Story Summary

At the start of his 7th year, a stranger from his mother's past arrives to help Harry find the remaining Horcruxes – and teach him to attain the power the Dark Lord knows not. Harry learns surprising things about his mother.

The Ministry of Magic, increasingly under Voldemort's thumb, attempts to infiltrate Hogwarts, but the feisty Headmistress McGonagall is equal to the challenge. The race against time to destroy the cunningly concealed Horcruxes takes the reader to dark realities where Voldemort reigns supreme.

A story to make you think … with a little mystery, romance, adventure, philosophy, and humour along the way.

This story is COMPLETE and is canon-compliant up to Book 6.

Note: It does not follow on from my previous fic: The Ghost of Godric Gryffindor.

Main Characters: Harry P, Hermione G, Other Wizard, Ginny W, Ron W, Minerva M, Voldemort, Albus D, Percy W, Severus S, Draco M, Lucius M, Other Witch, Cornelius F, Dolores U.

Warning to H/Hr Shippers: While the two main canon characters in this fic are Harry and Hermione, they are not romantically involved.

Disclaimer: Any resemblance between the characters in this story and persons living or dead (or merely brain-dead) is purely coincidental.

Special thanks to my betas Lisa725 and Pam for doing a wonderful job.

Chapter - 1 Order of the Phoenix

Tap … tap … tap … tap … tap. Harry turned over, pulling the bedcovers over his head. Tap … tap … tap … tap … tap. There it was again. Harry peered out from under the covers in the direction of the persistent tapping. It was coming from the window, but all he could see was a reddish blur. Sleepily, he fumbled for his glasses and put them on lopsidedly.

Suddenly, he was awake. Illuminated in the moonlight on the other side of the window was a phoenix — Harry was sure it was Fawkes — Dumbledore's phoenix. Painful memories of Dumbledore's death filled his head as they had so often in the past month. There was the familiar tightness in his stomach and difficulty breathing. But this time they didn't last because the phoenix began singing its beautiful soothing song, leaving Harry feeling calm and peaceful.

"Fawkes?" he said, throwing the window open. The beautiful phoenix flew into the room coming to rest gently on his shoulder. For a brief moment the phoenix stared directly at Harry with his deep black eyes and slowly seemed to nod his head, as if in confirmation. Then, in a flash of red and gold, he was gone. Harry ran to the window, but he could see nothing except the boring gardens of Privet Drive, lying eerie and empty in the moonlight.

Harry was mystified. He was sure it had been Fawkes. But where had he come from? Where has he been all these weeks since … since Dumbledore was killed? Why had he mysteriously appeared tonight? And why had he vanished as suddenly as he had come? Harry was confused. He turned on the light and began walking purposefully about the room, searching. Perhaps Fawkes left something behind — a message maybe?

Then he saw it lying on his bed, a golden feather! Harry grabbed it and examined it carefully. Didn't Dumbledore sometimes use Fawkes for messages? But it was just a beautiful phoenix feather. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the clock in the hallway downstairs chiming midnight. It's my birthday, he thought. It was July 31st, and he was seventeen. At last he was of wizarding age, and no longer subject to the Ministry of Magic's Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry.

Harry picked up his wand and rolled it between his fingers, contemplating it purposefully. This was the moment he had been waiting for. Now, he could do magic whenever he wanted. The long wait was over. He threw open the lid of his trunk and began packing his possessions, to be ready first thing in the morning. Tomorrow he would leave the Dursleys; tomorrow he would take up the mission Dumbledore had begun. He would search for the remaining Horcruxes, and he would not rest until he had found them, and destroyed them all; then he would go after Voldemort. He was sure it was what Dumbledore would have wanted him to do.

He had returned to the Dursleys after the funeral because he knew Dumbledore wanted him to receive the final benefit of the blood magic that protected him while he was living with his Aunt Petunia. He had resolved to stay there for a month, until he turned seventeen and came of wizarding age. He hated being with the Dursleys and the feeling was mutual, he knew. Apart from meals, he spent most of the time in his room, often pacing up and down, constantly reliving the final moments of Dumbledore's life. Why had Dumbledore put a Freezing Charm on him? Harry knew he could have helped him; together, they could have dealt with Malfoy and the Death Eaters. Not only had Dumbledore prevented Harry from helping him, but the time it took to put the charm on Harry had denied Dumbledore the chance to block Malfoy's Expelliarmus, costing him his wand, rendering him defenceless, and ultimately leading to his death.

