Harry's Future, Part 49

Kreacher opened the door to the manor house at Meadow Crest and quietly bowed Harry in. His master was quiet and evidently very disturbed. Kreacher knew the quiet wouldn't last long as the sound of rapid footsteps echoed down the hallway. As Ginny and Abagail approached at a run, Kreacher silently moved away towards the kitchen to oversee Nibs and finish preparing dinner.

"Harry, for the love of Merlin. What happened?" Ginny asked as she came to a stop in front of her husband.

For no real reason Harry assumed that James was taking a nap. He thought that was a shame, he would have really liked to have been able to hold his son right now. He did gather Ginny into this arms and after a moment he reached out to take hold of Abagail who had followed closely along behind. He could feel their grips tighten about him and he drew that feeling of security to himself. He let out a long sigh and eased his hold on them. Ginny looked up at him, seeing the look on his face and more quietly this time asked,

"What happened, sweetheart?"

"Suffice to say that what I saw in Mysteries was more than a little disturbing. Let's go into the living room and I'll try to explain it all," he said in a tired voice.

With an arm around the shoulders of Ginny and Abagail, Harry walked with them to the entrance to the living room. He stopped and called down the hallway.


"Yes, Master Harry?"

"Could you bring some tea in here, please?"

"Coming right away, Master Harry."

He moved the little group into the spacious room and they took seats with Harry in the middle. He looked up at the ceiling for a moment but not really seeing anything, then he looked down with a sigh again.

"As you remember, I went with Charlie and Bill to see if I could help them figure out how to open a door that Charlie had found in a room off of the Brain Room. Remember that one, Ginny?"

He felt his wife shudder at the remembrance and she said,

"How could I forget any part of that awful night?"

Harry nodded then continued.

"Well, there were a couple of doors along the back wall of the Brain room and one opened to a corridor that led down for a few hundred yards and ended at another room that had a few more doors. Charlie said two were for store rooms but the other they just couldn't get open."

He was interrupted by the entrance of Nibs with a tray that held a pot of tea, three cups and some biscuits on a plate. He put the tray on a small table near where they were sitting and then bowed his way back out of the room. Harry absently thought he'd have to explain that all that bowing wasn't necessary. Ginny poured for the three of them and then handed Harry his. He took a sip and sighed.

He then proceeded to tell the rest of the tale. How he thought there was something wrong with the door and looking for and finding the secret passageway, about Bill and Charlie going ahead and then he following. He talked about his struggle with the dragon within when he saw what the secret room contained.

"It was the most horrendous thing I've ever seen in my life, Gin. It was all I could do to keep from going dragon and tearing the place apart. I guess that's when Abagail felt what was going on," he said, looking down at his ward.

She looked back at him with a sad smile and took hold of his free hand. Harry gave her hand a squeeze and continued his story. He told them about finally getting the dragon under control and he and Bill following after Charlie and seeing the huge cavern and all the passageways and the chasm and all the rest.

He sipped some more tea and then explained the trip to Gringotts and the discussion with Kandak and his reaction. He finished up with his discussion with Bill as they stood outside the bank on Diagon Alley, watching all the witches and wizards going about their business.

"That might be the most upsetting part of all, Ginny. I mean, intellectually I knew the possibility of something like what we found existing, but to see it there, so real, was bad enough. But the idea that there might be all this strangeness under the surface and how I wind up in the middle of it is what really upset me. Maybe I was hoping that when I left the Ministry I was leaving it all behind, but it doesn't look that way."

Ginny took hold of Harry's hand with both of hers and looked into those beautiful green eyes that she loved so much, then she smiled a bit and said,

"Did you really think that you could do that, Harry? Look at all those books that you've bought and all the ones you'll likely buy in the future. You're always trying to learn something new about magic, and let's face it. There's an awful lot of strangeness in just the ordinary kinds of magic. Some of the stuff you take an interest in borders on the bizarre. I've known you a long time now, and there's one thing I know for sure. When you see something that's wrong, you try and make it right. And when you see something that you don't understand you try and figure it out. But you never stop seeing, Harry. You never look away, you never say 'that's someone else's problem'. Like I said to you years ago, you're a problem solver, my love. This is just another problem," she said with a smile. "I think you're just feeling out of sorts because of what you saw. If you give it some time I think you'll realize that what you're doing now is picking up the pieces from what Riddle left behind. Just think of it as cleaning up the debris before you start rebuilding and that should make you feel better."

Harry gave her a more genuine smile and after putting his tea cup down, gave her a one armed hug. She kissed his cheek and said,

"If you can spare me, I'll go check on dinner."

