoy will not protect you from the consequences of his actions forever, and if you part ways now you still may survive the implications."
Fudge pulled a chair over to the bed, and for the first time noticed the growling black dog on the bed before he replied, "You know as well as I do that the testimony of a 14-year-old wizard, even if he is the boy-who-lived it won't be enough to convict Lucius Malfoy."
Dumbledore nodded, "I understand Cornelius, but this is your opportunity to free yourself of his influence and be the minister on your own terms. Prepare the ministry for war, prepare the public for Voldemort's return, and tell them of his return."
Fudge sighed, "I don't think informing the world of his return would be wise Dumbledore. However, I will put more money into international auror recruitment and for the auror academy. More than this would require some tangible proof Albus, such as a public sighting."
Dumbledore frowned but acquiesced, he had never had such luck in influencing Fudge. Of course being presented with proof from the boy-who-lived wasn't without its share of influence on its own. Harry had watched the political exchange with interest, as had everyone else present before he continued his tale, "After Voldemort yelled at the deatheaters he summoned for not seeking him sooner, he told me that he would duel me. He hit me with another crucio before the duel even started. This one was shorter, but then we dueled for a few minutes and I had to dodge one killing curse before our wands connected. I assume it had something to do with having brother wands, but beyond that I really don't know."
Pain rippled through his body and Harry bit down on his lip so hard he drew blood before he continued, "The thing was, the wands connected and there was so much power. There was a giant golden cage that surrounded us and after a few minutes echoes of Voldemort's victims began to float out of his wand. First, it was an old caretaker at Riddle Manor, and then it was Bertha Jorkins." Harry swallowed the lump in his throat, "Then my mum came out of his wand…." Harry swallowed thickly again as Snuffles licked his hand as he whimpered. Remus had to lean against the wall as Harry finally managed to continue with tears rolling down his face, "My mum told me to hold for dad, she said they would help me."
Harry broke down slightly as the emotion of the moment became too much, the elder Grangers, Fudge, and the aurors felt as if they were intruding on something very private before Harry continued in a much more controlled voice, "My dad came out of the wand and he made me promise to keep living my life despite Voldemort. Then my mum kind of hugged me before they distracted Voldemort enough for me to break the connection. Fawkes came after that, and I really don't remember much following."
Hermione gently cooed into his ear as the adults walked to the other side of the room to quietly discuss the night's events. Harry had managed to settle enough to carry on a normal conversation after a couple of minutes with Hermione's hand running through his hair the only action commencing. Finally, Ron spoke from his seat by Harry's bed, "Well mate, at least you won the tournament and the galleons with it."
Hermione replied for Harry, "I swear to Merlin Ron, you have to have the emotional range of a teaspoon. How any girl will put up with you is beyond me."
Harry chuckled softly and for once Hermione was glad that Ron could make light of things in such a dark situation. Harry softly said, "Honestly, it wasn't any worse than down in the chamber. Of course, I needed Fawkes to save me again but better lucky than good."
Hermione climbed up into the bed and wrapped his left arm into a gentle hug, taking care not to touch the still healing cut on his forearm. Finally she spoke, "Harry, I don't think it's very realistic to expect to beat Voldemort. He has fifty years of experience on you, and while you know a lot of magic, he has had much longer to learn his strengths as a wizard. All we can do is continue to work hard, and when the time is right you and Dumbledore can beat him, and make sure he stays dead this time."
Ron's eyes were wide, "Why would you want to beat V-Voldemort Harry?"
Harry looked his friend dead in the eye and replied, "I wish I could say that my intentions were completely pure, but I can't. Seeing my mum and dad tonight, well I realized that Voldemort needs to be stopped for the last time and I'd like to do it for my mum and dad. He needs to be stopped so more families can't be shattered, simply because the arrogant wanker wants to."
Ron choked on his next words and Hermione softly said with a smile, "I think you've rendered Ron incapable of speech by calling Riddle an arrogant wanker."
Harry grinned and replied, "As long as I haven't made him lose his appetite."
