"I really wish Madame Pomfrey could create something better than that tea."
Harry and Ginny had just visited the hospital wing so Harry could drink his required tea and were now on their way to Harry's first class, Harry's crutches making a clinking sound on the floor. He hated the stuff. It tasted awful. It was such a nuisance to have to leave the common room earlier than everyone else, just to go all the way up to the hospital wing, drink his tea, and come all the way back down again to go to class or breakfast, or whatever.
"Why can't she find some other method?" Harry continued to grumble. "She created capsules for me to carry, why not something like that? And why does she insist I go all the way up there when I have to come all the way back down here to get to class?"
"I suppose she would if she could," Ginny huffed. She had her bag over one shoulder and Harry's over her other shoulder, criss-crossing across her front. "You know how many capsules you'd have to swallow to equal a cup of tea? Besides, this gives you a chance to exercise your knee."
"I guess, though I don't see how it's getting much exercise when Pomfrey's barely lifted the immobilizing charm."
"You heard her, every little bit helps. Your knee isn't strong enough to move much more than it is." Ginny's voice took on a I-know-what-I'm-talking-about tone.
Harry stopped and studied Ginny intensely. After a few moments, Ginny broke the silence.
"Who are you and what have you done with Ginny Weasley?"
Ginny snorted in laughter. "Okay, so maybe I did sound a bit like Hermione, but you know I'm right.
"Yeah, I know," he sighed.
They rounded a corner and hobbled and huffed their way to the classroom door. Hermione and Ron were there waiting for them. Ron took Harry's bag from Ginny and he and Hermione entered the room.
"Okay, I should go before I'm late." Ginny leaned in and kissed him gently, lingering a moment before pulling back. "I'll see you at lunch. Love you."
"Love you, too."
Harry watched her go. Abruptly, it hit him. In less than two weeks' time, he would be saying good-bye to Ginny at King's Cross and wouldn't be seeing her for a full month and a half, at the very least. That thought saddened him. He'd gotten so used to having her around. She always seemed to know his thoughts, his feelings. He never had to explain anything to her. Her presence in his life had been a soothing balm to the wounds he'd had inflicted upon his body and soul. Feeling a little melancholy, Harry shook his head, and went to class.
Just before supper, Harry met Dumbledore in the hall. He'd wanted to talk to the Headmaster for a while now, he just hadn't had the chance.
"Professor, can we talk after supper?"
"Of course, Harry. I'll be watching and when you leave, I will do so, as well. We can meet by the main doors and take a short walk, if you'd like."
"That's fine. Thanks. See you then."
After the Headmaster had gotten beyond earshot, Hermione turned to Harry.
"What was that all about?"
"Nothing, really. Just had a few questions that have been bugging me."
Harry shrugged and stayed silent. Before anything else could be said on the subject, the four reached the stairs. Ginny gave her bag to Hermione to take upstairs. Ron, still carrying Harry's book bag, and Hermione left to put the bags away.
"Um, Harry?" a tentative voice said behind them.
Harry closed his eyes. He knew that voice. The last time he'd heard it, the voice had been harsh, cruel and was accompanied by a slap on his cheek. Slowly, he turned to face Lynzie.
"What do you want?" asked Ginny, scathingly. "Haven't you caused enough trouble?"
Lynzie's gaze darted between Ginny and Harry. "Well, that's actually what I wanted to talk to Harry about."
To Harry, she seemed different. She wasn't crying, for one. But now, she seemed calm, still sad, but accepting now.
"Whatever you have to say can be said in front of Ginny."
Lynzie nodded, took a deep breath, and looked Harry in the eye. "I wanted to say I'm sorry for how I acted before. I was horrible to you and I had no reason to be. I didn't want to believe it was some random accident. I needed someone to blame and that someone ended up being you. I don't deserve it, but I hope someday you can forgive me."
"Just out of curiosity," Harry said, "what changed for you?"
"Time changed my perspective a bit, but mostly, it was the whole fake Headmaster situation. If Death Eaters were the ones to impersonate Dumbledore, that meant You-Know-Who was likely still out there. Then you coming back from the last task saying how You-Know-Who was back, after a while I started to think. I know there are those who still think you're mental but I believe you. Anyway, I just wanted you to know."
