AN/ This is it, my very first Harry Potter story. This is HBP compliant, the story begins immediately after the Sixth book.
AN/ There is a flashback passage here from the end of the HBP, in the book it is told from Harry's perspective, but here we shall see it from Ginny's, everything else presented here is my own work
AN/ I don't own anything in this universe, no matter how much i might want to, there is no profit being made. Without any further delays, may i present...
It was the year 1997, nearly a thousand years after the founding of the first of the magical schools. Located deep in the Scottish highlands. The school was a port of call for Purebloods, the muggleborn, halfbloods, werewolves, politicians, and students from many lands.
It could be a dangerous place, but we all knowingly accepted the risks, because Hogwarts was our last, best hope for peace.
But in the final years of the War, Hogwarts became something much greater: it became our last, best hope – for victory.
(adapted from the opening credits Babylon 5)
"A Man will suffer a great deal just to be happy"
Mary Montague 1759
Chapter One: Arrivals and Departures
Hogwarts Express, 25 June
Harry sat, as he had throughout the entire journey, silently staring out the window, but his eyes didn't see the countryside blurring past as the Hogwarts Express made its way swiftly back to London, his thoughts were still with the white marble tomb by the lake shore at Hogwarts, that and the task ahead of him.
Regardless of any prophesy, Harry had sworn an oath on Dumbledore's grave that he would see Voldemort dead, and to do that he had to find and destroy four more Horcruxes, those terrible items that contained a sliver of the dark lord's twisted soul. Only then could he find and destroy the last part of evil, the small sliver that remained in the dark lord's foul body.
He had known from the moment of Dumbledore's death that the path in front of him was one he had to walk alone. To protect his friends and loved ones, to protect sweet Ginny, he had begun to mentally back away, to isolate himself from them.
No longer could he or would he let anyone else stand between him and The dark lord, he had already lost so much, people who had cared for him and stood in front of him one by one, all determined to protect him. First his parents, then his God father, even Cedric Diggory had died for him, and now the last and greatest of his protectors had been slain. No more!
Despite the fact that he, as always, shared the compartment with his best friends in the whole world, Hermione and Ron, he could not remember ever feeling so alone.
Harry had not spoken fully of his plans with his friends, they would try to stop him doing what had to be done. Hermione, she would stand there with her hands on her hips and use logic to tear any argument of his to shreds. Ron, always the more passionate, would use emotional blackmail.
How many times since they had met that first year had he led them into, or caused them to be placed in, dangerous situations? More times than he could count. And then there was Ginny, Ron's younger sister, and the witch that had stolen his heart.
The dark lord had already reached out once and nearly snatched her from him, and that was before he had even realised the depth of his feelings for her, if anything happened to Ginny it would just destroy him. Harry knew he had already caused her great pain by breaking up with her, but he had told her his reasons, and had seen understanding alongside the pain in those eyes he had wanted to so much to lose himself in.
Normally she would have ridden back to London in their carriage, but she had this time opted to travel with some of her own year to avoid any awkwardness with Harry, and for that brief respite he was grateful, for while his feelings for her remained undiminished he had to focus on the task at hand.
The task of killing the dark lord, the most powerful dark wizard there had ever been. Although he tried to keep such dark thoughts from entering his head, Harry knew deep down he would probably not survive the confrontation, he was, in his opinion, neither an especially powerful nor gifted wizard. Despite the title the-boy-who-lived, the four times he had faced the dark lord up to that point had been survived by the assistance of others or sheer dumb luck, and eventually that luck had to run out.
A loud bang from the carriage pulled Harry's attention back to the here and now, Ron's old and temperamental exploding snap deck had caught his red haired friend again, and he was busy checking to see if he had any eyebrows left. Hermione just shook her head in exasperation, rolled her eyes at the stupidity of boys and sighed before going back to her latest book.
Harry knew he would miss them terribly, but the time had come, it was time to take the first step down a very dark path. Standing, Harry pretended to stretch.
"I'm going for a walk to stretch my legs, see you guys later" Ron looked up and gave him a toothy grin, Hermione smiled, then made meaningful eye contact with Ron. Harry knew that within moments of the door being pulled shut, the two of them would be all over each other, Harry was glad they would at least have each other, his friends deserved to be happy.
Moving into the passageway, Harry squeezed aside to let a group of giggling Hufflepuff girls past, then slipped into the carriage toilet and locked the door.
The house elf suddenly appeared from under Harry's invisibility cloak, he had been waiting for Harry's arrival in the toilet for the entire journey, god alone knew what sights had been inflicted upon him by the other students.
"Harry Potter calls, Dobby is here sir"
The little creatures fashion sense had certainly not improved since the last time Harry had seen him, he still proudly wore Ron's sweater from last Christmas, and the tea cosy for a hat, along with two mismatched soaks, one of which was still Harry's original black school sock that had won him his freedom.
"Thanks Dobby, you know what to do?" The House elf looked at Harry with those big solemn eyes and began to nod furiously.
"Oh yes, Dobby will follow Harry Potter's instructions, Take Harry Potter's chest and Harry Potter's owl to Wheezy house" For some reason Dobby had real problems with the name Weasley. "Then deliver messages to Harry Potter's Wheezy's"
"Thank you Dobby, remember if anyone asks where I am you must not tell them, this is really important for their own safety" The house elf came over all solemn and nodded.
"Dobby will do as Harry Potter asks, Dobby won't tell anyone Harry Potter has gone to 'that place'"
That place was what Dobby called 4 Privet Drive. His visit to his relatives house in Harry's second year had obviously left adeep and lasting impression on the little elf.
Satisfied, Harry smiled, reached out and patted his friend on the head, before pulling the invisibility cloak over himself, then stood and unlocked the door. Back in the corridor Harry found himself suddenly doubting his own resolve, his friends had always been there for him. When they realised he had slipped away without even a word of goodbye, they would be so angry and hurt at his lack of trust in them, but better that than Harry having to grieve over yet another coffin.
