Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit.
Acknowledgments: alpha-alieria, Bird875, E.C. Scrubb for the beta work.
Harry Potter lurched forward in his seat as the train slowed and eventually stopped. His muscles were tense as he looked around and he was exhausted. But that's what happened when one stayed awake for nearly two full days. He would have preferred a nap on the train, but he couldn't count on his own safety. And he wasn't going to risk being captured or killed for something that petty.
He queued up with the Muggles, taking a moment to help an old lady get her bags down. He knew being a Good Samaritan probably shouldn't be high on his priority list, but he couldn't help it. Of course, one of these days there would be Polyjuice potion involved and he'd have to hope he could get his draw off before the adversary.
He trudged slowly off the train, blending in with the other passengers as best as he could. He even had the typical train scowl down. That unique facial expression most passengers get when they can't quite understand why it's taking so long for people to get off. Harry shifted uncomfortably as he moved. He was dressed as a Muggle for the purpose of blending in, but he still wore some armor underneath the clothing. It wasn't the most comfortable, and it was far too warm, but he would rather have some protection on.
The terminal wasn't very crowded which made it easier to scan the faces of everyone he saw. He tried not to mentally probe anyone as he walked past, as that was extremely rude, even if they were all Muggles and didn't feel anything. It would be a dead giveaway to most Wizards, too, which also wouldn't help his cause.
Harry had to force himself to walk slowly. He knew he likely wasn't followed, but he still didn't want to do anything to draw an inordinate amount of attention to himself. He took his Muggle wallet out of his back pocket as he walked and examined the contents of the small piece of leather.
It contained his Muggle identity and documentation. His magical documents were tucked into his armor. Both were forged, but useful for his purposes. After all, there probably wasn't a ministry on the planet that wouldn't extradite Harry Potter at that point. The wallet also contained around two hundred Pounds and five hundred Euros. The currency switch certainly made some of his European ventures easier. Especially the ones where he had to pose as a Muggle. And those missions were becoming more and more common.
Tom Riddle's takeover of Magical Britain had been relatively swift, and amazingly efficient. Harry shook his head at the thought. Lord Voldemort's second rise wasn't quite as bloody as his first. It hadn't needed to be. But Muggleborns were still dying, and the laws became more biased every day. Most of Britain sat by and watched, afraid of what would happen if they spoke out. But there was some resistance still. The Order of the Phoenix fought what they could.
Politically, though, they'd been eliminated. They'd lost what little say they'd had in the ministry within the first few months. Voldemort started there. Using the Malfoy's and Nott's as his main pawns. Political alliances were negotiated, bought, or forced. It was slow and probably dated further back than Harry quite realized. But that part didn't matter to him. The only part that he cared about was that it had happened.
Now the Order was reduced to raiding secure locations and praying they found survivors, old Order members, or some sort of clue into Voldemort's weaknesses. But successes were very rare. Their raids into England were growing fewer and fewer too. Harry led one of the only strike teams. And he doubted, after the last raid on what they'd hoped would be a prison camp, that there would be many more raids in the immediate future.
It was getting to the point where all of the Order of the Phoenix knew that there likely weren't any survivors. Harry ran through all the faces he'd left in Britain at one point or another and the thought made him want to throw up.
But Voldemort succeeded with what he wanted. He controlled Britain and he'd made Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix into outlaws. His legislation flowed swiftly through the Ministry and the rest of Europe appeared to be content with the changes in Britain, so long as Lord Voldemort left them alone. A promise he'd kept. At least for now.
It astounded Harry that other ministries didn't see right through Voldemort. There was little to no way that the Dark Lord could, at this time, stand up to all of Europe, much less Europe and the Americas, if they would simply get involved. But Lord Voldemort hadn't done anything in Europe or the Americas during his reign of terror all those years ago. So the other countries hoped he'd go away. Or perhaps simply be quelled a bit by the politics and daily requirements of ruling a nation.
Harry Potter was skeptical on both counts.
He worked his way slowly through customs and immigration. He was still nervous every time he used his fake Muggle passport. No matter how many times it worked perfectly, he still felt that tinge of fear. He still had the visions of a guard pulling him away for questioning. Silly, really, considering how easily he could get out of anything. His wand was never more than a few inches from his hand as he slipped through customs.
It only took a few more minutes to reach the outside world. Paris was a vibrant city. He'd never admit it, but he always enjoyed his time there, and he liked many aspects of the city more than London. Of course, that thought made him feel a bit dirty. But merely because it was a French city.
The sun was setting as he stared up at it. He guessed it was between seven and eight in the evening. But he wasn't wearing a watch. He took a moment to look around and debate his next move.