"Thanks, I appreciate it."
Lynzie nodded once and walked away. Harry turned to Ginny, eyebrows lost in his fringe.
"Well, that was unexpected. She seemed to be sincere."
Harry nodded turning back to watch Lynzie's retreating form. "That was the impression I got, too."
Not too long after that, Ron and Hermione returned and the subject of Lynzie's apology carried them to the Great Hall and through supper. When Harry had finished, he glanced up towards the staff table, caught Dumbledore's eye and nodded.
"I'll see you guys later, okay?"
As soon as Harry had hobbled far enough away, Hermione turned to Ginny with that desire-to-know look everyone associated with Hermione. Ginny headed her off with a sigh.
"Look, if Harry wanted us to know, he would have told us. He can have some secrets, you know. We can take the time to study for the next exam, right?"
That did it, as Ginny knew it would. Hermione launched into a terribly detailed plan of how long they'd study for each subject and which subjects they'd study for. Ron groaned and scowled at Ginny, who just smiled; glad she was able to sidetrack Hermione.
Harry waited only a few minutes before Dumbledore appeared.
"Shall we take advantage of the pleasant evening and walk outside?"
Dumbledore led the way out the door and over to the side of the castle in a small alcove. He conjured a small white cast iron bench with a black cushioned seat for Harry and a purple plush, cushiony seat for himself.
"So, Harry. What did you want to discuss?"
"I just had a few questions about things that have happened this year, things I don't understand."
"Well, I will do my best to clear things up for you."
"Um, well, I guess my first question is how they managed to capture you in the first place."
"Foolishness on my part. You see, I've been known to wander down to Hogsmeade in the evenings on occasion and it was during one of these excursions when the Death Eaters bested me. I hadn't kept my guard up like I should. It was ridiculously easy and ridiculously quick."
"Was it before school started or after?"
"It happened just after school began."
"Sir, the fake you said something about Snape spying for our side and about helping me throughout the year. Is it true? Is he helping us? How can he be much help if the other side knows he's spying for us?"
"A long time ago Professor Snape came to me and denounced Voldemort's ways. Ever since then he's been working for us. I trust him completely. I can't tell you any more than that. Just trust that he is helping us."
Harry was still confused on this matter but decided to let it go, for now. The next question Harry wanted to ask was a difficult one. He didn't know exactly how to ask it without offending the Headmaster.
Dumbledore watched Harry fidget in his seat and guessed at what was bothering the youth.
"You're wondering if there really is a prophecy and how they knew about it."
Harry's eyes flew to the older wizard's. After a brief moment, Harry nodded.
"Yes, I'm afraid there really is a prophecy and yes, it does pertain to you. That scar," Dumbledore pointed to the lightning bolt on Harry's forehead, "proves it. I was forced to drink veritaserum. That's how they knew about it. I don't yet know how they plan on using that information but you can bet they will."
"Is that also how they found out about Sirius?"
"No, that was an entirely different method. Just to be on the safe side, I suppose, they had someone perform Legilimency, a kind of mind reading, on me. You see, with Legilimency, a person can see another's memories and they saw the ones of Sirius writing to me and deduced we had become friendly through our mutual care for you."
They sat in silence a while, Harry digesting all that he'd learned, and Dumbledore surreptitiously watched. When it seemed that Harry had exhausted all his questions, Dumbledore turned back to Harry.
"Tell me about your dreams of Voldemort."
Once again, Harry was surprised by Dumbledore. "How did you know about them?"
"I overheard Avery, the one pretending to be me, mention them to the others."
"Oh. All year, well actually, a few times during the summer too, I've had dreams involving Voldemort and someone else. I could never make out who that other person was until just before the final task when I dreamed again of Voldemort and Wormtail and Snape were there."
"Hmmmm. That's interesting and very important. I'm sure Voldemort knows of that ability of yours and he may try to use it. Let's not worry about that just yet, though. I believe he has more important things on his mind right now."