Ron blinked and replied, "Oy that's not funny. Talking about my appetite like that, it's insulting really." He grinned and added, "There's nothing that can make me lose my appetite mate."
The three shared a laugh until one of the aurors approached the bed with a sack in his hands. Clearing his throat he sat the bag down on the bed and said, "Here are your winnings Mr. Potter. Congratulations on a good tournament." Harry smiled slightly and nodded his thanks as the auror retreated back to the other adults.
In the ministry of magic a worker stamped the formal declaration clearing Sirius Black of all charges, and the memo to the muggle crime enforcement at Scotland Yard that he had been cleared of all charges putting an end to the long manhunt for the man.
The man was about to send the messages off when a sound in a connecting room begged for his attention first. Rita Skeeter walked into the room and with a couple of duplicating charms she quietly walked out, this story would sell better than her stories about Potter earlier in the year.
At a small rickety looking house in Ottery St. Catchpole Molly Weasley continued to listen to the WWN for an update on Harry. She looked harrowed, scared, and more than a little guilty about the events of the year came weighing down on her conscience. Her ears perked when the song stopped mid-tune and a voice announced, "This just in Harry Potter has returned safely from an unknown site. Word from sources indicates that Mr. Potter looked to be in a frightful state, but without any life threatening injuries. Additionally, sources from within the ministry are confirming that long thought serial killer Sirius Black has been cleared of all charges when new evidence indicating he was framed by a man thought dead."
Molly gasped as the news continued to roll in, "Details are sketchy, but sources indicate the Peter Pettigrew was captured at some time tonight and when questioned found guilty of the crimes that Sirius Black had been thought guilty of. If you see Mr. Black please inform him of his exoneration while maintaining a safe distance. Repeat approach Mr. Black carefully, his mental state following years of unjust imprisonment is unknown. Thank you and we apologize for the interruption. Now back to you previously scheduled program."
Molly turned the WWN connection off as she began to mull over the news as it had just come in. With a sigh she knew what she needed to do, she needed to talk to Arthur and confirm the news before she could go any further.
The joyous news was finally revealed as Remus and Snuffles sat in the headmaster's office late in the night, even early into the next day. Dumbledore received an emergency owl delivery due to difficulties in floo calls from the news of the night.
The paperwork has been filed, you can inform Black that he has been completely cleared and there will be no further formal inquiries.
A few moments later Remus and Snuffles were safely ensconced in the office as Dumbledore greeted them and said, "I'd like for you to be with us here Sirius."
A moment later Sirius was transformed into his human form with a quizzical look on his face, "Isn't this a risk Albus? I know that Pettigrew has been captured but I haven't been cleared yet."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he slid the piece of parchment across his desk and the pair of marauders read it quickly. Sirius' eyes belied his excitement and he said, "So, I can finally take guardianship of Harry just like James and Lily wanted me to?"
Dumbledore nodded, "You will need to obtain a signature from the Dursleys, renouncing their muggle guardianship rights. But, technically you have been Harry's wizarding guardian even while in Azkaban. I merely took the position over as a steward in your stead."
Dumbledore continued as he smiled at the excitement in the younger man's eyes build, "Your original wand will be retrieved, from the ministry's stores and if you wish you can resume your position as an auror."
Sirius began pacing as he thought about all of the options for his life, almost as if he had been born again from the ashes of his former life just like a phoenix. Finally he settled on saying, "I don't think I want to work for the ministry ever again, and to be honest I never really needed to work in the first place. At the time I was just trying to make a difference. Now, I have the option of making a difference by giving Harry the kind of home he deserves and I'd like to start a family of my own before I get too old."
Remus held a hand to his heart in mock surprise, "What's this, Sirius Black wants to start a family? I never thought the day would come."
Sirius grinned, "Sod off Moony, or I'll start telling my cousin about some of the embarrassing stuff you did here at Hogwarts."
Remus grinned as he shook his head, "Touché my friend, touché." Turning to Dumbledore he asked, "I assume you want to keep the place under fidelus?"
Dumbledore nodded, "With Tom back we must utilize every advantage at our disposal. I believe that there may be need for others to take up residence for this summer at the bare minimum. Sadly several order members have allowed their own homes to become targets too great for Tom and his deatheaters to pass up."
