An early Christmas gift to all of you in cyber land! This chapter gets pretty dark towards the end, and it's kind of a turning point for some of the characters.
Harry's prank seemed to begin a pranking war. The two of them seemed to enjoy it immensely. Every day it was something new, and Harry couldn't help but realize this was something that he wasn't great at. He had better tactics on placing the pranks so that Sirius didn't realize he was going to be pranked until he already was. On the other hand, Sirius had a couple decades of experience on him. His were so much more creative.
Caroline had firmly decided not to take sides, though a smirk seemed to be permanently attached to her face. She had no idea what had started this prank war, but she was enjoying it. Sirius seemed to be so relieved at seeing Harry act like a normal teen that he didn't even care about half the pranks that were at his expense.
There was a divide, however, that she could easily see. Sirius preferred using Charms and Transfiguration for his pranks. He'd slip in a bit of Runes and Warding to hide them, and tie them all together. Pretty decent spell work, she had to admit.
Harry, on the other hand, went a different route. He'd use Potions to achieve his pranks. The best ones, though, were the Muggle methods. There were very few ways of detecting any Muggle prank. So, while Harry got used to figuring out how to cast diagnostic spells before getting pranked, Sirius was struggling.
The entire staff was beginning to enjoy things just a bit too much. The two wizards arriving at meals with different colored skin, hair, clothes, and any combination of the above was common now. As was speaking in tongues, sounding like animals, skipping, jumping, dancing, or complete silence.
She made sure to keep an eye on a few of the more inventive professors, who seemed to be taking notes. More than anything, though, Caroline was surprised at Harry. She only knew a bit about the boy, from her own observations, Sirius's stories, and the stories that made it from Britain to France.
What she was surprised at was his reaction, or lackthereof to her relationship with Sirius. While they weren't serious, yet, it seemed to be headed that way. And there was Harry, acting like very little had changed.
So, one day after lunch, before he could run off to his studies, she walked over to him. "Might I have a word?" she asked.
Harry's brows rose. He hadn't been expecting that, and wondered if he'd done something wrong while they'd been there, which was usually the reason a professor wanted to talk to him. Rather than replying, he nodded, and followed her to her office. As soon as they were seated, with Caroline opting to sit next to him rather than behind her desk, he spoke hesitantly.
"Madame, if this is about the pranks, we can knock it off. It was more of a joke than anything…"
She smiled at him. "No, I'm glad to see the two of you livening things up around here. It's always too dull during the summer. I wanted to talk to you about something else." She took a moment to organize her thoughts. "I wanted to talk to you about me and Sirius." Seeing that he was about to interrupt, she raised a hand. "Let me get this out, or I'll worry about it the rest of the summer. I know how much Sirius cares about you. It's clear in how he acts around you and what he says. I want you to know that I would never to anything to jeopardize that. I care about Sirius, and I hope that he cares about me as well. If, however, you have problems with us seeing each other…"
Harry smiled at her. "I don't," he told her truthfully. "I've been so busy lately, that I haven't been able to spend as much time with him as I'd like. When I'm at school, he's by himself, or working into an early grave. I'm glad to see that he has someone who isn't going to let him do that. He's had a hard time of it during his life, and I think I've only added to it. He does care about you. I'd never want to mess with that."
Caroline leaned back in her seat, pleased with the response. Not for the first time, she felt that the young man in front of her was much older than his fifteen years. She knew that they would be celebrating his 16th in France, and she was happy about that. Before she could say anything, Harry spoke.
"However, and I hope this doesn't offend you in any way, ma'am, I have to say this, just for the record." He waited until he had her attention before he continued, voice hard. "If you plan on hurting him in any way, then leave the relationship now. Sirius has one of the best hearts of anyone that I know, and I'm not the type of son who would sit back and watch it get broken."
Although she was more than twice his age and held a position of power in a renowned school, her mouth went dry. Caroline could tell that he meant every word. "I understand, Mr. Potter-Black," she told him once she could speak without embarrassing herself.
Like the flip of a switch, Harry smiled, and the temperature in the room seemed to rise a few degrees. "Good. Glad to hear it. Now, I should get down to the Potions classroom. I wanted to try my hand at the Invigoration Draught."
She nodded at him, and he left. She let out a gust of air as she watched the door close. What was she getting herself into?!
It took Harry two days to finish making the Draught. The first time, it had been brewed perfectly, but he took it off the flames a couple minutes early, and it was ruined. He went back the following day, and bottled four vials. He figured they would come in handy during the school year. From what he'd heard from the twins, sixth year wasn't much easier than fifth. True, there were dangers in taking the Draught too often, so he would limit his intake.
His Apparation lessons were going well, too. After he managed to appear at different places all around the pitch, Sirius had him go to different rooms throughout the castle. That was harder than it seemed, and he might have traumatized some of the staff by appearing in their rooms. He himself wondered if he would ever lose the blush that stained his face for the rest of that week. However, he ended up figuring it out.
After a few more yoga lessons, he discovered that Deschamps was willing to help him keep up with his staff skills. They usually spent an hour or so on it after supper. It was a nice way to make sure Remus wouldn't trounce him when they got back. She even showed him a few new moves, adding some martial arts into their practices. So, he learned two kicks that he could throw in when he was the one attacking.
Harry was having such a good time in France that he really didn't want to go back to England. He was keeping in touch with his friends via owl. Hermione, of course, was neck deep in books, not just studying for NEWTs, but also looking into different laws. He had suggested to her that she owl Susan, who would know more than most.
Ron was doing well and enjoying time with the brothers that he didn't often see. Harry got the impression that, although Percy was back in their lives, he hadn't been forgiven by everyone yet.
The twins were set to open their shop in one week, and asked if Harry would be back in time to see the Grand Opening of Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Harry told them that he wouldn't miss it for the world. It was a few days after his ceremony, so he knew that they would be back in time.
