When Harry woke up the next morning, Sirius and Remus were both perched on James's bed. James was still asleep.
"Good morning," Harry said, sitting up in the bed and yawning.
"Morning, Pronglet," Sirius greeted him cheerfully. "Glad you're finally awake. We were starting to think you'd gone into a coma."
"No," Harry said, shaking his head. "How is he?"
"He's fine. You only missed seeing him awake by about ten minutes. Madame Pomfrey's just been by to pour a sleeping draught down his throat. He kicked up quite a fuss about it, but he's no match for her."
"How are you feeling, Remus?"
"A little overwhelmed," Remus admitted. "I've decided to resign."
"No, you can't do that!" Harry protested. "You're the best Defense Professor we've ever had!"
"It's not safe for me to be here," Remus said sadly. "I attacked my best mate last night. I tried to attack you. I could have hurt someone. I did hurt someone!" He motioned to James.
"It wasn't your fault," Sirius said quickly.
"I can't risk something like that happening again."
"But you've got the potion," Harry argued.
"It doesn't do me any good if I forget to take it," Remus said matter-of-factly. "I've made up my mind."
"But I don't want you to leave," Harry said, aware that he sounded very childish as he did so.
"That's very kind of you to say, Harry, but I believe it's for the best."
Ginny Weasley appeared just then. Harry's face lit up. "Ginny!" He said. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to be sure you were all right," she said. "Ron and Hermione came down to breakfast this morning, but you never did, so I thought I'd check in on you. Hello, professors." She gave a small wave to the Marauders.
"Hello," they both said back. Harry suddenly wished they weren't there. Ginny came over to Harry's bed and sat at the foot. "You're all right, then?" She asked.
Harry nodded. "Fine."
"And your dad? How's he?"
"He's going to be fine," Harry informed her.
"Everyone's saying you fought off about a hundred dementors all by yourself."
"It wasn't that many," Harry said, blushing.
"How did you manage it?"
"I don't know," Harry said. "All I could think about was how if I were kissed I'd never see you again."
Harry felt his face grow hot as soon as the words left his mouth. He had never meant to say that. His eyes went wide for a moment, and he stared, agape, at Ginny. She stared back, then a smile spread across her face.
"Well, I think I had better be going," Remus said quickly. "I should be packing."
"I think I'll help you," Sirius said, just as quickly. They made a swift exit.
"Me?" She asked when they had gone.
"Yes, you," Harry told her. "Cho's nice and all, but she's not... well, she's not you. I know you said you already fancy someone, but since he's got a girlfriend, I thought maybe you could give me a chance. We can have picnics every day if you like."
Ginny laughed. "The person I fancied was you, Harry."
"Yes, you idiot. It was always you."
"Oh," Harry said stupidly. "Oh, I am an idiot."
"Am I interrupting?" Cho's voice asked from the doorway.
"No, not at all," Ginny said quickly. "I was just leaving." She smiled once more at Harry and then walked out the door, giving Cho a sympathetic smile as they passed one another.
"What was that about?" Cho asked.
"Nothing," Harry said quickly. "Listen, Cho, we need to talk."
A few minutes later, Cho was fleeing the hospital wing in tears, and Harry knew he should have felt about three inches tall, but he was filled with far too much joy. Ginny was the prettiest girl in school, and she could probably have any boy she wanted, but she wanted him.
At lunch, Ginny sat next to Harry. They were both trying to be casual, but they sat a little too close and glanced at one another a little too often. Once, they both reached for the same bowl and both jerked their hands away as though they had been burned. Then they both dropped their gazes and glanced at one another, blushing.
"What is with you two?" Ron asked, grabbing for the bowl they had just abandoned.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Nothing," Harry said quickly. He knew he would have to be very delicate in the way he broke this news to Ron.
"They're in luuuurve," Fred said. Ron dropped the bowl, creating a huge mess. Harry sighed. So much for delicate.
"You moron!" Hermione snapped at Fred. "They might not want it blabbed over the whole school!"
"You knew about this?" Ron asked, rounding on her.
"Well, it was kind of obvious," Hermione explained. "And Cho's been glaring at them and crying the whole meal. You didn't tell her about Ginny, did you?"
"No, I just told her we weren't working out."
"Well, she may have already figured it out. You two aren't being exactly discreet."
"We're not?" Harry asked.
"Not in the slightest," George informed him. "I bet the whole school already knows. Well, except for Ronald, here, and he's always been a touch oblivious."
"I am not!" Ron protested. Then he rounded on Harry. "And just where do you get off liking my sister?"
"Oh, shut it, Ron," Fred said. "You don't get to say who she can and can't date. She's been in love with Harry since she was four."
"Fred!" Ginny scolded. "Why don't you just shout it out for all of Scotland to hear?"
"That's not a bad idea," George said, rising. Ginny quickly reached an arm up and pulled him back down. "You do, and I'll make sure you have so many bat-bogeys following you around you spend the rest of your life covered in snot."
"On second thought, I think this should be a secret," George retreated quickly.
Harry looked at Ron expectantly. Ron pursed his lips, but then nodded curtly. "But if you hurt her, I'll curse you into the next century," Ron warned.
