a/n: um remember when i said there were two more chapters? well that didn't quite go as planned, everything i wanted to put in that second last chapter really needed to go in the next book. so thank you everyone for you reviews and kind words of encouragement and putting up with some grammatical errors and bad spelling and just a very huge thank you! This is for you...
It had become a nightly ritual of theirs. Each night, just before Vernon came home they'd meet up in Dudley's room to talk about Harry. Most days there wasn't any news and for a moment they'd just sit in silence not wanting to acknowledge what it was they were doing. Some days they'd have news and it would be there, in the way she snatched at the letter or grabbed the tiny fake owl out of the air. That worry she couldn't quite hide.
There was a letter that night, the night before he was due to return home for the summer. Petunia knew what it said before she opened it, goodbyes carry a weight that can be felt long before they occur. She wasn't expecting the gold necklace with the small emerald and she wasn't expecting the chunky silver ring for Dudley.
Protection. That's what the letter said, despite everything that had happened he was offering them what help he could to protect them from what was to come. Dudley helped her clasp the necklace around her neck before he slid the ring onto his thumb. Both items were strangely warm and for a moment she thought they had glowed.
Later, when she was placing Vernon's dinner before him, he glanced up and noticed her pale face and the almost imperceptible shake of her hands. His eyes darted up to her face and studied her with a frown. Glancing at Dudley he saw his son was subdued and instead of wolfing down his dinner he was merely chasing it around his plate.
'What's going on?' he asked warily. 'What's gotten into the two of you?'
'It's nothing,' Petunia assured her husband. 'Just an odd day.'
She'd never tell him about the tie pin she'd buried in the back of Harry's closet, the one meant for him.
For what felt like the hundredth time that morning Hermione slapped Harry's knee to stop it from bouncing. He was as excited as a puppy with a new toy and frankly it was getting on her last nerve. After three days of it she was beyond feeling any sort of sympathy for him. Thank Merlin it would all be over in a few hours.
The horseless carriage eased to stop outside Hogsmeade station and Harry almost tumbled out the door, his eagerness overriding any sense of embarrassment he may have felt. Hermione followed him out with an exasperated eye roll and then turned to help Abby down because the broken ankle she'd received three days ago in a battle with yet another security troll still hadn't quite healed properly.
Hermione tried not to worry over the sudden appearance of so many trolls hired for security purposes and instead offered Abby her arm and helped the girl hobble over to the train. The other ADADA members arrived behind them and because of Harry's eagerness they managed to secure a compartment to themselves. Hermione did some tricky spell work to magically expand the seats rather than spend the next hours squished between three other people.
'Don't make me stun you,' Daphne warned sharply, when Harry's bouncing excitement started to get on her nerves.
The train hadn't even left Hogsmeade station yet and already his twitchy behaviour was annoying her. His agitated state had already caused her to shift painfully and she resorted to quickly removing her jacket to stop any more unpleasant and unplanned chafing he might cause by jostling her. The white bandage taped over the wound in her chest gleamed but the wound beneath was still sore and mostly unhealed. Molly's tears had only been able to do so much and only for so long.
Harry winced apologetically and finally stilled his leg. 'Sorry, I'm just excited.'
'We know,' the whole ADADA informed him in response. All with eye rolls or other signs of exasperation and annoyance.
'Well, sorry,' Harry grunted. 'I haven't seen my daughter in weeks and I haven't had sex in a month.'
'That's your own fault mate,' Ron pointed out helpfully. 'You were the one who decided to play along with Dumbledore.'
'And what do you mean you haven't had sex in a month?' Abby rolled her eyes, shifting her foot from the floor and on to the opposite bench and subsequently Harry's lap. This way, her weight stopped him from bouncing about too much and it relieved some of the pressure. 'I'm pretty sure I heard something I wasn't supposed to last week in the Hogsmeade tunnel.'
Harry grinned smugly at her but his grin faded when he remembered what they were talking about. 'That wasn't proper sex that was relieving the tension before either of us exploded.'