The last of their time at Beauxbatons passed far too quickly for Harry. Not only had he learned quite a bit, but the time had been relaxing, not just for him, but also for Sirius. It was nice to see his adopted father having a good time and not always worried about him.
Sirius had contacted the Ministry, and Harry's ceremony was the day after his birthday. They would be leaving after lunch on the 31st, and have a celebration dinner with Remus, Brianna, Hermione, and Ron. Though it was a small get together, Harry was still pleased by it. He'd never had a normal birthday, and was looking forward to spending time with his family. He had long come to accept the fact that his family was one that he had created for himself, and not based on blood.
The night before his birthday, the school had another special dinner for Harry, which made him flush brilliantly. He had never liked being singled out, but it was nice to know that they cared about him, even though he was a foreigner. They were doing this for him because they cared, and not because he was the Boy Who Lived.
Some of the staff surprised him with gifts. Deschamps had given him a yoga mat. Harry chuckled. He wasn't sure if he was going to keep up with it when he went home, but it was a nice gesture. Caroline and Maxime gave him a pendant to add to his necklace. It was a portkey for the castle, in case something happened and he needed to get out fast. Caroline also told him that he was an honorary student, and was welcome any time. He was touched. Renee had made him a book of French recipes that Harry seemed to like while he was there. Harry laughed at that one, as there were a couple of dishes he'd missed during the school year.
After supper was over, Harry and Sirius went back to their rooms to pack. They would have time the next day to do so, but neither wanted to worry about leaving something behind.
Harry laid down, smiling. It had been a wonderful couple weeks, and in a moment of morbid thinking, he wondered if he would be able to come back the following year. He knew that the war was going to get bad, and there was the cursed prophecy hanging over his head. Would he live to come back and see everyone here again?
He decided to meditate before trying to sleep, hoping that would help with his depressing thoughts. He replaced each negative image with a positive one. He imagined all of his friends and family together after the war. He saw all of them graduate out by the lake. Ron would finally admit his feelings about Hermione. He pictured Brianna's smiling face.
Without meaning to, he fell asleep as these images washed away the worry.
He was standing on a beach with Brianna. They were both in swimwear, and Harry's breath caught at the sight of Brianna in a skimpy black bikini. He kissed her passionately, and felt her hands on his bare back, and his fingers tangled in her hair. His hands roamed across her body, enjoying the feel of her silky skin, and deepened the kiss further. She broke the kiss and trailed kisses across his neck and collarbone. He moaned at the sensation, and pulled her back up for another kiss.
She stepped back. "I need you, Harry."
"I need you, too," he told her, reaching out for her.
"No, Harry," she corrected. Harry looked up as the sun disappeared, leaving everything cold and dark. She started walking backwards, keeping her eyes on his. "We need you. He's coming."
His eyes shot open as he woke up, but then was dragged back under against his will.
Harry's scar burst open, and he doubled over in pain. It was the first time in a while he'd felt it, and knew what it meant. "Brianna," he gasped.
The scene had changed, and in her place, stood well over a dozen Death Eaters. The change had Harry wanting to cry, but the pain was too severe.
"It is time," he/Voldemort said to everyone that was gathered. "You all have your orders. Hit hard, with no mercy. I will not accept another failure. Wormtail, see me after." Voldemort's mind, and thus Harry's, flashed with images of where they were hitting.
Harry sat up with a gasp and retched on the side of the bed. He stood shakily, legs numb with fear as ice flowed through his veins, and grabbed his wand and ran to the connecting door that lead to Sirius's rooms. Without bothering to knock, he burst into the room.
"Sirius!" he gasped as loudly as he could. It was only then that he saw a second figure in the bed. "Sirius, wake up!"
Sirius and Caroline jumped out of bed, both of them lighting their wands. "Harry?" Sirius demanded, walking over. "What's wrong?"
Caroline set about lighting the candles and the fireplace while Sirius helped Harry into a chair.
"Vision," Harry panted through his watery eyes. The pain was still excruciating. He rubbed the scar as hard as he could, willing it to calm down.
Sirius cursed under his breath. He turned to Caroline. "Can you get a grade 3 pain reliever?" he barked, and she didn't bother responding, but hurried out of the room. "What was the vision?"
The light of the room, as well as Sirius's concerned expression helped to dispel some of the fear from the vision, though most of it remained. "He's attacking a bunch of different places tonight. Brianna's village, the Burrow, the Bones', and a strange house in a village I've never seen before. It's a weird old guy. The sign for the village said Budleigh Babberton."
Caroline ran back into the room, and shoved a vial at Sirius, who uncorked it quickly, holding it to Harry's lips. The teen drank deeply, and the white hot pain pulsing through his scar numbed down to the occasional twinge. "Thanks. What are we going to do?" he demanded.
Sirius was thinking that through as quickly as he could. The first two were clearly an attack on Harry, his girlfriend and his best friends. The Bones' made sense, as Amelia was working on the cases with all of the Death Eaters. He didn't know about the last one, though. "Get dressed. I'll Floo Albus."
Harry tore out of the room and back into his own. He threw off his pajamas and yanked on the clothes he'd laid out the wear the next day. A small part of Harry saw the gifts at the foot of his bed, and he realized it was his birthday. The party the night before seemed so long ago. He kicked open his trunk and finished throwing everything into it.
When he made it back into Sirius's room, he saw that Caroline was gone, and Sirius still had his head in the fire. He started going through the room to make sure Sirius had everything he would need. They would leave their things, and get them as soon as everything was finished.
Caroline reentered the room with seven other witches, and Sirius pulled his head out of the fire. He looked at the witches in confusion.
"We told you we're helping you in this," she snapped, adjusting her day robe.
Sirius just nodded and turned to Harry. "Albus knows who the old guy is, and he's headed there now. Kingsley and half the order is headed to the Bones'. Remus and Tonks were sent to the Burrow. The rest of the Order is going to other homes to see if there are other attacks."
