(A/N: Here's the last chapter, parts 5-9. And another big "thank you" to moshpit, Sovran, and wolfsscream for beta'ing. Enjoy -- kb)
The Headmistress walked to the Defense classroom. Other than passing two ghosts, it had been a quiet walk; then again, it was summer. Walking into the classroom, as expected, she found her strongest supporter getting ready for his usual afternoon session. She nodded with her greeting. "Filius."
"Minerva. I'm surprised to see you here. I thought you were inspecting Sirius Black's house."
She sat at a student's desk. "I've just returned. I think it is safe enough for Harry and any friends he wants to accompany him. Sirius has removed all of the Dark Objects that I could find except for one, which Albus removed. It was another Horcrux."
"No!" he squeaked in surprise.
"I'm sorry to say that I am not. To make matters worse, when Albus came to take it away, he told me that he had found one other, a ring, not long ago and his research indicates there should still be three more." She shook her head in amazement at the ugly thought.
"How did he destroy them? I hadn't heard."
McGonagall smiled. "Believe it or not, he took an international Portkey to a place called Hawaii and rode a broom near a volcano and threw them in such that they melted in the lava."
Flitwick cocked he head at he looked at her. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"That's what he said." Then she gave a short chuckle. "He also said he then spent a week there enjoying the beach saying it was a nice vacation spot."
"Speaking of vacations, Minerva, I plan to take the two weeks off starting next week to go visit my family…"
She nodded. "I can do those weeks; then I have some traveling to do when you return. I need to find a new Defense teacher, as Moody has resigned and I have no applicants. I now understand the troubles Albus had in finding qualified candidates."
"What do you plan to do if you can't find one? Can we get another Auror from Director Scrimgeour?"
"I'm afraid not," she told him with despair in her voice. "Albus also told me that strange things have been happening at the Ministry. Apparently, Auror Dawlish has disappeared and they think he was ambushed by Death Eaters, but they can't find a body. Albus also said that he's worried that Voldemort used Dawlish to regain a body and will now make an attempt to retrieve the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries."
"Unfortunate and interesting," the little man replied. "I'm glad Albus is there taking care of that; he can be more focused than if he was still Headmaster."
"I'm glad you insisted on that, Minerva," he praised her and she nodded her thanks. "So, Sirius is ready for Harry to visit, shall I tell him that?"
McGonagall nodded. "Yes. He's not to have a set schedule of days to help with safety, and he can go up to three times a week on whatever mornings or weekend days he wants, as long as his parents approve. Remus Lupin recently moved in and will be there most of the time as well."
Flitwick nodded committing it all to memory to be passed along. "Sirius still doesn't have a job, does he?"
Minerva snorted. "Actually, he does have a part-time one."
"Believe it or not, when the Weasley twins accidentally ran into Sirius, they convinced him to be the financial backer for a joke shop they are starting."
"What?" he squeaked as he smiled at the thought.
"Apparently, they've given some of their inventions to Sirius, and he's going to sell then from a cart in Diagon Alley over the summer and in Hogsmeade when our students have a visiting day." Minerva was now smiling too. "It's amusing to think about those kindred spirits getting together, isn't it?"
"He told you all of this when you visited today?"
The Headmistress nodded. "It's a bit hard to believe, but it does sound in character for him. I think it will do him good." As she was about to go on, they heard running feet and looked at the door. Harry and Ginny came running through it.
"Hello, Professors!" Harry greeted them, with Ginny echoing him.
"Good afternoon, Harry, Ginny," the Headmistress returned as she stood. "Have a good lesson today. I shall take over lessons for a couple weeks starting next week." They told her good-bye as she started walking out.
As she got to the doorway, she heard her colleague say, "Today we are going to start soundless casting…"
Harry and Ginny sat in the Defense classroom for their last class of the first day of their fourth year. They wondered what it would be like, especially since they heard some bad things about their new teacher. Rumor had it that the Headmistress had been unable to find a teacher, so the Ministry had supplied one, and it was not an Auror. Apparently she was some bureaucrat that had formerly been a Senior Undersecretary under Fudge before she had been demoted. It did not sound promising.
Of course, both Harry and Ginny had no fear of failing the class. They were so far ahead of their peers in this class thanks to all the work with Professor Flitwick they really did not even have to study. So because of the rumors and their lack of need to pay attention in class, they sat at the back and waited with the rest of the fourth year Gryffindors and the Ravenclaws.
As the bell rang to start class, the witch introduced at the Welcoming Feast walked in and closed the door behind her. Pulling out her wand, she shot a spell at the blackboard that wrote her name. "Good afternoon class, I'm Professor Umbridge. Put your wands away, you only need your books and supplies for taking notes. In fact, that's all you will need in this class this year as we will be learning in a safe and friendly environment."
Harry looked at Ginny with a quizzical look on his face and found she had one too. Deciding he needed clarification, he raised his hand.
"Yes, Mr …?" the witch in the fuzzy pink sweater called on him.
"Potter. We won't do any spell work in class?"
"No, Mr Potter, there is no need to. Should there be a real problem, you can always call the Ministry to send out an Auror," she told him in a sweetly condescending voice.
Harry wondered where Aurors came from if they did not get a decent background in Defense at Hogwarts, but he kept that to himself. He had a more pressing question. "But, Professor, if you meet a Death Eater face to face, there isn't time to call the Ministry…"
"Mr Potter!" she interrupted him. Her voice was now firm. "You will not run into any Death Eaters, they are all in prison."
"I'm sorry, Professor, but I fought a Death Eater here in school last year, and he was firing spells like crazy at the time," Harry told her adamantly.
"Detention, Mr Potter, for lying!"
"And professor, I heard an Auror is missing and the other Aurors believe Death Eaters kidnapped him from his home, so…"
"Shut up! It is all untrue! The Ministry has everything under control!" She was practically frothing at the mouth now. "Come here and take this to your head-of-house." As he gathered his things, she wrote a short note and gave it to him when he got up there.
Turning around, Harry saw a lot of sympathetic looks from his classmates as well as a look of intense anger from Ginny. He put his finger to his lips to keep her quiet as he walked away from the vile teacher behind him. At the moment, he was trying to figure out what he was going to do to her; then, he corrected himself and thought "we", as he knew Ginny would want in on it too.
Leaving the room, Harry went to Professor Washburn's office and found it empty, so he headed to her class. She was teaching the fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins at the moment. She went silent as he interrupted her class to give her the note. She read it and conjured a chair on side of the room and pointed to it, not saying a word to him. After he sat down, she resumed her class.
Looking around, he saw Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the Gryffindors looking at him, obviously wondering why he was there. He was too, or at least he was wondering what was in the note; but he had a little under an hour to wait and find out. Not having anything else to do, he paid attention to the lesson, which was on turning small vertebrates into larger vertebrates of a different species. When the practical portion of the class came, he asked Parvati, who was handing out the moles to every student, if he could have one too, and she gave him one.
To everyone's surprise, especially Hermione's, he was the first one in the class to turn his mole into a dog. As he admired the result, he realized he had a perfect replica of his godfather's Animagus form. At Hermione's gasp at his success, he noticed Professor Washburn looking at him with curiosity, but she still did not say anything to him. Not sure what else to do, he turned the dog back into a mole and put it back into the basket Parvati had pulled the small animals from. For the last few minutes of class, he helped Neville, who was sitting nearby. When the bell rang to end class, Neville was closer, but he still had work to do before he was successful.
When the classroom was empty of all the fifth years, Professor Washburn turned to Harry. "Mr Potter? Will you please explain why Professor Umbridge thought you were such distraction to her class she sent you to me and gave you two weeks of detention?"
"Two weeks?!" he shouted.
"Do not take that tone with me, Mr Potter, or I shall increase that time," she told him crossly. "And yes, two weeks; now explain."
Harry closed his eyes and took a few seconds to try to regain his composure. With forced calmness, he described what had happened in his class. When he finished, she stared at him for minute, her expression showing her to be in deep thought.
She returned to the conversation with sad look on her face. "Unfortunately, I can't really do anything about this as it was in her classroom." As he started to protest, she held up her hand to stop him. "Your argument was well made, but you are fighting a small-minded person who views herself as the mouthpiece of a very powerful political faction at the ministry. As happy as I am with Minister Bones herself, there are still a lot of corrupt people in the Ministry and the Minister can not get rid of all of them overnight; that is reality. You will keep this to yourself, but the Headmistress is working to correct the situation, but even she has her hands tied at times."
Very quietly, he asked, "So there's nothing I can do about this?"
"Other than keeping your head down and staying out of trouble? No, Mr Potter, I'm afraid that the only thing you can do is to tell your friends to behave themselves too, and to stay out of that woman's way for now. That will help you as things will probably get worse before they get better." Washburn looked very apologetic as she told him, "I'm really very sorry, Mr Potter, truly I am. I'll try to speed things up where I can. Now, take ten points for Gryffindor for the nice transfiguration work I saw you do and head off to dinner. Do not be late or do anything else to antagonize that woman. Understood?"
"Yes, Professor," he said dejectedly and left for the Great Hall.
Harry was seething. He was also starting a mental list of possible vile things to do to Umbridge, regardless of what they took to accomplish. He had just spent two hours with the evil woman and the back of his right hand was killing him. Part of him was not sure he could keep this up for nine more detentions, but he would find a way. This was now a personal war.
Entering the Gryffindor Tower, he saw Ginny and his friends doing homework; Hermione was with them. Ginny looked at him and instantly rose and pulled him into a hug just before he got to their table. By the look on her face, he could tell that he had not hid his emotions well enough. Hermione looked very concerned too.
"What's wrong?" his girlfriend asked still holding him in a loose embrace.
"She's an evil woman!" he hissed.
"What did she make you do?"
"Write lines…" He decided he needed to stop there. He did not really want to tell Ginny exactly what happened. Harry wasn't totally sure why, maybe because the war seemed so personal and he wanted to spare her.
"And what's so bad about that?" Hermione continued to listen to Ginny's questions with obvious curiosity.
After a pause, Harry finally grumbled, "Nothing. I don't want to talk about it."
"Harry!" she had a tone of warning in her voice and her look would have caused most boys to fail.
"Ginny, please let it go. I'll tell you later, I just don't want to talk about it now." He hoped later would never come.
She evaluated him by staring deep into his eyes. After a long moment, she gave up. Harry was not sure what she had found or determined as she had not said anything. She slid her right hand down his arm and grabbed his right hand to lead him back to the table. When she did that, she rubbed her fingers across the back of his very sore hand. He could not stop the hiss that came out.
"What?" she swung back around and asked him, suspicion in her eyes.
"Nothing," he said through clenched teeth.
"Harry, that's not nothing. What is it?" she asked him in a way that let him know he better answer if he knew what was good for him. She also happened to shift her hand again and he involuntarily let out another hiss. She must have figured something out because she saw her lift up his hand and look at it. The second she saw the dark redness on the back of his hand, anger lit up her face. "Tell me what happened, and don't lie to me!"
He could not escape her now. "Ginny, it's between me and her, and I'm going to beat her." He was having to work hard to talk, his hand hurt so much.
She hissed back. "Harry, don't be stubborn! Let me help you. What did she do to cause this?" Hermione stood up and came over to look, gasping and raising hand to her mouth in surprise when she saw the back of his hand.