"Professor, are you SURE that I have to go back to the Dursleys? I mean, Sirius has been cleared. He's my godfather, my leagal guardian."
"I know this is hard, Harry, but the Death Eaters will be watching Sirius, I'm sure. He also needs to be free to help wherever it is needed. He didn't want to agree at first but feels that you just may be safer at your relatives' place until he could find a suitable home. He's not too keen on returning to his childhood home."
Staring out among the grounds, Harry thought about what the Headmaster had said. Then he nodded glumly. Harry stood up and he and the Headmaster walked back inside, saying good-bye when they arrived at the stairs. By the time Harry reached the portrait of The Fat Lady, he felt really tired, a little sweaty, and his knee hurt. Hobbling his way to the couch, he plopped down and laid his head back, eyes closed.
Ginny had been reading her transfiguration notes and hadn't noticed Harry had come in until he'd fallen into the couch next to her. Putting aside her notes, she studied him a few minutes then, wordlessly, got up, found a short footstool and slid it under Harry's knee. After that, she took out a hand towel from her bag. Madame Pomfrey had charmed it to keep warm and to conform to Harry's knee when placed upon it. Ginny placed the towel onto his knee, pressing slightly until it finished conforming to the knee's contours.
"Mmmmmm," he moaned as the heat began seeping in. "That feels good. How did you know?"
"Just had a feeling."
Ginny got up and walked around to the back of the couch, removed his glasses and massaged his shoulders, working her way up his neck and into his hair. Her fingers quickly worked their special brand of magic and his muscles relaxed under their ministrations. By the time she was done, Harry was just barely awake.
"Thanks," he slurred sleepily.
"Anytime." She leaned over and gave him a gentle upside down kiss before returning to her spot on the couch.
"What?" Ginny asked after noticing Ron and Hermione watching her.
Hermione shook her head and laughed. "I wonder what Harry's going to do this summer without you around to put him to sleep."
Ginny blushed and smiled. Yes, she did seem to have a knack for that. That was okay with her. I'm just glad I'm the one who can get him to relax enough to fall asleep. Her smile faltered some at Ron's scowl.
"What?" she asked again, this time a little annoyed.
"Harry will get along just fine this summer. He doesn't need you 'mothering' him all the time," Ron said contrarily.
"Ron!" Hermione cried.
"Well, it's true," Ron insisted. "She's always doing stuff like that; she's constantly touching him. Why's he going to exams anyway? He's exempt!"
"If you opened your eyes for just a minute, Ronald, you'd see that the whole 'touching thing' is mutual. You like being taken care of when you're not feeling well, don't you?"
"Yes," Ron said, though he had no clue where Hermione was going with it.
"Exactly. You like it even though you've grown up with people treating you that way. Imagine how Harry feels, after so many years of practically being neglected."
Ron, embarrassed, apologized. "Sorry."
"Apology accepted," Harry said, still mostly asleep. "And why am I taking the exams? You just don't know how boring it is sitting around an empty room."
Harry's reply only made Ron turn a darker shade of Weasley red.
With school exams over, the students spent much of their days outside in the warm sunshine since Dumbledore canceled the remaining classes. Harry and Ginny were no exception even though they were a bit hindered by Harry's crutches. Since it was the final week of school, the two were never apart. They spent the mornings alone together, either walking the grounds or in the Come and Go Room, talking or just silently enjoying being together. Afternoons were spent with Ron and Hermione.
One such day found Harry and Ginny on their way upstairs to catch up to Ron and Hermione for lunch. Madame Pomfrey had lifted most of the immobilization charm off Harry's knee but he still had to use the crutches. Halfway up the second staircase, Harry had to stop and rest.
"Potter, out of the way!" sneered Draco bitterly as he passed them. "Some of us have someplace to go and would like to get there in a timely manner."
"You're just mad because the Death Eaters' plans didn't work out." Ginny retorted.
Draco stopped and descended the few steps to stand in front of Ginny. Malfoy narrowed his eyes and said, "That shows what you know. Thanks to Potter, the Dark Lord has returned. That was the most important plan. The others were rewards for a job well done. Now, if you're going that way, I think I'll find another way to my destination."