Harry moved over to the door, making sure he could be first off the carriage when it reached the station, or he would be trampled in the exodus, invisibility cloak or not. The train was already moving through the Capitals outskirts.
As he stood there waiting for the train to reach the platform, he caught a whiff of a familiar flowery smell. Turning quickly, he was suddenly chin to forehead with the last person he had wanted to see on the train. Ginny Weasley was moving down the passageway heading towards Harry's compartment, where Ron and Hermione were by now getting quite intimate.
The puffiness of Ginny's eyes led Harry to believe she had been crying, and it wrenched at his heart to see her upset in such a way, all he wanted to do was drop the cloak, and scoop the young witch into his arms and hold her tight.
But he had decided on his course of action, and knew he must carry it through. So instead of comforting Ginny, he silently stepped aside and watched her move past him without her knowing how close she was to him.
He let his fingers just brush her hair gently through the cloak as she passed, and she shivered as if caught in an unexpected draught. Then firmly clamping down on his emotions Harry turned back to the door, the express was visibly slowing now.
Kings Cross Station, Platform 9¾
Stepping onto the platform, the first thing Harry noticed was the large number of parents present, a far larger number than Harry could remember at any time in the past. Dumbledore's death had sent ripples out whose effects were going to be felt for a long time to come, of that Harry was sure. The parents all wanted to personally check that their offspring had arrived safely.
The second thing Harry noticed was the number of Ministry Auror's on hand, there must have been thirty or more trying with varying degrees of success to blend into the background.
The Ministry was finally starting to take the threat of The dark lord seriously it seemed, not that Aurors would actually bother the dark lord that much, but it made the public feel safe, and as far as the Ministry was concerned, that was what was important.
Harry still fumed over the Minister for Magic's attempt to use him as some sort of propaganda instrument, Scrimgeour had wanted him to issue statements supporting Ministry crackdowns, and to tell the public that everything was under control in respect to the dark lord, and had been quite upset when Harry had refused.
Ducking behind a luggage trolley, Harry used the smoke and steam from the train to move further up the platform, Mad Eye Moody had the ability to see through the invisibility cloak, who knew what other tricks the Aurors had up their cloak sleeves.
"Wotcha Harry" Harry froze on the spot, and slowly turned around. Leaning nonchalantly against one of the stone pillars stood a young woman only a handful of years older than him dressed in an Auror uniform, her pale heart shaped face carried a knowing smirk, and her hair was short and bubblegum pink.
"Hi Tonks, so what gave me away?"
Harry tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice, some stealth get away this was, busted within the first hundred metres. Nymphadora Tonks was a fully trained Auror and had been one of those watching over him for a couple of years. Somehow she seemed to have some sort of eighth sense when it came to Harry, perhaps because she was the cousin of Harry's godfather Sirius Black, and as such virtually family.
"Harry, when a person moves through smoke or steam they disturb the air, regardless of whether they are wearing an invisibility cloak or not, plus despite being invisible using the 'point me' spell still works to tell me where you are, so where were you sneaking off to then?"
While she had been talking Harry had taken out his wand out of his pocket and pointed at her under the invisibility cloak, he felt bad for what he was about to do, Tonks really didn't deserve it, and Remus Lupin would be so angry when he found out, but Harry couldn't let anyone stop him.
"I'm sorry Tonks, I can't tell you…Obliviate!!" Tonks' expression went slack, and her pretty brown eyes went out of focus, a look of dreamy unconcern fell over her face. Harry had used the very same memory charm he had once nearly fallen foul of himself at Lockhart's hands to remove any memory of Tonks having seen him.
It was in fact very much like selecting a memory to be extracted and placed inside a pensieve, concentrating on the image or images to be removed, but rather than removing a memory of your own you forced your way into another's mind and stripped out that persons memory. In some ways it was a violation and a form of abuse, and Harry felt terrible. But his determination forced his guilt to the back of his mind.
With the amount of people on the platform and the large number of spells being used, from shrinking charms to levitation spells, he knew he wouldn't have to face any punishments for the underage use of magic. With a last wordless and heartfelt apology to Tonks, Harry continued down the platform, avoiding any more smoke and steam, ensuring he crouched down further to avoid detection.
Near to the portal leading back to the muggle platform stood the welcoming party, representing the Weasley's both Molly and Arthur, and the twins Fred and George waited for Ginny and Ron, Arthur was having an animated discussion about television with a tall, grey haired man, he seemed to find it 'fascinating', who was arm in arm with a pretty blonde woman.
Harry recognised the couple as Hermione's parents Dan and Emma Granger. Also standing with group was his friend and Tonk's partner Remus Lupin, he looked a lot better than when Harry had seen him earlier that day at the funeral.
Harry moved past them without saying a word, he kept his gaze straight ahead, focused on the portal, he crossed through without incident, carefully removing his cloak on the other side. Moving up the platform, blending in with the muggle commuters, Harry set out on the first part of his long journey.
4 Privet Drive
The doorbell rang, and Vernon Dursley looked up from where he was sat in his armchair, reading his paper and glanced over at his wife Petunia with a quizzical expression on his face, from her shrug it was obvious they were not expecting company, heaving himself out off the chair, he moved to answer it.
"If it's those bloody Jehovah's witnesses again, I swear I may kill one of them" Vernon Dursley was a man who disliked anything that disagreed with his idea of normality, or challenged his view of how the world should be. And these religious freaks coming to bother him on his own doorstep fell into both categories.
Opening the door with a tirade of rudeness upper most in his mind, Dursley was momentarily taken aback at finding the bespectacled youth that was his nephew, on the doorstep. He had secretly hoped the boy would not be returning to his home at the end of this school year, gone off with those red haired lunatics, or the decrepit old codger that had collected him at the start of the year.
"Oh its you, well don't just bloody stand there, get in here boy, before the neighbours see you!" For many years Dursley had been telling his neighbours that Harry attended a Borstal for criminal youths, he didn't want any of the boys strangeness disturbing the Dursley's suburban paradise.
Harry entered, and Vernon slammed the door behind him, and pushed past him back into the living room.
