This story picks up right after the last sentence of The Flaw in the Plan and continues on until the first sentence of the epilogue. If you didn't feel quite enough closure at the end of Deathly Hallows then hopefully you'll find some here. Please send feedback on my feedback form here
Table of Contents:
Faces swam around Harry, faces bruised and bloody but full of triumph none the less. Hundreds of voices called to each other joyously around him; hands clapped him on the back, smiles flashed at him from every direction despite the smell of death in the air and the destruction in which they all stood.
Harry, Ron and Hermione drifted through the crowded hall away from Dumbledore’s office and made their way towards the grounds outside. Harry looked over at Ron and Hermione with a small smile; they returned it, passing the knowledge between them that together, the three of them had finally conquered that which had held them captive but together for seven long years.
Harry shook his head in disbelief as they walked, thinking back to the first time he had strode across those great stone steps into the sweeping halls of Hogwarts castle, and it seemed like another person’s life, another person's memories. Almost as though his present consciousness had only just been born into a body that was full of memories not his own. It was an odd feeling.
They walked out across the grounds to the place where the great marble tomb stood. Harry smiled inwardly thinking of Dumbledore who seemed so alive even in death. Now that he had seen him again, had heard his voice and watched his twinkling eyes once more he felt no sadness in seeing the great marble tomb because he knew now that death was not the end, not the end of Sirius, not the end of his parents, not the end of Dumbledore. Where ever he was now, wherever ‘going on’ took you Harry hoped Dumbledore had found his family. Somehow he felt certain that he had and that thought filled him with hope.
He stepped forward towards the tomb and the others followed slowly, reverently behind him. Harry lifted the Elder Wand knowing that it would easily move the stone slab away, and it did. Ron and Hermione stood back, Harry didn’t blame them, the decaying bones were certainly a frightening sight and would have been hard for him to look at if he had not just hours ago spoken to a very real Dumbledore who had conquered death in his own way. He took the Elder Wand and laid it carefully down into the tomb tucking it into the dusty lifeless hand that was still blackened by the curse from Marvolo’s ring. He backed away and used his own wand, to push the slab back into its place, forever holding the power of the greatest wizard that ever lived and the greatest wand that was ever made together, as he knew they should be, no matter who the wand claimed allegiance to. He turned back to Ron and Hermione who were standing, wrapped in each others arms and he joined them silently.
As he stood side by side with them he suddenly felt immensely tired, as though the last seven years had been a great race that he had run for seven long years without stopping. Now that it was suddenly finished the fatigue had finally caught him and it pummeled him like a wave of heavy fog, penetrating his every limb till he had to struggle to stay upright. He suddenly wanted to see Ginny, to be back at the Burrow with the Weasley’s and Hermione and sit together in their quiet, cozy rooms, away from all the crowds and all the rubble and noise and to just be together… He turned around and Ron and Hermione looked to see what was wrong.
"Everything alright, Harry?” Ron asked.
"Yeah. I’m fine now. I just,” he paused trying to put it into words, “I just want to go home,” he said, thinking of the little girl's words to Ginny in the forest. “--to the Burrow and be with you guys and be away from all this until I can grasp it all.”
He sighed, the exhaustion sinking deeper and deeper into his bones, and he gazed up at the majestic form of Hogwarts castle, still gleaming with wonder despite its many ruined walls and collapsed towers and smoking rooms. Hogwarts stood tall in the early morning light and every window, broken or whole glistened with the morning rays. He felt very small but it was not a bad feeling, he merely realized how enormous eternity was and how very tiny his one little story was in the whole scheme of things. Life went on, and with all that had happened, Harry took heart in that fact.
“I want to go find Ginny,” he said at last “Can we?” he added tentatively, looking back at Ron.
Ron raised his eyebrows playfully, “And just what are your intentions now that the Dark Lord is gone? No more false break-ups, no leadings on into false hope?”
Harry smiled tiredly, “No, all honest intentions, I promise,” he sighed. He turned back towards the Entrance Hall and they followed him.
Every step seemed to drain him more and more until he hardly felt able to stand. He wished he didn’t have to wade through the hundreds of cheery faces again, not that he wasn’t just as happy if not more to be rid of Voldemort as they were, but he was just so tired, too tired to even attempt to return their beaming smiles or hardy pats on the back. At last they reached the table where the Weasley’s were seated, most of them asleep, and with the last of his energy, the energy that he had been saving up to keep him going until he saw her, he returned the smile he loved most: Ginny’s.
She was seated next to her mother who was asleep against George's shoulder, and when she saw him her face folded into that beautiful radiant smile. Seeing it made Harry feel a little stronger even if only for that moment. She got up and pulled him forward into a tight embrace and he felt his strength finally exhaust itself as she held him and he was sure that if she were to let go he would not have been able to stand at all. She did not let go, but held him, her heart beat strong and fast, pulsing through him until it seemed to merge with his, leading it forward and keeping it strong. He felt her cheek against his and her hand stroked his forehead softly, pulling gently through his tussled hair like the hand blessed peace itself. The sweet, flowery scent of her hair filled him up completely and for the first time in his life he closed his eyes and looked forward into a free future, a future that was his own to make of it whatever he chose, and it was in that moment that he was finally consumed by the warm, quiet black of unconsciousness.
Last edited by katishere; February 24th, 2009 at 5:21 am. Reason: updating info
Re: Nineteen Years
Harry awoke to a gentle breeze on his face and without opening his eyes reached up to touch the place on his forehead where it had rustled his hair with its cool breath. His fingers touched the lightening bolt scar and traced it absentmindedly. It felt different; it was hard to explain what exactly it was that made it so. Perhaps it was the fact that it didn’t hurt at all now, not a twinge not a slight burn at all after the last few years of growing intensity and pain. Perhaps it just felt like a scar now, the way any normal scar would feel when a child’s knee healed after falling from his bike. No, there was something else. Harry felt like him and the scar were old friends that had just found each other after a long time. He felt whole again, the scar belonged there; it was a part of who he was and what he had done and it was no longer a menace or a tool of Voldemort’s horrible plot. He smiled as he traced it one last time, feeling it as part of him for the first time in seven years, welcoming this old friend back and then he opened his eyes at last. He was in the room that he had so often stayed in when he was with the Weasley’s. It was warm and cozy and he noticed the open window from which the breeze must have come. It looked to be about mid-afternoon and the sky was bright and blue as it hung over the rolling fields and houses around The Burrow.
Harry heard soft voices suddenly from outside and stood to look properly out the window. Ron and Hermione were walking together across the grassy yard, his arm about her shoulders, his hand gently caressing her hair, her arm was about his waist and her head was on his shoulder, they were conversing in soft quiet tones that Harry couldn’t hear and was content not to hear. He stood and watched them happily, a broad smile on his face that he couldn’t seem to hold back. This was right. This was the way things were meant to end up. Suddenly he remembered Ginny; the last thing he had felt before succumbing to the weight of a life-long battle was her gentle hands holding him up with a kind of strength that seemed impossible for such a small and gentle figure and feeling his weary body collapse into her ready and waiting arms. He blinked and looked away from Ron and Hermione who were growing smaller as they walked out into the distance. He was going to go see her, he could finally see her and not have to tear himself apart to keep her safe. Now he could see her and not have to turn away from her. Talk to her and not have to see the pain his words brought to her golden brown eyes. He looked down at himself and saw a pair of Ron’s faded striped pajamas that someone must have put him into. He smiled again. Hogwarts had always been his first real home, but the Weasley’s had been his first real family and he would always remember the Burrow as a home no matter where he spent the rest of his life. It was the place where he could always find nine red-haired, freckled faces smiling back at him whenever he entered its doors. Then with a pang he remembered that there were now only eight red-haired, freckled faces left in the Burrow and that their smiles would be overshadowed by their pain at losing one of their own. He groaned loudly in pain, as he pictured Fred’s face, frozen in his mischievous smile staring with blank eyes that had once twinkled with the light of a hundred fantastic ideas for ingenious inventions and wild jokes. The eyes that had been full of laughter and joy from the first moment Harry had looked into them. He closed his own eyes to try and hide the image. After several long minutes he opened them, wiped a few streaks from his face and took a deep breath. Life went on, death was not the end. There was a time for mourning but it would pass and joy would come with its passing. He pulled on some clothes from his rucksack which had been placed sweetly beside his bed and then rubbed his face in his hands with a shake of his head to wipe away the last of his tiredness. For the first time in his life, he was truly free and it felt good despite everything he had been through.
As he walked down the stairs he knew that the family would be mourning and he would be there for them, it would take time for the wounds to heal but they would heal, the sadness would pass of that he was sure. He entered the kitchen and found Mrs. Weasley at the stove scrubbing the stove top with a tatty old rag; Mr. Weasley was at the table reading the Daily Prophet with a large cup of tea sitting untouched beside him, Ginny was across the room sitting on the couch with Arnold the Pygmy Puff in her hand and Crookshanks curled at her feet. They all looked up as he entered and there was sadness in their eyes but still they filled their faces with a warm smile that he knew was genuine despite their pain. Mrs. Weasley put down her cloth and walked over to Harry beaming through watery eyes and pulled him into a Mrs. Weasley hug that Ginny had to pry him out of once his face began to turn blue.
“Mum, you’re killing him. He’s already had to die once this week, I think he'd appreciate holding off a second death for a while.” Ginny said, gently but firmly detangling her mother’s arms from around Harry.
“Oh, Harry, Harry! You were so brave, so very, very brave,” Mrs. Weasley cried once Ginny had finished prying her from Harry, “Dumbledore would have been so proud of you Harry! Oh Harry!” she took a long racking breath and then wiped profusely at her eyes with her apron and tried to get a hold of her self. Mr. Weasley looked worn and tired behind her and he put a gentle arm around her shoulder. After a minute she was calm again although her eyes were still quite damp, “I’ll make you something to eat, you must be starved, you've been asleep for nearly three days, poor dear.” and with that she scuttled back to the stove and began fussing about to make Harry a meal. Mr. Weasley gave Harry a sad smile and said “You did something very few would ever have had the courage to do Harry. I would have expected no less from you. You made your parents proud.” And he left the room silently leaving his tea still untouched on the table.
Harry turned toward Ginny who looked at him quietly, her face was smiling and her eyes were piercing him with that same intensity that he remembered from their first kiss. He glanced over at Mrs. Weasley who was quite oblivious to the two of them standing there and already well into preparing a full multi-course meal. Harry looked back into Ginny’s eyes and saw that they were glistening. She looked away quickly and wiped them with the back of her hand.
Harry had never seen her really cry and he took her hand which was still wiping away the salty tears and she looked back up at him. He pulled her out the door into an empty room and closed the door. She stood there with her eyes closed tightly as though trying to stem the flow that she felt was so indecent. He felt her pain, it was his pain too, the people they had lost. He walked towards her and wiped the tears that were leaking out from underneath her eyelids despite her valiant attempt to hide them and lifted her head to look at him, her eyes opened and there was a vulnerability in them that he had never before seen in her. It frightened him a little at first but he felt honored that she had put her confidence in him enough to show him something she kept from everyone else: to let him see her when she was weak. He put his arms around her the way she had in the Great Hall, holding her tight so that she could stand even without the strength to, and she tucked her arms against his chest and her head beneath his chin and she cried, long and quiet tears, her small frame shaking with silent sobs that she had withheld for far too long.
“I thought I’d lost you too.” She gasped burying her face in his chest, hugging her trembling self tighter to him.
“Ginny” Harry said in an anguished voice, lost for words that could express the pain he felt at having hurt her so deeply, it was the last thing he had wanted. “I’m so sorry.” He said lamely but he figured she understood. He closed his eyes wishing he could block out the echo of the words ‘Harry! HARRY!’ that rung in his ears in Ginny’s voice. “I’ll never let that happen again, I promise.” He stroked her hair comfortingly with his cheek pressed against the top of her head.
“I promise…” He whispered again.
He didn’t know how long they stood there together crying but by the time they were both seated on the bed in that room and dry-eyed the sky was a misty orange color and twilight was setting in.
Ginny folded her knees up under her chin and hugged them tight to her body, Harry sat next to her leaning sideways against the bed rail with his hands in his lap and his feet planted indifferently on the ground.
Suddenly she looked up at him. “What did you see?”
It was a very vague question but Harry knew immediately what she meant and he was glad that he could finally share something with her that he hadn’t shared with anyone else.
“Dumbledore. He was there. He was the one who explained it all to me. It was a bit odd really, but not bad. It was peaceful, safe, quiet,” he knew what she was thinking of, “happy. He would like it there.” he wasn’t talking about Dumbledore, but then, neither was she.
“So then death isn’t the end. Their not really gone for good." She looked up at him and there was that old spark back in her eyes. "It’s like those voices behind the veil.” They weren’t questions. He nodded confirming it for her.
She smiled. He smiled back.
Suddenly they were both laughing and it was the strangest sensation Harry had ever felt, after all the pain and sadness he had been through and she had been through as well, there they were laughing together, rolling around roaring with laughter at the irony of it all until tears flooded their eyes once more, but this time they were tears of freedom, tears that signified the start of a new time and a new life.
There was a knock on the door suddenly and Harry couldn’t speak because he was so overcome with the laughter, so Ginny had to take a deep breath and say “Come in” before collapsing into the bed again with a smile as radiant as the sun her arms spread eagle as though welcoming an embrace from the air.
The door opened hesitantly and Ron stood there looking dumfounded with Hermione peeking in over his shoulder at the pair of them beaming back through the slit in the door.
“Ah…what’s going on? You two alright in here? You haven’t gone bonkers on us after all this time, have you?”
This time it was Harry who found his voice first “No, no. It’s alright. We’re all alright, Ron.” He looked over at Ginny biting his lip to keep his face from exploding into a smile that he was sure would be much too big for his face to hold. She stood up and took her brother’s hand, wiping the tears of both joy and sadness from her eyes. “Voldemort’s gone Ron, and he can never come back. But Harry was there too and he did come back and he said it’s not the end for people like us, it’s not the end for people like them.” she knew he would understand who she was talking about because them, the people who they had lost, were on his mind just as much everyone else’s. Ron nodded silently and looked into his sister's eyes for a minute. Suddenly the corners of his mouth twitched too. Then again. And he smiled finally seeing the irony that Voldemort had never caught on to.
Together they laughed at death, they laughed at Voldemort, they laughed and laughed and they knew that all sadness would pass. That like death, sadness was conquered and they could always choose to go on.