Sirius sighed heavily and groaned, "You both had over a decade of peace before this all started again, and I go from one war to another."
Remus reached over and squeezed Sirius' shoulder in sympathy before he said, "Well, we best get going. I hope the guest quarters are still available tonight?"
Dumbledore nodded, "I will have a house elf wake you at dawn so that you may say your goodbyes to Harry. We will organize accommodations with the Dursleys in the next two days so that you can accompany Harry from King's Cross."
Sirius yawned as he stood before he followed Remus from the headmaster's office, neither noticed Dumbledore reach over to his pensieve and pull a specific vial of memory from a hidden compartment in the wall. Fawkes flashed into the room and took up residence on his roost before Dumbledore said, "Well Fawkes, I'm telling Harry the prophecy tomorrow evening. I hope that he reacts to it as I expect he will. Without Harry, all of this will be for naught."
Harry awoke the next morning and to his surprise Hermione was snuggled into his side with her arm draped across his chest. Reaching over he grabbed his glasses and slid them over his nose to reveal Remus, Sirius, and the Grangers watching the pair with an amused expressions.
Harry smiled and then his brain froze, Sirius was walking around in broad daylight. Harry hissed, "Sirius, what are you doing? You haven't been cleared yet. They need to give you a trial."
Sirius grinned, a smile the likes of which Harry had only seen once before, as they spoke in the courtyard the night of the time turner adventure. He softly said, "Don't worry kiddo, I've been cleared. Moony and I just wanted to say our goodbyes before we escorted Michael and Bianca here back to their house."
Harry felt a much weaker tremor shoot down his nerved before he gently shook Hermione awake. She gave him a sleepy smile before she asked, "How are you feeling?"
Harry grinned, "All things considered pretty good." Looking down and giving her a conspiratorial wink he said, "I think your mum and dad might want to say good bye."
Hermione arched an eyebrow before she slowly raised her gave to her parents who were grinning at her impishly. Mortified she buried her face in the pillow before she pulled away and said in an overly cheery voice, "Morning mum and dad."
Michael laughed, "Morning to you sweets. We'll be seeing you in a few days and we'll try to arrange some vacation plans for August." Turning to Harry he added, "You are more then welcome to join us Harry. But, we'll worry about all of that later. Come here and give us a hug Hermione Jane."
Sirius grinned and added, "You too Harry James, come here and give us a hug."
Rolling out of bed the pajama clad pair swiftly closed the distance and hugs were spread around. Remus and Sirius got a bit carried away and ended up hugging everyone, and Harry suddenly saw the eerie similarity between the marauders and the twins. With a sudden flash of inspiration Harry's eyes panned across the room to the bag of galleons on his bedside. Suddenly he had a very good idea on how to spend the galleons, and he knew the end result would be well worth it.
As the adults left the castle the young Gryffindors took the clean clothes from Dobby and Winky that the elves had left the previous night, and they showered in opposite sex bathrooms in the connecting room of the hospital wing.
Walking with hand entwined into the great hall, Harry was greeted with a standing ovation as he worked his way to the Gryffindor table. A few students tried to walk over to the table but were stopped as Dumbledore stood, "Congratulations to Mr. Potter on his victory in the tournament. You have made Hogwarts proud. As for the rest of you, please leave Mr. Potter be, he has no wish to be harasses by the same students who harassed him earlier in the year for his very entry into the tournament." Harry was pleased to see several students wince; while it wasn't a widely known fact, Harry had a very good memory against those that had wronged him for no apparent reason. The list was still quite long from the heir of Slytherin nonsense a couple of years ago and this year had only expanded that list.
Dumbledore continued despite Harry's musings, "Additionally, as many of you have already surmised our friends from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are preparing to head back to their own respective homes today. If any students here are interested, we will be bidding our guests a fond farewell after lunch, on the grounds near the lake. "
Seamus was the first Gryffindor to ask Harry about the events of the previous night, "Oy Harry, where did that portkey take you?"