"Don't expect any food, we've already eaten, and keep that bloody bird quiet or else!" It was tonly hen that Dursley noticed that his nephew had entered without any of the usual luggage, no chest or even a birdcage under his arm. "How long are you staying for anyway?"
Harry turned to look at him, and it was with some shock that Vernon Dursley realised that for first time his nephew was the same height as him now, perhaps even an inch taller. And from the steely look of determination in the boys' features, his uncle certainly no longer intimidated him the way he once had.
"Just for tonight, it's all I will need" Harry voice although soft had a strength to it that his uncle hadn't heard there before, something in the lad had changed, something that Dursley couldn't put his finger on. Whatever it was Dursley suddenly felt he had lost control of the usually meek youth.
Harry turned, and without a backward glance, trudged up the stairs and turned into his room, closing the door he lay down on the bed and with the emotional upheaval of the day, he was asleep in seconds.
Bill Weasley looked up from his book as his Fiancée Fleur put a steaming cup of tea on the table in front of him, he grinned at her, took her hand and kissed it. He then began to plant kisses from her wrist to her elbow, causing a fit of girly giggles.
Then with a gentle tug Bill pulled her down into his lap, she smiled sweetly and gently ran the fingers of one hand through his long untidy mop of red hair. With the other hand she gently traced the vivid lines of the mass of red and inflamed scar tissue that criss-crossed his once unblemished face.
With a little bit of Veela magic here and there, and a lot of tender loving care his face was slowly healing, it would never be unblemished and whole again, but it was a massive improvement on the mess his face had been only a week before.
He had been granted an extended sick leave from the curse breaking department of Gringotts bank, the small creatures had been unusually understanding about his injuries sustained while fighting Death Eaters for the Order of the Phoenix.
A quiet clicking sound from the wall nearby drew Bill's attention to a most unique clock, it had nine hands, one for each family member with a photo of the person on it. The hands representing his parents, the twins, Ron and Ginny had just moved to point at the section marked 'travelling', Bill sighed sadly, he knew all too soon the hands would once again be pointing at 'mortal danger' along with those of the rest of the family.
"They're on their way back, they should have been back by now in fact, I wonder what's taken them so long? Maybe the express was delayed."
Bill looked back up into the concerned eyes of Fleur Delecour, and leaned in and kissed her lips, and then kissed her again, in fact he was only interrupted by the kitchen door opening and the entrance of a very irate Molly Weasley.
Fleur slipped off Bill's lap and began to busy herself around the kitchen. She still felt intimidated by the Weasley Matriarch, and tried to overcome the problem by making herself useful in the kitchen, which only made the problem worse because Molly Weasley was very territorial when it came to her kitchen.
Tonight though, she had other things on her mind than an interloper in her kitchen.
"So what can we possibly do?" Molly's angry comments were directed over her shoulder at her husband Arthur, who was next in through the door.
"We should wait until Remus gets back from seeing those muggles I suppose, after that I guess I will have to inform the ministry" Arthur sat down at the table and lifted his hand to forestall any questions that Bill might have.
"Yeah, cos Harry and Scrimgeour are the best of friends at the moment" Ron's sarcastic comment preceded him into the kitchen, Arthur opened his mouth to reprimand his youngest son for his lack of respect to the Minister, but when he saw the face of his only daughter he quickly closed it.
Ginny had come in behind Ron, she walked in with her head down and appeared close to tears. Being the only female in seven siblings meant that the other six hovered around her, treating her like the family's precious jewel.
Bill stood up immediately and quickly gathered her into a firm hug, which she returned. Of all her brothers Ginny had always felt closest to Bill, he had never made fun of her 'petty' fears or teased her about her 'stupid' dreams. But because of his job he was very rarely at the burrow, only Charlie was absent for longer periods.
The twins came in next, they were unusually subdued, they each put an arm around their sister and also gave her a hug, this unusual sign of affection from the pair of born practical jokers was enough to bring a small smile to Ginny's face.
"Just say the word sis and we'll…"
"Turn his underwear into poison ivy or…"
"Every time he uses his wand…"
"His shoes will burst into flames…"
The twins were just warming up, although they thought of Harry as another brother, he had upset their baby sister, and they were fully prepared to defend her honour the only way they knew how.
Bringing up the rear of the group was Tonks, and if Bill hadn't figured that Harry was in trouble before, one look at the fury etched all over the face of the young Auror left him in absolutely no doubt. Her hair was oscillating through a wild and varied colour range, which for anyone who knew her was a warning that her emotions were running particularly strongly, it was the only time she lost control of her appearance like that.
"Damn him, how dare he!"
Although he had known Harry the shortest time of all those present other than Fleur and Tonks, like the rest of his family Bill had come to think of Harry as one of them, to all intents and purposes he was a Weasley.
The fact that Harry had risked his own life and in the process saved his beloved sisters life in her first year hadn't hurt, but it was very hard to dislike Harry, he was polite to a fault, unassuming and considering his upbringing, left remarkably unaffected by the trauma.
Of all the Weasley children, who it must be said were only fair letter writers at best, Bill and Ginny perhaps corresponded by owl most frequently, so when Bill had heard that Harry and Ginny were officially an item it had pleased him greatly, because he had secretly known for some time that despite what she said, Ginny had never really got over the crush she had formed on Harry in her first year.
Bill had heard enough, holding up his hands he took the bull by the horns.
"Ok, so I know it involves Harry, but what has he done now" The entire group in the kitchen, apart from Ginny, began talking at once in an unintelligible babble of overlaid voices. Turning to Fleur, Bill raised an eyebrow and cocked his head, she tried hard to smother a laugh, and the look he had given her had so clearly said 'now do you see what I have to put up with?'
"Harry snuck off the train under his invisibility cloak, then used the memory charm on Tonks when she caught him in the act" Remus Lupin stood in the doorway, looking tired and distressed. He entered the kitchen and took a chair opposite Arthur, he gratefully accepted the cup of steaming hot tea that Fleur put in front of him.