In the coming weeks, the sadness did begin to pass. One warm day, during the second week, they had a funeral for those who had been lost and together they remembered Fred and Lupin and Tonks and Colin and all the others who had died, but deep down the four of them knew that those honored dead were all out there, just out of reach, beyond the veil and that they were together and happy there, just as Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were together and happy now.
Last edited by katishere; July 30th, 2008 at 6:43 pm. Reason: fixing stuff
Re: Nineteen Years
Summer was passing in blissful ease for Harry. Hermione had brought her parents back from Australia at the first chance she got and put their memories right again. After a very confusing explanation about where they had been for the last year they had allowed her to stay at the Burrow for the summer to be with Ron and Harry. Harry had also brought Kreacher over from Grimmauld place and his eagerness to help around the house was driving Mrs. Weasley insane which was always fun to watch.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny spent long hours together talking and sharing their individual stories of the last year. Ginny explained how she and Neville and Luna had brought back the DA and how they had worked tirelessly to unseat the Death Eaters. She told a number of horror stories of her encounters with the Carrow siblings who had been in charge of ‘discipline’ and had a very crude way of enforcing law. Apparently their favorite method was a spiked bull whip and they had rarely resorted to actual magic to inflict pain, from the way she told it Harry thought there methods were probably more effective then magic. He grimaced as he imagined Ginny being beaten and tortured by the maniacal Carrow brother and tightened his hold on her hand.
As he filled Ginny in on all the things he had never been able to tell her he was mildly surprised at the ease with which the truth came out. It didn’t feel as painful as he had thought it would be to share with Ginny about the many horrors he had been through, instead of reliving them it felt more like he was telling a story he had heard from someone else long ago. He explained about Voldemort using his blood to revive himself after the TriWizard tournament three years previously, he told her what he had seen in the pensieve regarding his mother and how Snape had truly been loyal to their cause, he told her about his experiences with Dumbledore and how they had delved into Tom Riddle’s past together, and he explained about horcruxes, Dumbledore’s task, and how he had been the final horcux. He had to admit that he had felt a guilty pleasure in seeing the look of horror on her face as he retold how he had walked bravely off to be killed by Voldemort with his parents by his side and when he commented about seeing her at the edge of the forest and having to walk past to certain death she hugged him and nearly started crying, saying how very stupidly, idiotically noble he was and Harry felt very warm and light-headed for the next hour.
Within a few days after the funeral, the entire Wizarding World was in an utter chaos. The Ministry had collapsed into a mess of squabbling politicians since most of its employees, including the Minister himself, had either been a death eater or under the imperius curse. Kingsley Shacklebolt was working tirelessly alongside Percy, Mr.Weasley and a select few who had maintained their sanity, to get things back under control but progress was numbingly slow and what little success they had was hampered by the fact that all the remaining aurors were too busy trying to control the dementors and the remaining death eaters who had evaded capture, to help very much with the out of control mess at the Ministry. The people were clamoring for a radical change and with Kingsley already showing potential for greatness, his name was often the one framed in the headlines of the Daily Prophet as the most popular candidate for the new Minister of Magic. Kingsley had accepted the idea after much encouragement from the Order but insisted that he wait to take up the post officially until they could get a proper hold on things. Everyone knew it was time for a real reform in the way the Magical world was run and together people were rallying under Kingsley and those around him to help rebuild their society from the ground up. Kingsley was too busy handling the rest of the world to put any time into the Order so the Order of the Phoenix sort of dwindled away into nothing, although its members were still ever vigilant incase duty called again.
Hogwarts was undergoing a refurbishment after the near destruction of it a month previously and McGonagall, who had taken up the position as Headmistress, was doing a spectacular job of ensuring it was rebuilt exactly as it was before, aided by a small packet of parchment that Harry had slipped her before he left, with the words “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” scribbled on an accompanying note.
Most of the giants had killed themselves off during the aftermath of the battle at Hogwarts but the remaining few and those who had refused to fight had been gathered together and were discussing peace treaties with the New Ministry aided by Hagrid and translated by Grawp.
The dementors were putting up a terrible fuss, refusing to stay in Azkaban and causing a huge ordeal for the Aurors who already had their hands full with the escaped death eaters, most of which had had to be recaptured no less than seventeen times in the last month because the dementors were so determined not to cooperate.
So all in all, the Magical World had taken the downfall of Lord Voldemort exceptionally well.
Despite everything going on and all the madness around him, Harry had never felt happier in his life. The Burrow was still fairly heavily protected since there were at least six death eaters that had managed to escape capture but without the shroud of Voldemort hanging over him, death eaters, a hundred rebellious dementors, and a throng of confused politicians seemed like a bit of pixie dust to Harry.
He spent the mornings talking and laughing with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, the afternoon playing quidditch, something he had missed greatly over the past year, and the evenings playing wizard’s chess and exploding snap in the Weasley’s cluttered living room.
George sometimes came out to visit them but mostly he stayed at the flat he had once shared with Fred over their store Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley. He was a lot quieter now but he seemed to be making an effort to stay connected, knowing that his family was his greatest asset now that he had lost his greatest friend. Lee Jordan was talking of joining the shop to help him out and the family was encouraging George to take him up on the offer. It wasn’t good for him to be alone.
Towards the end of July Harry found his birthday once again upon him and suddenly he was 18. They celebrated together at the Burrow, with the Weasleys and Hagrid, and Bill and Fleur (who had recently announced that Fleur was expecting their first child) even Andromeda and little Teddy Lupin came. Harry unwrapped his presents, a dragon-hide traveling coat from Charlie who was taking a break from his job to recover from a near death experience with a Hungarian Horntail, the annual box of Wizard Wheezes from George who was starting to regain his usual twinkle, a brand-new Firebolt from Bill and Fleur since he had lost his old one last year, a pocket watch that didn’t tell the time but the weather from Hagrid, a large box of treacle tarts from Andromeda, a very soggy teddy bear from Teddy (who was now nearly 4 months old), a crudely made photo-album that Kreacher had put together out of an assorment of old pictures he had found of Harry's parents and Sirius, and an excellent set of quidditch gear from Ron and Hermione (Harry noted that they had given him something together for the first time). Harry was even more surprised when Mr.Weasley wheeled out a very large looking package onto the lawn and he opened it to find Sirius’s bewitched motorcycle in full, working order again, although with a considerable amount more buttons than it had started with, something that Harry suspected Mr.Weasley had seen too without his wife’s knowledge. He couldn’t stop thanking them all. Half way through the cake and ice-cream he noticed with a jolt of excitement that Ginny hadn’t given him anything and looked around for her, hopeful that she might want to try last year’s present again. When he was least expecting it she whisked him inside and this time she locked the door.
Harry had the best birthday of his life. In fact it was shaping up to be the best summer of his life and he never wanted it to end.
However, as summer drew to a close, Harry began to wonder what he would do next. Ginny had turned seventeen at the beginning of August and although that had made the days a lot more interesting since she had inherited a sense of fun that rivaled even the twins, it reminded Harry that she still had to return to Hogwarts for her final year. THe thought of having her away from him for so long was unbearable. It made him oddly jealous when he thought about Hogwarts. He longed to go back and see the sweeping grounds of the newly rebuilt Hogwarts again, but he knew his turn in those long halls was over now, at least for school purposes.
There was so much else out there though. It still seemed unfathomable that he could actually have a future before him at all, and the possibilities seemed endless. He poured through books and pamphlets with Ron and Hermione, just like they had in their fifth year, trying to find a career path that suited them, but always, in the back of his mind, Harry remembered his ambition so long ago to be an Auror. It seemed like it would be impossible now, since he had never taken his NEWTS or really even graduated at all, but he kept a little hope alive for it anyway.
Day after day Mr. Weasley would return home late into the night, feverish and exhausted with tales of chaos and reform from the Ministry and how things were finally getting back in order and Harry wondered to himself if, just maybe, with Kingsley in charge, there would be a chance for him to be an auror even without his NEWTS.
Hermione had begun work on a rather massive new organization which she called the International Society for Magical Being Cooperation or I.S.M.B.C. which Harry thought, personally, sounded much better than SPEW. She was determined to grow it into a full-scale, international organization which meant that she was rarely seen out of her room without a large pile of books and parchments glued in front of her face.
“Are you seriously considering making this your profession Hermione?” Ron asked her one day as they sat basking in the sun two weeks before the end of summer.
“Yes, Ronald. As a matter of fact I am. Trying to create a better world for magical beasts and beings is something very important and I am actually having enormous success with this project already. For your information, beings from all over are already sending me loads of responses.”
Ron picked up a pamphlet entitled ‘Flobberworms are people too!’ and gave her a questioning look.
“Well, okay, not all of the responses are entirely ideal but Kingsley has promised me he’ll give me some connections to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures once he gets the top job and that will mean I’ll be able to talk to the people who can really affect the laws! I’m trying to get a few supporters from some of the more major groups of oppressed beings like the centaurs and the goblins but I’ve only got a few responses so far and most of them have been rather negative—I’ve no idea why- although I’m sure it’ll pick up soon, you know, once people start to settle down and realize that we’ve got to change the old ways in order to stop a repeat of all this madness.” She finished with a gasp for air and dove right back into her stack of pamphlets and letters her quill zooming feverishly over a blotchy parchment. Ron raised his eyebrows at Harry, who looked out of the corner of his eyes at Ginny, who tried very hard to suppress a giggle.
“Still just as mental as ever,” Ron said in a low voice to Harry and Ginny looking mystified, “You’d think being almost crushed to smithereens by a horde of murderous giants and having a goblin nearly stick her through with a stolen sword would have snapped it out of her,” he continued, referring to the events of the last year with his own, very slight, embellishment.
Hermione glared over the top of her parchment but didn’t stop her furious scribbling of notes.
“I guess some things never change.” Ron murmured with a shake of his head.
The next day Hermione received a large package which turned out to contain an enormous severed head of some disgusting looking lizard with a note that said “LEAVE US ALONE OR DIE” written in green blood that smelled worse then a troll.
Hermione decided that I.S.M.B.C was best put on hold for a while and Harry had heartily agreed.
By mid-August a number of treaties had been made, one with the goblins, one with the giants and one with the centaurs, each proclaiming peace between them and the Wizarding community. With this, the public roared its approval and Kingsley finally accepted the role as Minister of Magic in what was now an almost unrecognizable new world.
The Ministry itself was finally in order again and each department was thoroughly inspected and revamped to make sure that all traces of the Voldemort regime were destroyed, officially ending what had come to be known as The Dark Year. The damage caused by the laws against muggleborns and all the nonsense Voldemort had created was finally put back in order. Captives were returned to their families, damages were paid in full and perpetrators were caught and punished. Medical care for victims of the Snatchers and the Old Ministry was given free and an department was set up to restore all those who had lost their jobs due to the Dark Year to their previous positions.
Azkaban was finally back in working order as well after a long discussion between Kingsley and some of the other Ministry heads, who had agreed that the dementors were no longer suitable guards for Azkaban and that their cruelty was not befitting to be tolerated under any condition, even for murderers and thieves. Azkaban was rebuilt and filled with magical security of its own that kept it well protected, perhaps more than it had ever been. The dementors were driven away as far as possible to leave the New World in peace and the fog that had hung over the cities for so long rolled away along with them.
The Malfoy family had been cleared of their charges after Harry had discussed his account of the final battle with Kingsley. They had agreed that Lucius would be forever under the scrutiny of the Ministry but that there would be no need for time in Azkaban since him and his family had already been punished more than sufficiently by Voldemort.
Percy Weasley had been appointed as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, by Kingsley of course, who was immensly impressed with Percy’s aptitude for leadership, and Percy couldn't have been more delighted with his position. Kingsley, who had always been excellent friends with the Weasley family, had offered Arthur any job in the Ministry for his taking, but Mr. Weasley decided he was quite happy where he was and Kingsley settled with giving him a triple pay rise and a brand new office with its own window.
Finally the world was stable once more and the destruction that Voldemort has sought to bring upon it was on its way to being forgotten, a tale for history books and grandparents laps, a fact that would have puzzled Voldemort as much as frighten him had he ever lived to see the day.
On the second to last day of the summer holiday, Harry, Ron, and Ginny dragged Hermione up to the quidditch pitch to play a game of two on two. Hermione was dreadful at quidditch and somehow she seemed to get worse with practice. It took the better part of an hour to get her to come peacefully, and it was only after Ginny gave a very dramatic speech of having to be ripped away from her home in a few days and sent to a place that held memories of a year of bloody torture and pain under the cruel rule of a tyrant that Hermione consented to play rather shakily. As they put on their gear Ginny caught Harry’s eye and winked. Ron shook his head at Harry as they mounted their brooms and said with a sigh in an exasperated voice, “That’s my sister.”
They soared into the air, Harry riding his new Firebolt that Bill and Fleur had given him for his birthday. He knew it must have cost them a fortune and he had almost refused to accept it until Ron had informed him that Fleur’s parents were about three times as rich as the Queen and he’d be an idiot not to take it. The broom was just as excellent as his old one had been and he immediately knew that flying was something he would never be able to forget no matter how long he stayed grounded to earth for.
Harry and Ron played Ginny and Hermione, Hermione and Ron playing Keepers and Harry and Ginny playing Chasers. Harry had to admit, Ginny was a much better Chaser than a Seeker, and she wasn’t half bad as a Seeker to begin with. She had tricks up her sleeve that he had never seen done before and he had a hard time keeping the score even.
"Here Harry," Ron threw him the quaffle, "Come on, try and keep a hold of it now, will you?"
Harry zoomed through the air with the quaffle tucked tightly under his arm, Ginny hot on his heels and before he had even reached shooting distance of the goal post she had done a complicated sort of twirl under him and kicked the ball neatly out of his arms in the other direction. Harry did a spectacular hairpin turn and dived for it but she had already caught it in the same fluid motion as the twirl and the zoomed off towards Ron. Harry not even making an attempt to stop her now that she was in possession of the quaffle. Ron was holding his own since he didn’t have the distraction of a hundred screaming spectators and his Keeping skills were getting better and better the more they played. This time Ginny went tearing towards the left goal post, and then faked out to the right and shot it straight at the center hoop, but Ron knew his sister too well and lunged to the right just in time, barely missing the ball by a hair as it went whizzing by.
“Ah! I knew you were going to do that.” Ron said in frustration, slamming his fist into his other hand, “I nearly got it too.”
Ginny did a little dance of victory in the air and said, “Yah, nearly, but you still missed.” She laughed and Ron threw his glove at her, she gave a giggle and ducked.
“Are you guys done yet?” Hermione called from across the pitch looking thoroughly miserable and grumpy, “these shoulder guards are giving me blisters and it's not like I'm any help to Ginny anyway.”