"I told you, I had to write lines…" Ginny's look made him go on. "She had this quill that didn't use ink, and when I wrote with it, it wrote with blood, my blood, and it also scratched what I wrote onto the back of my hand too." He was not happy having to say that, but he managed to not say anything else that would take his anger out on her -- it was not her fault.
"She used a Blood Quill on you?" Hermione asked. Harry shrugged, he did not know what it was called. "Harry, those are illegal to use except for sighing a magical contract. She, she, tortured you." Hermione looked like her pet had just been killed she was so upset.
"Harry, we're going to go talk to the Headmistress about this," Ginny told him in no uncertain terms.
"Ginny, I told you, this is my battle with that woman. I'm going to win it my way."
His girlfriend stared at him so intensely it was all he could do not to step away from her. "Why are you being so stubborn? Let me help you."
It was obvious he was on dangerous ground with her. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. "Fine. I'm not going to go talk to McGonagall, but you can help me plan something to get back at Umbridge. I want to do this my way."
"Even if it's wrong?" Ginny's voice was flat and dangerous. "Even if it means ignoring your best friend?"
That hurt, that really hurt. He did the only thing he could, ignore it. Stepping up and pulling her to him, he whispered in her ear. "Please, Ginny?" She was very stiff in his arms.
Relaxing a little, she kissed him on his cheek before she stepped back away from him. "I'll think about it." With that, she picked up her things and went up the stairs to her dorm.
Harry watched her walk away and just stood there staring at nothing for a minute. He could tell that he had not lost her, but he knew he had made her very mad at him. "Have I just messed up and turned into the world's biggest prat?" Harry mumbled to himself, but someone heard him.
He looked to the side and saw Hermione staring at him with a disappointed look on her face. Harry ignored his homework and went to bed; he had had more than enough for that day.
The next day, Ginny was there for him, but slightly cool. He noticed her giving him looks, as if she was studying him. He supposed she was still thinking about his little battle with the evil toad woman and this was her way of sticking by him but telling him she disapproved of his decision. That forced him to think about his decision and her all day long.
As he finished dinner, just before he was about to go the detention with Umbridge again, Harry screwed up his courage before he leaned over to whisper to her. "You're right, I admit it. Something needs to be done and I should let you help me any way you want." The stubborn part of him hated to admit that, but he had finally decided he cared more about her than his personal little war. He probably should not have been surprised by her large smile, but he was. "Let's sit down together and plan something later tonight, OK?"
Ginny got an impish grin on her face and leaned forward and gently kissed his cheek. "Until later, and I'm glad you came to your senses. You'll always need my help."
He chuckled at her sense of humor. "You're probably right. Later…" He briefly kissed her and then left, glad they were not fighting anymore.
Slowly he walked to his detention. He had a few extra minutes, so there was no hurry. The first thing that crossed his mind for the toad woman was to break into her office one night and burn all of her quills. He would bet she locked her office, but then he thought he could get Fred and George to help, and he was sure they could get in even if he could not.
Arriving right at seven, he knocked. He had barely put his hand down when the door opened. "Mr Potter, how kind of you to come," she told him in her sickly sweet voice. Looking over, he saw parchment and that quill waiting for him. "Time for some more lines of 'I will not tell lies'. Do get started. I'll stop you when I think the message has sunk in." She finished with an evil chuckle.
He slowly took his seat and picked up the quill. By force of will, he started writing his lines. As he finished the fourth one, a knock on the door startled him. Umbridge looked at him and said in a quiet, quick, and forceful tone. "Give me that quill now!" Harry stared at her and wondered what would happen if he showed the quill to whomever was on the other side of the door, as that was obviously her concern, now that he know what this quill was.
She pulled her wand out and pointed it at him, "I said…"
But she never got to finish as the door flew open and Ginny followed by the Headmistress walked in. Ginny had a triumphant look on her face, while the Headmistress wore her usual stern look, which became much more severe as she took in the scene in her Defense teacher's office.
Pulling out her wand too, McGonagall told the other woman. "Delores, I would strongly advise you to slowly point your wand a different direction and then put it down on the desk." Harry saw Ginny pull her wand out and point it at Umbridge too. Umbridge finally complied. "Miss Weasley, please pick up her wand and hold it for me." McGonagall sounded calm, but there was no mistaking the look on her face.
When Ginny had Umbridge's wand, McGonagall looked at Harry. "Mr Potter, please show me the back of your right hand." He did. Her lips stretched and almost disappeared in her anger. "Please use the fireplace and Floo call Professor Flitwick. Ask him to come to this office. Try 'Flitwick's Quarters' first."
A few minutes later, Flitwick showed up and became outraged when he found out what Umbridge had done. He stuck his head in the Floo for a conversation and nearly ten minutes later, two Aurors, Director Scrimgeour, and Minister Bones walked into the room. The conversation was very heated and Umbridge was cowering in the corner, while under the watch of the two Aurors. Harry found it all very amusing considering what she had done to him. Looking at Ginny, he saw a very satisfied smirk on her face.
It seemed that when a Defense teacher could not be found, the job of finding someone had been delegated to the Director, who had delegated it again, until eventually the job had fallen to the Office of Improper Use of Magic, and to Umbridge specifically, because no on else had wanted to do it. Once the choice had been made, it appeared that no one thought to tell anyone above them, so neither the Director nor the Minister had known who had been selected to come teach. It was bureaucracy at its finest.
Finally, a picture was taken of Harry's very red and slightly cut hand before Umbridge was placed in manacles and then taken away by the Aurors. The Blood Quill also went as evidence. Minister Bones turned to Harry. "Mr Potter, on behalf of the Ministry, I'd like to apologize to you for this happening. In addition to some form of restitution, I can promise you that that witch will not spend less than five years in Azkaban. Using a torture device on an underage wizard carries a harsh penalty. I can also promise you that an Auror will be assigned to finish out the year here."
Harry nodded his head slightly. "Thank you, Minister. I accept the Ministry's apology; however, I think the Ministry also needs to apologize to the rest of the school for her being here. They had to endure her too, even if they did not suffer the same way I did."
"A valid point," the Minister agreed. She turned to her companion. "Director, you will be here tomorrow during breakfast and give the entire population here an apology similar to what I just gave Mr Potter." Despite the sour look on his face, the Director nodded.
"Headmistress, I assume you will take Mr Potter to see the school nurse?"
"I will, Minister."
"Very good. I believe we are done here. Minerva, I'm sincerely sorry for what has been inflicted on you. Fortunately for all, her tenure here was short and she will not be bothering this school again. Good evening." The Minister nodded to all the Hogwarts residents and left; Scrimgeour left with her.
Professor McGonagall led him to the hospital wing; Ginny held his uninjured hand and went with him. After giving him a special salve, which he was to use for the next couple of days, Madam Pomfrey told him it would heal completely and sent him on his way.
The Headmistress seemed to be in a good mood as she led them back towards Gryffindor Tower. At the bottom of the steps, she looked at them. "Miss Weasley, I thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I am delighted to see that woman go. Mr Potter, I too am very sorry this happened to you. As for the detentions that you were given for your behavior in class, I will transfer the supervision of them to Miss Weasley." The barest of smiles came to her. "I'm sure she will take care of your behavior problems for the next two weeks."
A very happy grin came over Ginny. "Thank you, Professor. I shall take care of Mr Potter for you." She grabbed Harry's uninjured hand and pulled him up the stairs towards the Tower. She planned to find a cushiony chair and sit on Harry's lap for the next few hours to make sure he rested.
The next day, a middle-aged wizard named Stockman showed up to teach Defense for the rest of the year. Harry learned a lot from him. When the year ended, Harry thought it could not have gone much better once "toad woman" had been taken away.
On the more fun side of life, Harry heard from his godfather that his little job had been going so well that the Weasley twins would be opening up a permanent shop over the summer. Sirius would stay on and continue to help, as well as run the sales cart in Hogsmeade.
Also, letters from his brother indicated that he was still trying to date Cho Chang, who was finishing her sixth year in Ravenclaw, despite the fact that Cedric was now out of school and she was still in school. Since his job as an assistant manager of the Arrows stadium was going well, Harry thought he was sure to get to see a few professional Quidditch matches for free over the summer. Ignoring a certain evil wizard, life looked pretty good.
If Harry had asked Albus Dumbledore, he would have found that the old wizard did not agree as it was not so easy for the older wizard to ignore that certain evil wizard.
As June ended, so did the perceived peace in the Wizarding world. Dumbledore's concern became reality. Alarms that he had set up in the Ministry of Magic went off a little after midnight, alerting many people. By the time Aurors Apparated into the building, there were Death Eaters leaving via the fireplaces. Although over a dozen Aurors were there, not a single Death Eater was captured due to them being surprised and then attacked by a resurrected Lord Voldemort.
By the time Dumbledore had arrived at the Ministry, it was back under control of the Aurors as the Dark Lord had left less than a minute before. Unfortunately, he had not been at home and therefore had not heard the alarm. Dumbledore calmly went down to the Department of Mysteries to inspect the Hall of Prophecies to see if Voldemort had made it down there or not. On row ninety-seven, he found a huge scorch mark on the shelf where a very special prophecy had resided. He chuckled to himself and wondered what Tom Riddle had thought when he picked up the glass orb and saw it turn into a note telling him that he was too late and that the prophecy he wanted had been destroyed.
With a smile on his face, he went back up to the atrium so he could return to his home. As he walked through the halls, he idly thought about the favor Minerva had done for him by sending him away from Hogwarts. He still had fond memories about those hallowed halls, but this way, he had so much more time for all the little projects he needed to do. In fact, he had recently completed another one of those little projects, one involving a very old cup. He only had two left and he was starting to think that one was at the school. Since he was not supposed to go there, he considered handing that project off to Harry. The boy might enjoy a little adventure at school.
As for the other, well, he needed to go see someone tomorrow.
Albus Dumbledore walked away from where he knew the Diggory home should be, feeling much better about the safety of young Mr Potter. When he had had this idea, his magic seemed to compel him to do it. It was from his Unbreakable Vow to work for Harry's good he knew. Now, their house was completely hidden under a Fidelius Charm, with Amos as the secret keeper.
That done, he Apparated to Diagon Alley, where he walked down the street until he came to number ninety-three, and where he found redheaded twins painting a building front in garish colors. "Mr and Mr Weasley," he said pleasantly with a twinkle in his eye.
They looked up. "Professor!" they exclaimed in unison.
"Now, now, I'm no longer a professor. I believe Albus will do. So the rumor is true; you have a store here."
"A permanent store."
"Congratulations," he told them amicably. "I'm looking for your business partner. Might I find him here?"
"Certainly, he's inside…"
"Go on in."
He nodded. "Thank you, and carry on with your excellent paint job." They laughed at him as he went in. Inside, he found the many shelves were about half full. He guessed they would be opening soon. Hearing a noise from the back, he walked that way.
"Sirius?" he called out, not wanting to surprise the man. That might cause him to get hexed, or for a charm or potion to go bad -- none of which were desirable.
A head poked up from behind a counter. "Albus?" It was a questioning tone. While not friendly, at least it was not unfriendly. He knew he was not on the younger man's list of favorite people after he had not stood up for the young man and forced a trial those many years ago.
"Ah, Sirius, there you are. How are you this fine day?"
"Well enough. What can I do for you, Albus?" The tone was still fairly flat, as was the younger man's smile.
Albus tried to be friendly anyway, as you could always catch more flies with Butterbeer than bubotuber pus. "Sirius, I'm in search for an object and I thought you might be able to help me find it."
