Harry's Future, part 2
Harry was sitting in his accustomed place for a warm summer day at the Burrow. A comfortable if somewhat worn chaise lounge was positioned to catch the morning and early afternoon sun but avoid the more intense late afternoon heat. After the first two weeks at his new 'home' Doctor Elsewhere from St. Mungo's had been out to see him and was satisfied enough with Harry's recovery that he allowed him an hour in the morning and again in the afternoon for walks in the fields and nearby woods but at a measured pace and no extracurricular activities. He was still strictly forbidden to fly his broom or engage in any manner of magic. In fact, his wand, which he hadn't seen since his collapse, had been 'confiscated' and was being held in trust by persons unknown, according to Mrs. Weasley. Harry suspected that it was safely locked away in Dumbledore's office. Truth be told, he wasn't particularly concerned about it. It would only be a temptation if it was around and he was honest enough with himself to know where he stood where temptations were concerned.
So Harry sat and rested after his latest afternoon walk, the sun just passing behind a large tree on the edge of the garden so that cooling shade was now enveloping his chair. With his eyes closed he could hear the rustling of the garden gnomes in the hedges on the garden perimeter and the swooshing of Ginny zipping back and forth over the fields surrounding the Burrow. Harry's Firebolt was likewise under wraps to avoid any interruptions in his recovery. As promised, Harry was prepared to get Ginny a new broom to replace the one lost to the school 'goon' squad. After several days of intense negotiations, Harry finally persuaded Ginny that it was okay to accept such an expensive present based on 'accumulated past opportunities lost'. Harry was especially proud of this line of reasoning. They had agreed on a Nimbus 2001, the same type that Harry had lost to the Whomping Willow several years ago. It was still a top notch broom outclassed only by the Firebolt that Harry owned and the rumored Firebolt II, "Potter Special Edition" that was due for release early next year. Harry was a bit dubious about the rumor since no one had come to him to ask for permission to use his name but he wasn't going to worry about it at this point. All he had to do was close his eyes and remember the look on Ginny's face when the new broom arrived and the long breathless dissertation she delivered on the broom's virtues after her first long test flight.
The last swish was lower and louder followed by a rustle of grass as she brought the broom in for a landing. She rushed over and knelt on the grass next to Harry. Her face was flushed and her smile was broad.
"Oh, Harry. I just can't get over how great this broom is. It's so fast and turns on a knut. I almost threw myself off twice," She was laughing.
Harry chuckled and added,
"Don't let your mum hear that. But I know what you mean; I almost came adrift a few times on mine."
"The thing is, Harry, it's fun zipping and zooming around but it's not really helping me get ready for this year's team. I need to be working with a quaffle. I had so hoped you'd be able to practice with me."
"Yeah, it has been pretty inconvenient. I can't even stand on the ground and throw you the quaffle, you'd be too low. If I could use magic it would be easy but….wait a minute, I've had a thought."
He looked toward the house and said,
"Kreacher, I need to speak to you, please."
There was a pop as the house elf appeared at Harry's side.
"Yes, Master Harry. What may Kreacher do for Master Harry?"
"Kreacher, I'd like you to help me with something if you would. I want to help Ginny practice for Quidditch but since I can't fly or use magic to toss the quaffle high enough I can't do much. Would you mind using your magic to throw the ball high enough so Ginny can practice catching and throwing it while flying."
"Kreacher has never done such a thing before but as the red haired one named Ginny is special to Master Harry, Kreacher will do as asked. When the young mistress is ready?"
"Thanks, Kreacher. Thanks, Harry," Ginny said as she bounced up, planted a kiss on Harry's cheek and then mounted her broom and zoomed into the afternoon sky.
With a wave of his long fingered hand Kreacher sent the battered quaffle zooming into the air. Ginny was a red tipped blur as she pursued and captured the large ball. For the next two hours, with suggestions from Harry and his own developing sense of how this part of the game was played, Kreacher had the ball zipping around the sky, putting Ginny through a rigorous work out. She finally came in for a landing as the sun was just beginning to touch the horizon. Her face was flushed but she was grinning from ear to ear.
"Wow, that's the best work out I think I've ever had, Harry. Thank you so much, Kreacher. You really had me working up there. Budge up there, Harry. I need to sit down."
"Kreacher is pleased to have been of service to Mistress Ginny. If Master Harry has no need of Kreacher now may Kreacher return to helping Mrs. Weasley?"
"Of course, Kreacher. Thank you very much. Maybe we'll do some more tomorrow."
"As Master Harry wishes," Kreacher replied then he bowed a bit to Ginny. "Mistress Ginny."
"Kreacher, you don't have to call me Mistress, you know," Ginny said.
"Kreacher also practices for the future," and he disappeared.
Ginny giggled and flushed. Harry smiled at what Kreacher had implied. He looked at Ginny as she perched on the edge of the chaise lounge and nodded slightly at the thought. He shifted sideways a bit more and he gave Ginny a gentle tug by the hand so that she slipped down to lie cuddled up at his side. Her flaming red hair was pressed against his cheek with her head resting on his shoulder. Harry thought he could easily go through life like this.
"Promise me something, Harry."
"Whatever happens to us in the future, we'll always take time to do this. Just be together somewhere quiet."
They rested there a few more minutes and then heard Mrs. Weasley call them into dinner. Ginny was the first to rise. She did so a little slowly as the fatigue of her workout began to settle in. She offered Harry her hands and helped pull him up off the lounge chair. Hand-in-hand they walked into the house that meant home to Harry now and for the rest of his life.
Much of the summer passed in similar fashion. Harry went on his morning and afternoon walks, always with Ginny, sometimes with Ron, Bill or some other member of the Weasley clan along. Bill would take these opportunities to discuss his ideas for the coming year with Harry and by the end of July they had a very comprehensive plan of study drawn up for Professor McGonagall's review. Two events of note did take place that altered the status quo if only for a short time. The first was during the fourth week after the closing of school. Visitors arrived at the Burrow in a most unusual fashion, by car. Around midday on Wednesday of the week a small four door sedan drove down the dirt road that led to the Burrow and pulled to a halt in front. The first out was none other than Hermione Granger who bolted from the rear seat behind the driver and rushed to meet those who gathered at the front door at the sound of the approaching vehicle. She flew into Harry's arms and nearly knocked him off his feet. She was crying and laughing at the same time and managed to stutter out how glad she was to see him looking so well and thanking him for helping her bring her parents home.
Speaking of parents, Mr. and Mrs. Granger, the husband and wife dentists, emerged from the car and slowly proceeded up the walkway in their daughter's tumultuous wake. Mrs. Weasley came forward and gave each of them a hug, having met them several times over the past seven years on buying trips to Diagon Alley just before the start of new school years. By this time Ginny and Hermione were exchanging embraces and Mrs. Weasley took charge by shooing them all indoors. They moved into the kitchen since it provided the most number of seats in the smallish house. Before settling at the table Mr. and Mrs. Granger both took the opportunity to thank Harry for his generosity. Mr. Granger was first.
"Thank you, Harry. I'm not sure what to say but after what Hermione has told us, about all you went through and then to help us like this, thank you is about all I can think of." He looked a little embarrassed.
"That's right, Harry," Mrs. Grainger added, "but I can add this."
She then stepped forward and wrapped Harry in a hug and whispered in his ear. She then released him and stepped back smiling. Harry's face had gone red but he was smiling as well.
"Your thanks are more than enough, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. That money was worth very little compared to what Hermione has given me over the years with her friendship and support. I doubt I'll ever be able to repay her for that, but this was a good start. It's good to see you home."
Mrs. Weasley, who was near to bursting with motherly pride for her 'adopted' son, said,
"Yes, well, let's all sit down and have some refreshments and you can tell us all about your adventure in bringing them home, Hermione. I think I'll send messages to Mr. Weasley and Ron, they'll want to be here too I suspect, especially Ron."
The last was said with a wink toward Hermione, who went bright red in the face. Everyone laughed. It was for Harry a very happy afternoon. Hermione regaled them with the story of her flight to Australia, removing the spell from her parents and the long explanation about how they got there and why. Next came several weeks to wrap up their affairs in their temporary home and arrange for the flight home and then several more days to get things back to normal at their real home. Hermione then sat both embarrassed and gratified at everyone's comments about how resourceful and clever she was to have protected her parents so well. She lost control for a moment when Harry added quietly, as he often did at his most serious,
"One thing I know and will never forget. I never would have made it without Hermione, especially this last year. She's just as responsible for Voldemort's defeat as I ever was."
With tears in her eyes she bolted up from her seat and ran over and pulled Harry into a hug as he sat next to Ginny who put her arms around both Harry and Hermione.
"Well," said Mr. Granger. "Whatever else this demon may have done, it appears he helped forge some lifelong friendships." This was greeted with universal agreement.
By mid afternoon, the messages had been received and Ron, Mr. Weasley and Percy had arrived. Bill sent back that he and Fleur would be able to make it in time for dinner. Within moments Ron and Hermione were sitting off in a corner alone becoming reacquainted and Mr. Granger was giving Mr. Weasley a tour of his car, the wizard dad having lost none of his enthusiasm for muggle gadgetry. Since the number of people had grown to exceed the capacity of the kitchen, dinner that evening was set up in the yard under a warm summer evening sky, much as it had several years ago before the Quidditch World Cup match. Bill, Fleur and George arrived in time for dinner and it was the happiest time they had all had in quite awhile.
Another major event of that summer occurred the following week and was not nearly as upbeat but just as important. A visitor arrived dressed in the garb of a St. Mungo's wizard and announced he was there to see Harry at the request of the Hospital's chief administrator at the suggestion of the Acting Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"My name is Dr. Medford. I'm the head of the Neurological Studies Department at St. Mungo's. I'm here to help Harry deal with his dreams. He should be nearing the end of his use of Professor Slughorn's potion and we must find a more permanent solution. May I see him?"
"Yes, indeed, Doctor," Mrs. Weasley replied nervously, "he's resting in the back yard. If you'd follow me, please? The healer followed Mrs. Weasley through the house and out into the backyard. Ginny and Harry were sitting at a small table playing a game of cards. Since even Exploding Snap was considered a prohibited activity under the 'No Magic' orders, Harry had taught Ginny how to play Gin Rummy. She was a quick study and was in the process of giving Harry a right drubbing. Mrs. Weasley introduced the healer to Harry and Ginny and then shooed Ginny into the house, the both of them looking rather apprehensive.
Harry looked at the healer. He was a tall thin man, well into his sixties. His thin gray hair was cut short and revealed a great deal of his scalp. His eyes were likewise gray and very serious. The healer returned his gaze and gave a small half smile.
"Harry, I'm here to help you get your dreams under control. Since your collapse you've been relying on the potion provided by Professor Slughorn. It's a good remedy in the short term but you can't rely on it forever. It will become less effective over time and can have some unpleasant side effects if used too much. Not the least of which is the loss of dreams altogether. We need to have dreams now and again, Harry. They have many benefits. Now, first things first. Please describe for me in detail the dream you had the night of your collapse."
Harry paused, took a deep breath and then recalled as best he could the scenario that had played out in his subconscious mind that fateful night. The healer listened carefully but said nothing. When Harry was done the wizard then said,
"Now, please describe, as best you can recall, what actually happened."
Harry then proceeded to describe the actual events of the day Voldemort was overthrown. The healer nodded here and there, his eyes never leaving Harry's face. When Harry concluded Doctor Medford nodded once, then closed his eyes and remained so for several minutes. When he opened them he reached forward and placed his hand on the side of Harry's head, his thumb on Harry's temple and his fingertips at the back of the skull. Harry could hear him mumbling something under his breath and felt a tingle in his scalp. The healer's eyes opened and he pulled back his hand. He again nodded to himself and said,
"Here is what I believe happened, Harry, and will happen again if we don't fix things. I am well aware of your association with the one named Riddle. While you have been convalescing here with the Weasleys I have been conducting a great deal of research, interviewing friends of yours, members of the faculty and staff at Hogwarts, including a very revealing afternoon with the portrait of Albus Dumbledore."
Harry started at the naming of his lost mentor.