Malfoy pushed, hard, past Ginny, who bumped into Harry, causing Harry to lose his balance and fall a few steps, wrenching his injured knee. Harry sat hunched over, hands clutching his knee, straining to breathe through the fire in the joint. One crutch rested two stairs below him. The other rested several stairs below its counterpart.
Ginny yanked out her wand to hex the laughing Malfoy as the boy walked away, but the pain in Harry's voice stopped her.
"Ginny, no, stop, he's not worth the trouble."
Ginny reluctantly put away her wand and gathered the crutches. "Come on, let's get you up to Pomfrey's so she can check your knee."
"I don't need to see her. My knee is fine."
Ginny took in the sweat on his brow, pale face, jaw clenched against the pain, hands still clutching his knee. "Okay then, let's go."
When they reached the top of the stairs, the fire in Harry's knee had become an inferno. He resigned himself to paying another visit to the nurse.
"So now I have to stay on the crutches the first week I'm at Privet Drive. Not to mention the knee brace I'll have to wear after that." Harry had filled in Ron and Hermione on what had happened with Draco. "Oh, what fun that will be."
At Ron's confused expression about the knee brace, Hermione explained what it was and what it did. He looked sympathetically at Harry and stated, "Well, it won't be for too long. At least you didn't do worse damage to it."
Harry's response to that was a shrug. The other three continued to talk while Harry rested his knee. Gloominess was beginning to settle in Harry. The days were going much too quickly. Very soon it was going to be his last day with Ginny and Harry wasn't sure how he was going to handle it.
An hour later the four went down for supper. The rest of the days flew peacefully by.
The Leaving Feast was usually a time to celebrate and award the House and Quidditch Cups. This year, however, was different. All the decorations were black to memorialize Zacharias and Fleur. Harry knew Dumbledore was going to make a speech but he sorely wished he didn't have to be there for it. Dumbledore stood at his podium and gathered his thoughts before speaking.
"This year was supposed to be a year of discovery. Discovering other cultures, other peoples, and other ways of accomplishing things. It became a year of self-discovery as well as discovering what lies inside others. We saw events manipulated by outside forces that cost us two precious lives and nearly a third. While Zacharias' death was truly a tragic accident, it is no less important. We must remember him as he was. Loyal, humble, forgiving, brave and friendly. The loss of Fleur Delacour is doubly difficult for she lives on but aware of nothing. This was NOT an accident, however. This was the work of Death Eaters during the rebirth of Voldemort. I know I've already mentioned this but I felt it necessary to do so again for fear some of you will discount what I say. I implore you not to do so for to do that would be to forget the friends we've lost. Remember this, though our innocence has been stripped from us and we've come face to face with evil once again, do NOT allow it to win by becoming frozen with fear. Remember your friends and let them guide you through the difficult times ahead."
Dumbledore sat down and food appeared on the tables. Subdued sounds of eating and the occasional conversation was all that could be heard.
That evening, Harry and Ginny cuddled together on the couch in the common room. They remained even after everyone else went up to bed. They rotated between talking, resting, and sharing kisses. Neither had any interest in going up to their dorms that night. Somehow, Harry couldn't remember how, they had ended up lying on the couch. He laid there, Ginny tucked into his side.
"I really don't want to say good-bye tomorrow," he lamented.
"Don't look at it as if it's good-bye because it isn't. I'll write you as often as I can, too."
"I know, but it just won't be the same."
"No, but it's all we'll have until you can come stay with us again."
Green eyes met brown for a long minute. Slowly, leaning in towards the other, their mouths met in a kiss tinged with sorrow. Soon the kiss became heated and sorrow no longer existed. Desperation took sorrow's place for dominance. Rather quickly they found themselves in a similar position as to the one in the Come and Go Room, except this time he was the one to be lying flat on the couch. He didn't bother trying to hide how he felt about that.
