Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and her various corporate partners. Keldorn Firecam is owned by BioWare, Atari, or whoever it is that owns the rights to Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn these days, although I have taken several liberties with his character. I own nothing, and I am making no profit by my little ventures into the shadowy realms of fanfiction. I do so purely for enjoyment. I would, however, like to thank JKR for allowing us all to play in her sandbox.


Harry Potter and the Knight of the Radiant Heart

XVII

"Hey, Mate," said Ron as he walked up to where Harry was sitting with Hermione in the common room late one evening at the end of November. "Fancy a game of chess?"

"Err… sure," Harry replied after a moment.

Ron took out his chessboard and began setting it up on the floor. Harry sat down across from him while Hermione continued reading a rather thicker than normal book.

"Not that I'm complaining," Harry said as he moved one of his pawns forward, "but why aren't you with Lavender?"

"Oh, she and Parvati are finishing their Divination homework. She told me to bugger off for a bit," Ron replied as he made his own move on the board.

"Oh."

The two friends continued to play in silence. Harry hadn't really been hanging around with his best mate as much as he used to during the past few months due to Ron's budding relationship with Lavender. They still spent plenty of time together in their classes and during Quidditch practices, but most of Ron's free time was now dedicated to his girlfriend. Harry didn't begrudge Ron the fact that he was spending so much time with Lavender; after all, if he had a pretty girl that was willing to snog him, he'd probably jump at the chance as often as Ron did.

The silence was broken by Hermione suddenly snapping her book closed and then rummaging through her book bag.

"Oh, where did I leave that copy of Rudgert's Ridiculous Runes? Maybe it's upstairs. I'll be right back." She quickly got up from her place on the couch and left to search for her book.

"So," Ron said as he instructed his bishop to skewer one of Harry's knights, "how are you and Hermione doing?"

Harry looked at him in confusion.

"We're fine."

"No," Ron replied, "I mean, how are you doing?"

"What?"

Ron just waggled his eyebrows.

"Oh," Harry said looking back at the board. "Err… haven't really done anything about that."

"Why not? I think you two could use a good snog. I bet our Hermione's just brimming with pent-up energy that would make for some very entertaining times together."

"Ron…" Harry growled in warning.

"Alright, alright. But seriously, what are you waiting for?"

"Well, err… I'm not really sure how to go about, you know, asking her out," Harry answered.

"Just man up and do it," said Ron.

"Oh like you'd know anything about that. You didn't even have to do anything to get your girlfriend. Lavender just walked up to you and latched onto your face!"

"Oi! No need for that, now."

"Besides," Harry continued, "we've got bigger things to worry about."

"Like what?" Ron asked in confusion.

"Like what?!" Harry replied incredulously, "did you forget about Voldemort and the prophecy?"

Ron ducked his head as his ears turned pink.

"Oh, right. Yeah, I guess that's pretty important."

They went back to concentrating on the game for a few minutes before Harry spoke up again.

"So, err… if I was to ask out Hermione, well, how do you think I should do it?"

"No idea, mate," Ron replied. "Like you said, Lav just started snogging me, remember? I didn't have to do anything."

Harry sighed.

"I doubt that Hermione is likely to do that."

"I could always tell her to if you'd like."

"Ron," Harry answered with a glare, "if you want to live to see Christmas, you won't utter one word about this to Hermione."

"Oh come on, I bet she'd do it with a little bit of a push in the right direction!"

"Not. One. Word."

"Fine," Ron said. "Why don't you be then one to start it then?"

"What?"

"You start the snogging. You know, she walks into the common room one day and boom! just snog her brains out."

"Ron…"

"And with Hermione there's a lot of brains to snog out, so you'll be at it for a while too."

"I don't think Hermione would appreciate me snogging her in front of the entire house."

"You never know until you try it, mate."

Harry sighed.

"Come on, be serious, Ron."

"I am being serious. Just jump her when she comes back from looking for her book."

"There's no way that would work."

"Fine," Ron replied, "you're on your own then."

Their conversation was cut short by Hermione's return. Ron kept shooting strange glances at Harry and Hermione, no doubt trying to get him to make a move on their bushy-haired best friend, but Harry was having none of that and instead concentrated on trying not to lose to Ron too badly.

