DISCLAIMER THE FIRST: It is by JKR's writing alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the grace of coffee that thoughts acquire speed, the back acquires strains, the strains become a warning. The warning is that I make no money from this. It is by JKR's writing alone I set my mind in motion.

PITHY STATEMENT RELATING TO THIS CHAPTER: "Not when truth is dirty, but when it is shallow, does the enlightened man dislike to wade into its waters." Friedrich Nietzsche

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STORY SPECIFIC WARNING: Since it seems after so many warnings people still seem surprised I write about nasty things which nasty people do to good people, I thought it important (once again) to repeat what I say in my profile: I am NOT writing a kiddies story. I am writing a mature take using the Harry Potter universe. So if you are shocked that I show people who were willing to murder to gain a brand so they going forth and do even more evil acts, then do yourself a favor and leave now.

Also when I'm writing speech and us single quotes without actual quoting something as in – "Oh then Ginny 'accidentally' bumped into Harry" – please take it to mean either the character emphasized the word sarcastically or used air quotes to show a different meaning. I'm noticing a lot of people haven't picked up on this and thus jump to the wrong conclusion.

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CHAPTER ONE – ENLIGHTENMENT

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OFFICE, GRIMMAULD PLACE, LONDON – AUGUST 3rd 1997 – EVENING

"Harry?"

The green-eyed teen turned from the window to see Hermione in what looked like bed-clothes from the 19th century. This image wasn't helped by the fact she had a brass candle-holder which looked vaguely like Aladdin's lamp.

Hermione saw the quirk of his lips at the sight of her nightwear. "Don't even think it, Harry. It's the best I could find even if I feel like my grandmother in it." Hermione put the candle-holder on the top of an ancient rolltop desk. The equally ancient chair creaked as she sat down.

Harry turned back to the window he had been gazing out of for the last few hours. There was an elderly gentleman walking his dog in the park across the street. A woman about Tonks' age was kissing her boyfriend goodbye through the open driver's side window of a Mini. Harry idly wondered where the man lived as the Mini drove off and the woman made her way up to #10 next door. So odd to see life going on in such a way. Such a normal way. It was hard for him to reconcile this with the chaos going on in the magical world.

"Harry...are you all right?" Hermione asked softly.

Harry sighed. He had been dreading this for the last hour. All day he had been thinking and the last few hours had brought him to a place he should have gotten too a long time ago. Would Hermione agree with him? Harry hoped so; he needed her.

"No, Hermione; I'm not all right. In fact I think I'm not on the same planet as all right." Harry waved Hermione off before she could speak. "Look Hermione, I've been doing something I should have been doing for years now. I've been thinking and quite frankly I'm pretty disgusted with myself. I need to get this off my chest. I need you to just listen for a bit. Please; don't jump to any conclusions or anything and let me finish what I have to say. Can you do that for me Hermione?" Harry met Hermione's eye so she could see the need in his eyes.

"I...of course, Harry" Hermione practically stuttered in surprise. She was worried about Harry's brooding but this was somehow different from his usual emo fare.

Harry nodded and turned away from the window. With his hands behind his back, Harry suddenly reminded Hermione of a sergeant-major in front of his troops...right before he tells them the bad news. The serious look on his face did nothing to dispel this image.

Harry took a deep breath, sighed and then met Hermione's gaze with an intensity she rarely saw in him. "Hermione, I've been thinking and I've come to the conclusion that we've been complete idiots for quite some time. We've allowed the adults in our lives, the supposed older and wiser, to push us this way and that. We were told we were too young to participate or know the truth but after all the secrecy it's up to us, up to me, to make it all right. Well I'm thinking that this is a load of bollocks and I'm not going to do it…at least not the way they want me too."

Hermione blinked in surprise. Before she could reply, she stopped and just stared at Harry for a second. Thoughts she had been having off and on, dark thoughts, flashed before her mind's eye for a moment. "Go on," she said slowly.

Harry nodded, "Look, as I said, I've been thinking about things and I don't like what I'm seeing. I am not going to cast blame but I've been trying to think like you for a change and this is what I came up with. Voldemort is out there. We've known that since the end of Fourth Year. Yet what was done about it? Not a lot! Oh sure you had me form the D.A. but did any of the Order really give us any help when Umbridge was torturing us?"

Hermione winced at this if only because it was so true.

Harry nodded at the look on his friend's face; she understood where he was coming from at least. "Then after Voldemort was exposed to the Ministry, what did we do about it? Nothing! I played Quidditch, we went to Slughorn's parties and we were twats about our Weasleys! Voldemort, the wizard who killed my parents, was out murdering the likes of Amelia Bones and I was bloody well fucking off on my broom while you were bloody well mucking about trying to make Ron jealous enough to actually chat you up instead of snogging Lavender! What were we thinking?"

Harry scowled and started to pace. "Worse was Dumbledore! He took almost all of term to give me information we could have knocked out in a weekend! He couldn't ever be straight with me! It was always cryptic comments or vague promises of information he'd tell me later. Well now he's dead and he's still doing it! What the hell does "I open at the close" mean? Why did he give you that book of children's tales? How is Ron supposed to use that Deilluminator? He didn't leave us a journal or even a set of bloody instructions to follow! No! We're just supposed to divine our way like this is some bloody quest! Prophecy or not, I didn't fucking sign up for up to be the supposed savior of Magical Britain! I just want to get this over with and go on with my life."

