A/N - I have no excuse, other than a complete lack of motivation and apathy. I am working on getting myself back on track and back into getting this story up and the next part of it written. I am certain I have disappointed and frustrated many people and for that I am sincerely sorry. You, my faithful readers, deserve much better than that. I thank my beta for his continue help and advice and my dh for his willingness to read and share his input. This first part of my story, which covers the summer before Fifth Year has been completely written. It only lacks editing. The second half, which covers Fifth Year at the very least has not been written - part of the struggle I've been dealing with. I have some ideas, but am lacking somewhat in direction and inspiration. I do hope you enjoy this instalment and I will sincerely endeavour not to leave everyone hanging the way that I have just done. If you are still reading, thank you for not giving up on me, and once again, I apologise for the delay and wish I had a good reason for letting you all down. Cheers.

Chapter Thirty-Three – Training Begins

Very early next morning there was a loud knock on Harry's door and a voice called out for him to get up and get downstairs. His eyes flew open and the first thing he realised was that Ginny was no longer there. He decided it was for the best, as he didn't want anyone to know they had shared a bed. He quickly donned a sleeveless t-shirt and some running shorts, grabbed his trainers, and ran down to the sitting room. He couldn't believe he'd needed to be woken up. He usually rose with the sun to start his training regimen.

As dinner time approached, Harry was immensely grateful that he had been working as hard as he had while he was at the Burrow. He was tired from all the physical and mental training that he was presently undergoing, but he wasn't hurting the way Ginny was. The morning run and calisthenics, followed by armed combat had almost done her in. And that was all before breakfast. After breakfast, they had studied Charms and Transfiguration, and then had a class in unarmed combat, similar to the one he had been enrolled in in Ottery St. Catchpole.

Fortunately for both Harry and Ginny, the others had brewed up several batches of restorative and pain-lessening potions. After dinner, it was announced that they had a few hours off to do independent study or to rest, it was siesta time, after all. After consulting with one another, Harry and Ginny decided to retire to their rooms and rest.

Climbing the stairs together, Harry looped his arm loosely around Ginny's waist, and she leaned her head against his shoulder.

Stopping outside his door, Ginny reached up and kissed him gently on the cheek, and murmured, "I'll see you later. I need to have a kip if I'm going to make it through the rest of the day. As much as I'd love to cuddle with you, I'm simply too tired at the moment."

Harry gave her a soft smile and gently hugged her. "Sweet dreams," he said. "I'm going to drown myself in my Ancient Runes textbook in the hopes that I can play a bit of catch up. I hate how far behind I am. I have twice as much material to master before the end of the summer."

"You'll do fine, Harry," Ginny assured him. "You're brilliant in your studies, you just never had a reason to excel. I wager you could give Hermione a run for her money this year, now that we've found the right motivation." She flashed him a cheeky grin and disappeared into her room and collapsed on her bed in an exhausted heap.

Harry stood there in bemusement before he, too, headed to his room to study. After pulling his shutters half-closed, Harry grabbed a book on Ancient Runes and lay down on his bed to read.

Two hours later, Harry roused Ginny and they descended to the main level and met up with their tutors to study Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. Whilst Ginny was ahead of Harry in both of these classes, she knew she would need to work hard if she hoped to be placed in the Fifth Year alongside Harry.

Duelling and Potions followed. In Duelling, they were first tested on what they knew, then they were taught some of the more basic duelling spells: shield spells, stunners, and cutting spells. They were drilled in the importance of being quick on their feet, of ducking and rolling, of having a large arsenal of reliable spells that they could fire off quickly, and of being as creative as possible in their fights. They came to understand that the key to duelling was not getting hit, whilst at the same time hitting their target as frequently and as hard as possible and keeping them off balance. After a short mock duel with Sirius and Tonks, it was brought home to them that they had a long way to go. They also began to comprehend the importance of the calisthenics and physical training they were undergoing.

After supper, they spent time with Sirius, Bill, and Fleur learning all about the Wizarding world. It was brought home to them again just how much they had yet to learn. They also discovered that their lessons were going to include such topics as etiquette and dancing, subjects critical to their station in Wizarding society as Lord and Lady Potter. The evening ended with Harry and Ginny ensconced in the library poring over their books in preparation for the next day's lessons.

Whilst they were in the library, Sirius called the others in for a quick conference to discuss how the first day of training went and to discern if there were any areas that needed tweaking.

"I think we should invite Viktor to join us," Fleur commented. "He is very skilful in the use of a staff. I think they would benefit from such training, as they may encounter wizards armed with staves, especially if Voldemort starts recruiting from some of the Eastern European countries."

Sirius nodded appreciatively. "What do the rest of you think? Is this a good idea?" When all he saw was nods all around, he announced that he would contact Viktor the next day and issue him an invitation.