"Oh, yes, Harry. It has been a busy few weeks for me, but glad I am to have had the chance. So, here we are. When you were first attacked by Riddle when you were but a year old, the ancient magic invoked by your mother's selfless sacrifice to try, and succeed, in saving you not only crushed Riddle into near nothingness, it imparted a piece of him into you. I know you are aware of this since you came to understand you were his last Horcrux. So you shared in some of Riddle's powers, such as being a Parseltongue as well as being able to see into his mind as had happened on occasion. You also shared in his strength. It is my understanding Harry that you are regarded by your instructors and your mentor, Dumbledore, as one of the most gifted wizards in many, many years. This is a result no doubt of your being born of two very gifted wizards in their own right, but bolstered by the effects of the run in with Riddle."
Harry was shocked at this assessment and it showed on his face.
"Do not doubt this, Harry. All the signs were there for anyone to see if they hadn't all been distracted by the events that surrounded you."
"I don't understand, Dr. Medford. So much of what I did was from luck or from someone else doing things for me." Harry was thinking of the interference during the TriWizards cup in particular.
"No, Harry. In the end, all of those things occurred through you. It was the execution of those many difficult tasks that demonstrated your abilities. Perhaps they even helped polish those skills. Adversity is often the best teacher. But nonetheless, part of that power was Riddle's, torn from him and deposited in you at that fateful moment almost seventeen years ago. But to the point; part of what Riddle was, a very small part, rests with you still."
Once more Harry started horrified by the thought that some vestige of the most evil wizard in memory could still be alive in him.
"Calm yourself, Harry. As I said, it is a small part. When I had my hand on your head I was searching for it. It took some time for as I said it was very small and hiding away, deep in your subconscious. Much too small to be able to affect you during your waking hours but just enough to seek to harm you when you are most vulnerable, when you are asleep. The potion blocks it from doing any harm, but as I said earlier, for other reasons you must stop using the potion. It is this little part of Riddle that I believe caused your dream, Harry. It twisted what was real into what it wanted to be real, to hurt you in the only way it could. I had my suspicions but my examination has confirmed them. What we will do is work so that you will be able to use your remarkable strength of self and will power to take control even as you sleep and conquer what is left of Riddle. Do you understand me?"
"Are you saying I have to kill Voldemort all over again, in my mind?"
"Not kill, Harry, defeat. What is left of Riddle is a thought, a remnant of mind, not unlike the sixteen year old essence that had been left in that old school book. Yes, Harry, I know about all your adventures," the older man said with a smile. "It can't be killed as such but defeated, diminished and locked away so that it can't come out to cause you anymore trouble."
"Yes, sir, I think I understand."
"Very good. The first step will be for you to spend some time during each of the next three days, replaying the actual events and the nightmare events in your mind. I know it may be unpleasant for you, Harry, but it's very necessary. You must fix very firmly in your mind the differences. What are the things that Riddle is trying to change so that he can punish you for destroying him. I will be back on the fourth day and we will begin the actual treatment. Can you do that?"
"Yes, sir, I can."
"Good man. Then I will leave you here. I wish to take my leave of Mrs. Weasley and I will see you in four days time."
Doctor Medford stood up and offered Harry his hand. Harry stood and shook it and watched the healer walk away and into the house. One thing that hadn't changed in all this time was Harry's curiosity. He walked quietly up to the door and tried to hear anything that was said,
"Thank you for coming, Doctor. We all appreciate what you're trying to do for Harry."
"It is my privilege, Mrs. Weasley. He is a truly remarkable young wizard. There is a great deal of power there but also an incredible strength of will. It really is no surprise that he's endured all he has. I dare say most others would have broken. He puts me in mind of Albus Dumbledore in that respect."
Harry almost fell over backward when he heard that.
"Yes, Doctor, we've always thought there was something special about him. We'll look forward to seeing you in a few days then."
He was slowly walking back towards the table when Ginny came quietly out of the door and walked up next to him and took his hand in hers. He looked over at her and smiled a bit.
"Would you like to take our walk now, Harry?"
"Hmm, yes, a good idea."
Ginny smiled back but she was a very insightful young lady and she knew this would be a silent walk. At dinner that night Bill and Fleur were there. With some prodding from Ginny, Harry revealed the details of his discussion with the Doctor. When he was done Fleur reached across the table and took his hand,
"Mon dieu, even dead, that 'orrible creature reaches out to torment our brave 'arry. Weell eet never end?"
"Doctor Medford believes it will, Fleur. He's sure he can show me how to bottle him up and stick him away so that he can't do me any more harm. There might even be some justice in it really. A little bit of him tucked away, knowing he's beaten, watching as we live happier lives and there isn't a thing he can do to ruin it," and he smiled a little.
Fleur squeezed his hand tighter and smiled at him through watery eyes. They finished their meal and Harry excused himself saying he needed to start preparing for when the healer returned. He went up to the bedroom he was sharing with Ron and stretched out on the bed. With his eyes closed he began to recall the actual events of that momentous day only a few weeks past, trying to recall exactly what was said, who said it, where people were and what things they did. Considering his condition at the time he was surprised at how the details seemed to fill themselves in, perhaps having been stored in some part of his subconscious mind waiting for recall. Once he was comfortable with the idea that he had things pretty well set he began the unpleasant task of calling up what he could remember of the nightmare. How Neville had been destroyed, the evil beings flooding the grounds, the damage to the castle and helpless rage as he tried to convince everyone he was dead. The effort left him in a cold sweat. He opened his eyes to see that night had fallen. He stood up and made his way to the window to catch a breath of the warm night air scented with flowers and see the stars shining so brightly. He could hear that Bill and Fleur were still downstairs and that Mr. Weasley and Percy had arrived from the Ministry. He took a further deep breath and left the room and went downstairs.
"Hello, Harry," Mr. Weasley called out. "Everything alright?"
"Yes, sir. I was just working on what Dr. Medford wanted me to do. Recalling the nightmare left me a little out of sorts. I thought I'd come down before Bill and Fleur left. I don't think I'd want to go to sleep right after all that."
"A very good idea, Harry."
Harry took a seat next to Ginny who pulled his arm around her shoulder and pushed in close to him to offer her support. Fleur came over and sat down next to him and took his free hand in both of hers and gave him a small smile. Bill looked at Harry and a smirk creased his scarred face,
"If any of your school mates could see you now, Harry, they'd be burning up with envy."
Fleur and Ginny looked at each other, laughed and then each planted a big kiss on Harry's cheeks. He turned bright red, prompting laughter from everyone in the room. They passed a couple of pleasant hours chatting about a number of things, including progress at the Ministry, ideas for Bill and Harry's teaching plans and Ginny's increasing skill level as a chaser.
"Between the Nimbus 2001 and the way Kreacher has me flying all across the sky I think I should be in great shape for the start of term. You know, Harry, if Kreacher winds up following you to Hogwarts, he could really help out with team practices you know. He's developing a real knack for making you stretch that little extra to make plays."
"I hadn't really thought about that, Ginny. I don't even know if I'm allowed to have a house elf at school. Guess I'll have to send an owl to Professor McGonagall and ask about it."
Bill and Fleur finally had to leave for the evening. Bill shook Harry's hand and said he was going to drop by a packet later in the week for him to go over and Fleur gave him her now customary embrace and kiss on the cheek.
"Sleep well, mon ami," she said by way of farewell.
Ginny watched this with a curious expression on her face. As the rest of the family began to make their way to their respective rooms, Ginny took hold of Harry's hand and held him back. He turned to face her with a questioning glance.
"Harry, I know I don't have anything to worry about and Fleur is completely devoted to Bill, but I can't help wonder about how she's been behaving towards you in the past weeks. I mean I know you were on good terms after the tournament and all but…"
Harry smiled at the redheaded beauty that stood in front of him and he pulled her toward him and held her tight. He then proceeded to explain to her what Fleur had revealed to him on that fateful night. How ashamed she had been at how she treated Harry, about how she had come to admire him and in a way come to accept him as family and as a friend.
"I think Fleur is one of those people that once she takes you in there's no half way. I think there's a very strong mothering instinct there, too. I'm a very lucky fellow, I think. I lost my real mother before I knew her and I grew up an orphan in a family I can't ever really think of as family. Now, I have the girl of my dreams, a big sister who would probably fight a dementor for me and the best mum around."
Harry felt Ginny's grip on him intensify and her body shudder a bit. When he felt her relax he pushed her back to arms length so he could look into her face. Her eyes were misted and her chin trembled a bit.
"I hope those are happy tears."
She nodded her head vigorously, pulled him to her for one more hug then hand-in-hand they went up the stairs, he to his room, and she to hers.
Over the next three days Harry took time to do more of the memory recall and by the third day he was sure he could pick out who was wearing what and exactly what had been said at any point in both the real event and the nightmare. On the morning of the fourth day, Dr. Medford had arrived at the front door of the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley led him into the kitchen where Harry sat at the table with Ginny helping Mrs. Weasley prepare vegetables for the evening dinner. Harry knew this was busywork to keep him occupied until the healer had arrived.
"Good morning, Harry. Are you ready?"
"I think so, sir. I have the details of both scenarios pretty well fixed in my mind like you said."
"Very good. What do you say we go out into the yard? It's fairly quiet and comfortable and that will help make it easier to do what we need to get done."
Harry stood and led the way out into the yard. The healer indicated he should use the chaise lounge. Harry did so and lay back, his hands folded at his waist. Doctor Medford pulled up another old chair and sat next to him.
"Alright, Harry. Now, the basic idea is for you to take the image of what you know actually happened and superimpose it on the nightmare that you had. In order to do that you have to actually experience the nightmare. I know it won't be pleasant but it is necessary. I can help you do that. I will help you slip into a sleep like state. Then I will help trigger the nightmare."
"Is this like hypnosis?"
"On the surface it does appear similar, Harry. But what the muggles call hypnosis puts you in the hands of the hypnotist. What we are doing puts, or hopes to put, you in control. You must experience the nightmare yet become separate from it. You must observe it from outside. When you can do that, you can then take the image of reality and force it into the nightmare. Replace the false with the true. Do you understand?"
"I think so."
"Alright, Harry. Now close your eyes and relax. Trust me and trust in yourself that no harm can befall you here."
The healer reached out and placed his hand alongside Harry's head as he done several days earlier. Harry could feel a different kind of tingle this time and he felt himself beginning to drift as if he had no weight. He could hear a faint murmur on the edge of hearing but he couldn't understand any of it. The darkness behind his eyes began to lighten and once again he was on the ground in the dark forest and he was being picked up by Hagrid. As he watched the scenario unfold he remembered that he needed to step outside the dream, to watch it and not to be part of it. It was not easy for as he tried to step away something tried to pull him back. But he was proving the stronger and by the time his limp form was laid out in front of the school his view was actually from behind and above as if a part of him was floating in the air or more likely hovering on his broom. He began to gather himself to push this nightmare aside in favor of what he knew to be real when he was suddenly struck from behind by something hard and hot. He felt himself plummeting to the ground. He started awake before he hit. He felt damp and clammy and then he turned to look at Doctor Medford.
"Tell me what happened, Harry."
"Things started out the way I remembered and I remembered what you said about having to observe the dream, not participate, so I started to pull away and I could feel something tugging at me to keep me in the dream. I just kept pulling and eventually I got to where I was above and behind Voldemort's forces. It was like I was floating or maybe hovering on my broom. Then I got hit hard from behind by something hot and I started to fall. I woke up before I hit the ground."
"Interesting. Actually Harry, you've had a very good start. That you were able to separate your consciousness from your dream so well on the first attempt is quite remarkable. As to what happened I think the first was that the remnant of Riddle was attempting to hold you in the nightmare. Obviously he wasn't successful. The second appears to be this. While you were able to become an observer within the dream, that wasn't sufficient. You were likely hit by a fireball or similar spell thrown by one of Riddle's supporters in the dream. You must take yourself completely outside it as if you were watching a performance. I'd say a play perhaps but that's not quite right since you are still in the audience near to the action." The healer groped for the proper analogy.
"I think you mean like a television show or movie. What's going on happened somewhere and somewhen else and you're just watching a recording of it."
"Precisely, Harry. Very good. Do you think you can do that?"
"I think so, sir."
"Excellent, let's try again."