Professor Dumbledore had been the wisest, most powerful wizard he had ever known. It was not until his death that Harry realised how important Dumbledore was to him. Sometimes he had been like a father, sometimes a mentor, and always his protector … right to the end. Harry missed him more than he could ever have imagined. Yet at times he was overcome with rage at Dumbledore: for being so wrong about Snape; for allowing Draco Malfoy to continue with his plot to kill him, when he had known about it all year; but mostly, he was angry at Dumbledore for dying and leaving him alone — alone with the impossible task of defeating Voldemort.

He had heard nothing from the wizarding world since school, apart from a few owls from Ron and Hermione. He was both annoyed and relieved that Ginny seemed to be ignoring him. He had heard nothing from McGonagall, Lupin, or the Order of the Phoenix, although he suspected they were probably keeping tabs on him. If they were, they better not make trouble for him tomorrow and try to stop him leaving, or tell him where he should go, or what to do — or Scrimgeour and the Ministry of Magic. They had all better stay out of his way!

As he packed his trunk, there was a sense that the endless waiting was over, and although he had no idea how to proceed, at least he was doing something at last. Suddenly, he froze, with a pair of socks in his hand. The phoenix feather he had dropped on the bedside table was glowing! Instinctively, Harry picked up his wand and touched it to the feather. There was a flash of light, and in place of the feather, was a scroll of parchment neatly tied with a golden ribbon, the same colour as the phoenix feather. Inscribed along the edge of the scroll in red lettering, in a narrow, familiar hand, were the words: Harry Potter. Harry tore off the ribbon and eagerly unfurled the message.

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday!

By the time you read this I will sadly have departed the world of the living. My one great regret is that fate should deny me my greatest desire — to stand by you until the very end.

But Harry, do not believe yourself to be alone in the difficult and dangerous journey that lies ahead. It is foretold that a stranger will come to aid you, to help you fulfil your great destiny.

I have summoned him. He will reveal himself to you with these words: 'I too received an order of the phoenix'.

Trust him!

Albus Dumbledore

Harry shook his head, as he re-read the message over and over. Dumbledore knew he was going to die when he wrote it. But how could he know? wondered Harry. And what did he mean by it being foretold that a stranger would come to aid him? There was nothing in the prophecy about anyone coming to help him. Was there another prophecy? Harry lay down on his bed, his head spinning. Who was this person? It was a he, so it must be a wizard. Was it anyone he knew? How long would it be before he revealed himself?

Harry felt impatient. But despite the confusion and all the unanswered questions, for the first time since that terrible moment when Dumbledore died, he felt a small spark of hope. All hope had been crushed in that terrible moment when it felt like the weight of the world had fallen on his shoulders. With Dumbledore gone, he had no idea how to find the remaining Horcruxes — and no idea how he could defeat Voldemort.

Suddenly, soundlessly, from nowhere a man appeared, sitting casually in the chair by the desk, grinning at him. Harry jumped up, grabbed his wand, and pointed it at the intruder. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded.

"Jason Trolove," replied the stranger calmly. Then with a wink he added, "I, too, received an order of the phoenix." He stood and extended his right hand, saying, "It's a great pleasure to meet you, Harry."

Harry stood awkwardly; dropping his wand on the bed, he shook the stranger's hand. "Err … yeah, nice to meet you, too." The stranger was tall and slender, with blond hair pulled back in a pony tail. He had a strikingly angular face with high cheekbones. He didn't look much like a wizard; he certainly was not dressed like a one, but neither was he dressed like a Muggle. He wore a loose turquoise shirt with wide sleeves and dark blue baggy cotton pants. He exuded a sense of deep calm and stillness; yet his eyes, which were a piercing blue, seemed to penetrate to the very depths of Harry's soul, making him feel most uncomfortable.

