disclaimer: i am not fortunate enough to own the rights to harry potter, i merely enjoy playing with them.

a/n: Here is the sequal to Blood of the Phoenix, it takes place in Harry's sixth year and sees the contents of the sixth and seventh books somewhat merged. I hope you enjoy the beginning of the next step in Harry's journey and would love to hear your thougths on the chapter.

Chapter 1

Molly Weasley had developed a tic. Every now and then when a certain name came up or when she overheard certain words her left eye would twitch slightly. It hadn't taken her kids long to recognise the signs of an impending explosion and they'd taken to intentionally baiting her and then fleeing for their lives when it all finally became too much.

There were different degrees to the tic as well. Mentioning Ally Martin got a slight twitch and a huge reddening of the cheeks as she swelled with fury. Mention Ally Potter and quite frankly you better be running before you've got the first syllable out. It was a game that a good portion of Dumbledore's failed Order of the Phoenix enjoyed playing.

There had been quite a few bets placed for the evening. Normally in the Weasley house July thirty first was celebrated in one of two ways. Worry and a good deal of fretting or celebration were the normal pattern for the day. This particular July thirty first not one member of the Weasley family was willing to stay home.

The twins had taken refuge at their joke shop, Ginny was hiding out at Luna's and Ron had escaped to his girlfriends so quickly after breakfast he'd been perfectly on time to have a second one in the safety of her home. Arthur Weasley had gone in to work early leaving his wife to slam objects about and fume in peace. Without risk of anyone getting magically castrated or killed.

Every now and then she'd stomp into the kitchen to simply glare at the invitation sitting on the table. Fury over the innocuous little message just kept swelling until eventually a poor and unsuspecting magical door salesmen copped the resulting explosion. Though they never again got annoying afternoon visits from people trying to sell them things they couldn't afford, the poor salesmen ended up quitting his job and retiring to Brazil.

In secret, Arthur had made a comment in passing to his youngest that he'd hate to see what happened when the wedding invitation arrived. The birthday one had been quite enough, thank you very much.

Ginny, the unfortunate loser of the game that had decided which family member would have to return home first, had to duck several pieces of silverware as she entered through the back door. She spun around to see three forks and a spoon firmly imbedded in the door behind her and shuddered. They were all perfectly aimed to kill.

'Sorry,' her mother apologised, not sounding sorry at all. She bustled past her daughter, hands already full of bent cutlery and wrenched the offending pieces form the door. 'How was your day, Ginny dear?'

'It was good,' Ginny replied, edging slowly around her mother and toward the door to the living room. 'Luna's been helping her dad hunt down some magical creatures they think could help us fight the war against Voldemort.'

'That's nice, dear.'

If Ginny had needed any more proof that her mother wasn't listening, it was in her reaction to a statement that would ordinarily have truly pissed her off. Letting slide the idea that her children and their friends were actively participating in the fight against Voldemort was not something Molly Weasley would ever do under normal circumstances.

Ginny took the opportunity to flee to her room. It was only an hour before they were supposed to be at Harry's but an hour was too long spent in the company of a witch with a grudge and some sharp, if slightly bent, cutlery.

Ron was climbing in through her bedroom window when she arrived. She rolled her eyes but secretly she was wondering why she hadn't thought of that.

'Was it bad?' Ron asked, smoothing out his clothes and trying to straighten his hair.

'I was nearly killed by a spoon and some forks.'

Ron winced. 'It can't last forever, right?'

'I'm sure things will be back to normal once this party's over with.' Ginny didn't sound at all confident and Ron gave her a sardonic grin.

'You mean when she was just really quiet and kept bursting into tears?'

It was Ginny's turn to wince. The first few weeks they'd been home hadn't been pretty. They'd been quieter, sure, but not in any good way. Though, at least once they'd discovered her tic they'd learned to release her temper before it reached boiling point. The days of tears had been behind them for weeks but the quiet anger and the slight twitch every time Ally's name came up was getting a little ridiculous.

'Maybe this party will actually help,' Ron hazarded.

'And maybe she'll go crazy and kill us all.'

A soft explosion downstairs was followed by a startled yelp and suddenly Arthur Weasley had joined them and was barricading the door. His hat was smoking slightly and he was breathing heavily from his flight up the stairs.

'This has got to end.'

'I say we lock her in a room with Ally and let them sort it out.'

Ron's suggestion made them laugh, not that it was at all funny but the idea of a near indestructible three hundred year old facing down the fiery Molly Weasley did bring funny thoughts to mind.

There was a yelp downstairs and the sudden smell of burning straw. Fred and George appeared in the room with only the slightest of cracks to show that they were a little stressed. Downstairs there was a hiss like a kettle reaching boiling point and both of the twins winced.

'Diversion,' George explained. 'Another of our inventions.'