He needed to be in Bordeaux by the next evening. Normally he'd just apparate or floo there. But such methods of transportation were no longer safe in Britain. Voldemort had seen to that immediately. Even broom travel was strictly monitored. Which is why Harry used the Channel Tunnel to escape the country. One other member of his team had gone to Heathrow, but he was supposed to be evacuating to the United States to attempt to garner ministry support there. The others traveled toward Portsmouth and would be taking a ferry to Calais. They were moving on to Ypres, and then toward Berlin.
As far as they knew, magical transportation wasn't as heavily monitored on the continent. But there were some recent pushes toward a massive registration of all forms of magical transportation. The bill was raised as a way to track criminals via their magical signature, and make it harder for anyone to escape the Aurors. It was gaining in popularity, but as far as the Order could tell, hadn't been implemented yet.
Still, Harry didn't want to take his chances. He'd had alternate transportation arranged. It would take longer, although perhaps only a few more hours than a broom, but it was safer, for the time being. Thankfully the Pureblood politicians hadn't quite realized that a magical person would consider traveling in the Muggle way.
But even then, he'd have no problem renting a hotel room for the evening, at least to get some sleep, and still make it to Bordeaux in time for the next meeting. But he'd rather make it to Bordeaux than rest in Paris. There were at least pleasant things waiting for him in Bordeaux. And he had some left over pepper-up potion if he needed it.
Harry Potter knew that smartest, and probably quickest, Muggle way to his destination would have likely been to take another train. But Harry was too paranoid for that. Someone may have tracked him to the Channel Tunnel. He couldn't be sure. It had been chaos getting away from the mission. So it only made sense to use his secondary form of transportation. Assuming she'd remembered to arrange for it. But it wasn't like her to forget, even if he rarely utilized the backup plan.
The car park was only a few blocks away. There were a couple in the surrounding areas that they'd utilized before, but they always kept it roaming. One of the earliest lessons the Order had learned was to always mix things up. Better safe than sorry, or constant vigilance, if one preferred.
It only took Harry a few moments to find his vehicle. She'd put a giant, pink and yellow flower sticker on the rear bumper. It stuck out against the silver paint. He shook his head a little bit and had to admit he was rather surprised by her choice of vehicle. He'd have to rib her about that.
A quick spell unlocked the door. Once inside he opened the center console to find the keys neatly stashed there. She'd even arranged for a bottle of water and a baguette to be left in the car. He smiled a little bit at her thoughtfulness. He shoved the keys into the ignition and started the vehicle. He could have probably just used magic to power the vehicle. But most forms of technology didn't appreciate prolonged exposure to spells and he'd rather not have it stop in Tours. Although that would probably make him get a hotel.
Harry took a moment to check all of his mirrors, find just which lever activated the headlights and gaze around the car park. He decided he'd worry about the windshield wipers only if it rained. He wasn't a fan of driving. Especially not city driving. But it wouldn't take him long to get onto the motorway. He flipped the car into drive and pulled out onto the road. The A4 had more pickup than he'd expected. Certainly it got off the line a bit quicker than other vehicles he'd driven in the past. But in fairness, that was a woefully short list.
However a quick gaze at the speedometer showed that the car could, at least in theory, go faster than his Firebolt. He doubted it, but he'd give the Muggle invention the benefit of the doubt and hope he didn't need to find out.
Once he made it to the motorway he set the cruise control and started on the baguette. He probably shouldn't have taken both hands off the wheel to tear the bread apart and eat it. But he did it anyway. At least he had the foresight to rip a couple of pieces off and keep them on the passenger seat. He also took a moment to open the water and take a sip. He'd only need both hands to get the cap off the first time. After all that was said and done he kept one hand on the wheel while he ate and drank with the other.
He finished the baguette surprisingly quickly. But he decided to only drink about half the water. It would be at least a six hour drive, and he didn't want to stop along the way. Of course he had no idea how long the full fuel tank would last. Four hundred miles seemed like a stretch, but he could switch to magic for the last part of the journey if he had to.
The hours and miles passed slowly. More slowly than he'd have liked. But it gave him plenty of time to think about just what he's say at his debriefing. He had to figure out just where the mission went wrong. No one would blame him for what happened. And thankfully, they hadn't lost any lives, assuming his fellow Order members made it to their destinations as well. He wouldn't know until they reported in the next evening.
All he could really determine so far was that they'd have to find more reliable intelligence. They'd need to do more scouting in Britain rather than relying on the reports. A few missions past Harry had thought Voldemort's forces acted like they apart of a poorly executed trap. Almost like they knew the Order members should have been there, but that they weren't quite as informed as they should have been. It had descended into chaos quickly, and they'd gotten out, and even pulled Dean Thomas with them.
The mission after that Harry scrubbed. Everything was too easy, and looked too obvious. He'd taken flak for telling his team to simply get out. The vibe had simply felt wrong. He'd never know if he was right or not.