A tremor passed through Harry's body and everyone looked at him strangely aside from Hermione and Ron who were looking in sympathy. Finally, he replied, "You know it's funny, I might as well have had the plague after my name came out of the goblet. I could count those people on two hands who didn't immediately think I had placed my name in the goblet. Of those that thought like that only Ron took the time to apologize for being wrong. Frankly, you all acted like a bunch of self serving Slytherins. So why then do you possibly think I would tell you anything?"
Seamus frowned and several faces at the Gryffindor table flushed with shame at being told off, and for Harry being exactly right about it.
Hermione rolled her eyes at her housemates, the majority of whom were feeling sorry for themselves instead of actually feeling contrite. She darkly muttered, "Truth hurts doesn't it, you bunch of bloody sheep." Harry merely arched an eyebrow, his feelings had already been made quite apparent, but he wasn't aware that Hermione felt the same. Of course, considering their childhoods, which involved more than their share of being mistreated by peers he supposed it made sense.
An owl flew into the great hall as they quietly ate breakfast, Minerva McGonagall could see that a divide had been formed in her house by the events of the year. Truth be told, she completely sided with Harry and his group of friends, but she refused to accept that her house would be divided. She would be talking to her house tonight before they all left, some things couldn't be left to fester.
Harry pulled the letter from the owl's leg and unfurled it to read:
Please meet me in my office after dinner tonight. We must discuss something of importance.
Harry glanced up at Dumbledore and they shared a nod, before Hermione asked, "What did the letter say Harry?"
Harry merely replied, "Meeting with Dumbledore tonight." Hermione nodded and as breakfast was finished the majority of the students went outside to enjoy the early summer weather. Harry watched as the twins walked towards Gryffindor tower, deciding to get the task out of the way he followed them as he left Hermione with a promise to see her in the tower in a few minutes.
Finally catching the twins as they slowly took their own circuitous route to Gryffindor tower he pulled them into an empty classroom despite their protests and said, "Hey, I have a proposition for you two."
Fred and George shared a look, both were immediately interested as Harry continued, "I know you two were talking about starting a joke shop after you graduate from Hogwarts. If I give you my winnings from the tournament to cover your losses on the bet with Bagman, and there should be another five hundred galleons there to start building an inventory for your shop when you graduate. In exchange, I'd like to be a silent partner and have first dibs on some product development ideas of my own, and a five percent share of the profits. My ideas should offset any differences in the long term well-being of the shop."
Fred and George both shrugged and Fred spoke, "Sure mate, but we'll give you 15 of the profits. Any loans we would get would have us in debt before we even started. This way we can also make some money next year with the products we make. As it was we're both only taking three classes next year."
George nodded solemnly, "yes 25 and not a knut less. After all, endorsement from the boy-who-lived and tri-wizard champion should be worth some sales on its own."
Harry arched his eyebrow, "There won't be any outright endorsements except on products I design."
Fred smiled, "Understandable dear partner but I agree with my less handsome twin, 25 is a fair split of the profits."
Harry shrugged, "You do realize that if I'm a prefect I'll have to appear as though I don't approve."
George grinned, "Oh don't worry Harrykins we can be invisible when we want to be."
Harry nodded as he pulled the sake of galleons from his pocket and tossed them to Fred, "It's a deal then. But, remember don't bring this up in front of Hermione I'll be the one to break the news to her." The twins saluted as Harry grinned and walked out of the room, heading towards the tower to begin packing for the trip tomorrow.
Harry entered the common room and those present widely looked away, their ears still ringing from the dressing down they had received earlier. Ginny, Neville, and Ron we all in the far corner as Neville and Ron played some chess to pass the time. Harry approached them and asked, "Hey guys, where's Hermione?"
Ron never glanced up from the board as he replied, "She's up packing already. Barking I tell you, what's she going to do this afternoon?"
Harry shrugged and said, "I'm going to get packed too, are you guys going down to give the other schools a send off?"
They all nodded and Harry went up to the fourth year boy's dorm to finish the majority of his packing so that he could enjoy a quiet morning before he boarded the train.