'Didn't seem to last long.'

It seemed like they spent hours hiding away in Ginny's room when really it was a mere thirty minutes. The whole time was spent devising new ways they could think up to stop the yelling and throwing and the weird muscle tic that was beginning to creep them all out. They didn't have much luck and eventually they were forced to leave the room to go and get changed for the party.

Ron was the first one down, dressed nicely in a pair of dark blue jeans and a crisp grey shirt that Daphne had told him under no uncertain terms he was to wear. There was a birthday card stuffed into his back pocket and he was walking slowly and quietly like one might when approaching a wild animal.

'Mum, are you nearly ready?'

Coming down the stairs behind him, George flinched and prepared to run. There was no explosion however so he braved the last few steps and stopped beside his younger brother. They both stood at the base of the stairs unwilling to move any closer until Mrs Weasley showed any signs of being calm.

She was sitting at the kitchen table dressed in a slightly warn dress but looking nice and respectable. Her hands were braced on the table either side of a gift wrapped box. She was staring blankly at the box like it could somehow provide the answers to her questions.

They were all gathered at the bottom of the stairs before Mrs Weasley spoke. She sounded scratchy and hollow and it was more than a little disturbing coming from such a powerful woman.

'Is he happy?'

Mr Weasley breezed passed his children and, pretending not to have heard his wife, bustled her out of her chair to stand with her family. She held her head high, reached out for her husband's hand and told them she was ready.

With a rather dubious look at his children Mr Weasley pulled his wife close and apparated. Ginny took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

'We're doomed.'

Ginny's words turned out to be rather prophetic but not in the way she had originally intended them. They arrived just moments after their parents on the country lane just outside the gates of Harry's new home. A string of fairy lights lit a path toward the house despite the fact that it was quite early and the sun shone brightly even if it was quite low in the sky.

Martin Manor loomed ahead of them, giving just one more reason for Mrs Weasley to feel uncomfortable with Ally's role in Harry's life. As the only Weasley yet to see the large but well lived in home, she was taken aback by the sight. Despite its imposing image as they got closer she was able to see the little signs that showed it to be a family home filled with joy and laughter.

Ron led the way up the path and the closer they got the louder the party became. Music and voices drifted toward them down the path and for a moment Harry's laughter rang clear across the front yard. Mrs Weasley faltered in her step but her family pretended not to notice and then they rounded a curve in the path and the party was spread before them across the lawn.

More fairy lights trailed above the party, a long table stood at the edge of the gathering covered in food, its centrepiece was a huge layered chocolate cake with whipped cream and icing. A tub filled with ice and drinks stood at one end of the table and a pile of presents towered precariously at the other.

Dozens of people were gathered, talking in groups or sitting at tables and chewing happily on food. Mrs Weasley was startled by the diverse group; students from Hogwarts were mixed in amongst hardened Aurors. A group of ancient old witches were gathered around a table cackling heartily as Sirius regaled them with some tale from his youth.

Ruby was sitting on the grass playing a game with a group of kids. As they approached the party Tonks joked loudly about Ruby finally finding people on her own level. In retaliation Tonks spent the rest of the evening with huge glowing words floating above her head that proclaimed her to be a party pooper. Not her first choice in words but Ruby had tried to remain kid friendly.

The fact of Harry's change hit Mrs Weasley even harder when she looked around at the gathered people, people Harry thought of to be friends and family, and realised she knew very few of them. She hesitated on the sidelines even as the rest of her family was pulled away.

Ginny was swept up into a discussion about Quidditch with Oliver Wood and a group of professional Quidditch players while Ron spotted Daphne talking with Stephanie and hurried away before he could be forced to deal with his mother. Arthur was waved over by a group of middle aged men and women who were deep in discussion but he offered them an apologetic smile and angled his head down at his wife.

Explanation enough, as it turned out.

Mr Weasley placed a hand to the small of his wife's back and guided her gently through the crowd. People greeted them as they passed and he made it a point to be polite when moving on but for the most part Mrs Weasley looked around her in wonder. They found Harry talking to Andromeda Tonks and Luna Lovegood at a small table. Baby Molly was sitting happily in Luna's lap giggling and pulling on the long blonde hair that kept dancing into her view.

Harry stood when he saw them approaching and moved to greet them with a warm smile and a tight hug. Mrs Weasley relaxed a great deal when Harry held her a little longer than was strictly necessary and by the time he pulled back she was actually smiling. It probably wouldn't last long when Ally appeared but all the partygoers would appreciate it while it lasted.

'Happy birthday, Harry.'

'Thanks, Mrs Weasley.'

There was an awkward moment where neither was sure quite what to say next but thankfully, before things could get any worse, distraction came in the form of Abby and Emmy's rather dramatic entrance. The two friends arrived with a flourish and a loud chorus of Happy Birthday that did the Weasley twins' quite proud.