"Yes, you see, I'm in search of a fairly large golden cloak clasp with a large ruby on it. It has the same problem that the locket we found in your house did. I believe that a Death Eater in your extended family had it at one time. I'm hoping it is still where it was before she got married."
"Bellatrix…" Sirius whispered, he face showing him to be momentarily lost in old memories.
After a long moment where Sirius said nothing, Albus continued. "Yes, I was searching for this clasp and I found an old letter from your cousin that stated that she had it just after she finished school. As we did not find it at your house like we did the locket, I was wondering if you have perchance seen it in your family vault?"
Slowly, Sirius's attention returned. "It is possible. There are a lot of things in there, some of which I'm unaware of."
A hope of victory came over the old man. "Would it be possible for me to accompany you to your family vault to search for this item?"
Sirius looked at him thinking it through. "Is it really that dangerous?"
"Very," he said solemnly. "Its capture would also be a major blow to Voldemort."
"I'll be done in about an hour," the younger man finally said.
"Very well, I shall return in an hour to accompany you to retrieve it. It shouldn't take but a few minutes. Is that acceptable?" Sirius nodded. "Excellent, I shall return soon."
Albus left to go to Gringotts to pick up some traveling money, especially some US dollars. With an old ring, a cup, and hopefully a clasp very soon, it was time to travel back to Hawaii. He would go after he had a short conversation with Minerva to talk about the last hurdle.
Harry and Ginny spent the summer before their fifth year like they had the last three summers. To their amazement, on their first free day, which Harry spent over at the Weasleys, Fred and George came up to the young couple with the barest of smiles on their faces. They looked serious, at least to someone who did not know them well.
Ginny looked at them very carefully, her eyes narrowing as she tried to figure out what they were up to. "What do you two want?" She and Harry had been drawing in the living room. Alternating turns, each had half a minute to add something to the picture. While Ginny could draw reasonably well, Harry's additions made the picture unrecognizable -- although hilarious.
"Follow us," Fred said softly.
When neither of the two youngsters moved, George added, "It will be to your benefit."
Harry looked at Ginny and raised an eyebrow at the twin's uncharacteristic solemness; she just shrugged and stood. Harry stood as well and the two followed the older boys out of the house. A moment later, they were behind their father's shed.
George pulled an old piece of parchment out from an inside pocket. "We bequeath to you, our sister…"
"And our like-a-brother…" Fred added.
"This piece of history…"
"Not to mention the secret to many of our pranking successes."
"Since we will no longer be at Hogwarts…"
"We are counting on you to uphold the tradition."
George handed the old parchment over to his sister. "Pull out your wand and touch it to the parchment while saying…"
"I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
Harry pulled out his wand and followed the command. As soon as he finished saying the special phrase, words magically appeared on parchment. "Messers Moony, Padfoot, Prongs, and Wormtail welcome you to the Marauder's Map." Lines started drawing themselves and in a few seconds, it was obvious what they showed.
"That's Hogwarts!" Ginny exclaimed.
"Right you are dear sister…"
"And if you will continue to unfold it, you'll see a map of the whole school and most of the grounds."
"Dad…" Harry finally said reverently. "I finally have something else from my dad."
"What are you talking about, Harry?" Ginny asked him, very confused by his quietness and then his pronouncement.
"My dad helped make this. He was Prongs." He was still in awe as he stared at the map.
"You mean to say that your father did this?" George was taken aback.
"I wonder who the others were?" Fred asked with much curiosity.
Harry started laughing and pointing at the twins. Ginny joined him half-heartedly, his laugh was so infectious, but she did not know what the big deal was. The twins were at a loss.
"Yeah, tell us," the other twin demanded.
When Harry got his breath back, he finally explained. "You've already met them all, but you just ever knew it. Padfoot is your business partner."
"What, Sirius?" Harry nodded to Fred.
"That old dog fooled us!" George was beside himself with glee.
"And the others?" Ginny asked, not to be left out of the conversation.
"Moony is Professor Remus Lupin."
"Oh, shut up, he can't be!"
Harry nodded vigorously before a slightly angry look came over him. "And Wormtail used to live here with you."
"…Petigrew." Each twin had spit out the name.
"That's all really unbelievable, Harry," Ginny finally commented into the silence after the mention of the traitor, "sort of like you suddenly getting something from your father." He smiled at her and his own good fortune. She gave him a quick one-armed hug to show him she was really happy for him. "So," she looked at the twins, "what all will this thing do?"
The twins spent the next ten minutes explaining the map, showing the secret places, and even how people showed up on the map. The Headmistress was in her office and the map showed her pacing around. The last thing they showed Harry and Ginny was the phrase to turn it off.
Fred started wrapping their time up. "Besides the fact that you two are our favorite siblings…"
"We feel you can use this the most, and are most likely to live up to our tradition."
"It is sad," the first twin lamented.
"But poor Ronnikins just isn't cut out for this."
"So do us proud!" Fred stuck his arm up in the air and assumed a ridiculous pose.
"And prank 'em all -- especially the Slytherins!" George put one arm around his twin's waist, while other hand came out and settled on his own hip as his nose went up in the air. The two together stood like a statue proud they had conquered something.
"Thanks!" Harry simply said, while trying to hold his laughter in at the strange sight.
"We'll try to be worthy," Ginny said with an impish smile on her face.
The twins sprung apart. "And we can't ask for anything more, can we Bro?"
"Well, we do want stories," the other answered.
"Oh yes, definitely stories…"
"Pink Slytherins are my favorite," George quipped as he started walking off.
Fred followed. "Those are nice, but what about psychedelic Slytherins?"
"Only if they blink…" the voice got quieter as George walked away.
"Blinking is fun, but do you think we could do slow pulsing? You know I think that would be possible. Maybe we should try it on our business partner for not telling us about himself…" the voices faded away.
Harry looked at Ginny. "You know, this does present us with some fun possibilities."
Ginny grinned back and started leading him back into the house. "Yes it does, Mr Potter; yes it does."
After a week off just to relax and to let their teachers have some time to unwind, the young couple took the Floo to the castle to start their normal summer lessons. When they arrived, they found both Professors Flitwick and McGonagall waiting on them.
"Mr Potter, Miss Weasley, are you still enjoying these extra classes?" The Headmistress sounded very calm and casual.
Harry did not think she really was, though; that did not sound like an every day question despite the words. "Yes, Professor. Not only is it a lot of fun to learn magic with just a few of us, but it makes our school work much easier during the year." Ginny nodded vigorously in her agreement.
"That's good. If you remember back to when we started this, I told you that you would have extra lessons to help keep you safe." Harry nodded. "Professor Flitwick and I think it's time we told you a little more." She looked at the girl now. "Ginny, I'm not sure I should tell you this too, but I suspect that even if I don't, you'll know five minutes later anyway." She blushed a bit while Harry smiled.
"As your parents have told you," McGonagall started, "there was an accident when you were a little more than one year old. A man named Voldemort, or You-Know-Who, tried to kill you. While you lived, your parents died that night."
"That's how I got the scar on my forehead, isn't it?"
"Yes, Harry. After that, you were taken to live with your mother's sister and her family. However, that did not go very well and there was another accident, but you lost your memories because of it." Harry was nodding, having heard most of this from his mother before. "Because of the accident, Professor Flitwick and I stepped in and helped you to recover and placed you with the Diggorys. This is also why we are taking responsibility for your extra lessons."
"I see," he drawled, taking in this last bit of new information. He had wondered why the professors took such an interest in him.
"The reason you need to know how to protect yourself more than most students is that You-Know-Who still wants to kill you. Unfortunately, there was a prophecy made around the time you were born that stated that you would be able to kill You-Know-Who, and he did not like that."
"So I have to kill him?" Harry was a bit confused, obviously trying to understand it all.
McGonagall sighed. "I'm sorry to say this, but it would seem so. He believes in the prophecy, and will not stop until one of you is dead, so … yes, you must learn how to protect yourself and how to take care of him. Unfortunately, he can kill you too, so you must always be ready for him. This is why you've been given extra training. Do you understand?"
"I suppose. I don't really want to kill anyone though," Harry said sadly as he closed his eyes and lowered his head in thought. Ginny put an arm around his shoulders to comfort him and he leaned into her.
"I wish you didn't have to as well, Harry. No one should have to do that. Fortunately, you don't have to do it immediately. You see, there is one task that has to be done first, and you and Ginny can work on it together if you like. In fact, it would be best if you could do it this summer."
"What's that?" Ginny asked.
"You remember the diary that you were given, which we had to destroy?" Both students nodded. "There is one more item like that left which we must find. Once we destroy that, You-Know-Who will be mortal and can be killed. Until then, no one can kill him, not even you, Harry. So you see, the sooner this item can be found, the better for everyone."
"What is this item?" Ginny had taken over as Harry looked down and seemed to be having to work through the earlier news. She was rubbing his back trying to make him feel better.
"We believe it is a blue jewel about the size of an egg, and it's probably embedded in a diadem. We also believe it to be hidden somewhere here in the castle. However, we just don't know where," she said with resignation.
Silence reigned for a few moments. Sensing there was not much else to say on this topic at this time, McGonagall reached behind her and picked up a small package and handed it to Harry. "Harry, while I would really prefer to hold onto this until you leave school at the end of your seventh year, for your safety, I shall give this to you now."
Harry opened the bag and pulled out a large piece of silvery shimmering cloth that was incredibly soft. Laying it over his arm, he saw his arm disappear. He gasped.
"Yes, Harry, it is an Invisibility Cloak. It was actually your father's. While your father might have given it to you earlier, I strongly suspect your mother would not have given it to you while you were still at school. This seemed like a reasonable compromise to me."
Harry draped it around his shoulders and everything but his head disappeared. He saw Ginny smile and it was not hard to guess what she was thinking.
"I will warn you, Mr Potter." He looked up at the use of his formal name and saw a very stern look. "I know spells that allow me to see people in Invisibility Cloaks. If I catch you abusing the rules with that cloak, I will take it back from you until you finish school. Do I make myself very clear?"
"Yes, Headmistress," Harry quickly agreed.
"Very well, if something bad should happen, use the cloak to disappear and immediately go somewhere safe." Harry nodded at his understanding. "That's all I have then. I believe it's time for your lessons to continue." The Headmistress gracefully stood and left the room.
Flitwick took over for the rest of the day. "As you can guess, revealing charms will be very important to you this summer. I'll spend the first week teaching you how to find secret places, reveal traps, and other charms you'll need in your search, then we'll only meet to learn three times a week. The rest of your time can be searching. You can even come here in the morning if your parents allow you." Ginny nodded as did Harry, although Harry's was very half-hearted, the earlier news still in the forefront of his mind..
True to his word, Professor Flitwick taught them nearly a dozen spells to help them in their search, and then helped them search a few rooms as they tested their training. The other three house common rooms were among the first they searched, since it was easier to get in with a teacher escorting them. Despite them spending most of their summer at Hogwarts, they had not found the missing Horcrux by the time school started. It was the most frustrating time that Harry could remember in his life. They had, however, found some truly lovely places to snog that they had never seen before.
On the train back to school, their ride to start to start their fifth year was like none before it, because Harry and Ginny were the Gryffindor fifth year prefects. Along with Hermione and Ron, the four went to the front of the train for the prefect meeting. Harry found out why Ron had griped about them; Ginny agreed they were not a lot of fun, no matter how much Hermione seemed to enjoy them.