Once more Harry laid back on the lounge and closed his eyes. He felt the healer's touch and the faint tingle and heard the murmur. Once more the darkness behind his eyes lifted and as it started to come into focus Harry concentrated on the idea of watching a TV show as if it was on the big set in the living room of the Dursleys' house those times he would sneak down and watch from the hallway. The image in the dark forest came into focus but appeared further away and as if from behind a sheet of glass, as if it was on a TV screen. He watched as he was lifted up and carried to the front of the castle and as the bogus confrontation began with the death and destruction, a show he knew the Dursleys' would never allow in their oh-so-proper home. Harry knew he needed to change the scene to make it the real one. But how? Then it struck him. What did Uncle Vernon do at a time like this? It was so simple Harry laughed inside his head. His observer self walked into the spectral living room, approached the TV he was never, ever allowed to come near and simply changed the channel. He saw the screen flicker and the image changed several times until it came to rest on the all news channel. He called up what he knew happened that day and the flickering screen settled on the front of the castle again and Harry watched briefly to assure himself that Neville did receive the sword and the people did come out of the town and the forces of Voldemort were defeated. Then with a little smile he switched off the set. As he began to emerge from the dream state he thought he heard an ever so faint howl of frustration but it faded before he could be sure.
"Harry, how did it go this time? I felt some strange sensations and couldn't quite follow what was happening."
Harry explained how he put together the visualization of watching the TV show and changing the channel and then switching off the set. He saw the older man's face slowly shift into a smile, then a chuckle and then a full loud laugh.
"That was brilliant, Harry. Your life as a muggle provided you with the perfect analogy to handle a quite complex situation in a very simple manner. I was expecting to spend hours trying to walk you through this step by step. I fully expect we are done with this, but in case I am wrong, when you sleep tonight make sure you remember you can take control of your subconscious mind this way and prevent any further disturbances."
"Thank you, Doctor Medford."
As Harry and Doctor Medford stood up, Mrs. Weasley and Ginny came out into the yard. They both looked anxious.
"No need to worry, ladies. This remarkable young man has done in a matter of moments what I thought would take hours. I suspect he's got the situation fully under control. If I'm in error and you need me, just send a message to St. Mungo's and I will be right here."
"Thank you, Doctor," replied Mrs. Weasley.
"Yeah, thanks, Dr. Medford. I appreciate everything you've done."
"You're welcome, Harry, but it's small recompense for what you have done for all of us. I'm only too glad to help and it's been a fascinating case to study as a healer as well."
With a wave he took a few steps away and then Disapparated. Ginny came over and gave Harry a hug.
"So you're all cured then, Harry?" she asked.
"Of the dreams, maybe, I'll find out soon enough. But as to the rest I doubt it and I'm not about to try and find that out until I get the all clear from St. Mungo's."
"Too right you aren't, young fellow me lad," admonished Mrs. Weasley. "As far as I'm concerned you are still under strict orders and nothing changes. No magic, no flying and no serious exertion. So go take your walk, you two and then come back for lunch."
Harry's mood was the best it had been in days. The young couple walked hand in hand along the dusty road leading away from the Burrow; they stopped to look at flowers or to watch as a rabbit darted across their path. They walked beneath the shade of tall trees and talked about small matters. They stopped to rest beneath a large oak tree, Harry sitting with his back to the tree, Ginny sitting in front of him with her back against his chest. They enjoyed this time in silence, wrapping themselves in the calm of a warm summer day far from any concern other than just being. Eventually Harry leaned forward and whispered in Ginny's ear,
"I think your mum will be expecting us back soon."
"Hmm, I suppose you're right. I am getting a bit hungry but it's just so peaceful here. But first things first, Mr. Potter."
"What's that, Miss Weasley?"
She pivoted about and when they came face to face she brought her lips to his and let them linger there for several long breathless moments. Harry was all too willing to return the favor and reveled in the sensations. Ginny broke the contact reluctantly and then slowly rose, offering her hands to help Harry up. They strolled along arm in arm at the same leisurely pace and had just come out onto the road again when Ginny let out with a contented little sigh.
"You know, Harry, I'm a very lucky girl."
"It's not every girl whose true love is also her hero."
"I'm your hero?"
"Well, of course you are. I bet you're a lot of people's hero. But you've been mine ever since that day in Slytherin's lair when you were ready to die to save me."
"Even when you were dating those other guys?"
"You dope, you know I was dating them because you couldn't make up your mind about, well, about anything. I was just biding my time is all."
"Well this hero stuff is all well and good but that sort of thing can go to a fellow's head. I would appreciate it if you keep an eye on me in the future and remind me of when the Famous Harry Potter is becoming the Fat Headed Harry Potter," the last was said with a smile.
"Hmm, seems to me I've missed my chance a few times then," she said with a laugh and then when she saw Harry's look of mock outrage she reached up to kiss him on the cheek. "Teasing you, silly."
"I should hope so," Harry said then laughed.
Nothing of any importance intruded on the extended Weasley family, including any nasty dreams, until the first weekend in July when Charlie Weasley paid his promised visit from Romania. He arrived early on Saturday morning and was greeted with hugs and handshakes all around. It so happened that Mr. Weasley and Percy were enjoying their first Saturday off since the defeat of Voldemort and with a quick message dispatched, Bill and Fleur were there by mid morning allowing for the whole family to be together with one notable but unremarked upon exception. Charlie filled them in on his plans to defend his grant application to the Ministry of Magic's Magical Creatures department on Monday morning and if accepted he would be coming home to England for an extended period. There was also some discussion as to the opportunities that may present themselves since the 'cleansing' of the Ministry had left vacancies in every department.
"That's a possibility, Dad, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. I'm still a field researcher at heart and still have enough body parts left to be able to enjoy my work."
The study of magical creatures was notoriously hard on the studier.
"Well, good luck to you anyway, son. It will be quite a feather in your cap one way or the other and it will be nice having you close to home for a while," Mr. Weasley said.
Charlie then turned to Harry.
"I must say, Harry, you are looking in far better condition then when I last saw you. It seems life in the Burrow agrees with you."
"It does, Charlie. It's been the very best time of my life. The only thing that could make it better would be being able to use my broom to practice with Ginny. But I know…" he started as he saw Mrs. Weasley's face start to cloud. "…that I can't do that until I'm recovered so I'm okay with it." He smiled at Mrs. Weasley who returned it with a slit eyed stare of warning.
"Yes, well, I can understand that. Um, Harry, I know I'm really stepping over the line but would you mind if I tried…" Charlie let the last trail off.
"Try my Firebolt? I'd be glad to, Charlie, but I have no idea where it is. I don't even know if it's here at the Burrow. I suspect it's locked up with my wand somewhere."
"It's ok, Harry. It's just I've heard such incredible things about them and I was hoping to try it out. Haven't had the chance to do any fancy flying since I left Hogwarts."
Harry recalled that on several occasions he was considered the equal or superior to the illustrious Charlie Weasley when it came to being a seeker. He could only give Charlie a sympathetic shrug.
"Oh, for goodness sake. You're both look like a couple of lost kittens," Mrs. Weasley burst out. She pulled out her well used wand and shouted,
To everyone's amazement, but no more so than Harry, the sleek broom came rushing out from behind the house and came to rest next to Mrs. Weasley.
"Alright, you listen to me, you two. I was given Harry's broom against the unthinkable possibility that some remaining Death Eaters or some such should attack Harry here at the Burrow and he would need to escape. The risk of injury in flying was considered less then him being cornered here. However, it was spelled so that only I could call it forth, as long as I was alive. If it's alright with Harry you can fly it Charlie but when we are done it goes away again. Understand?"
As Charlie took the current apex of broom technology into his burn scarred hands, Harry could only look on wistfully. With a lopsided grin Charlie mounted the broom and streaked skyward, hooting loudly. Ginny was still holding onto Harry's arm and looked at him questioningly.
"Go ahead, love of my life. Give your brother a run for his money."
He smiled at her lovingly. Ginny pulled out her wand and shouted, "Accio Nimbus" and in seconds her own sleek broom was in hand. She tucked away her wand and was soon rocketing skyward. The rest of the family settled down to watch as brother and sister chased each other across the sky. Charlie had lost little of his skill and the added boost from the Firebolt had him doing all manner of spectacular moves. Ginny was not far behind assisted by her lower body weight and reduced wind resistance. Out of no where a quaffle appeared in the sky and the two were soon racing about tossing and catching the ball with wild abandon. Harry looked over to see Kreacher standing in the doorway of the house watching the two aerialists intently. Occasionally he would flick a finger and the ball would change direction in mid flight causing the two to abruptly change trajectories and dash after the falling orb. Fleur had come over to sit next to Harry.
"You weesh you were up there weeth them, don't you, mon ami?"
Harry looked over at Fleur.
"Yes, I do but I know I can't be for some very good reasons so I'm content to watch Charlie and Ginny have some fun."
"Ah, 'arry. Are you sure there are no others like you at 'ome. I would weesh for a young man like you for my seester."
Harry blushed to the roots of his unruly hair and Fleur laughed and kissed his cheek. Bill could only laugh and roll his eyes at Harry. They all continued to watch Ginny and Charlie tear across the sky for another half hour. When they came in for a landing their faces were flushed but split with wide grins and Charlie was laughing.
"My God, Harry. I can't thank you enough for that. What an amazing ride. And Ginny, where did you learn to ride like that. I don't remember you being that quick and agile last year."
"Last year I didn't have a Nimbus 2001 or Kreacher zooming me all over the sky."
"You're going to be near to impossible to outfly in competition. You going out for the Gryffindor team, Harry?"
"Up in the air right now, Charlie. Opps, didn't mean it that way." Everyone was laughing at Harry's accidental pun. "I have to get cleared by St. Mungo's at the end of the summer to see how much I can do when I get back to school. I'd love to play though."
"Yes, well," Mrs. Weasley cut in. "Harry has a way to go yet and a good lunch is just what the healer ordered so if you'd all come with me we'll get it sorted out."
Everyone pitched in and soon they were all tucking in to an excellent lunch. When they were finished Harry sat at the table looking thoughtful.
"Something wrong, Harry?" asked Mr. Weasley.
"Not wrong, but I think I need to talk to you, Mr. Weasley, in private if you don't mind?"
"Of course, Harry. Come with me."
Harry followed Mr. Weasley outside and toward the ramshackle shed that served as his workshop. In simpler times this was where he would work on his muggle gadgets to find out how they worked and then 'enhance' them with spells, like the ill fated flying Anglia. He motioned for Harry to take a seat on a rickety old stool near the workbench. Mr. Weasley leaned against a cabinet and said,
"Okay, Harry. What was it you wanted to talk about?"
"Um, I'm not sure how to say this but you know how much I appreciate all you and Mrs. Weasley have done for me, almost from the very beginning. Now this. It's just that, well, I feel like I'm poncing and I can't even cheat because I don't have my wand or broom. I just lie around or go for walks and eat your food and don't give anything back. It's starting to bother me, I guess."
Mr. Weasley looked at Harry for a moment, his face somber. He let out a slow breath and then said,
"My first reaction, Harry, is to tell you that you're being ridiculous. That there isn't a family in the wizarding world that wouldn't bend over backwards to do for you what we are doing."
"Oh, I don't know, I can think of one or three at the moment," Harry said with a smirk.
"I meant families on the right side of the line, Harry. Be that as it may, it's not what I am going to say. I've know you long enough to know that you are incapable of claiming any privilege for yourself. We are both aware that your dad had some issues with ego when he was a young fellow but you never went in that direction. So I guess all this is hard for you to accept. But accept it you will, young man. You very nearly killed yourself to deliver us from the worst evil to come our way in ages. You need to heal and get well again. You have set a difficult path for yourself to become an Auror and continue to fight against the dark arts. So if you find it hard to accept the gratitude and love of those who care about you, perhaps you can accept the idea that you need to prepare yourself for the long, difficult road that you've set for yourself."
Mr. Weasley was standing across from Harry, his arms crossed, his expression serious.
"I didn't mean it that way, Mr. Weasley. I just feel so bloody useless."
"Harry, when are you going to get it into your head that you've been more useful in the last seven years, particularly this past year, than a dozen other wizards combined could hope to be in a lifetime. You deserve a little useless time and this is it. So I suggest you make the best of it because in a couple of months you are going to be up to your neck in work and looking back on this summer as the calm before the storm. So shake off whatever mood you're in and plan on having as good a summer as your situation allows. You are getting the same treatment as any one of my sons would get because that's how we feel about you around here. So, son, get up off your bum, and go back inside and act like a member of the family, which means eat too much and aggravate your mother, understood?"