Opening his trunk Harry was surprised to see Gryffindor's sword in scabbard sitting on the top of his clothing. A small note was stuck to it using a sticking charm:
The sword is now yours as it was your fathers and his father before him. I couldn't have rightfully given you a sword first year, could I? Take the time to train at your swordplay, sometimes problems require a more blunt solution than magic often provides.
Harry sighed as he used shrinking charms liberally in order to fit everything into his trunk, making sure to leave a set of pajamas and a change of clothes for tomorrow draped over the top of the trunk. Harry planned on getting a new trunk over the summer in order to carry more while he was at Hogwarts, but learning some very powerful locking charms would be in order.
An hour and a half passed quickly as Harry finally walked back down to the common room, sighting Hermione in the corner with the others, although she was firmly entrenched in a book from the sight of things. As he approached Ron said, "Oy Harry, we're trying to organize a pick-up Quidditch match this afternoon, are you in for seeker?"
Harry grinned, "That sounds great. Who all is playing?"
Ron replied after a moment's thought, "Well I guess anyone who has a broom can play actually. We'll probably try to get some Hufflepuffs to play, maybe a rematch of the Quidditch match from last year. This time though no dementors and I'll take Wood's spot."
Harry nodded as Hermione pulled the book down enough so that her eye roll could be clearly spotted. Scooping Hermione up into his arms he plopped back down into the chair as she played at indignance before settling into a position with her legs draped over the arm of the chair as she leaned into Harry's shoulder.
Every few minutes Hermione would lean back and kiss the tip of Harry's nose or give him a peck on the lips. In her world a boyfriend who didn't bother her when she read was better than his weight on gold. Harry, for his part merely watched the chess match and would lean over and catch a few bits from the transfiguration book Hermione was reading as they passed the time until lunch.
Finally around noon Ron's stomach let out a grumble as Ginny said, "Uh oh sounds like it's lunch time."
Ron gave his sister a mock scowl before he agreed, "Yeah, I reckon it wouldn't hurt to have some lunch."
They all laughed at this and left the chess board and Hermione's book in their little corner, which had become the unspoken roosting spot for the golden trio plus two. After a pleasant and relatively quick lunch the majority of the school walked out onto the grounds and said their goodbyes to friends made over the course of the year.
Harry first talked to Krum, the Bulgarian had been completely vindicated in his role during the third task, but the most interesting side plot for the Durmstrang students was the disappearance of their headmaster following the third task. With Karkaroff AWOL, the deputy head was in charge and he was a far less imposing presence than the other man.
Krum smiled at Harry, one of the few he was willing to smile in the presence of, "I haff enjoyed this year very much Harry. You should take care of Her-my-nee, she is a very special girl."
Harry nodded, "I appreciate that Viktor and any time you need a friend just send me an owl and I'll have your back."
Viktor nodded and moved over to Hermione and they shared a brief conversation where they agreed to become pen pals. Viktor knew that he had no chance to be with Hermione, so he would take what he could get in her friendship.
Fleur was next for Harry, and surprisingly enough Bill Weasley was there also. Harry arched his eyebrow and asked, "Bill?"
Bill nodded, he looked much like the pictures Harry had seen over the years, the epitome of cool, "Yeah, and you must be the famous Harry Potter. I saw Fred and George praising you earlier."
Harry grinned and Bill raised his hands, "I don't want to know why. It might make me an unknowing accomplice."
Harry chuckled as he turned to Fleur, "It was nice to meet you this year Fleur."
Fleur smiled beautifully and replied, "Ze pleasure has been mine 'Arry. You are already a great wizard; I look forward to meeting you again."
Harry smiled as Fleur gave him a proper French farewell, kisses on both cheeks, before he turned back to Bill, "So are you two?"
Bill merely grinned, "Actually, she is being recruited by Gringott's in Paris as a curse breaker." Glancing around in a conspiratorial whisper and added, "But, by the end of the orientation I have to take her through we'll see."
Harry laughed and Bill patted him on the back, just as if they had been friends their entire lives. Hermione walked up with a bemused expression on her face, "Was that Bill?" Harry nodded, "You two seemed rather chummy."