But this time, despite the same vibe, he'd gone ahead with the mission. But not before giving each of his team members specific instructions to activate their emergency Portkeys in the event of anything unusual. They'd moved toward what appeared to be captured Muggleborns, but as they approached the people the disillusionment charm faded and curses started to fly. Each member of his team had immediately activated their Portkey. Thankfully, it still took the ministry a few hours to track unregistered Portkeys. But that was a luxury Harry knew wouldn't last for much longer.
They'd reconvened at their staging area and then dispersed quickly on with their missions. He knew he'd likely take some more flak for being too cautious. But the Order was not in the position to lose more fighters. Especially if the encounter had no chance of netting them more wands.
Either way Harry shook the thoughts from his head. It was far too long of a drive to focus on that. He fumbled with the radio in the car and settled the first music station he came up with. Harry possessed little opinion of French music, but at least it was something to distract him while driving. Eventually he just zoned out and watched the scenery fly past.
It was just past one in the morning when he turned off the motorway. The fuel light was glaring at him from the dash, but the car kept moving forward. He made the final turns on instinct before pulling in to a long drive. The car died halfway up the drive.
Harry had expected that, though. He knew it must have given out at the exact point where the warding on the home began. Unlike the Death Eaters in Britain, the Order warded all of their safe houses against every form of travel they could think of. He stepped out of the vehicle and walked up the remaining part of the drive. At the very least he hoped he hadn't accidently trigger some sort of alarm. But since no one was rushing down the drive slinging spells at him, he figured he was okay.
Once he stepped through the forested outcropping he saw the safe house. It was a fairly large, two story stone building with plenty of windows on the front. It was a longer house, giving it an altogether strange look and making it feel cramped when inside. Harry just stared at it, clinically, as he approached the front door.
"Harry!" A familiarly sweet voice said from his side. He turned to look for the origin of the sound. He was rather surprised he hadn't drawn his wand, but perhaps that was simply a sign of how tired he was.
Gabrielle Delacour sat in the grass perhaps ten paces away from him. She was wearing a cotton tank-top and her hair was a complete mess. He tilted his head and looked at her for a moment. When he finally spoke he chose to do so in her tongue rather his own.
"Shouldn't you be in bed, Gabrielle?" he asked. French sounded odd in his head. It was hard to believe he'd last spoken it just a week ago. The missions just always felt much longer than they were.
"I am sixteen!" The French girl argued, as if that solved every form of argument Harry could have had. Of course, that didn't prevent her from expanding further. "I do not have a bedtime!"
"Isn't the light's out at Beauxbatons eleven?" Harry teased. He did his best to not think about how the strap of her tank top was sliding off of her shoulder. Even the quarter Veela had an annoying tendency to be sexy regardless of whatever they were doing.
"Yes, but we are not at Beauxbatons, are we?" she smiled.
"I guess we're not."
"And I was doing my schoolwork!" she claimed. She held up an astronomy text and pointed vaguely toward the stars. She then decided to stand and walk over to him.
"That's a likely excuse." Harry walked toward the door and opened it for her. She stepped in and waited for him in the entry way.
"We did not expect you back so soon. Would you like me to get you anything?" she asked, giving him full smile.
"Mission didn't go very well," he explained ignoring her question. The French girl's face filled with concern, but Harry didn't pay attention to that.
"Is everything alright?" she asked.
"Should be. No one was hurt. Where's your sister?" It was a bit unusual that no one else seemed to be around the house. But it was late and no one was technically due back until the next morning. He suspected the elder Delacours were asleep. And Lupin was probably locked in his room that evening as well.
"She is in bed," Gabrielle said. "She turned in early tonight."
"That sounds like an amazing idea," Harry admitted.
"You do look tired."
"Exhausted. I'd offer to help you with the Astronomy, but I was rubbish at it anyway and I'm pretty much asleep as is."
"Go to bed." She smiled again and nodded toward the stairs nearby. He stepped up them slowly. It took him longer than he'd have liked to walk down the long hallway to the last bedroom on the left.
The room was dark and quiet when he entered. He saw tangled mass of blankets on the center of their bed and let out a longing sigh. Harry rather preferred when he was in the middle of that mess.
He grabbed some athletic shorts from his dresser before he stepped toward the closet to change attempting to do so as silently as possible. He pulled off his t-shirt first and then started on his magical armor. She'd left one of the windows open and the cool breeze was a welcome relief as he peeled the armor off of his skin. His socks came off next, followed quickly by his pants and leg armor. Then he put the shorts on and moved toward the bed.
The mass of blankets shifted as he slid under the covers. A moment later it was on top of him and a pair of bright blue eyes locked onto his.
"You are early," she said, speaking in her native tongue.
"Hurried home," he responded. She leaned down to kiss him, letting her hair trace gently over his face as she did.
"I'm glad." She rested her head on his chest and slid her arms around him.
"How was it?" Her voice was very quiet. He almost couldn't hear her over the breeze filtering through the room. But he could sense her concern.
"Bad," he responded. "Another trap."
"Three in a row, then?"