"Yes, sir. I guess I am being a bit of a prat after all. I guess I'm just not used to being part of a real family."
He gave Mr. Weasley a little smile and walked out of the shed. Mr. Weasley watched him as he left, shaking his head, thinking about what a confused young man Harry could be.
As the weeks of July approached their end, and Harry's eighteenth birthday, an air of excitement began to build at the Burrow. Harry had a suspicion that the Weasleys' were planning something special for him and he was genuinely curious about what it would be and, he admitted to himself, happy that someone was preparing to make a fuss about it. Harry had not had much luck with birthdays in the past, thanks to the Dursleys. What did concern him was the idea that the Weasley's might be spending money they really couldn't afford. He would have to think of a way to repay them for all their kindnesses over the years without it causing friction between him and his 'adopted' parents. He would have to think on it.
One thing that Harry had noticed was a growing sense of restlessness. In the early phase of his recovery, his lack of energy made his restrictions easy to accept. But now as his health improved and some measure of vitally was making itself felt, he grew more restive. His walks were longer and he tended to move at a faster pace then Ginny thought was appropriate. Neither of them wanted it to become a source of discord so Ginny held back any comments and Harry found himself holding back which meant he didn't burn off the excess energy by days end. Sleep was a little harder to come by. Shortly before his birthday an answer of sorts presented itself. Harry received by school owl an envelope containing several sheets of parchment. One was a short message from Professor McGonagall wishing him good health and indicating that requirements for the NEWTs he would need had been reviewed and the books selected. The list of books, materials and supplies was enclosed. She wished him good luck for the remainder of the summer and she looked forward to his return to Hogwarts. He looked at the list and found it to be the most extensive he had ever seen. There were a full dozen books, an extensive list of potion supplies, and additional equipment that was required. He went to find Mrs. Weasley.
"Mrs. Weasley, I just got my list of books and stuff I need for the next school year. I know it doesn't really sound like me, but I'd like to get the books as early as I can. If I'm going to have a whole month with nothing to do, I might as well get a head start."
"Let me see what you have there, Harry."
As she perused the list her brows knotted and she pursed her lips.
"This is quite an arm load, Harry. Maybe even two or three. It's obvious no one person could pick up all this. And you can't go to Diagon Alley by Apparation or using floo powder. I'll talk to Arthur and see if we can get a Ministry car to take us to London. I dare say they wouldn't mind. Leave it to me, Harry."
"Thank you, ma'am."
She was as good as her word and on the morning of the second day a large four door sedan pulled up in front of the Burrow and a wizard in a plain black muggle suit got out. Harry, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley got into the car and the driver closed the door for them. He backed the car around and set off down the country lane. It wasn't all that much later that the car pulled up in front of the Leaky Cauldron. Once more the uncanny ability of the Ministry cars to move through traffic made the trip quick and uneventful. The driver opened the door and held it while the three passengers climbed out onto the sidewalk. They all approached the door and the dark suited driver held up a hand signaling the others to wait. He ducked his head inside, paused for a moment and then with a wave of his hand ushered them through the door. As Mrs. Weasley passed him he said in a quiet voice,
"The car will be waiting for you here, ma'am, when you're finished."
"Thank you, very much."
As Harry's eyes grew accustomed to the light he could see that the main room was very nearly deserted. One person he did recognize was Tom, the innkeeper. He scuttled up to the three, bobbing his head.
"An honor it is to see you, Mr. Potter, and looking so well. We were told you'd be coming today. Not many people as you see, business has still been a little slow but I expect it will pick up as the start of school approaches. Allow me to escort you folks to the portal."
Harry knew the way all too well and that Mrs. Weasley and Ginny could find it in their sleep but he also knew that Tom was just trying to be polite and storing up a story for when the tap room was full and he could tell how he had been able to talk to the Famous Harry Potter. Harry restrained himself from laughing or shaking his head. He could sense Ginny looking at him and when he turned his head to look at her she rolled her eyes a bit and giggled under her breath. She reached for Harry's hand and when he took it he got the same thrill he always did when her warm hand took hold of his. Tom took them out the back door and even tapped the proper bricks with his wand to open the portal. He waved them through.
"Would you folks be interested in lunch before you return home today?" Tom asked.
"What do you think, children? Lunch at the Cauldron today?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
Ginny and Harry both replied "Yes, ma'am" in unison and Harry added,
"It will be my treat."
"Oh, no, Mr. Potter, I couldn't possibly charge you for a simple meal."
"Tom, we'll discuss that when the check comes," Harry said with a grin.
"As you say, Mr. Potter."
The three shoppers stepped through the portal onto Diagon Ally and noticed that there weren't as many people as they usually saw. Those that were there seemed in good spirits but many looked like they had fallen on hard times. Harry was genuinely dismayed at the state of the street. Several stores were still boarded up including his favorite ice cream shop. Harry looked around and his gaze crossed Mrs. Weasley.
"Aye, Harry. It will be some time before all of the damage to our community has been repaired. It will never be the same but it will get better. The Ministry has confiscated the holdings of many of Voldemort's followers on the basis that their fortunes were founded on illegal and evil means. The money is being distributed to those who lost what they had to that evil fiend's depredations."
It was taking Harry some time to absorb it all. He remembered he had heard that when Voldemort's followers had seized control people had disappeared, stores were closed and property confiscated but this was the first time he had seen the results. In the mean time people on the streets were beginning to recognize him and some waved or called out their greetings or thanks. Most simply stood and stared as if awestruck. An elderly witch in thread bare robes shuffled up to stand within a few feet of Harry and reached out to take his hand. Harry reached with his free hand to take one of hers and she laid her other hand over the top and bowed her head over them. When she looked up there were tears running down her cheeks but her mouth was turned up in a small smile. In a voice barely above a whisper she said,
"Thank you, Mr. Potter, thank you."
Harry's heart was breaking. These people were all his family in a manner of speaking and they had suffered so much. This witch had lived through both of Voldemort's attempts to take over the wizarding world and was probably old enough to remember Grindelwald. His eyes began to mist and before he knew what he was doing he had let go of Ginny and had pulled the old woman into his arms and was holding on to her and telling her that things would get better and life would be good again. Mrs. Weasley put her arm around Ginny's shoulders and held her tight as they watched Harry comfort the elderly witch. Other people began to approach and soon Harry was shaking hands and giving and receiving hugs from all manner of witches and wizards. It reminded Harry of his first day at the Leaky Cauldron when all those strangers had come up to greet him. Now he realized that these people weren't strangers, but friends and family that he simply hadn't met yet. He felt an overwhelming need and desire to help them. Somehow he would. The thought that he had already helped them in a way that defied calculation never crossed his mind.
Perhaps a half an hour passed before the people seemed to realize it was time that Harry be allowed to go about his business. With final handshakes or touches the witches and wizards moved away still offering words of thanks, encouragement, and wishes of good health and fortune. Harry watched them as they walked away, many looking over their shoulders at him, smiling one last time. He felt Ginny push her way into the circle of his arm and Mrs. Weasley laid a motherly hand on his shoulder. He gave Ginny a squeeze and he wrapped the other around Mrs. Weasley's lower back and pulled her close. Ginny looked up at him and said,
"I guess you're not just my hero, Harry."
Harry nodded a little and said,
"I think I'm beginning to understand things a little better now. I just hope I don't wind up disappointing everyone."
"Harry, dear," Mrs. Weasley began, "If you remember to stay true to yourself and follow your feelings, I don't think you'll be able to. Now, what say we get down to business and take care of that list of yours? I think the first order of business is a trip to Gringotts for you."
The three walked arm-in-arm to the Goblin bank that held most of the gold in Wizardom. The two Goblins on door duty bowed deeply and swung the doors in. The sounds of business diminished as both customers and tellers recognized Harry as he walked in. An elderly appearing Goblin rushed up to meet them.
"It is an honor to see you, Mr. Potter. How may we be of service?"
"I'd like to have an accounting of what I have here at the bank and make some transactions."
"Certainly, sir. If we are going to be discussing your account, I'm afraid we must do so in private, sir. Bank regulations, I'm afraid. The ladies may wait in our lounge area and refreshments may be had."
"That's quite alright, Harry. Ginny and I will be waiting for you when you're finished."
As a second goblin showed the Weasley women to the lounge, the first brought Harry to a private room and then signaled to a clerk. When the clerk arrived the older goblin issued instructions in their guttural tongue and then gestured for Harry to sit. In moments, the clerk returned with a large book, placed it on the table in front of Harry and opened it to the page for his account. Harry eyes began to wander down the somewhat confusing columns of numbers but the elder Goblin intervened.
"I believe the information you seek is shown here, Mr. Potter. The accounts were brought up to date just this past week and as you can see the figure is sizable."
Harry blinked and looked again. For a boy who had spent the first ten years of his life penniless and then knowing that he had substantial if somewhat ambiguous funds on deposit from what his parents had left him, what he was presented with now seemed beyond belief. Working his way backward he saw the withdrawal to cover the cost of Ginny's broom, the cost of Hermione's trip to Australia, the last one he made for school expenses and then the transfer of the assets from Sirius' account after he had died. This was the sum that staggered him. Sirius was the last of the Blacks and all of their assets had been left to him, whether he had wanted them or not. As Sirius' sole heir it was now his. The Goblin had dealt with humans for long enough to know their expressions.
"Yes, young sir, it is a substantial sum to say the least. In fact, if I may dare say, you now stand as one of our largest single accounts. It goes without saying that the bank stands ready to serve in whatever capacity we can."
Harry shook his head and looked at the goblin.
"I never suspected, not in my wildest dreams."
"One suspects that the young sir has had much more pressing matters on his mind."
It was impossible to tell if the goblin was making an attempt at humor or a simple statement.
"I guess you're right. Well, the first thing is I'd like to withdraw fifty galleons for personal expenses. Then I want one hundred galleons transferred to the account of Arthur and Molly Weasley." Harry felt this was far from sufficient but the most he could get them to accept at the moment. "Do you know what the Ministry of Magic is doing about the money they are distributing to help those ruined by Voldemort? I mean do they have a special fund set up or something?"
"Well, Mr. Potter, the Ministry has their treasury accounts set up here at Gringotts. We have an entire department that handles the transactions. May one ask what you have in mind?" the goblin asked.
"Yes, I want an anonymous donation of one thousand galleons to be placed in whatever account they are using for that purpose. Can you do it so they don't know where the money came from?"
The Goblin stroked his meager chin with a long fingered hand.
"We can arrange it so that only a few goblins in our accounting department know about it. And a goblin would rather die then reveal confidential banking information, Mr. Potter. Your secret is safe with us, I assure you. Will there be anything else?"
"No, thank you very much. I suppose I better see about a new owl. I may need to send you further instructions."
"As you wish, young sir. Now, let us see about that withdrawal. If you would just sign here, I'll have the funds brought right away."
Harry signed the slip of paper and sat back and waited. In moments, the clerk goblin came back with a small leather pouch with a gold embossed 'G' on it. He poured the contents on the table in front of Harry, counted the coins for him and when Harry nodded his assent, swept the coins back into the pouch and handed it to him.
"A token from the bank, young sir. It can fit into the inside pocket of your robe or be attached to a belt."
"Thank you, very much."
"Oh no, young sir. Many thanks to you."
They stood up and the elder goblin escorted him to where Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were sitting, enjoying a cup of tea and some biscuits. Mrs. Weasley looked up and saw them approaching,
"Harry, dear. I'm must say I could get used to this sort of treatment."
"We'll have to see what we can do about that, ma'am," Harry said with a small smile.
Once more flanked by the Weasley women, Harry left the bank, the door Goblins once more bowing deeply before swinging the doors shut. Their first stop was Flourish and Blotts book shop where they spent the better part of an hour pulling together the books and supplemental materials on the list. Several of the books were not part of the normal curriculum and the shop clerk had to ferret around in several dusty stacks to come up with them. Harry paid for the books and for a few extra sickles arranged to have them brought to the common room of the Leaky Cauldron. Their next stop was the witches and wizards supply store where once again several unusual items required some searching in dusty corners or supply areas in the back of the store. The witch who ran the store raised an eyebrow when she saw what was being purchased but figured if the Famous Harry Potter was doing the asking then she would do her best to supply what was required. Their last stop was the magical creatures shop where Harry had the unenviable task of picking out a new owl. He knew that he would never be able to replace Hedwig as a friend and companion but he also realized that he needed one to help him communicate with friends and whatever business he needed to conduct. He settled upon a stately looking barn owl that had been regarding him ever since he entered the shop.