Grinning, Harry excused himself to go and greet his friends and Mrs Weasley was left to flounder over the thought of having to interact with dozens of people who possibly knew more about Harry than she did.

While Mrs Weasley learned all about the new Harry and Mr Weasley spent his night trying to keep her calm, Harry drifted between the guests. He'd only ever had one birthday party before, a small celebration the Weasley's had thrown in his honour, and it was liberating to finally have what other people had always had.

'You should have seen the look on his face!' Harry heard Daphne laughingly explain to Kingsley Shacklebott. 'Voldemort himself was not ten feet away and he was freaking out over a spider.'

Harry passed another conversation in which Susan Bones was comparing battle scars with Deidre Heart and yet another in which one of the working girls from the Lonely Wench was comparing stories with an old crone about the job. Several men had stopped in to hear that particular conversation and it was only the sight of Ally returning to the garden that drew Harry away from Tessa's tantalising reminiscence.

'Any news?' Harry asked as she approached.

Instead of answering she walked straight into him, pressing close to him and wrapping her arms around him. 'You know it's your birthday, right?'

'I'm aware,' Harry responded.

'So just enjoy your night and leave worrying over Dumbledore for tomorrow.'

Harry sighed heavily. Honestly he was a little peeved with Dumbledore, not that that was an unusual occurrence. But for him to pull off such a dangerous stunt on Harry's birthday without alerting anyone but Snape until it was all over was downright dirty. The worst of it was no one had any idea where he'd been or what he was doing, for all they knew he'd nicked off for a quick pint and gotten into an overenthusiastic barroom brawl.

As if that was something anyone could ever imagine Dumbledore doing.

'Tell you what, I'll go place nice with the Weasley woman if you promise to forget about Dumbledore for the night.'

Harry snorted and took Ally's hand so she could go and play nice with Mrs Weasley. It was a confrontation that had to happen and he'd prefer it to happen now so he had the joy of present opening to kill any awkward silences or murderous looks.

'Hello, Arthur,' Ally greeted her pseudo father in law. She reached up to plant a soft kiss on his cheek and he offered her a fatherly hug in return. Funny the roles they automatically fell into despite her being a good two hundred and fifty years his senior. 'Hello, Mrs Weasley.'

In contrast to her husband's warm greeting Molly Weasley gave Ally a tight smile that didn't quite meet her eyes. 'Your house is lovely,' was Mrs Weasley's tentative offering.

'Thanks,' Ally's smile was genuine as she was trying hard to be nice to the woman even if all she was getting for her troubles was a headache and sore cheeks from all the fake big smiles.

For a moment silence threatened to engulf them but Harry wasn't about to let things get out of hand and Mr Weasley was quite happy to help him keep things going.

'How's work? Fred says you've been promoted.'

Mr Weasley beamed with excitement and even Mrs Weasley managed to crack a brief proud grin. Talk of respective work got them through the worst of it and passed enough time that Harry could get away with announcing he was opening presents without seeming rude.

He may have been the birthday boy but even that wasn't enough of an excuse.

There was a trend in his birthday gifts. Half of the presents were really aimed at his daughter, games they could play together when she was older, goofy joke gifts such as the small sleep suit from Oliver Wood that was a miniature version of Harry's Gryffindor Quidditch robes. Molly was going to be a Quidditch player even if it killed her family friends.

The other half of the gifts were divided between gifts solely for Harry and those designed for both he and Ally. It was weird being one half of a couple but Harry enjoyed the obvious implication that Ally was now a permanent fixture in his life. As something he'd never had before the little signs through his gifts meant the world to him.

The party continued well into the night and Harry only disappeared briefly with Ally to put Molly to bed before they both returned to the garden. As the hours drew on and the partygoers started to leave it was only Harry's closest friends and family that remained. They ended up sitting around a table under the stars drinking the last of the Butterbeer and trading stories about Harry.

'I'm not kidding,' Ally laughed. 'When I told Harry I was pregnant he sliced his arm open and nearly broke his nose walking into a wall.'

'That reminds me of when I told Ted I was pregnant,' Andromeda laughed. 'He kept walking into doors and would stop in the middle of doing some task or other just to stop and think it over.'

Mrs Weasley didn't join in with her own tale. It wasn't because she didn't have a funny story about telling Mr Weasley she was pregnant, she did have nine kids after all. At least three of those were funny stories that she didn't tell because she was holding in her snide comment regarding Ally's pregnancy. No one was left in any doubt that had Molly not inherited her father's eyes that her paternity would have been called in to question.

'I think I'll just wait until Ron figures it out,' Daphne contributed, causing both Ron and his mother to choke on their drinks.

Fred smacked his brother on the back forcefully, laughing loudly. 'We could place bets on how long it takes him to catch on.'