Harry spun back to glare at Hermione. The anger in his eyes made her almost gasp. "But it's not just Dumbledore expecting us to follow is daft plans, it's everyone! What were we all thinking at the end of term? Why did I just let myself get sent back to Privet Drive? What was the point? Why didn't I go to Grimmauld Place or stay at Hogwarts? For that matter, why couldn't I hide in Vernon's car under my invisibility cloak and have someone pick me up at Grunnings a few days before my birthday?"

"Or have you step off the property and activate a portkey," Hermione said quietly.

Harry's eyes seemed to blaze, "Exactly! But no; we had to have some stupid, convoluted plan to keep me there until I had to leave and so they were waiting! Mad-Eye Moody is dead now because we were all stupid! Hedwig died saving me and George is maimed for life! For what?"

Hermione didn't answer. She had been having her own doubts and had been feeling guilty since before the wedding at how she had just blindly gone along with what was in retrospect an incredibly flawed plan.

"Then there was the wedding! How idiotic could everyone be? Most of the Order was almost killed getting me away from Privet Drive and yet the Weasleys went on with the wedding in England! What were the Weasleys thinking?" Harry raged.

"Molly demanded the wedding be held at the Burrow," Hermione answered. "Something about Weasley tradition and some other Pureblood twaddle about the first born male and their tie to the family land."

"Tradition! Look what that got them! Harry scoffed. "They might have well advertised the event in the Daily Prophet as Fish in a Barrel; 2 knuts a shot! We were lucky Voldemort decided to take down the Ministry first. I think he was stupid. He had a free shot at almost every Light side witch and wizard who would oppose him in one nice, convenient place! The rest of us should have demanded that the wedding happen in France. At least we would have been safe from attack and we could have planned our next move instead of being chased through London!"

Harry eyes flashed, "I'm tired of all this! We spent all of last year acting like we were just regular kids and everything was just peachy. Now look at us! Worse was after all that went on, Ron and I are still less than worthless. You planned everything! You looked ahead to what we were going to need while I sat on my arse all summer."

"Harry, that's not fair to you. You were cut off from the magical world..." Hermione broke in.

"...just like you were, Hermione," Harry interrupted angrily. "Yet you researched what was needed, collected it all while I moped around feeling sorry for myself as usual and didn't give much thought to how we were actually going to go about hunting those horcruxes. Ron didn't do much else either. He may have come up with the idea for the ghoul but I know it had to be you who did the spell. So after all this shitte in my life, I sat around all summer until I got 'rescued' in what has to be the worst escape plan ever. This sort of thing has to stop, Hermione! I can't go on like this and we can't keep playing by the rulebook that Dumbledore seems to want us to play."

Harry made a sweeping gesture, "It was a fucking accident we found out about the locket! We have no idea where it is now or where the Hufflepuff cup is or even which Ravenclaw artifact Voldemort might have used! The Ministry is his and you can bet some serious nastiness is going to start happening to half-bloods, muggleborn and non-humans. Did Dumbledore just expect us to knock around England until we just accidentally stumbled upon the other horcruxes? Why the riddles? Why these cryptic clues? Why couldn't the FUCKING OLD MAN HAVE ACTUALLY TOLD US SOMETHING BLOODY USEFUL?" Harry screamed in rage.

Hermione leapt to her feet and folded Harry into her arms. Harry returned the hug, shaking like he was freezing. These shakes rapidly turned to sobs as the stress finally got to him. Hermione gently lowered him to the floor and just continued to hug him as all the accumulated fear, stress and guilt swept through him. As her best friend cried into her bushy hair, she thought about all that he had said. Some of it was rather insulting in regards to her and her pursuit of Ron last term.

The truth was, the bushy-haired witch thought, Harry was right. Everything he said made perfect, logical sense. For whatever reason, they had let themselves kid themselves about what they were facing and now it was far too late for a do-over. For some reason it seemed so obvious now as if a fog had been lifted from her mind.

Hermione frowned at this last thought as she hugged her best friend to her. What if something had been clouding her reasoning? If so, what had changed.

After a long time Harry finally calmed down and just lay against her. Hermione wouldn't be surprised if Harry had fallen asleep against her. She knew how exhausted she got after a good cry. Yet Harry stirred and to her surprise kissed her on the cheek!

"Thanks Hermione. Once again you are a good friend to me. Since Luna isn't here I guess it fell to you to put up with my tantrums. As with everything you do, you were brilliant," Harry said softly. A guilty look stole across his face, "I'm sorry about what I said about you and Ron..."

"There is no reason to be sorry, Harry," Hermione said, cutting him off. "You were right. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit it, I fooled myself into thinking we might get away with a bit of normal life last term." Hermione gave Harry a gentle squeeze, "The fact is you aren't normal and haven't been normal since Voldemort gave you that scar. Dumbledore was wrong to try to give you a 'normal childhood' and then expect you to have to save Magical Britain. You can be normal after all this is said and done. You can take all the money Sirius left you and disappear to the country or something where you can raise a family in peace."

Harry smiled, "That sounds grand." His smile faded, "But normal isn't going to help me now."

Hermione nodded, "By trying to let you have a normal life instead of training you, well we are left in a thoroughly sticky wicket." Again Hermione had to wonder why after the battle at the Ministries both of them had just blithely went on like regular teens. Harry was right; something was off about everything.

Harry grimaced, "I think my butt has informed me that the floor is no longer a suitable place for it." Harry disengaged himself and got up and offered a hand to Hermione, "To the couch, my Lady Granger?" Harry said with an exaggerated lordly tone.