"Physical training is going to be an issue, if we don't change things up," Tonks noted. "Ginny has a ways to go before she catches up with Harry. If we don't want to burn her out, I suggest having her work with me, whilst Harry works with Bill."

Just as Sirius was about to approve that suggestion, Fleur broke in. "It might be better if Ginny worked with me. My level of physical training is a bit lacking. It might not be as intimidating if I were to become her training partner." She smiled meaningfully at Bill. "And it will give us some time to get know each other better, oui?"

Sirius looked around the room. "If there are no objections, you have my support. The rest of us can split our time between Harry and Ginny. Hopefully it won't take Ginny too long to catch up, and then we can all work together."

As far as the rest of the training was concerned, everyone had only positive comments to make, and all were impressed with the dedication and application that Harry and Ginny were showing to their studies, although Sirius was disappointed to see how much catching up Harry needed to do in both Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. He was reassured to see that even the small bit of studying Harry had been able to put in whilst he was at the Burrow had a made quite a difference in his knowledge level. The boy, or rather young man, certainly was a quick study.

Thinking that the meeting was over, Remus made to rise, when Sirius motioned to him to sit back down. He then stood there, a bit awkwardly, twisting his hand around his shirt tail. "I was thinking, perhaps, of inviting Carina and Procyon to join us for the remainder of the summer." All this was said in a quiet, rather uncertain tone of voice, posing quite a contrast to his usually confident demeanour.

Even Remus looked at him askance. "Sirius, what brought this on? I know you and Carina have a past together," Understatement of the world, he thought to himself, "but you haven't seen or spoken to her in what, fifteen, sixteen, years. You don't even know who she is any longer. She could be a Death Eater for all we know."

Sirius' head flew up at this last statement, a glint of fierce anger in his eyes. Remus recoiled at the antipathy radiating off his best friend. He held up his hands in a placating manner. "Sorry, that was uncalled for."

"Yes, it was," bit out Sirius. "I am aware of all that. I know I have neither seen nor spoken to her since she left Hogwarts. I know she withheld vital information from me for longer than I care to contemplate, but, bloody hell, I was going to marry her! She's the mother of my son. If I don't fix things now, I may never have another chance."

The rest of members of the group glanced at each other, sharing looks of discomfort. They did not want to be caught in the middle of this - whatever this was, but couldn't think of a graceful way to exit.

"Is that what this is all about, Sirius?" demanded Remus. "You're going to jeopardise your godson's safety, so you can play house with a son you never even knew you had?"

Loud gasps could be heard throughout the room, and Remus looked absolutely horrified. Sirius shot him an even more vicious glare. Everyone stared at Sirius in shock. Fleur and Tonks looked at each other and shook their respective heads in disbelief. How could they possibly have missed the resemblance?

"I'm sorry, Padfoot," Remus practically begged. "I was completely out of line. I should never have said what I did. I'm truly sorry."

Sirius snarled, "You're right. You were way out of line. That was my business. You had no right to share that with anyone."

Remus defended himself. "You made it my business, their business," he gestured at the others in the room, "when you decided to invite them here. You can't expect them to make an informed decision if they don't know half the story."

"I was planning on telling them tonight, only you couldn't bear not having the upper hand, not being right. You always had to be the one who knew more than everyone else, to rub in our indiscretions and make us toe the line, weren't you?" bit out Sirius cuttingly.

Remus flinched, and Tonks reached over and laid a hand on his thigh in a show of support. Remus took a deep breath, and continued, this time a little more calmly. "Sirius, this is not a game. I'm going to overlook what you just said, at least for now, because the petty rivalries of our past have no business here tonight." He couldn't hide the hurt in his eyes, however.

In a firmer voice, he continued. "This whole thing was your idea, your plan. You wanted to do something to help Harry. This endeavour that we've embarked on is not about us, it's about Harry and preparing him as best we can so he can face Voldemort, arguably the most powerful wizard of our time, and have a fighting chance. If the circumstances were different, I'd say yes, invite her along. Procyon too, for that matter. But we can't make any mistakes here. There is too much at stake."

Remus paused, looked down at the tiles on the floor and then up at the fan on the ceiling. "Are you going to be able to give Harry the attention he needs if Procyon is here, if Carina is here? Or are you going to more concerned with rebuilding your relationship with Carina and trying to establish one with your son?" He looked around the room and was heartened to see slight nods of approval. Taking strength from their support, he continued. "This isn't easy for me to say. Right now I'm guessing your thinking of more ways to kill than should be even possible, but Sirius, you need to consider what I'm asking you."

"Fine, Moony, I'll think about it," Sirius snapped. "But you consider this. Carina was top of her class in Potions, along with Lily and a certain other someone whom we won't mention by name. In fact, she was seriously considering pursuing a mastery in that subject. We could use her expertise, as none of us here have a deft hand at Potions.