Harry was pleased to see that Ron was finally starting to become more accepting of him. He was not sure why the redhead was finally coming around, but Harry was thankful nevertheless.
At the Welcoming Feast, they got a surprise when they saw Sirius Black at the head table, as he had kept his new teaching job from them. When he was introduced, Harry led the clapping.
Harry had gotten to know Sirius some over the past two summers, and he liked his father's friend. When Harry had shown Sirius the Marauder's Map, Sirius had laughed so hard he fell on the floor. He had already explained about the Marauders not long after he had met Harry. This new reminder of his past caused him to launch into more stories about the four Marauders exploits. Harry did not fail to notice that Wormtail was almost never mentioned, and that was fine with him. When Moony was told that Harry knew of the Marauders, a slow grin came to the normally serious man and he too joined in the story telling fun.
The classes for the year were going very well, despite it being their OWL year. Both Harry and Ginny were at the top of their class, narrowly beating out the Ravenclaws. The extra tutoring over the summer allowed them to do well in their core classes, which gave them extra time to study in the others.
As they were doing their prefect rounds one night near the end of September, Harry had the Marauder's Map out as they were walking. It was a great device to help catch students in broom closets. Surprised Gryffindors were embarrassed and then sent back to the Tower after being docked three points; captures from the other three houses were docked five points before being sent along. While they knew that was a little unfair, their competiveness allowed them to rationalize it away.
Tonight it was quiet and they were about to return to the Gryffindor Tower themselves when Harry noticed a lone person leaving the dungeons. "Hey, what do you suppose Malfoy is doing?" Harry pointed to the sixth year on the map.
Ginny looked. "I don't know, but it would be fun to bust him, wouldn't it? Even if he is a prefect, it's not his night to patrol."
A slightly evil grin came over Harry. "No, it's not. Let's go see what he's up to before we get him in trouble."
They watched Malfoy go up the stairs on the map while they walked toward the Slytherin's position, trying to anticipate his destination so they could get there at the same time. As they were coming up the stairs to the seventh floor, Malfoy's dot disappeared into a wall where there was no room on the map. Looking at each other in surprise, they immediately began running. When they came to the point the Slytherin had disappeared on the map, he was not to be found. There were also no doors to any room. Even searching behind the tapestries there showed no secret rooms. They were flummoxed.
Deciding to take just a few more minutes to search, they suddenly heard footsteps. Harry realized he had not looked at the map in quite some time. Looking, he saw the label for their head of house about to turn the corner. He whispered, "Washburn's coming," as he quickly hid the map under his robes.
The teacher came around the corner and stopped. "Mr Potter, Miss Weasley. What are you doing up here?"
Always the most creative, Ginny answered. "Professor Washburn. We were about to finish our patrol and we thought we saw a student walking around by himself so we came to investigate. Unfortunately, the stairs moved and it took us too long to get here and so we can't seem to find him."
Harry did his best to hold a neutral face, but he was very impressed with the amount of truth she had woven into the lie. He saw the professor look at her watch.
"It is only a few minutes past when you should be done with your patrol and you weren't doing anything untoward, so I shall not take any points off; but as there seems to be no one here, I'll tell you to return to the Tower."
"Certainly, Professor," Ginny replied with a smile of thankfulness. She turned and headed back, not even grabbing Harry's hand until they were halfway back.
"Nice going," Harry complimented her.
"Thanks, but where do you think Malfoy went to? Fred and George said the map can't lie." Due to her lightly biting her lower lip, Harry could tell she was trying to work out the puzzle.
Harry considered that for a moment. With a new idea in mind, he pulled the map back out of his robes and searched carefully. "Ginny, look here. There is a blank space behind the wall about where Malfoy went. What if there was a room there that the map didn't know about? The twins did say they didn't know how the map was made, so while it can't lie about things it knows about, maybe it also won't show us things it doesn't know."
Ginny considered that as they started up the stairs to the portrait of the Fat Lady. "That would make sense." Then she gave him her brilliant smile when she came up with a prank. "Of course, we can find out if that theory is true. You just have to ask Mr Padfoot tomorrow."
"Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?"
She grinned. "And that's why you need me, Harry, because I'm the smart one." She gave the password and they went in.
"I need you for other reasons, too," Harry told her and wiggled his eyebrows, causing her to blush.
"Prat, go get your book bag, we have some homework to finish first." She left him to go up the girl's stairs, while Harry went to go get his stuff.
Back in the common room a few minutes later, Harry started his homework. He also kept glancing at the map hidden below the table top and lying on his lap as he worked for the next hour. Malfoy never made an appearance before Harry went to bed and that made Harry very curious to know what the Slytherin was doing.
The next morning, they found their Defense teacher before breakfast. "Mr Padfoot," Harry greeted him, as they had managed to catch him alone in a corridor, thanks to the map. "Can you join us in this classroom here? We have need of professional advice."
Apparently, the question and the formal delivery piqued his interest as he gave them a large goofy grin and opened the door to wave them in. "What's up, you two? Is there a prank I need to be watching for -- or," his smile somehow grew, "to help out with?"
Harry almost matched his smile. "You might think of it as a prank, but for now we just need information."
"Always a good place to start. What do you need to know?" The man looked very eager to help.
"The twins told us that they thought the Map could not lie. So if it shows a room, then it's really there," Harry started.
"Correct," he acknowledged slightly playfully.
"Is it possible for there to be a room the map does not know about?"
Sirius opened his mouth to answer, then he shut it to think some more. After several very long seconds, he finally told them, "I think it will only show what it knows about, but I would be very surprised to find a room or passage that was unknown to the map. We spent over a year making it all show up correctly. Why do you ask?"
"We caught Malfoy out alone last night, well, rather we saw him on the map. But by the time we could get to where he was, he seemed to disappear off the map and I couldn't find him again until this morning. He seemed to have come back because he was in his dorm."
"Are you sure?" Sirius queried.
"Yes," Ginny spoke up. "I saw it too. He went to the seventh floor and then seemed to just leave the map. But there was no door or passageway there. We even used the revealing spells Professor Flitwick taught us over the summer and we couldn't find anything."
"Hmm, very interesting." Sirius scratched his neck while he thought. "I'll have to take this up with Moony. He knows more about the creation of the map than I do. I'll get back with you in a couple of days. All right?"
"Thanks, Mr Padfoot!"
Sirius gave a bark of laughter. "Harry, we're going to have to give you name. You too, Ginny."
"That would be fun, but we need to learn to transform first, and we just haven't had time to learn," she told him.
"Maybe we can start that next summer, how about that?"
"Good idea," Harry was pleased and Ginny looked it too. Their meeting done, they left for breakfast.
Two days later, Harry and Ginny were sitting down to breakfast. At the moment, they had a very good view of their suspect across the room.
"He looks very tired, like he hasn't been getting enough sleep," Harry commented. "I wonder if he has glamours to hide dark circles under his eyes."
"Maybe. Do you notice that Malfoy is not talking to his ever present goons?" Ginny pointed out.
"Yeah, that's not normal for him. He's having a very quiet breakfast and not speaking to anyone."
Ginny took another bite of breakfast, still watching their suspect. "Harry, look, he's rubbing his left forearm against the edge of the table again. I think that's like the third time this morning, and I think I've seem him do it before too."
Their observations were interrupted when a brown and white speckled owl suddenly landed in front of Harry. With a smile of anticipation, he removed the letter while Ginny gave the bird a piece of bacon. Happy with its payment, the owl took off.
Ginny leaned over and put her lips next to his ear. "What does it say?" she whispered.
Harry ducked his head. "Hey, that tickles," he whispered back to her. She giggled while she anxiously looked at the parchment he was unfolding. Harry noticed that Hermione was no longer talking to Ron and was watching them from across the table, but she said nothing for the moment.
After they both read the letter from Moony, Ginny commented, "It seems that your theory was correct. That's going to make it hard on us."
"What?" Hermione asked, unable to contain herself any longer based on the expression on her face.
"Nothing important, Hermione," Ginny replied, "just a little prank advice."
"You two are prefects," Hermione huffed. "You shouldn't be doing that."
Ginny cocked an eyebrow at her friend. "If the subject is about what prefects should and should not be doing, should we also discuss what a couple of sixth year prefects were doing in a closet on the fourth floor during their patrol last night?"
Hermione actually blushed, and Ron, who was also sitting across the table and next to Hermione, stopped eating and looked at her with wide eyes.
"How did you know?" her brother asked.
Harry continued to keep quiet and enjoyed the show. He heard Ginny say, "Let's just say that there are more ways to monitor the broom closets than by opening doors."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "You put a monitoring spell in a closet, didn't you? Ginny! I can't believe you did that. I also can't believe it because that's a beyond NEWT level spell. What did you really do?"
A smile spread across the young redhead's face as she looked at the watch on her wrist. "Oh look! Time for class, we better go so we're not late, Harry." She stood up and pulled her boyfriend up too.
"Ginny!" Hermione hissed. "Come back here and explain." The couple kept walking. "Ginny!" Hermione hissed once again, and was again ignored.
Now that Harry was facing away from their friends, he could let the laugh out that he had been holding in. "That was cruel. Funny, but very cruel."
"Always keep 'em guessing, Harry. Now what are we going to do?"
Harry shrugged. "Like we've been doing, I suppose, watch the map. I'll start keeping my special cloak on me so if we notice that he's heading that direction, we can try to meet him there and hide to see what he's doing."
Ginny considered that as they approached their Charms classroom. "I can't think of anything better, unfortunately. It will be tedious and bloody boring."
He sighed. "I know."
Over the next two weeks, they almost caught Malfoy three times. However, each time, they were delayed in reaching the appropriate seventh floor corridor in time. Finally, Malfoy's luck gave out and he made the trip again while Harry and Ginny were on prefect patrol. Since Harry was waiting for this, they were on the sixth floor when the Slytherin left the dungeon area, and the two easily made it to the proper place with the Invisibility cloak over both of them.
The cloak fit only because the two stood so close together, Ginny in front of Harry with his arms around her stomach. That was a position he rather enjoyed, and based on Ginny wiggling backwards into his embrace, she did too.
They watched Malfoy walk into sight, all the while glancing around to make sure he was not being watched. When he got across from a tapestry on the wall, he paced a couple of steps back and forth. If that was not weird enough, a doorway opened up on the wall across from the tapestry.
Harry almost said something in surprise, but managed to restrain himself. With a last look around Draco Malfoy strode towards the door to go in, pausing yet again to look for anyone coming. Harry very softly whispered, "Left foot first, let's try to get in there." They started walking, but before they could reach the right spot, Malfoy closed the door behind himself and the door disappeared.
"Bloody hell! We were so close!" Ginny forcefully whispered.
"Wait, let me try something." Harry come out from underneath the cloak and paced like Malfoy did. Nothing happened. Trying again and thinking he needed to find the place Malfoy was hiding did not help either. "I don't know, Ginny. I guess we're just going to have to watch again and try to get in next time."
"Well, at least we know where to stand," she grumpily agreed.
"Yeah. You saw how he opened the door and then looked around just before he went in?"
"Good point," she nodded in agreement. "We can try to sneak in then. Still, this is so completely frustrating."
"Completely," he echoed her. "Come on, it's curfew time and we need to head back to the Tower.
It was four days later when it happened again. This time, they were next to the wall where the door should appear, and it did. They had even practiced walking together under the cloak. A set of Silencing Charms were on their feet as well. Just like last time, Draco Malfoy opened the door and paused to look both ways down the hall. The two Gryffindors took that moment to sneak inside the room.