Harry nodded and watched her leave the living room. He then looked at Abagail and said,

"So, little one, how nasty a turn did I give you?"

"Probably about the same as the one I gave you when we both felt Ginny's labor pains. Fortunately I was just reading so all I did was drop my book. I was feeling kind of warm for a bit as well. You were really throwing off some heat this time," she said.

"If any place ever needed a good bonfire, it's that one. I'm hoping that Charlie can find a place where those eggs can be safely hatched. Since they all looked somewhat different I'd have to think the eggs were stolen from clutches in the wild. Having seen an angry mother trying to guard her eggs, I can imagine what that was all about. It makes me kind of ashamed when I think of what we were doing with that first challenge at the Triwizard's Tournament."

"Harry, you were a fourth year. It wasn't like you had anything to do with setting that up. What choice did you have?" Abagail asked.

"I understand that, little one, but it still makes me feel bad," he said with a sigh, "Ah well, at least we uncovered that whole mess and it can be set to rights. I'd imagine those caves are going to be swarming with Goblins at some point," he said and then snorted. "I wonder how many of the so called traditionalists out there will think it was some sort of plot of the Goblins so they could sneak into the Ministry and revolt again."

"Probably more than a few, Harry. Do you really think that was how that Professor Quirrel managed to sneak into the Gringotts vaults when you were a first year?"

"I don't know, little one. On the one hand it would explain it, but on the other, if he could get into that part of the Mysteries Department why did they have so much trouble getting to the Prophecy about me and Voldemort," Harry mused.

"Hmm, I remember that story, Harry. You told me all about that night. Wasn't the key that only someone involved in the prophecy could get access to it? So even if they were in the Prophecy section, which they were, you had to touch the particular globe, not one of them. So all kinds of Riddle's people could have been in and out of the department, right?" she asked.

"Maybe, I don't know, I guess so," Harry said, scrubbing at his face, something he only did when he was feeling particularly tired. "I'm in no shape to be doing any deep thinking at the moment. I'll feel better after some dinner and a good night's sleep."

As if on cue, Nibs popped his head around the edge of the entrance to the living room and announced that dinner was being served in the dining room. Harry just nodded his acknowledgement and stood up along with Abagail, who took his hand in both of hers and together they made their way to the dining room. Four place settings were arranged at one end of the long table. Ginny was already there with James in his carrier resting on the table next to her and Teddy sitting in his place looking at Harry as he and Abagail entered.

"Are you ok, Harry?" the boy asked.

"More or less, Ted. I'm tired and hungry, so a good dinner and early night should see me past most of it. Try not to worry about it. Dinner looks terrific," the last he said to Ginny.

"Enough talking. Sit yourself down and eat," Ginny said in a fair imitation of her mother.

Harry smiled and shook his head as he took his place at the table. He was hungry but he was also tired and still a little depressed so he only managed two helpings of everything. By the time he was done the combination of the day's efforts and stress and his relatively full stomach had him nearly dozing off at the table. Ginny shook her head and told him to get himself off to bed. Before he did he was asked for and gave permission for Abagail and Teddy to use the wizards chess set in the library. While Abagail was not a frequent player she was still able to play fairly well.

Harry's sleep that night was a hazy mix of dreams and near dreams. He spent a fair amount of time 'listening' to the muttered grumblings of the dragon. In the morning when he had the opportunity to think about it, he surmised that his more vivid dreams were driven by the anger he had barely managed to control the day before. He dreamed he was rampaging through caverns and passageways flaming anything and everything in his path. After waking up he felt better, if still a bit tired. He was sure that his improved mood was in part the result of a certain feeling of smug self satisfaction emanating from that small corner in his mind where the dragon spent most of its time. Apparently someone had enjoyed last night's dreams.

Ginny was already up and out of the room as was James. Harry pulled on some clothes and made his way to the kitchen and some breakfast. He found a cup of tea already waiting for him next to his place setting and he sighed with deep satisfaction over the first cuppa of the day. Kreacher floated a platter across the kitchen and brought it to rest on the counter in front of his master.

"Master Harry is feeling better this morning?"

"Yes, Kreacher. Thank you. I'm sure I'll feel even better after a good breakfast and a second cup of tea, but I'm pretty sure there's going to be a nap inserted in the day somewhere," Harry said with a smile.

"It is good that Master Harry has the opportunity to rest," the little house elf replied.

"And what about you, Kreacher? Are you able to rest now that you have Dinkle and Nibs to help?"

"Kreacher does not take naps but Kreacher does not have to work so hard or do so much so that is like resting for a house elf. Kreacher feels well."

"That's terrific, Kreacher. I'm very happy it's working out for you."