Harry nodded his understanding, and they all returned to their meal.
When lunch was almost finished, Harry wandered up to the staff table to speak to Sirius. "Is my dad still in the hospital wing?" He asked.
"Yes, I'm afraid so, although he's doing much better."
"So, should I ride the train, or stay here?" Harry asked.
"I don't know. What would you like to do?"
"Ride the train with my friends," Harry admitted.
"I think that can be arranged. Go ahead and ride it. I'll come meet you in London and bring you back here if he's still here."
"That's a lot of work for you, though," Harry said sheepishly.
"I don't mind. At least it'll give me a break from grading. Maybe we can even stop into Diagon Alley for a bit. I could use some new robes."
"Thanks Sirius," Harry said, smiling. Then he ran off to join the throng of students heading for the horseless carriages that would take them to the train. He quickly found Ron and Hermione and climbed into a carriage with them.
"You look exhausted," Harry told Hermione.
"I am," she confessed. "I spoke to McGonagall this morning. I've decided to drop Muggle Studies. That'll make my schedule more manageable, and I won't have any conflicts next term."
"Yes, Harry and I have been dying to know all year how you were managing that," Ron said.
"Well, I was sort of forbidden to tell, but now that I'm not going to be using it anymore, I suppose it couldn't hurt to tell you. I've been using a time-turner to do hours over."
"The ministry agreed to that?" Harry asked. He knew that a time-turner was a small device that allowed its owner to travel backward through time in hour intervals. The ministry controlled their use very strictly. Time travel could be quite dangerous.
"McGonagall said they took a lot of persuading. And I was sworn to secrecy, so you can't tell anyone."
"You know you can trust us," Harry assured her. "We won't tell."
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "You can't grow up with Fred and George and not learn how to keep secrets."
The ride home went far too quickly for Harry. It always did, and it was even worse now that he knew he wouldn't be seeing Ginny as much. He felt silly worrying about something like that, but he couldn't help it.
"I'll miss you this summer," he told her as they pulled into King's Cross Station.
"We'll have to visit one another," she told him. "And I bet it goes by fast. It'll be September again before we know it."
"Absolutely," Harry agreed.
"Hello, Harry, dear," Mrs. Weasley greeted him, pulling Ginny into a hug.
"Hi, Mrs. Weasley," Harry greeted her warmly.
"Where's your dad?" She asked.
"He had an accident last night. He's fine, but he couldn't come. Sirius is supposed to be here, but I don't see him. Oh, there he is."
Sirius was leaning casually against the wall, chatting easily with a pretty blonde witch who was blushing and giggling.
"How does he do that?" Ron asked Harry.
"I wish I knew," Harry admitted. He watched him, trying to study his movements.
"Harry, you'll have to come visit us this summer," Mrs. Weasley told him, snapping his attention away from Sirius. "I know Ron will want to see you."
"I'd love to," Harry said. "And you all have to come see me on my birthday."
"We wouldn't miss it," Molly said, reaching out to pat Harry's arm. "Well, come along, you lot. We'd best be getting home. Harry, give James my best and tell him I hope he feels better soon."
"I will," Harry promised. Then he made his way over to Sirius.
"Hello, Pronglet. How was the train ride?"
Sirius laughed. "It always is."
He said goodbye to the woman he was talking to and put his hand in his pocket. "I've brought a portkey that'll take us directly to the hospital wing whenever we're ready. Your dad's doing much better, by the way. Madame Pomfrey says he can go home tomorrow. He could probably go home now, but you know how she is."
Harry nodded knowingly. "Who was that woman?"
"One of your classmate's aunts. Her name's Margaret. She's not really my type, though. Too giggly. You feeling up to a trip to Diagon Alley?"
"I'd kind of like to see my dad," Harry said apologetically.
Sirius smiled. "I understand completely. Diagon Alley will be there another day. Shall we?"
Sirius held out a wooden spoon to Harry and Harry grasped it. Soon, he felt a hook behind his navel and was thrust forward. He landed hard in the hospital wing. James was awake and looking like his old self.
"She's never going to let me leave," James announced as soon as they arrived.
"Must be difficult being waited on hand and foot," Sirius said sympathetically.
"You don't know the half of it. She keeps treating me like an invalid when I'm perfectly fine."
"Hey, Dad, how come you never told me you're an animagus?" Harry asked suddenly. Sirius took a deep breath and cast a nonverbal silencing charm behind Harry's back. James saw it and smiled gratefully.
"Actually, I did tell you, but you were a blabbermouth," James explained. "Sirius used to transform and let you ride on his back when you were a toddler. You loved it. But then you went to school and you started telling your teachers all about being a wizard. Among other things we'd rather you not have shared, you told your teacher that your godfather could transform into a black dog and your father could become a horse."
"Yes, I'm sorry to say you thought I was a horse. I suppose deer aren't readily identifiable to someone who's five. Although I would have thought the antlers would give it away. Anyway, we couldn't risk you telling that to the wrong people because, well, you see, we're not exactly registered, and being an unregistered animagus carries a minimum sentence of three years in Azkaban. And it would look awfully bad, me being a hotshot auror and all."