"I assume from his absence, Harry wasn't at the Dursley's?" Arthur was leaning forward, resting his elbows on the table, and trying to massage away a growing headache.
"It's worse than that Arthur, not only could I not find Harry, I couldn't even find the Dursley house at all! He must have used the Fidelis charm somehow to make it unplottable, just like at 12 Grimmauld Place"
Molly gasped, she had not been aware that Harry's magical talents had progressed even that far, the Fidelis charm was a very complicated piece of magic that could hide whatever it was cast on by binding the target to a living soul.
Fleur had been busying herself around the kitchen making tea for everyone, but she stopped when she heard what Remus had said with a puzzled expression on her face.
"Why would 'e do zis, eet makes no sense, 'e is loved here?"
Fleur alone was not surprised at the power Harry displayed, of all those present she was the only one who had ever competed against him magically, and although she had never actually duelled him, she was intimately aware of the power the small dark haired boy possessed.
"He told me he didn't want anyone else he cared for hurt in his name, he told me that he had things he must do alone, that if things went badly he didn't want to drag anyone down with him"
Ginny's small sad voice silenced the whole kitchen, she sat down upon her fathers lap and buried her head in his shoulder, something she hadn't done since coming home from that terrible first year at Hogwarts.
Arthur reached up almost hesitantly and gently stroked her hair, and made gentle reassuring noises, he shared a look of deep concern with his wife over Ginny's shoulder.
He had always been immensely proud of all his children, despite what they thought, they were each striving for greatness in their chosen fields. Ginny, the smallest and youngest of his children, had always been one of the strongest, and now she was displaying how fragile she really was he felt slightly useless.
POP! Fleur gave a loud squeak of surprise, as a house elf suddenly appeared right in front of her with a large chest and a birdcage in tow. Inside the cage, a very flustered snowy owl attempted to bite off the elf's fingers. It was Ron that reacted first.
"Dobby! Where is he, Dobby?"
The house elf looked stricken, then started bouncing his head repeatedly off the kitchen table, to the bemused looks of everyone present. Ron finally managed to grab him and managed to drag him away from the table.
"Dobby wants to tell his Wheezy's where Harry Potter is, Dobby does not like Harry Potter to be alone, but Harry Potter says Dobby mustn't tell anyone, especially his Wheezy's, it is for his Wheezy's own good."
Dobby looked up at Ron with huge regret filled eyes, although Dobby was a free elf, freed by Harry in fact, he would always consider Harry his master just because of his kindness and treatment. He could never be forced to betray Harry.
"Harry Potter wanted his Wheezy's to have these" With that Dobby pulled out a bundle of parchments and handed them to Ron, Ron had to let go of the house elf to take the parchments, it was at this point that Dobby disappeared from view.
"What an interesting creature" Molly was the first to speak in the long silence that followed the house elf's disappearance. "Apparently we are now Harry's Weasley's"
The twins both grinned at this, imagining the entire Weasley family as Harry Potter's property.
"And Ron dear, do tell me why that elf was wearing my Christmas present to you?"
"Molly, we have more important things to worry about at the moment!"
It was a rare occasion that Arthur raised his voice to his wife, they had a special relationship and it was seldom indeed that they argued. Reaching out, Arthur took the parchments from Ron, and began to dish them out to those sat around the table. One of the parchments had Hermione's name on it, Arthur passed this one to Ron so he could dispatch it via owl.
"Tonks, Remus you are welcome to spend the night, I'm sure we can find the room, what with the funeral and everything its been a very long day, its really getting late kids, I thinks its time for bed"
Ginny took her parchment from her father and cradled it to her chest, she kissed both her parents good night and went straight upstairs, both her parents watched with worried expressions, normally she would have contested her fathers decision.
Ron followed his sister, and after suffering one of their mothers' glares, the twins trooped after, despite having a flat over their shop in Diagon Alley, they still spent a lot of time in the family home, because although they wouldn't admit it, even under torture, they really missed the family environment.
"So back to my original question, what do we do now?" Molly was studying the parchment on the table, it was addressed to her, Remus and Tonks also had one.
"Well that all depends on what Tonks wants to do"
Arthur, Molly, Fleur and Bill turned to Lupin with puzzled expressions.
"Harry used a memory charm on her that is illegal without Ministry sanction, she would be well within her rights to file magical assault charges against him!"
Tonks sat there at the table without looking at any of them, her hair was now holding its usual bright pink colour, which was a good indication that she had calmed down somewhat. But it wasn't the spell itself that troubled her, it was who had cast it, she had liked Harry from the moment she had met him, and now to find herself betrayed by someone she counted a friend had hurt her deeply.
Remus moved chairs to sit next to her, he took one of her hands in his own and gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and she looked up at him and gave him a weak smile.
"Don't worry, I won't report him, but when he turns up Harry and I are going to sit down for a very long chat, one he won't enjoy"
Molly smiled at the young Auror with relief and genuine affection, she suddenly remembered her parchment, and she quickly opened hoping it provided some clue to Harry's actions.
You and your husband opened your arms, your house and your hearts to me, you gave me a sense of family I thought I would never experience again, and for that I shall always be in your debt. I cannot put into words how much the friendship and support of your entire family has meant to me from that very first moment I met you on the platform that first year.
Which is why I entrust Hedwig, my very first friend to your care, for on the path I have chosen to walk none of those I care about can be allowed to follow.
I wanted you to know how very sorry I am for any hurt I have caused your daughter, Ginny. She does, and will always fill a very special place in my heart, but for her own safety and that of my friends I have taken certain steps to distance myself from them. I could not stand it if any harm were to befall them on my account.
Perhaps if things work out, one day you will again find me at your front door, until that time I hope you will think kindly of me, and not be disappointed by anything I have to do.
Harry James Potter.
"Oh Harry" Molly wiped away a tear and passed the parchment across to her husband, after reading it quickly he came around the table and hugged her.
Remus picked up his own parchment and studied it for a moment, much as someone who has found something unpleasant on the sole of their shoe would, sighing he opened and began to read.