Kreacher gave Harry a smile and went back towards the stove. Harry was working through his second helping when Ginny and Teddy came into the kitchen.

"Well, good morning, sleepy head. Are you feeling any better this morning?" Ginny asked.

"I'm getting there, Gin. I had some strange dreams but I did get a fair amount of sleep."

"I can imagine about those dreams. You were pretty restless there for a while and a couple of times I had to slide clear to the other side of the bed you were throwing off so much heat," she said with a smile. "And you were doing a lot of mumbling in your sleep."

"Sorry about that. My big friend up here," he began, tapping his forehead, "was pretty active last night."

"It's ok, sweetheart. As long as you're feeling better."

"Have you two had breakfast yet?" Harry asked.

"Oh, yes. We were upstairs with Abagail going over some of the drawings she's been working on. I heard back from the publishers and they are very interested in seeing what we have in mind."

"That's terrific. I'm nearly done here. It looks like a good day for flying. We can give Ted a good workout this morning," Harry said with a smile.

Ted smiled in return as he nodded his agreement. Harry gulped down the last of his breakfast and finished off his tea. Then they went to retrieve their brooms from, of all places, a broom closet that had been built underneath the staircase leading upstairs. When Harry had first seen the space under the stairs he looked in and said,

"You could sleep two in here."

Ginny responded with a slap on the arm and then a tight hug. It was agreed that it would be used for storing their brooms and flying gear. Harry had purchased several spares to be on hand for any visitors that wanted to take advantage of the open spaces.

In short order they were outside. After the first week of lessons and with Teddy feeling more comfortable, Harry had joined in. He would lead his godson above the field in a series of maneuvers and Ginny would watch from a suitable vantage point, calling out encouragement and suggestions. With such expert guidance Teddy was making rapid progress.

This day's session was helping Harry shrug off the last of his morose mood from the previous day. He wasn't going to forget about what he saw, but at least he could now look at it as a problem to be solved, as Ginny had so wisely suggested. He couldn't let himself get too wrapped up in his flying since he still needed to stay below the tree line so he couldn't get much above fifty feet, therefore his more elaborate maneuvering had to be left for another day and place.

After a while they came in for a landing and Harry looked at the youngster and said,

"You're really doing a great job up there, Ted. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see you flying for a house team at some point."

Teddy's face split into a big smile. Ginny was relieved to see that Harry was quickly shedding the unhappiness from the day before but she had already set in motion what she hoped would put him back in the frame of mind he been in since the beginning of the summer. The first few weeks were the happiest she had seen him in a very long time and she wanted that back for him.

Her plan came to fruition that Saturday. Harry was out on the lawn looking at the various flowerbeds and shrubbery, wondering what he was going to have to do to make sure it all survived. He remembered what it was like having to weed and trim in Uncle Vernon's garden but it didn't impart any knowledge as to what was required to keep everything alive. He was just considering the likelihood of having to bring in professional help when he heard some footsteps on the gravel path coming from the wood.

"Hello, Harry dear, how are you getting on?"

"Mum? Dad? I didn't know you were coming today," Harry said.

"What are you saying, dear? We have to make arrangements before we can drop by?"

"Well, of course not," Harry said seriously, "I was just surprised is all. Pleasantly surprised."

"Oh, Harry, I was just teasing you. Actually, Ginny invited us to come over. I suspect a family gather is in the offing," Molly Weasley said as she wrapped her son in a big hug.

"Hmm, I thought she was making a lot of trips to the owlry. Not that I'd mind, of course. It's a brilliant idea," he said with a smile. "I assume you arrived by the Popular?" this being directed to his dad.

"Of course, son. We're getting a bit on in years for using brooms and it's a marvelous day for a drive," Arthur Weasley replied.

Abagail and Teddy were the next members of the greeting committee to meet the elder Weasleys. Ginny stayed inside with James, both of whom received their share of hugs, kisses, and fuss. They all settled into the living room for a family chat.

"So, Harry. How are you getting on?" Arthur asked.

"I'm doing alright, Dad. I suppose you heard about what happened."

"Yes, indeed. There was no general announcement of course, but Charlie did inform the Minister and Director Grimsson about what you uncovered and the Department Heads were filled in. The Director had Hermione coordinate with her contacts in the Goblin community and a search team of sorts has been formed and will begin exploration on Monday. The Gringotts Goblins are already investigating from their side to see if there is any connection between the two sets of caverns. Charlie told me how you reacted to the whole mess."

"It was pretty ugly, that's true, but at least it proved I was able to keep things under control. It seems as if all my anger is sort of embodied in the dragon you might say. And when I had to, I was able to face it down so I guess I don't have to worry about the change happening on its own if I get really upset," Harry said.