Harry grinned, "What can I say, us cool blokes just gravitate together."
Hermione snorted, "If you say so Harry." She leaned up and gave him a quick kiss before she asked, "Anyone else you wanted to see?"
Harry shook his head, "Nah, I guess I only made two friends this year; pretty sad really."
Hermione grinned at him cheekily, this wasn't the demeanor of your typical person the day after confronting Lord Voldemort, but then again Harry wasn't a typical person. She consoled him, "Well we have been rather busy this year, so I guess it's understandable. I only made friends with Viktor and a nice girl from Beauxbatons named Monique."
Harry wrapped his arm around Hermione and pulled her close as they first watched the great winged Abraxan of Beauxbatons take flight. Shortly thereafter the great vessel of Durmstrang dipped underwater and with one last lazy wave from the giant squid they were gone and the great experiment had ended.
The afternoon Quidditch match was a festive affair as an unofficial rematch of the Dementor match from third year was held between Gryffindor House and Hufflepuff house. Unlike the last time Harry managed to capture the snitch after about twenty minutes, Gryffindor winning 270-120 with Ron making a fair show for his first match as keeper.
As they finished up their dinner, the food tasting bland as it was overwhelmed by the excitement of being the last night in the castle for a few months. Harry glanced up at the head table and Dumbledore merely nodded as they both exited the hall at the same time and shared a quiet trip to the headmaster's office.
Upon entering the office Harry immediately knew that whatever news the headmaster had to share it wasn't going to be of the pleasant variety.
As they held a long staring contest from their chairs Dumbledore finally spoke, "I have something to show you. Something which I fear will make your life even more difficult in the coming years."
Harry nodded as Dumbledore stood and motioned Harry over to the pensieve. Looking confused Harry asked, "What is it sir?"
Dumbledore sighed, "It was over fifteen years ago and I was interviewing a young witch for the open position as Divination professor here at Hogwarts. I had rented a spare room at the Hogshead tavern to hold the interview. The witch's grandmother was a highly documented seer, so I humored the woman out of respect for her grandmother. After a very bland interview I was prepared to end the interview when she gave a real prophecy. That was the day that Sybill Trelawney gave the first of her prophecies.
Dumbledore swirled the silver fluid in his pensieve before he muttered, "Projectus" and watched as a three dimensional image appeared.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... And the Dark Lord will mark him as equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives."
JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Ch. 37
To be honest Harry wasn't terribly surprised at the prophecy. In fact, the only thing that puzzled him was the mysterious power the dark lord knows not. Dumbledore watched Harry pensively until the teenager finally spoke, "Why is it that you have known this prophecy since before I was born and yet you still placed me with the Dursleys?"
Dumbledore blinked, this wasn't the reaction he had expected, he had thought there would be some anger and resentment but that they would be washed away in the face of disbelief and despair. After gathering himself he replied, "We have had this conversation before, it was the place of the best protection available."
Harry shook his head, "If you believe the prophecy then you also would have to believe that only Voldemort would kill me. You could have placed me with another family under an assumed name and at least attempted to prepare me for this battle against Voldemort."
Dumbledore firmly replied, "I didn't want you to grow up with such a burden. I wanted you to have a childhood."
Harry's voice was cold, "You want to talk about burdens, try growing up and not knowing your name until you turn five. Try growing up without friends because your fat assed cousin scares them away and your aunt and uncle spread rumors that you're a criminal. Or how about growing up thinking your parents were drunks that died because of you."
Dumbledore's eyes widened as Harry just began to build some steam, "Who makes you the one to decide that I have to live that life?"
Too startled to do much more than breathe the old wizard replied, "I placed you with your aunt and uncle to protect you Harry, it was for the greater good. Prophecies are notoriously vague and I shuddered to think of risking your life for the chance of more happiness."
Harry snorted, "Remember after the whole philosopher's stone debacle first year. I asked you why Voldemort was after me, why he wanted to kill me as a baby. You could have told me then and I could have prepared for this. I may not have been happy with you, but I could have come to understand it."