"Then we're going to Brianna's right?" Harry demanded. While he wanted to go to the Burrow, he knew, logically, that everyone of age in that family was an Order member. They might be able to take care of themselves, especially if Remus and Tonks were there to help.
Sirius nodded grimly. He thought quickly and turned to the witches. "Four of you should head to the Burrow as well. It's in Ottery St. Catchpole."
The witches conferred among themselves, and four went to the Floo, quickly disappearing from sight.
"The rest of us are headed to the village." Sirius turned to Harry. "Your Apparation is getting better, but you'll Side Along with me, since you don't know exactly where you're going."
Harry just nodded, and the rest of them grabbed hands, and with a twist, they left France. They stopped twice, as it was too far to get to Brianna's in one jump.
They finally made it, and found everything in chaos.
The first thing he saw was the burning houses. Brianna's home was on fire, as were nearly every other house. Muggles were trying to flee, but there were over a dozen Death Eaters. He saw Marco and Stefen battling, while Isabella was trying to round up all of the teens.
Harry didn't hear Sirius yell at him to wait, but threw himself into the fray immediately. The Death Eaters saw the new arrivals, and started cursing everything that moved. Harry ducked under a Crucio, and rolled towards Lucian, who was fighting two by himself.
"Morning," Harry greeted without looking, Stunning one of the Death Eaters who hadn't seen him.
Lucian snarled at him, but didn't say anything. Working together, they brought down the second Death Eater. Harry looked around, and saw two more headed for Brianna and Ica, who were trying to put the house fire out.
With a yell, he threw himself between them and the Death Eaters, hastily conjuring a shield. He winced as a bone breaking hex and a bludgeoning curse hit it. He was about to cast a stronger shield when a Crucio went straight through it, hitting him in the chest.
He fell with a blood curdling scream as his nerves seemed to catch on fire and his muscles seized. Brianna turned and hit that one with a curse he'd never heard of before, and he dropped, clutching at his heart.
Harry grunted as the spell lifted, and he struggled to stand. Brianna hurried over to help him to his feet while Ica shielded them. "Thanks, love," he told her quickly, before turning to see what was going on.
Sirius and Caroline were tying up one of the few Death Eaters still standing, and Stefen knelt by Isabella, who was bleeding from a curse to her side. Harry's eyes scanned the area for more danger, and saw something move in the shadows.
Without taking a second to think, he flung a magic binding rope at him, which he ducked. Harry pulled Brianna down as a stunner passed harmlessly over their heads, and Ica dropped the man with a well placed Bludgeoner.
A quiet came over the town. "Sirius!" Harry called, seeing no more threats. He ran over to the closest Death Eater to see if he was alive. Anyone still breathing would be sent to the Ministry.
Sirius saw what Harry was doing, and did the same. Within a few minutes, they had four living Death Eaters bound and unconscious, ready to be transported.
Harry looked around, and saw a few people with injuries. He took a few breaths to allow the adrenaline to fade, and walked around to see if there were any fatalities. He knew that there would be injuries, which was something he could help with.
He heard a gurgling noise not that far off and hurried over. His heart stuttered to a stop when he saw Brian, grabbing at his wand with one hand, while the other pressed against his throat. There was a deep cut, and the blood was pouring out of him.
"No," Harry breathed, and he fell to his knees, not caring that they were getting soaked with blood. He aimed his wand and started muttering. In between castings, he looked over his shoulder. "Can I get some help over here?!" he roared, then lowered his voice. "Stay with me, Brian."
He didn't know the other teen all that well, having only met him twice: at the party for Harry winning the tournament, and when they all went to the movies together. Still, he knew that he wasn't about to let this one go without a fight. "Come on, Brian. Fight, damn it!"
Isabella was the first to reach him, and she cried out when she saw who he was working on. "Get me a blood replenisher," he ordered, getting desperate. He didn't even notice when she ran off.
She appeared next to him a few moments later as he continued casting. She poured the liquid down his throat, but it just ran out the cut.
It took Harry a moment to realize why his magic wasn't working. Brian had died, literally in his arms. He rocked back in shock, arms falling by his sides. He was dead, and there wasn't anything Harry could do about it.
"Potter?" a voice next to him called. "Oi, Potter!"
He felt someone grab his shoulder, and turned to see Lucian there, looking like he was about to kill. Then he caught sight of the body, and he fell to his knees. "No," he whispered.
Isabella had tears pouring from her eyes, and reached out to close Brian's. She turned to Lucian. "Are there any others?" The meaning in her words was plain.
Lucian's voice was dead as he spoke. "Sophie's been injured."
It took a moment for the words to penetrate the haze in Harry's brain, but he nodded without a word and stood. He stumbled slightly, and Lucian grabbed him by the arm, then cursed as he pulled his hand back. "Potter, you're hurt!"
Harry looked at his arm, and saw a deep cut going from his left shoulder to his wrist. Huh. He hadn't noticed that before. "Where's Sophie?"
The Romanian led him to his cousin, who was whimpering over her leg, where bone had pierced the skin. Harry muttered a curse. He had barely learned how to heal compact fractures. They were much harder to handle than regular breaks. He bent his head and let his magic work around the bone, fusing it together. Next came the veins and skin.
His concentration broke when he heard a heart wrenching scream. "NO!" He saw Jess holding Brian, while a woman, presumably her mother or his, tried to comfort her as she continued screaming. He'd forgotten that Brian and Jess were together.
"Harry?" Sirius asked, coming over. He had sent Caroline to the Ministry to get an Auror, and saw the look in Harry's eyes. "Harry?"
At first, Harry didn't register the sound of his name, he was so drained. He wondered if this village had a decent healer, or if he was all they had. If so, it meant that there was going to be some more work for him to do. He turned to Sirius. "Alright?" Anything beyond one word sentences was beyond him at this juncture.