The stranger let go of Harry's hand and sat back in the chair, looking at him intently with a curious smile on his face. Harry sat clumsily on the bed. There were so many questions he wanted to ask, but he seemed unable to speak beneath the stranger's intense gaze. Finally, he blurted out, "Did you really receive a message from Dumbledore's phoenix?"

"Yes, indeed," he replied, reaching into his shirt for a parchment and handing it to Harry. "Fawkes found me in a remote cave high in the Himalayas. You may read it, if you like."

Dear Jason,

By the time you read this I will have passed on from this world.

The time has come for you to return and fulfil your part in the prophecy. His name is Harry. Greet him with these words: 'I too received an order of the phoenix'.

But first, go to Hogwarts and speak with Professor McGonagall; she will be expecting you. Ask her to bring you up to date on events in the wizarding world over the past twenty years.

You cannot have forgotten the prophecy or the part that you must play.

Do this with all your heart, Jason — do this for her.

Albus Dumbledore.

"Where have you been?" asked Harry. "If you've been away twenty years, you must have left just as Voldemort was rising to power. Why did you run away?" he demanded, wondering how Jason was going to help him if he hadn't stayed to fight the last time.

"It wasn't Voldemort I was running away from," said Jason, smiling wistfully. "But we'll come to that, in a while."

Harry noticed that Jason was not afraid of using Voldemort's name; that, at least, was reassuring. "What prophecy is Dumbledore talking about? Did Trelawney give another prophecy?"

"Professor Trelawney was after my time at Hogwarts, but I heard about her prophecy from Professor McGonagall, who seems somewhat sceptical about Trelawney's powers. No, this was an earlier prophecy, and it was given by a true Seer."

"Who?" asked Harry.

"Lily Evans."

"What? My mother?" asked Harry, stunned. "I didn't know she was into Divination and all of that. I never heard about her giving a prophecy."

Jason smiled. "Well actually, she didn't take Divination; she though it was a load of rubbish. And it wasn't until fifth year that she began having significant premonitions about the future; but she kept quiet about them, because what she saw frightened her. She confided only in me and eventually Professor Dumbledore. No one else knew anything about it."

"You? Did you know my mother? Were you at Hogwarts with her? Were you a friend of hers?" asked Harry, jumping up from the bed. Over the years, he had acquired quite a lot of information about his father — who his friends were and his life at Hogwarts — but he knew virtually nothing about his mother. He had a deep yearning to know more. Harry realised he had been almost shouting in his excitement and became worried the Dursleys might have awoken. He turned towards the door, half expecting his uncle's furious face to appear. Perhaps he should lock it; he did not want to have to explain what this stranger was doing in his room.

As if reading his mind, Jason said, "I made sure no one will overhear us or have the slightest desire to enter this room while I am here." Jason paused for a while as if collecting his thoughts, and after letting out a deep sigh, he continued. "Lily and I met on our first journey on the Hogwarts Express and immediately became friends. We had a lot in common. We were both Muggle-born, and we both felt like outsiders when we started at Hogwarts. It wasn't just Slytherins who made us feel that we didn't belong; most pure-bloods, and even some half-bloods, treated us as if we were inferior."

"I bet my dad and his friends weren't like that," said Harry.

"You may not want to hear it, Harry, but your father and his friends, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, were just as proud of their wizarding blood as the rest of them when they first came to Hogwarts. They thought they were better than us Muggle-borns, even if they didn't actually put us down openly or call us names. Remus Lupin was one of the few who treated us decently from the start. Maybe it turned out to be a good thing for us. We had something to prove — that we could do magic as well as any pure-blood. Lily and I worked harder than anyone in our year. We were top of all our classes the whole way through Hogwarts. Eventually, we earned their respect."

Harry thought about Hermione. Maybe it was the same thing with her, although he suspected somehow Hermione would have been just as obsessively hard-working and over-achieving had she gone to a Muggle school. "So were you in Gryffindor with my mum and dad, then?"

"No, the Sorting Hat put me in Ravenclaw; but Lily and I stayed best friends even though we were in different houses. We always studied together in the library. Lily hated it in the Gryffindor common room. She said your father and his friends were always showing off, being rowdy and noisy, and that it was impossible to get any work done."