Hermione found herself actually giggling, "That would be delightful, my Lord Potter," she replied in her best Jane Austin accent.

After they got comfortable on the couch, they sat in companionable silence for a bit. Finally Hermione asked, "So now what shall we do?"

Harry looked at her in surprise, "You're asking me?"

Hermione nodded, "Yes I am. You've obviously given this a lot of thought. I think right now it would be best for a bit to go with something new. Like you said, I allowed myself to get trapped into the same twisted logic that got us into this mess."

Harry frowned, "Yeah." The teen fell silent for a moment before continuing, "I'm thinking that right now we need to stop thinking like Magicals and thinking like Muggles."

Hermione made a face, "You know what, Harry? I'm sick of that term. It sounds like a worm. It's demeaning and even good Magicals like the Weasleys use it condescendingly. I mean look how Ron talks about my parents in that smug, condescending way. 'They're only Muggles' he said as if just because they can't do magic means they have no value. Quite frankly if it wasn't to protect them and all the others like them, I sometime wonder why I bother. Umbridge isn't the only one with her views so why am I working so hard to save a culture which looks at my parents like they're functionally inferior?"

To Hermione's utter surprise, Harry's face broke into a large grin, "I agree with you completely Hermione! I've been thinking the same thing. Every once and awhile Sirius or Remus would let slip how hard it was for my mum at school because she was a Muggleborn. As much as they were good friends of my parents, even they seemed to think my mother wouldn't have gotten very far if it wasn't for people like Slughorn or her marrying my father."

Harry paused as his grin slid off his face, "Considering that's been your lot since First Year, it goes to show not much has changed since my parents were at Hogwarts."

Hermione nodded, "Professor Slughorn let me read some of his journals and even though your mother's ability in potions was in great part due to her understanding of chemistry and the like, he always downplayed it. Once again we see how magic has to be the answer for everything and anything that contradicts that view is just ignored."

"Yeah but I think the answer to a lot of our problems will be found in the Muggle..." Harry paused at the word like he was searching for a better one.

"Mundane? Material? Non-Magical?" Hermione suggested.

"Mundane world it is. Still a bit condescending but I guess the magical world is a lot flashier," Harry said.

"So what do you have planned?" Hermione asked. She loved it when Harry actually used his mind. He was far from stupid but the effects of his Dursley upbringing limited him in so many ways. She had always gotten a secret thrill when they'd study together without Ron. Harry always managed to surprise her with a way of looking at things she herself missed. He might not be book smart but he had a way of seeing his way through to answers in a simple, straight-forward way where she herself had been making it needlessly more complicated.

Harry shrugged, "Well since Dudley and I got along better ever since I saved him from the Dementors, I got to see a lot more television and movies this summer. So many things in movies only work only through special effects. I mean you've seen James Bond movies, right? All that tech might as well be magic. Well we have magic so why not use some of those mundane ideas?"

Hermione blinked at this. Her father loved those types of movies and so she had seen every Bond film ever made. "You know Harry; you may be on to something. My dad loves spy stuff and when you think about it, we're not in a war, not really. A war implies two armies fighting. So unless we can create an army, we need to think like spies or freedom fighters."

Harry grinned. He should have known Hermione would understand, "Exactly! We're in the same boat as all those French during the War. Just like them we need to attack Voldemort's hold on the Ministry. We need to find ways to keep in touch with people who can feed us information and we need to get weapons and other safe-houses."

Hermione thought furiously, "We need to hurry. I think we need to figure out a way to keep in contact with the likes of Neville, Ginny and Luna while they are at Hogwarts." Hermione suddenly scowled and angrily struck the armrest of the couch, "I can't believe that after all that happened we have no idea how to contact any of the other Order members. No one even bothered to teach us how to use the Patronus charm as a messenger!"

Harry nodded grimly, "I know. Now you see why I'm so angry. There is so much we should have been learning last year and we came away with so little to show for that brief window of peace. We can't afford to squander any more time. In fact, we can't afford to overlook anything we can use, magical or mundane."

Harry took Hermione's hand, "Hermione...look, I've got some plans but I need you to know up front that I've decided the kid's gloves come off. We're up against Death Eaters. Their name alone should have clued us into what we were up against. I know we're young but we were stupid back at the Department of Ministries. Fighting killers with stunners is only going to get us killed. I mean you almost died and we all probably would have been killed if we hadn't had the prophecy sphere they needed intact."

Harry looked away briefly before turning back with a dark look on his face, "Think about what we did the other day on the run. We let Dolohov and Rowle live. I know people will say it shouldn't be up to be judge and jury but we've already seen how corrupt the system is. If not us then who? It would have been easy to maybe use a Petrificus Totalus right up against their chest to give them heart attacks. Then they'd just be two men who both mysteriously died of heart failure at the same time."

"I'm not sure Ron would have gone for that." Hermione said quietly.

"Why not?" Harry asked crossly. "This is Dolohov we're talking about! The only reason you're alive is because the spell he cast on you had to be spoken aloud to properly power it! Both were Death Eaters in the First War and you can bet they've murdered before and we let them go! Now anyone they murder from now on is our fault!"

Harry got up and began to pace again, "I am not going to let the blood of their victims stain my hands when I could have stopped them. So, I need to know if you can deal with this. It's easier for me to do this since as much as I hate it to admit it but I killed for the first time when I was eleven. Can you be party to this, knowing that we're going to be killing people?"