Their first problem arose: Where to hide? It was a problem because the room was filled with junk and there were very few places to stand. Hoping for the best, Harry guided Ginny up the main aisle and then to the side when the first side path presented itself. Malfoy had closed the door and almost ran them over as they had to move slower. Fortunately, they stepped to the side just in time and he walked on past them unaware of their presence.
After a sigh of relief, they went back onto the main path down the center of the room and slowly walked towards their suspect. They found Malfoy about twenty yards later working on a tall cabinet that looked something like a coffin. There was a spot they could stand out of the way and still watch him, so they did. For the next hour and a half, they watched Draco work on the cabinet with both a few tools and his wand, although most of the work was done with his wand. They also heard enough swearing that the sixth year boy should have been in detention for the rest of his time at Hogwarts.
Besides swearing, the phrase he said most consistently was, "If I don't make this bloody thing work so they can get in, he's going to kill me; work you damned thing!"
Eventually, Draco yelled as if in triumph and put his wand up. With a smirk and a muttered, "I knew I could do it," he stepped into the cabinet and closed the door. A second or so later, there was a single soft pulse of light from around where the door met the cabinet body.
"What the hell?" Harry exclaimed. Not able to restrain his curiosity, he stepped out from underneath the Invisibility Cloak and opened the door on the cabinet. To his surprise, the cabinet was empty. "Where'd he go?"
Ginny's head appeared and she walked over too, also surprised as she looked in the cabinet. "It must have sent him somewhere else. You suppose it was broken and he was trying to fix it?"
"Seems reasonable," Harry said agreeably. As he tried to come up with more ideas, the cabinet door slowly started to close on its own. "He must be trying to come back."
"Stop it, Harry, we can't let him come back while we're here!"
Harry grabbed the door, but he could not stop it moving. "I can't…"
Not knowing what else to do, Ginny reach down and grabbed the first thing she could find. "Here, put this in the crack so the door can't close."
Harry took the book from her hand and put it in the path of the door. He saw Ginny drop the cloak and pick up a chair too. She put the back of the old wooden school chair in the closing crack as well. A few seconds later, the door stopped moving from the objects jammed between it and the cabinet.
"OK, now what, oh smart one?" Harry asked.
"I think we're safe for the moment, now we just need to figure out where he went and how to use that to our advantage."
Harry thought for a moment and then an idea came to him. Pulling out the Marauder's Map, he looked it over. "Ginny, run down to Sirius's office and tell him that Malfoy has left the school grounds, but he'll probably be returning soon. He'll understand the opportunity this presents."
Ginny grinned wickedly. "I'll be back as soon as I can. You'll need to stay in here Harry since the door to the room disappears otherwise, or at least it did for Malfoy."
"Right. Go!" He watched her run out the door. With a smile on his face, he bent down and picked up his special cloak and hid it under his robes. Another thought came to him. It might not be the wisest thing, but it should increase his safety. Pulling out his wand, he walked around the cabinet. With a couple of well place cutting spells, he cut the hinges off the cabinet and watched the door drop to the ground. He would destroy the cabinet later, but for the moment, it could not be used while it could still be repaired if needed.
He looked on the map and saw that Ginny had just arrived at the office two floors below and was talking to Sirius. A moment later, the two of them seemed to be running towards the Headmistress' office.
Since he had a few minutes, Harry decided to look around. Now that he was not watching Malfoy, he realized the room was enormous. It was easily fifty yards wide by one hundred yards long. There was no way this would fit in the space left for it on the map. In fact, when he looked on the map, he saw that he was not on it, even though he was in the room. This was truly a very magical room.
Watching the map, he saw Ginny and Sirius reach the Headmistress' office, where McGonagall was. After a minute or so, she walked over to Sirius and he disappeared a few seconds later. He wondered what they were doing. Searching carefully, he saw a label move near the gates of the school; it was Sirius. Harry guessed she had created a Portkey for him to the gates, something only the Headmistress could do, and only to or from her office, or so Flitwick had said once. He smiled and had to hand it to McGonagall; that was very smart. A minute or so later, he saw Flitwick's label walk towards the office.
Harry's smile became bigger a few minutes later when he saw Malfoy's label suddenly appear at the front gate, very close to where Sirius was standing. The two labels seemed to merge for a moment and just stand still. Then, the two labels started walking towards the castle. Harry's grin came back; there was nothing like a spur-of-the-moment prank working, especially on such a deserving person -- the git! Malfoy had given almost every non-Slytherin in the castle grief on-and-off over the years.
He continued to watch the labels move across the map. Sirius and Malfoy went up to the Headmistress' office. After nearly fifteen more minutes, all five of the people in the office left and started walking. It did not take Harry long to realize they were coming this way. So he quickly went over to the door and opened it, standing there so it would not close. Soon, he saw McGonagall, Sirius, Flitwick, Ginny, and Malfoy (in Sirius's custody) coming down the hall. As soon as Draco saw him with the door open, the Slytherin's proud sneering face fell.
"Mr Potter," the Headmistress addressed him. "Is this the place Miss Weasley told me about?"
"Yes, ma'am. I've stayed here to make sure we could find it again."
The older witch turned to the young Slytherin. "Mr Malfoy, I'll ask you again. How did you find this room and what were you doing?" He stayed silent and Harry figured the questioning was what had taken so long in the office. "You are already in danger of being expelled for leaving the school grounds in an unauthorized fashion."
"Very well, Mr Malfoy, you leave me little choice. Incarcerous!" Ropes shot out of her wand and bound the boy's wrists and then his arms to his body.
"You can't do this!" Malfoy shouted.
"Will you answer my questions?" McGonagall gave him a piercing look. He went back to being silent. "In that case, Sirius, please take him to the old holding room in the dungeon and magically seal the door to make sure he stays there until the morning."
"Professor McGonagall?" Harry boldly spoke up. "I think we can answer at least part of your question."
Her right eyebrow went up nearly to the top of her forehead. "Oh? Do tell, Mr Potter."
"Well, while he was working, he kept talking about having to get it to work so someone could come through it." Although he did not say anything, Malfoy struggled against Sirius's hold to get to Harry. To do what, he did not know, as the most Malfoy could do to him now was kick him in the shin.
McGonagall turned to the prisoner. "You were trying to give access to the castle to someone else?" She sounded very incredulous. "Who?" Malfoy just sneered at her and did not say anything. Harry was surprised Malfoy was not saying anything, given how much he liked to brag.
"I can make a guess at that too, Professor. Lift up his left sleeve. He's been rubbing his forearm a lot lately -- all term, we think," Harry told them.
Sirius was the first to realize what Harry was implying. With his wand, Sirius cut the ropes over the boy's left forearm and grabbed Draco's arm. The boy fought to prevent the action, but it was not long before Sirius had the boy's left sleeve up and everyone could see the Dark Mark on his arm.
McGonagall paled at that. "My word! He was going to let Death Eaters in. This is much more serious. Mr Potter, please show me what he was working on."
Harry led them in. "This cabinet, Professor. I removed the door so it couldn't be used."
She took one look and gasped. "A Vanishing Cabinet! This is very serious indeed." She turned to the other teachers. "Sirius, please take Mr Malfoy back to my office and do not loosen your hold on him for a second. Once there, feel free to tie him to a chair and call the Aurors. I want the Director to come too. I shall be there within half an hour." The Defense teacher retied Draco Malfoy's arms and then led the protesting boy away.
Flitwick looked very thoughtful. "I now have an additional question: How did he know this was here? I'm also curious to know what this room is."
"It seems to be a huge storeroom, or maybe a place where everything that's been lost in the castle goes." Harry waved his hand around. "You won't believe some of the junk I found in here while I was waiting for you."
The short professor leaned down and picked up a textbook off the floor. Opening it, he chuckled. "I think this book is older than I am. It's at least five versions out of date."
Ginny gasped. "Harry? Do you think the jewel we were searching for over the summer might be in here?"
His eyes went wide along with the two professors. "It might be. This would be a great place to hide something. It would be very hard to find it in here. Hmm … Accio Ravenclaw's Jewel!" They all heard a slight thunk on the left side of the room further back. He walked that way. "Accio Ravenclaw's Jewel!" he cast again. This time there was no sound.
"It's here!" Ginny shouted. "Now we just have to find it."
"I know, Harry. You moved it the first time and now it's wedged somewhere so we'll have to search, but we know it's here and we really only have to search half the room from here on back." Ginny looked very happy. "This will all be over soon."
"Yeah, but do you know how long that might take?" Harry exclaimed, looking incredulous as he considered his own question while he surveyed the mounds of junk in the room. "And we can't leave here until we find it because we don't know how to get back in. In fact, we don't know that the room will even stay here if we leave the door open but no one's in the room. It might only stay this way because we're here, like we were when Malfoy first opened the door."
"Then we'll just have to stay here until we find it," Ginny said as if her word was law.
"I am not comfortable with that idea, but I also don't know if your theory is correct or not either." The frustrated Headmistress looked at the two students thinking. With a look of inspiration, she called out, "Brolly?"
A house-elf popped in. "Yes, Headmistress?" He looked up at her awaiting her command.
"Brolly, do you know where we are right now? I've never seen this room before."
"Yes, Headmistress. It is the Come-and-Go room, or sometimes called the Room of Requirement. A person only has to walk in front of the door three times thinking of what he needs, and the room will make itself like that." They all blinked at him for a moment.
"So I think of something, like a park, walk in front of the door thinking about that, the door will appear and I'll find a park in here?" Harry asked. The elf nodded and Harry sighed. "While we now know about the room, we're still stuck here."
"Why?" Flitwick asked, before he suddenly said. "Oh… I understand. Unless we know exactly what Mr Malfoy was thinking about, we can't come back to this exact place. Minerva, I do not believe we have a choice. They must stay here and search, even though tomorrow is a class day."
McGonagall looked around and pulled out her wand. She was unsuccessful in summoning the jewel as well; it seemed to be stuck, wherever it was hidden. "Very well, but I want at least one other student in here." She looked at her colleague. "Who would you suggest?"
"I think Hermione would be best," Ginny suggested. "We can work well with her and she may know spells that could help."
"A capital idea, Miss Weasley," Flitwick agreed.
The usually stern looking Headmistress seemed to almost smile. "Yes, I think Miss Granger would do admirably. Filius? If you would help them set up three beds, a table and chairs, and a changing area? Mr Potter, if you would come with me, you can retrieve a change of clothes. I'll have Miss Granger get some for you, Miss Weasley."
Hermione was still in the common room when they arrived. She was very surprised to see the Headmistress there at this time of night. She looked like she wanted to burst of curiosity because she could not ask Harry what was going on. Fortunately, Ron had already gone to bed so Harry did not have to answer questions from him. Harry thought he could get his things without waking anyone else in his dorm room and left to do so.
"Miss Granger," McGonagall addressed the sixth year. "I need to you come with me for a special task that will last through at least tomorrow. You will need to go upstairs and get a change of clothes for both yourself and Miss Weasley. You will be excused from classes for this."
That seemed to fuel Hermione's curiosity all the more, but she held it while she went upstairs. Harry was back soon and Hermione came down a couple of minutes later. The three of them left the Tower to go back to the Room of Requirement. Hermione was amazed at the room and stopped just inside the door.
"Miss Granger," the Headmistress addressed the student after she had walked in. "Mr Potter and Miss Weasley have a very special task. There is a large blue jewel probably in a diadem in this room."