Two and a half hours later they finally went in. Mrs. Weasley had screamed that Kreacher was trying to force her into a chair and make her tea and Harry decided that was something he had to see.
That night Harry couldn’t sleep. He stared up at his ceiling, he felt restless, energized, and two o’clock in the morning was hardly the best time for such things. He sighed and sat up, tapping his fingers idly on the bed covers as he tried to think of something to do. Suddenly he smiled with and idea and pulled a sweatshirt on hurriedly over his night clothes. Then he slipped into his trainers and tip-toed out the door. He made his way carefully down to the first floor landing and opened the last door at the end of the hallway as silently as possible before stepping inside.
He couldn’t suppress another wide smile. There she was. He stood next to her bed and just looked at her for a moment, contemplating whether he should wake her up or not. She was lying perfectly still in her sleep, her hair fanned out beautifully as though permanently frozen in a gust of wind. He looked at her face. There was no expression on it, no sign of life at all. Her pale, freckled skin, looked even paler doused in the eerie moonlight. She could have been dead….
Icy cold fear pierced him suddenly and irrationally and he whispered with a frantic edge to his voice “Ginny?” his voice grew louder as his heart skipped a beat “Ginny!”
Then the moment of insanity left as quickly as it had come: her hand smashed into his face and he thought he heard a stream of rather rude words spoken under her breath.
“Uuugh.” She moaned. He smiled, relief flooding through him as he rubbed his nose gingerly, all traces of fear gone. Happiness filled him up as he watched her, perfectly healthy, perfectly alive, open her eyes sleepily and glare at him.
“Harry,” she moaned, “What are you—“ her eyes found the clock, Harry cringed, “—IT’S TWO O’ CLOCK IN THE MORNING!!” She gaped at him. He bit his lip sheepishly, unable to hide his smile.
“Yes it is.” He said staring pointedly away from her piercing gaze.
“What in Merlin’s name did you wake me up at two o’ clock in the bloody morning for?!” she said her voice steadily rising in both volume and pitch “Are we being attacked? Are you being possessed by Voldemort again? Did the attic ghoul throw a pipe at your head while you were sleeping? Maybe your head got damaged while you were off saving the world because if you…” she went on for another minute or so, gathering steam in a very Mrs.Weasleyish manner, but Harry couldn’t hear her anymore. He just stared at her, smiling happily despite the fact that she was raging at him, and watched her lips move, watched her eyes glint and glow in the moonlight spilling from the window, watched her forehead wrinkle in anger until at last he couldn’t take it anymore….
“….if there was a death eater--- Harry what are you--” he stifled the rest of her sentence with a kiss.
“—--smiling at.” she finished breathlessly a second later.
She stared at him for a second, obviously taken aback and then suddenly her anger melted away and both her arms were around his neck and she kissed him back.
“I just couldn’t sleep and I wanted to see you.” he said once she had released him.
She rolled her eyes and said, “Aw, well who wants to sleep at two in the morning anyway, honestly.”
He took her hand and they slid out the door and down the steps until they had reached the backyard and stepped onto the heavily beaded grass. Hand in hand they walked through the rolling fields, enjoying the perfect silence and calm of night.
The cool air felt wonderful as Harry breathed in, filling his lungs with its vitalizing breath. He looked up at the stars, shining like a million dazzling diamonds in the black, night sky. They walked on and on into the wonderfully peaceful night, laughing and talking together about anything and everything until they reached the farthest point of the Weasley grounds. At the boundary they turned and leaned against the wall, looking out over the fields where the crooked little house stood in the distance, dark and silent but somehow radiating magic, whether it was because of the large assortment of spells holding it up or whether it was simply the memories it held for the both of them.
“Harry, I’m cold” Ginny whispered, looking quietly into his eyes. Looking down he suddenly noticed her bare feet and thin pajamas.
“Oh, er, I’m sorry.” he said, “Why didn’t you say something before?” He looked back towards the house and knew it would take a while to get back there. He frowned. With a sudden idea he unzipped his sweatshirt and let it flap in the cold breeze, then he crouched down and put one arm around her knees and one around her waist and scooped her up to his chest--she gave a short yelp of surprise—then he folded the sweatshirt back around them both. She put her arms around his neck, gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then rested her head on his shoulder.
“Thank you.” She said.
“Really? Well, then could you do that again?” he said and tilted his cheek out towards her playfully expecting a slap or jab in the ribs for his nerve. Her hand grasped his chin and turned his face towards hers, forgetting the cheek she found his lips.
“I guess that’s good enough then.” he said after he had found his breath again. He hoped she couldn’t feel his heart pounding in his chest.
She laughed. “Anything for the famous Harry Potter.”
“Well, I guess I’ll take what I can get.” He said and started carrying her back towards the house which was a long ways away. She raised her eyebrows warningly at his comment but seemed to forgive him quickly because she soon had her head tucked into the crook of his neck contentedly. Her flaming red hair, aglow with moonlight, fluttered on the breeze, blowing so close to Harry’s face that that flowery smell he had known for so long was intoxicating. He gazed down at her serene face with his eyebrows furrowed, wondering if maybe he had finally fallen asleep and that this was all a dream. But then again, even his dreams were never this good.
Ginny was small and light but after a while his arms began to get tired and so he laid her down carefully, wrapped in his jacket, and sat down against the stone wall that marked the westernmost boundary of the Weasley property with her head propped up gently on his shoulder. He sat there for a while with her resting sleepily against his arm and struggled internally with something that he felt he had known for a long time although he was just now beginning to realize it. He looked down at her, her eyes were closed and he bit his lip holding it back.
A few minutes later she stirred quietly and wrapped her arms around his without opening her eyes. His insides struggled again.
“Ginny?” he whispered very quietly, his heart starting to pound again.
“Mmhmm…” she murmured back her eyes still closed, the breeze blowing gently through her hair. His chest tightened painfully.
“I,” his voice broke and he swallowed hard, “I-I love you” He breathed it out in a whisper, one short stream of breath and emotion, releasing the knot in his chest along with the words. He felt them flow from his lips like the revelation of a hundred years of deep pondering. The wind picked up suddenly as though quickened by the rushing of his heart or the pulsing in his veins.
She opened her eyes and looked at him, her eyes searching his for a long moment, big and bright and amazed. He was sure for that moment that the moon reflected their light and not the other way around.
“I’ve waited for those words for so long.” She whispered quietly, her eyes never leaving his, and then she smiled, “I love you Harry Potter," with her whisper the wind calmed down, as though her soft voice commanded the attention of mother nature itself, "always have always will, no matter how stupidly noble you insist on being.”
“I’m sorry it took so long…” came Harry's murmer a moment later.
She tilted her head to the side with a gentle smile, studying his face and put her hand gently against his cheek.
“I know.” She whispered back.
He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes and her hand fell softly back down and rested curled in his, falling with him into the quiet blackness of sleep.
A terrifying cry piereced the night like a dagger, jerking Harry into instant awareness. His wand was pulled from his pocket in one smooth motion and held high in the darkness and he found himself staring into the cold, grey eyes of Amycus Carrow, Ginny lying crumpled at his feet.
Last edited by katishere; July 30th, 2008 at 6:43 pm. Reason: added some stuff
Re: Nineteen Years
NOTE: Sorry this chapter was so long, it was actually suppose to be cut in the middle but when I posted it I guess I didn't wait long enough and the two got joined into one post anyway, so, oh well. THe next chapter should be up on SUnday or maybe even tomorrow if I really feel like working....sorry if this latest chapter was a bit boring at parts but there are a lot of loose ends to tie up and it needed to be done soon.
Last edited by katishere; July 28th, 2007 at 8:02 pm.
Re: Nineteen Years
Before even a single thought could find its way into Harry’s stunned mind, Carrow was upon him with a fury Harry had never before imagined was possible. His body was like lightning, hitting Harry with a crack and tearing into him. Harry found himself in a whirlwind of motion, crashing around on the ground, pummeled by the lightning quick movements of the master of torture, Amycus Carrow.
A second later there was silence and Harry was lying in a heap, bloody, delusional and hardly able to breath. He scrambled to his knees in a daze and searched wildly around for the attacker.
“How’s your girlfriend Potter?” a low, sneering voice called from a shadowy patch under a tree a good distance away. He was standing perfectly still in the shifting moonlight, staring at Harry who could hardly move from shock. “Pretty little thing. You know I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her before. Nastily feisty, pity I wasn’t allowed to kill her then.” He strode slowly forward, “Lucky you, I don’t take orders anymore.”
Panic rose inside Harry as he kneeled on the wet grass and he lunged for his wand, the only thing he had to defend himself, which was lying a few feet away. Before he had moved even a millimeter he was lost in the Death Eater’s fury once more.
All was quiet again. This time Harry was afraid to even move.
“What you can’t fight without your wand?”
Harry’s body shook involuntarily and he found himself sprawled another three feet away, Amycus already back in under his tree, standing with a twisted smile.
“What’s a little stick of wood to the great Harry Potter? You brought down the Dark Lord. You can’t fight a measly little convict without your precious twig?”
Harry gaped at him. What kind of attack was this? It terrified him to think that his words were absolutely true. Without his wand he felt completely helpless. His mind and body were completely numb, his chest heaving his clothes already covered in blood as he stared unbelievingly at the figure in the moonlight. How was it possible that he was so defenseless? How could it be that magic was unreachable here in this moment? His eyes rolled sideways to the shape of Ginny on the ground. She stirred.
Harry knew in that instant what was coming and there was a blur of motion as Carrow turned on the spot appearing in the fraction of a heartbeat at Ginny’s side and attacking her with the ferocity of a bloodthirsty lion, her screams of pain and terror jolting Harry into action again.
Harry lunged for his wand again and Carrow was suddenly in front of him, Ginny’s screams once again silenced.
Harry’s hand was stretched along the ground his fingertips inches away from his wand, but Carrow’s boot was now planted in its path. Harry’s heart stopped, his mind still unbelieving that this was happening. His head turned slowly upward, following the line of the boot up until he was staring directly above into the deranged face again.
“Eh, eh, eh. No playing for Potter. This is punishment; you’ve got to get what you deserve.” Carrow’s face moved slowly downward, his body folding, kneeling, down to Harry’s level until his eyes were staring straight into Harry’s a centimeter away from his.
“Interesting sort of situation isn’t it Potter,” his voice was barely above a whisper, his eyes wide with insanity, “No magical torture anymore, no spell you can fight with, just real, unstoppable, intolerable, pain. And you thought you were so brave.” He spit in Harry’s face.
Pure adrenaline, rushed through Harry’s veins, he couldn’t tell if his heart was stopped or just beating too fast to be felt. Animal instinct was the only thing he had left to cling to and he tried to fill himself up with as much of it as he could to brace himself for the next second’s blow.
It came. Harry was pummeled to the ground again. This time he tried to fight back, kicking and biting and punching with all his might but it was like fighting against the fury of a hurricane. Carrow weaved in and out of the battle like a gust of wind. One second his hands were yanking Harry to his feet, the next he was pounding Harry into the ground, then suddenly he was standing twenty feet away, his tattered robes, stained with blood that was not his own.
Before Harry could even take a breath he was back again, twirling Harry and kicking him, stabbing him with something sharp that Harry couldn’t see, pulling him across the grass and around and around in utter chaos until Harry’s entire body was covered with such searing pain that he couldn’t distinguish his hands from his face and his eyes were blinded by pain and blood that was gushing from every part of his body.
When the storm silenced itself yet again Harry was completely unable to move. He couldn’t see anything, he couldn’t feel anything except the unbelievable pain, and he was utterly lost to the world. The only thought that his mind could manage to grasp a hold of was Ginny. As he lay there, where ever he was. He could hear her renewed screams and the crashing of flesh against flesh, and his mind was in complete shock. This was a thousand times worse than the Cruciatus Curse. This was unimaginable. This was an unstoppable force, the power of volcano or the fury of a hurricane unleashed upon the wholly defeatable human form.
His mind reeled, he felt vaguely aware that he was being attacked again, but the pain was already too much to grow any worse and he could only feel the detached sensation of his body being twisted and tortured in the powerful gust of wind that was Amycus Carrow. Blow after blow spun through Harry’s broken body, each one pushing him farther and farther away from reality.
Just when Harry could hold on to consciousness no longer he heard a babble of vaguely familiar voices break out, voices from another time, another place that he couldn’t quite remember. Had there even been anything before this pain? His struggled to remember but his mind was slipping away from him. The noise was deafening for a few short minutes and then it was gone completely, along with the rest of the world.
Harry was floating. There were gentle waves pushing him steadily towards some unknown place. Harry felt very peaceful and content simply to float along where ever he was. He tried to open his eyes but couldn’t seem to remember where his eyes were. The waves pushed a little harder, he was getting closer to the place they were taking him and he knew that these strange waves wanted him reach it but he wanted to stay. He like it here. He searched for his arms so that he could try and swim away but they wouldn’t move.
The waves pushed harder and harder, and a dull throbbing began somewhere deep inside him. It was very uncomfortable and he tried to tell the waves to stop, but they pushed on. He frowned, or at least he thought he frowned, he might have just twitched an eyebrow but he couldn’t tell anyway so it didn’t matter.
There was a pressure in one of his arms, or was it his leg? The throbbing sensation began to grow and spread and he suddenly became aware of his finger tips. There was something warm wrapped in them. He tried to move them, to feel what it was but the waves drove him harder and his mind returned to the throbbing.
His feeling began to grow along with the pain. A burning sensation filled his veins, and he tried to cry out, to ask the waves which had started out so peaceful, why they were causing him this agony. His voice seemed to well up within in but whenever he released it no sound came out. He gave up trying.
He suddenly realized he could feel his legs. They moved. He was glad they moved because he was sure he was going to need them wherever he was going. He tested them out, giving them what he thought was a good forceful kick but the energy seemed wasted and all he managed was a slow wobble.
His sensations grew and now he could tell where his arms were, as well as his head, and his chest and he could feel the source of the throbbing somewhere deep inside it where he decided his heart must lie. The pain was now getting very annoying and he was starting to wish the waves would just go back to letting him float in peace.
Suddenly an odd noise entered his head through his newly discovered ears. It was very distant and he couldn’t make out what it was. He thought he should know it from somewhere but the answer kept evading him.
His whole body was know alive and pulsing with a burning fire and he longed to be back in the peaceful waves instead of this rushing current that was causing him such pain.