Hermione was quiet for a moment before her face hardened in determination. "Yes, Harry, I can do this. You are right, we're not playing a kid's game and the Death Eaters certainly aren't going to play by any civilized rules. Besides, we don't have the luxury of taking prisoners." Hermione paused, "Just promise me we will still fight like we are soldiers. I don't want to go down the road where we're torturing prisoners for information or killing people who honestly surrender."

"I totally agree. I learned my lesson when I tried to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix," Harry said.

Hermione's eyes went wide, "You cast an Unforgivable?"

"No, I tried to cast one. Bellatrix laughed it off saying that my righteous fury at Sirius' death couldn't make the spell work. You have to want to make the person suffer. Worse, you have to enjoy that suffering. While I'm sure Bellatrix and Voldemort deserve to suffer, I don't want to go into that dark place where I enjoy that suffering." Harry squeezed Hermione's hand again, "You're right. We may have to kill a lot of the Death Eaters but we can't let ourselves be cruel about it."

Hermione smiled warmly, "I'm glad you were so inept at hating, Harry."

Harry chuckled, "Yeah, I guess that is a test I'm glad I scored a T." Harry rubbed his scar for a moment. It had been prickling a lot lately. "Well if some of my ideas work out, getting a bullet through their mask is probably a kinder death than they deserve but I'll let someone else judge their soul."

Hermione looked worried, "Well we might have a problem with Ron. There are a lot of taboos regarding the use of mug...mundane things by wizards. Plus we know he's absolutely pants in our world. Also as I mentioned earlier, I do not believe Ron will go for it. Light wizards seem to live according to Kant in many respects."

"How so? Is it because they can't seem to do anything right?" Harry quipped.

"I meant Immanuel Kant! Honestly Harry! He's a famous philosopher from…" Hermione huffed.

"I know who he is, Hermione. I was just yanking your chain," Harry said before she could get into her tirade. "Remember I spent a lot of my time in the library over the summers back in Little Whinging."

Hermione blinked at this and then nodded, "Yes well then you how like Kant believed in absolutes. Followers of the Light are the same and believe if an action is dark it is dark in all cases. Killing people is consider dark and so even killing murdering Death Eaters is considered dark. Dumbledore didn't even kill Grindelwald although he was responsible for the death of millions. Ron being the way he is…well I don't believe he will be any different in his attitude to killing."

Harry shrugged, "He'll just going to have to get over it."

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LIBRARY, GRIMMAULD PLACE, LONDON – AUGUST 4th 1997 – MORNING

"QUIT TELLING ME TO GET OVER IT!" Ron yelled.

"Honestly Ron, be reasonable! We're at war here! Your family and all our friends are in danger. It's us against the Ministry so we need to use every tool we can. We can't afford to let some silly traditions keep us from what might defeat Voldemort." Hermione said patiently.

"Silly traditions? Are you listening to yourself Hermione? You're barking mad, both of you! You can't use Muggle weapons to fight Death Eaters! You'll be thrown into Azkaban!" Ron exclaimed.

Harry turned away from the window where he had been watching the two men in dark cloaks who were obviously keeping watch on the area. "Oh like that is any different from what will happen if we get caught by the aurors now? That is if Voldemort doesn't torture us to death first."

Ron managed to turn an even deeper shade of red, "It's not funny Harry! You just can't use Muggle weapons. It is illegal and it breaks tradition going back centuries! Everyone will turn on you! You can't do it!"

Harry sneered at this, "Oh so after I save everyone's bacon from Voldemort, the same Dark Wizard I've been made into the Boy-Who-Lived for defeating, they'll turn on me because I used a gun or two in the process?"

Ron nodded, "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Besides, Muggle weapons won't work. There is nothing Muggles can do against wizards which will work so you're daft to even think about it."

Harry's eyes narrowed, "Are you being intentionally stupid Ron? What the hell do you know about anything in our world? Your dad works with normal people and he can't even use something simple as pound notes which are clearly marked with numbers! So where do you get off thinking that things you obviously have no fucking clue about aren't going to work. Hermione and I are getting a bit tired of your anti-Muggle bigotry."

Ron's eyes bugged out, "My bigotry? Are you accusing me of being like Malfoy?"

Harry shrugged, "If the shoe fits. While you don't want Muggles to be killed or Muggleborns to be kept out of Hogwarts, you don't interact with them or try to understand them. You even knocked Hermione for wanting to stay with her own parents on vacation rather than go to the Burrow. Why? Because you felt that any day in the magical world was worth more than being anywhere in the Muggle one. For Merlin's sake, Ron, you told me the first day I met you about how your family shuns one of your own cousins because he's a Squib! So he wasn't cast out of the Weasley family like the Blacks did to their Squibs but you might as well have since it is obvious you are ashamed of him!"

Ron blinked at this but as he tried to stammer out an excuse, Harry cut him off. "Stuff it Ron. Look we've got two Death Eaters outside. The Fidelius charm prevents us from being able to fire spells from our porch and if we step out we can be seen. Even if we use the Cloak, any magic we use might be detected. For all we know there are hidden Death Eaters hidden in ambush and those two we can see are just bait."

Ron blinked at this thought and even Hermione looked like she hadn't thought of that possibility.

"However I could walk right up to them with a normal mundane shotgun under the Cloak and shoot them and they won't know what hit them," Harry pointed his hand like a pistol, "Bang! Bang! Two dead Death Eaters and the police will think it was just some random killing. Plus if we kill them right after they change shifts, their bodies might be taken away before anyone in Voldemort's camp even realizes what happened. I can think of a few ways we might pick off quite a few Death Eaters like that before they get wise to what we're doing."