"An excellent choice, Mr. Potter. It is a wise wizard who realizes that it is the animal that makes the best choice and not the other way around."
Harry recognized her as the very same witch that had looked at Scabbers, aka, Peter Pettigrew and had sold Crookshanks to Hermione. Harry handed over the coins for the owl and carried the caged bird outside into the light. The owl closed its large eyes and settled its head on its shoulder as if to sleep. It appears that having made the connection with Harry, it could leave things in its new master's hands. Harry carried the bird while Mrs. Weasley and Ginny carried the parcels from the supply store. They opened the portal and walked in the back door of the tavern. Tom was there in a moment.
"My, we have been busy, haven't we, folks. The man from Flourish and Blott's left only just a few moments ago. I have your books stacked neatly on the table nearest the front door, Mr. Potter."
"Thanks, Tom. I appreciate that. I think we could do with lunch now if that's okay with you."
"Yes, Mr. Potter, we've been waiting for you. I have everything ready to go. Please come this way."
Tom led them to a table in a corner of the room. The room held more people then in the morning and perhaps half a dozen tables were occupied. Perhaps it was the decorum of meal time or perhaps they had been 'spoken to' but no one attempted to approach Harry although several did nod to him and one young witch, perhaps a soon to be third year, gave a little wave and shy smile. Harry waved back and smiled to her. The girl's smile got much larger and she turned and spoke quietly but with much vigor to her mother.
"I'd say you just made someone a memory for a lifetime," Ginny whispered to him.
He tilted his head down so he could speak directly into her ear.
"I thought you were going to help me watch out for getting a swelled head. You keep this up and I'm going to need to let some air out of it pretty soon."
Ginny spoke into his ear,
"No worries, sweetie, I'll be glad to help with that, too."
Then she planted a wet little kiss just in front of his ear. They both laughed.
They settled at the table that Tom had selected for them. He then told them what he had available that day. They each placed their orders and watched as Tom scuttled off to the kitchen.
"Well, this has certainly turned into an interesting day, eh, my dears. I must say you handled yourself very well this morning, dear. It was wonderful to see you with those poor folks, some of them are hanging on by their fingertips. Many witches and wizards lost everything they had. Arthur told me that the Ministry is doing what it can but it's a big, big problem."
"I can see that, ma'am. It was a little awkward at first but I see now that all these people, all the witches and wizards are part of the same big family sort of. There's so few of us and we need to pull together. I imagine my grandmother Potter could have been like that first witch."
Mrs. Weasley said nothing, she just reached across the table to give Harry's hand a squeeze. In a few minutes Tom was back with the beginning of their lunch and the three passed a pleasant time eating and talking of small things. Harry tried to wriggle a few details about his upcoming birthday out of the two but they weren't budging. When they were done the haggling started over the bill. Tom insisted it was gratis but Harry insisted he be allowed to treat. Harry finally stood up and leaned toward the innkeeper, asking him quietly did he really think it was a good idea to risk annoying the wizard who defeated the most feared dark arts practitioner in ages over the cost of a lunch. Tom stepped back and visibly started until he saw Harry smile and wink at him. He laughed as Harry slipped a few coins into his hand and shook his head.
"Most gracious and kind you are, Mr. Potter. You are welcome anytime, anytime."
He escorted the Weasley women to the waiting car and then returned with the driver to collect his books. The ride home was pleasant and uneventful. Having Ginny pressed up against his side as they both looked over his new owl certainly added to his sense of wellbeing. Hauling all his new possessions into the Burrow took some time and then the car left in a cloud of dust. Harry spent the rest of the afternoon skimming through his books, getting familiar with the titles, authors and what book was going with what subject. Dinner included Ron, who had been spending a great deal of time at Hogsmeade getting the new store set up. They had missed the opportunity to see George at the store in Diagon Ally since it had been closed for the day to allow for additional renovation. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes had taken a great deal of grief from the Dark Days at the Ministry as the recent period was coming to be known and would need more work to get it up to snuff. Ron was asking for a retelling of the encounter with the crowd on the street.
"Too cool, Harry. You're a real hero alright."
"Ah, not you too, Ron. Please. A guy's best mate should be the one he can count on not talk all that hero stuff."
"Okay, Harry. I'll watch my step and try not to bow when you walk by," and then he laughed uproariously as the others joined in and Harry threw a piece of bread at him.
The last days of July passed without much of interest beyond the quiet work of putting together Harry's birthday celebration. For all intents and purposes it looked to be a low key affair. The day before, the Weasleys were busy setting up tables in the yard to accommodate the full family, but nothing more. Some bewitched lanterns were hung from the trees, the lights magically changing colors. Mrs. Weasley was busy with cooking and baking but only enough for the appetites of her husband and children, by birth, marriage and 'adoption'. Harry was beginning to relax since it appeared that is was just going to be a modest family affair and nothing elaborate or expensive. He went to bed feeling happy and content. Ron was there and it felt like he was at his old room in Hogwarts. The morning dawned clear, sunny and warm, promising to be a great day for an outdoor event. He was greeted with birthday wishes from his best friend, who handed him a medium sized parcel. Opening it revealed a substantial assortment of gag items from the WWW catalog.
"Some of these should come in dead useful during the party, Harry. Noise makers, smoke bombs, and a few surprises," Ron said with a wink.
"No stink bombs, I hope."
"No way, mate. Mum would skin me alive if I pulled that today. George or Fred might have considered it but not me."
Breakfast was a crowded affair but the mood was light and everyone was offering Harry congratulations on his eighteenth year. He thought he was lucky to have made it that far but wasn't going to say anything for fear of putting a damper on things. He smiled and thanked them and made serious inroads into his breakfast.
"Harry, dear, I'd like to ask you a favor if you would."
"Sure thing, Mrs. Weasley. Anything."
"We want to set some things up for you so would you mind taking a nice walk this morning, take Ginny and Ron with you and come back at noon."
Harry looked at his 'adopted' mum through slightly narrowed eyes with a little smirky smile.
"Okay, but I hope this isn't going to be anything too crazy."
"Don't you worry, dear boy. Nothing more than you can handle," she said with a little wink.
Ron bounded up from the table.
"Come on, Harry. We can try out some of those presents I brought for you," he said with a big smile.
"Cool, let's go. Coming, Ginny?"
"Of course, I'm not letting you two go off unsupervised."
The three hurried upstairs, grabbed several hands full of WWWs best and headed out of the house in high spirits. They weren't gone five minutes when the sound of a loud report rattled the kitchen window. Mrs. Weasley looked at her husband and sighed.
"Maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all."
"They'll be fine, Molly. The boy didn't come all this way just to blow himself up with a Weasleys' Wizard Wheeze," Arthur Weasley replied.
With that the rest of the Weasley family got up and went about the many chores left to get ready for Harry's big day. In the meantime the focus of all this effort was strolling through the woods with his best friend and his best girl thoroughly enjoying the here and now. They would occasionally take out one of the noise makers and with a tap of Ron's wand set the fuze alight and then toss it behind them onto the road. The beauty of these little noisemakers was that they weren't explosive like an ordinary firecracker. They were concentrated little spells that when released generated the loud noise without any sparks, fire or smoke, making them perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. Harry had the feeling that unless Filch was very persistent the halls of Hogwarts were going to sound like a war zone very soon. After recent events Harry thought that would not be well received at all. But now was no time to worry about it and he held one out for Ginny to 'light' and then threw it well ahead of them. The smoke bombs proved to be brilliant. Once set off they produced large volumes of multicolored smoke in shades that Harry didn't think he had ever seen before.
"This is some of Fred's best work. George says he still can't figure out how he came up with the spell. It's all written down and locked away, thank goodness. We're working like mad to get the Hogsmeade store open in time for start of term. Will you be there for the grand opening, Harry?"
"If we can work it out with my schedule I'd be glad to."
The three spent the rest of the morning terrorizing the local fauna who must have thought a thunderstorm was lurking under the trees until Ginny reminded them that noon was fast approaching so with one last volley of noisemakers and some smoke to cover their retreat they left the woods and made for home at a slightly faster pace than when they left. When they trooped into the yard they were met with a round of applause from the other Weasleys and a few extra people. Hermione rushed up and threw her arms around Harry and wished him a happy birthday with tears of joy misting her eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Granger came forward and with a handshake and hug respectively gave Harry their warmest wishes for many birthdays to come. Fleur swept up to Harry next looking positively breathtaking in a light blue gown and if he hadn't known better it appeared she was using her veela heritage to enhance her unearthly beauty.
"'appy Birthday, mon ami," was all she said.
She wrapped him in a tight hug and planted a kiss on each cheek. She then held him at arms length, smiled at him and then kissed his forehead. She then turned her smile on Ron and said,
Ron could only smile back and try and remind himself to breath. Hermione and Ginny looked at each other behind their boyfriends' backs and rolled their eyes. There were hand shakes and hugs from the Weasleys and then Mrs. Weasley called them all over to the table.
"Before we sit down to lunch and Harry's party we have a few surprises," she began. "It seems some others remembered that it was Harry's eighteenth and wanted to offer their best wishes."
As if on cue, an older witch Apparated into the yard.
"Professor McGonagall?" Harry said, somewhat taken aback.
"Hello, Potter…Harry, you seemed surprised to see me. Did you think I never left Hogwarts?" she said with a perfectly straight face.
Before he could answer a wizard popped into view, it was Kingsley Shacklebolt, Acting Minister of Magic.
"Happy Birthday, Harry. You're looking much better then the last time I saw you."
"Thank you, sir. The Burrow's a good place to get well."
"Yes, I can imagine so. Arthur, of course, has been keeping us all up to date on your progress but I thought this would be a good time to see for myself."
"I appreciate your concern, sir."
The two guests were shown to chairs that suddenly appeared at the table.
Mrs. Weasley looked at the table and when she was satisfied that all was set to her satisfaction she waved her wand and the magic lanterns came alight, candles blazed on the table and everyone gave out with the obligatory but sincere oohs and aahhs.
"Tuck in everyone, but make room for dessert," Mrs. Weasley said. "Oh, Harry, I almost forgot. Charlie sent his apologies but he wouldn't be able to get here until mid afternoon. Something to do with his grant."
Conversation started up around the table. At one end it was the efforts at the Ministry to unravel the mess left by all the turncoats being rooted out or having fled.
"We are arresting two or three a week at this point. Azkaban is going to be quite full by the time we get done with all this," the Acting Minister was saying. "We are combing last years seventh years to fill positions that have been vacated. It's going to be tough bringing them along but we have no choice."
"Voldemort had supporters practically everywhere. They were very clever concealing themselves until it was too late," Arthur Weasley added.
At the other end of the table, Mr. and Mrs. Granger were telling Bill about getting their practices reestablished. The cover story Hermione used is that they were working overseas providing dental care for poor Aboriginal families in Australia. Ron, George and Harry were working on plans for the Grand Opening for the WWW store at Hogsmeade. Ginny, Fleur and Hermione were doing a lot of talking and a good deal of giggling. Professor McGonagall was talking quietly with Mrs. Weasley. Both would cast occasional glances at Harry and then resume their discussion. All in all the lunch passed very pleasantly. When the food was cleared away, Mrs. Weasley gave a wave of her wand and a large cake came floating out of the kitchen. Harry had a brief flashback to when Dobby had floated Aunt Petunia's cake out of the Dursleys' kitchen, much to Harry's bad fortune. But even those unpleasant memories couldn't intrude on today's fun. The cake was a wonderful looking creation that bore a striking resemblance to the Hogwarts castle as seen from the lake. Harry thought it was amazing and said so.
"Thank you, Harry. We had to do some serious thinking about the cake. We first thought a flying broom would be appropriate but all things considered that wouldn't have been a good idea. Ron suggested a flying car but after we chased him out of the kitchen, cooler heads prevailed," Mrs. Weasley said.