"I'm glad to see you were able to find a bright spot in all that, son," Mr. Weasley said proudly.

Harry smiled but suppressed the shrug. Any further conversation was interrupted by the sounds of the arrival of some very welcome guests. Fleur swept into the room just as Harry stood up. He was quickly engulfed by a pair of slender and deceptively strong arms. Harry wondered if under the smooth skin were steel cables. Before Fleur let him go he felt another pair of arms wrapping around his legs.

"Hello, Fleur and hello to you, Miss Victoire," Harry said with a grin.

"'lo, Uncky 'arry."

"That's uncle Harry, Victoire. Try and say 'uncle'.

"Uncle 'arry," came the very serious reply.

"That's my girl. Very good."

As the morning progressed towards noon most of the rest of the Weasley clan had arrived. As usual George and Angelina would be there towards late afternoon, once the busiest part of the day had passed. Harry always marveled at how so many people could find the time from their busy lives to offer their support when they thought he needed it. His subsequent feelings of love and gratitude set the pattern for the rest of his life. He never let an opportunity pass, no matter how great or small, to help whomever in his extended family needed it.

After Charlie and Eleanor had arrived he was able to do a small but important favor for El. Charlie was his usual cheerful self, shaking hands with Harry with a smile and thanking him again for helping him with the search. When he went off to the kitchen to see what was being offered for lunch, Eleanor pulled Harry aside and spoke to him in low tones.

"Harry, I need to ask you to do something for me."

"Of course, El, name it," Harry said.

"I need you to talk to Charlie. He's feeling pretty bad about what happened in the Mysteries Department. He feels guilty about pulling you into it and what you went through. It's really tearing at him. Could you talk to him about it? Try and cheer him up?"

"Of course I will. It wasn't like he tied me up and forced me to go. Don't worry. I'll bring him around," Harry said with a grin.

His opportunity came shortly after lunch. Many of the day's guests had gone outside to watch some of the family that had taken to the sky over the meadow. Harry had intercepted Charlie before he had a chance to mount up.

"A word in your ear, Charlie?"

"Certainly, Harry. What's on your mind?" Charlie asked with what Harry could tell was a forced cheerfulness.

"There's no reason for you to feel any kind of responsibility for what happened the other day down in Mysteries. I had volunteered my help from the start and there wasn't anything to indicate what we might find. In fact, I probably had a better idea of what was coming than either you or Bill," Harry said quietly.

Charlie's brittle smile had left his face to be replaced with a much more somber expression. He looked at his brother in law and said,

"I know all that, Harry, but once Bill and I saw what was in there, I shouldn't have let you come in. I should have known, better than just about anyone, what kind of reaction your dragon side would have had. I'm sorry for what I put you through."

Harry looked at Charlie and gave him one of those crooked half smiles and said, shaking his head a bit,

"Charlie, you know I think of you as one of my big brothers. But do you really think, big brother, that you could have stopped me from going into that room, once I decided to. The only one responsible for my being there was me. It was rough, that's true, but it wasn't all that bad and it did help prove I can control that side of me when I have to. Do me a favor will you, big brother? Lighten up a little. El is concerned about you, so do it for her if for no other reason."

Charlie briefly locked eyes with Harry and then with a nod and quick smile he gave Harry a clap on the shoulder and then went in search of Eleanor and his broom. Harry watched him walk away, a small smile on his face. By the time dinner was ready everyone had worked up a good appetite and Nibs was practically beside himself with excitement. His duties at Hogwarts had him preparing just a small part of any of the meals. At Meadow Crest he was able to have a hand in practically everything, except dessert. With Master Harry's fondness for sweets, Kreacher insisted on taking care of that himself.

Everyone was seated in the dining room, helping themselves to the wonders of Kreacher and Nibs' kitchen when Harry once again felt that faint, warm touch on the back of his head and neck. His eyes immediately sought out Abagail and she returned his look with raised eyebrows and slight nod in the affirmative. Harry resolved to discuss it with her at the earliest opportunity. The rest of the meal passed without incident and most of the guests took their leave not too long afterward. The general consensus was that while Harry was in a better mood he could still use another early night to complete the 'healing'.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were the last to leave but only after Molly had given Harry a thorough once over. He did not, however, go directly to bed. He remained in the library and did some reading. He had gotten through a few chapters of a fairly old tome on spell creation when he heard a soft knock on the edge of the doorframe. He never closed the door when he was in the room. He looked up and saw Abagail standing in the doorway expectantly.

"May I?" she asked in that airy voice.