You are my family, more so than any blood relation I still have left, so I know right now you are sat, probably at the Weasley's kitchen table, worried sick about me. While I can tell you not to worry until I am blue in the face, it won't really make much difference will it?
I need you of all people to understand why I am doing this. All my life I have had people I care about throwing themselves in front of me to protect me from danger, often at the cost of their own lives. Mum and Dad, Sirius, and now Dumbledore. I cannot afford to lose anymore of those I care about, finally I have strength of my own to hopefully make a good showing in the coming confrontation.
The dark lord would think nothing of striking at any one of you if he thought he could get to me, so I have taken certain steps to ensure my isolation. No owl will accept any mail addressed to me, no magical means will be able to locate me, and that's the way I want it.
Something Dumbledore told me once has been running through my head recently, how important it is to fight, and to keep fighting regardless of whether it's a losing battle or not, he said it was the only way to keep evil at bay. Well I intend to fight, and I suspect it will be a losing battle, but take heart, even If don't manage to take out The dark lord I will have made it easier for someone else to do so.
Keep an eye on Remus for me, he's likely to rush off and do something heroic and stupid, like challenge Voldemort to single combat, it's the wolf in him! I can't tell you how pleased I am that you have found each other. Everyone deserves a shot at happiness, be kind to him and remember he gets a bit tetchy for three days a month, don't take it personally. I wish you both eternal love and happiness.
Harry James Potter
Remus handed the letter to Tonks and walked to the door, he spent a long time leaning against the frame staring out into the night. Bill and Fleur read both letters, Fleur reached over and hugged Bill tight.
"He really doesn't expect to live through this, does he?" Bill asked the room in general in a quiet voice.
"He knows he must face the dark lord, he just cannot see a way of beating him" Lupin had turned to face the room, still leaning against the frame.
Molly came to stand behind her husband and put both hands on his shoulders, he smiled up at her and leant his head against her arm.
"I think its time that the forces of good got into this game before the snitch is caught, Harry is going to need help, a lot of it, whether he knows it or not, whether he accepts it or not, and when that time comes we have to be ready!" Everyone in the kitchen agreed readily and began to lay plans.
Upstairs Ginny lay on her bed staring at her ceiling, her father had been right, it had been an extremely long, emotional roller coaster of a day, and she was physically and mentally exhausted, but there were so many conflicting thoughts rushing about in her head that Ginny doubted she would be able to get to sleep.
She glanced over at her parchment, it sat on her bedside table like some sort of millstone, dragging at her, she wasn't sure she could face opening it yet, she felt confused enough about what was going on in her life already without Harry muddying up the waters as only he could.
On reflection it didn't seem possible that it had only been that morning during Dumbledore's funeral, that Harry had dropped his bombshell on her.
He had a strange look on his face when he turned to face her. There was pain plainly evident on his face and other emotions were struggling to escape from under the surface.
"Ginny, listen…" His voice was quiet, but she could hear him clearly over the buzz of conversation from the other mourners "I can't be involved with you anymore. We've got to stop seeing each other. We can't be together."
Ginny's heart suddenly felt like a lump of ice in her chest.
"It's for some stupid, noble reason, isn't it" The twisted smile on her face barely hid just how much what he had said hurt her.
"It's been like…like something out of someone else's life, these last few weeks spent with you" Harry's voice was thick with emotion. "But I can't…we can't…I've got things to do alone now"
Ginny did not cry, but it was a hard struggle not to, as he continued.
"The dark lord uses people his enemies are close to. He's already used you as bait once, and that was just because you were my best friend's sister. Think how much danger you'll be in if we keep this up. He'll know, he'll find out. He'll try and get to me through you."
"What if I don't care?" And the funny thing was, she really didn't, she would have walked into the dark lord's own lair at his side if Harry had only asked her to.
"I care!" Harry's voice had a force and an emotion to it Ginny hadn't heard before. "How do you think I'd feel if this was your funeral…and it was my fault…"
There were tears in his eyes, so to save his embarrassment Ginny looked away from him, over the waters of the lake, the merpeople had gone now, leaving nothing but expanding ripples in the water.
"I never really gave up on you" Ginny couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze "Not really. I always hoped…Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with other people, and relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were in the room, do you remember? And she thought you might take a bit more notice if I was a bit more…myself…"
"Smart girl that Hermione" Harry said with a sad smile. "I just wish I'd asked you sooner. We could've had ages...Months...Years maybe..."
"But you've been too busy saving the Wizarding world" Ginny chuckled "well…I knew you wouldn't be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. I think maybe that's why I love you so much!"
Harry had squeezed her hand, his sad eyes meeting hers for a moment, he gave her a weak smile. And then he stood and turned his back on her and began to walk away. That had been the last time Ginny had seen him.
Ginny found herself sobbing quietly to herself as all the emotion of the day came rushing back to her in an overpowering torrent.
On the other side of her room was the empty bed that Hermione used on her frequent holiday visits, Ginny found herself wishing her friend was there, the brown haired witch was the one of the smartest people she knew and always a source of good advice.
Although she understood the reasons Harry had given, that his loved ones were his greatest weakness, she also saw something he obviously didn't, those very same loved ones were also his greatest strength.
His friends would stand with Harry right to the very end regardless of the danger, so what if the prophecy said either Harry or the dark lord would kill the other, it didn't say he had to face the monster alone?
Coming to a decision, Ginny reached across and picked up the parchment, and with a loud sigh opened it and began to read.
By now I guess everyone will be aware of my disappearance, I am sorry for the worry I have caused your family, your mum must be going spare with me right now, I bet even Remus is furious at me, and I deserve nothing less.
I cannot tell you how much I wish things could have been different, how much I wish I could have lived a normal life, settled down with the one I love, made a home, maybe even children. Maybe all those things still await me, the future is uncertain, you never know how things will turn out.
But with Voldemort still out there nobody will be able to live a normal life, he will see to that, he has to be stopped, before he destroys everything and everyone I hold so dear. Before he has a chance to take more lives.