Harry gave Ron a thumbs up. Ron laughed and Hermione scowled at both of them. It was just like old times. Ginny just shook her head. The cake had eighteen candles arranged around the castle to look like lighted windows.
"Happy Birthday, Harry. Now blow out the candles and make a wish."
Harry took a deep breath and blew hard. He was sure he had some help but they all went out. He didn't bother with the wish; he had everything he could possibly wish for right now. He had half expected some trick candles.
"Yes, Harry. George tried to slip some trick candles onto the cake but Kreacher, of all people, caught him at it. Bewitched the kitchen broom and chased him around the house with it. I thought I'd cry I was laughing so hard. Now, Harry, you cut the first piece and then we'll take care of the rest."
Harry used the offered knife to cut a slice out of the cake and put it on the plate in front of Ginny. She smiled up at him and it caused his heart to skip. In her own way she was every bit as beautiful as Fleur, he thought. He handed the knife back to Mrs. Weasley and soon they were all making quick work of the delicious creation. Harry was convinced Mrs. Weasley was the best cook he had ever met, not that his experience was that broad. Once the cake was done, the table was cleared and presents made their appearance.
The entire Weasley clan had gone in together and gotten Harry a leather school bag with the H for Hogwarts with HP underneath. Hermione had gotten him a small leather bound schedule book.
"We'll use that to make sure you know where you supposed to be at all times, Harry."
"Thanks, Hermione, I'll need it. Funny how it matches the bag," Harry said with a smile.
"Well then, Mr. Potter, you'll find this even more amusing," said Professor McGonagall.
She handed him a large flat package. When it was unwrapped Harry found it was a leather monogrammed portfolio like the professors used to carry papers around the school. Like his bag it had his initials added to the Hogwarts H.
"Wow, this is all great. But I'm going to look more like a professor than just a student and assistant. Won't people talk?"
"I daresay they will, Harry," the Acting Headmistress said. "However, I doubt anyone will begrudge you a few trappings of office."
"Harry," came the deep voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt, "while the Ministry isn't making any official recognition of your birthday I was given a number of private messages and few little items to leave with you. They are in this bag for you to open at your leisure."
"Thank you, sir."
"'arry, I have sometheeng here from my seester, Gabrielle."
She handed him another flat package although it was smaller then the others had been. He tore off the pale lavender paper and found a very nice picture frame with a photograph of a room done up in shades of lavender and pink. Harry blinked and looked up.
"Um, it's very nice, Fleur. Is that your sister's room?" he asked, confused.
"What? Let me see that, 'arry."
Harry handed the framed picture to Fleur. She took one look and rolled her eyes skyward.
"Mon dieu, seely girl. Gabi, come out 'ere thees minute."
She struck the frame with one finger. As Fleur held the frame so Harry and those around him could see, a silver haired head poked out from the side of the frame slowly followed by the slim and decidedly more grown up body of Fleur's sister whom Harry hadn't see since last summer when Fleur and Bill had been married. The girl's face was blushing bright red and her hand was in front of her mouth to hide the nonstop giggles. Harry's face went red with embarrassment as those around him laughed, all except Ginny. She was looking at the girl in the picture with slitted eyes and turned to Harry.
"I'm not sure I really like the idea of pretty girls making such a fuss over my Harry," which was said with only a little bit of levity and the 'my' had been heavily emphasized. Harry gulped.
"Do not be concerned, dear Geenny," Fleur began. "Gabi is steell a bit of a seely girl and 'as a bad case of 'ero worship. 'arry will not 'ave 'is 'ead turned from you, don't you worry."
Ginny took hold of Harry's arm in a possessive grasp and said,
"He better not, for his sake, and theirs."
Harry gulped again while the others laughed some more. Harry thought this was a good time to change the subject and cleared his throat and said,
"I just wanted to say thanks for the great gifts and this terrific party. I can't remember ever having a better time on my birthday. Although on my eleventh birthday meeting Hagrid for the first time was pretty cool."
This got more laughs.
"It's just nice to know that for the first time I have a real family and a life and a chance to go to school and not have something horrible waiting for me."
"I wouldn't say that too soon, Potter," Professor McGonagall cut in, "You haven't seen what a NEWT exam is like yet."
This got the loudest laughs yet. Right then a loud whooshing noise was heard and everyone looked up. Out of the clear afternoon sky a rider on a broom had just buzzed over the heads of the partiers. He was now doing several loops and getting ready to come in for a landing.
"Hey, that's Charlie. What's he doing on that broom? It looks like a Firebolt," said Ron.
"Don't look at me," Harry said, "mines still locked away, isn't it, Mrs. Weasley?"
"Yes, dear, it should be or someone is in a very great deal of trouble."
"Hey everyone, sorry I'm late," Charlie began as he walked up to the table, broomstick in hand. "I would have been here earlier but as I was coming out of the Ministry I ran into a couple of fellows from the Nimbus Broomstick Company. They were having a meeting at the Sports office about brooms for the English national team. They had this with them and wanted me to show it to Harry. What do you think?"
Charlie held the broom out for Harry and the others to see. It was indeed a Firebolt, looking much the same as Harry's prized broom. Down the side however were some additional graphics engraved and chased in gold foil. It read, "Firebolt II, Harry Potter Special Edition." The rumors had been true.
"They said this was the prototype and wanted Harry to see it and if he's okay with it, they'd come and see him to make a deal."
"Wow, Harry, I can't remember the last time a broom was named after a flyer," Ron said in an awed whisper.
"And I can tell you, Harry, it is a bit faster then the original Firebolt. They said they tweaked the spell and super polished the finish to lower drag. I got here on the broom almost as fast as if I Apparated."
"Charlie, you flew from London, in broad daylight? You could have been seen by muggles," his father said sternly.
"No way, Dad, not on this thing. I almost lost my robes when I was flat out," he laughed delightedly.
"It's beautiful," Harry said longingly as he let his finger glide over the handle finish and lettering. "Guess I'll have to take your word for how it flies for the time being. I'm still grounded." The last was said with true regret.
"Well, Minerva," Molly Weasley began. "If we ever had any doubts I think that little speech just proved that Harry has matured. A couple of years ago he and Ron would have already been plotting how to get on that thing."
"Harry, would you mind if we…" Ron trailed off.
"No, go right ahead. Give it a go and let me know what you think. We'll tell them we were doing product testing for them."
With that broomsticks started to appear from here and there. With mock resignation, Molly even called Harry's Firebolt out of hiding and soon the sky was full of red headed flyers dashing madly across the sky. There was frequent landings and switching so that everyone had a chance at both the original and new edition Firebolts. For the sake of comparison of course. Ginny had flown on Harry's Firebolt a time or two but it appears she was still unprepared for what the Firebolt II could do. At one point she was flying at breakneck speed high in the sky and tried a rapid reverse move that she had been working on all summer with the Nimbus 2001. But unlike the Nimbus which had a tendency to skid a bit on tight turns, the Firebolt II dug in and whipped around so fast that Ginny wasn't ready and she came adrift. She began to tumble through the air and Mrs. Weasley screamed. Harry had been watching and he was already up out of his chair as Mrs. Weasley's first shriek started. Without thinking or knowing why he did it, he thrust his right hand out as if he was using a wand and shouted as loud as he could, "ARRESTO MOMENTUM".
A bright light flashed in Harry's eyes. His became lightheaded and he took a step backwards and sat down heavily in the chair. As his vision cleared he could see that Ginny's fall had slowed a great deal and Bill and Charlie were power diving to get her. They swooped in low and grabbed her between them as she nearly floated within reach. The Firebolt had begun to tumble to the ground but Ron was able to snatch it before it hit. Everyone's eyes were fixed on the foursome riding three brooms to the ground out beyond the yard wall. It was Fleur who was the first to shake off the horror of what could have happened and looked over at Harry.
"'ARRY!" she screamed and rushed over to him. She was followed by the others. Harry was sitting slumped in the chair, his face was pale and glistening with sweat, his chest heaving like a bellows. His eyes were fixed on the four figures who were even now approaching him at a dead run and seemed unaware of the uproar around him. Fleur was kneeling at Harry's side, clutching his hand and trying to get him to respond.
"'arry, 'arry, can you 'ear me, mon ami."
"We need Dr. Elsewhere here right now," Mr. Weasley said.
"I'll go, Arthur," said Kingsley Shacklebolt and he disappeared.
By this time Ginny was there on Harry's other side, holding his other hand and stroking his face.
"Harry, Harry, are you all right?" she asked, her voice tinged with hysteria.
Harry blinked a couple of times and then gave his head a little shake. He looked at Ginny and gave her a little smile.
"You alright, Ginny? I saw you come off the broom and then everything went kinda bright. What happened?"
"Don't you remember, Harry?" asked Mr. Weasley. "We heard you shout 'Arresto Momentum' but you didn't have your wand, but it looked like it worked anyway. Ginny practically floated down until Bill and Charlie caught her."
"Hmm, well done them then," Harry said, still in a daze.
There was series of popping noises behind them and suddenly two healers and a nurse were pushing their way through to Harry.
"Please, stand aside if you would."
This was Doctor Elsewhere speaking. Bill helped Fleur up and held her aside as the small wizard came to Harry's side. He took hold of Harry's wrist and looked into his eyes. He took out his wand and waved it slowly over Harry's chest and muttered an incantation. Dr. Medford had moved around to the other side and placed his hand on the side of Harry's head as he had during his earlier visits. The nurse stood directly behind Harry's chair with a case of instruments ready to assist either physician while Harry's family and friends stood by feeling utterly helpless. Fleur was shaking in Bill's hands, Hermione had her hands over her mouth and Ginny was wringing hers. Harry seemed to be coming around as his eyes looked clearer and his breathing was slower and less pronounced. Doctor Elsewhere leaned back and put his wand away. He straightened up and turned to look at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
"It appears the young man has overextended himself but it doesn't seem to be anything permanent. He'll need to get more rest but I don't believe he's in any danger. Would you agree Doctor Medford?"
"Hmmm, yes, I would agree with that. His mind is clear. What he did just took a lot out of him. Now, would someone mind explaining exactly what he did? Minister Shacklebolt was a bit unclear."
"Well," Arthur Weasley began, "it would appear that Harry performed the 'Arresto Momentum' spell without a wand and out to a fair distance as well."
"Is that true, Harry?" asked the taller older wizard.
"I guess so," Harry said in a low tired voice. "I saw Ginny come off the broom and I guess I just panicked or something. Things happened sort of fast after that."
"One moment longer, Harry, if you please," said the older healer.
He placed his hand on Harry's head a second time and concentrated, his murmured incantation buzzing in Harry's ear. He felt the tingle become a bit stronger. After a few moments the hand was removed and Dr Medford stood up.
"Incredible. To be able to execute that level of conjuration at that distance without a wand. In any given generation there are perhaps a handful of wizards capable of a feat of that magnitude, if that. But it comes at a price. As you can see, it's taken a great deal out of the boy and he'll feel the after affects for several days. Harry, I should warn you not to try that again unless it is a most dire emergency. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Well, folks," Doctor Elsewhere began, "we've done all we can here. The rest is up to the young man himself. Just try not to give him any reason to exert himself if you can."
Ginny blushed right to the roots of hair and looked ready to cry. Bill laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. The three medical people walked back to where they first appeared and Dr. Elsewhere turned and looked back at Harry.
"Remember, young man, you're to come to St. Mungo's before you return to school, agreed?"
"Yes, sir, I'll remember."
"Good, see you then. Shall we?"
The last was said to the other healer and nurse. With little pops they disappeared. There was a collective exhalation of breath and everyone turned their attention to Harry. He was sitting up straighter in the chair. He wasn't sweating anymore and his pallor had improved somewhat. Ginny was back at his side, her face buried in his shoulder. She was mumbling about how sorry she was and how stupid she had been. Hermione was kneeling next to Ginny rubbing her back and offering words of encouragement. Mrs. Weasley brought Harry a glass of birthday punch and he gulped it down noisily. He handed back the glass and said,
"Guess I went and did it again, huh?"
"That's putting it mildly, Harry," Mr. Weasley replied. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling a little tired, but not too bad. Not at all like I was right after, well, you know…"
"Yes, we know. Perhaps we should wrap things up here."