'An image not one of us wanted, thank you very much.' Hermione may have adjusted to the new versions of her friends, the more mature and dirty versions who frequently turned up bruised and battered from Death Eater rumbles, but that didn't mean she was entirely comfortable yet.
'I'm just saying,' Rom went on as though no one had interrupted, 'that you didn't have to humour Dumbledore by staying close to the castle this last month.'
'I was proving a point and trying to pass my OWLs,' Harry muttered unconvincingly. 'And I hardly grounded myself. I've been on twelve raids in the last month, more than any of you.'
'Half of those were happening at the same time and therefore don't count,' Emmy informed him helpfully.
Harry glared at her but she wasn't done.
'But I can't say you didn't benefit from the study time, half of what you learnt over the summer about ancient runes apparently fell right out of your head. How you were allowed to hand in any work at all is beyond me.'
'I can be incredibly persuasive.'
Hysterical laughter at his expense filled the compartment and the train finally started to move. Harry rolled his eyes but he couldn't help smiling just a little. There was nothing, nothing, that could ruin his good mood today.
Once the laughter died down things became a little more mundane. They whiled away the train journey playing cards, retelling some of their more daring exploits and showing Hermione some of the easier spells she'd need to know if she was going to start going out on raids with them.
Daphne was just demonstrating a spell that put Ron in a magical headlock when the sound of clapping drew the ADADAs attention to the door. Neville had left it open when he'd stopped by earlier and what with friends dropping in all the time to chat there hadn't been much point in closing it again. An apparently stupid idea because Malfoy was the one clapping.
Draco Malfoy was in some ways a shadow of his former self. He'd always been pale but now his skin was an almost ashen grey. His hair, while still slicked back, looked unkempt and as though he hadn't bothered too much with it. He looked worn and not in any way a fifteen year old boy should. The hulking figures of Crabbe and Goyle flanking him on exacerbated the image of a defeated and scrawny boy.
'Seriously?' Emmy questioned. 'Must we go over this again?'
She moved to stand directly in front of Malfoy, blocking his view of the rest of the compartment and drawing a startled step back from him. He may be a smug piece of Slytherin scum but he wasn't so stupid as to let Emmy get within his personal space.
'Honestly this is getting a bit tiresome,' Emmy went on, shaking her head and reaching for the compartment door. 'It's time to pick a side, Draco. You can't stand there at the door looking in anymore; you want in then take the step. You want to end up just like your parents? Voldemort needs all the recruits he can get. Make the choice, cause either way? I'm probably going to hit you.'
She slammed the door in his face, warded it against unfriendly people and went back to her seat. She picked up the hand of cards she'd dropped onto her seat and then frowned.
'Alright, who stole my ace?'
Harry's leg started bouncing when they were about twenty minutes out from King's Cross. No one bothered trying to stop it this time as they were likely to get shaken free for their trouble. They just pretended not to notice the eager way he was checking and rechecking his wrists, looking for signs of movement from the marks that represented his connection to Molly and Ally.
When the train finally came to a stop Harry was already standing at the door waiting for them to open. His eagerness had seen to it that all the other members of the ADADA were just as ready, mostly because they wanted to see what kind of spectacle Harry was just about to make. Honestly, he was looking a bit like the world's biggest lovesick fool.
The doors weren't even fully open before he was slipping out and striding across the platform. Some last shred of dignity was the only thing stopping him from running and it made it a lot easier for the ADADA to keep up. They slipped through the barrier just moments after he did and in plenty of time to witness the reunion between Harry and Ally.
Molly and Arthur Weasley were standing with Hermione's parents just to the side of where Ally stood with Ruby. The moment Harry stepped through the barrier he spotted her and his face split into a huge grin. Ally shoved baby Molly into Ruby's arm and ran, colliding with Harry in a tangle of limbs that should have sent him tumbling to the ground but somehow he managed to keep his balance.