Sirius, bless him, understood the question. "I'm fine. We're waiting on the Aurors to get here. I have to find out about the other attacks before we go anywhere."
Harry made sure that Sophie was as comfortable as he could make her, and tried to stand. "Going with you," he slurred stubbornly, white dots dancing in his vision.
Sirius nearly had a heart attack as Harry's eyes rolled up, and he collapsed. He caught him before he could hit the ground, carefully lowered him down, and pressed his fingers to Harry's neck. Satisfied that he was breathing and had a pulse, he started examining him for injuries. When he saw the cut going all the way up his arm, he cursed his noble, idiotic son. There he was, healing others when he was pouring blood out of his arm.
"Does anyone have a blood replenisher?" he asked Marco as he cast one of the few healing spells he knew, which bound the arm.
After administering the potion, Sirius looked around. So much destruction, and this was only one of the four places (they knew of) that had been hit tonight. He turned when he heard his name called, and Caroline appeared with Rufus Scrimgeour in tow. Just as he noticed the old Auror, he felt Harry stir.
"I'll watch him," Brianna said at his elbow. Her eyes were red from weeping, and she had a few cuts on her face and a good chunk of her hair was burned off, but nothing that looked too serious.
He nodded at her, and she sat down, pulling Harry's head into her lap, fingers running through the unruly locks.
Sirius walked over, and shook the Auror's hand. "Thanks for coming, Rufus."
The man sighed. "How's it looking?"
"We've got four Death Eaters waiting for you, and another ten dead," Sirius told him with no emotion.
"We've already arrested eight tonight. They attacked Amelia, but she had guards on her home. Given the current work with the Fudge case, she'd been getting threats."
Sirius nodded in relief; that was one of the other targets. He still had to find out about the others, though. "So no casualties at that one?"
"One Auror is at St. Mungo's. The healers aren't sure."
Sirius cursed. "There were a couple other places that were hit tonight. I'll go and see what I can do to help."
Rufus just nodded, and turned to the bound Death Eaters.
Caroline looked at Sirius. "Do you need us for anything else?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," he replied. "Stick around for a few minutes, just in case." He saw that Harry was awake, and in shock. He cursed this war that forced kids to grow up far too fast. That was a look he never had wanted to see in his son's eyes.
He knelt next to the couple and spoke seriously. "Harry, I need to head to the Burrow. The attack on the Bones' was thwarted, but we haven't heard about the other places."
Harry stood, ignoring Brianna's protest. "I'm coming with you," he stated firmly. The blood replenisher had worked wonders, though he would do almost anything for one of the Invigoration Draughts he'd made only a few days before.
Sirius thought about arguing, but recognized the look in his eyes. He'd seen it more than once, and knew that it meant he would have to Stun Harry to keep him from going. He couldn't blame him, either, as the Weasleys were family to both of them.
Harry nodded at him, sensing his decision, and then turned to Brianna. He kissed her gently on the hair. "I'll be back before you know it," he promised her.
She glared at him for a moment, before nodding. She knew him too well to keep him from going.
Harry and Sirius looked at the French witches, who were informed by Caroline where they were going. Harry decided to Side Along with Sirius again, as he could tell he was tired.
When they arrived at the Burrow, they could tell that the fight was over, although crying could be heard clearly in the quiet morning air. The sky was grey, with a bit of color peeking out from the trees.
Harry's legs almost gave out at the sound. Who was it, here? He forced his legs to move, and ran over to them. He raised his hands when Charlie pointed his wand. "It's just me, Harry Potter," he called.
"Prove it," the man challenged.
Harry looked around and saw Fred nearby. "Fred! The first prank you showed me during the school year was the nosebleed nougats."
Fred turned to Charlie and nodded once. The man lowered his wand. "Sorry about that, Harry," he said, as the group moved closer.
Harry saw that the house was surprisingly intact, with the bodies of Death Eaters strewn everywhere. Caroline was approached by her colleagues. She spoke with them briefly, and all of them but her Disapparated.
Harry didn't see that exchange, though, as he ran over to Fred. "Who?" he demanded, looking around.
Fred stared at the ruin of his old house. "Bill was bitten by Greybeck. Remus is talking to dad right now. Ron caught a couple curses, but mum's almost done healing him. Tonks went to the Ministry to let them know."
Harry thanked him and hurried over to his best mates. He looked at Molly, who sat back. "Is he going to be alright?"
Molly looked shocked. "Harry, dear? When did you get here?" Then she nodded. "He'll be fine. He might have a limp for a few days, but he'll heal up alright."
Hermione grabbed Harry in a hug, and sobbed into his shoulder. Harry did the best he could to comfort her, but he didn't have much emotion at the moment. He looked at Ron's pale skin, and thanked Merlin he was still alive.
It took him a minute to realize that Hermione was talking to him. "… idea what was happening, until Remus and Tonks showed up out of nowhere, and then the Death Eaters started attacking."
Molly interrupted her. "Harry, are you hurt?" she asked, seeing the bandages.
Harry shrugged. He was completely drained, after fighting before, and now the destruction here? He was surprised he was still standing.
Molly worked to unwrap his arm and heal it while Hermione spoke. Sirius was speaking with the rest of the Weasleys. Suddenly Harry had a thought. As soon as Molly was finished, he thanked her and hurried over. "Could our home have been hit as well?" he asked, causing Sirius to spin around to look at him. "I mean, they hit here and Brianna's. Maybe they were trying to get to me?"
Sirius sighed. "I'll check to make sure, but the wards would have alerted me if there was a problem. I do think they were trying to get to you, but not in the way you're thinking."
Harry thought about it, and nodded. It made sense, in a twisted kind of way.
"Harry?" Tonks asked hesitantly from a few yards away.