"Yes. No one hurt or captured this time, though."
"That is good. Do you want to talk about it?" She asked. She pressed her lips gently into his neck after she finished speaking. And he just pressed his face into her hair, inhaling her natural flowery scent as he held her in their bed.
"Not really," he admitted. "But not because of anything that happened. I'm just exhausted, Fleur. Can it wait till morning?"
"Of course," she said, her voice filled with empathy. She let her lips slide around his neck for a moment longer before she shifted and cuddled up against his body. He held her and closed his eyes, waiting for sleep to come. After a few quiet moments she spoke once more.
"Was she there?" she asked, letting the question linger in the darkness.
"No," Harry lied. They both knew it was a lie too. She was always there. No matter where he was, or what he did. She was always there. He couldn't get away from her. But the lie was soothing, and that helped them both sleep.
Harry Potter walked into Kings Cross station next to his Godfather. He'd miss the summer. The two of them often enjoyed their summers together. Harry rather enjoyed that Sirius treated him as an adult. He just wished his girlfriend resided closer to London and had slightly overprotective parents.
"Can't believe summer is over already," Sirius laughed as they stepped into the Muggle portion of the station. They started to wander toward the platform.
"It certainly is a quick couple of months," Harry responded. He couldn't help but be secretly amused. Since after his fourth year, when Sirius was acquitted, he no longer dreaded the summers. And really, he no longer spent the entire summer wishing he was back in school. So that was a plus. Even if he had spent more of the last two summers helping Sirius clean up Grimmauld Place.
At least after he stopped worrying about being attacked in the street. Voldemort's return still shocked him a bit. But in the years that passed, no one saw any sign of the Dark Lord. Harry suspected that may have changed had a rogue group of Death Eaters not decided to attack Hogwarts during the final task of the tournament.
Voldemort had wondered aloud where some of his followers were that night. And Harry had hoped that the spirits from his wand had done more damage than he suspected. Still, most of the night was a blur.
When he grabbed Cedric's body and summoned the Portkey he hadn't expected to find himself in a battle zone. But that's what it was. Moments after fighting off the Dark Lord, Harry Potter helped fight off his minions, side by side with his Godfather. It was their heroic actions, according to Minister Fudge, that helped capture Barty Crouch Jr and his accomplices.
It had been chaos. But he'd emerged on top. Five Death Eaters and ten Slytherin students wound up in Azkaban at the end of the night. Apparently the students had been crucial in allowing the Death Eaters into the school grounds. On the positive side, Harry hadn't had to deal with Draco Malfoy or his antics for two years. He idly wondered if the whole family shared a cell, or if they were separated.
The school almost hadn't opened for Harry's fifth year. But, while the attack on Hogwarts and Cedric's body made more of the wizarding community believe Harry, there were still next to no signs of Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore and The Order of the Phoenix looked everywhere for any sign. And there just weren't any. Dumbledore was amazed. It was where the theory came up that maybe, just maybe, the spirits from his wand had killed the Dark Lord.
And while the Aurors and the Order both kept looking for any sign of the Dark Lord, life returned to normal. Part of Harry knew he should have paid more attention. He should have helped. He should have been more involved. But it was so much easier, and so much more rewarding, to simply be a teenager. And by the time the start of his sixth year rolled around, that was all he wanted to do.
"Well, maybe at this rate I'll actually get something done on the house," Sirius laughed, knocking Harry out of his thoughts.
"I doubt it, unless you count drinking all the firewhiskey as a form of getting housework done," Harry laughed with his Godfather.
"Sometimes it's the most efficient thing to be doing," Sirius admitted.
"I highly doubt that," Harry responded dryly.
"Ah I'm going to miss you, Kiddo," Sirius said after a few moments and slipping through the platform.
"Oh I doubt it," Harry said. "No one on your ass about bringing all those old witches home now."
"Hey, they're my age! And Remus will give me hell, I suspect," Sirius countered.
"Like I said. Old. And I'm sure not nearly enough."
"Probably not," Sirius said dryly. "But it just sounds like someone is missing his girl a bit too much over these past few months."
"Well maybe a little," Harry admitted. He certainly had missed her company during the summer break. Both during the day and in the evening. And he was really looking forward to his first night back. Even if daily start of the year duties would keep them apart.
"See. And just think, you're just a couple hours from having her in your arms," Sirius teased. Harry knew he was implying far more than in his arms, but he just shook his head at the older man's brashness. When he spoke, it was to change the subject.
"One more year," Harry sighed as he stared up at the Hogwarts express. His hands were in his pockets. Kreacher already put his trunk on the train. It would just be a matter of finding the compartment. But the elf always put it in the same one. The final compartment of the fourth car, typically. Harry had to admit, the elf had its uses. At least he knew why some of the wealthier Purebloods never seemed to be carrying their luggage at the station. Unfortunately, Kreacher would take it into his dormitory for him. Harry briefly wondered about asking Dobby to do it, but figured he could be in charge of his luggage for at least a little bit of his journey.