"Of course, little one," Harry said with a smile.

She walked quietly to the chair closest to Harry and sat down and looked at him. Harry set the book he was reading down on the small table beside his chair and looked back at her.

"So, to what do I owe the honor of your visit?"

"Do I have to have a specific reason to want to spend time with you, Harry?" she replied.

"Well, of course not, but I just thought…" he tailed off.

She gave him a smile, not a sad one, but one that spoke of many things unsaid.

"You know, Harry, I sometimes wonder that with all we've been through together, with our special connection, that I might understand you better than anyone else, maybe even better than yourself. You still don't understand, really understand, what we all see in you. Why we admire and love you the way we do," she said in a voice that sounded much older and wiser then her seventeen years.

He looked at her, his green eyes wide and questioning, his look puzzled. She looked back at him with a steady gaze.

"I do a lot of thinking when I'm painting or drawing, maybe too much. I think about you a lot. And I think that had the circumstances been very different, the way I feel about you would be very different, too."

At this point she had to laugh a little as Harry's eyes went very wide and he looked somewhat alarmed.

"Don't get excited, Harry. I said if things had been very different. I'm very happy that things are the way they are and that you are my father and big brother and teacher and protector all rolled into one. But I also know that you've been through a great deal these last years and I don't think you've really had the chance to get your feet under you as far as your feelings and emotions are concerned. You've been really happy these last few weeks with James and the new house and leaving the Ministry and then this business with that room whipped you right back to the old ways again. I can feel it."

As she said this she reached out with her small hand, inviting Harry to take it in his, which he did.

"We all know it, more or less. That's why everyone is so willing to be here when you need us. There's a lot of love for you in this family Harry. Use it to hold you up until you can get your feet on firmer ground. You've spent nearly a quarter of a century being knocked about and pulled this way and that. Wrap yourself in that love and use it to cushion yourself. You've been protecting us for long enough. Let us protect you for a while."

When Harry thought back on this mostly one sided conversation in the years to come it amazed him that he hadn't started to cry or even to tear up. Perhaps it was the soft, serious way that Abagail had spoken, perhaps it was his fatigue. He was never able to understand it. He did marvel at what his diminutive ward, or more correctly, his eldest child had said. After a few moments he did manage to find his voice.

"Earlier, at dinner, it was her again, wasn't it? My mother, I mean."

"Of course it was, Harry. I probably shouldn't say this, but she's never very far from you. It seems like the bond grows stronger each time she touches you like that. It's especially strong here in the house. It's there with your father as well, but with your mother it's much stronger. Maybe it's tied in with the protective magic, I'm not sure. She's very happy with the way things have worked out for you, Harry. And she absolutely adores James. But she does worry about you, especially when your unhappy," Abagail said and then gave Harry an impish grin. "I know you tease us when you call us your guardian angels but it appears you really do have one."

Harry gave a small smile back and then tugged on Abagail's hand and pulled her to him and held her tightly for a while. She replied in kind. After a time he eased his grip and they were able to look at each other and he said,

"I guess we've done pretty well for ourselves haven't we? A pair of orphans who found real family."

"That's right, Harry. But I think you mean former orphans."

Harry's sleep that night was much more peaceful and when he awoke he felt refreshed. He was feeling so good in fact he decided he would give his draconic self a bit of flight time so after a serious breakfast, he kissed Ginny farewell and Disapparated to that spot in the hills behind Hogsmeade with which he had come to be so familiar. It was moderately overcast which would serve Harry well and he spent several hours cruising above the cloud layer, dipping, diving and just thoroughly enjoying his time on the wing. He was soaring over a particularly rugged area when his dragon senses picked up something strange, a feeling of 'something's not right'.

Since the area was relatively unpopulated he dropped lower and began to scan the craggy landscape with his keen dragon vision. It wasn't long before a bright patch of color caught his eye against the backdrop of dark rock. Passing lower he could see it was a person, lying at the bottom of a short steep section of rock. There was no movement but when he focused he could pick up a faint, but steady heartbeat. He dropped to land on a narrow ledge above where the person was lying.

Reaching down with his long neck, Harry was able to make a careful examination and saw that it was a man, a bit larger than Harry in his human form, but of a more muscular build. He was dressed in a bright yellow jacket and jeans, with rugged looking hiking boots. A small backpack was on the ground next to him. His clothes were torn here and there, so Harry assumed he had slipped and slid down the rock face. Harry had to come to a decision and quickly. His senses told him that the man was in need of serious help. Even if he were to fly to the nearest village or town and look for help in human form it would be hours before the man would be reached.