"So my mum didn't get on with my dad and Sirius?" asked Harry.

"Not at all," laughed Jason shaking his head. "She was always complaining about them being a pair of immature prats. The only Gryffindor she really liked was Remus. She discovered his secret almost immediately. I guess it was an early manifestation of the Sight, although she didn't recognise it at the time. She was a very kind soul, your mother; she really felt for the suffering of others. Even after James, Sirius and Peter, discovered his lycanthropy, she was the only one Remus could ever talk with seriously about it. Lily had no other close friends in Gryffindor, but she was friendly with one of the Ravenclaw girls in our year, Miranda Malfoy."

"Malfoy! My mother was friends with a Malfoy?"

Jason chuckled. "I see you've inherited your father's prejudice rather than your mother's tolerance."

"I am not prejudiced," said Harry angrily, "and I don't believe my father was either. If you knew anything about the Malfoys, if you had any idea what Lucius and Draco Malfoy have been up to while you've been away, you wouldn't be calling me prejudiced."

"On the contrary, Professor McGonagall told me of their activities, including the part Draco played in Dumbledore's death. And, I had the misfortune to be acquainted with Lucius Malfoy. He was a senior student and prefect when I started at Hogwarts, and he was the worst of the Slytherins. He despised all Muggle-born students, but he singled your mother and me out for special treatment. He was affronted at our success and infuriated that we were top of every class, ahead of all the pure-bloods. Lily and I both had very good reason to dislike the name Malfoy and hate everyone who bore it. But that is the essence of prejudice — pre-judging a person on the basis of their family, race, religion — or even their school house, rather than who they really are."

"Miranda was a second cousin of Lucius Malfoy and bore the same name, but the resemblance ended there. She had none of his pure-blood arrogance and vanity. She was an intelligent, gentle person, with a thirst for knowledge that immediately attracted her to your mother. She was the first Malfoy in over a century not sorted into Slytherin, which incensed Lucius. He harassed Miranda almost as much as us."

"So were the three of you best friends all the way through school?" asked Harry, thinking of the similarity with Ron, Hermione, and himself.

"Pretty much," said Jason, falling into an uncomfortable silence, as if he was considering how to proceed. Harry noticed that he was no longer meeting his eyes. "Your mother and I were especially close … and then in our fourth year things changed. We were, err … growing up, and our friendship turned into something a bit more … romantic."

"What? Are you saying you were my mum's boyfriend?" demanded Harry, feeling rather strange — kind of like Ron being overprotective of Ginny. It was silly, he knew; after all, it was his mother, not his sister or daughter. But still, it made him angry. Maybe it was on his father's account. He remembered Snapes's memory of their fifth year from the Pensieve. His mother seemed to despise his father then — and in all honesty Harry couldn't blame her. Lupin told him that his parents didn't get together until their final year at Hogwarts, but still Harry felt resentful. "Yeah, but my dad won out in the end, didn't he? My mum married him, not you."

"Yes, she did," said Jason with a sad sigh. "Please let me finish."

Harry was eager to hear more about his mother, but not from this ex-boyfriend, towards whom he was beginning to feel rather hostile. According to Dumbledore, Jason was the one who was to aid him in the fight against Voldemort. But he didn't look like much of a fighter; he didn't even look like a particularly powerful wizard. Dumbledore's message had given Harry hope that maybe he did have a chance. He had expected this prophesised ally to be a wise and powerful wizard, like Dumbledore himself. But so far Harry was not impressed. For a start, he'd been in Ravenclaw. Sure they were a brainy bunch, but Harry couldn't think of many brave ones. Even a Hufflepuff, like Cedric Diggory, would have been a better comrade in battle than any Ravenclaw he could think of. And when the first war with Voldemort began, what did he do? He ran off to hide in a cave somewhere.

"There was sometimes a fourth member to our little band of brainy bookworms. It was not someone I would exactly call a friend, but another outsider, like us, who shared our thirst for knowledge: Severus Snape."