About twenty minutes later, Harry was being thoroughly trounced by Ron when Hermione cleared her throat and spoke up.

"Harry? I have an idea."

Harry looked up and turned to face her, but his eyes landed on Ron first, who was smirking and waggling his eyebrows again.

"Oh shut it, Ron," Harry said.

"What was that?" Hermione asked.

Ron barked out a quick laugh.

"Nothing. What was your idea Hermione?" Harry asked.

The young witch looked at her two friends with suspicion for a moment before launching into an explanation.

"I think I might have an idea about how to convince Sir Firecam to teach you to be a paladin."

"Oi! Since when do you want to be a bloody paladin?" Ron demanded.

"Language!" Hermione interrupted, "besides, if you didn't have your tongue shoved down Lavender's throat at every opportunity, you might've already known about Harry wanting to become a paladin."

"Oi! There's no call for that," Ron responded. "No need to be jealous, Hermione."

"Jealous? Jealous?!" Hermione nearly shouted as her temper started to work up, "what in the world do I have to be jealous of, Ronald Weasley?"

"Err…" Harry tried to interrupt and stop the developing argument, but his attempt was overridden by Ron.

"Well, I'd say that you're just jealous of me an' Lav's relationship. Bit of snogging would do you some good, I'd say. Maybe untwist your knickers a bit."

Hermione's glare turned dangerous.

"Why you…"

Ron, apparently heedless of the approaching eruption of Mount Granger, and doubtlessly thinking that he was helping Harry and Hermione get together, continued his commentary.

"I'm sure there's someone around here who wouldn't mind givin' you the old tour of the Hogwarts broom closets."

That remark was apparently too much for Hermione to bear for she quickly whipped out her wand and pointed it at the floor beside Ron.

"Sciuri Impetum!" she shouted. Six conjured squirrels suddenly appeared on the floor and immediately leapt onto Ron. In a flash, the rodents were crawling all over him, biting and scratching their way under his clothes and across his face.

"Gah! Gerroff me!" Ron cried as he flailed around, vainly trying to swipe at the creatures.

Hermione, in the meantime, grabbed Harry by the elbow, pulled him to his feet and marched him out into the corridors. She was grumbling to herself as she strode down the hallway to an empty classroom where she quickly pulled Harry inside. The young wizard was a bit hesitant about being alone with his still angry friend.

"Alright there, Hermione?"

"Who does that git think he is?" Hermione said. "'Untwist my knickers!' Honestly!"

"Err…"

"I don't know where he gets off speaking to me like that. Just because he and Lavender have no sense of comportment or decency doesn't mean that the rest of us need to give into every one of our baser urges! Who does he think he is?"

"I don't think Ron really meant it like that…"

"Oh, so you're going to defend him now, are you?" Hermione asked with a glare.

"No!" Harry quickly backtracked, "I don't think he should have said that, but you know Ron. He always speaks first, thinks later."

"Yes, well, he's lucky I only conjured squirrels this time. Next time I'll think up something better. Wasps, maybe…"

Harry winced at that.

"Go easy on him, would you, Hermione?"

"Oh fine."

The two teenagers stared at each other for a moment as Hermione calmed down.

"So, err…" Harry began, "what did you drag me out here for?" In the back of Harry's mind dwelt a vain hope that she did drag him away for a bit of impromptu snogging.

"Oh, right," Hermione replied, "before I was so rudely diverted, I had a thought as to how you could convince Sir Firecam to train you."

"Oh," Harry said with a touch of disappointment. "Well, what is it?"

"We simply tell him about all the things you've already done."

Harry rolled his eyes.

"How is my life story going to convince him of anything?"

"Don't you see, Harry? That's exactly the type of thing that would convince him! He told you that being a paladin had to be about more than just fighting Voldemort. It has to be about fighting all evil and protecting people in general. Well, you've been doing that since you were eleven years old and jumped onto the back of a troll!"

"I don't know…"

"Think about it. He said that a paladin has to confront evil whenever he sees it. Harry, isn't that what you've already been doing? And I think we should tell him about the prophecy too, those lines about light and darkness can't be coincidence."

"Are you sure about this?" Harry asked.

"Well, what could it hurt?" Hermione asked in return, somewhat affronted that Harry was objecting to her plan.