There wasn't enough room for him to get to the man in dragon form so he changed back and took out his wand and pointed it at the unconscious form. He said 'wingardium leviosa' and the body slowly lifted from the rocky ground as Harry gently floated him up to come to rest on the ledge. Tucking the wand back into his belt, he went 'dragon' again and with great care and uncharacteristic delicacy lifted the man in his foreclaws. He was glad his knee had healed so well because he had to put a great deal of pressure on his hind legs to assist his wings as they swept deeply to lift of with his burden tucked up tight to his chest.

During his flight he had noticed a small town not too far by air from where he found the trekker. He knew he couldn't just drop into the middle of the town center so he circled high above until he saw what he was looking for. About a mile from the town was a large clearing. He made sure he fixed the area closer to the edge of the town in his mind's eye and then swooped in to land. He gently laid the man on the grass and then changed. Without his wand he levitated the man and holding him by the arm he Disapparated to the edge of town. He could hear some voices from not too far away as he gently let the man down to the ground. Then as loud as he could he yelled out,

"I need help over here," and when he heard voices raised in response he Disapparated back to the clearly.

From there he Disapparated directly back to the edge of Hogsmeade and then made use of the fireplace in the little rented house to make his way back to Meadow Crest. He was home in time for a late lunch. While he was eating Ginny strolled into the kitchen, James cradled in her arms.

"So how was your flying, Harry?"

"It was fine, Gin. I think my big friend should be content for a while. It was a nice day to fly," he said.

"I'm glad you had a good time. Oh, by the way. Ron was by while you were gone. He just wanted to see how you were doing. When I told him where you were he figured that was a good indication you were doing alright," she said with a smile, then continued. "Could I impose on you to keep an eye on James for a while after you finish eating? I have some work to get done. Hagrid sent some more material and I need to go through it."

"Of course, I'd be happy to," Harry replied with a grin.

He was as good as his word and spent the whole rest of the afternoon with his son. He brought him into the library and read to him until he fell asleep. Both Abagail and Teddy stopped in for brief visits and then settled into a quiet game of chess. Well, relatively quiet. The individual combats were executed with brevity and with minimal shouts and exhortations. Whoever had spelled these pieces had done an excellent job of giving them some situational awareness and they behaved as if they knew there was a sleeping infant nearby. All in all it was a good day for Harry.

The next day brought a bit of a bump, however, with a visit from Hermione. Kreacher welcomed her at the front door and escorted her to the library where Harry was making further progress into the old tome he was working on. When Kreacher announced Hermione Harry looked up with a smile.

"Hermione, what a nice surprise. What brings you out here?" Harry asked.

"I was wondering if you know anything about this?" she asked, handing Harry a folded newspaper.

It was a section of the London Times. The headline for the story read,

'Lost Trekker Found Miles From Last Known Location'.

The story went on to tell about a hiker that was overdue in the Scottish Highlands and had miraculously appeared at the edge of a small town a number of miles from where he was expected to be. The man was unconscious when found by townspeople responding to a shouted plea for help. He had heavy bruising to the head and a concussion as well as broken ribs, a wrenched knee and a number of cuts and contusions. It was pretty obvious that he couldn't have walked out in that condition.

The story also told of how when the man awoke later that evening he told of feeling, almost as if in a dream, of being lifted up and flying through the air and then being put down again. He had no idea how he had gotten there nor could her remember anything beyond slipping and sliding off the ledge he had been walking on. Before he slipped into a sedated sleep he muttered something about angels.

Authorities were asking for anyone who might have seen something unusual to come forward. When Harry had finished reading the article he looked up at Hermione but said nothing. She fixed him with her best 'Hermione' look and said,

"Ron told me when he came home yesterday that you were out, flying as the dragon up in the Highlands. Did you have something to do with this?" she asked.

"Hermione, whatever would make you think something like that," he asked, his face a mask of innocence.

"Because I know you were up there and I know that if you happened to come across someone in trouble you wouldn't, couldn't leave them there. So, tell me what went on," she said.

"Um, no offense intended, Hermione, but why should I have to do that?" Harry asked.

"Firstly, and most importantly because I am your friend and family and I get concerned when you expose yourself like this. Secondly, because Minister Shacklebolt asked me to come out here and find out if you had anything to do with it. It seems he takes a personal interest in a certain unregistered animagus," she said, folding her arms and looking sternly at him.

"Alright, yes it was me. I was up there flying around, having a great time after everything that happened last week. I saw a brightly colored something or other down on the ground and I went to take a look. It turned out to be a fallen hiker and a managed to carry him out and get him somewhere he could get help. Like you said, I couldn't just leave him there."