Hermione looked impressed at this reasoning. Ron, on the other hand, looked horrified, "Wait, you're saying you're planning on going around and murdering people?"

Harry threw his hands up, "For God's sake Ron, listen to yourself! I never said anything about murder; I am talking about killing people who will give us no mercy! We at war with a Dark Lord with crazy followers who torture and murder and you are surprised that I'm thinking killing a few of them? You said it yourself that if it wasn't for the Felix Felicis that we might have lost some people when Dumbledore was killed. Do you think that George would have survived if Snape's spell had hit him dead on? Of course not! Our enemies aren't playing by the Queen's rules so grow up already!"

Ron looked shocked. He turned to Hermione, "Has he been reading any of the books in here? I think he's read a cursed book which is turning him Dark."

While Harry looked completely flabbergasted at this, Hermione merely scoffed, "No Ronald, Harry isn't going Dark and neither am I. What has happened is that we have taking stock of our situation and decided we're not going to let other people determine what rules we're going to play with. Right now Voldemort is holding all the cards. Playing by his rules will get us killed. Harry is right; we need to play our own game, force them to react to our moves. Honestly Ronald! You play chess; I would have thought you would understand the need for this."

Ron shook his head, "Not you too!"

Hermione sighed, "Ron I know how most Magicals see things but I agree with Harry and…"

Ron interrupted her with almost a snarl, "Of course most wizards see it that way! Dark acts stain your soul! They corrupt you and tempt you to do worse things. In the end you become Dark yourself!"

Hermione scowled, "I have you know I have a lot of relatives who have killed for England and none of them are Dark! They fought for Queen and Country and I rather resent you implying that by doing their duty they somehow became dark! It is insulting and naïve to think so!"

Ron turned to Harry, "What did you do to her?"

Harry's eyebrows shot upwards, "What I did to her? What the bloody hell do you mean by that?"

Ron face took on a Malfoy-worthy sneer, "Don't play stupid Harry! Hermione would never go Dark and think of murdering anyone! You did something to my girlfriend! I should have seen this coming when you up and dumped Ginny! You had to have it all, didn't you? The minute you saw I had something you didn't for a change, you dropped my sister and used some Dark magic you found here to try to seduce Hermione over to you! Well I'm not going to let that happen!"

"Ronald Bilius Weasley! I can't believe..." Hermione started to say but Ron cut her off.

"Be quiet Hermione! I'm not going to let Harry take you from me. You're my girlfriend and I'll protect you." Ron suddenly whipped his wand out and pointed it at Harry, "Don't move Harry. I don't want to hurt you." Ron glanced at Hermione who was looking like Ron had slapped her, "Get your things, Hermione, we're leaving. We need to get Harry some help." Ron turned his head back to Harry; blue eyes locked with green, "I'm going to lock him up in the room Remus used on the full moon. That will keep him safe till we can get him some help. I'm thinking we can floo over to Bill's new place..."

Ron suddenly slumped to the ground.

Harry looked at Hermione who had her wand out, "Nice silent stunner, Hermione."

The look on the witch's face showed how furious she was. After picking up Ron's wand she seemed to be deciding whether or not to kick the prone wizard. "Honestly Harry! Did you hear him talk to me like I was supposed to jump at his commands because I was his girlfriend?"

Harry looked uncomfortable, "Well if you think about it, most of the Purebloods act like that. Look how servile Lavender was with Ron. Or how much Lisa Turpin changed after she started going out with that Seventh Year from Hufflepuff. If you think about it, even Fred and George sort of ordered Angelina and Alicia around. They just covered it up better with that joking way of theirs."

"To say nothing of how that beast Draco treated Pansy!" Hermione muttered softly under her breath.

"What was that Hermione?" Harry asked.

Hermione waved Harry off, "Nothing, Harry. It was nothing."

Hermione glared at Ron's body for a moment before her shoulders slumped, "Harry, remind me; why are we working so hard to save these people again? They are so backward and self-righteous! I can't believe after all Voldemort has done that Ron still equates killing them as murder! How can we defeat Voldemort if our own side can't see we're at war?"

Harry put a reassuring hand on Hermione's shoulder, "I don't know Hermione but we'll think of something. I have faith in you. With you at my side I am sure we'll get through this."

Hermione smiled at Harry, "You know if it wasn't for our friends and that blasted prophecy, I'd almost be tempted to just immigrate to Australia and let Voldemort have England. Let the likes of Rita Skeeter reap what they have sown."

Harry nodded wearily, "I know. Although I'm not sure if they will be any better. Voldemort's forces are attacking the mundane world. That's got to be threatening the Statute of Security but no one from outside of England is doing anything about it. I can't understand it. If Voldemort exposes magical England, he exposes Magicals everywhere."

"And yet here we are with everyone expecting you to be the one to defeat Voldemort," Hermione agreed.

Harry nodded, "Yeah."

The two just looked at Ron as he unconsciously drooled onto the carpet. Finally Hermione asked, "So what are we going to do with this prat?"

Harry let out a long sigh, "I think we need to erase his memories and send him back to the Burrow."

Hermione looked at Harry in alarm, "Harry, I don't think I'm practiced enough to obliviate him to the level we'd need to protect our secrets."

Harry shook his head, "We're not going to obliviate him. We're going to confund him and have him draw out all those memories for a pensieve. That way a powerful legilimens won't be able to override the oblivation."