Harry broke their kiss and searched her eyes for the answer to the question he knew she could see in his. When she smiled and leaned forward, Harry felt his soul flood with the love that flowed between them. For the second time, Harry experienced bliss so pure it nearly overwhelmed him. For only the second time in his life, he truly felt loved.
Afterward, Harry was certain he could feel the connection between him and Ginny strengthen. It didn't seem to matter that their clothes, just as before, had remained in place. What he felt now went so much deeper and he knew Ginny felt the same.
Once Ginny had found a comfortable spot, Harry grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch and tucked it tightly around them. Holding each other, they drifted off to sleep.
"HARRY! GINNY! WAKE UP!" yelled Ron. "What the bloody HELL do you think you're doing?"
Harry and Ginny were startled out of particularly nice dreams but it was Ginny who responded.
"I think I was sleeping and having a really nice dream, too," she dryly replied.
"Too bad. Get up. People are going to be coming down soon. They're already talking. Besides, Harry still has to pack."
"Okay, okay. I'm getting up, but you really need to lose the attitude, Ron."
Ginny began maneuvering around in order to get up without jostling Harry's knee. She decided Ron deserved some goading for his attitude. She had been curled up on Harry's right side so when she was straddling Harry, she leaned down and gave him a very nice good morning kiss then murmured in his ear.
"I haven't slept that soundly in a while. I love you. Hmmm. Do you think he's stewed enough? Maybe I shouldn't push my luck."
Harry watched as she left the common room. He chuckled at her little performance in front of Ron. Harry had to admit Ron's attitude was a bit irritating. He acts like he doesn't want us together. Well, I guess it's a good thing he didn't come downstairs last night, not to mention that I'm still covered by the blanket. Harry nonchalantly pulled the blanket more firmly into his lap as he sat up. He turned to Ron and found Ron staring at him.
Ron hadn't missed the way Harry pulled on the blanket. "Is there something you want to tell me, mate? You think I don't know what kind of dreams guys have about girls and how they affect us? She's innocent about that kind of thing. You have to stop doing this kind of stuff."
Harry snorted at the thought of Ginny being innocent about that subject. "She knows more than you think and, before you get all defensive, I wasn't the one who taught her. She does have six older brothers. Don't you think she'd have picked up some things here and there?"
Without waiting for an answer, Harry gathered his crutches and headed for his room to pack.
Well, this is it. This is the last time I'll see the castle until next school year. As they were waiting their turn for a carriage, Harry looked around the castle. A lot had happened that year but it still felt more like home than Privet Drive. He'd gotten the girl of his dreams and survived a dangerous tournament, not to mention surviving the resurrection of the most evil wizard of all time. Yes, he finally shed the rose-colored glasses and it saddened him slightly, knowing he could never go back to that simpler time.
Harry heard the approach of the carriage and turned its way. He blinked several times to be sure he was actually seeing what he thought he was seeing. The carriages he thought to be horseless were, in fact, not. Two large, black reptilian-looking creatures pulled each carriage. The horse-like creatures were literally skin and bones. Their cataract eyes were blank and otherworldly. Wings were folded up against their bodies. Barely there manes hung limply from their necks.
Ginny's question broke him out of his stupor. He hobbled next to one of the 'horses'. Cautiously, he raised a hand and touched the neck of one. The skin was soft yet leathery.
"Harry? What are you doing?" Hermione sounded as if she expected him to suddenly go completely crazy.
Harry motioned them over, took Ginny's hand and laid it against the neck of the animal in front of him. He did the same for Ron and Hermione. He watched as each pair of eyes widened in alarm.
"You can see them so why can't we?"
"I don't know."
"What do they look like, Harry? Maybe I've read about them and it explained why you can see them and we can't."
Ginny climbed into the carriage and helped Harry climb up. Hermione followed Harry and Ron followed Hermione. Harry described what he saw on the ride to Hogsmeade Station. Unfortunately, Hermione hadn't heard of or read about any creature matching Harry's description.
When they reached the station, Ron helped Harry with his trunk while Harry, Ginny, and Hermione found a compartment on the train. Harry plopped down onto the seat with a groan. Immediately Ginny reached into her bag and pulled out the charmed towel she'd used before. Carefully, she lifted Harry's leg into her lap and placed the towel over his knee. They spent the majority of the train ride back that way, Harry sleeping off and on, playing games or just thinking.