"I don't really like talking about all that stuff."

"Oh, come on, Harry! It's not like you have to lay it all out there for the papers to print! Just tell Sir Firecam so he'll agree to teach you!"

"I'll think about it."

Hermione stepped up close to him.

"I know this will work, Harry," she said as she looked up into his eyes.

"I said I'd think about it."

Hermione smiled.

"You'll come around," Hermione replied as she then lifted herself up onto her toes and planted a quick peck on Harry's cheek. She then grabbed his hand and turned toward the door. "Now let's go check on Ron and see if those squirrels are still bothering him."

OoOoO

OoOoO

The next day was Sunday, the first of December. Like most of the other students at Hogwarts, Harry had a bit of a lie-in before he wandered down to breakfast. He was enjoying a light conversation with his friends and contemplating a second helping of eggs, when the owl post arrived. It seemed to Harry that there were a few more owls than normal that morning. He was slightly surprised when a plain brown owl landed in front of him and extended its leg. Harry relived the bird of its burden and offered it a few table scraps before turning his attention to the cream-colored envelop he was now holding. His name was written on the front in bright purple ink. He tore it open to find a card inscribed with more purple ink.

Dear Mr. Harry J. Potter,

Prof. Horace E. F. Slughorn

respectfully requests the honor of your presence

at a gathering of friends and associates

in celebration of the Christmas Season.

Friday, the Twentieth day of December

Six O'clock in the Evening

Guests are invited and encouraged to bring a date.

Formal Attire.

Harry looked up from his invitation to see that Hermione had also received one. She looked at him and he quickly looked away, a sudden nervousness coming over him. Harry knew who he wanted to ask to be his date to the party, but he still had no idea of how to go about asking her.

It was in times like these that he could have really used the advice of his father or godfather. Dumbledore might have fit into some sort of grandfatherly-like role in Harry's life, but this topic really didn't seem like something that he would be comfortable discussing with the Headmaster. And Ron had already proven himself to be of little to no help when it came to talking about his feelings for Hermione, so he was out. If he were to talk to Dean or Seamus, news about him confirming the Daily Prophet's speculation about him and Hermione would be spread around the school and likely into the papers by the next morning. And Neville was even more hopeless with girls than Harry was.

Looks like you're on your own, old boy, Harry thought to himself. Now, how to go about asking her… I guess I should probably wait a day or two, don't want to seem too anxious…

Harry's thoughts were derailed, however, when he noticed that Terry Boot at the Ravenclaw table was holding a similar card and had his eyes locked onto Hermione. When Harry saw Boot begin to rise from his seat, he started to panic.

"Hermione! I need you to come with me right now!" he exclaimed as he leapt to his feet and grabbed a hold of Hermione's arm.

"Wha…? Harry! What's going on?" the confused witch asked.

"No time, just come with me."

"Alright, just let me grab my bag…"

"No time!" Harry shouted as he realized that Boot could be approaching at any moment. "We've got to go, now!" He then proceeded to unceremoniously drag the baffled witch out into the Entrance Hall and into a small, secluded alcove.

"Harry!" Hermione admonished, "what's gotten into you?! I don't appreciate being dragged around like a rag doll, you know!"

Harry was about to apologize when a different thought struck him.

"Hey! You get to drag me all over the castle all the time! How come I can't do it to you?"

Hermione actually blushed at Harry's accusation.

"Never you mind that. Well, since we're here, what was it that you needed me for so urgently?"

"Err…"

Hermione just looked at him.

"Well, you see, it's…" Harry continued but trailed off. He was starting to sweat and his heart was pounding at about ten thousand miles per hour. Pulling Hermione out of the Great Hall had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now he was at a loss for how to proceed.

Maybe I should just try snogging her like Ron suggested, he thought.

"What is it, Harry?" Hermione's question brought him back to the present.

"Well, I was wondering… Oh bloody hell! Why is this so difficult?!"

"Harry! Language! Now what's so difficult? What's wrong? Did you have another vision or something? Should we go see Dumbledore?"

"No, no, no, it's nothing like that."

"Are you sick?"

"No."

Having ruled out anything dangerous, Hermione seemed to be getting a little impatient.