Hermione looked thoughtful, "Hmm, I think it would be better if I brewed up a slave potion. It would make it easier to control him. While under the effects of the potion, it will be safer to remove the memories because the potion will trick him into thinking it's by his own will. From what I've read, it is always better for the owner of a memory to remove it."

Harry blinked at this, "Slave potion? How do you know about those or is this some kinky thing Tonks taught you and Ginny that I shouldn't ask about?"

Hermione swatted Harry on the arm, "You prat! No, I've read at least three books in this library which have the recipe. In this case, the Black library's Dark bent is going to help us." Hermione looked a little bashful, "That and Snape's old book."

"Wait, the Half-Blood Prince's book? You have it?" Harry asked. He hadn't thought about it since the end of term.

"Yes. As much as I might have hated it during the year, it is a valuable resource. Just think how potent your Draught of Living Death was. That right there could come in handy." Hermione said.

Harry nodded in agreement. He looked back down at Ron. "Are you going to be okay with sending him away?" Harry asked quietly.

Hermione looked sad for a moment before nodding, "It has to be done Harry. Quite frankly in light of you going on about bad plans, I realize that Ron's spattergroit idea was flawed. Most cases only last for a month or two. When Ron didn't show up for Hogwarts by around October, someone would get suspicious. That would put the Weasleys in even more danger than they already are. Besides, you know he'd be absolute rubbish in the mundane world even if we can convince him to accept what needs to be done."

Harry pulled out his wand and levitated Ron's body off the floor. "Well he did have a good idea about the room Remus used. How long will it take you to brew a slave potion?"

"Not long actually. I'm almost certain I have all the ingredients in my bag." Hermione ran her hand through Ron's hair, "You know it is disconcerting how easy it is to brew a potion that takes away your free will. Magicals can confund, use an Imperius curse and obliviate any clues to what they have done."

Hermione frowned suddenly as her earlier thoughts from the night before came back to her, "It makes you wonder sometimes about things."

Harry started to move Ron's floating body out of the library, "Don't forget all the love potions. Voldemort exists because of them. I would have been sucking face with Romilda like Won-Won and Lavender if Ron here hadn't eaten that spiked candy." Harry grimaced, "You know, now that I think about it, Romilda pretty much tried to make me love her, against my will, and nothing came of it. It's sort of like attempted rape and she didn't even get house points taken off."

Hermione looked bleak, "To think I actually considered buying one from the Twins. I thought maybe just a bit in Ron's pumpkin juice might get him to get off his arse and ask me out. I tried to convince myself a little wouldn't be bad but you're right. It's rape; mind-rape but rape all the same."

"And that mind-rape potion is sold as a novelty item," Harry said. "Worse is the Twins are selling them because of the money I gave them. I wonder how many Hogwarts students are going to wake up from the potions I made possible and feel dirty?"

"Honestly Harry! It's not like the Twins are the only company brewing them. Even Molly admitted to using them on Arthur back in..." Hermione's voice trailed off as her faced paled.

"Hermione? What's wrong?" Harry asked worriedly.

Hermione didn't reply but just stared at Ron's floating body. "Harry did you ever wonder about the implications of last term?" She finally asked in a quiet voice.

"How so?" Harry asked.

"You said it yourself last night. We both were acting like stupid, love-struck teenagers. This after you lost your Sirius and I almost died. Yet during school we were content to run around and instead of training and getting serious about the war, we were more concerned about our relationships."

Harry's eyes went wide, "Relationships with two Weasleys! Do you think...?" Harry's voice trailed off.

Hermione shook her head, "I don't know! It's certainly possible. You never showed any interest in Ginny even after she got over her crush with you. I thought you might even start dating Luna since you two seem to connect so well in Fifth Year. She was always there for you unlike Ginny."

"Then suddenly I've got this monster in my chest every time I thought about Ginny," Harry said slowly. "I thought I was just...just...I don't know, being normal about girls. Ron seemed to be acting the same about you, though."

Hermione frowned, "But before Sixth Year I didn't like of Ron like that. Yet I found myself actually cheating so Ron could get on the Quidditch team. I mooned over him even as sucked face with Lavender."

Harry's eyes narrowed, "Which he did just to get back at his sister even as he had to know how much it was hurting you. Do you think we might have had potions used on us?"

Hermione sighed, "I don't know Harry but I do know that after the Yule Ball, I had vowed never to think of Ron romantically. Why on earth would I forget a vow like that?"

Harry nodded. He knew his bushy-haired friend well enough to know she wouldn't.

Hermione threw her hands up in a helpless gesture, "Now that I think back on things I think it's certainly possible. I don't think Ginny or Ron were the ones doing it, though, if indeed it was done to us. However, ever notice how much Molly would go on about you and Ginny and Ron and me? How she'd say we were practically blood to her?"

Harry nodded, "Yeah. I resented how she acted like she was my mum back in Fifth Year. Hell she even acted like she was your mum. That and bossing Sirius around in his own house."

Hermione pushed Ron to get them moving again back down to the safe room, "Well she did lose her older brothers, parents and grandparents in the first Voldemort War. Probably why she was so adamant against any of us being in the Order."

"So you think Molly might have tried to get us all to be one big, happy Weasley family?" Harry asked. He remembered all too well the shape of Molly's worse fears thanks to the boggart in the cabinet. A sick feeling was developing in his stomach because of the very real possibility of it. The fact Molly had fought to have Bill's wedding in England even with all the danger showed she wasn't one to back away from what she wanted.