Upon reaching King's Cross station, the four decided to wait until it was a little less crowded before trying to disembark. Harry caught sight of Fred and George and called out to them, motioning them inside. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the triwizard winnings.
"Here, I don't want this." He dropped the money bag into Fred's hand. "Do something constructive with it. Open your own shop with it. I know that's what you want to do eventually."
"But, Harry, there's got to be–"
"–something you'd rather do with it."
"Nothing would be better than a joke shop. I have a feeling we're all going to be needing a laugh now and then."
The twins stood there, mouths agape then looked at each other. Devilish smiles crossed their faces then George turned back to Harry and winked.
"We'll make you proud, Harry. Thanks."
The twins left and silence fell upon the compartment. The other three occupants stared in shock at each other then Harry. Harry looked at each of his friends and shrugged.
"Shouldn't we be leaving, then?"
That spurred everyone into action. Ron, again, helped Harry with his trunk. Stepping through the barrier, Harry saw Molly and Arthur right away. During one of Molly's famous hugs, Harry glanced up and saw the Dursleys hanging back and looking quite put upon. Turning his attention back to Molly, he smiled.
"I'll be fine, Mrs. Weasley. I'm only on the crutches for another week then practically as good as new."
"Yes, well, you let me know if you need anything."
"Harry," Arthur said, "I look forward to seeing you again this summer."
"Thanks, Mr. Weasley."
Arthur, Molly, the twins, Ron and Hermione all walked a short distance away giving Harry and Ginny a few final moments. Ginny glanced at the Dursleys, who were now huffing in irritation, tapping their feet and clearing their throats loudly.
"I don't like the idea of you being there. You should be with us."
"It'll only be for a little while. Like I said to your mum, I'll be fine."
"I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you, too."
Harry leaned down and kissed her gently then hobbled towards his 'family'. Joining him was Sirius to Harry's great surprise. Sirius laughed at the expression on Harry's face.
"Come on, now. You didn't think I'd let you go off with them alone, did you? Besides, you need some help with your trunk and, let's face it, they're not going to help you."
Harry had to admit Sirius was right. Well, this should be interesting.
"It's about time, boy!" barked Vernon. "You think we don't have anything better to do than to be here?" Vernon pointed at Harry's crutches. "What are those for? I hope you're not thinking they'll get you out of doing chores because you'd be mistaken."
"Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, Dudley. My name is Sirius Black." The Durselys all paled at his name. "Ah, yes, I see you've heard of me. I am, of course, Harry's godfather, but then, you knew that. This past year has been a really difficult one as you may have guessed. Harry's knee was practically destroyed a few weeks ago. Thanks to the school nurse it's back to some sort of working order but he'll need the crutches for at least another week. I'm afraid too many chores will be out of the question."
Vernon sputtered and began to turn a nice shade of puce. Before Vernon could begin to vocalize his outrage, Sirius went on.
"Also, he's been experiencing some breathing difficulties occasionally, similar to what you'd call asthma. He has capsules for when he needs them. It is vital he keeps them with him at all times." Sirius stared at Vernon as he said this last statement.
"Fine," growled Vernon. "Let's go."
"One other thing. I'll be around to check up on Harry from time to time. If he needs me, all he has to do is call out for me and I'll be there." Vernon paled again. "Yes, that's right. I see you understand me. I will always be within earshot. Remember that. Now, how about I help Harry with his trunk?"
All three Dursleys turned and practically ran for the car. Harry looked at Sirius. Sirius looked at Harry and winked. Harry chuckled. This summer might not be so bad after all.
A/N: And there you have it, everyone. My very first multi-chapter fanfic. Thanks to everyone for the reviews good and bad. Thanks to those who read and don't review. As soon as I get a good working outline for the sequel, Darkness Rising, I'll begin posting. It shouldn't take too long. Anyway, hope you've enjoyed the journey. I know I had a blast.
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