Dumbledore told me all about good and evil, how good must fight, and keep fighting, even if that fight is a lost cause, this is the only way to keep evil in check.
What is now certain is that I must eventually face The dark lord, and that one of us will kill the other, but if he thinks that I will just lay down and let him kill me he is in for a big surprise, because I have been given the greatest reason in the whole world to win our battle and stay alive.
You sweet Ginny are my reason, my reason and my strength. Whenever I am near you I never seem to be able to find the words to tell you how I really feel. How much you mean to me, how much I will miss your company. I will fight and I will win, because this is the only way I can come back to you.
Take care and stay safe
Harry James Potter
Ginny held the parchment tightly in her hand, and cried for a long time before sleep finally claimed her.
Leiston was in nearly all respects the very image of the small county villages made famous worldwide by Agatha Christies' Miss Marple series of books and films.
With the quaint white stone cottages, the outsides of which were covered in colourful hanging baskets, the central village green where the local pub side played cricket on Sundays, and the small single platform railway station that had not changed since the 1960's.
The only difference between Leiston and any one of a hundred villages in neighbouring counties was the series of buildings dominating the surrounding Suffolk skyline.
In 1965, along with its twin Sizewell A, the Sizewell B Nuclear power plant, located on the Suffolk coast, had been the pride of British engineering. It had been the first nuclear plant that was envisaged, designed, and built entirely by British engineers, up until that point all the post war nuclear generators had been built under license from the American government.
The Magnox reactors, as they were called due to the casing of Magnesium oxide on the fuel rods used in the reactors, were the heart and soul of industrial Britain for three decades. But now, with advent of new technology and safer working practices the reactors were falling dangerously behind the times, and were soon to be closed.
As with all Nuclear power generation, the Magnox reactors had a very dangerous by-product, the highly unstable, radioactive spent fuel rods. The only processing plant in the country that could safely handle the old style fuel rods used by these outdated reactors was the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield where the only other Magnox reactor still operating in the country was located.
Moving the fuel rods between Sizewell and Sellafield involved a seven-hour train journey that occurred monthly on a specially constructed, government operated train, which for the duration of its journey was given priority over civilian commuter traffic. Many complaints over the years about British Rail had been caused, unknowingly to the complainant, by this service.
For over thirty years this train had run between the two exclusive stations, without a single incident, in the way of such things it had become a mind numbingly routine task. All that was going to change in one terrible night.
Locomotive driver, Phillip Marsh had just poured himself a cup of black coffee, lovingly prepared by his wife several hours earlier, when something, some impending sense of doom, made him look up at the track ahead of him, and he promptly dropped the cups contents all down himself, and grabbed for the emergency brake.
150 meters in front of the speeding train the track had just simply…stopped, just disappeared as if it had never been there, how in hell was that possible?
Phillip Marsh had extremely fast reflexes for a man of his age, but the train was still travelling at over 70mph when it ran out of track right smack bang in the centre of the village of Leiston. The effect was as instantaneous as it was spectacular, one locomotive and thirty cargo cars, each weighing in excess of 40 tons, immediately became unguided projectiles carving a path of utter devastation through the centre of the quiet rural village.
When all the twisted wreckage finally came to a rest, the scene resembled something from a Hollywood film director's most vivid imagination. The ruined remains of the station and more than a twenty cottages were illuminated by the light of fires burning in more than a dozen places, here and there a Leiston local stumbled about in his or her night clothes not understanding what had happened to their quiet existence. And then there were the spent fuel rod containers.
The bright yellow containers, transported three to a cargo car, lay scattered everywhere, like strange brick like confetti. But despite the violence of the impact, not one had split open, not one.
They had been heavily over engineered for just this sort of situation in mind, they had been dropped from aircraft, and crashed into with everything ranging from family cars to jet airliners, in one test a military jet had even shot one with an anti-tank missile, the end result? A mere scratch to the paintwork. They wern't just armoured...they were impregnable.
The incident should have ended there, a regrettable accident, with an even more regrettable loss of life. The emergency services would have arrived to begin picking up the pieces and begin an investigation into the cause, and Suffolk would have slowly returned to normal. But in the midst of the wreckage, unnoticed by any survivors, figures in long black cloaks were appearing, seemingly out of thin air with nothing but little pops.
Each figure moved with a grim purpose towards a yellow fuel rod container, levelled a wand at it, and began casting spells. The air was filled with a varied mix of incantations, "Bombarda" and "Reducto" being just two of the more recognisable.
The end result was over sixty containers buckled and split, spilling their contents of radioactive fuel rods into a growing conflagration. Their job done, the figures began vanishing with the same speed as they appeared, the last one pointed at the heavens and incanted.
"Mors Mordre!" Before vanishing with a pop.
It took a little over forty minutes for the authorities to arrive in anything like the strength to make a difference. By then it was far too late, the intense heat combined with the other chemicals present had started a chain reaction deep inside the fuel rods.
By comparison to the destruction a nuclear weapon could create, what happened in the village of Leiston was nothing, technically called a nuclear fizzle, the explosive energy released was not even enough to blow out the windows in the Sizewell reactor building five miles away.
But particles of the exploding fuel rods were thrown up into the atmosphere, and by the morning, thanks to the prevailing wind, a radioactive cloud had spread to cover half the county of Suffolk, and to all intents and purposes the village of Leiston had ceased to exist.
The dark lord had launched his second campaign with an attack on those who had no way of seeing it coming, for those bearing the Dark Mark it was shaping up to be a busy night. For everyone else, a night filled with fear, pain and death.
Longbottom Manor, Wiltshire
Neville woke with a sudden start, with a very determined toad sat on his face.
"Damn it, Trevor, Ger-off!"
Taking hold of the greatest animal escape artist in recorded history, he lay there for a moment listening to the wind howl around the big old manor house that had been in his family for centuries.
Neville Longbottom swung his legs from under his duvet and touched his feet down onto the plush carpeted floor and shivered, his breathe misting in front of him.