"Well, thank you for being honest with me, finally," she said in her best exasperated voice. "That being the case the Minister said to tell you 'well done' but please try and be careful. If the muggles start seeing a bloody great dragon in the skies of Scotland it's only going to make things difficult for you. There's already enough speculation about what's been going on lately," she finished.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked.

"Your connection to the dragon that saved Hogwarts and showed up at Halloween, on top of what was just found in Mysteries has people talking is what I mean. The Patrollers have heard some people talking about the 'Dragon Wizard' and they mean you."

"Oh, dear," was all Harry said.

"That's right. So try and keep things a bit more low key, will you, Harry?" she said with a small smile.

Harry just nodded and he stood up to see Hermione to the door. With a parting hug she left to go back to the Ministry and report to Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry walked back to the library in thought. He resumed his seat and thought about this new title. He had been the 'boy who lived' then mistakenly 'the Heir of Slytherin'. The Centaurs called him the 'Serpent Slayer' and then the 'Serpent King' and now some witches and wizards were calling him 'Dragon Wizard'. Why wasn't being just 'Harry Potter' enough?

The next significant event of the summer was his birthday, the first in the new home and Ginny pulled out all the stops. Not only was the family invited but many of his friends from the Ministry and Hogwarts. As a special surprise, the Delacours were there, spending part of their holidays with Bill and Fleur. He hadn't seen them in a while and he was happy they were able to attend. He was startled to see how grown up the seventeen year old Gabrielle looked.

She was not quite as tall as Fleur but she had filled out more, giving her a curvy, more mature look than her seventeen years would suggest. She did however follow in her sister's footsteps in the way that she greeted her 'big brother'. When she saw him for the first time that day she let out a squeal and hurried up to him with arms wide. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tightly. She bestowed the customary kisses on each cheek and then pulled him close again. When she finally let go she stepped back. There was none of the giggly, awestruck girl. She was poised and composed and smiled widely.

"Brother 'arry, eet ees wonderful to see you again. My eengleesh ees much better, yes?"

"It is, Gabrielle. Your English is far better than my French could ever be," Harry said then shook his head. "My goodness, you look so grown up. It's heard to believe you're the same girl I found at the bottom of the lake at Hogwarts."

At this compliment she did blush a bit and Harry could see the same girl prone to giggles but it passed quickly. She looked back at Harry with those bright blue eyes, so much like Fleur's and said,

"You deed not expect me to stay a leetle girl all my life did you, mon frere?" she asked.

"No, of course not, but it's still an amazing thing. Come on, let's bring your folks inside so they can see James. I guess that makes you his Aunt Gabi, wouldn't it?"

"Oui, 'arry, eet would but I would prefer Aunt Gabrielle. Gabi is a leetle girls name," she said with a grin.

Harry laughed and nodded and after a handshake for Mr. Delacour and hug for his wife he led them inside for a tour and to see James. Gabrielle made a great fuss over her 'nephew' and after asking for and getting permission to hold him she cuddled him and gave the baby a number of kisses. Harry could see that the mothering instinct was just as strong in Gabrielle as it was in Fleur. Harry only hoped that it would be directed at the younger members of the family. One silver haired guardian angel was more than sufficient.

The party was a great event. At Harry's insistence the invitations had contained a request not to bring presents. The restriction was generally adhered to although there were a few surreptitious exceptions. Angelina had slipped him his own box of the biscuits he loved so much. Ron gave him a book on chess strategy and Abagail quietly pressed a small object into his hand that turned out to be a small but highly detailed figurine of a dragon that looked uncannily like Harry in his dragon form. She never said how she had managed the likeness.

Later in the day, as guests had broken up into smaller groups, Harry spent his time moving about playing host as much as 'birthday boy'. As he stood talking Quidditch with Charlie, Bill and Eleanor he noticed a small group sitting on lounge chairs not too far away. It was Fleur, Abagail and Gabrielle. He doubted any gathering of movie stars or models could have boasted a better looking trio. As it was, the two silver haired and one black haired beauties were talking quietly, with occasional laughs.

As if sensing his gaze, Abagail looked up and directly at him with a smile. Then she turned to her two friends and whispered something and then the three all looked at Harry and simultaneously blew him kisses. He shook his head and smiled back at them, remembering what Abagail had told him that night in the library.

It was a wonderful day and after the guests had all left he sat in the living room with his family. There was a bit of seriousness in the discussion however. It was the last day of July and Teddy was due to leave the next day. It had been great fun having him there. He had been an enthusiastic broom flying student and fun companion for Abagail. He was understandably subdued as they sat and discussed the day.

"So, Ted, I hope you've enjoyed your time here?" Harry asked.