Ron, who appeared to be hyperventilating, was turning a funny shade of green. Whether at the sudden and horrifying thought of becoming a father or the confirmation that Daphne was planning for the long haul was anyone's guess.

'I'll be in on that,' Emmy chimed in, sharing an amused grin with Fred.

'Ha ha, very funny,' Ron grumbled.

Daphne grinned widely and slid her arms around his waist, offering him a soft kiss to his lips in compensation for her joke at his expense. The twins let out an exaggerated aww which earned them a handful of Bertie Bott's every flavour beans to the face each. The table dissolved into laughter and even Mrs Weasley felt her mouth lifting in a grin.

Soon, despite the warm atmosphere, conversation turned to grimmer subjects. The war against Voldemort was an ever present mood dampener and one no one could afford to ignore. Snuggled into Harry's side, Ally let it slide that talk had turned to work. It was too much to ask that they not think of something so monumental for a whole night. Hopefully they would have the rest of their lives to not think about Voldemort.

'Any word from Mad-Eye?' Abby asked into the sudden heavy quiet.

'He's turning over contacts in some places I wouldn't ever dream of going,' Ruby said with a shudder. 'He gets out word every other day but he hasn't stopped moving since he went looking for an answer.'

'An answer to what?' Mrs Weasley asked.

There was a moment where everyone at the table shifted uncomfortably but it passed so quickly she was sure it was imagined.

'How Voldemort survived the rebounded killing curse,' Ally answered.

It wasn't a lie exactly, Moody really was looking into ways that Voldemort had avoided dying but it wasn't the whole truth of what he was looking into. It was hard not telling Mrs Weasley everything when everyone else at the table knew but her open disapproval of Harry's choice in Ally and his participation in the war guaranteed she would go directly to Dumbledore with any information or problems.

Right now, if word from Snape was to be believed, Dumbledore was in no shape to help anyone, least of all in the war against Voldemort.

As if to confirm everyone's suspicions, Mrs Weasley went on to say, 'Surely Dumbledore has some idea. Hasn't he looked into this?'

'If he has he's not talking,' McGonagall answered, surprising Mrs Weasley with her willingness to speak against a man she had worked alongside and respected for decades.

'We want to win this war, Molly,' Sirius spoke softly, 'Not prolong it until Harry's fifty and "ready" to fight.'

It was like being in another world. For Harry the thoughts and opinions of those seated around his table were the most respected. He trusted these friends and family to make the right decisions based on necessity and not to worry about whether or not he was ready. It was refreshing not to be treated like a child while the grownups went out to play.

But for Molly Weasley it was a nightmare come to life. Well educated adults were bending to the uneducated whim of a teenage boy all because he was whispered to be the only one who could bring down Voldemort. In her eyes, the people at the table represented all of the people who should have been helping to keep him safe and out of trouble. They were the adults that should have been talking him out of fighting, the students who should have been playing exploding snap with him.

It was a horrible price to pay for happiness but it seemed, against all odds, to be working in Harry's favour. He was in the middle of a war that he was definitely going to have to fight in, whether it be now or in ten years time, and he was happier than he'd ever been before.

It was confronting.

It was only when Stephanie fell asleep with her head in Fred's lap and her legs spread across Emmy's lap that Ally declared it time everyone was getting home. Fred lifted Stephanie up into his arms and volunteered to take her home. Emmy helped him walk her down the drive before he vanished by the gate.

Abby kissed Harry's cheek and offered Ally a tired wave before trudging after them. She reached the bend in the drive and in minutes was vanishing from the lane. A little underage magic ensuring she got home safely. Both Sirius and Ruby would be spending the night and turned toward the house rather than stay up saying one too many goodbyes.

Nobody liked to think how every goodbye, every parting, could be the last. It imbued everything with a heavy tension and the need to make sure things were said. Something that unfortunately didn't seem to be bothering Mrs Weasley who offered Harry a warm hug and whispered in his ear that she wouldn't blame him if he wanted to come stay with them.

Harry's goodbye to her was frosty at best and she seemed to realise she'd said something wrong even if she didn't apologise for it. When the last person (Lupin) rounded the bend in the path Ally turned to Harry with a tired but sly grin. Her tongue peeked from between her teeth and despite the fact that she was holding in a yawn she managed to look quite alluring.

Harry leant down to kiss away her grin. 'I'm so bloody tired,' he murmured against her lips.

'I don't think I've slept properly in days,' Ally agreed.

Harry kissed her long and slow, a kiss that suggested they had all the time in the world to stand in their driveway and enjoy each other. But they didn't because Molly would start crying soon and the war would press in on them and they'd be back to catching sleep when they could while they hunted down Voldemort's forces.

For the moment they were going to enjoy the peace while it lasted. Sleep and each other, it sounded like an alright kind of birthday gift.