"No, please, don't. I'm okay, really. I promise, I'll sit here very quietly and you can bring me drinks and more cake and I won't cause any more trouble."
The look on his face was at once sincere and guileless. Then he broke into a huge grin. Some of them laughed, others just shook their heads. Ginny looked up at him with her face all blotchy and red from crying and said,
"In all the excitement I forgot to thank you for saving my life, again."
"That's alright, Ginny, but do you mind being more careful in the future. I'm not sure how much more I can handle."
Ginny looked at him for just a fraction of a moment, then laughed and threw her arms around his neck. The younger Weasleys pulled up chairs around Harry and he took the pressure off by asking quiet questions about how the new broom handled. This got the conversation going and it lasted for the rest of the afternoon. Hermione had taken some time to try and explain to her muggle parents about what had just happened and why it had caused so much commotion. As medical professionals they could understand that Harry's health had been so fragile after his collapse and that what he had done to save Ginny had taxed his still below normal strength. What they were having trouble getting their minds around was just exactly what it was he had done and its significance. Like many muggle parents, they knew that their child was involved in a world within and yet very far removed from their own. In the end they simply added it to a list of many things that made one of Hermione's best friends a unique young man. The elder Weasleys and Professor McGonagall had moved to the far end of the table and were talking in quiet, serious tones.
"You heard what Dr. Medford said, but it sounds so unbelievable. Have you ever heard of something like this, Minerva?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
"It is true that some wizards of sufficient talent and power can execute spells without a wand. Albus Dumbledore was the only one I knew of. I suppose that Voldemort may have been able to as well. Although with him so divided with all those Horcruxs it's hard to say. Besides, I think he considered his wand a badge of honor of sorts as a wizard and wouldn't be without it."
Before she could continue a popping noise was heard from beyond the garden wall. They turned and saw Doctor Medford approaching. They got up and walked over to the wall.
"Yes, Doctor, is there something wrong?"
"Not wrong in the sense that Harry is in any immediate danger. Before I go on though, I need to be sure of something. I know of course that's Harry's parents are dead; it is part of his legend after all. However, I wish to know is there any other family that he has?"
"No, Doctor, he does have one muggle aunt, his mother's sister but they've pretty much disowned him. His godfather was Sirius Black, his father's best friend but he's been dead these past two years. That is why he's here. We are all the family he really has."
"I understand the young man is of legal age of course, but it's important that you know this. He will need help and guidance. My specialty is the brain, the physical as well as the mental aspects of it. That is why I was brought in to deal with Harry's dreams. In my examinations it became evident that the ways Harry's mind and brain work have been affected by the things that have happened to him."
He saw the stricken look on Mrs. Weasley face.
"No, dear lady, I do not mean damaged or diseased, just altered, perhaps enhanced. He has survived two killing curses, been the receptacle of a portion of the essence of one of the most powerful wizards ever to have lived and gone through a number of other magical traumas. It appears that some elements of the patterns in his brain have been altered and may be the reason why he was able to channel the kind of power necessary to do what he did this afternoon. The danger, as you've seen, is that it can be very debilitating and eventually result in damage to his health. Conversely, when properly channeled through his wand, his power could be overwhelming. That poses risks all its own. I thought that you should be aware of this so that you can help him understand it. I, of course, will be available to help if I'm needed."
"Thank you, Doctor. We had just been discussing this. We will do everything we can to help him."
"I thought as such. Good day to you all," and with that he popped out of sight.
"Well, that was illuminating," suggested Professor McGonagall.
"So, the beast is dead but not gone," murmured Arthur Weasley. "I'll wager not even Voldemort himself could have known what he was setting in motion."
The three sat back down at the table and looked over at Harry and his 'family'. He looked to be happy and content discussing the attributes of the new broom. It was obvious that the others were keeping an eye on Harry for any signs of stress or fatigue. Ginny had Harry's left hand held between both of hers, occasionally bringing it up to her face to rub lightly with her cheek. Fleur was to his immediate right, tucked into the half circle of Bill's arm but her hand would occasionally come to rest on Harry's right arm.
"I think I'll have a talk with Professor Flitwick when I return this evening. He should be aware of what is going on. He may be able to help Harry come to grips with this. I'll leave it to you to broach the subject with Harry. I think it's time for me to get back."
"Thank you for coming, Minerva, and for all you've done for Harry."
"He deserves it and more. Good bye, Molly, Arthur. I'll just go take my leave of Harry."
She walked over to the assembled 'youngsters' and cleared her throat.
"I will be taking my leave of you now, Harry. I look forward to seeing you for the start of school. I trust you'll arrive well and in one piece."
"Yes, ma'am. I hope so, too."
"See that you do. Farewell to you all." She then stepped back and Disapparated.
"Well, children, I believe it's time we brought this party to a close. Harry could use some rest and quite frankly so could I," Mrs. Weasley said.
The Grangers said their goodbyes and after handshakes and hugs with promises to meet at the Express they got into their car and drove off.
"I just wanted to say again, thank you all for today. It's the best birthday I've ever had. Certainly the most exciting, too."
There were a few nods and 'hear hears' and Ginny and Fleur each took an arm and pulled Harry upright. Ginny looped his arm over her shoulders and she walked him back into the house. The rest helped gather up the chairs and other items and called it a night. Ginny walked with Harry up to his room and before she left him she placed a hand along his cheek and kissed him lightly.
"For my hero," she said solemnly.
He smiled back at her and she turned and went to her room. Harry made his way to his bed and flopped down on it and he was asleep before he knew it. When Ron came in from helping clean up he found Harry there still in his clothes. Ron just shook his head and pulled the bed quilt over him as best he could and then retired for the night himself.
The next morning dawned bright and clear and promised to be a warm August day. Harry missed it, of course. He didn't wake up until closer to noon and when he did he was dismayed to find he was still in his clothes from yesterday and they were a wrinkled mess. Ron was long gone back to Hogsmeade. He rolled off his bed with a groan and fumbled about for his glasses which had wound up on the floor besides his bed stand. He made his way to the washroom at a shambling pace and when he was finished went down to the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley was there working on lunch.
"Harry, my dear. How are you feeling this morning?"
"More like this afternoon, really. I'm hungry and feeling a little tired still. Not as bad as I look," the last said with a little smile.
"Well, that's something at least because you look a sight. Sit down and have something to eat and then we'll get you some clean clothes. Then we need to sit down and have a little talk about yesterday."
Molly Weasley put a full plate down in front of Harry and he proceeded to devour it. She watched him for a moment or two and then turned back to her work. When Harry had finished she told him where his clean laundry was and with orders to come right back down when he was dressed. He was back at the table in less then a quarter hour. She left the pots on the stove to look after themselves and sat down across from her newest 'son'.
"Harry, dear, there are some things you need to know about what happened yesterday. Doctor Medford came back and told us some things but thought it would be best if you heard it from one of us, your family."
Harry looked across at her serious expression and said simply,
"As you may recall, Harry, the doctor told you that what you did could be very dangerous and only something to do in a dire emergency."
"Yes I do. The way I felt yesterday and I feel now, I wouldn't want to do it again anytime soon."
"Good, remember that. There is more to it though. Doctor Medford believes that with all the things you've been through, the exposure to the killing curses, your association with Voldemort, that little bit of him being left behind and all your other various adventures have left their mark on you so to speak. They have affected the way your mind and your brain works. No, no dear, don't worry, he specifically said it's not damage or illness, but just the way things work have changed. Anyone who has known you long enough and really paid attention knows that you have great power, Harry. Don't shake your head at me, young man. This is no time for false modesty. We need to deal with truth here, Harry. As a first year you were able to hold your own against a fully grown wizard supported by the shade of Voldemort. The following year you defeated the Basilisk and Tom Riddles shadow. And don't start in about having help from Fawkes. Dumbledore told me about that once and it was you who caused Fawkes to come to you. And what about the fully formed Patronus? It goes on and on. This is my point, Harry and what Doctor Medford wanted you to understand. What you did yesterday took great power and tremendous will. If properly channeled through a wizard's wand a spell you cast could have almost unimaginable consequences if you aren't careful."
Molly Weasley could see from Harry's expression that he was having a hard time taking this all in.
"Think of it this way, dear. What spell did you use to defeat Voldemort at the end?"
"Simple, I used Expelliarmus."
"Right, and under normal circumstances that would do what?"
"It would disarm my opponent. Knock their wand or whatever out of their hand."
"That's right, Harry. For most any other wizard that is what would happen. But for you, Harry, as you are now, in a fight, under great stress like yesterday, you would most likely blow that opponent to pieces. I don't think you'd want to do that."
From the horrified look in his eyes, she knew she was right.
"As an Auror, Harry, you would most likely be in situations like that very frequently. So what you must do is learn to deal with it. Learn to stay in control. Learn how much is enough. Professor McGonagall will, or already has, talked to Professor Flitwick to see what he can do. You'll have plenty of people to help you Harry, but in the end, as always, it will be up to you. I just ask that you be careful and let them do so. Alright, my dear?"
"Good. Now while we're waiting for the others to come in for lunch why don't you help me set the table?"
"Hmm, oh, sure."
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly enough. Almost as if it had been arranged, after lunch, at which Harry just sat and kept the others company while they ate, Ginny saw to it that he didn't have much time to think about things. Since he wasn't going to be walking, they played cards for a couple of hours, Ginny unmercifully taking advantage of Harry's state of mind and winning hand after hand. As the day grew hotter they left the backyard and went up to Harry and Ron's room and poured over his new books and materials, trying to figure out if his old trunk was going to be enough to get everything he needed for the new school year to Hogwarts. Dinner was a leisurely affair with just Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ginny and Harry. Ron had gone back to Hogsmeade and Percy and Charlie were staying the night in London. After dinner, Mr. Weasley called Harry aside for a private chat.
"I understand you and Molly had a talk today about what happened yesterday," he stated matter-of-factly.
"Yes, sir, Mrs. Weasley explained it to me. Pretty scary when you come right down to it."
"I'm glad you said that, Harry. I'm glad you said scary and not exciting or interesting or fun. Great power should be scary to those who have it, in whatever form. When it gets to be exciting or interesting or God forbid, fun, that's when terrible things can happen. I'm sure you'll do what's right and get things under control. I'd expect no less."
Harry simply nodded his agreement.
"Good, now there's something else I'd like to discuss with you, young man. I happened to be at Gringotts today at lunch time and when I saw our account statement I must say I was a little surprised."
Harry was starting to get a bit pink in the cheeks.
"Imagine my shock when I saw that our account had grown by a hundred Galleons."
"Good interest rates, I guess."
"I don't think so, Harry. Would you have any idea where that money came from?"
"Ok, it came from me. When we were there the other day and they showed me how much money I had, I had to do something. Look, Mr. Weasley, you and Mrs. Weasley have been looking after me in one way or another since my first year. Presents at Christmas and my birthday, living here for part or all of the summer, doing all kinds of things. I need to be able to give something back, and I know what you've said about all that big saving the world stuff but that doesn't mean as much day to day. I mean I did help lose you the Anglia and you got fined and all. Consider it repayment for that if you have to. Please?"
Mr. Weasley looked at Harry for a moment or two and then said,
"Alright, Harry, if you feel that strongly about it but just so you know, with only Ginny in school and hardly anyone around the house these days, Molly and I are doing ok for ourselves, not to mention my having been moved up a rung or two in the last months. You are not nearly the burden you might think you are, but we'll let it go and speak no more of it. Maybe when we get you two safely off to Hogwarts Molly and I will take a little vacation."
"That sounds like a great idea, sir."
With that they shook hands and Mr. Weasley went back into the kitchen and Harry drifted out into the backyard where he sat down in what had become his chaise lounge where he sat watching twilight shift to night. Ginny had come out to join him after helping with the dinner dishes and together they enjoyed the peace and quiet, interrupted only occasionally by the mad dash of a garden gnome off on whatever errand a garden gnome might have.
Harry was back to his old, or more recent old self, by the end of the first week of August. He and Ginny were back to walking morning and afternoon and in between she continued her chaser practice at the hands of the now very skilled and very determined Kreacher. Harry joked that maybe it was time to get him a Hogwarts sweatshirt and whistle. Kreacher missed the joke entirely and asked if Master Harry was going to give him clothes and send him off. It took some fast talking to ease his anxiety. Harry had also begun reading his text books and working on the classroom material he and Bill had put together. He was busy and content to be so.