"Are you sure, with all this junk?" she was incredulous, not thinking of the fact that she had just questioned the Headmistress.
McGonagall actually smiled slightly. "Yes, we tried to summon it and heard it get stuck on or in something. It is extremely important that we find this jewel, although I can not tell you why and I must ask you not to ask about it. You are here to be a chaperone, as well as to help them search. One of us will return tomorrow morning at eight with breakfast and at noon with lunch. If needed, we'll arrange meals beyond that. These two will explain the room and how it works. Considering the present time, I suggest you make it a quick conversation and then immediately go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning." The two professors left and the door closed behind them.
Hermione turned and gave them her most piercing stare. "Explain!" she commanded.
Harry let Ginny explain while he stepped behind the changing screen to change into his pyjamas. When he was done, he took up the story while Ginny changed. Hermione had more questions and asked them while she changed. They finished up with the three of them sitting on their own beds.
"If I hadn't seen this, I'm not sure I'd believe you," she told them at the end. The other two laughed. "Good-night."
"'Night, Hermione," Harry and Ginny said in union. Harry moved over to the edge of his bed and Ginny did the same. They kissed good-night before Harry cast "Nox" to turn out the lights.
It was strange to be in a totally pitch-black room, since there were no lights, but Harry fell asleep fairly quickly anyway. During the night, he had the strangest dream about Ginny, but since he often dreamed of her, he just enjoyed it.
He woke up in the morning and the strangeness continued. He would swear that he was with Ginny as he could smell her perfume. Then the sensation of hair over part of his face and a weight on his right side hit him. He also realized his arm was around a warm body that was the right size to be Ginny. Although he did not move, he suddenly realized what happened during the night. Paying attention to all of his senses, he realized that Ginny was indeed next to him with her head on his shoulder. He panicked as he considered what would happen if McGonagall walked in right now; but he did not know what to do as he also did not want to disturb her. This felt awfully nice.
Harry laid there and enjoyed the sensation of sleeping with Ginny for quite sometime. He was startled by an alarm from his right and a light a few seconds later. He looked over a head of red hair to see Hermione stretching before she sat up and looked around.
"Ginny! What are you doing?!" Hermione's face had wide eyes and an incredulous look.
The yelling woke the redhead, although she did not make a startled movement. When she realized where she was, Harry saw her grin just before she stretched upward and gave him a short kiss. "Mmm, the best night's sleep I've ever had."
"Ginny! You're not supposed to be in Harry's bed!"
The redhead rolled over onto her back before she slowly sat up. "Don't knock it until you've tried it, Hermione," she quipped unrepentantly. "I had trouble going to sleep until I moved, then I quickly fell asleep. That really was the best night's sleep I've ever had. It was a wonderful way to wake up, too." When the speechless sixth year just gaped at her, Ginny got up and took her change of clothes behind the screen to get ready for the day.
Harry saw Hermione now staring at him. "Hey, don't look at me, I didn't change beds. But I will say that I agree with Ginny. That was a wonderful way to wake up." A large goofy grin was now on his face.
Hermione harrumphed. "What am I going to do with you two?" She grabbed her clothes to change when Ginny came out. Harry went last. They also took turns going to a bathroom not too far down the corridor.
Professor McGonagall came shortly thereafter. Satisfied to see them all up and all three beds having been slept in, she left them to eat the breakfast a house-elf brought them before they started searching.
As soon as breakfast was done, the three started the search. Harry and Ginny showed Hermione where the Vanishing Cabinet was. They cleared a path from there to the side wall so they had a boundary on the search. Hermione estimated they had about forty percent of the room to look through.
At first, they picked up each item and tossed it to the other side of the room and that was slow going. After an hour, Ginny got tired of that and waved her wand around in a small area and cast "Accio books!" Several dozen books in the area she had pointed to came flying to her. She ducked and let them land behind her.
Harry thought that was a great idea and did the same thing with clothes. He was almost buried in garments as they hit him and knocked him down. The girls laughed at him. Ginny came over and pulled a pair of girl's knickers off of his head and held them in from of him. "And what were you planning on doing with these, Mr Potter?" she asked with a large smirk on her face.
He blushed hotly for a moment, but then he smirked in return. "Why, Miss Weasley, do you need some right now?"
Ginny flushed as deeply as he had, but a tiny sparkle was visible in her eyes. She turned and stepped back towards the remaining junk. "Well, that saved some time, anyway."
Harry grinned at his successful tease and followed her, deciding to let her off for the moment.
Hermione approached a trunk they had uncovered.
"Wait! Stop!" Harry yelled.
The brunette did stop and turned to look at him like he had lost his mind. "What?"
"Do you know the revealing spell to detect magic, especially magical traps?"
She nodded yes.
"You must cast that on anything you think might hold the jewel. It will probably be hidden and might even have protective spells on it," Harry explained.
Hermione shrugged and cast the spell. The trunk came up clean, so she opened it up. It was empty. With a sigh, she levitated it to the other side of the room out of the area they were searching and went back to seek the diadem.
By lunch time, they had cleared about five yards back, although it went the full twenty-five yards across. Flitwick was impressed when he brought them lunch and to check on them. He did a few organization charms on the side they did not have to search to straighten things there, so they would have more room to stack items from the area they were trying to clear.
The afternoon was more of the same. Flitwick also brought them dinner. They spent a few hours searching after dinner, but Hermione stopped by eight so she could do some homework, while Harry and Ginny used the time to sit closely and talk. The three also took turns going one at a time back to their dorm room to get another change of cloths. They each answered, "Sorry, I can't talk about it," to everyone who asked where they had been.
That night, much to Hermione's consternation, Ginny crawled into her bed, wiggled around a bit, then moved over into Harry's bed to sleep. Hermione rolled her eyes, but she did not say anything.
The next day was much the same as the day before, except that they were learning to move things faster by casting the revealing spell over a wider area then moving the whole area at once. It was a little after four in the afternoon when Hermione did a revealing spell on yet another wardrobe and the wardrobe lit up like a beacon and also shot a spell back at her. Fortunately, Harry was standing nearby and managed to shove her out of the way just before the spell went through the air right where she had been standing. All three of them looked backwards and saw a huge scorched spot in the discarded junk.
"T-Thanks, Harry," Hermione told him with a little trembling in her voice.
"No problem." He slowly walked towards the wardrobe, stopping a few feet in front of it. With care, he pulled things that were stacked around it away.
"You think that's it?" Ginny asked.
"Seems reasonable to me," Harry said while moving a stack of chairs. He finally got one side clear. Stepping back to give himself a fraction of a second more reaction time, he sent a vanishing spell at the side of the wardrobe. He was pleased to see that nothing happened except for the wood disappearing. "Tom was stupid only protecting the doors. Accio jewel!" A bust came out of the cabinet with a circlet on it. The silver circlet had a very large blue jewel in the center. "Yes!" he hissed.
Ginny ran over to him and gave him a hug and a quick kiss. "I'd say we need to go get the Headmistress, but it's almost dinner time. We can wait for them to come." Everyone agreed.
Hermione went back to their little living area and pulled out her books and started studying. Harry and Ginny went over to his bed and sat on it like a couch, leaning against the headboard.
"While I'm glad we found it, I'm sorry it didn't take longer," Ginny told her boyfriend. Hermione looked up, unable to ignore the comment.
Harry played with her hand while his other arm was around her shoulders. "Why's that? I mean, I'm enjoying the holiday from classes, but I suspect you mean more than that."
"Uh-huh." She stretched and gave him a lingering kiss. "I like the time to ourselves, but more importantly, I won't be able to sleep with you again. I've really enjoyed that these last two nights." Hermione glanced at them and shook her head before returning to her book.
"It was pretty brilliant waking up with my best friend." He kissed her temple and pulled her in closer. "We'll have to wait until we finish school, but maybe we could make arrangements to wake up together every day."
Looks of surprise and hope filled her face. They were so concentrating on each other, they did not hear Hermione gasp as she looked up at them. "Do you really mean that, Harry?"
"Yes, Ginny, one day. Like I said, you're my best friend and I'd like you to always be with me. In fact, I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else." The look of love on Ginny's face was too much for him, so he bent his neck to give her a kiss, which turned into serious snogging.
They were so caught up in themselves and unaware of the room around them, that they were very surprised to hear a loud cough. Looking up, they saw Professor Flitwick with the biggest smirk on his face that they had ever seen. To the side, they saw Hermione with her hand over her mouth trying to hold the laughter in.
"So," he all but squeaked, "is this a before dinner break or has something monumental happened?" The couple blushed very red.
"Well, I, uh, um," Harry stumbled over his words.
"Monumental! Harry just made me a life-long promise," Ginny's words rushed out of her.
"Congratulations, Miss Weasley. A promise that comes after you finish school, I hope?" Flitwick just stood there with a small smile as if this was a daily occurrence, or else a prophesied event that he had been waiting on so there was no surprise. Ginny nodded. "Then definitely congratulations. I have brought you dinner," he waved to the elf behind him who was putting dinner on the table where Hermione had been working. "How's your progress?"
"Oh, well, we found it a little bit ago," Harry told him.
"Really?!" Now the professor did squeak in his excitement. "Where is it?"
The three students got up and walked over to the bust with the circlet lying on the floor. They had been afraid to touch it. Flitwick did a series of spells on it. "Excellent! I'm proud of all three of you."
"Yes, Miss Granger."
"Uh, I think it would be a good idea if you were to destroy that wardrobe." She pointed to the one the Horcrux had been hidden in. "When we tried to open it, it threw a spell at me. I don't think that should be left here for anyone else to find."
"Quite right and good thinking, Miss Granger. Since we don't care about anything in it and I don't have to remove the protective charms, that does make it easier." He pulled out his wand and said a very long spell. A gray sphere sprung up around the wardrobe. With one last word and the down stroke of his wand, the sphere rapidly contracted, briefly flaring white, then disappearing altogether. When it was done, all that was left was a small pile of ash, which the Charms professor Vanished.
Flitwick conjured a wooden box and then levitated the bust and diadem into it. "Please have some dinner since it is here. When you are done, you're free to return to Gryffindor Tower and resume your normal schedule. When anyone asks, you were away doing some research for Professor McGonagall and myself. If they pester you for more information, feel free to send them to us."
"Thank you, Professor," the three students told him.
"Professor?" Harry stopped him before he could leave. "What happened to Malfoy?"
"Ah, yes, Mr Malfoy. He has been expelled and is presently awaiting trial for being a member of a subversive group, as well as conspiracy to endanger the public. I suspect you won't be seeing him for at least the next five years. While he won't be in Azkaban because of his age, there are other places for people like him."
With that, Flitwick left with the box to go see Minerva, so she could call Albus to have it destroyed. The students went back to their Tower after dinner, but not before Harry sent three Blasting Hexes at the Vanishing Cabinet. It would never be useful again.
After that, the rest of the year seemed unexciting and the school was a happier place as Slytherin House became a better behaved group of students.
The summer after their fifth year was more of the same. Harry and Ginny spent a lot of time with each other. They also spent some time with Ron and Hermione, who were surprisingly still dating. Although it had taken nearly five years, Ron seemed to be fairly accepting of Harry now. It was Ginny's theory that it had merely taking that long for Ron to grow up and for him to see Ginny as something more than "a little sister". But they would never know as Ron would not explain his previous feelings about Harry to anyone who asked him.