"Time flies, doesn't it?" Sirius laughed, clasping him on the back.
"It does," Harry admitted, feeling older than he probably should have. But at the very least it did feel nice to be of age.
"Just think, in ten more months you'll have to get a job and be a productive member of society," Sirius joked.
"Something you've managed to avoid for your entire adult life?" Harry asked. Sirius nodded knowingly.
"Pureblood family, Harry. We don't work."
"Better than us half bloods eh?" Harry laughed.
"Exactly," he affirmed. "Given any thought to what you're going to do?"
"Not really," Harry lied. He had a few things he'd like to pursue. He just wasn't particularly sure of which order he would do it in.
"Well, Quidditch or Auror?" Sirius asked. He immediately picked out the two that Harry was debating on. After the tournament, and after his trial, Sirius had taken to training Harry just a little bit. Harry suspected this was purely because Sirius missed fighting with James. He'd certainly learned some interesting spells over the summer. He made a mental note to thank the ministry for expecting parents to enforce certain laws.
"Well that's depends entirely upon how the draft goes, I suspect," Harry laughed.
"Which depends entirely upon how this year goes?" Sirius asked.
"Four for four last year," Harry said rather proudly. In fact, he hadn't missed a snitch since Cedric in his third year. Although sub-par keeping from both Cormac McLaggen and Ron Weasley had cost them the school cup last season when Ravenclaw proved to be much better than most people suspected.
"But no cup last year," Sirius teased. Harry shook his head.
"Hope that isn't the case this year," he sighed. "Really have to get the keeper situation sorted out."
"I'd say. Losing 430 to 280 when the opposing team doesn't even catch the snitch is pretty embarrassing. How does one keeper give up forty-three goals on fifty-six shots?" Sirius asked. Harry shook his head at the memory of that match. He wasn't sure. Even when for the latter half of the match, they had a chaser stay back on defense.
"Because he spent the entire match trying to yell at everyone else and tell them what to do," Harry sighed. "If Ron had bothered to suit up I could have replaced them. But what the hell was I going to do, have Ginny play keeper?"
"Would have probably been better than Cormac," Sirius laughed.
"Couldn't have been worse," Harry said dryly. He didn't like reminiscing about that match, or about how badly the keeper situation had deteriorated since Wood left. He thought for sure that Gryffindor would just be a powerhouse. But it hadn't materialized.
"I bet Ron's just thrilled about the concept of an open tryout too."
"Hey, he had a shot at the spring practice," Harry argued. But Sirius was right. Ron had complained at not being named the starter going into the season. The best bit Harry could say was that at least Cormac had graduated, so that eliminated one large hole at keeper. But, they'd both been pretty awful the previous year. Harry had given Ron extra practices as a way of keeping his chasers in practice toward the end of the year. But Ron's play just got steadily worse the more the quaffle flew past him.
"Think he practiced over the summer?" Sirius asked. The honest answer was no. Ginny may have gotten on him a bit. In fact, Harry hoped she did. But without Fred and George around to really bother him into playing, and with Ginny likely more focused on her possible boyfriends than quidditch, that didn't bode well for Ron.
"I hope so," Harry said as jovially as he could. Sirius just shook his head a little bit and let the conversation drop. Harry sighed and turned to look around the platform. He didn't see the person he was looking forward to reuniting with the most. But he did see another familiar face.
"Harry!" Hermione Granger ran straight into him and hugged him far too tightly. He slipped away as Sirius laughed.
"Hermione," he responded. He noticed the head girl badge on her robes and groaned a little bit at the thought of just how bossy she'd wind up this year. He could already hear the complaints that it was bad form for the head girl to be sneaking around after hours 'because Harry Potter wanted something or other.'
"You're not head boy?!" She asked. She sounded shocked. Harry was still wearing Muggle clothing, dressed simply in jeans and a t-shirt, from the walk to the train station. He hadn't pinned his quidditch captain badge onto his shirt. But he never wore it on his robes, either. In fact, he hadn't even bothered putting the C onto his uniform, either.
"I wasn't even a prefect, Hermione," he laughed. There had been a time when that decision disappointed him. But that passed over a year ago. Especially when Dumbledore explained his reasoning. The elderly headmaster claimed he simply thought Harry would prefer to have a quiet last few years at Hogwarts. And the more Harry thought about it, the more he realized Dumbledore was right.
Of course, especially toward the end of the previous year, things started to be anything but quiet. He received requests for interviews from just about every flying, broom, or quidditch periodical. And he was asked to comment on draft speculation. Usually he didn't respond. Sometimes, if a particularly ambition reporter managed to ambush he and Sirius somewhere in public, he'd say a few kind words but mostly dismiss the question.