On the Monday morning before school was set to begin, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Harry and Ginny were in another four door sedan sent by the Ministry to take them to London. The Weasley women were to be dropped at the Leaky Cauldron to go shopping in Diagon Alley. Arthur Weasley was going to go with Harry to St. Mungo's for his exam. They would then meet the ladies and have lunch before going home. The ride was as smooth and uneventful as only a magical car could provide. The ladies were dropped off first and then fitting itself amongst the mid town traffic, the car made its way to St. Mungo's and its department store false front. They each stepped through the display window and found themselves in the waiting room. Harry approached the reception desk and the formidable looking witch sitting there. Without looking up she said,
"Yes, what is the nature of your problem?"
"Um, no problem really, my name is Harry Potter and I'm here to see Dr. Elsewhere."
At the sounding of Harry's name, the witch's head snapped up.
"Oh, yes, indeed, Mr. Potter, right this way. We've been expecting you."
People sitting in the waiting room looked up at Harry and began to whisper to one another or gesture. Harry caught Mr. Weasley's eye, smiled and shrugged. Mr. Weasley smiled back and indicated he would wait there in the reception room until he was needed. Harry was ushered to an examination room just down the corridor from the reception room. The nurse very politely informed Harry that he needed to change into an examination gown which was the same style as used in the muggle world, short of length and tied in the back. She told him to just sit there and the healer would be there shortly. Amazingly enough she was right, with perhaps only five minutes having passed, the little wizard bustled into the room.
"Mr. Potter. Nice to see you and looking very well I might add. Let's make sure though that looks aren't deceiving, shall we?"
With that he pulled out his wand and once more began the low muttered incantations that were at the heart of his profession. He then looked at Harry's eyes, checked his pulse and his reflexes. He stuck his head out the door and in a few moments he was joined by the tall Doctor Medford.
"Hello, again, Harry. How have you been?"
"Good, sir, feeling pretty much back to normal, I think."
"That's good. May I?" the healer asked as he gestured with his right hand.
The wizard Neurologist placed his hand on the side of Harry's head as he had before and Harry felt the tingle. This time, the tingle was different. It seemed to pulse with an irregular rhythm. While it never actually hurt it did get a little uncomfortable at times. After a while the tingle ceased and the healer was withdrawing his hand.
"Thank you, Harry. Now if you'll just stay here a moment, Dr. Elsewhere and I need to have a little talk and then we'll be back in to tell you the results."
Harry nodded and watched the two healers leave the room. A few moments later, Mr. Weasley walked in and took a seat.
"They asked me to come in. Guess they want to tell us together."
"Yes, sir. I feel fine but who knows?"
They waited for a few more minutes in silence and then the healers returned.
"Well, Harry, it appears that you're doing just fine. Neither Doctor Medford nor I can find any permanent problems and your strength and energy levels appear normal. I'd say you're fully recovered."
Harry met this news with a big smile.
"Does this mean I can fly again?"
"Yes, it does, just don't over do it. And you can have your wand back."
"Just remember, Harry," Doctor Medford cut in, "what you were told about using your wand. If you can avoid it until you've had time to work with Professor Flitwick, it might be for the best."
"Well, Harry, that about does it," the little healer began. "You've got a clean bill of health that I will notify Professor McGonagall about right away and hopefully we won't be seeing you on official business for a long time."
"Yes, sir, I hope so."
There were handshakes all around and then Harry was left to get dressed. It was all he could do to keep from shouting. When he was dressed he left the examination room and walked back to the reception room. His face was still split by a big grin and this seemed to transmit a message to those in the room. There was a smattering of applause and a few 'well, dones' and 'congratulations'. Apparently it was common knowledge that Harry had been on the mend, so to speak. He smiled back and even gave a little wave. Mr. Weasley put his arm around his shoulder and walked with him back out onto the street. The Ministry car was waiting and in a moment they were on their way to Diagon Alley.
As they walked through the Leaky Cauldron Harry smiled and returned the greetings of the few people who were there. When they stepped out onto the street it was clear that a lot of students were getting ready to return to school. Youngsters with parents and older students in groups were moving from store to store assembling the required books and materials needed for the coming year. Harry was recognized instantly and perhaps picking up on his obvious good mood various people would wave, or call out and several students he knew would come up to ask how he was doing and if he really was coming back to Hogwarts. It was slow going but they eventually made their way down the narrow street until they spied Ginny's red head just disappearing into the shop where robes were available. Harry and Mr. Weasley followed in a moment later and when the ladies saw them, they rushed up to hear the news.
"What did the doctors say, Harry?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
"I've gotten a clean bill of health and I'm cleared to fly and use my wand again."
Ginny didn't bother to say anything; she just flung her arms around Harry's neck and held him tight. An elderly witch who had been taking robes down off of a rack for Ginny and Mrs. Weasley to look at stood nearby, smiling.
"It would appear that you have received good tidings?"
"Oh, yes, Harry just came from St. Mungo's and they found him to be completely recovered."
"Well, that is good news indeed. There has been much talk up and down Diagon Alley this summer. Some of it dark, some of it pure nonsense, but gossip so often is. So, now that the good news has been shared, perhaps we can return to the business at hand."
Harry and the Weasleys all laughed at her crisp businesslike approach but she was right, this was her busiest week of the year and business was business after all. Harry and Mr. Weasley sat down and watched as Mrs. Weasley and Ginny looked at various styles and cuts and materials. At one point Harry could hear Ginny say something about 'too expensive' but then Mrs. Weasley whispered in her ear and Ginny shot a startled look back at Harry. He smiled and winked and Ginny's face positively glowed. While she had been spared Ron's embarrassment at having to have worn robes that had seen several older owners, hers had always come off the bargain rack and had to last at least a year longer then one would otherwise hope. The thought of having brand new robes in the latest style was almost overwhelming. Harry could only look on and smile. In the end she and Mrs. Weasley settled on two sets of robes for classes and everyday use cut in the latest fashion and a set of formal robes in a dark green that would set off her red hair magnificently and that would be the envy of most of the girls at school. Harry was pretty sure that whatever functions were held at Hogwarts this year he would have the prettiest, best dressed girl on his arm. Once the robes had been properly fitted, the proprietress promised they would be ready within the hour. Ginny was holding tight to Harry's arm as they walked behind Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
"Oh, thank you, Harry. I can't believe how beautiful my new robes are."
"Why thank me? You're mum and dad are paying for them, aren't they?"
"Don't you go all innocent on me, Harry Potter. Mum told me what you did. That was very generous of you," and she gave him a peck on the cheek.
"It's only money, Ginny, and a very small part of what I have. You and your family have given me something worth much more and the biggest thing in my life now. I still have the best of the bargain."
The redheaded beauty looked up at the face of the wonderful, unusual young man she would be spending the rest of her life with and marveled at her good fortune. Had it really only been seven years ago when she first saw him on the platform at the train station? She tightened her grip on his arm and leaned her head on his shoulder as they walked along. As they passed the Quidditch supply shop he and Ginny paused to look in. At that moment a well dressed wizard who was in the shop looked out and recognized Harry. He hurried to the door and stepped out onto the pavement. He offered his hand to Harry and said in a rush,
"Mr. Potter, my name is Nathaniel Pinewood, Managing Director of the Nimbus Broomstick Company."
"Very nice to meet you, sir. This is Ginny Weasley." Harry saw that Ginny's parents had backtracked having heard the introduction. "And these are her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley."
"Ah, yes. I met your son, Charlie, the other week. I understand that he brought the new Firebolt II model to you for examination?" The last was said as a question to solicit Harry's opinion but Arthur Weasley spoke instead.
"Yes, Mr. Pinewood. My son was quite taken with it. He's had a lot of flying experience."
"Oh, don't I know it, sir. We in the industry keep track of gifted fliers coming out of Hogwarts. Charlie Weasley could have flown for England had he chosen to. And Mr. Potter here has been of particular interest. Many times our field representatives have attended a Hogwarts Quidditch match to watch him fly."
Harry was surprised and a little pleased to know he had attracted that level of attention. The man coughed a bit and looked a tad embarrassed.
"If it's not to out of keeping, Mr. Potter, have you had a chance to think about our offer? We are getting close to the point where we need to make a production decision to be in time for next year's World Cup."
"What did you have in mind, Mr. Pinewood?" Arthur Weasley said, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"We are prepared to offer Mr. Potter a fixed sum up front and a small percentage of sales to follow. This would be across the line of both Firebolts and Nimbus models. We don't feel the Firebolts will be large sellers due to cost but as a flagship model that will see mostly national and international competition and draw marketing attention to the rest of the line. In addition, we saw it as a way to pay respect to his many accomplishments, on and off the Quidditch pitch. It's all written here."
Mr. Pinewood removed a roll of parchment from his robe and handed it to Harry. Harry unrolled it and read the terms. When he saw the upfront sum and the projected revenue from sales of 2000s, 2001s and the new Firebolts his eyes widened. He showed it to Mr. Weasley who let out a whistle. That was good enough for Harry.
"This looks fine, Mr. Pinewood, but there needs to be one change."
"And what might that be?" asked Mr. Pinewood, fully expecting Harry to want more money.
"The payee you have listed here needs to be changed. Take my name off and replace it with the Ministry of Magic's fund for aiding those hurt by Voldemort and his followers. Gringotts has all the details. They can check with me if they need to verify what I ask. You can keep my name on the broom and say I endorse your product line. You can also say that a portion of the proceeds are going to help rebuild the wizarding community. What you can't say is that it's my portion that's being used. Agreed?"
Mr. Pinewood was looking at Harry in open mouthed amazement. The Weasley's were likewise amazed but not entirely surprised. Ginny was looking at him with fierce admiration.
"Mr. Pinewood, are we agreed?" Harry asked.
"What? Oh, yes, whatever you wish, Mr. Potter. That's very generous of you. I'll have this redrafted and ready for your signature."
"I'll be at the Burrow with the Weasleys through the end of the week and then I leave for Hogwarts next Monday. We start a week early this year."
"We'll get this to you right away, Mr. Potter and thank you very much."
The slightly befuddled Mr. Pinewood went back into the store with the parchment clutched in his hand. Mr. Weasley gave Harry a smile and Mrs. Weasley gave him a motherly hug while Ginny clung to his arm.
"Your parents would be so proud of you, Harry," Mr. Weasley said.
"I hope so. So, where to now?"
"We have Ginny's books set aside at Flourish and Blotts so we need supplies, then pick up the books and robes and we are done," Mrs. Weasley replied.
The four of them made their way to the store that sold supplies for wizardry and spell casting and got all the things on Ginny's list. Harry exchanged some pleasantries with some of the students and parents that were there. Most of it was answering questions about his well being and accepting wishes for his continued success and good health. From there they stopped to retrieve Ginny's books and then her robes. With arms fully ladened the four made their way into the Leaky Cauldron for lunch.
Tom showed them to a large table which provided room for them and their packages. Lunch was a festive occasion. The combination of Harry passing his medical exam, Ginny's joy at her new robes and the general satisfaction with the deal made with the broomstick people had them all in good spirits. The other patrons could not help but pick up on the jovial air around the table and if Harry Potter had reason to be happy then they sure did as well. By the time they made ready to leave it was almost as if Christmas had come early. Harry and Mr. Weasley haggled a bit over the check but quickly settled on splitting it. They lugged all their purchases outside and deposited them into the car, which then whisked them home.
The sun was still well up in the sky by the time they had everything put away. Harry looked at Mrs. Weasley with a questioning glance and she laughed. She pulled out her wand and with a wave said, 'Accio Firebolt'. The broom came to rest just outside the door leading to the yard. Ginny summoned up her own broom and in moments the young couple was flying together above the fields across the road from the Burrow. In the beginning, they took it easy just taking long gentle sweeps over the field, allowing Harry to get his flying legs under him. Soon he and Ginny were increasing their speed and altitude and complexity of their flying. A bird on the wing may have been able to hear the whooping and screams of exhilaration. The shadows had grown long by the time the two had come in to land. The most eventful summer in Harry's young life was drawing to a close and he couldn't possibly think of a better ending.