When they were not having fun together or with their friends, Harry and Ginny spent more time with Professors McGonagall and Flitwick. The young couple had finished all the spell work Hogwarts offered in Defense, Charms, and Transfiguration, and were working on master's level material.
September the first came around again and Hogwarts restarted its official classes. While Harry, Ginny, and Ron continued being prefects, Hermione and Terry Boot became Head Girl and Head Boy, respectively. That caused Parvati to become the female seventh year prefect, which gave Ron and Hermione a few problems to have to work through when Ron seemed to look at the attractive Indian girl a little more than Hermione thought he should.
Harry became the Quidditch captain. Ginny played Chaser and Ron played Keeper. Their prospects looked good for the year.
After their first game the third week in October, where Gryffindor defeated Hufflepuff by two hundred points, Harry and Ginny were walking around the lake, enjoying the Saturday afternoon together. As they came around a clump of bushes near the far end of the lake, Harry heard something rattle the leaves. In his haste to pull Ginny to the side, they both wound up falling into the lake.
As Ginny's head broke the surface of the freezing water, she turned to her boyfriend who was also chest deep in the water. "Harry!"
She saw his wand out and turning she saw the largest snake she had ever seen on the shore coming toward them, until the dark red spell hit it and the first twelve inches of the snake seemed to explode. Ginny threw her arms around his neck and held on tightly, shivering from more than just the cold water. "I-Is it dead?" she asked into his neck. She felt his other arm go around her waist now, protectively pulling her to him.
"Yeah. If I hadn't heard it first, I'd hate to think of what might have happened." A shiver ran through him as well. "Come on, let's get out of here; I'm freezing."
She gave him a forced laugh, but followed him to the shore and let him pull her up after he had climbed out. She looked at the snake more closely now that she was out of the water. "That's disgusting!"
"I agree." Harry cast a drying charm on her and on himself. "I'm going to get the body. Can you get the head, or what's left of it?" He levitated the body, which seemed to be close to fifteen feet long, and started walking towards the castle. Ginny made a face and did the same for the mangled head. They dropped the parts near the front door of the castle.
"Ginny? If you'll go get Professor McGonagall, you won't have to look at it," Harry suggested. Ginny seemed glad to leave as she quickly walked away. A few minutes later, the Headmistress and Professor Flitwick came out with Ginny, who went over to Harry while doing her best to look anywhere other than at the dead snake.
"This snake tried to attack us," Harry explained before he even asked. "We were walking around the lake and it came out of some bushes. I threw us into the water before I shot a Blasting Hex down its throat."
Flitwick used a spell to straighten the snake out and to put the head in the right place. "That is the largest snake I've ever seen. Do you suppose the rumors are true, Minerva?"
"They must be…"
"What rumors, Professor?" Harry asked.
"That You-Know-Who is taking a more active part in the war. I suspect that is his snake, his familiar. I must take this to Albus." She conjured a good-sized wicker basket and put the snake parts in it. Looking at the students, she told them. "Excellent defense work, take fifty points for Gryffindor."
"Thank you, Professor," Harry nodded.
"Be very careful, you two. In fact, I will strongly suggest no more walks around the lake. Please stay near the castle when you go outside. Also, have others with you if at all possible; there is strength in numbers."
The professors and the basket of snake parts went inside.
"That's not fair," Ginny complained.
"No, it's not," Harry slowly commiserated with her, "but I understand."
"Yeah, I do too, but I still don't like it."
The next weekend, the Headmistress announced a Hogsmeade visit for those fourth year and up starting at ten and lasting until four that afternoon. The third years complained, but she halted that by explaining that she was only allowing those who were able to produce a shield, and that had only recently been covered in the fourth year classes.
A little after ten, Harry and Ginny were walking with Ron and Hermione to the magical town to enjoy a rare day out. They had also been told not to expect any more trips before the holidays.
The foursome had barely walked into town when multiple Apparation cracks sounded from all over the main thoroughfare. Harry pulled his friends over to the nearest store, which happened to be the post office, using the wall to "guard his back" so no one could sneak up on them. With Harry and Ginny in the front of the semi-circle, Ron was on the left side and Hermione on the right, they did their best to take out as many Death Eaters as they could. They also tried to help out other students by shooting a spell to distract a Death Eater, allowing the student to run behind something.
They had dropped almost a dozen Death Eaters with Blasting Hexes when they had to stop. Two new arrivals demanded their full attention. Hermione screamed when she saw the tall thin man with red eyes and almost no nose. Ron did not look much better, even though he did not scream.
A wild looking black haired woman that was beside Him laughed. "Let me take care of them, my Lord." She strode forward wand in hand, walking in front of her evil master before he could say anything.
"You are such a pest," Ginny said. "Inflecto!" A brownish spell shot from Ginny's wand straight for Bellatrix Lestrange's head.
The Death Eater quickly tilted her head and the spell went right past her ear. "Aww, you missed me, wittle giwl," she cackled in a fake baby voice before she gave an insane laugh. There was a muffled grunt from behind her.
As her head went backwards in laughter, Harry soundlessly shot the same spell at her, and hit her directly in the body. The laughter stopped as her body changed from soft skin to hard armor and shrank. Wanting to make sure they did not get away, Harry conjured a large glass bowl, upside down, over where Bellatrix had been standing. For good measure, he also cast an Unbreakable Charm on the glass.
Looking around, Harry saw that about twenty of the nearly fifty Death Eaters were down on the ground and would not be getting up anytime soon, as most of them seemed to have a pool of red fluid next to them. The rest of the Death Eaters were engaged in combat with the older students, a handful of other adults members, and four Aurors. As the foursome started weighing into the battle again, five squads of four Aurors each Apparated into the middle of the street. The battle was over less than a minute later.
Besides the usual questions of "Is anyone hurt?", "Do we have them all?", and "Is it secure?", Harry also heard, "I thought you said You-Know-Who was here, where is he?"
With a smile at he and his friend's good fortune, Harry walked over to the glass bowl that was about ten yards away to look at the answer to the last question. Looking through the glass, he saw a medium-sized brown scorpion and large black scorpion locked in mortal combat, each stinging the other. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron joined him in looking at the miniature fight under glass. The scene in front of them was like an accident, you did not really want to look, but your curiosity drove you to look anyway.
"You know, I do appreciate Bella's insanity; her laughter was just the opening I needed," Harry commented.
"True," Ginny agreed as she also watched the fight at her feet with a slight distaste for the bugs. "However, I appreciate Bella stepping in front of Voldemort and blocking his view. I'm not sure either one of us could have landed a spell on him otherwise."
"You were bloody lucky, Ginny!"
"I know the black one is bigger, but aren't the little brown ones supposed to be more venomous?" Ginny asked dispassionately.
"Yes," Hermione answered authoritatively, mesmerized by the ugly sight in front of her..
Harry removed the bowl. "Well, I suppose I should put them out of their misery." He picked up his right boot and ground the heel into the hard dirt crushing the two fighting scorpions. When he pulled his boot back, there were two smears of bugs on the ground; neither bug moved anymore. "Well, I'd say this calls for a celebration. The Butterbeer is on me in the Three Broomsticks!"
"Yeah, sounds good mate!" Ron shouted as an old wizard walked up.
"Mr Potter, are you all right? I heard Voldemort was here."
Harry looked at him, taking a couple of seconds to recognize the old wizard he had not seen for a few years. "Oh, Mr Dumbledore, sure, we're perfectly fine, not a scratch on us."
"If you don't mind me asking, what were you looking at on the ground?"
"Voldemort accidentally got transfigured and he didn't survive. You're welcome to change him back for the evidence, but I think this ends his reign of terror," Harry said proudly.
"Brilliant, Mr Potter, I knew you could do it!" Dumbledore shook Harry's hand.
"Thank you, sir, but Ginny did the harder part; it was definitely a team effort." Ginny blushed at Harry's praise, but she shook the old man's hand too.
"Excellent work, Miss Weasley. Well, I suppose I should change them back so we have the evidence of their death." Dumbledore pulled out his wand.
"Help yourself," Harry told him as he put his arm around Ginny's waist and started walking her towards their favorite Hogsmeade pub.
They had not taken more then five steps when they heard, "Reverto!" followed by the sound of someone vomiting.
"I suppose that wasn't a pleasant sight," Ron guessed as he walked hand-in-hand with Hermione, the "scene" taking place behind them.
"No, I suppose not, but you would think that at his age he would have guessed what he would get when he started with two squished bugs." Harry received multiple mutters of "True, true."
"What do you supposed the power he knows not was? I didn't see anything exceptional back there."
"What do you mean, Ginny?" Hermione's inquisitive nature showed itself.
"There was a prophecy," Harry explained. "It said that either Voldemort or I had to kill the other, and that I would have a power that he knows not."
"Hmm, well, I agree with Ginny. What was the power?" Ron queried.
"Not sure," Harry answered, "but I'd say that a pissed off girlfriend might be a good guess."
"Harry!" Ginny roared and glared at him.
"What? You were pissed off, weren't you?"
"Well, yeah, they were ruining our date, but still, you didn't have to say it that way," she told him with another glare.
"Oh right, sorry. Well, how about I make it up to you later, we could find a nice quite place and…"
"Harry!" Ron shouted, interrupting his friend. "I'm her brother and I do not want to hear anything like that."
They had come to the pub, although it was questionable as to how long it would take before they were served, as everyone seemed to be out in the street looking at the aftermath of the fight.
"Like I said, Ron. All the Butterbeer and food you want this afternoon, and it's all on me."
"Yes!" Ron shouted as he dragged Hermione inside, his objection from a few seconds ago already forgotten.
"And as for you," Harry stopped talking and put his lips to her ear and whispered.
Ginny giggled, shook her mane of hair, grabbed his face with her hands and kissed him hard. When she let him go, she saw a gob smacked look on his face, which made her laugh. "Yes!" she echoed her brother. "And I can't wait for tonight. Come on, Harry, I need to eat so I'll have energy for that." She led him into the pub to join their friends.
Due to the new circumstances, no more Evil Overlord and his stupid Death Minions, Hogsmeade weekends were reinstated for third years and up. They also happened every other weekend.
The only thing that marred Harry and Ginny's school year was having to deal with everyone trying to congratulate them on their victory. They dealt with it the best they could, usually in secret corridors and dark alcoves, snogging until the well-wishers got tired of looking for them and went away.
As his epic task was complete, Harry took the summer off with no extra training. Of course, Ginny joined him. They spent most of the summer hanging out with school friends from their study group, as well as traveling around England on day trips just to have fun. Sometimes their friends, including Ron and Hermione, went with them, but most of the time it was just the two of them.
The summer also gave them time to see "family". It was pretty common for Harry and Ginny to spend one evening every couple of weeks at Cedric and Cho's flat. They had been married over Easter break a few months before. Harry and Ginny liked spending time with Cedric and Cho because they treated the younger couple like adults; they also treated the younger couple like real people and not celebrities.
The other "family" Harry and Ginny saw with regularity was Sirius and Remus. Those two were always amusing to be around, even more so now that they had started dating too. Remus seemed to be slowly getting to know Nymphadora Tonks, while Sirius's date seemed to change weekly. Harry was not sure how Sirius did that and he had no plans to find out; that would be asking for trouble in the form of great embarrassment. Dinner parties with the six of them were never boring.
The only unusual part of the summer was getting their letters from school. Both Harry and Ginny each had a special badge in their envelope, as well as a letter of congratulations from the Headmistress. She told them it was the first time since his parents that both the Head Boy and Head Girl were Gryffindors. Mrs Weasley was over the moon at her daughter's position.