"Snape! That evil bastard who killed Dumbledore? You're lying! My mother would never have had anything to do with Snape!" insisted Harry.

"As I told you, your mother was a very kind person whose heart was always open to those shunned and despised by others, and Severus fitted the bill in spades. When he arrived at Hogwarts, he was a complete social misfit without any idea of how to relate to others. He never spoke of his childhood, but I suspect it was extremely unpleasant. He was a loner who hid his social inadequacies beneath a persona of arrogance. Your father and Sirius responded by picking on him, and he returned their attentions in kind. An enmity quickly developed between them that lasted all through their school years."

"And after," chipped in Harry. "When I came to Hogwarts, Snape immediately decided I was just like my father — sometimes, I think he almost believed that I was my father because I look so much like him. It was like he was still trying to get even with my dad. Whatever my father did to him, it can't have been so bad that Snape wasn't over it after all those years!"

"What your father did to Severus was truly terrible, something which … well, we'll get to that. Anyway, like I said, your mother understood that Snape was acting from pain, and she felt sorry for him. Although he despised her for being Muggle-born, by second year he couldn't deny that she was not only very gifted magically, but also very intelligent. He grudgingly accepted both Lily and me when it came to collaborating on homework and assignments. There was Miranda, too, although she was a pure-blood so he had no prejudices to overcome there. All four of us had a great thirst for knowledge, and we all researched well beyond the Hogwarts curriculum. Our areas of interest were somewhat different, but sometimes they overlapped."

"Yeah, I bet I know what Snape's area of interest was — the Dark Arts!" spat Harry.

"True," laughed Jason, "but all four of us were interested in Potions. Miranda and Lily were attracted to Charms. My interest was more general."

"So the three of you did schoolwork and research together with Snape; but none of you were really friends with him?"

"No, not really what you might call friends … well not until our fifth year when something quite unexpected happened."


"Severus and Miranda became romantically involved."

"Diggory," said Harry with a shudder. "Well, she was a Malfoy, I guess."

Jason shook his head at Harry's prejudice. "Unlike a lot the other witches, Miranda was not obsessed in pursuing boys and all of that. But Severus and Miranda were together a great deal at a time when their hormones were developing, so I suppose it's not too surprising. What is surprising is that a social misfit like Severus, who showed every sign of early emotional damage, was able to maintain a relationship for well over a year."

"How did it end?" asked Harry.

Jason shook his head and sighed. "Your father and Sirius hated Severus with a passion. They couldn't bear to see him happy, so they decided to break up his relationship with Miranda. Your father set out to seduce Miranda, to get the ultimate one-upmanship on Snape."

"Did he succeed?" asked Harry, torn between horror that his father could have done something so low, but at the same time hoping he succeeded — that bastard Snape deserved it.

"He waited for the holidays between sixth and seventh year, when Miranda was away from Severus, Lily, and myself, and more vulnerable to his considerable charms. He may have used a potion or some other magic to befuddle Miranda. I don't know the circumstances, but he certainly succeeded. After sitting with his arm draped around her, gloating for all to see on the train back to Hogwarts at the start of seventh year, he dropped her the second week of term when he'd extracted enough satisfaction from Severus' suffering."

"That wasn't very nice of him," said Harry uncomfortably. "Well, that explains why Snape hated my dad so much — and why he's still trying to get even with him — through me."

"The consequences of what your father did were far greater than that."

"What do mean?"

"It is certainly the reason Severus became a Death Eater soon after school."


"When Miranda realised that she'd been duped by James to get at Severus, she apologised and begged him to forgive her. She wanted to get back together. But something had been destroyed in Severus. It had taken a long time for him to learn to trust another person, to take a risk for friendship and finally love. It was as if the goodness which had been nurtured in him by his association with the three of us — and Miranda in particular — had shrivelled up and died. He became bitter and twisted, totally introverted and cut off from everyone. He never spoke with any of us again."

"But he might have become a Death Eater anyway, even if my dad hadn't done what he did. I mean, Snape loves the Dark Arts and all that."