The odd noise returned, closer this time and he knew it was coming from wherever this river was taking him. It was rushing towards him, louder and louder. It was a voice, he realized suddenly. A voice of someone he knew. There were words that he couldn’t understand, they were too loud and it hurt his head. He knew he had to stop it before the pain grew too bad. He was rushing towards it so very fast, the pain pulsing through him, the voice booming in his aching head, the waves throwing him towards the voice, so uncontrollably and then he found his eyes, and they opened.
“Shut up, will you!”
It was Harry’s voice, weak and raspy but still, his own voice.
“Harry! Oh Harry, you’re awake!” Hermione was sitting beside him, her hand in his, her face etched with concern. “We were so worried. You were nearly killed!”
“Yah, whatever. Just lower your voice, please.” Harry furrowed his brow in pain and shut his eyes again against the blazing light of the room.
“How long have I been asleep?” he asked without opening his eyes.
“Around six hours, they found you at about four o’ clock in the morning.”
All the events of his last wakeful moments flooded into his memory and his eyes opened again in sudden fear.
“Where’s Ginny? What happened to Carrow? Is everyone alright?” He tried to sit up but fell back down immediately overcome by a terrible pounding in his head.
“Oh, Harry don’t move!” Hermione said in an exasperated voice, “Everyone’s okay. Well, sort of. You’re in St. Mungo’s now. That guy was a maniac. It took five Aurors, including Kingsley, and Bill and Mr. Weasley to get him off you two. He tried to attack them all but they outnumbered him seven to one so he gave up.”
“Did they get him?” Harry said trying to calm the throbbing.
“Well, not exactly,” She eyed him carefully “he stopped attacking and apparated, but none of them were able to keep a hold of him and they don’t know where he went.”
Suddenly from the seat next to Hermione, which was out of Harry’s line of sight, a new voice said. “Aw. Don’t worry about him Harry.” It was Neville Longbottom. “We dealt with him enough times at Hogwarts last year. He never did anything quite like this, but then I suppose he still had to take orders from Voldemort so he wasn’t exactly allowed to murder the students… Anyway, they’ll catch him. The whole world is on the look out for him.”
Harry tried to look at him but it hurt his head to much. “What are you doing here Neville?” he said surprised at the presence of someone else on the room.
“Oh. Well I was just upstairs visiting my parents,” He said this unashamedly and Harry was pleased to see that he finally found himself worthy to be their son, “And a Healer ran by all flustered saying that Harry Potter had been brought in nearly dead. I came down here to see what happened.”
Harry nodded in thanks and then returned his gaze to Hermione, “Ginny?”
Hermione patted his hand, “She’s okay. She’s pretty much in the same condition you are. You were both about an inch from death when Mr. Weasley heard the screams and called Kingsley. The Aurors were able to pull Carrow off you but they didn’t know if you were going to make it thankfully once they got you here the Healer said that both of your injuries were easily enough fixed. Since there weren’t any curses or anything like that it was just a matter of simple healing spells to get you back in order but they told us that you’d be in a lot of pain for a few days. Although you’re arm was broken in so many places they had to regrow it again like that time with Lockhart,” Harry glanced down at his arm, “You also had three broken ribs, a cracked skull, a dislocated leg, and enough bruising to cover your entire body. He had some sort of a knife or something sharp that cut you both up pretty badly too.. Ginny was pretty much the same. Her leg was broken in two places, she had seven broken ribs, a fractured collar bone,” Hermione stared up at the ceiling, trying to recall the list of injuries that she had obviously memorized, without seeing the look of horror Harry was giving her, “a broken arm and three broken fingers. Oh and a bad concussion and a punctured lung. There was a lot of internal bleeding from those, in fact she lost so much blood it took them ten minutes to get her breathing again and they kept having to do a blood replenishing charm.” She paused and looked back at Harry who was very white, his eyes staring unblinking at her with the horror of what she was describing.
Neville cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
Hermione’s recount of Ginny’s amassed injuries was thankfully interrupted by a hearty “Harry!” from Ron who had just scuttled into the room juggling three steaming cups of coffee a blanket and a bagel.
“Uhh. Here,” he said handing one of the cups, the blanket and the bagel to Hermione who blushed and said “Thank you” very quietly. Ron looked slightly embarrassed as well but turned his freckly face back to Harry with a broad smile the moment Neville had taken his cup.
“So, how you feeling mate?”
Harry blinked and tried to say ‘fine’ but it sort of came out as a funny gurgling sound and a raspy ‘unngh’.
“Right--” Ron said quickly taking a seat on Hermione’s other side “So just about as good as you should feel after being attacked by a crazy blood-thirsty lunatic, right?” Harry figured that sounded about right, “I’ve got to tell you Harry, you may not feel peachy but you look a right sight better now then you did this morning.” He grimaced dramatically, “I have never seen so many bones out of place in my life, and I sincerely hope I never break that record.”
Harry smiled weakly.
Hermione frowned at Ron who said “What? It’s true.”
Harry turned his body to look at Ron properly, which made his head hurt very badly and he made a mental note not to do it again. “Have you seen Ginny? Is she awake now?”
“Yah, I just went to see her on the way to get some breakfast. She’s alright. The Healer’s had a hell of a time, getting the blood back in her and--”
“--Yah, Hermione told me.” Harry interjected not wanting to hear another account of Ginny’s near death.
“Right. Well, she’s fine now. She’s just down the hall and mum and dad are in there with her. She’s been awake for about an hour now but they won’t let her out of bed yet. You should have seen her when they told her she couldn’t see you until she’s thoroughly inspected and released. I thought the Healer was going to try and make a run for it. Although, once she threw the food tray they put a full body-bind on her and she seemed to resign herself to defeat. Blimey, she’s gets grumpy when she feels weak.”
Harry smiled again, feeling blissfully pleased that she had been so concerned about him.
Ron sat for a second picturing the scene again in his head and then suddenly his face clouded over and he looked back at Harry all of a sudden looking murderous. “What were you two doing in outside in the field in the middle of the night?” he said out of the blue with an accusatory jab of his finger, his eyes narrowed and all the cheeriness lost from his gaze.
“Ron! That’s none of your business.” Hermione looked confused and appalled at this spontaneous change in attitude, “Leave them alone, for goodness sake!”
“I just want to know why they were out there. Or did Carrow just apparate into your rooms and decide to drag the two of you out to the middle of the field to beat you up?”
“It’s alright Hermione.” Harry said as Hermione opened her mouth to say something “We went for a walk. That’s all, honest.” he said and it was perfectly true.
Ron opened his mouth quickly to retort but then hesitated for a second and studied Harry’s face. After a moment his face relaxed and he looked rather sheepish, “Yah, I reckon you’re telling the truth. Blimey, I don’t know why I exploded like that. Sorry, mate, but she is my sister. It’s only natural I’d get all huffy, especially after something like this happens to her.”
“It’s fine.” Harry said shortly looking away, still not wanting to think of their near miss with death. It wasn’t that he was afraid of dying, all fear of death was gone forever now, it was just the thought of a Ginny-less world that made his blood run cold.
Just then a tall, rather heavy-set man walked in to the room wearing a long white cloak. He had a young looking face but his hair was peppered with grey and thinning badly. His expression was warm and enthusiastic and he beamed at them all as he entered.
“Good morning Mr. Potter. You’re looking much better now. What a night you’ve had!” His eyes were filled with excitement as though the thought of battling a maniac and being beaten within an inch of your life was the best thing anyone could hope for, Ron gave Harry a sideways glance that clearly meant ‘Well he's a nutter’ and Harry smiled.
“Well, my names Ognus McGill and I’m here to check you out and see if you’re ready to be released. Okay?” He voice boomed cheerfully as he spoke.
Harry raised his eyebrows and gave a half-hearted smile.
“Okie-Dokie then! Let’s see how you’re healing up!” At this Ron snorted into his coffee and spilled it all down his front. Hermione looked disdainfully at him and waved her wand to erase the mess.
The Healer poked and prodded Harry with a number of strange looking instruments, he cheerfully asked Harry a number of questions about the intensity of his pain, he had Harry move all his limbs around and wiggle his toes and then finally he made a note on a clipboard and beamed down at Harry.
“Well, Mr. Potter, you’re free to go!” He said enthusiastically with a shining smile, as though this was the highlight of his day “I’ve given Mr. and Mrs. Weasley a list of potions for both you and their daughter, to help with the pain. You should take them three times daily until the end of the week but other than that, you seem to have made a full recovery.”
“Erm. Thanks.” said Harry awkwardly and watched the Healer leave with another hearty smile and a wink.
“Really loves his job, that one.” Ron said with an amused expression the moment they were alone again.
“Oh, Ron. He was very nice. I don’t see what was so funny.” Hermione said as she helped Harry out of the bed.
“Just a very cheerful bloke that’s all Hermione.” Ron answered taking another swig of coffee.
Harry got shakily to his feet. His arm, the one that he suspected had had to be regrown, was aching dully and his head was still very painful. Standing made him rather light-headed and he wished he could just sit down again.
Hermione helped Harry out of the room, and Neville quickly put arm around his shoulder for support of which Harry was grateful. Ron led the way down the hallway to where Ginny’s room was.
A young woman was examining Ginny when they walked in and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were sitting in the chairs next to her bed watching anxiously. Ginny was looking sulky. When she saw Harry her face lit up and she sat up quickly which Harry knew from experience was not a good idea. She closed her eyes and cringed, holding her head, and the Healer pushed her gently back into the bed and continued examining her.
Mr. Weasley gave Harry a smile and nodded politely as the four of them entered the room but Mrs. Weasley seemed oblivious to their presence as she followed the Healer’s every movement with a constant stream of questions.
Ginny regained her composure and smiled weakly at Harry.
“Does your head feel like a hippogriff is trying to burrow its way out through your skull whenever you move?” Harry contemplated that for a moment, “Cause mine does.” She finished. Her face was very, very white and Harry hated to see her looking so weak.
“I don’t know about a hippogriff but it does feel terrible when I move.” He answered amused, “But how do you feel other than that? Okay?”
She gave Harry a pained expression and opened her mouth as though she was about to say she felt aweful, then with a hasty look at the nurse who had stopped talking to Mrs. Weasley and was examining the leg that had been broken she paused and said, “Well I feel really, really good. Completely healed, actually.” There more than a hint of resentment in her voice and she emphasized every word very loudly in the general direction of the Healer who looked up at her with a cocked eyebrow.
She shook her head and said, “Ms.Weasley, whatever you may say, you still seem very weak and we don’t want you to leave if you’re going to fall over the moment you do.”
Ginny lulled her head sideways across the pillow and looked at Harry with a grimace that Harry knew meant she was not going to be swayed easily. Mrs. Weasley looked anxiously at the Healer. “So should she stay another day? If you—“
“Mum!” Ginny cried turning quickly in shock.
“Well, sweetheart, do you realize what just happened! You could have been killed and I’ll be—”
“I know what happened mum! But I’m fine now. Look at Harry! He’s fine, and he got it worse than me—”
“—Shut up Harry. Mum, I just want to go home. I’m suppose to leave for Hogwarts tomorrow--”
“—We’ll see about that--”
“—and I will not spend my last day stuck in a hospital!”
The two of them continued in heightening voices the Healer trying very hard to work around them. Ron, Harry, Hermione and Neville looked at each other. Harry decided that if Ginny was able to shout that loudly then she was probably not too badly off and the three of them edged out the door. As they walked down the hall they could hear both Ginny and Mrs. Weasley’s conversation echoing around the marble halls. People walking by occasionally stopping and glancing down the hallway towards Ginny’s room with alarmed looks on their faces.
Ron looked at Harry. “Merlin’s beard! She gets more and more like mum with every passing day.”
Neville glanced at his watch. “Oh! I’ve got to go. I was supposed to pick up Gran ten minutes ago! Sorry guys.” He turned towards the nearest lift, “Glad you’re alright Harry!” he called over his shoulder as he and disappeared behind its doors.
“Neville’s doing well, then.” Harry commented.
“Yah, his Gran’s treating him like a hero now.” Ron answered, “He’s been in the Daily Prophet a bunch of times and everything. He even told us that McGonagall is asking him to start studying to be a teacher so that he can come back to Hogwarts once Professor Sprout retires.”
“Wow, bet he’s loving that.” Harry said remembering with a slight smile recalling Neville’s fascination with plants.
The remaining three of them walked quietly towards the sitting room at the end of the ward, Harry looking forward to sitting down again.
Just before they reached the sitting lounge there was a rush of footsteps behind them and they turned to see someone sprinting towards them, “Is she okay? Where’s Ginny? What happened?” It was George, white faced and gasping for breath, looking absolutely stricken with terror.
Ron looked stunned. “Um, she’s down the hall.” he said a little confused, “You can probably follow the shouts, you know they get when they’re tired.”
George stared at Ron blankly, not even noting the humor of his words, his chest still heaving from running through the hospital.
“What? Is she okay?”
“Yah, she’s okay. Are you okay though?”
George looked like he was about to pass out with relief. He took a long deep breath and closed his eyes his hands shaking violently as he tucked them behind his head. “I’ll be alright in a second.” He gulped and took another deep breath looking around for a chair. He went and sat down against the wall with his hands covering his face.
Ron looked at Hermione and then at Harry, both of them could only look back at him with puzzled expressions.
Hermione went forward and kneeled down next to him.
“She’s really alright George. It looked a lot worse than it really was.” She put a hand on his arm.
A vein pulsed in his neck and his jaw clenched. But he nodded appreciatively at her. Hermione looked up at Harry and Ron.
After a minute George looked up. “I’m sorry. I just,” he paused, “It scared me.” he swallowed again and then dropped his eyes to his shoes.
The three of them stood there silently. Ron said quietly, “I know George. It scared us all. You know it scared us all.”
George laughed a humorless laugh. “I can’t believe I let it get like this. I, I told myself I couldn’t let myself get disconnected. I couldn’t--” He closed his eyes his jaw set again, and when he spoke again it was very quiet. “I couldn’t lose anyone else. I tried to stay in touch with you but it was so painful, it’s taking so long to stop hurting” there was anger etched in his face and he slammed his fist into the floor beside him, fire blazing in his eyes, Ron looked frightened. The anger melted from George’s face a second later and he just looked small and white again, “I let myself be distant.” Now there were tears in his eyes, “I hadn’t talked to any of you for so long and then suddenly I get home and Lee’s there, telling me Harry and Ginny have been attacked by some lunatic and that it sounds bad. He said that mum and dad were at the hospital and to get over there as soon as possible. I was so afraid, so afraid then. I couldn’t lose anyone else.” He looked up at them again and Ron was just as white as he was. “It’s just that feeling of being alone that scares me so badly.”
Ron looked unable to speak, his mouth was hanging open like he was fumbling for words. Finally he shut his mouth and just nodded silently.