Ginny was over the moon the day after her birthday, but for a different reason. Harry secretly took her to Paris for the day. Harry wished he could have come up with something more original, as he figured "everyone" did what he was about to do, but he could not come up with a better idea.
Harry bought a Portkey to Paris. They spent the afternoon walking around and enjoying the time together. They found a quaint little restaurant with patio seating and had a very nice dinner, which included a glass of wine -- the first for both of them. It was easy to eat in public here as they were not celebrities in France like they were back in their home country.
After Ginny swore she could not eat another morsel, Harry paid the bill and took her for a leisurely walk. It was not long before they came to the Eifel Tower, lit in bright lights in the early nighttime.
"Oh, it's so pretty. Can we go to the top? Please Harry?"
Harry smiled at her. "I could never deny my beautiful best friend such a simple pleasure." That was especially true since he had led her here on purpose.
"You prat, you're laying it on too thick," but she was smiling and dragged him forward. Harry pulled out some more Muggle money and paid for their vertical trip. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close during their short wait for the elevator. Before long, they took the elevator ride and were at the top.
Ginny raced over to the edge, laughing and dragging Harry with her. At the rail, she stopped and looked, stunned at the sight, not even realizing Harry had again wrapped her in his arms from behind. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Uh-huh," Harry agreed while rubbing his cheek on the side of her head, enjoying the smell of her hair. "But it's not as beautiful as you."
Ginny snorted. "Right. That was definitely over the top, but thank you anyway."
"No Ginny, I really mean it. Yes, it's beautiful up here. It's not as wonderful as flying, but the warm breeze and being this far up is wonderful. But it all pales next to you. You're so much more beautiful and wonderful. You're also funny and smart and just right for me. You're my best friend in the whole world and I love you so much I want that to never end."
Ginny twisted in his embrace and turned to him with a tear coming out of her right eye. "Oh, Harry, I love you too." She kissed him gently but with passion. As she pulled back, she told him. "Harry, you're my best friend too, and I know that will never end."
"That's what I want, too. Ginny, will you make me the luckiest man in the world and marry me?" he watched her eyes light up and she kissed him again; it was anything but gentle this time.
She squeezed him so tight it was hard to breath. "Yes, Harry, yes, yes, yes!" She loosened her hold and they both laughed together before they were back to kissing.
Eventually, they stopped long enough for Harry to pull a ring with a large diamond out of his pocket and put it on her finger. As it went on, it shrunk slightly to fit her finger perfectly. They stayed on top of the tower until it was time for their Portkey to take them home. Harry moved them to the shadows and they left from there.
They arrived in the back garden of the Burrow and almost fell down. It was hard to stay quiet and not laugh, but they managed. Since it was after midnight and all the lights in the house were out, the couple settled themselves in the hammock on the back porch and talked. They were so comfortable and enjoyed the time together so much, they eventually fell asleep there.
The next morning, Molly Weasley came downstairs to start breakfast, the sun not quite having risen yet. In the pale light, the dawn not far away, she noticed through her window that someone was on back porch in the hammock.
Drawing her wand, she stepped outside and saw Harry with her daughter curled up next him. They looked so cute that way, but it was still wrong. She was about to yell at the two, figuring a rude awakening would be the start of a good punishment, when she saw her daughter's left hand lying on the boy's chest. The engagement ring could not be missed. As much as she wanted to yell, she could not bring herself to. Molly returned into the house to prevent the sniffles that threatened to burst out of her from waking her "babies".
Inside, she sat down for a few minutes and quietly cried in joy. A part of her knew this was going to happen seven years ago when that wonderful little boy caught her daughter as she fell from the sky, but she had been afraid to think about it in more than dreams lest she jinx the idea.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, she got up and started fixing the best breakfast she could. She also had a small party to plan for tonight too. She would have to call Dee as soon as she knew Harry had told her so it could be a joint party. Oh, there was so much to do today and Molly knew she was going to love every second of it.
Harry finished the last of his NEWTs. He had to agree with the designation, they were nasty and exhausting. Fortunately, he was more than prepared. As he got up to turn his test in, Ginny joined him and turned hers in too; she had been done for several minutes. He really was not too bothered by the fact that his fiancée had actually finished a few points ahead of him; although, in the privacy of his own mind, the competitive part of him wished he had finished first in his class. The fact that he even got second was due to all the extra tutoring he had received over the summers for his fated task.
"I'm glad that's over," Ginny told him after they had walked out the door.
"Yeah, me too. Too bad for the rest of them didn't have our extra training to make it easier." They both chuckled.
"They didn't have your prophesied task either," Ginny pointed out.
Harry nodded soberly. "So now what?"
"I think…" she pretended to ponder the question, "a nice shady tree by the lake until dinner."
"You wish is my command, milady." He led her outside into the warm air and sunshine. The clouds were few but large and fluffy.
"Just think, we get a month off before we start our new jobs," she said wistfully as they walked.
Harry snorted. "If that's the most important thing on your mind, then I need to take you to St Mungo's." She laughed, which Harry loved to hear.
"Of course not, my husband-to-be. I'm just thinking of our future from your perspective."
"Uh-huh, right. So I should think of the future from your perspective then?" She nodded. "OK, then it's one month until training camp starts so you can fly before all the cheering crowds as Puddlemere's most beautiful Chaser, enjoying me watching you while I fly around looking for the Snitch," he told her with a smirk.
"Git!" She slugged him. "You know that is not the most important thing on my mind! We've only got a little over one week before that event."
"Oh, that event!" She tried to slug him on the arm again, but he dodged and he grabbed her in a tight hug so she couldn't swing again. When she glared at him, he kissed her. She pretended to spit something out, as if she had eaten something distasteful. When she quit mocking the kiss, he kissed her again; it was a game they had play many times over the year -- a school year which had been nearly picture perfect.
When she smiled at him, he kissed her with purpose. "Just think, nine mornings from now, we can wake up together every morning."
She melted into him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Umm, I like that thought." Her expression turned impish. "Of course, I also like the thought of what we'll do eight nights from now, when we can always go to bed with one another."
He growled at her. "Don't remind me. It was hard enough to abstain this past year, especially with our own rooms."
"Tell me about it." She pulled back from the embrace and they finished walking the last little bit to their favorite tree. "Harry, what do you want to do after Quidditch? That career won't last forever."
He sat down and pulled her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her. "I don't know, Ginny. I only know that as long as you're near, I'll be happy. As long as you're there when I come home at night. As long as you're there to help me raise our children. As long as you're with me as we grow old together, then it will be fine."
She leaned against him and almost purred, "I love you, Harry."
"I love you too, Ginny."
Fate decided she had had enough work for the day, well for what she called a day. Her time had no real measure of meaning to those she affected so much. Her feet were tired and her brain hurt, and she decided she needed a nice comforting story to veg with for awhile. There was one she liked more than about any other.
Walking over to the shelf of orbs, she picked up the glass ball that was used to record what happened to one particular set of circumstances. There were a number of people on the little planet she enjoyed watching and for whom she recorded their lives to watch later, but this one was probably her favorite. The orb in hand, she went to her relaxation room and put the orb into the projector. Turning, she went to her favorite chair and sat, putting her tired feet up. With a wave of her hand, a white mist coalesced and became a large mug of steaming hot chocolate. She had to hand it to those people, this was an excellent and comforting drink.
With a wave of her hand, the story started, displayed on the large wall across from her. She took a sip and started to relax. Another wave of her hand caused the story to jump to the last year. It had been a while since she had watched this person and his friends. Ah yes, the big fight. That had been so fun to watch; she had not even had to interfere. She sped the story up a bit to catch up with what had been going on, while she thought back.
She had interfered in this life. The changes to the event-line had been small, but she had made them. This sort of thing was her job, to make this part of the universe work properly -- to keep it in balance. Unfortunately for her, she had had to interfere. She tried not to interfere too much in any one life.
It had all started many of their years ago when she allowed a prophecy to happen. The first mistake had been that she had let it happen without controlling the words. She had a good excuse as there was a revolution in a small country on the other side of the world, and if she had not tweaked things there, then it would have had global ramifications. She could only be one place at a time and had to choose; that was life sometimes. Because of that, she let the prophecy go through without checking the wording carefully -- oh the horror! To complicate matters, the person who heard the prophecy did not tell some people who he should have. Whether that was a flaw in him or a side-effect of the poorly worded prophecy, she was not totally sure, but her favorite theory was it had been caused by both problems together.
When she realized what had happened, she studied everything very carefully. She could not change the past, but she could tweak the present to affect the future. By the time her research was complete, the subject was an orphan. It was sad, but then again, there are hundreds of orphans created every day all around her world. The problem was this orphan would have a global effect. Part of her research was to consider what could happen in various scenarios, imaging a future based on events was within her power.
Deciding the future that was on her screen now was probably the best one, she had made two small tweaks. First, she made a small change at a house to what the man would call a spell. Second, she caused the man to forget to do a task and to cast an small extra spell he had not originally intended to do. In many ways, she was saddened to have picked this event-line as the subject would be hurt many times early in its life, but she had picked this one because in the long run, it was the best for the subject and for the world. And Fate always had her eye on the long run where global events were concerned.
There had been a third tweak years later, she suddenly remembered. The subject needed to relearn his life quickly. A little extra memory retention and intelligence had been easy to do. The result had been tear-jerkingly beautiful, as evidenced by the scene on the display wall in front of her.
She watched the subject sit under a tree and have an intimate conversation with his favorite person in the world. Her eyes grew misty in happiness. With another wave of her hand, time sped up on the recording and came to the present. With tears in her eyes, she watched the two little people wed; they were so happy, the people around them were happy. Fate was so happy she cried with the mother of the bride.
Fate considered making a tweak right then, even though she was off the clock, but she stopped herself. There was no need to make sure they conceived tonight, there was no need to give the girl something to take forward as the boy would be with her for many of their years to come. A chuckle at the thought of them conceiving tonight helped her push past her moment of happy tears as she considered that might be cruel to them anyway, considering how fertile the girl was. No, she would let them go their own way. They were fine now and this part of the world was once again in balance; she had ensured that.
A shudder came over Fate as she thought about some of the other event-lines she had researched, or even the event-line that would have occurred with no tweaks at all, that would have been one of the worst outcomes actually. The boy would have be very alone and not known love until almost too late. He would have had to face horrible monsters like giant spiders, soul-sucking demons, and a big nasty snake many times his size. Oh, how she hated snakes. While he would have had some friends, they would have been far fewer then he had now, he would not have had a family, more people around him would have died, and the mentors who affected his life the most would most have been from "vile and nasty" to "well-meaning and somewhat manipulative" and unable to understand the boy as he really was. They would have basically used him and not told him everything he needed to know until almost too late. No, it was much better with her tweaks.
Fate smiled as she watched him run across her display wall with his new bride and a happy future on the horizon. She would check on them again in a few of their years when she needed a good emotional boost. Fate was quite happy about how things had turned out. They could have turned out worse, much worse.
((A/N: As you can tell, I messed with the overall plot, swinging it massively one way at the beginning and then overly far back the other way for the school years. One of the interesting things I found as I wrote this story was that by taking care of 1 problem "early", then almost all the other problems for that year went away. So what was I lampooning? Yeah, it's pretty easy to tell now, isn't it:-) My next story should start coming out in about a month. -- kb))