Neville's wand was in his hand in a second, ever since being injured in the fight at the Department of Mysteries, when his father's wand had been snapped, he had slept with his new wand under his pillow.
A powerful beam of bright white light flared from his wand tip, even this simple spell was much more powerful using his new wand, and his bedroom was thrown into stark relief. It was then that Neville saw his bedroom window, and the pattern of ice quickly spreading across it. He realised he had seen this terrible sight before, It and the terror that had followed it had stuck in his mind ever since the incident three years before on the Hogwarts express.
Dementors! Neville snapped in action, before Dumbledore's death the founding members of the D.A. had sat down and agreed on a plan of action, what to do and where to go in emergency situations, and Neville acted on that plan now. Grabbing the first clothing available, he began pulling on his school robes, Neville stuffed Trevor into one of the pockets and pulled open his bedroom door.
With his wand held ready, Neville advanced steadily down the long hallway towards his grandmother's room, a sense of terror, hopelessness and despair was growing rapidly stronger inside him. His Gran's door was partially open and without even an instant of hesitation Neville exploded inside, a spell already on his lips.
The Dementor, hovered over the bed, over the convulsing form of his Grandmother, delivering what was called 'the kiss', across the room a second Dementor was coming in through the open window.
Neville felt the despair grow within him, he felt as if he would never be happy again, as if all his hopes and dreams were being sucked directly out of him.
However Neville Longbottom was not the same clumsy, shy, ill prepared youth he had been in that first year at Hogwarts. He had seen the face of evil in the battle at the ministry, and proven himself capable of facing the most extreme danger without flinching from it. His confidence had grown, and with the help of his friends and the DA, so had his skills.
Neville braced his legs, lowered his wand, and concentrated on the happiest memory he could drag from his consciousness.
A bright mist of white formed at his wand tip, expanding until it began to coalesce into a solid form. The white Eagle beat its wings, screamed a challenge, and burst across the room at a speed that defied believe.
It struck the first Dementor, causing the foul creature to recoil in pain and surprise, but the Eagle wasn't finished, spreading its wings it seemed to grow until the wingtips reached across the room, then it pressed forward, giving the Dementors little choice but to flee from the room, out of the window.
Neville sagged to his knees exhausted, breathing heavily, although he had never had a reason to use that particular spell in anger before, he made a mental note to thank Harry for insisting they all learnt it regardless.
Using the doorframe to drag himself upright, Neville staggered to the bed, his gran lay still with her eyes shut. Reaching for her wrist, Neville was nearly overwhelmed by what he might find, but although she was ice cold, there was still a pulse.
Knowing he did not have long before the Dementors returned in greater numbers, Neville took a few deep breaths and steadied himself. Grasping his Gran's wrist tightly, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the place he was going harder than he had ever concentrated on anything in his life.
With an incredibly loud pop both Longbottoms disappeared from sight.
Granger Residence, London
Hermione Granger was, not unsurprisingly perhaps given her personality, reading a book when the power flickered and went out.
Belonging to a non-magical household, illumination in the family home was provided by good old-fashioned electricity, and for a moment she wondered with illogical irritation if her father had forgotten to pay the bill.
Rising swiftly from her cross-legged position on the bed, she moved to the window and looked out over the street, to see if the power outage was a wide spread problem.
It was very quiet, far too quiet for a Saturday night at this time of night, Knightsbridge was never this quiet. All the streetlights were out, and the only illumination came from the half moon partially hidden behind the clouds.
There was sudden movement in the shadows across the street, blurry indistinct dark clad figures moving quickly towards her house.
"Lumos!" Like the others, Hermione never let her wand out of arms reach anymore, too many things had happened, and she had sworn she would never find herself unprepared.
Charging to her bedroom door, she had barely gotten the door open when the front door to the house blew inwards in an explosion of masonry and wood.
The Granger house was an old Victorian affair with three floors, Hermione's room was on the top floor, the front door on the ground floor, with her parent's bedroom in between. It was a race, a race in which she had barely a few seconds head start to win, with her parent's lives as the prize.
Leaping down the stairs two and three steps at a time, Hermione slammed into the wall at the bottom with her shoulder ignoring the sudden pain the impact caused, and turned the corner in time to see her bleary eyed father open his bedroom door looking out at her with a puzzled expression on his face.
Because he was looking at his daughter he never saw the Death Eater reach the top of the first set of stairs, and raise his wand.
Hermione watched with satisfaction as the Death Eater was thrown against the far wall, bouced off and fell backwards down the stairs, from the sound of oaths following his unplanned descent he was not alone on the stairs at the time. Hermione raced to the bedroom door and grabbed her father by his arms. "Get to my room! Move now!"
Her father seemed to shake himself quickly out of his shock, spinning he dashed back inside, appearing a moment later dragging his confused wife by the hand, in his other hand he held some sort of package Hermione didn't recognise.
They had reached the foot of the second set of stairs, with Hermione backing up, covering them, when a second Death Eater appeared at the top of the first set.
Hermione's shielding charm caused the red beam of the stunner to deflect into the ceiling, sidestepping, it was her turn.
The Death Eaters robes burst into flames, Hermione cast the spell again, and the Death Eater was quickly engulfed in a raging inferno.
A third Death Eater appeared at the top of the stairs, and ignoring the screams from his burning colleague he moved into position to attack her.
For a moment the Death Eater and Hermione regarded each other down the length of the short hallway, Hermione felt he was regarding her with a frightening familiarity, and this was horribly confirmed when he spoke.
"100 points from Gryffindor miss Granger, for being an annoying, smug, know-it-all mudblood bitch"
Her eyes widened in shock, there was no mistaking that slimy voice, dripping with condescension, her opponent was none other than her former potions and Defence against the Dark Arts professor Severus Snape.
The man was an accomplished and experienced duellist, and Hermione knew with a dreadful certainty that she was utterly overmatched, Harry had fought a running battle with him less than a week before, that could at best only be called a draw, what chance did she have?
Snape blocked Hermione's attempt to disarm him with a casual wave of his wand, and stood there as if encouraging her to try again, gritting her teeth Hermione did just that.