George looked at Harry for a second, and then back at his shoes.
He shook his head again and stood up.
“I’m okay now. I’m sorry I scared you like that. Maybe I needed something like this to snap me out of my sunken stupor.”
He laughed again and this time it had a real George Weasley ring to it.
“Don’t let me do this again, okay?” He walked forward and hugged Ron, “If I don’t call you or talk to anyone for more than two consecutive day then come and get me and force me to. I give you permission to use unforgivable curses on me if I put up a fight, alright?”
“Yah. Yah, Alright.” Ron said after George let go. George looked drained but he managed a smile and clapped Ron on the shoulder. He turned and looked at Harry, “You alright Harry?”
Harry smiled, “Of course I’m alright, George.”
George gave a short laugh. “So where are they again?” he said looking down the hall.
Just then the young Healer who had been examining Ginny came out of the room with an exasperated look, her white robes covered in pudding and bits of toast.
George raised his eyebrows “I’m guessing that would be the one then.”
“Yah, that’s the one.” Harry answered with a laugh.
“Just a tip for the future Harry,” George said, a little bit of his old self returning to his face, “Don’t cross a Weasley woman when she’s tired. They’re always right then, always.” He winked and headed down the hallway towards the door from which the Healer had come.
Ron, Harry and Hermione watched him walk away and without saying a word, they communicated silently between them the knowledge that they would be seeing a lot more of George Weasley from now on.
Harry sat with his head in his hands for long time. His arm was aching dreadfully, and sitting up made him dizzy. Together with Ron and Hermione, he sat in the ward’s waiting lounge, hoping that Ginny would soon be released. It had been nearly two hours since they had let Harry go and still they waited restlessly. Ron would get up occasionally and wander around, Hermione would pull out her book and read, and Harry would try and sleep again.
Bill and Fleur had come to visit almost as soon as George had disappeared into Ginny's room and when they saw Harry they came over to greet him. Fleur, who was getting very round, bent over kissing Harry on both cheeks and wishing him well. Ron scooted over in his chair and looked rather hopefully at her but Hermione grabbed his arm and redirected his attention to a new patient who was being wheeled in with a flower pot jammed over his head.
Not long after this, Percy came by after his shift at the ministry and joined the steadily growing party.
Ron went in and out of the hospital room, bringing back news of any progress, although so far there hadn't been any. Hermione seemed quite content to sit and absorb the pages of her book.
Harry sat up in his chair, finally unable to sleep anymore, and resigned himself to the fact that he would now have to face the events of the night. He wasn’t really sure how he would react once he allowed himself to think about what had happened. He hadn’t let his mind dwell on it yet because he was afraid that it would re-instill the trapped feeling that he had known all his life. He wasn’t ready to lose the freedom that had taken him so long to win.
He closed his eyes and tested himself carefully, recalling the moments when he had been locked in the hurricane of fury. He remembered the feeling of terror, he felt the unimaginable pain, he heard Carrow’s voice mocking him from afar, and then he felt his consciousness leaving him. He waited. He opened his eyes but the panic never came. He didn’t feel trapped. He didn’t feel angry. He didn’t feel like Carrow was going to pop out at him from behind the dust bin. He didn’t even feel afraid. He was surprised at getting the one reaction he had never expected. He let himself enjoy this newfound feeling of ease for a moment and then set about to discover what exactly had brought about this reaction. He decided that it was because with Voldemort gone, fear was no longer a device of torture, in fact the more he thought about it the more it seemed like it was actually a helping hand, something to teach him. He had met a new kind of challenge last night and the terror he had felt had helped him realize something good. He had found something to do, something to learn. He wanted to learn to fight people like Carrow. To be able to stop people like Carrow. It was similar to the old days with Voldemort except for one major, defining factor. This made him happy. He didn’t feel like it was his duty, he wasn’t being told it was his destiny, it wasn’t something of which he had no say in, instead it was like he had suddenly found a new passion, something that he wanted, with all his heart to do. This passion welled up inside him all of a sudden and he was immensely relieved that he finally knew what he wanted. He decided right there in his hospital seat that, NEWTS or not, he was going to be an auror. Kingsley couldn’t deny that he had what it takes and he was ready and willing to learn whatever else there was. Fighting was in his blood forever, and he couldn’t think of anything that would make him happier then continuing the fight.
Harry’s thoughts were interrupted when Mr. Weasley came out with the first bit of news in hours. He informed them that the Healer had done another blood replenishing charm and that it looked like they were finally going to let Ginny go if she held her current state until the end of the hour. Harry was happy to hear it. Ron and Hermione decided to go stretch their legs until the hour was up and they walked off hand in hand, Hermione’s book lying forgotten on her chair. Harry gave a happy sigh at the idea that he had a goal to work towards, a purpose to strive for.
He decided to go in and see Ginny again.
When he walked in, the room was crowded with people. Mr. Weasley had returned ahead of Harry and was already immersed in politics with Bill and Percy in one corner of the room. Fleur was engaged in a long and rather one-sided conversation with Mrs.Weasley about decorations for her new nursery and the different ideas she had for lavishing the baby suite. George was talking cheerfully with Ginny who was finally looking like her normal self again, the color having returned to her cheeks, and she turned and smiled when Harry walked in.
“Hey.” She said as Harry sat down next to her bed in an empty chair, her hand immediately entwining itself in his.
“Hey.” He said back.
“So how are you feeling? I never asked you before.” She said, her brown eyes staring into his with genuine concern.
“Oh, not too bad. My arm hurts a bit, and, well, you know about the burrowing hippogriff already.”
She gave a grunt of laughter, “I was still a little under the weather then so I take no responsibility for my words. Sorry if I got a little, eh, heated last time you were in here.” She added with a flick of her eyebrows in the direction of her mother.
“It’s fine.” Harry reassured her “You weren’t yourself, besides it is your last day before you leave for Hogwarts. I felt the same way-- I was just a little less vocal about it.” She grinned.
After a moment he continued “So, that was fun, last night, huh?” He was watching her reaction carefully.
She eyed him suspiciously noting his scrutinizing expression, “Harry, you’re not going to try and pull one of those ‘I’m a danger to you’ speeches are you? Because this really had nothing to do with you and I don’t care about it anyway.”
That was a good reaction, “No,” He laughed, “No. I was just saying.... it was an interesting night.” He decided to hold off on telling her about his revelation and new found purpose until he had time to explain himself without sounding stupid.
She gave him an inquisitive look but seemed to accept that his explanation would come later.
“Well, in that case I would say last night was very fun. The new definition of pain was an enlightening experience, you know it’s always good to expand your vocabulary. And the stuff before that, I'd say that was pretty enlightening too.” She looked at him, her eyes blazed and his heart skipped a beat.
In the next second they both looked up as the Healer returned, her robes now sparkling white again, although she looked slightly less cool and collected and slightly more impatient than she had before.
“Alright,” the young woman said after inspecting Ginny for a minute or two, “You seem to have held your color this time and everything else has healed up fine. I suppose you can go now, however,” she said holding up a finger as Ginny made to sit up, “don’t be too frivolous in your celebrations. You’ve had nearly all your blood replaced and about half your bones regrown so let’s try and keep everything in its proper place for at least a few days, shall we?”
Ginny nodded innocently and the Healer gave a reluctant smile.
“Well, out with you all now, come on, we’ve got a fellow in the queue who’s had a broomstick accident and needs a room.” She bustled out of the room and down the hall.
George took Ginny’s other hand and put an arm around her shoulder to help her up. Harry, remembering Dean Thomas’ experiences from two years ago, thought for a moment that Ginny was going to tell him she could do it herself, but somehow she seemed to sense the necessity behind his gesture, and she smiled warmly at him and let him help her to her feet.
Mrs. Weasley was looking very grumpy as she handed Fleur back a giant book of paint samples and room furnishings from which Fleur had been spouting an unceasing stream of frivolous ideas. Mrs. Weasley tried to silence her with a rather colder then intended, “that sounds lovely” and turned swiftly to take Ginny from George’s hands. Whatever exception Ginny had made to accommodate George was quickly broken by the arrival of her mother and she said firmly, “I’m fine mum. I can walk by myself.” and gently pulled her arm away. Mrs. Weasley looked even more sour, and she pursed her lips and walked speedily out the door dragging her husband along behind her, and trying to get away from Fleur who was calling after her waving a horridly pink and lacey sample of fabric, “’Vait! You didn’t look at ‘ze v'indow trimz!” Mr. Weasley and Percy were still deep in their discussion as they made there way through the corridor, Mr. Weasley being still being hurried along by Mrs. Weasley. Bill had fallen back to join Fleur, who seemed to have rather grudgingly settled for showing George the new window trim samples, something that George did not look very pleased about. Harry walked along-side Ginny down the hall and she kept a hold of his hand the whole way, which he knew was just as much a comfort to her as it was to him.
Halfway through the ward, Ron and Hermione caught up with them looking a bit flustered and when Mrs.Weasley asked “where on earth they had been!” Ron answered sheepishly with a sideways glance at Harry that they had “just been on a walk, that’s all”. Harry smirked down at Ginny who raised her eyebrows in understanding and gave Ron a mocking look that he quickly returned.
When they got back to the Burrow, Mrs.Weasley immediately set about to fix Harry and Ginny the potions that the Healer had ordered them to take.
It didn’t taste quite as bad as the polyjuice potion of Crabbe had been, but it still wasn’t pumpkin juice and Harry was not looking forward to a whole week of three-times-daily doses. He drank it down anyway under the scrutinizing eye of Mrs.Weasley, with Ginny gagging her’s down beside him until every drop was gone-- which took a conciderable amount of time. It took a further twenty minutes after the potions to convince Mrs.Weasley that she shouldn’t send them both straight to bed, something she had been threatening the whole way home. Somehow they finally managed to escape and found themselves outside again with Ron and Hermione to enjoy the last remaining hours of free time they had together.
Harry had hoped that the other two might have forgotten to ask for details of the night’s events since everything had turned out okay but the moment they were all alone in the warm, evening sun they set about asking for the play-by-play.
Ginny explained her part of it to them and Harry told his, but there wasn’t really much to say other than the fact that they had been attacked without any means of defense and both ended up unconscious. Ron and Hermione took this with minimal complaint, although obviously unsatisfied, and the talk turned to happier matters of quidditch and the latest songs from the Weird Sisters. The final hours of summer slipped away quicker than Harry would have liked, as they always seem to do, and before he knew it the sky was a brilliant gold as the sun set itself beyond the line of trees in the distance. Ginny had fallen asleep against Harry’s shoulder and Ron and Hermione were both silent as they watched the sunset, Ron’s arm draped about Hermione’s shoulder and their heads rested against each other. Mrs. Weasley called them in for dinner a few minutes later and Harry woke Ginny up to bring her into the house with them. By the time they they had all stood up and dusted themselves off, the last sliver of sun had disappeared behind the curve of the earth and twilight had set in.
As they walked towards the house which was alight with the warm glow of a heavily laden table and a dozen enchanted candles, Harry thought of his decision from earlier in the day. He thought of the life he had once lived, gripped in fear and obligation, that seemed like so long ago and smiled at the feeling of freedom that accompanied this new life. He thought of Amycus Carrow, a man who had instilled terror in him mere hours ago, and smiled again at the new sense of purpose that terror had given him. He smiled yet again as he pictured Amycus Carrow standing with his crooked grin. He knew they would meet again, but next time, Harry would be faster.
Ginny opened the door, and together they stepped inside.
Last edited by katishere; July 30th, 2008 at 6:44 pm.
Re: Nineteen Years
Just a note: It may be a few days (I'm sorry--I'm sorry) before I can get the next bit up. I've been basically working non-stop on this thing, waking up every morning working on it and then going to bed at like two, so now that I actually have something to do that isn't frying my brain or glueing me to my computer chair I am going to have to lay aside my zombie-like existence with my keyboard and take an extra day to write. I'll definately write tomorrow and if I somehow miraculously get it done then it'll go up tomorrow but count on a Monday/Tuesday deadline as a more likely date. Sorry guys!! But it will please you to know that I have a pretty detailed plotline thought out with all the major events, character names, careers, finer details and stuff like that plotted out on a very long and confusing Word document, so this story is on track and it has a purpose! Yay! I might put up a synopsis at the beginning of chapter one for newer readers later this week.... maybe.
Comments, suggestions, idle chit-chat, random facts, hate-mail, etc.: FEEDBACK
Last edited by katishere; July 31st, 2007 at 4:56 am.
Re: Nineteen Years
Okay, The Calm Between the Storms is now completed and up. (I just edited it and added the second half of the chapter to the first so you'll have to scroll up and find the break-- I put the break in orange so it's fairly easy to spot.) The next chapter will probably find it's way up around Wednsday but depending on how much time I have or don't have on Wednsday it might be delayed till Thurday. The second half of this chapter is a bit choppy in parts, but I was on the verge of exhaustion while writing it and editing it so I have an excuse.
Comments, suggestions, hate-mail, random facts, favorite ice-cream flavors, etc.: FEEDBACK
Last edited by katishere; July 31st, 2007 at 7:43 am.
Re: Nineteen Years
Harry was awoken much earlier than he would have liked by a knock on his door. He moaned and grunted an unintelligible response in its direction before burying his face back into his pillow.
A moment later he felt a jab in the back of his head and flopped over in his bed looking sour. Ginny was smirking down at him with her arms folded.
“What? You can come into my room and drag me outside at two in the morning but I’m not allowed to wake you up ten minutes early to say goodbye?”
Harry yawned and rubbed his eyes, “No, you’re not actually.” he said and Ginny laughed and sat down at the edge of his bed.
“Mum’s suppose to come up here and make you all get up to say goodbye in a few minutes but I thought it might be better if we said goodbye a little more privately. She’s still hasn’t quite caught on to us yet and I don’t think you’d want to be left alone with her if she knew. She’d start fitting you for your wedding tux about a second after she finished sobbing hysterically. Anyway I don't think you're quite ready for that,” She raised her eyebrows and sighed, playing with the edge of Harry’s bed covers.
“It feels weird to be going back.”
Harry nodded, “It feels weird not to be going back.”
“I love Hogwarts it’s just that after last year everything feels different. I saw so many terrible things in those halls. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to walk through them again.”
Harry looked at her wondering if she was going to cry but in her usual manner her eyes were dry and her face fierce, as though lost in thought or perhaps memories of torture and death that she had witnessed only months ago. He didn’t quite know what to say.
She shook her head of the past and the light returned to her eyes as she smiled at him, “But Hogwarts is back to normal now, you saw to that. It probably won’t be that bad anyway, I just wish you were coming too that’s all.”