Just when it appeared as if the two would resume their glaring contest, Bill intervened. "You've brought up an intriguing idea, Sirius. I suggest, however, that we all sleep on it tonight, and resume this discussion at a later date. In the meantime, perhaps one of us," he indicated himself, Fleur, and Tonks, "could start investigating Carina's background." He held up a hand to stave off Sirius' protests before they began. "Don't tell me you aren't going to do the same for Viktor," he chided.

Sirius deflated, having rightfully been called out. Where Harry's safety was concerned, he was determined to be nothing other than thorough. He well knew the dangers of betrayal, and he wasn't about to allow that to happen a second time.

He nodded abruptly at Remus and Bill, giving them leave to do as was suggested. "You had best check on Procyon, as well," Sirius muttered reluctantly. He was not happy at how things had unfolded, but he could not deny that they were within their rights to ask that of him. He wasn't even certain as to how he felt about things. Yes, Harry was his priority, but now there was Carina and Procyon. He was still attempting to heal from his years in Azkaban. How could he hope to be a friend (a lover? A husband?) and a father? He feared his efforts were doomed from the start.

"Is there anything else we need to discuss this evening?" Sirius asked quietly, whilst glancing around the room.

Following the chorus of no's, the group broke up. Remus looked as if he wanted to linger, but a warning look from his friend, led him to follow Tonks out of the room. He knew that he and Sirius needed to talk, harsh words had been said on both sides, but now was obviously not the time. With a sigh, he recalled from their time at Hogwarts, that Padfoot tended to be the brooding type and was renowned for his ability to hold a grudge.

Fleur stopped by the library and informed Ginny that she would be training with her in the morning to help her work up to the level that Harry was training at. She also reminded Harry and Ginny that they would do well to turn in, as it was getting quite late, and they needed to be up very early in the morning.

Ginny gave an exaggerated sigh of relief and shot Fleur a grateful smile. She wasn't sure if she could take many more mornings like that morning. Living at Grimmauld Place had afforded scant opportunity to exercise, and besides, as her mother would have informed her, it wasn't ladylike.

Harry and Ginny parted ways in the hallway after giving each other a sweet hug. However, part way through the night, Harry awoke to find Ginny's small form slipping under the covers beside him. Wordlessly he snaked out an arm and pulled her into his curve, and they both fell back to sleep with smiles on their faces.

As the week wore on, Harry and Ginny found they were adapting to their new routines. They even found time to lounge on the beach in the sun and swim in the crystal waters of the Mediterranean. The harder they pushed themselves the easier their subjects seemed to become. Each evening they found themselves snatching time for themselves to just sit and talk and revel in their growing relationship.

The Saturday before Ginny's birthday, Harry approached Sirius and requested that they go shopping.

"Ginny is really hoping to try out for the Quidditch team this coming year, and I want to buy her a decent broom. The brooms her family owns are so old and worn, that using one would really hurt her chances to make the team," he quietly explained to his godfather, after first checking that Ginny was nowhere within sight.

Sirius heartily agreed to his entreaty and called for an impromptu meeting in the sitting room. announcing that there would be another shopping trip to Florence after supper for anyone who wanted. His announcement was met with cheers, and that evening, as soon as the meal was over, everyone repaired to their rooms to prepare for the outing.

Unbeknownst to Harry and Ginny, Sirius was planning on meeting up with Viktor whilst they were there to discuss the possibility of him joining them. The background checks that they had done on him had revealed nothing of import. Yes, he was a graduate of Durmstrang, however, neither he nor his family seemed to be tainted by the Pureblood hysteria that ran rampant in Britain. He was also hoping to run into Carina again, who had also passed her background check, but knew the odds were against that, since it was a weekend, which, he knew from talking to her, was usually spent at home with her family.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

After a great deal of chaotic activity, everyone was finally ready to go. With a few pops the whole group disappeared and reappeared at the apparition point in Firenze. Remus agreed to accompany Harry on his errands, the girls decided to head off in the opposite direction, while Sirius and Bill left to care of business matters.

Unbeknownst to the others, Sirius had set up a meeting with Viktor at one of the local trattorias. As they strolled down the cobbled street, Sirius filled Bill in on his plans. Espying Viktor occupying a table covered with a gay tablecloth under the shade of an umbrella, the two men headed in his direction.

Viktor, upon seeing them, waved them over. He stood to greet each of them with a short bow. Sirius and Bill bowed in return and then pulled out chairs. As soon as they were seated a waiter appeared and took their orders. After the waiter had left, Sirius cast a Muffliato and set a perimeter alarm. He then turned to Viktor.

"So, Mr. Black, vat can I do for you? And vat is ze reason for all ze secrecy?" inquired Viktor gesturing at the encompassing charms.