"Well, what is it then?"

"I, err… I noticed you got an invitation too," he finally said.

"Oh. About the Christmas party?"

"Yeah."

"Why would you…" Hermione trailed off and her demeanor shifted. All appearance of impatience left her and she smiled at Harry. "What about the party, Harry?"

"Well, err… you know that the cards said that we could, you know, take a date, right?"

"Yes, that is what they say."

"Well," Harry said, "I was just, you know, sitting there, thinking about that. Taking a date I mean. And I was wondering about how to actually go about asking a girl out, and that I didn't really know who to go to ask about it."

The smile disappeared from Hermione's face.

"Harry Potter," she said somewhat coldly, "did you drag me out here to ask me for advice as to how to ask out some other girl?! Unbelievable!"

"What? No!" Harry responded with some confusion. "That's not what I meant!"

"Then get to the point already!"

"Fine! Will you go to the party with me?!" Harry shouted at her somewhat angrily.

Hermione simply stared at him for a moment.

Embarrassment began to creep into Harry's demeanor as he awkwardly stood with Hermione in the alcove.

Did I really just shout the question in her face like that?

The smile had at least returned to Hermione's face, so Harry took that as a good sign.

"I'd love to, Harry," she said in response.

Harry's shoulders sagged in relief as it felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off of his back.

"Although," Hermione continued, "can I ask why you thought you needed to drag me out into the hallway like this with such, well, urgency?"

"Oh," Harry replied. "Well, you see… heh… I saw Terry Boot looking at you, and I figured that he was going to come over and ask you. So I kind of panicked, I guess, and brought you out here to ask you first."

"Harry, Terry's been dating Parvati for about two weeks now. She was sitting right next to me. He was probably looking at her."

"Oh."

"Were you really that nervous that someone else would ask me first?" Hermione asked a bit shyly.

"Err… yeah."

"You're sweet," she replied before leaning up to place a kiss on his cheek.

Harry broke out into a goofy grin. He loved it when she did that.

"Let's go back and finish breakfast," Hermione said as she grabbed Harry's hand.

Harry merely nodded and followed her as she pulled him back to the Gryffindor table.

OoOoO

OoOoO

The cold December wind whipped through Harry's hair as he soared through the air on Buckbeak's back. The heavy winter cloak that he was wearing to ward off the freezing temperatures fluttered uselessly behind him, but Harry couldn't possibly care less; he was having the time of his life. Riding a hippogriff through the sky was very different from riding a broom - it was so much better. Brooms were artificial, they had a sterile quality to them that Harry couldn't exactly find words for. But Buckbeak was alive - he was born and bread to soar, to twist and turn and dive through the clouds. At first Harry didn't think that the rather large hippogriff would be able to compete with a good racing broom, but after only a few moments, he would've been willing to bet his last Knut on Buckbeak beating a Firebolt any day of the week.

With a bit of training and with the proper tack and harness, the experience of riding a hippogriff was much different from what Harry remembered from his third year. He had been riding bareback the few times that he took to the sky with Buckbeak in the past, and because of that, he had needed to be extra cautious not to fall from his perch. Now, however, with the proper equipment, he had no such concerns and he felt almost invincible. He barely even needed to hold on as he guided the beast with his knees.

Harry looked down to his left - there on the ground far below, Hermione sat astride Aristotle her hippogriff, or Books as she had taken to calling him. The girl still had yet to take off from the ground, but Harry knew that she would have to do so sooner or later if she wanted to pass the course. And Hermione always wanted to pass her courses.

The clear note of a horn pierced the air - Keldorn's signal that class was nearing its end and that all riders needed to return their mounts to the stables. Harry prodded Buckbeak in the side with his knee and shifted his weight in the saddle, and the winged creature rolled to the right and dove. The hippogriff pulled its wings in close to its body, picking up speed as it plummeted to toward the ground. Harry instinctively leaned as far forward as he could, minimizing his air resistance and thus adding a bit more speed to their descent. At the last possible moment, Harry dug his heels into Buckbeak's sides and the creature responded by rearing back and spreading his wings, changing their direction, and pulling them out of the dive in order to race along only a foot or two above the ground at a speed many times faster than any horse or even some cars could possibly hope to match.