"Oh, yeah, Harry. It's been great. Nan is really terrific but there's only so much I can do there. All the space here to fly and explore and being around Abagail has been really cool."

"Hmmm, that's good to hear because I contacted your grandmother last week and we agreed you could stay until Quidditch camp starts. How's that sound?"

"Oh wow, cool, thanks, Harry. That's great," Teddy nearly yelled.

Those first weeks of August proved to be rather busy ones. Charlie came by several times to have meetings with Harry and Bill to finish up the arrangements for camp. The support from the QUABBLE people eased the burden somewhat as they provided some additional administrative assistance that helped offset Charlie's involvement in the Mysteries Department investigation. Meadow Crest also hosted a meeting between representatives of the book publishers and Ginny, Charlie and Abagail. Hagrid had sent word that he was happy to let them deal with this part of the project.

By the time the camp was due to begin a deal had been reached for publishing the book with an additional offer for Abagail about doing some free lance illustrating on other projects. Charlie had also reported that they were starting to make some headway with the files and materials being uncovered. Harry had also closed the deal for the purchase of the little house in Hogsmeade that would serve as a transit point on the Floo network for him to go back and forth to Hogwarts as well as to stay over if it ever became necessary.

The day before the camp was to begin was a trying one at the Potter household. It was time for Teddy to leave. Andromeda Tonks arrived late in the afternoon to join them for a farewell dinner of sorts and in a private conversation thanked Harry profusely for the time he spent with the boy. She had enjoyed her summer of travel very much but she had to admit she had missed Teddy and was glad to be taking him home.

When the time came for him to go, there were many hugs and a few tears and promises for frequent visits. To facilitate this Harry gave Andromeda a large supply of floo powder and told Ted he was welcome at any time, particularly on weekends. After seeing Teddy and his grandmother on their way from the small building in the rear courtyard Harry walked slowly back into the house, which seemed just a bit empty at the moment. It had been fun having his godson around and it made him a little anxious to have James grow up just a touch faster.

He left for camp the following morning just as the sun was coming up. Ginny was only going to be able to manage one or two appearances for half a day or so; not wanting to place too much of a burden on her mother for babysitting chores, or so she said. Harry suspected it had more to do with not wanting to be away from James for any extended period of time. She also claimed that with the deal made on the book she needed to spend more time on that in the coming weeks. Harry merely smiled and nodded as he listened but he wasn't buying anything she was trying to sell.

Regardless of circumstances Harry was happy to immerse himself into the full two weeks of camp for the first time since its inception. He offered the opening welcome and gave the initial evaluation his full attention. Much as he had during his visit with Ginny to the Beauxbaton camp on their honeymoon he was able to absorb amazing amounts of detail watching the flyers individually and in groups. When it came time to sit down with the other 'coaches' they were duly impressed, and several flat out amazed, at the information he was able to provide on each flyer. Bill jokingly suggested that Harry's ability to absorb information was rivaled only by his ability to absorb food.

Then they all got down to the real work, or play, depending on your point of view. Flyers were separated by experience, ability and position preference. Harry worked with two other Seekers, one a retired professional, the other a former standout as a student at Hogwarts a dozen or so years before Harry first attended. With a healed knee and a clear head, Harry was having the time of his life doing the two things he loved most, flying and teaching.

He would stay for the dinners and then take the floo network home where he was able to spend some time with James while Ginny was able to take some time for herself. All in all it was two of the best weeks he could imagine. After some discussion it was decided, at Ginny's insistence, that she and her parents would see to getting Abagail to the train station for her last trip up and Harry would meet her at the station.

As Harry stood on the platform at Hogsmeade, dressed in new black robes with the Hogwarts emblem, denoting his status as a true Professor, he watched as the column of black smoke from the Express became visible in the distance. He felt that he had come to another one of those crossroads in his life. His life as an active fighter of the dark arts was over, at least officially. He was now a family man and an educator. He would be approaching the problem of the dark arts from a different direction that he hoped wouldn't take such a toll on his body and his family's nerves. As he watched the train slowly roll into the station he had to smile. Life was good.

Authors note: My dear friends, contrary to what I wrote in my last note, I've decided to bring this phase of Harry's life journey to an end. The story went much further than I had originally intended and as a result, I've neglected a project that I need to return to, that is the sequel to my first novel. But try not to be too upset. I plan to return to Harry after this project is finished, probably sometime early next year. I will pick up where this story leaves off with a working title of "Professor Potter". I've enjoyed creating this story for you and appreciate those of you who've taken the time to let me know what you thought. I look forward to returning to the world JKR provided to us and hope you'll be there to enjoy it.