Those moments didn't bother him that much, though. He suspected because he didn't really mind talking about quidditch, regardless of who he was talking to. And those reporters often weren't out to misquote him or characterize him as an incompetent like Rita. He also rather liked seeing his name in print, when whatever it was involved with was accurately reported. Somehow he still couldn't believe people cared for his opinion.
"Oh I know," Hermione said, frowning a little bit. "But I thought that maybe. I mean if there's anyone in the year that no one would complain about it would be Harry Potter."
"Oh I'm sure some of the prefects would still complain," Harry said. "Is it Ron?"
"No. It's not. I think he thought for sure it was going to be, too. There hasn't been a Gyrffindor Head Boy since Percy and I think he was just assuming it was due and his."
"Were you at The Burrow when the letter came?" Harry asked. He knew Hermione planned on spending a good portion of the summer there. And judging from the fact that he didn't see Hermione's parents anywhere, she likely traveled to the station with the Weasleys.
"Yes," Hermione admitted. "He was in a right foul mood for a few hours. But he got over it when Mrs. Weasley made a cake."
"Figures," Harry laughed.
"Yes. Really I just told him he should be proud of being a prefect as it is a rather large accomplishment. You know how he gets when he doesn't get something he wanted. You're not going to take Gryffindor Keeper away from him are you?"
"I don't know. It will depend on the tryouts. Try to not curse any of my prospective keepers this time," Harry teased.
"Oh come on now! Cormac was awful and you know it!" He had to admit she had a point. "But you know Ron deserves it. He just has to get better during the matches!"
"I know," Harry said. And he really did want his friend on the team. But he also really wanted to win the Quidditch cup. And he'd gone with his friend for part of last season. Ron had resigned halfway through and then come back for the final game after McLaggen's blow up against Ravenclaw. Harry had to fight his personal feelings and the fact that it was his duty to put together the best team he could. Part of him, granted a small part, wasn't sure if he'd done that last season. "If he has anything near a decent tryout, he's in. Did he practice at all?"
"Some," Hermione said. "He really made some nice practice saves against Ginny. Fred and George stopped by a couple of times, too, to help out. You should have come out."
"I wanted to," Harry admitted. "But I lost track of time with Sirius." And it was true. It was very nice to have his own house, and room, and family. He and Sirius spent a great deal of time together over the holidays. They'd do anything from going to quidditch matches, to dueling each other, to traveling around England. It was fun. They'd even treated the Weasley's and Hermione to a end of the year match of Ballycastle versus Chudley. Amazingly enough, Chudley actually won, too. But that was all he saw of his friends over their brief summer break.
"And I'm sure that prevented you from getting to Birmingham," Hermione teased. Harry laughed a little bit and shook his head.
"I actually didn't get a chance to make it up there," He admitted, honestly. As much as he'd have liked, his girlfriend's parents didn't care all that much for him. And they preferred to occupy her time over the summer holiday.
"Sirius?" Hermione asked, gazing at his godfather.
"He's telling the truth. We did; however, have time for a Quidditch tour through the British and European leagues," Sirius teased. Hermione just glared at him.
"What! I may be playing for one of them next year!" Hermione just shook her head, but she smiled.
"Well at least you two spent some quality time together," she sighed. Harry nodded. At about the same time he noticed Ron and Ginny come through to the platform.
"Indeed, so who are the Head Boy options then? Blaise, Ernie and Terry?" Harry asked as Hermione looked over at their other two friends.
"I suspect Terry," Hermione said. "He's the best grades and gets into the least amount of trouble. And it wouldn't be Blaise. He just got prefect by default after what happened to the rest of the boys in his year."
"You're probably right," Harry admitted. He shook his head briefly at the thought of the then fourth year boys and how they threw their lives away for a cause they likely didn't understand. And a cause that nothing at all had come from sense.
"I know I am. But speaking of that I'm supposed to be helping younger students!" She looked alarmed that she'd forgotten and immediately hurried off to help the younger students. But Ron and Ginny approached him next.
"Harry!" Ron exclaimed.
"Ron!" Harry responded. They hugged briefly before exchanging the usually pleasantries about how their summer had been. Ron almost immediately started in on the quidditch talk. He spoke of how he was improving as a keeper and expected to have a good tryout. Ginny affirmed exactly what Ron said. And then he started talking about the Cannons match. Harry knew he'd be stuck there for a while. But the horn on the train blew and Sirius spoke from behind him.
"Well good luck, Harry, enjoy your last year!" He hugged him before pushing him toward the train. Harry just laughed and nodded at his Godfather before walking onto the train with Ron and Ginny.
"I have to go do my rounds," Ron said. Harry nodded at him as he wandered toward the compartment where he suspected his things would be.
"I'm going to find my friends," Ginny said as she ducked the other way. Harry found his usual compartment. His luggage was already there, as was hers. He smiled a bit, despite knowing that she wouldn't be joining him until after her own rounds were completed. He sat down on one of the long seats, resting his head against the window and sticking his legs out across the seat. He watched fellow students filter down the hallways. Moments later, the Hogwarts express started to move. Harry closed his eyes and thought of just what his final year at Hogwarts could bring.