"Why didn't you just register?"
"Why didn't you tell anyone last year that you were hearing voices in the walls? Sometimes we feel oddly protective of our secrets. Besides, if we had gone to register, there would have been all sorts of uncomfortable questions. When we told the ministry about Pettigrew being unregistered, we had to think pretty quickly on our feet to keep from implicating ourselves. Showing up suddenly to register four years later... well, it wouldn't have taken a genius to figure it out. We didn't want to risk it. So I cast a memory charm on you."
Harry felt his temper rise. "You what?"
"I cast a memory charm on you."
Harry blinked rapidly. "What right did you have to cast a memory charm on me?" He asked indignantly.
"What right did you have to run around telling every muggle in town that we're wizards?"
"I was five!"
"That's precisely my point. Five-year-olds can't keep secrets."
"You still had no right to cast a memory charm on me!"
"Well, I can't change it now. Any you're not allowed to be cross with me. I'm an invalid here."
"You just said you're fine not two minutes ago," Harry snapped.
"Yes, but that was two minutes ago. Now I'm back to being an invalid. I was attacked by a werewolf you know. Right here." James pulled off his blankets and pointed to the bandages on his chest. Four thin lines of blood had soaked through.
Harry stared at the blood, his face turning pale. James looked confused and glanced down at the bandages. "Oh, dear," he said. throwing the blankets back over the bandages. "I didn't realize I'd soaked through. I'm sorry, Harry, you shouldn't have had to see that. Sirius, will you please go and tell Madame Pomfrey I need fresh bandages. I'm fine, Harry. Really. Madame Pomfrey says I'm healing nicely. She's going to let me go home in the morning."
"But you're still bleeding," Harry said weakly.
"Not like I was, and by tomorrow I'll be even better. Don't worry so much."
"I can't help it. I love you."
James smiled knowingly. "Now you know how I feel every time you go running off to rescue dragons and club mountain trolls and slay basilisks."
Harry shrugged. "You didn't even know about the dragon and the troll until afterward."
"No clouding the issue with facts, young man," James said, his voice stern, but his eyes twinkling.
Suddenly Harry laughed.
"What's so funny?"
"I just realized. All this time, I've been trying to figure out who told on me when I was out of the castle last term. Turns out I told on myself. I knew that stag looked familiar. So, is there anything else you've been keeping from me?"
"Not that I can think of. If I come up with anything, I'll be sure to let you know. Or not." James finished with a wink.
Madame Pomfrey appeared suddenly and ushered Harry and Sirius out. Harry spent the night in Sirius's guest bedroom. The next morning, James appeared at Sirius's door. He had a bag full of salves and bandages and reported that he'd been given a strict schedule for applying the salves and changing the bandages, but that he was healing nicely. "She thinks I may even get away without having any scars, although werewolf injuries are tricky."
"Would you mind it too much if you had scars?" Harry asked.
"Nah. It might make a good conversation piece. There aren't many people who take on a werewolf and live to tell about it."
"Not without becoming werewolves themselves," Sirius said darkly.
"Well, Harry, shall we go?"
Harry nodded and stepped into the floo. A few dizzying moments later, he was stepping into his own living room. James stepped out a few minutes behind him. He limped to the sofa and lay down upon it.
"It's good to be home," he said.
"Do you need anything?" Harry asked.
"No, I'm fine here for now, although I just might let you cook dinner."
"Do we have what we need for spaghetti? That's the only thing I know how to make."
"Spaghetti it is, then. I'll have to teach you to cook this summer. You can't go through your whole life eating nothing but spaghetti."
"Maybe I'll marry someone who can cook," Harry offered, flopping down in a chair.
"Maybe, but you don't want to count on it. If I hadn't known how to cook, Lily and I would have starved to death after we got married."
"She couldn't cook?" Harry asked.
"Not in the slightest. I think she could have burned water. She tried to make a roast once, and it was charred to a crisp on the outside and still bleeding on the inside. Gravy would see her coming and just give up and burn to the bottom of the pot. It was the oddest thing: she was so good at potions, better than anyone I knew, but add chicken into the mix and she didn't know what to do. Hey, turn on the wireless, would you? Ireland's playing today. If they win, they're going to the World Cup."
"That would be brilliant," Harry said, turning on the wireless and returning to his chair.
"You know, Harry, I've been thinking. Now that Pettigrew's been captured, we could use a holiday. How would you like to go to the Riviera?"
"The Riviera?" Harry repeated.
"Yes, I haven't been since I was a boy. My mother used to love it down there."
"I'd like that," Harry said.
"I'll talk to Scrimgeour about getting time off once I'm all healed up. I think he'll agree I've earned it."
"That sounds good. Wonderful, actually. Yes, we definitely need a holiday."
Harry and James listened to the rest of the match and cheered loudly when Ireland won. Harry smiled, thinking of Ginny and Ron listening to this same match in the Burrow and cheering as well. Maybe they could even have a World Cup party and listen to that game together. He had a holiday to look forward to, and next term he'd be able to join his friends in Hogsmeade. Yes, Harry decided, this was going to be a good summer. Things were finally looking up.