Eventually they slowed and landed, covering the last several yards to the barn at a brisk run. Harry dismounted and patted the hippogriff on the side of its powerful neck.

"Great flying, Buckbeak," Harry said, "you were magnificent up there as always."

"Isn't it bad enough that you give me a heart attack every time you zoom around on that broom of yours?" Harry heard Hermione ask from behind him. "Do you have to go into dives like that in our riding class too?"

"Absolutely," Harry responded with a grin. "Buckbeak and I were born to fly, Hermione. A little bit of gliding ten feet above the ground isn't enough for guys like us, we need to fly."

Buckbeak let out a low chirp and bobbed his head as if in agreement.

"See?" Harry said, "Buckbeak agrees with me."

Hermione merely shook her head and muttered under her breath as she went back to tending to Aristotle.

Harry spent about fifteen minutes removing the tack and harness from Buckbeak, wiping him down, and making sure he had plenty of raw meat and water before saying farewell and departing. He found Hermione outside the stables with her cloak wrapped tightly around her and he smiled before turning toward the path to the castle.

"Not so fast," Hermione said, "I think we should talk to Sir Firecam."

Harry groaned.

"Come on, Hermione," said Harry, "I don't like talking about all that stuff."

Hermione was not to be deterred, however, and simply grabbed his hand and pulled him off to find the knight.

"Who's treating who as a rag doll now?" Harry asked with a grin.

"Hush," was Hermione's only response.

They found Keldorn lighting his pipe on the side of the barn and they quickly made sure that no one else was around before approaching him.

"Sir Firecam," Hermione began, "do you have a moment?"

"I suppose, Miss Granger. What can I do for you?" the knight answered.

"I think you should reconsider teaching Harry to be a paladin."

"Not much for beating around the bush, are you?" Harry mumbled under his breath.

Keldorn raised one eyebrow and removed the pipe from his mouth.

"Told you about that, did he?" Keldorn asked.

"Actually, it was my idea in the first place," the young witch answered.

"I see," said Keldorn, "but whoever had the idea does not bear upon my decision. I will not consecrate Mr. Potter just so he can defeat Voldemort. To do so would be extremely unwise and dangerous."

"Yes, I understand that," said Hermione. "You said that you wouldn't teach him because becoming a paladin can't be just a means to an end, right? That being a paladin is a complete way of life, coloring everything that a person does, right?"

"That's correct, more or less anyways."

"Well, I think if you knew Harry better, you'd see that he fits the bill perfectly!"

"Is that so?" the knight asked before taking a long pull from his pipe and turning his gaze to the young wizard.

"You see, Harry's—"

"There's a prophecy," Harry quickly cut her off in the hope that the prophecy alone would convince the knight and they wouldn't need to talk about the supposedly 'heroic' things that he had done, "about me and Voldemort. It says that I'm the only one that can kill him. That it's either I kill him or he kills me. I'm supposed to have a power that 'he knows not' and the forces of Light and Darkness are mentioned too. So Hermione thinks that it means I'm supposed to become a paladin."

Hermione glared at Harry for interrupting her while Keldorn regarded them in silence for a moment.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Mr. Potter," said Keldorn. "It is no easy thing to bear the weight of destiny on one's shoulders. I have known a few others in my time with similar burdens. However, this does not change my decision. If you do defeat Voldemort, what then? I will not impose a lifetime of constant struggle and battle against the forces of Darkness upon you simply for you to defeat one foe, no matter how powerful he is. Now if that is all…"

"Wait," Hermione said, "that wasn't what I was going to say." She then turned to the wizard beside her, "let me tell him about what you've done, Harry."

"Fine," Harry begrudgingly acquiesced.

Hermione turned back to meet the old knight's eyes.

"Harry has been fighting against the Darkness long before he knew that he would have to fight Voldemort," she said. "He's always been looking out for others, protecting them and coming to their help whenever he saw someone in need. In our first year Harry led the way when he, Ron, and I stopped Voldemort from stealing the Philosopher's Stone and regaining his body. In second year, Harry fought and killed a fifty foot basilisk without his wand, and he did it in order to rescue Ginny Weasley who had been kidnapped. In third year he fought off scores of Dementors to rescue his wrongly accused godfather, and he saved my life in the process. Last year he organized a resistance group against the corrupt ministry official who was teaching here at Hogwarts, and he ran off to rescue his godfather once again even though he knew he was walking into a trap."