Harry shrugged, “Sure, you’ll be fine. I wish I could go back too…”
“Well, you know you can always stop in and visit.” She said the fire back in her expression. “I don’t know if the Room of Requirement is still working but there’s always the Honeyduke’s passageway.”
Harry stared at her, “How did you find out about that?”
She gave him a hopeless look, “Honestly, Harry, did you think Fred and George were the only one’s who ever knew how to get out of Hogwarts in secret. I caught them sneaking out one night in my second year and I threatened to hex them if they didn’t tell me where it went. Michael Corner and I used to use it sometimes to get away for a while. A few people even used it to escape last year but since it wasn’t as well hidden as the Room of Requirement they sort of stopped using it. Dean was the last one I think.”
“Oh.” Harry said. He should have known Ginny would have found out about it being the sister of the twins and nearly as mischievous as them, or at least as George was and Fred had been. “Yah, I’ll come visit you then.”
“Good. Well, I’ve got to get down there soon or else mum will start having a fit but I really did want to say goodbye.”
“Goodbye.” Harry said with an innocent smile.
“Shut up!” She laughed and leaned over to kiss him. It was a feeling he was beginning to know well.
A few minutes later Mrs. Weasley yelled that Ginny was going to miss the train if she didn’t get down there and eat her breakfast. Ginny gave Harry one last kiss and then ran out the door calling, “Coming mum.”
Harry fell back into his pillow, all thoughts of sleep erased from his mind.
Two minutes later another knock on his door came. This time it was Mrs. Weasley who poked her head into the room.
“Harry dear, I’m going to be taking Ginny to the station in a moment and I thought you’d like to come down and say goodbye.”
“Oh, yah. Thanks Mrs. Weasley.”
“Of course dear. I have your potion ready too; Ginny’s already had her half.”
She smiled and closed the door.
Harry got up and changed from his pajamas to jeans and a t-shirt and headed out into the hallway where he met a very sleepy looking Ron.
“Blimey, I’m glad I’m done with school. Can’t imagine another year of homework. I’ll bet you anything Hermione’s already sent half a dozen letters asking if she can do another year or two by owl.”
“Ron!” Hermione had just caught up with them from behind.
“Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there.”
Mr. Weasley looked up cheerily at the three of them as they entered the kitchen but before he could utter a word of good morning Kreacher had appeared out of nowhere and flung himself upon Harry.
“Master! Kreacher has heard about Master’s attack. He came back soon as he heard to see Master and to make him feel better. Is there anything Kreacher can do for Master?”
Harry patted Kreacher’s wrinkled head very lightly. “Uh, hello Kreacher. I thought I asked you to go help Mrs.Tonks for a few days?” he said, recalling the night when Kreacher had tried to force Mrs.Weasley to have some tea and crumpets-- it had also been the night of the attack.
“Kreacher knows this. But he couldn't stay away when he heard about Master being injured. He had to come back and see master. Kreacher’s toes are still bruised from punishing himself with the Tonks woman's piano….”
“Er…Well, thank you Kreacher but I’m fine, really. I think you’d better go back and help Andromeda for a bit more before Mrs. Weasley comes back down and sees you here.”
Kreacher seemed to struggle internally for a moment, “Master is not feeling hurt or in need of Kreacher’s assistance?”
“It’s not that I don’t want you here you Kreacher, you’re very, very helpful, but I’m really okay right now. Andromeda could use some help though with Teddy and I’d like you to go help her out… please.” He added at the last second after a look from Hermione.
Kreacher studied Harry for a second as though waiting for him to look sick or to cringe in pain or give any sign that he was really in dire need of assistance but at last he seemed to accept that Harry really was perfectly okay and he nodded and disappeared with a loud crack.
Harry sighed and looked over at Hermione who was beaming at him.
“Oh thank heavens you’re all down here!” Mrs. Weasley said hurriedly as she bustled down the stairs with a load of Ginny’s school things, Ginny following behind her, heaving along her trunk which was about three times her size. “We’re going to be late. Say goodbye now quickly!” She motioned with a wave of her hand and continued out the door to stuff the luggage in the trunk of the car.
Ginny put down the trunk with a gasp and clutched a stitch in her side. Mr. Weasley gave her a big hug.
“Do be careful now, we don’t want anymore trips to the hospital.”
“I will dad.” She said reassuringly and he kissed her on the forehead and hugged her again. Then he picked up her trunk, with considerable difficulty, tipped his hat to Harry and the other’s saying “Off to work,” and walked out the door.
Hermione hugged Ginny next with a squeal and when she let go her eyes were glistening and she said, “Don’t forget to write. I want to know everything that’s happening, okay?”
Ginny smiled comfortingly at Hermione’s tearful face and patted her gently on the back saying, “Of course I’ll write, Hermione.”
Hermione stepped back crying quietly and Ginny turned to Ron and gave him a hug. Ron sighed, “Blimey this is weird. I feel so old.”
Ginny giggled and ruffled his hair, “Oh yah eighteen. We’d better get you Aunty Muriel’s walker pretty soon.”
Ron grimaced but allowed her to kiss him on the cheek. “Don’t get into any trouble while you’re there you hear me? Just because I’m not there to watch over you doesn’t mean I won’t hear about it.”
She gave him a mocking look “Watching over me? What like all last year, while you were out saving the world? Or before that, when you were such a good a prefect.”
She ignored Ron’s incredulous face and turned to Harry. She looked over her shoulder for a second at the form of Mrs. Weasley trying to shove the enormous trunk into back of a Ministry car.
“Well, mum’s not in here and dad’s gone to work so I guess I could’ve waited and given you your goodbye out here anyway,” Harry noted Ron opening his mouth to say something and Hermione’s hand hitting him in the shoulder, Ginny drew closer to him, taking both his hands in hers.
“Now, I’ll want weekly visits, plenty of letters, you’ll have to meet me at every Hogsmeade trip and you have to promise me you won’t go off on any heroic adventures without telling me first,” Harry opened his mouth to protest but she put up her finger, “You can go be brave and noble and stupid, you know I would never expect anything less, but send me an owl first. Alright?”
Just then Mrs. Weasley opened the door and Ginny released Harry in one fluid motion and patted him on the back innocently, “So see you at Christmas then Harry?” she said casually.
“Yah, Christmas. Oh and say hi to Luna for me will you?” He asked with a smile.
“Will do.” She answered returning the smile.
She shook his hand vigorously as Mrs. Weasley came over watching them curiously. Mrs.Weasley studied them with a perturbed look on her face then after a moment seemed to wave it off.
“Alright in the car now dear. Come on we’re going to miss the train, if only you’d had the chance to take your apparition test! Oh the time it would have saved us. Let’s go, let’s go.” She turned to Harry and the others, “I’ll back in a bit, dears. Help yourself to some porridge there on the stove.” She nodded towards the kitchen, “And Harry, take your potion—I’ll know if you haven’t.” She gave him a meaningful look as she pulled Ginny through the door.
And then they were gone, the little Ministry car that Mr. Weasley had borrowed scuttling away down the road in a cloud of dust.
Harry looked at Ron who still looked slightly distraught from Ginny’s comment. Hermione gave Harry a smile and pushed Ron to towards the table for breakfast, as she passed Harry she leaned over and whispered in his ear, “That was smooth.” A few seconds later she turned again, already ladling porridge into Ron’s bowl and said, “Do take your potion Harry.”
“Right.” said Harry dully and grimaced at the horrible liquid seated on the countertop mocking him with every pop and bubble.
He decided to just get it over with quickly and after several dry heaves he managed to empty his cup. Then Harry served himself some breakfast and sat down with the other two.
All of a sudden Ron put down his spoon mid-bite and said “It’s not like I wanted to leave her alone with those insane people, I was out with you two saving her skin as she knows it. And I was a good prefect too. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about and I bet you anything she’s going to end up in trouble this year and then she’ll wish I’d been there.” He wrinkled his face up angrily.
“Oh yah because after being imprisoned in the castle, tortured by maniac death eaters, leading a rebellion against their tyrannous rule and attempting to steal a sword out of the headmaster’s office-- all without your help, a year of studying Giant Wars in 1639 is really going to be beyond her.” Hermione said sarcastically.
Ron glared at her.
“She’ll be fine Ron. In case you haven’t noticed yet, she can take care of herself. Harry knows that, he’s not worried about her, are you Harry?”
“Erm. Yah, I know she can take care of herself.”
Hermione nodded at Ron. “See. And besides she’s not going to do anything stupid or break any rules like you two. She didn’t want anyone to know but McGonagall made her Head Girl this year and she’s Quidditch Captain too because she was the only decent Gryffindor left on the team.”
Harry almost spit out his porridge and Ron actually did, “What! Why the bloody hell didn’t she tell anyone?” he blurted out.
Hermione scowled at him, “She did tell someone, she told me. She didn’t want people making a big fuss—“
Harry interjected “She could have told me!”
“You would have made a too big a deal out of it—“
“—No I wouldn’t!” Harry bellowed.
Hermione gave him a silent stare.
“Okay, maybe I would’ve-- but what’s wrong with that? This is a big deal, she should have told us. I could have bought her something or—“
“See that’s exactly why she didn’t want to tell you. Both of you.” She added looking at Ron, “If she had told everyone. There would have been a huge party and too many gifts and her mother would have never stopped crying. She just wanted some peace and quiet her last few weeks of summer and you can’t blame her.” She looked at Harry, “She wanted to spend time with you, just together, without a whole big fuss. She’s planning on telling everyone in a few days so that you can all celebrate while she’s safely at Hogwarts.”
Ron picked up his spoon and held it for a second, thinking, “I still say she should have told us. And I still say she better keep out of trouble, and—“
“Just eat Ron.” Hermione looked at Harry.
“You can buy her something fancy if you want but you know it won’t matter to her at all. She doesn’t want anything else but you. If you do get her a gift at least wait till after she's told everyone properly, I wasn't suppose to say anything.”
Harry sighed and took a bite of porridge. He was still going to buy her something.
The rest of the morning was spent talking together, they discussed they’re plans for the future, the people they wanted to see again, the places they wanted to visit and all of their talk made Harry feel incredibly happy. They made plans to go to Diagon Alley in the coming week (Harry was bursting with frivolous things to get for Ginny to celebrate her new positions, many of which he knew she would never want in a million years). Hermione said she’d been looking through her pamphlets and that she had decided to go into a new Ministry internship that had been started by Percy with Kingsley’s encouragement. Harry told them about his determination to be an auror. Hermione beamed at him, and Ron clapped him on the back.
“’Course, knew you’d go for that. I was sort of thinking of that myself, not that I’d be anything next to you, but I always thought it’d be cool.”
Hermione was still beaming at him as she said “You’ll be wonderful Harry." A moment later she started rumaging in her bag, "I’ll have to get you started on some basic NEWT study material so you can take your test soon.” She pulled out a quill and began jotting notes on a pad of parchment. Harry looked stunned. Ron had a similarly confused expression on his face.
“Wait what? I didn’t take my NEWTS last year when I was suppose to. I’ve missed my chance haven’t I?”
Hermione gave the two of them a pitying look, “Honestly, don’t you two know anything? How do you think students who don’t attend Hogwarts get jobs that require NEWTS?”
Harry and Ron just stared perplexed, “Anyone can take them at any time. You just have to go apply, they give you a study book and set a date and then you come and take the test. I’ve been studying all summer and I’m going to take them mid-April of next year, they don’t have a lot of open dates and that was the earliest one so if you two hurry you’ll be able to make it too.”
Harry looked at Ron whose face fell at the prospect of more studying.
“Well, I guess I should. If you do it I will, Harry.”
“If that’s the only way I can be an auror then I suppose I’ll have to.” Harry looked back at Hermione who was already busy scratching out a very long list of study materials for them both.
“Do we have to do homework?” Ron asked apprehensively.
“Well, concidering you're not a school that would make any work you do homework and yes you will have to work unless you plan on failing in which case why bother anyway.” She answered without looking up.
“Ugh.” Ron moaned. “Come on Harry, let’s go play quidditch or something. Listening to this is just making me depressed.”
Harry agreed and Hermione decided to sit out by the pitch and watch them. They played until the sky started to darken and Mrs. Weasley called them in for dinner.
The five of them sat around the table and it was a sort of sad occasion. The table hadn’t been this empty all summer and it seemed unnaturally quiet. Bill and Fleur were still living in their own home together on the coast, Charlie was back in Romania for another year with the dragons, Percy was living by himself as he had for the past three years and George was rooming with Lee Jordan in his premises above their shop and now Ginny was off at Hogwarts. If Harry and Hermione hadn’t been staying at the Burrow over the summer then it would have only been Ron left with his parents.
To try and spark up some conversation, Mr. Weasley informed them all of what had been happening at the Ministry lately. Kingsley was being welcomed beyond all reckoning as the best Minister of Magic yet and the support the New Ministry had earned was making it easier than ever before to bring about the changes they needed.
The goblins had not only signed their treaty of official peace but they had agreed to form an industrial alliance. A new building was erected in the center of London titled the Office of Magical Research and Studies and a team of over fifty researchers, some goblins and some wizards, had agreed to share their secret crafts with each other and use their combined knowledge to further the world’s success. So far a team of wandmakers including Olivander and a few others had divulged everything they knew about wand making and the goblins had taught them in return their ancient art of metalworking and weapon craft. Apparently they were working on the creation of a new type of wand made of a special wood injected with a goblin-made metal alloy that not only enhanced the wand’s magical properties but also made the wood indestructible. Several other experimental objects were being worked on including a new line of Quidditch supplies but Mr.Weasley said there wasn't much information on those yet.
Not all the goblins were exactly thrilled with the new alliance or the sharing of their ancient secrets but most had accepted that the rebuilding of this New World required the release of previous prejudices and the effort that everyone was making towards the goal of peace and inter-magical cooperation was immensely well greeted.
The giants were happy now and kept well to themselves in their new land which was large enough to let them roam without such tight living conditions that had caused their previous decline. Kinglsey ensured that every possible protection was put on their territory to ensure that muggles would leave them alone and they appreciated the solitude that had been robbed of them for so many years.
One more death eater had been caught in the southernmost part of Wales where he had been trying to bewitch a family of muggles to fight each other. It had taken a while to bring him down but they caught him and brought him to Azkaban. There were still two out there though, including Carrow, but they were wise enough to stay hidden.
Having the New Ministry successfully recreated meant that those who had been previously holding it back were now out of the picture for good. This included Umbridge who had been tried for numerous charges of torture, tyranny, child abuse, abuse of power, attempted murder, and numerous other infallibly criminal acts. Needless to say she was now nicely stowed away in Azkaban.