"It was a fascination, certainly, but he did not have that evil in him to want to harm others — at least not until Miranda betrayed him. Unlike most of her family, Miranda was not a supporter of Voldemort; she hated his ideas and aspirations. Even if Severus had been tempted to join, she would have kept him out of it, if they had stayed together. No, I am almost certain that Severus became a Death Eater as a direct consequence of your father's actions. But what I do not yet understand is why he subsequently changed sides and joined Dumbledore, there's a missing piece —"

"What? What are you talking about? Don't you know?" cried Harry, "He never changed sides; he only pretended to! He fooled Dumbledore. But I've never trusted him — the evil slimeball!"

"Are you sure he didn't change sides?" asked Jason quizzically.

Harry jumped to his feet in agitation. "Didn't Professor McGonagall tell you how Dumbledore died? Well I can tell you, because I was there, I saw it with my own eyes. Snape killed him … with an Avada Kedavra Curse!"

"Yes, that's what she told me," said Jason, his eyes fixed on some distant point, lost in thought.

"So then how can you keep talking about Snape changing sides?" demanded Harry angrily. "Dumbledore got it wrong! Snape never changed sides; he was spying for Voldemort all along!"

"Maybe," said Jason, still staring off into space, "and maybe not."

This was too much for Harry. How was he going to work with this weirdo if he wasn't even going to believe him? He was just like all the people who thought he was lying about seeing Voldemort return after the final Triwizard event. "If you're not going to believe me, you can just get the hell out of here! Now!" yelled Harry angrily.

Jason snapped out of his reverie and looked at Harry. "You misunderstand me, Harry. I have no doubt that you accurately reported what you saw and heard. What I am uncertain about is whether it means what you think it means."

"What the hell are you talking about?" demanded Harry, dropping back to his bed, feeling confused. "What else could it mean? You don't think Dumbledore faked his death, do you? That he might still be alive?" asked Harry, not daring to hope it might be true.

"I wish it were so. And yes, that is one of the possibilities I have considered, but given the letters Dumbledore sent you and me, it seems most unlikely. I do not believe he would deliberately attempt to deceive us."

"But then what other explanation is there, apart from the obvious one?" demanded Harry.

"Did it not strike you as strange that Dumbledore wrote messages to both you and me — and to Professor McGonagall — before he died, in which he appeared to be certain he would be dead by the time they were read?"

"Err, yeah, I did wonder at the time … so, you're saying he knew he was going to be killed…."

"Or planned to be killed, perhaps?"

"What? Why would he do that? How could he deliberately let himself die when he knew how much I needed him?"

"I don't know the answer to that, Harry. It is difficult to imagine that he would deliberately abandon you. But he may have devised a plan whereby sacrificing his own life would result in some strategic gain."

Harry shook his head. "No, I remember, he was begging Snape not to do it. He didn't want to die."

"Are you certain? Could he possibly have been begging Severus to do it, to proceed with the plan? If Severus really was faithful to Dumbledore, he would have found it very difficult to kill him, even if it was Dumbledore's wish."

"I don't believe it!" said Harry emphatically. "I think you are the one who is prejudiced now. You've been gone twenty years, and you think Snape is still your old school buddy. Well he's not; he's an utter, murdering, evil bastard of a Death Eater!"

"Perhaps," said Jason. "I think we better leave it for now. There is only one way to find out, and I intend to get to the bottom of it."

"How are you going to do that?" asked Harry. "The only one who knows for sure is Snape."

"Exactly," agreed Jason. "I am going to pay my old school chum a visit."

"Are you mad? He'll kill you!" said Harry, jumping up again. "He's developed a lot of powers and learned a heap of magic — especially Dark Arts — since you were at school."

"No doubt he has," replied Jason, smiling, "but then so have I. It's getting late, time for me to go. Oh, one more thing, Harry — please don't go anywhere."

"Who said I was planning to go somewhere?" asked Harry, angry that Jason was trying to tell him what to do. After all, it wasn't like he was Dumbledore or even someone he trusted and respected like Lupin or Mr Weasley. What right did he have to be ordering him around!

"Well, I can see you've been packing your trunk, and I know that you are planning to leave here in the morning and set off to find Voldemort's Horcruxes —"

"What makes you think that?" snapped Harry. As far as he knew, no one but he, Ron and Hermione knew about the Horcruxes, now that Dumbledore was dead.