Harry huffed and turned away when Hermione mentioned the debacle at the Department of Mysteries, but he didn't interrupt her.

"He's faced down evil wizards, dragons, Acromantulas, selkies, werewolves and hordes of other creatures bent on destruction simply because it was the right thing to do. And he's been doing it his entire life! He was only eleven years old and didn't know any spells that would have been of any use when he jumped onto the back of an enraged mountain troll to save a poor, lonely, and friendless girl from certain death. I've never seen anyone do anything so brave or selfless in my life before or since, and he did it without a single thought of his own safety."

Hermione was becoming visibly worked up as she continued to describe her best friend to the old knight. She was adding strength and emphasis to her words that both embarrassed Harry and made Keldorn raise his eyebrows in surprise.

"You think that Harry becoming a paladin will put him at risk, will condemn him to a life of constantly fighting evil. Well, Harry's already been living that life since he was a little boy. And he isn't going to stop. Because that's who he is. He isn't the strongest or most fearsome warrior, he doesn't know the most spells or have years of experience, but he's always done what's right. He doesn't do it because he wants to or somehow thinks that he'll benefit from it or become famous. He does it because the thought of not helping someone in need, the thought of not standing up for what's right, would never even cross his mind. He's put his own life on the line time and again because someone else was in trouble, because someone needed him. I reprimanded him once for having a 'saving people thing,' for always rushing off to help others without thinking of himself, but that's just who he is. He's never been able to sit back while others are in trouble or when he sees a wrong that needs righting. He just has to help.

"You keep wondering what will happen after Harry defeats Voldemort, well I'll tell you. Harry will keep fighting to make the world a better place because he wouldn't know how to do anything else! I've known him for over five years now, and I know him better than anyone else. I probably know him better than he knows himself, and I'm telling you that teaching him how to be a paladin won't change his life, won't condemn him to anything that he isn't already doing, but it will give him the tools that he'll need to confront the evil that's out there.

"Harry Potter is the noblest, kindest, most courageous and loving man that I've ever met. And if that doesn't qualify him to become a paladin, well, then no one is worthy of the title!"

Hermione snapped her mouth shut and lifted her nose into the air, taking on a posture of defiance, as if to dare the old knight to try and refute the points that she made. Her face was slightly pink, probably out of embarrassment for saying so much about what she thought of Harry right in front of him, but otherwise she didn't show any weakness.

Keldorn stared at the young woman for a long moment before shifting his eyes to Harry. He eventually let out a sigh and proceeded to tap out the ashes from his pipe. When the knight was finished and had put the wooden instrument back into one of his pouches, he looked back up at the two students standing before him, Hermione with her posture of confidence and defiance, and Harry who was diligently studying his shoelaces.

"In the short time that I've had to get to know you, Miss Granger, you've shown yourself to be a remarkable young lady," the knight finally said. "You're very intelligent and hardworking, but also conscientious, respectful, and kind. The fact that you would chose to say such things about Mr. Potter does indeed say much about his character. Perhaps I have underestimated him.

"Mr. Potter, if you have been able to win such admiration from a young woman like Miss Granger, well, maybe there's more to you than I first thought. It's obvious what Miss Granger thinks you will do with your life, but I must ask you, Mr. Potter: would you be willing to spend yourself, to pour out your life to the last drop of your blood in service of the Light, in standing against the Darkness?"

Harry looked up into the scarred face and the piercing eyes of the paladin standing before him. He held the old man's gaze for a moment before looking away.

"She makes me sound like something I'm not," Harry said in response. "Hermione makes it sound like I had all these noble intentions when I did those things, like I'm some sort of hero. The truth is, I didn't really think about that at all, I just did it. I'm sorry Hermione, but I don't think I'm the guy that you've been talking about."

Hermione glared at him as if he had betrayed her, but Keldorn simply let out a brief chuckle before speaking.