He jerked slightly. He hadn't even realized that she came back with some Aurors. They were in the process of searching each Death Eater before taking them to the Ministry for identification and burial.
Sirius looked at his cousin with a frown. He could see that Tonks was holding a piece of paper, and even in the dark, she looked pale. Even her hair was white. "What's wrong?"
Tonks looked like she didn't know what to do, and Remus looked at what she was holding. He nodded to her once. She handed the slip of paper that she had gotten off of one of the Death Eaters, to Harry.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Potter. We both know I will find you soon. How many must die before that day?
Harry swayed on his feet, and Tonks, expecting that reaction, steadied him while Sirius snatched the paper and read through it. He closed his eyes tightly and he crumpled the paper. It took him a few minutes to rein in his rage. When he finally opened his eyes again, he turned to Harry, and felt all of the anger leave him at once.
The kid was a mess. He was shaking, which suggested a Crucio sometime during the evening, and he saw that Molly had healed his arm. However, this last blow was enough to hurt anyone, much less someone who had also just had a friend die. That did it.
"Let's get you home, Harry," he said quietly. Tonks and Remus nodded, agreeing with the idea, though Tonks took the paper from Sirius before he could destroy it. It would be evidence right now.
Harry didn't know what to say. Part of him wanted to stay here and help, part of him wanted to get back to Brianna's as he had promised, and part of him just wanted to find a corner to hole himself up in until this all disappeared.
Arthur walked over and took the decision out of their hands. "You both will sleep here tonight," he said firmly. "The house is a bit smoky, but we'll make room for everyone." When he saw that they were about to object, he raised a hand. "Everyone is dead on their feet. We'll deal with everything in the morning."
Harry wanted to argue, but he just lacked the energy. All he needed was a place to curl up and sleep. "I told Brianna I would go back there tonight."
Sirius knew he could handle two more jumps tonight, and he would do anything for his son right then. "I'll head over there and let them know. I'd Floo, but I don't know anyone else whose house is still intact. I'll come find you when I get back," he promised.
That seemed to do it, as Harry now struggled to keep his eyes open. Remus steadied him, and looked at Arthur. "I can kip on the couch, but where were you thinking of putting this one?"
Arthur smiled slightly, though it was clearly a strain. "We'll set up cots in the living room. I'm sure you and Sirius will both want to be near him tonight."
Remus nodded firmly, and turned to Tonks. She gave him a weak smile. "I have to get back to the Ministry. I'll come over later?" she asked
Remus' eyes widened when she leaned up to kiss him gently on the cheek, and he nodded dumbly.
When Harry woke, it took him a moment to realize where he was, and then another minute to remember why. His dreams had been horrific, and he knew that he had more than one vision, as he struggled not to wake anyone else in the house. They had been through enough for one day. Plus, the visions had just been Voldemort's fury and the punishments to the Death Eaters that had failed. At least, the ones that hadn't been killed or captured.
Sirius walked into the room, and saw that Harry was awake. The teen threw off the afghan that had been covering him and stood. "What time is it?" he asked groggily.
"Half past ten," Sirius said, handing him a cup of tea. "There's breakfast in the kitchen, if you want any."
Harry nodded as he sat back down on the cot to drink the tea, hoping it would make him more awake. He forced a laugh. "This wasn't how I planned on spending the day," he muttered.
Sirius sat down next to him, and gently put his arm around his shoulders. "Happy birthday, pup," he said sincerely.
He tried to force a smile, but he knew that it came out more as a grimace than anything. "I should head over to Brianna's later," he mumbled. "I'm sure they'll need some help with everything."
Sirius gripped his shoulder tightly, wishing that this could have happened on any other day. "Harry, I'm sure she'll understand if you want to try and celebrate your birthday today."
Harry just shook his head. "No, that doesn't matter. They wouldn't have been targeted, and Brian wouldn't have d-died," he stuttered, then cleared his throat, "died if it weren't for my relationship with her. I should go over there in a few hours." As he got up to go into the kitchen. "What about the other guy? The one that I saw in my vision?"
Sirius sighed, raking a hand across his face. "I don't know," he admitted. "Albus is having an Order meeting here tonight after supper, so we'll find out then."
Harry nodded. "I'll make sure I'm back in time for that."
"Har, you know you won't be able to sit in on it," Sirius said slowly.
"The hell with that," Harry said firmly. "If it weren't for me, then we would have had a lot more deaths tonight than we already did. I need to know what is going on, and the Headmaster is just going to have to deal with that."
Sirius didn't know how to feel about that, but he nodded. He had made a vow over a year ago to support Harry, and that was what he was going to do. "Let's get some food in you, first."
Harry just shrugged, and the two of them made their way into the kitchen. There was no one else in there, which was surprising, given how many people had slept over the night before. Harry found a plate of breakfast under a warming charm and dug in quickly, unsurprised at how hungry he was. As he was finishing, he turned to Sirius. "They're going to blame me, aren't they?" he asked, not daring to look up.
Sirius would have given all of the gold to his name for a good answer, but he refused to lie. Not after the hell of the past few hours. "Some of them will," he said truthfully, seeing the flinch his words produced. "Part of that is going to be the shock of losing someone so young. They will blame everyone they can in an effort to spread the pain. Others will say it as a way of feeling something, anything, again. I don't know what is going to happen when you go over there, but I'll be with you, if you want."
Harry wanted to say yes, but he shook his head slowly. "I have the ceremony tomorrow, and I'll be considered an adult in this world. I need to try and do this myself."
Whatever Sirius was going to say in response to that was drowned out by Ron and Hermione coming into the kitchen.
"Harry!" Hermione cried, hurrying over to him and wrapping him in a hug. "I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up." She forced herself to stay quiet for a moment before continuing. "What happened last night?"
Ron sat down stiffly, the pain in his leg still present. Sirius stood, giving the teens their space, as he went to find Remus.