"It's possible, Harry," Hermione replied. "If you think about it, Molly did send us cakes and biscuits every month. She even made me sugarless biscuits. I thought she was being ever so nice at the time but what better way to ensure I'd eat them?" She worried her lip a bit, "If you think about it, you broke up with Ginny after being away from her cooking. Do you feel different about Ginny now?"

Harry thought silently and didn't reply till they got Ron settled in the safe-room. Hermione cast a sleeping charm on Ron to keep him unconscious. After locking Ron in, Harry finally spoke, "I'm not exactly sure, Hermione. I feel I should miss her more but I don't. If anything I felt a bit embarrassed earlier while hugging you because...well it was hard not to notice how...uhm soft and...er." Harry looked away as his voice trailed away.

Hermione laughed, "Why thank you, Harry. It nice to know I can have that affect even if I am a bossy know-it-all." Her face grew serious, "I know what you mean though. I sort of was thinking the same thing. You smell a lot nicer than Ron. That right there should have tipped us off. What did you smell back in Slughorn's class when he had that Amortentia brewing?"

Harry thought for a moment, "Freshly cut grass, parchment and vanilla."

Hermione nodded, "And I smelled broom wax, treacle tart and parchment as well. Did what we smell mean Ron and Ginny?"

Harry mentally ran through his concepts of those smells. "I don't think so. You smell like vanilla and I think of Luna when I think of the grass. The parchment could apply to both of you actually."

Hermione beamed, "Exactly! I thought the broom wax meant Ron but it could apply to you. While Ron eats it like he eats everything else under the sun, treacle tart is obviously your favorite dessert. As for the parchment, well I was just thinking earlier how much I enjoy it when it was just us studying together. You can be really insightful when you were away from Ron."

Harry nodded and was about to speak when he stopped and looked curiously at Hermione. Under his look, Hermione started to blush. Finally Harry said, "So…does this mean you fancy me?"

Hermione looked away before taking a deep breath and looking back at Harry, "Would that be a bad thing?"

"No, no of course not! You're brilliant! It's just…I mean…there is Luna…I think…not that you aren't…Oh Merlin!" Harry stammered.

Hermione chuckled before hugging Harry, "I know Harry. It's too soon. We're all worked up and thinking our feelings for Ron and Ginny are there because of Molly. We need time to think about things and right now really isn't the best time for that."

Harry hugged her close, "I know. Well whatever happens, I want to know how much you mean to me. I don't think I can ever say it enough."

Hermione's face lit up with a lovely smile, "Oh Harry I know; I've always known."

They shared a moment as a thought stole into Harry brain. This thought became almost a dare and then an imperative. Harry leaned in and softly kissed Hermione on the lips. Instead of pulling back, Hermione leaned into the kiss. It started off tentatively as if both teens half expected the other to stop. When neither of them did, they found themselves giving into the kiss.

Soon their tongues were dueling. It was only when Harry realized he was erect and Hermione couldn't help but feel it against her thigh did he break the kiss. "Uhm, well…I guess that answers the question if there is anything between us."

Hermione was panting a bit; her face was flushed, "Oh my! Wow! I never felt like that with Ron!" Hermione looked at Harry and worried her lip for a moment, "Although I still think we need to step back. As delicious as that was, if we're right about the potions, then I don't want to step on what you and Luna were developing."

Harry blinked at this, "Are you sure Hermione? I mean I think it's fantastic you are looking out for Luna like that but well…I've been thinking about the few times I thought about you but held back because of Ron. Even when Ron hadn't done more than make cow eyes at you. Now that I think about it, why should have I held myself back just because Ron might have fancied you?"

Hermione snorted, "Yes well I think you probably were worried how what Ron would say and considering what he said tonight, I think we know the answer to that." Hermione gave Harry a quick kiss, "Look I've always wanted to get farther in my schooling before I start seriously dating so I'm not giving up on anything I wouldn't have done already. Luna deserves her chance and you deserve a chance to make that choice with her free from distractions." She twirled her finger around a lock of Harry's hair, "Of course if Luna finds her own Snorkack hunter to be with, well I might be able to be convinced to rethink my stance on delayed dating."

Harry sighed as the erection in his pants seemed to strain even more at the husky tone in Hermione's voice. "You know how to make things hard on a guy."

Hermione gave Harry a look which made Harry groan at what he had just said. Finally she smiled, "Well Harry why don't you go take a shower and take care of business…or at least a cold shower."

"Hermione!" Harry said with a glare.

She squeezed his bum and then jumped back as Harry tried to retaliate, "Now, now, Mr. Potter. We have lots to do so let's get it to it! Plans to make and evil Dark Lords to topple!" Hermione said laughingly as she turned and skipped off towards the kitchen.

"Teasing Tart!" Harry yelled at her retreating back.

"You wish!" Hermione's laughing voice came floating back.

Harry stood in silence and marveled at how he had totally managed to miss how pert Hermione's arse was in the jeans she was wearing. In fact, when he thought about it, he had been noticing how nice Hermione looked a lot of late. Harry's dreamy smiled faded into a frown. On further reflection he remembered how he had felt quite guilty at Bill's wedding because he had been looking at Luna and Hermione and appreciating looking at them a lot more than he had done in regards to Ginny. Did that mean he hadn't really noticed it before because of potions? Or did he only have eyes for Ginny? Harry's frowned deepened. As much as he thought he had liked Ginny, he was around Hermione so much he couldn't believe he had missed Hermione blossoming as much as she had.