"Hey Harry," he heard Neville say from the door of his compartment. He suspected the intrusion. Neville typically found him for the train ride.
"Neville," he said quietly.
"Do you mind?" Neville asked meekly, as if he was afraid Harry would say yes.
"Not at all," he said. "Have a good summer?"
"Fantastic. I think I'm going to ask Hannah Abbott out," Neville blurted out. Harry laughed a little bit.
"Nice, she's hot," Harry said idly.
"You think so?" Neville asked, sounding a little sheepish.
"Yes. You get together with her over the summer?"
"No. I mean we're partners in Herbology and what not. At first I thought she just picked me for the grade. But we have a pretty good time in class. And I ran into her in Diagon Alley with my Gran and she walked right up to me at the ice cream parlor and started chatting with me. And Gran told me to ask her out, so I'm going to as soon as I see her," Neville spoke rather quickly. Harry just smirked a bit.
"Nice man, good for you," Harry said. He was a bit too busy thinking that perhaps he should have brought a pillow, but at least the glass was cool against his head. Neville kept talking about Hannah and their encounter in Diagon alley, but Harry didn't pay that close of attention to his classmate.
Instead his thoughts wandered to his first real encounter with his girlfriend. It wasn't, perhaps, as romantic as it could have been. But he'd rather like that evening. Which was a little ironic considering for just how long he'd dreaded it as it approached.
His dressed slowly, and formally, wondering why he hadn't just gone home for the winter holiday. Everything would have been so much easier had he just blown off Slughorn. But Sirius was out of the country doing something or other for Dumbledore, and he didn't feel like spending Christmas with Ron talking about Lavender. So he'd stayed, and in doing so had accepted Professor Slughorn's invitation.
He didn't like the potions master. And he almost didn't go. But Hermione had asked him to go so he could make sure her date didn't do anything stupid. Of course, he didn't understand why Hermione had decided to go with Cormac. Was a night of Ron's jealousy, when he wasn't even going to be at school for the event, really worth putting up with McLaggen?
Annoyingly, it just meant he'd have to find a date. Which was something he hadn't put much thought into since everything blew up with Cho. Thankfully, Luna Lovegood agreed, relatively last minute, to go with him.
When he met her that evening he couldn't help but think she looked pretty in her silver robes. Unfortunately for Harry, she hadn't looked particularly interested in him. She babbled on about some conspiracy or another and referenced her magazine a couple of times as they walked to Slughorn's party.
Luna hadn't wanted to dance, either. Which hadn't bothered Harry in the slightest. He spent the first few moments looking around for Hermione. Only to notice that his date had disappeared. He spent a few moments looking for Luna then. He found her by some vampire that seemed vaguely annoyed that Harry didn't recognize his name.
But during the few moments it took to establish that Harry didn't particularly care who the vampire was, Luna had disappeared. He wandered after her again, and again, and again. That was his first half of the night.
Eventually he gave up trying to keep track of Luna. He figured she was fine around the castle, she'd be fine around Slughorn's party. Instead he found Hermione, Cormac, and a large goblet of mead. Hermione looked exasperated and annoyed by her date, so Harry saved her by discussing the upcoming match with Ravenclaw. He snored a little bit in the train car at the memory. At least at that point he'd been excited for the match. Neville didn't comment.
Hermione excused herself not too long later, citing that she didn't feel well and that the boys obviously had plenty of quidditch talk to amuse themselves with. Cormac hadn't been particularly happy with her situation. So Harry implied that his chances on the Gryffindor quidditch team would be much better if they'd discussed more strategy.
An hour and three goblets of mead later and Cormac also excused himself for the evening. Harry figured he should probably do the same. But just as he was about to leave he heard a voice behind him.
"Mr. Potter!" Professor Slughorn drawled. Harry suspected the professor was far from sober. But as the room shifted a bit when he turned, he suspected he wasn't in the best shape as well. He couldn't help but wonder if the headmaster knew Slughorn was serving alcohol to minors.
"Yes professor?" he asked.
"You can't leave yet!"
"You're the last eligible bachelor here and one of the young ladies needs a dance partner," Slughorn explained.
"I came with a date," Harry said, tilting his head to the side.
"She left hours ago!" Slughorn responded. "A charming girl but I did not get the impression she was particularly interested in your company."
"Me either," Harry admitted. He wasn't sure anyone had ever called Luna charming before, but he wasn't in any position to argue with the professor.
"So come dance with this young lady. It will make her evening! You wouldn't wish to subject a sixteen year old girl to my clumsy steps, would you?"
"I guess not," Harry said. Professor Slughorn laughed jovially and clasped him on the back before leading him over to where some other couples were dancing. Harry idly wondered when the party became so adult. There were only a couple pairs of students left, everyone else was older, mostly guests and teachers.