Harry told them everything that he knew about so far, and everything that had happened at Brianna's village. Ron scowled at the scratches in the family's table.
"Cowards," he grunted. "Attacking in the middle of the night, and attacking families? That's cowardice."
Hermione gave a watery chuckle at that. The Weasleys were pure Gryffindors at heart. In fact, Harry realized that everyone who had been at the house that night was a Gryffindor. Huh.
Harry turned to her with a frown on his face. "When did you get here?" he asked curiously. He hadn't heard from her as to when she was going to the Burrow.
She braced herself slightly. "I got here yesterday," she said. "We were getting ready for your birthday party." Then she gasped at herself, exchanging a horrified look with Ron, whose expression mirrored hers. "Happy birthday, Harry!"
Ron echoed her sentiments, and Harry gave them a weak smile. It truly didn't feel like his birthday, but that wasn't surprising, given how his birthdays usually ended up going.
"Thanks, guys, but we don't have to make a big deal about it today," he told them softly.
Ron shrugged. "That's alright, then. We'll just have a celebration tomorrow after the ceremony."
Harry started to protest, but stopped. They needed this, all of them; they needed the chance to have a normal day. The war was getting worse, and even the smallest thing could help make everyone's lot easier. A party was a good start. "Alright," he agreed.
Ron glanced at him, suspicious. He'd known Harry for over five years now, and this was the first time Harry willingly allowed himself to be the center of attention. Harry just chuckled at him, and tried to steer the conversation to better topics. Or, at least those that didn't revolve around him.
When the conversation stalled, Harry saw Sirius enter the kitchen with both their trunks. "Figured you'd appreciate some clean clothes," Sirius said.
Harry thanked him profusely, and went to the bathroom. Once he felt human again, and dressed in clean clothes, he went to find the others.
Ron and Hermione weren't in the kitchen anymore, but Molly was. Harry went over to her and thanked her for healing him that morning.
She pulled him into a hug, holding him tightly. "You don't ever have to thank me for that," she whispered. "I know you're adopted now and all, but I still consider you one of mine."
Harry blushed at that, but nodded. It meant a lot to him to hear her say that. He told her that he wouldn't be there for lunch, as he was going back to Brianna's for a while. She nodded, but insisted that he return for dinner.
"We'll have a celebration tomorrow, dear, but you should be with family tonight," she told him warmly.
Harry felt warmth spread through him at that. He agreed quickly, and went to find Sirius. He found his father talking quietly with Remus and Arthur in the patriarch's office on the second floor.
"Harry, come on in," Arthur said. "We were just finishing up."
The teen noticed that Remus seemed strained, though the full moon was still a week off. Then he remembered what Fred had said earlier. "How is Bill?" he asked the room.
Remus sighed. "We're not sure. Greybeck wasn't transformed when he bit him, so we'll just have to wait until the full moon to see how it's going to work."
Arthur looked like a man with a heavy burden on his soul, and Harry's heart went out to him. It had to be terrible for a parent to go through that. He wondered whether or not this family would have been targeted if Ron wasn't his best friend of five years.
Sirius interrupted his thoughts. "Are you headed out?" he asked.
"Yeah," Harry told him. "Mrs. Weasley offered to have dinner here, for my birthday."
Sirius nodded. "Yeah, she told me as much. When you get back, we'll eat here and then go home. I'm sure you'll want to sleep in your own bed before your ceremony."
Though that was something Harry had been apprehensive about for a while now, he couldn't summon the energy to care much about it. It was just a formality. Though it was important that he make a good impression, it wasn't what was important right then. Then he thought of something.
"Are Hermione, Ron, and I going to get into trouble for using magic last night?" he asked.
Remus shook his head. "Tonks took care of that with Bones this morning. If anything, this lends credence to the bill for removing the ban on underage magic," he told Sirius, who nodded in understanding.
Harry just shrugged. That was one thing he was happy to let the adults worry about for now. "I'll be back in a few hours," he promised, and left the room.
He walked to the edge of the wards, thought about where he was headed, and twisted.
He landed in the same spot he'd appeared at hours before, and looked around. He saw He could see Marco with a few other men carrying planks of wood. He walked over.
"Harry," Marco greeted with a nod. "Brianna's over at Jess's right now," he said, and pointed to the right house.
"Thank you, Mr. Covas." Harry walked over to the house, and knocked on the door. It opened quickly to reveal Jess, hair in disarray, eyes red and puffy from weeping.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded. "Leave us alone!" The door slammed in his face, and he staggered back in surprise.
He was wondering what he should do now, when the door opened again. "Harry?" a woman asked, and he turned back around. "I'm so sorry about that. My daughter is, well…"
"I understand, Mrs..." Harry told her.
"I'm her mother. You can just call me Maria," she said, opening the door wider and inviting him inside. "Have a seat at the table. I'll go get Brianna. Would you like something to eat?"
Harry shook his head, and Maria left. Brianna came downstairs a minute later, and stood awkwardly in the doorway. "Harry?"
Harry turned and saw her standing there. For a moment, neither of them moved. Then, almost as one, they embraced. She broke, slightly, at the comfort, and Harry could feel her hot tears soaking into his shirt. He murmured slightly into her hair, and it was only then that he noticed how short it was.
He made a slightly surprised noise, and she pulled back, giving a watery chuckle. "So much of it was burned, so mum cut the rest of it so it didn't look as strange."
"I like it," Harry confessed. It was slightly below her chin, and she had bangs now, as well. It all framed her face quite prettily, for a nice effect.
"Let's have a seat," she said, and led him over to the couch, where they sat next to each other.
"How is everyone?" he asked her, almost afraid to hear.