"Before I say much more, Mr. Krum, I will need your assurance that you will not betray what is discussed here this evening to Voldemort or any of his followers. Harry assures us you can be trusted, and, whilst we trust his judgment, we need to be certain of your loyalties." He stared the foreign wizard straight in the eye. "I believe in being up front with those I work with. In light of that, I believe you ought to be aware of the fact that we have done a thorough background check on you and your family, prior to contacting you."

Viktor looked a bit perturbed at the idea that Sirius would have him investigated, but he refrained from commenting and waited for Sirius to finish speaking.

"We have a business proposition to put before you, however, before proceeding, we need to know if you would be willing to take an oath of loyalty?" Sirius turned an intense gaze on Viktor.

"You are friends of Harry?" returned Viktor.

Sirius nodded.

"Does he know you are talking vit me?"

"I am Harry's godfather," replied Sirius. "At present, he does not know I am here talking with you, however, I plan on discussing our meeting with him as soon as I have a chance."

Viktor appraised the man in front of him. He stared deep into his eyes and could see the sincerity that accompanied his words. He made a decision. "Yes, I am villing to take an oath. I have a great respect for Harry Potter. He is an honourable man. If you are helping him, and are seeking my assistance, zen I am more zan villing to lend it."

"Thank you for trusting us. Without your willingness to take a such an oath, we would be unable to tell you much more. Since you are willing, we are free to share with you all that we have discovered so far, and then address the main reason I have requested your presence here this evening," responded Sirius.

"Are you going to introduce me to your companion?" inquired Viktor, raising an eyebrow.

Before Sirius could reply, the waiter arrived carrying a tray bearing two steaming cups of cappuccino, a panforte, and a bomboloni caldi. After thanking the server, the men returned to their discussion.

"Pardon me," said Sirius, "that was extremely ill-mannered on my part. Viktor Krum, I'd like to present my friend William Weasley." The two men nodded in acknowledgement. "Bill is the oldest brother of Harry's betrothed, Ginevra Weasley."

A look of shock crossed Viktor's face. "Harry is betrothed? Ven did zis happen? He is rather young to be betrothed, no?" he shot off quickly.

Sirius laughed. "Yes, he is rather young, however, I think it will greatly benefit him in the long run."

"I can see how zis vould be true. Betrothals are quite common among my classmates. My parents vould vish zat I myself vould enter into a betrothal. If I obeyed zeir vishes, my fiancee and I vould not be getting married until she finishes her studies." A wistful expression crossed Viktor's face. "Ze girl my parents have chosen is very pretty and very sweet, but I do not really know her, and she is not Harry's friend, Hermione. I am conflicted about zis. I do not know if Hermione tinks about me ze vay I do her. Perhaps it vould be best to do as my parents vish," he concluded regretfully.

Sirius and Bill exchanged glances. Here was a piece of information they had obviously missed, which might lend an interesting twist to their plans. Sirius tried to remember if the report had mentioned a relationship between Viktor and Hermione, or even a possible betrothal between Viktor and a fellow classmate. He gritted his teeth in frustration. He could Remus in his head chiding him for his lack of thoroughness and grimaced in acknowledgement. Remus was correct, once again. Sirius really needed to sit down and clear the air with him. The tension that filled the air whenever they were in the same room was really starting to disturb him.

Snapping himself out of his reverie, Sirius redirected his attention to the young man sitting across from him. He definitely needed to spend some time becoming acquainted with Viktor - he seemed to have some surprising depths to him. It was obvious that he was not simply an arrogant Quidditch star, but rather a man of insight and reflection. Glancing over at Bill, he saw that the younger man was similarly appraising their potential new ally.

"Well then, let us proceed," offered Sirius. The oath was quickly and discreetly administered and soon the three men were sitting back and relaxing, whilst exchanging stories like old friends, sipping their coffee, and enjoying the pleasant warmth of an Italian evening.

Viktor, recalling that there had been a purpose to their meeting, was about to question Sirius, when the man in question stood up quickly and called out, "Procyon," leaving Viktor feeling a bit bewildered. He seemed to be addressing a young man, who looked to be slightly older than his friend, Harry.

The young man in question halted, looked around and finally spotted Sirius motioning to him. He hesitated for a moment, seeming to debate whether or not to respond to his father's hail, then casually strolled over to their table. He looked inquiringly at Sirius and waited for him to speak.

"Procyon, I had not expected to see you here this evening," exclaimed Sirius in obvious surprise and delight. He stepped forward as if to embrace the young man, when the look on Procyon's face caused him to rethink his course of action. Instead, he gestured towards his companions and said, "Bill you have already met. Allow me to introduce you to Viktor Krum. Viktor, Procyon Conti."

Procyon's eyes widened in surprise. What was his father doing sitting at a trattoria and sipping coffee with one of the best seekers of all time? He certainly seemed to run in exalted circles – first Harry Potter and now Viktor Krum. Who next – the head of the French Ministry?