Harry made his way up to his room for a shower. He belatedly realized he was a bit off and Hermione was being polite about it earlier. A lifetime of the Dursleys yelling at him for supposedly using up all the hot water still came back to bite him in the bum sometimes when it came to personal hygiene.

He thought about how he had taken Luna to Slughorn's party. Sure Ginny had been dating Dean at the time but why hadn't he asked to her to come as his date? He could have easily played it off as a way to get Ginny back into Slughorn's good graces since she hadn't been invited. He might have told her how he'd remind Slughorn how Ginny had been part of what the Quibbler called the Ministry 6 and so was worth the invite. It would have been a way to see if Ginny liked him at the same time doing her a favor. Yet he hadn't done that. He had asked Luna instead.

Harry thought of the lithe blonde. He liked Luna. While Hermione never confused him with the Boy-Who-Lived, she was very much aware of his importance in the magical world. Luna, on the other hand, treated him no differently than she did any other person. He was simply Harry Potter to her. No more, no less and Harry realized how much this meant to him. Sure Luna was odd and sometimes could be madding in her beliefs but she made Harry happy when she was around. She also had been there for him emotionally when he had really needed a light to bring him out of the dark places he had found himself in.

Harry turned on the shower water and stripped bare. He frowned at his still-present erection, "You aren't getting any so quit bothering me!" He said angrily as he climbed into spray of hot water.

As he started to soap himself up, Harry found his mind wandering to Hermione and Ron. She seemed okay with the need for sending Ron back to the Burrow, but what about tomorrow or the next day? Would she come to resent him for it? Or was their relationship another potion-created thing? She had said their kiss was better than anything she and Ron had done.

Harry frowned as he rinsed the shampoo from his hair. He just couldn't see Hermione sticking with Ron unless she was getting a lot from the relationship. Potions or not, the pair still went at each other with monotonous regularity so Harry felt Hermione would need something to make up for that. Did this mean that she had fancied him all along? What did that mean for the pair of them? Or how would that affect his feelings for Luna?

Harry finally gave himself a shake and looked at himself in the mirror charmed to resist moisture, "Get your head in the game Potter!" he said in an imitation of Oliver Wood. "You have more important things to deal with!" For a moment he had a staring contest with his own reflection. Looking at his mother's eyes (as everyone told him) Harry wondered what she would think of his plans. She had grown up in the Muggle world and from the few things Harry had picked up from Aunt Petunia he knew his Grandfather had been a decorated sniper who fought in the Burma campaign. Everyone had always told him how kind-hearted his mum was but he couldn't shake the feeling she would understand what he was about to do.

Both of his parents had sacrificed themselves so he could live. He owed it to them to survive. If that meant stepping on the traditions to get out from under that blasted prophecy then so be it! He was going to kill Voldemort anyway he could and if Magical Britain didn't like, well he wasn't about to stick around. Whether he went on international Snorkack hunts with Luna or ended up helping the Grangers out in Australia, it didn't matter. He would be free.

Hermione was right. Freedom fighters didn't have the luxury of fighting by Queensbury rules just to suit some outdated Pureblood traditions. It was time Voldemort and his Death Eaters found out that they weren't the only ones who could strike by night and leave fear in their wake.

Maybe it was merely the sound of the running water in the enclosed bathroom, but for a moment Harry thought he heard the sound of laughter.

Marauder laughter.

XxXxX

Chapter Two Preview: The Werewolf and the Weasel!

A/N: Welcome to my take on Book 7. Considering what an abomination that was, I think I can do a better job of it. Currently this is shaping up to be a trilogy with this fic being focused on the fight with Voldemort. The fall-out of that fight will be the subject of the sequels.

The Taboo: Personally, I think that if a Fidelius Charm can make it so no one can find you, it could defeat the Taboo on Voldemort's name. Hence they are using it freely here. The idea that Ron up and feels that the Trio needs to stop saying is name was an obvious "fan-wank" by JKR herself.

Potions Cliché: Yes I know it is used a lot but I like using it for two reasons. One, from canon it explains a lot and if JKR is going to throw in stuff like how Molly spiked Arthur with it, then people shouldn't be surprised if fan-fic writers build on it. Secondly I think you can have the potions option without a manipulative Dumbledore colluding with Molly to marry Ginny to Harry so they can steal the Potter fortune. Like I had Luna point out in A Different Path, Molly has her own demons and wanting happiness for her miracle girl and her socially inept youngest son is enough for me to see her 'helping' the kids out. Thirdly, I once again want to highlight the utter disgust I have that JKR never seemed to connect selling love potions as a novelty item and the fact her entire series is driven by the fact a witch used a love potion to 'date-rape' the man she'd been stalking. Voldemort is the direct consequence of that crime.

OC Behavior? Read an interesting essay by ferretbrain (Google it and you'll find it) where he talks about some comments Ursula K Le Guin made regarding weaknesses in stories like Harry Potter. She said that stories set where the plot spans the magical and mundane world often fall into the trap of forgetting one to focus on the other. JKR certainly fell into that trap. Even as the British Prime Minister learns UK citizens are being killed by Magicals, he seems unable to do anything about it. Well this fic is a direct answer to ways I always felt Muggles could respond to magical attacks upon them. As I pointed out this chapter, if people who work with Muggles for a living can't even pronounce policemen then the idea that Muggles couldn't fight back is laughable. So I'm having both Harry and Hermione step back from their magical thinking and acting more like their upbringing.