She fiddled with his hands, only realizing then that they were holding hers. "A mess, actually. Dad and some of the others are working on rebuilding everything, but we have to do it the Muggle way during the day. All of the Muggles around here had to have their memories modified for the events last night. So, it's slow going with rebuilding." She wiped away a tear as she pushed some of her hair out of her eyes. "We're going to have the funeral for Brian in a couple of days. His family doesn't have a lot of money, so…" her voice cracked at the end.
"I'll take care of it," he said automatically, surprising himself. He hadn't even thought about it, but it made sense.
Brianna protested. "No, Harry. You shouldn't have to pay for anything."
"I know," he lied. He certainly felt like he needed to do something for the family. "But I have loads of money, and I'll never use all of it. It's the least I can do," he whispered.
She put her head on his shoulder. "I'm sure they'll appreciate it, but you don't have to." They sat in silence for a minute before speaking again. "Happy birthday, by the way."
Harry hated this. He hated that everyone felt the need to remind him it was his birthday, because he didn't feel like celebrating anything. "Thanks," he said instead.
"Is there still a dinner for you tonight?" she asked. "I know I said I was going to be going over there, but I wasn't sure…"
"There's a small dinner tonight over at Ron's. I know they're going to save the celebration for tomorrow after the ceremony."
She nodded. "Then, if it's alright, I'll go to that one? I just don't want to leave Jess right now."
"I understand, don't worry," he said, and kissed her hair again.
"How did you know we were in trouble?" she asked suddenly, sitting up and looking at him intently.
Harry sighed and rubbed his face slightly. He was still tired after everything. "I told you about my scar, and how sometimes I know what Voldemort's up to, right?"
She gasped. "So, you saw that he was going to attack?"
"He sent Death Eaters to a bunch of different places last night. That's why I left once the Aurors got here, I had to make sure Ron's family was alright."
She hugged him again. "I understand. Thank you for helping us."
They were joined not long later by Ica, who looked like she was just wanting company. Thom joined shortly after, as did Lucian. Jess stayed away, and Harry was feeling bad about that.
Lucian read his expression correctly. "She just needs to be alone for a while," he said shortly, clearly holding himself back from snarking at him. "We're not used to stuff like this here."
Harry nodded at him. He knew the feeling, but still felt a bit bad. He knew that he wasn't responsible, directly, for Brian's death, but it was still hard. It was a similar feeling that he had with Cedric's death. And Roger's. He sighed. He was glad that no one else here seemed to blame him, but it was still hard.
Thankfully, all of the teens kept the conversation as light as they could, though it was clearly forced. When it was getting close to dinner, he bid them all farewell, and promised that he would be back later that week.
He stopped briefly to talk with Brian's parents. At first, they protested strongly, but Harry was nothing if not stubborn, and he'd gotten practice at being persuasive over the years. He told them that he would contact Gringotts the following day to transfer funds.
He apparated back to the Burrow, and greeted everyone there. Molly was in the kitchen cooking, and she shooed him away. He found the twins in the back garden.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" he found himself asking. "I thought you had a flat in Diagon Alley?"
Fred nodded. "We do, but with the shop opening in a couple days, we wanted to come back here to escape the madness."
"And the flat is a mess with everything for the shop," George replied. "We're going back there tomorrow morning."
Harry asked them about some of their newer products, and the twins launched into a discussion on some of the pranks they had invented. Ron and Hermione joined them after a time.
When it was time for supper, they all went inside, and Harry was surprised. He'd thought it was just going to be the ones that were at the house the night before, but Tonks and Remus were both there, as well as Percy.
It was the first time Harry had seen the errant Weasley in some time, and they both were lost for words. Percy was the first to speak.
"Happy birthday, Harry," he said, flushing slightly. He knew everything he'd said against the Potter boy recently was negative, and he was regretting it all now.
Harry offered him a smile. "Thanks, Perce. It's nice to see you again."
"You, too." With that, Percy was lost for words, so he hurried to help his mother take everything to the table.
It was a rather subdued meal, with the events of the past twenty four hours coming back to them all. It was especially evident as Bill couldn't join them. He was on bed rest for a while as his wounds healed. Remus was the one that cooked him a special dinner with a lot of extra protein and took it to the eldest Weasley child.
It was agreed that the actual party for Harry would be the following day, so there were no gifts exchanged. However, Molly had gone ahead and made Harry's favorite dessert of treacle tart.
Almost as soon as they finished their last bites, the Floo flared. "Molly? Arthur?" Dumbledore's familiar voice called.
Molly stayed in the room to usher all those who were underage out of the room, while Arthur went to the fireplace. Harry stood his ground when Molly tried to wave him out. "I would like to speak with Dumbledore," he said simply.
She glanced at him, but decided it wasn't worth an argument, so she went about clearing the kitchen. It was the best place to have the meeting, after all. It was only a few minutes later that the Burrow was filled to bursting with so many Order members.
Sirius was tense at Harry's side. He knew that this was going to be a bit of a fight, but he agreed with Harry on this. As soon as everyone was seated, Dumbledore looked at the teen.
"Harry, we're going to have a meeting. If you would like to wait until we are finished, I would be happy to speak to you then…"
"Actually," Harry interrupted, receiving a lot of raised brows, "I wanted to speak with you about that. I think it's time I joined the Order."
Everyone started talking at once, all of them protesting. Dumbledore simply studied him, then raised a hand for silence. "I know you have been kept up with everything that has been going on," he glanced once at Sirius, "so I'm afraid I don't understand."
Harry took a steadying breath, putting his hands behind his back. There was no chair for him to sit at the table. "Headmaster, I'm the one with the direct link to Voldemort." He nearly growled when most of the room twitched at the name, but restrained himself. That was a fight for another day. "I have been in several fights with Death Eaters, and faced Voldemort four times now. I dream about the meetings and the raids more often than I care to think about. And I'm sure you know about the little note that Voldemort sent to me via one of his minions. He's coming after me. I have to know what is going on. In twenty four hours, I will be Lord Potter-Black and of age, if that is the next concern."