The three of them told Mr. and Mrs. Weasley a bit about there plans for the coming months, how Hermione was going to sign them up to take their NEWTS with the Ministry course in April (Mrs. Weasley was delighted to hear it) and that they were all thinking of jobs for the future. Harry had asked a bit sheepishly if it would be okay if he stayed at the Burrow for the rest of the year because he didn’t really feel ready to live by himself and Grimmauld Place was hardly worthy of human habitation. He supposed the Dursley’s would be back at their home now, wherever they had been taken during last year, but there was absolutely no chance he would ever return there to live. Mrs. Weasley had told of course he could that she wouldn’t dream of sending him anywhere else and then told him to help himself to thirds. Harry supposed that was the end of that and accepted the large bowl of steaming beef stew she held out to him.
After dinner, Harry and the others walked up to Ron’s room and shut the door. Harry and Ron collapsed onto the bed which was still as orange as ever bearing the Cudley Channons logo on it, and Hermione seated herself in a chair. Ron played idly with his wand making objects zoom about the room or do somersaults in the air. Harry splayed himself out on the bed in boredom and Hermione watched Ron from her seat.
“You two are going to have to start your study programs soon if you want to pass your NEWTS by April.” Hermione said as Ron made a quill do a spectacular dive through the handle of the waste bin and then triple flip through the air to land neatly on the desk. They both gave her irritable looks.
“Well, I’m just saying. Just because school is over doesn’t mean you can stop thinking. Things are only going to get harder now and you have responsibilities. It’s always good to get an early start on things.”
Ron let the quill stay grounded where it laid “I think I’ll go to bed.”
Hermione rolled her eyes, “You’re only going to get more behind the more you delay. It may seem like you have plenty of time now but before you know it it’ll be time to take the exams and you’ll be the one wishing you’d had more time to study.”
Ron sighed and started to retort but caught himself and said instead, “You know what? You’re right Hermione, I’ll get started first thing in the morning.” and leaned back with his arms behind his head and a yawn.
Hermione looked slightly taken aback but pleased as well and turned to Harry as Ron closed his eyes.
“Well you should start too Harry. I’ve gotten together all the books you’ll need to read and study and I’ll help quiz you when you both when you finish a chapter.”
Harry nodded, Ron said nothing as he was already half asleep.
“You’ll be studying from the same books as Ginny but we’ve got less time to learn the material. She’ll be taking the test along with the rest of the seventh years and that’s not till the beginning of June. We’ll have to work extra hard because we’re learning by ourselves whereas at school you learn from proper teachers.”
Harry nodded again picking up a crumpled bit of parchment and tossing it into the air catching it again idly as he lay staring up at the ceiling.
“I wonder who’ll be filling in the missing posts this year." Hermione said, talking mostly to herself. "There’s Defense against the Dark Arts, and there’s also Transfiguration now that McGonagall has taken up headmistress with Snape gone.” Harry shuddered involuntarily as a voice suddenly found its way into his head saying ‘look at me!’ He tried to push the memory away, “Oh and Muggle Studies will need a new teacher too! Poor professor Burbage. So many deaths, I never really thought about it. I wonder if they finished that memorial yet for those who died during the war. You’ll have to look around and see when you go visit Ginny, and get a list of the new professors too.”
Harry sat up on one elbow, glad that his mind had found a distraction from the image of Snape’s bloody, mangled body and his the sound of his dying words.
Hermione waited for him to say something but he didn’t.
“What’s wrong?” she asked him.
He didn’t answer; he was weighing his options in his head.
Hermione raised her eyebrows and smiled. “Oh, go on! Go surprise her Harry.”
Harry looked up, somehow not surprised that she had known what he was thinking, “You think I should?”
“Why not? Besides even if I told you to let her be you’d still go.”
Harry nodded, “True,” he said and she laughed.
“They’re probably still milling around in the Great Hall and the common rooms after the feast so if you hurry you should be able to catch her she goes to bed.”
“I’ll apparate to Hogsmeade and take the tunnel through to Hogwarts. She knew about the passage in Honeyduke's. Did you know that?” He asked Hermione. Ron gave a tremendous snore from behind him but didn’t wake.
“Yah, she found out from Fred and George a while ago. Apparently they were going to use it to get away with the sword last year, because Neville was still working on getting the Hog’s Head passageway into the Room of Requirement, but Snape got them first.”
Harry looked away suddenly at the mention of Snape’s name. Hermione noticed his sudden solemn look.
“Harry, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” He said, angry with himself for letting her catch his change in mood, but she wasn’t convinced and he decided it was useless to hide his discomfort.
“It’s just,” he sighed, “It’s just thinking about Snape makes feel sort of weird. We haven’t talked about him at all really but every time I hear his name I remember all that horrible stuff from last year. I mean you can’t go you’re whole life hating someone and then just forget it all because they did one good thing.” He felt better letting it all out; it had stayed hidden at the back of his mind all summer. “He was terrible to me. You were there; he tortured me, and mocked me and gave me detentions for no reason. He took points away from me just for breathing too loud. He said horrible things about my dad; he taunted Sirius and made it even harder for him to stay cooped up in his parent’s old house. Then suddenly I find out he loved my mum and tried to save her life and that the whole time he’s been loyal to Dumbledore and the Order and taken all the blame anyway! That's not fair! Why can't I just go on hating him--it was so muc easier when I knew what a slimy git he was. I don’t know what to think about him now. I mean, he did save my life--and everyone else’s for that matter. But does that erase a lifetime of cruelty and hatred? I’ve tried not to think about it. I want to go on hating him but whenever I hear his name I see him lying on the floor bleeding and looking into my eyes with that terrible pain. I see him crying in Dumbledore’s office over my dead mum, I don’t know what to think anymore. How could he have loved her? He hardly seems capable of love at all! How could she have been friends with him?” Harry took a deep breath; it felt good to have gotten that off his chest. It was something he had refused to think about all summer but letting it out brought him a sense of relief.
Hermione bit her lip and looked up at him rather stunned, “I think, you just have to learn how to forgive him somehow. I know how horrible he was to you and everyone else too, but he didn't betrayed us in the end. One good thing doesn’t erase all the bad things but his life was so pitiful anyway. Just forgive him and let his memory die in peace.” She paused as though thinking, “If he loved your mum so much, maybe he was so terrible to you because it hurt him to think that her death was his fault, and you were a constant reminder to him of that. Maybe it was the pain that made him cruel.”
Harry thought about this for a moment and knew that it was true. That look of hatred in his eyes that had burned into Harry from the first moment he ever stepped into Hogwarts, had always seemed to hold something entirely unrelated to Harry himself. Perhaps it had been his pain that had made him hate Harry so much. The though made Harry feel horribly guilty as he once again heard ‘look at me’ in his head.
“I never told anyone else the truth about him.”
Hermione eyed him carefully.
“I told you and Ron and Ginny but I never let anyone else know. I let everyone go on despising him even though he gave his life for me.”
Harry felt suddenly sick. He stood up but Hermione took his hand.
“There’s still time Harry. You can tell people now.”
Harry didn’t hear her. He remembered back to the first few weeks after the battle at Hogwarts when everyone had been celebrating their freedom and rejoicing over the end of such a horrible era. The media had begged for interviews with him to hear his story but Kingsley and Mr. Weasley had told them to leave him alone until he was ready. He had been so grateful at the time to not have to relive it again so soon, but now that he thought about how many months he had let slip by without revealing the truth, he just felt sickened by it. Kingsley had taken him aside and told him that he had earned some time to relax away from the prying eyes of the world. He had made the Daily Prophet leave the Burrow alone and forced the media to stop asking him questions. Instead of facing the truth and being brave, he had spent the summer playing quidditch and laughing with his friends. He remembered Dumbledore’s words after he had witnessed Voldemort’s return in the graveyard more than three years ago, ‘Numbing the pain for a while will only make it worse when you finally feel it’. He knew the truth of that now. His chest tightened painfully and he sat down again on the bed. Hermione sat down beside him and watched him carefully.
“Harry, it’s alright. None of us wanted to think about it. You had been through so much already. You had every right to not want to talk about it so soon. Kingsley told you that was fine. If you feel so bad about it you can just tell him the whole story now. Send him an owl tomorrow and tell him you’re ready to tell your story. That’s what he wanted you to do anyway, to take your time until you were ready.”
He stared ahead at the violently orange wall, trying to stop the pounding pain in his chest. Hermione looked away for a long moment and then continued slowly, “You can’t blame yourself for wanting to forget Harry. However much you feel guilty for it now, you have to remember what you’ve done. Nobody here has been through nearly so much as you have. You lost so much Harry,”
“Not as much as he lost.”
“But he chose his path and it was his own undoing. You can’t blame yourself for his mistakes. He knew where his path would lead him and he took it anyway. He gave fair reason to hate him."
Harry supposed that was true enough.
"What’s done is done. Any regrets you have can only be fixed in the future, there’s no use dwelling on what you did in the past. Professor Snape didn’t realize that Harry, he never did, he lived in the past all his life and never forgave himself for what he did, that’s why he was so miserable and that’s why he held such a grudge against the world. It wasn’t you he hated it was himself.” She said the last words very quietly but Harry heard them. Snape-- Professor Snape, Harry reminded himself-- had hated everyone because the only person he had ever loved had died from his own deeds. He had killed his own chances of happiness and killed himself along with them. The only thing he had ever hoped for throughout that long life of misery was that someday he would be able to redeem himself. Harry had to forgive him. His anger and sadness was suddenly lessened as he thought that. It might take a bit more time to fully be able to forgive but he would try. He did have the right to bide his time with the truth because it had not been his mistake that lead Snape to his miserable doom. He, Harry, had made the right choice and Snape had made the wrong choice. If his last dying words had showed him Lily’s face through Harry’s eyes once more, then Harry had done his part and that was all that Snape had asked. Harry felt a sudden rush of pity towards him. He had been brave, in his own way. He had been brave enough to give everything for love, to give his life to make sure that his mistakes were atoned for. Harry felt he anger leave.
He looked up at Hermione who hadn’t said anything more but was looking at him sadly her hand still holding his. He nodded.
“You’re right. He paid his debt. I guess I’ll write Kingsley tomorrow like you said. I’ll make sure everyone knows that didn’t betray, well at least not this time. He deserves a clean slate if nothing more.”
Hermione smiled at him and squeezed his hand. Harry laughed, “I'm sorry I sort of exploded on you like that. It's been kind of building up for a while and everytime I hear his name it just grows a bit more, and this time I just couldn't push it away."
Hermione nodded and let go of his hand.
“I knew you’d take a while with to talk about this Harry, but it was something that had to come with time just like everything else. I noticed the look you got whenever we’d mention Snape, but Ron and Ginny were always there and the conversation never stayed on him long enough to see what it was you were thinking. I’m glad you got it out tonight. You had to do it eventually.”
Harry stood up and put his hands in his pockets feeling glad to have come to terms with the many issues of Professor Snape at last. He wasn't exactly sure what to do next though. Suddenly Ron’s head dropped from the bed post and he woke with a start and shouted “Nargles!”
They stared at him for a second.
“What?” he said sleepily.
They both laughed. It felt good to laugh.
“Go back to bed Ron. You need your sleep so you can study tomorrow.” Hermione got up and whispered to Harry “Go to Ginny, you need some recooperation.” and pulled back the covers to help Ron into his bed. Harry moved towards the door and Hermione followed a few seconds later once Ron was snuggly tucked away.
In the hallway Harry paused and looked back.
“Thanks Hermione.” He said as she shut the door quietly.
She smiled her response, “Go on now Harry, you need a night away from here. I’ll tell Mrs. Weasley that you went to talk to Kingsley tomorrow morning before I leave. You can stay in Hogsmeade for the night, visit Ginny and Hogwarts and then do whatever else you need to do.”
He meant to say more, to thank her again but he couldn’t find the words. She seemed to understand all the same and she pushed him towards his room with a smile. “Go.” she said.
He went and she disappeared up the stairs towards her room. Harry grabbed a jacket, his invisibility cloak, his leather poach that held his money and the few odds and ends from the year before. Then he walked carefully down the stairs, it was quite dark now and the rest of the house was quiet. He went out the door and down the front of the walkway till he had exited the grounds of the Burrow, there he turned on the spot and disappeared into the darkness.
When he his lungs were finally allowed to breath again he was standing in front of the Hog’s Head. There were a few lights still on around the square from the many late-night pubs but the rest of Hogsmeade was quiet and dark. Harry knocked once on the door and a light flicked on in the upstairs window. He looked up and heard a creak as the window opened and the grimy face of Aberforth peeked down holding his lit wand aloft.
“Who’s that? Harry? Harry!” Before Harry could say a word the head was gone and a few moments later the door opened and Aberforth beckoned him inside.
The pub was empty but the fire was still smoldering in the fireplace and a few scattered, half-empty mugs littered the tables.
“What can I do for you Harry!” He said turning and beaming at him through his scraggly beard.
“Well, I was wondering if I could stay here for the night? I’ve got money and it’ll only be for a few hours. I have something to do up at the castle and then I need somewhere to sleep after.”
Aberforth walked to the fire and stoked it with a poker that had been leaning against the wall.
“’Course you can. You’re always welcome here,” The fire picked up a little and he put a new log on to keep it going. “I’ll show you to the guest rooms. Come on.” He beckoned Harry up the stairs into a shabby little hallway with three doors leading off from it. “So Hogwarts business eh? What have you got to do so late? Normally I would say you wouldn’t find anybody awake at this time of night but this time it seems the rules have changed. I suppose they’ve all stayed up in the joy and excitement of being reunited with everyone after last years events.”
“Erm, yah. Well that’s good then. I just had a few people I wanted to see and a few things I wanted to check up there.”
“Right well, here you are.” He opened the first door and lit a lamp on the wall with his wand revealing a rundown but cozy little room. “By the way, a girl was down here earlier, came through the portrait tunnel and she told me to tell you that the Room of Requirement was still working if I ever saw you come down to Hogsmeade.”
“Oh, thanks. Well in that case can I go ahead and use the portrait tunnel now?”
“Sure thing. You know how it works. Good night.”
He walked out the door and down the hall to his bedroom. Harry set his coat on the little squashy bed which smelled strongly of goats and mildew, then tucked his invisibility cloak into his pocket, put the pouch into his jacket and went down stairs to the portrait of Ariana.