"Well, she did say that she knows you better than you know yourself. And I think she's right. It is often the case that our deeds seem very different to us than they do to others. What comes naturally to you, Mr. Potter, might be seen as heroic to others. In my long life, I have found that a true hero very seldom finds any heroism in his deeds. But does that make them any less heroic? Nonetheless, you did not answer my question. Would you spend yourself, lay down your life in order to stem the tide of the encroaching Darkness?"

Harry looked at the old knight, a man who had done just that: spent himself, surrendered his life to fighting the forces of evil wherever he went. He turned and looked at Hermione, his best friend, a girl who apparently thought better of him than he had ever known, a girl that meant more to him with each passing day. She had a higher opinion of him than he deserved. He didn't want to disappoint her, but he couldn't bring himself to lie either.

"I don't know," Harry finally responded while looking back down to the ground. "I don't know if I could do it."

"But would you commit yourself to the task regardless, not knowing whether or not you would succeed?"

Harry thought of Voldemort and the Death Eaters and all the people that they would hurt if he didn't stop them. He thought of the prophecy and the role that he was destined to play in the struggle. He thought of Dumbledore and the hope that the old wizard apparently had placed in him. He thought of the Weasleys, and Neville, Luna, Tonks, Sirius, and all the others and everything that they had been willing to sacrifice and give up in the fight against Voldemort.

And he thought of Hermione, of the fact that she was a Muggle-born and that Voldemort would be coming after her for something that she had no control over - unless he stopped him.

He thought about the things that Hermione had said about him, about how highly she thought of him, and he didn't want to let her down even though he knew that he wasn't half as good as she apparently thought. He found that he wanted to be the man that Hermione described just so that he wouldn't let her down.

Harry looked back up into the battle-worn face of Sir Keldorn Firecam.

"Yes," Harry said, "I would."

"Good," the old knight said. "Then I will take you into my service as my squire. I will teach you to live in the Light and to fight against the Darkness. We will see, together, if you shall be consecrated as a paladin. Does that sound agreeable to you, Mr. Potter?"

"I suppose."

"Then kneel, Harry Potter," Keldorn commanded as he unsheathed his sword, "and grasp the tip of my sword."

Harry got down on his knees and did as he was instructed while Hermione looked on with rapt attention. When he held the tip of the sword between his thumb and forefinger, he felt an immense power radiating from within the blade, seemingly just barely contained within the hard steel.

"And so I, Sir Keldorn Firecam, paladin and knight of the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart, ask you, Harry James Potter, do you freely swear to dedicate yourself to the study and pursuit of the Path of Light during your time as my squire?"

"I do," Harry responded.

"Do you freely swear to obey my every command to the best of your ability during your time in my service until you either chose leave my service, are dismissed by me, or are consecrated to the service of the Light as a paladin?"

"I do."

"For my part, I swear to do my utmost to teach you to be a vessel and herald of the Light amidst the Darkness, and to be fair and just with you in all things.

"Now rise, my squire," Keldorn said as he sheathed his sword, "and take your place at my side."

Harry rose to his feet and looked over at Hermione, who seemed to have tears in her eyes, before moving to stand at Keldorn's right.

"Come, Harry," the old knight said, "we must speak with the Headmaster about what has taken place today. Your life is about to become very different. You may join us, Miss Granger, if you wish."

No one said another word as they walked off in the direction of the castle and the Headmaster's office. Harry simply fell in line behind his new mentor. Hermione took her place at Harry's side, and with a look of pride in her eyes and a smile on her lips, she slipped her hand into his as they went to find Dumbledore.


AN: Looks like Harry's now a squire, eh? And he even found the courage to ask Hermione out on a date! What do you think? Where shall we go from here? Let me know what you have to say.

Another longer chapter, but I didn't want to split it. I know that the tone shifts from light and fun in the beginning to quite serious at the end, but I thought it balanced out rather well. What do you think?

Special thanks to muggledad for recommending this little fic in his tale entitled The Last Casualties. You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

In order to pay it forward, as it were, might I humbly recommend Burgundy Blues by Inkyprints? It's a rather original and highly amusing take on the Harry-isn't-the-boy-who-lived idea. Go give it a read. (Note 6 May 2017: sadly, it has not been updated in a rather long time...)

Please take a moment and leave a review on your way out. Thank you to everyone who left a review, followed or favorited the story so far. You're all wonderful. And thanks for reading!