There was an uncomfortable silence as everyone thought that through. No one looked convinced, and a few people looked angry. Dumbledore, though, looked thoughtful. "What is it that you are wanting to accomplish by joining?" he asked curiously.
Harry turned to him. "I want to know what is going on. Both on their side, with what we think they are up to; and on our side, what we are doing, either proactively, or to counteract their plans. If I know more, maybe I can help. A different way of looking at things is always helpful."
Whispers started among different members, but it was surprising Moody who spoke up. "Kid has a point," he grunted, shifting his wooden leg a bit. "He's got more experience than half this table put together. Bring him in, we'll see what he can bring to it."
Dumbledore had his fingers steepled in front of him, thinking intently for a few minutes. Harry shifted slightly, feeling uncomfortable under the scrutiny of almost the entire Order, but he refused to show it.
"Very well, Harry," the headmaster said, looking up. "Have a seat and we'll get started."
Harry just nodded as he and Sirius sat down in the conjured seats that McGonagall cast for them, but inside he was surprised at how easy this was. He risked a glance at Molly, who was fuming, but was quiet as Arthur whispered into her ear.
"Now, Mr. Potter, I was wondering if you could tell us about your vision last night?" Dumbledore started.
Harry jerked, not expecting to be spoken to first. "Alright. I was having a dream, and got pulled into a vision of Voldemort talking to his followers. He told them that he wouldn't accept failure this time, and not to have mercy. Then he started thinking about the places that they were going to hit, and I saw that my girlfriend, Brianna's village, the Burrow, the Bones', and another man living in Budleigh Babberton were going to be attacked. I woke Sirius to tell him, and he Floo'ed you."
Dumbledore nodded. "The elderly man you saw was a man by the name of Horace Slughorn. I was in the process of convincing him to return to Hogwarts to teach."
"Is he still alive?" Snape asked, his voice surprisingly soft.
"He is at St. Mungo's. The healers are unsure. I will be returning there after this meeting to check on his condition," Dumbledore told him gently. Harry wondered who the man was, and decided to ask Sirius later. "In addition, there were two other Order member's homes that were attacked early this morning."
Harry sat forward slightly. He hadn't seen that. "Who?" he asked.
"Emmeline Vance, and Kingsley Shacklebolt," Moody told him gruffly, scowling at the table.
Harry looked at Sirius, who shrugged. Kingsley, who was there, spoke harshly. "I was patrolling, but they burned my home and killed my wife," he snarled angrily. Sparks were nearly flying from his eyes.
Harry's breath caught, only barely able to imagine the pain the infamous Auror must be feeling. "And Emmeline?" he asked quietly.
"Was also not home," Hestia Jones told him. "She was at my home, helping strengthen the wards on the property. We know that dementors were used in that attack, as her Muggle neighbors were Kissed." Several cursed at that.
"Here, no one was killed," Arthur continued the reporting. "However, my eldest son Bill was attacked by Greybeck."
When several people gasped and blanched, Remus spoke up calmly. "He was not transformed at the time. There is now way of knowing what will happen at the next full moon. I will take him with me the evening before to where I transform. Then we will see."
Heads were nodding at the plan. "And the attack on Amelia was averted, thanks to the Auror guards she already had placed there. It seems that Voldemort was unaware of them, Severus?" he asked.
"It's unclear," the potions master stated. "He has never been overly concerned about his followers' safety on missions. However, if he had known, I can only assume he would have sent more."
"And the attack on Miss Covas?" Dumbledore asked Harry.
His throat paper dry at the memory of Jess's scream upon finding him, Harry had to swallow twice before he could speak. "Ten Death Eaters killed, and four captured. One casualty."
Sirius jerked slightly at hearing his son speak so clinically about the attack. It had taken him a few battles before he'd been able to do that.
The headmaster nodded, understanding what Harry wasn't saying about the casualty. "I think that is all for tonight," he said, looking over everyone. The past twenty hours had taken a lot out of everyone, and having a long meeting wasn't going to help them, tonight. He would schedule another one within the next week.
No one was going to argue with him. They were all tired, and having a good night's rest would help them more than talking for another two hours. Everyone got up to leave, and Dumbledore turned to Harry.
"Was it what you were expecting?" he asked with a raised brow.
Harry just looked at him. "While there was no planning or information gathering, I understand the need for everyone to be on the same page with attacks. Talking about strategies tonight would have been a mistake."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled slightly at that. "Very good, my boy. Well, I will take my leave now. Good luck tomorrow at the Ministry. Also, I believe there will be an important owl coming for you and your friends tomorrow." With that, he quickly took the Floo back to Hogwarts.
Harry had completely forgotten about his OWL scores, and muttered to himself. This wasn't the time to worry about them. He thought about Jess and Kinglsey and what they would be going through tonight, and shook his head. No, test results were certainly not as important right now.
Sirius decided that they would talk about the meeting the following day. Neither of them had gotten much sleep, and they were about done in. They bid farewell to the Weasleys, promising to be back after the ceremony. Harry could tell that Mrs. Weasley wasn't happy with him, but she hugged him tightly. The rest of the family wished them well as they gathered their things.
By the time he and Sirius walked towards the Floo, Harry was feeling a bit better about everything. He knew that it was going to be a long and hard road, but as long as they stuck together, they would make it.
This was much longer than I had intended, but the Order meeting took longer than I thought it would. I'm so mean to Harry, to have the attacks on his birthday, but he can have the same amount of bad luck as he has good luck.
If Harry had been the same as he was in canon, Dumbledore probably wouldn't have let him join the Order, but he's changed, and he has Sirius there to help him. Albus isn't quite crazy enough to take on the two of them together. :-)
Next update will still hopefully be this year, and we'll have the ceremony, birthday party, another Order meeting, and more! See you then!