This too was casually waved aside, with seemingly little effort, but Hermione wasn't done yet.
Hermione was getting increasingly desperate, she knew dozens of spells she could fall back on, but she just wasn't the skilled duellist some of her friends were, Neville and Harry were the best with Ron and Ginny only slightly behind them. She was the brains behind the group not the muscle.
"Now Miss Granger, I believe it's my turn! Sectumsempra!"
Her shield charm barely sprang into existence in time, even so the power behind the former Hogwarts Professor's spell smashed into it and overwhelmed it.
Hermione screamed in pain as she was thrown backwards by the power of the spell, a deep laceration had appeared across her hip and down the outside of her thigh, she staggered against the banister rail, but somehow managed not to fall.
"Come along Miss Granger, or I'll be forced to deduct more points for time wasting!"
The Bastard was playing with her, baiting her, damn him. Her anger began to burn inside her, it was as if it supplied her with the stubborn determination to fight on.
Forcing herself to ignore the pain and the weakness she suddenly felt in her leg, she cleared her mind as she had been taught at Hogwarts, she could not beat Snape in a conventional duel, he was too good, too experienced, but what if she tried something a little bit unconventional and unexpected.
Snape had been prepared to block any incoming spell, but he hadn't been ready for the water jet that had erupted from Hermione's wand tip, aimed not at him, but at the wall behind him.
The water jet hit the wall, rebounded and struck the defenceless and unprepared Snape square in the back. The surprise on his face was a treat, and for an instant Hermione wished Colin Creevey had been there with his camera to capture the moment for eternity.
Snape, soaked to the bone, was knocked to his knees by the force of the water but managed to keep a grip on his wand, behind him a fourth Death Eater had appeared on the landing and was advancing on her, wand raised.
Time to go, Hermione turned as fast as her injured hip would allow and had her foot on the first step when…
It was like getting the hardest shove in the back Hermione could possibly imagine, and she was sent flying through the air. For an instant it felt like the back of her legs, her back and the back of her head were on fire, and then everything went numb.
Hermione found herself lying face down on the stairs, amid a lot of debris, she tried to roll over, but to her surprise her body didn't appear to be working properly and she felt numb and slightly detached from her surroundings.
Levering herself up, she was most surprised to discover that where there had been a wall before, there was now a huge hole, revealing parts of her back garden.
Well that's strange, who put that there? Hermione felt an almost pleasant warm numbness spreading slowly through her entire body, and although part of her mind was screaming at her to get up, to keep fighting, by far the greater part seemed quite happy for her to simply lay there admiring the new view of the garden.
"It'll never work, be far too cold in the winter!"
Something seemed to be on her cheek and she tried to lift her arm up to brush it off, but her arm of choice, her right, wouldn't move.
Reaching up with her left Hermione touched her cheek and touched a flap of skin hanging down, pulling her hand away she studied her blood covered fingers critically. Dirty hands, that would never do, she would mess up her books.
"Tergio!" For some reason the cleaning spell didn't work, Hermione wasn't used to spells not working for her, normally it was a first time every time thing. "Tergio!" Still nothing, now she was getting really annoyed.
A shadow fell over her, looking up, a man in a dark cloak and a mask appeared holding a wand on her, seeing her laying there helpless, his pose relaxed slightly, and he turned to speak to someone she couldn't see from her position.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The cloaked man was suddenly flung forcefully backwards, disappearing through the new hole in the wall, to fall the twenty feet to the garden below. Hermione winced, that would hurt, and someone had better call that guy an ambulance.
"Get away from my daughter you Bastards!!"
Her father stepped carefully over her, both hands extended in front of him, holding something black and metallic, she was surprised to see him holding a firearm, she hadn't known he had one.
She felt someone grab her under the shoulders and begin dragging her up the stairs, Hermione found herself looking up into her mothers tear stained face, why was her mother crying? What had happened? Was she angry with dad again? Had it something to do with the new hole in the wall?
Hermione tried to say something comforting to her mother, but what came out was barely a croak.
More shots, Hermione had no idea what her father was shooting at.
Suddenly her father was there, lifting her up one handed, as if she weighed nothing at all, his face was angry, he wasn't angry at her surely. Hermione fondly remembered when her father used to give her piggy back rides to the local shop, she remembered giggling with pleasure, he was her horsey.
Looking around, Hermione suddenly realised she was back in her room, well that was funny, she had just been on the stairs a moment ago?
She looked up into her fathers fear filled face, it took a moment for her to focus on him, with her working arm she reached up and stroked his cheek, not seeing the bloody smudge she left on his face, she wanted to tell him everything was going to be alright, they were all going to be fine, but for some reason nothing recognisable as words would come out.
"Your mother and I need you to concentrate honey, we need you to take us away from here!"
Hermione frowned, why did they want to leave, it was the middle of the night? They hadn't even gotten dressed, they couldn't go out like that, what would the neighbours say?
"We want you to take us to see Ron at the burrow, wouldn't you like that baby?"
Her mother asked. Ron, oh yes, she would love to see Ron, at this time of night she might even catch him naked, he liked to go commando sometimes.
Her father was pressing something into her hand, looking down she saw it was her wand, and it too was covered in blood, he was also holding the paperweight from her desk that was the emergency portkey. Her mother bent and snatched up Crookshanks from the bed, and grabbed her husband.
Taking the filthy wand, Hermione concentrated on drawing the magic. It was harder to do than normal, but concentrating on Ron's surprised face Hermione tapped the portkey twice, and the Granger family disappeared, just as a Death Eater burst into the room. Snarling with rage, the dripping wet man turned and stormed out of the room.
AN/ Well there you have it, chapter numero uno of my first Potter story, hope you like it enough to stick around for some more. In case you hadn't realised things are going to get a whole load worse in Harry's world before they get any better, this not a light and fluffy tale, although i shall throw in some light and fluffy, a bit of comedy with a twist of romance.
AN/ Until next time, sleep well, don't let the boggarts bite.