He didn't have very long to wonder though, as he found a witch in his arms moments later. She had long dark hair, darker than his own, and matching dark eyes. She wore a tight green dress that accentuated her form and gave him a wonderful view when he looked down. Which he probably did more than he should have. She'd accented her eyes with a green eyes shadow.
And, unless Harry was completely mistaken, there were flecks of silver worked in as well. And not just in her eye makeup. But on her face, in her blush, on her shoulders and arms. Harry wondered how much of it was something she'd actually applied, and how much of it was magic.
But all he really noticed, well, that wasn't the swell of her breasts as he looked down, was that she moved wonderfully in his arms. And that she apparently had no qualms about leading the dance. She laughed a little bit as she looked at him.
"Up here, Harry," she said quietly. He lifted his eyes to hers.
"Sorry. It has to be the mead," he laughed. Blaming the alcohol always worked well for Sirius.
"Mmm, I know, right?" Her body pressed against his as they danced. She looked up at him, he could smell the mead on her breath. Or perhaps it was just his own. But he noticed it more as she spoke. "I've had like three glasses. There has to be something in it,"
"I hope not," Harry laughed, looking down at her, letting his hands rest on her waist.
"Anyway, thank you for dancing with me," she said. "I didn't feel like going back to my dormitory yet. But all the boys had left."
"Well not all of them. But you're welcome, Tracey," Harry said quietly. "I'm sorry I'm an awful dancer." He let his eyes slide downward again.
"Oh that's fine. I don't mind doing all of the work," Tracey Davis smirked at him.
"Really?" Harry asked. He couldn't help but wonder if he was reading too much into those comments.
"Uh-huh," Tracey giggled. Her body shifted wonderfully against his as he did.
"That's great," Harry said, smiling a little bit and letting her body control just where his would go. His hands slipped around to the small of her back while they moved together.
One song, two songs, three songs passed. All in less time than Harry would have thought possible. Somewhere in between they each had more of the mead. And then danced more and more. His hands developed a mind of their own. But Tracey didn't mind, no matter how low his hands wandered. In fact, her own started to wander as well.
Eventually, the music slowed and quieted. They both decided to leave, because there wasn't anything else they could think to do. But as they moved to the exit Slughorn yelled after them.
"Mistletoe!" he yelled. Harry looked up and saw the inauspicious plant. He looked back down, intending to make some silly comment to Tracey, but instead her lips simply found his. She tasted wonderful. A mix of cinnamon and mead. He kissed her again and again and again. His hands all over her again.
Harry smirked a little bit to himself as the train compartment opened. Neville had been quiet for a while so he continued to feign sleep. He remembered very little of that night past kissing Tracey. He'd woken up, hung over, the next morning in his own bed. But he could still taste her on his lips.
Back in the train compartment he heard a familiar soft chuckle. She must have cut her rounds short. He felt her weight slide onto him. She pressed her face into the crook of his neck and he tilted his into her hair.
They hadn't talked for a few days after their drunken make-out session. Harry sat next to her at one of the meals in the nearly-empty Great Hall during the holiday. But she was focused on a runes discussion with a professor Harry barely recognized. And so he didn't bring it up.
But, everything changed just before the New Year. He'd been out flying, working on seeker maneuvers. And he'd decided to utilize the prefect's baths after.
She still wouldn't tell him how she managed to sneak in after him. The room was supposed to lock when occupied. But she'd managed. And she'd brought more of the mead. And Harry's new patronus memory was how she looked with bubbles clinging off of every inch of her. And since that evening they'd been nearly inseparable.
Ron was skeptical. But purely because she wore a Green tie. But the feud with Slytherin left with Malfoy and his cronies. Hermione was the first to recognize just how happy and smiley they were with each other. And really, the end of his sixth year, had been absolute bliss.
And now he was starting his seventh, and final, year. Harry Potter couldn't imagine being any happier than he was as he held his girlfriend on the Hogwarts Express. She brushed her lips lazily against his neck and Harry thought of nothing past what his final year would bring.
Author's Note: This is a bit of a departure from my typical fare. While there will be romance in in, it certainly isn't a romance. The story will focus on how the war started, how Voldemort came to power, and then the Order's current fight against him. The vast majority of it will be told in the manner this chapter was. That is with two scenes, one in the present, one in the past. It will follow that pattern until the past catches up to the present. Or for about the first half of the story.
Most of Harry's first six years stay pretty much the same as Cannon. I understand the bit with Voldemort is a bit different. But it's how I want the story to be. There's going to be more logic from the bad guys than 'let's attack a school'. And I felt I had to set it up a little differently than the books did. But at the same time I didn't want to abandon and redo everything that was already there.
As always, thanks for reading. I do appreciate it. The best way to contact me is via PM. I try to respond to most of those.