"You," said Jason.

"What? Are you a Legilimens, like Snape? But you didn't say the spell, and I haven't even seen your wand. I know I'm no good at Occlumency, but I would at least have felt an intrusion. How did you really find out? Does McGonagall know? Did she tell you? Or did Dumbledore tell you, or write about it in a message?"

"The last time I spoke with Professor Dumbledore was twenty years ago, and I have shown you the only message I have received from him since. As far as I know, McGonagall and the Order of the Phoenix know nothing about the Horcruxes. There is a great deal of magic that is unknown in the so-called wizarding world. There are spells, charms, curses, potions, and more, which are known only in certain parts of the world. I have picked up some useful bits and pieces of magic in my travels. For example, I can gain total access to the mind of another without them being able to either detect the intrusion or to block it."

Harry was both impressed and outraged. Had he seen the thoughts he'd been having about Ginny for the past month? he wondered. The thoughts he was unable to stop, no matter how hard he tried.

"I know exactly what you are planning to do, Harry — although perhaps planning is not quite the right word, is it? The truth is you don't have a plan; you don't even know where you will go when you leave here tomorrow, and you haven't got a clue how to find the remaining Horcruxes."

"Well, I have to do something," exclaimed Harry angrily, knowing Jason was dead right.

"It would be better to do something intelligent."

"Like what?" demanded Harry rebelliously.

"For a start, stay where you are and stop acting as if you are on your own — you are not. But don't bother to unpack your trunk. I understand Professor McGonagall will be coming to escort you to the Weasleys, where you are to spend the remaining month before returning to Hogwarts. And no, Hogwarts is not closing; and yes, you do need to return — you still have a great deal to learn — before you are ready to face Voldemort."

Harry was furious; not just because Jason was telling him what do; not just because what he said made sense; but because he was obviously reading his mind and answering his questions before he could ask them. "Why should I do what you say? What right have you to tell me what to do?" demanded Harry defiantly.

"In his message, Professor Dumbledore asked you to trust me."

Damn it, thought Harry, he's doing it again. I never showed him Dumbledore's message; he must have read it from my own mind.

"Look, I'm sorry," said Jason, in response to Harry's unspoken thoughts. "I know it's rather rude, but I have a lot to do, and it's by far the quickest way to find out what I need to know — especially with you being so evasive and secretive. I know you have your suspicions and doubts about me, but I believe you will continue to obey Professor Dumbledore's last wishes and at least trust me a little longer. You have seen I have a skill that might be very useful for finding out where the remaining Horcruxes are hidden. I'll visit you at the Burrow — and I promise to keep you updated about what I find out, OK?"

"OK," mumbled Harry, resentfully.

"See you at the Burrow then," said Jason.

"But you're not really going to go looking for Snape are —"

He stopped because Jason had disappeared.

Harry sighed. He felt betrayed by Dumbledore for sending this stupid, gutless Ravenclaw to help him. He had hoped for someone who would fill Dumbledore's shoes, but this weirdo was a joke. OK, so he was pretty good — well, in fact a bit too good — at Legilimency, or whatever it was; but that aside, all he seemed good for was endless talk and spinning yarns. Sure, the stuff about his mum had been interesting, but then again, how much of it was really true? Somehow he couldn't believe she had been with this git — especially when his dad had been so obviously keen on her. That part couldn't be true; and Harry hated the way Jason talked about Snape — calling him Severus — as if he were some kind of decent human being. Maybe he'd spent too long in his cave; it must have affected his mind. Well, his delusions about Snape were going to get him killed. Even Ludo Bagman wouldn't offer odds on Jason surviving that encounter, which would once more leave him alone, to face Voldemort.

But then again, thought Harry, the useless git will never find Snape — not unless he wants to be found. So maybe he would see him at the Burrow after all. In any case, he would wait for McGonagall to come for him. He would set out by himself from the Burrow later — after he had worked out a plan … and it might be nice to see Ginny again — no, not Ginny — Ron and Hermione, he meant.