Dumbledore was growing desperate, "I had your best interests in mind Harry, I did not do these things out of malice, but out of love."
Harry narrowed his eyes and tilted his head as his glasses slid down to the edge of his nose, "If that is what you do for someone you love, I'd really not want to see what you do to those you hate."
Harry stood and walked to the door before he turned to Dumbledore and replied, "It's not for me to decide what penance you pay for being such a callous old man. I'll let my mum and dad deal with you when the time comes. Good night Professor."
Dumbledore frowned but didn't stop Harry aside from to say, "Harry", the teenage wizard turned, "I understand why you are upset and I won't ask for your forgiveness, but I will work to earn it from you. All I can do however is promise that I will not withhold information from you about you anymore. I pray that you can some day find it in your heart to look at me without malice."
Harry sighed as he quietly replied, "I don't hate you sir, but I'm pretty sure I'll have a hard time respecting you ever again." Harry's words acted as a physical blow to the old wizard as he turned and left the office, the door shutting behind him with a soft click. Dumbledore wasn't crying, but he was looking decidedly ill from what could be seen around his beard. The war against Voldemort just took a rather unexpected turn.
Harry returned to the castle and with a soft kiss for Hermione he simply said, "I'm not feeling too well. I think I am going to turn in for the night." Before she could ponder his words any further he had disappeared up the staircase, the mystery remaining until tomorrow at the very least.
By the time Hermione had awoken she found Harry already prepared for the trip, his trunk already long gone with Dobby's aid. He smiled at her and said, "Good morning."
With a discerning eye she said, "You look like you didn't sleep well last night. Are you alright?"
Harry nodded, "Yeah I've just been thinking about some stuff. I'll tell you about it soon, I promise." Hermione accepted this and with a little persuasion from Harry Winky appeared and took her trunk to the express, making the morning considerably less stressful with the one simple action.
As they rumbled down the path to Hogsmeade Hermione still hadn't gotten anything from Harry on why he was acting so closed off. Deciding to take drastic measures she leaned over and proceeded to give Harry a very steamy kiss. After she pulled away she asked, "Feeling better?"
Harry grinned, "I feel fine Hermione, but that did make me feel better."
Hermione sighed, "I wish you'd tell me what is bothering you."
Harry wrapped and arm around her and ignored Ron's snickering on the other side of the carriage as he said, "I promise you'll be the first person I talk to when I'm done thinking about it myself. It isn't just one thing thought…love."
Harry eyed her warily, the topic of pet names hadn't really been broached before and she simply smiled sweetly in response. No longer fearing for his life he continued, "That's all I'll probably do in my week at the Dursleys is think. I mean Sirius will be around for a few days, but I'll steer clear of my aunt, uncle, and Dudley. I won't be that hard up for conversation." Hermione rolled her eyes but couldn't stifle the small giggle that escaped her lips.
Ron shook his head ruefully and in a mock emotional voice said, "I never though I'd see the day, Hermione giggling."
Hermione reached across the carriage and swatted his arm, "Maybe if you ever said anything funny I might giggle more Ronald."
Ron raised his hands in a placating gesture, "Ok, I'm sorry Ms. G…iggles." They all shared a laugh this time as the carriage finally stopped at the station and students began piling out of carriages.
They managed to find an empty compartment with no difficulty and the five of them settled into carrying positions. Ron was reading the newest issue of Quidditch Monthly, Ginny and Neville were sitting with their shoulders touching as they read Teen Witch Weekly. Harry and Hermione were cuddled on the bench, neither having got much sleep the previous night, and they were on the way to taking a light nap with Hermione burrowed into Harry's chest.
It was a quiet compartment as the train rumbled through Scotland for a time before it chugged into the English countryside. Harry and Hermione had both fallen into a light but comfortable sleep as Ron had challenged Neville to a chess match with his manhood at stake from being publicly ridiculed for reading Teen Witch Weekly.
The door to the compartment slowly slid open and for once a solitary Draco Malfoy sauntered into their compartment. Ron made to move but Malfoy was glaring disinterestedly at Harry and Hermione napping on the bench. Ron's eyes narrowed and he quietly asked, "What do you want Ferret boy?"