'How come you never greet me like that?' Ron asked Daphne as he came to a stop beside his mother, successfully drowning out her dismayed grunt.
'Impact at the great a speed would be sure to damage my chest and ruin any pleasure I'd get out of having your tongue in my mouth with a hell of a lot of pain.'
Ginny laughed, greeting her dad with a nice bear hug. Her mother wasn't as receptive to any greeting as her gaze was locked on Harry and Ally who still hadn't come up for air. Taking pity on her mum, Ginny took her hand and pulled her over to the pair. She whacked each of them over the back of the head until they separated and then she smiled winningly.
'Mum, I'd like you to properly meet Alexandria Martin.' Ginny went on before her mum could do something to further ruin any future potential relationship with her not-quite daughter-in-law. 'She's the one you have to thank for keeping Harry alive and sane. If it weren't for her Harry would be a big bundle of verves and angst and great Merlin have you seen him brood? Makes you want to smack him one.'
Harry glared at her. 'Thank you, Ginny.'
'Just trying to help.'
'Don't,' he suggested before turning his gaze back to Mrs Weasley and smiling. 'Hello, Mrs Weasley, there's someone I'd like you to meet.'
Before she could open her mouth to say that she'd already met the harlot—twice!—Harry was turning away and moving back toward Ruby. Her mouth opened and close liked a fish as he scooped the baby out of Ruby's arms and brought her back.
'This is my daughter,' Harry said and Mrs Weasley felt her heart drop right down into her stomach as she gazed at the little baby properly for the first time ever. Brilliant green eyes just like her father's but she was the spitting image of her mother. 'Her name is Molly.'
'Oh.' The soft exhalation left her lips on a startled gasp and her eyes flew up to meet Harry's. 'Oh!' she said again, still not quite understanding what Harry had just said.
Harry grinned and eased baby Molly into her namesake's arms. 'Molly, this is your grandma.'
Two soaked t-shirts later, a river of sobs, some cooing and a not particularly friendly and definitely icy "welcome to the family" later, Harry and Ally left the train station with an invitation to dinner at the Burrow. Mrs Weasley may not have been overly receptive toward Ally but Molly had won her over in under three seconds. It wasn't going to be easy, what with Mrs Weasley still glaring at Ally but it was a start.
'I can't believe you used Molly like that,' Ally laughed. 'The look on Mrs Weasley's face when you handed her Molly, that was just plain sneaky.'
'I don't know what you're talking about.'
Ally grinned. 'Sure you don't.'
Harry wrapped his arms around her, pressing as tight as he could with Molly between them. 'Come on, let's go home.'
Voldemort was no stranger to pain. Pain had been one of the common traits in each of the spells and trials he had performed to get him where he was today. Each piece of his flesh that was broken and rebuilt, each new spell had been another cost.
He couldn't honestly say that no one had ever punched him in the face before and the pain he'd felt from that had been nothing to the strange feeling it had accompanied. For a moment, just a moment, Voldemort had known fear.
But there were spells and actions, plans and back-up plans. There were things in place that snapped him back, dragged the fear from him and squashed it beneath certainty. There was certainty in his life, certainty that death was but another trial he had concurred.
Voldemort had many secrets; he had done things no mortal man could comprehend. He had done things that would send others insane with just the knowledge of the act. And there was a spell, one he never dared think on for fear that one day, some wizard, whether light or dark, would come along and destroy him.
One word he never did think. Except for today.
Harry snapped upright in bed, dislodging the sheets and startling Ally awake. His breathing was heavy and sweat trickled down his brow and chest. His hands were fisted in the sheets and he was shaking more than he remembered ever shaking from a mere dream.
'Blood hell,' Ally groaned, dropping back onto the bed and clutching at her head. 'What the bloody hell were you dreaming? My head feels like it's been hit by a concusser hex.'
Harry rubbed at his own head, taking a moment to get his body back under his control before he spoke. 'What the hell is a horcrux?'
To Be Continued in Tears of the Phoenix...