Draco smirked, "Just a quick word with Potter if you don't mind."
Ron frowned but didn't move as Draco simply said, "Potter, I need a word."
Harry's light sleep was disrupted by Draco Malfoy's regular speaking voice and he blinked his eyes open. Looking at the Slytherin with something akin to distaste he replied, "Give me a second. Hermione could use the sleep."
Malfoy rolled his eyes but complied as Harry carefully peeled himself away before flicking his wand to conjure a pillow that mostly replaced his own body. Walking out into the aisle of the train he asked in an irritable tone, "What is it Malfoy?"
Malfoy didn't have any of his normal bravado as he simply said, "I know he's back Potter. I received word from my father late last night. But, I want you to know something. I'll never be my father, because I won't serve the dark lord."
Harry blinked before he asked, "I'm suppose to believe this because?"
Draco shrugged, "Call it pride on my part and maybe just a tinge of respect for you. We're enemies Potter and I think a certain amount of respect is shared between enemies even if there is no love lost."
Harry sighed and shrugged, "So what do you want me to do about it?"
Malfoy merely shrugged, "You don't have to do anything about it. I was just clearing the air before it got muddled up by what someone else told you to believe."
Harry nodded and asked, "So we're enemies but you don't want me dead?"
Malfoy nodded, "I have too much fun tormenting you Scarhead, why would I want you dead?"
Harry managed a small smile, "I'm touched I guess." With a marauderesque grin Harry said, "If it is a war you want, then it is a war you shall get."
Malfoy merely smirked and gave Harry a jaunty salute before turning on heel and heading to the opposite side of the train. Harry ran a hand through his hair and sighed, "Well that was unexpected."
Harry returned to the compartment and he noticed Hermione was still sleeping. Ron had a strange expression on his face and asked, "What did Malfoy want?"
Harry simply replied, "Oh we decided to be best friend's mate, sorry looks like you're out of a job." Noticing the look on Ron's face he sighed, "Bloody hell Ron, he's Malfoy what do you think?"
Ron arched an eyebrow but didn't comment further as Harry glanced out the window, "Bugger, less than an hour until we get back to King's Cross. Reckon I better wake Hermione up."
Reaching over he caressed Hedwig's beak as she preened in her cage. She hooted affectionately and nipped at his finger before Harry smiled and she went back to her task.
As they exited the express for the end of their fourth year they spotted Snuffles and the Grangers just inside the barrier. Hugs and a few sloppy licks were traded around before they parted ways. As Harry walked towards the Dursleys he murmured to Sirius, "How many veins do you think Uncle Vernon can manage to pop out of his neck this time? I say five."
Snuffles barked twice and Harry laughed, "Ha, you don't know Uncle Vernon very well do you?"
As they silently followed Vernon and Petunia to the car Harry sighed, he had a lot to think about in the next week.
A/N: There it is part one of my series. I'll be taking a break from this series for a couple of weeks to lavish some sorely needed attention on my other two series. I should be back to the sequel before Valentine's Day.
I hope you all liked Harry's reaction to Dumbledore this time. He still had some serious anger bottled up, but instead of destroying Dumbledore's office he attacked the man; Oftentimes a much more effective approach when dealing with people.
This was originally going to be two chapters, but after some complaints about a built in chapter break to prevent one of such size I'll leave it up to the readers. This beast is near 10 k in length and 17 pages of word on 10 pt type. Would you all like one bigger chapter, where I'll update less frequently, but when I do the chapters will be closer to 10k in words? Or, would you like two updates with chapters between 5k and 6k in length?
As for the question of the chapter:
Without having the foresight to know what the seventh book will be, what was your biggest issue with how HBP turned out? Was it Dumbledore's death? Was it the state of the ships at the end of the story? Was it how much of a weakling Harry appeared to be at the end of the chapter? Really there are so many potential reasons, but if you give me yours I'll give you one of mine.
Thanks to all of you that have reviewed and thanks for reading. I'll see you in a few weeks when I start the sequel.