Five minutes later Harry was standing in the Room of Requirement. He was glad to see that it had survived the fire from Crabbe’s curse. It was, at the moment just a hallway with the portrait tunnel on one end and the door on the other. Harry guessed that since Ginny had been the last one to use it, she must have left it this way so that he would be able to get in. He pulled the invisibility cloak over his head and opened the other door. The refurbished halls looked beautiful, exactly the same as it they had before, except cleaner and newer, sparkling with new marble and freshly laid stone. It felt good to be back.
Harry made his way up to the Gryffindor tower under his invisibility cloak. It was getting quite late but there were still lots of people milling about the halls, happy and full of excellent food. He was surprised, actually at just how many people were still awake. He remembered everyone being too tired to do anything the first night back but tonight it seemed the whole of Hogwarts was awake and celebrating their return.
By the time he got to the portrait hole he had realized that he didn’t know the password. He bit his lip, angry for forgetting such an important detail. He looked around at the people walking by, hugging the wall so as not to bump into any of them and hoped that some of them would open the door soon.
Almost immediately a group of Gryffindors strode up to the picture of the Fat Lady and said 'Victory!" to the portrait which swung open to let them in. They were giggling among themselves and Harry was able to slip in carefully after them as they clambered up into the common room. It gave Harry such a rush of happiness when he saw the room that he nearly cried out in glee. It was a place he known and loved for so long and seeing it again was like coming home. The fire was blazing and there were happy faces everywhere, some playing exploding snap, some messing about with Weasley Wizard Wheezes, others swapping wild stories about various aspects of the excitement from last year, still others were trading Chocolate Frog cards by the fire and a few just sat and talked idly about nothing. Harry noticed a couple of people he had knew like Romilda Vane (he felt immensely glad that he was invisible as he walked past her) who was talking animatedly in one corner of the room surrounded by several other girls in her year. Harry’s stomach gave a lurch as he spotted Dennis Creevey asleep in an armchair by the fire, curled up in a ball, the firelight dancing on his pale face.
Harry made his way to an empty corner of the room so he could avoid bumping into people and looked around to try and spot Ginny. At first she didn’t seem to be in there and his heart sank. It was another thing he hadn’t thought about, it wasn’t possible for a boy to climb the steps to the girl’s dormitories and so if Ginny had gone to bed then he had no hope of getting to her.
But at last he spotted her in the farthest corner of the common room. She was sitting amongst a large group of girls and boys who were all talking and laughing together. Harry’s heart soared and he made his way over to her carefully dodging bodies and fanged frizzbees until he was standing directly behind her. Someone was telling a joke and everyone’s attention was focused in their direction but Ginny somehow seemed to sense someone behind her, it reminded Harry of the moment in the forest when he had walked by her under the cloak, she turned her head suddenly and looked straight through him, her eyes searching, a glint of hopefulness in them but the look faded away as she saw no one there and she turned back looking slightly disappointed. Harry waited for the punch line to the joke and while everyone was laughing he leaned down and whispered in her ear, “It’s me.”
She looked around quickly and smiled, not at all the reaction he would have expected. He thought she would scream or jump but she gave no sign of fear and merely looked as though hearing his voice behind her out of thin air when there was nothing there and he was suppose to be a hundred miles away was a perfectly logical occurence. A moment later she excused herself from the group (Harry noticed a few of the boys look crestfallen as she got up) and walked out of the portrait hole, carefully holding the door open and peering through, as though checking to see if someone was in there, so that Harry could crawl out. Then she walked through the halls and Harry followed. She made no acknowledgment of his presence as they walked but walked gracefully through the castles until she was outside and even then she continued on walking, Harry hurrying along in her wake until at last they were away from everyone else and she stopped and sat down. They were outside under the big tree by the lake that they had spent so many warm afternoons under during previous years. The sky was bright with the thousands of stars and they lit the lake up like diamonds lurking just below the surface.
Harry took off the cloak and Ginny looked up at him smiling. He sat down next to her and looked out over the lake. It was incredibly beautiful at night. Every bit of it shone with the light of the stars and the moon, and it glimmered brilliantly against the blackness of night. The trees swayed lightly in the cool breeze and there was perfect silence but not unnaturally so. It was peaceful and perfect.
Ginny was looking out over the lake too and she was smiling.
“How’d you know I was there?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know, I know you too well. I guess I can just sort of feel it when you’re around even when you’re invisible.”
“Yah, I guess so.”
“So did I surprise you though? Or did you know I was coming with your crazy new psychic powers?”
“Oh, well I guess it’s sort of a muggle thing.”
“I see.” Harry waited for her to answer the question; she looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, her smile widening.
“Oh, come on!" Harry said smiling "I surprised you-- you just don’t want to admit it.”
She put her head back and laughed, “Yes. Yes, you did manage to surprise me. I’ve been gone a grand total of twelve hours and you show up behind me in the common room at eleven thirty at night completely invisible and whisper in my ear. I’ve got to admit you did surprise me."
She turned to look at him. “But I’m glad you did. I missed you already.”
“Well you better have.”
“Hmmm…..” she leaned over and kissed him.
After a long moment she let go and turned away towards the lake again. Harry scooted up against the tree so that he was horizontal to the lakeshore and Ginny leaned back against him, her head in his lap, her legs pointing towards the lake and her ankles crossed leisurely. One of her hands held his and the other played with the grass beside her. Harry pulled his fingers through her long hair absentmindedly as he stared out over the crystalline waters again.
“So how are things going here? What’s new with Hogwarts?” He asked.
“Well…McGonagall has been replaced as Transfiguration teacher by a woman named Professor Ragsenburg, she’s middle-aged, she seems nice and hopefully she’ll be as good a teacher as Professor McGonagall although I doubt it. Hagrid’s still doing Care of Magical Creatures, I talked to him at the feast and he’s doing fine, Fang too, it’s a miracle they both survived in my opinion. Muggle Studies has been taken over by this tiny old man named Professor Root. He’s sort of hard of hearing and a bit batty but he seems really friendly. Oh, and Defense against the Dark Arts is back, McGonagall didn’t think it was quite appropriate to continue with teaching ‘Dark Arts’. Anyway, that’s being taught by some bloke named Professor Valenstrave. I don’t really know much about him he looked sort of troubled and grumpy at the staff table. He’s really young though and has brown hair and blue eyes. A bunch of the girls have had their eyes on him since the moment he sat down at the feast, personally I’m hoping Romilda Vane slips him a love potion just to shake things up a bit. Um, let’s see what else? Oh they put up a beautiful memorial in the cemetery, they have everyone who died for our cause on it well, mostly…” She looked up at him for a moment and he remembered Snape. She read the look on his face and looked away a second later continuing without another mention of the fact that the rest of the world still believed Snape to be a murderer, “they have Lupin and Tonks, and Fred.” Harry didn’t have to look at her to know that her eyes were still fierce and radiant and that she wouldn’t shed a tear, “Collin is there too. Poor Dennis…he’s a fifth year now! Can you believe it? Little Dennis who fell in the lake first year. He’s so quiet and sad all the time. I talked to him today and he’s as sweet as ever but just so sad.” She sighed. “Romilda is back with a vengeance. She’s been telling everyone that before Hagrid brought you out supposedly dead, you had found her in the forest and told her of you’re undying love of her. She didn’t appreciate it when Luna walked in on her story during dinner and asked her if she used a Spinturk to get into the forest so fast because she’d been running madly through the escape tunnel about five minutes before Hagrid brought you out.”
Harry grinned, “So how’s Luna. Did you tell her hi from me?”
“Of course. She told me to tell you hello and that she's sorry for the way her father behaved last year and that she’s planning on sending you a wrakspurt remover to make up for it. I told her you’d be delighted.”
There was no hint of sarcasm in her words and Harry remembered with a burst of appreciation how kind and loyal she had always been to Luna and Neville despite their less than notable reputations in the past.
“So how are things back home? Anything exciting happen in the last twelve hours?”
“Not really. Hermione’s signing me and Ron up to take NEWTS at the Ministry in April. I didn’t know you could take them outside of school.”
“Oh. Yah, she told me she had signed up for that at the beginning of the summer. She wants to take a NEWT in about seventeen different subjects so she can apply for every job on her list.”
“That’s Hermione for you.” Harry said grinning.
“Yup. Ron won’t have to worry about money; she’ll probably end up discovering how to turn dirt into gold or the cure to Spattergroit or something amazing like that and make a million galleons.”
“Yah probably-- wait, what do you mean ‘Ron won’t have to worry about money’?”
She raised an eyebrow studying him. “Are you serious Harry? You haven’t noticed anything going on between them since, oh about, forever? Doesn’t Ron ever talk about her?”
“Well, yah I mean I know they’re pretty much together now but, oh, well yah, I guess I know what you mean. So Hermione’s serious then?”
“Hermione’s just been waiting for Ron to get his head on straight the last five years. He’s such a prat! He always did the exact opposite of showing her he loved her. But for some odd reason he’s suddenly made a complete turn around and Hermione’s really happy about it.”
Harry tried not to betray that he knew what had caused the mysterious change in Ron’s behavior because he didn’t think Hermione would be quite as thrilled if she knew he had been taking tips from a book about winning over women.
“So what have you been thinking about doing for a career? You know after you graduate.” He said changing the subject quickly; she took the hint without complaint.
“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it much. I guess whatever feel’s right when the time comes. How ‘bout you?”
“You know how I’ve always wanted to be an auror? Well, I’m going to go for it. That night when we were attacked by Carrow really made me realize how much I want to. That’s the only thing that I could really see myself doing happily. Besides, that attack, the way he moved, I want to learn how to stop him. It just seems right.”
He looked down at her and met her sparkling eyes which were staring up at him with happiness.
“I knew you were going to say that.”
He looked away feeling a little dizzy from the intensity of her gaze.
After a while Ginny closed her eyes, dozing slightly and they sat quietly for a long time.
“Harry?” the silence was suddenly broken
“You know how you broke your wand last year?”
“Um, yah…” that was not what he had expected.
“Do you think it’s possible to do magic without one?”
“Um, I dunno. I don’t think so. Maybe. It’d be really, really hard though. I’ve never heard of anyone ever doing it apart from kids who can’t control it yet or people in really desperate situations so I guess it has happened before but not consciously.”
“Just wondering. Sorry, it was a random thought.”
She yawned and closed her eyes again. He ran his fingers through her hair again, noting how dark the castle had become and how tired she looked.
“You should get to bed now. It’s really late.”
“No! I don’t want you to go!” She opened her eyes and grasped his arm with her other hand.
“I’ll come back tomorrow. I promise.”
She closed her eyes again, releasing his arm but holding his hand tightly “I don’t want you to come back tomorrow, I want you stay now. Just stay here a few more minutes.”
“Fine, but it’s not my fault if you get a detention for falling asleep in class tomorrow.”
“I don’t care.” Her breath was slow and shallow and her grip on his hand slowly slackened as she drifted off to sleep.
He sat for few minutes. Thinking about his conversation with Hermione earlier in the night, thinking about what he was going to do tomorrow, and thinking about learning to fight like Carrow, all the while his hands brushing through Ginny’s hair, and the stars growing steadily brighter as the sky grew steadily blacker. He thought about Hermione and Ron, if what Ginny had said was true then Hermione was hoping for something more than just a relationship. That seemed sort of sudden to him, but then he supposed they had both known it for a lot longer then they had ever let on. He looked down at Ginny. Her pale skin was glowing in the moonlight like it had before. He sighed and put an arm around her shoulder’s, pulling her gently into a sitting position leaning against his chest. She sighed and put her arm around his neck. He stood up holding her upright with one arm and pulling the invisibility cloak around them both with the other then he picked her up and began walking up towards the castle.
He put her down in the common room, angry that he couldn’t bring her to her bed so she could sleep properly. There were only a few people left in the room now. Dennis was still asleep in the armchair and there was a boy and a girl in one corner of the room talking quietly together. He laid her in one of the big armchairs by the fire that had its back to the couple in the corner so they wouldn’t see her appear there when the invisibility cloak came off of her. Then he took a small coin out of his pocket and put it in her hand. It was the DA coin. He touched his wand to it for a moment and the words along the edges glimmered for a second and changed. He slipped the cloak carefully off of her and edged back out the door, opening it quietly so that the two in the far corner wouldn’t notice. He walked down the sparkling new marble halls until he reached the tapestry that marked the Room of Requirement’s hiding place.
A few minutes later he was back in his room at the Hog’s Head, wrapped in the dusty sheets of his bed. The smell of mildew was strong in the room but he didn’t notice. All he could think about was telling the world about Professor Snape, looking at the Hogwarts memorial, and the sweet flowery scent of Ginny’s hair.
Harry awoke to the clatter of noise and chattering below. The Hog’s Head was open again and there were a couple of men below having a heated debate. From what Harry could gather from there muffled voices, they were arguing about whether or not turning yourself into a flobberworm while standing on your head meant you would be upside down or not. Harry suspected that several helpings of fire whiskey had been involved.
He got up, tidied up his room, not there was much to do except pull up the blanket and pick a mothball out off the pillow. Then he grabbed his stuff and headed downstairs.
“Flobberworms don’t have any stinkin heads you idiot! How can you stand on your head if you haven’t blinkin got one?”
“They’ve got heads! What do you call the squishy thing at the top if it ain’t a head?”
“You call it a flobberworm that’s what! The whole bloody thing’s a giant squishy mass, and there ain’t no top to it! Nor bottom if you really want to be going on about it!”
“Oh yah, well then how does the thing eat huh? Gotcha there, I have!”
“Why don’t you go ask a flobberworm?”
“Maybe I will!”
Harry had to jump backwards as the second drunken man came crashing down in front of him and the first threw a mug across the room which shattered spectacularly against the wall in a cascade of grimy glass and whiskey.
Aberforth looked perfectly calm as all this went on and continued scrubbing dirty mugs with an equally dirty rag. He gave Harry a smile as he walked in.
“’Morning Harry! Sleep well?”
“Er, yah.” he answered, dodging another mug, “Fine.”
He pulled out a few galleons to pay the man for his room but he held up a hand.
“I won’t take money from Harry Potter. You go on about your business boy, and come back anytime you like.”
“Thank you sir.” Harry said and stowed the pouch of money bag under his jacket. “Have a nice--” Harry ducked a stunning spell, it seemed that wands were now involved, “—day.”
“You too, Harry, you too.” And with that Harry left, glad to be out of the place.
He walked a ways down the road trying to decide how he should go about his next order of business. It was time to tell his tale to the world, or at least to Kingsley. He supposed Kingsley would be at the Ministry of Magic, an appropriate place to be when you’re its Minister, so that was where he had to go. He walked to the end of the lane and pictured the red telephone booth that lead to the Ministry’s hidden halls, turned on the spot, and disappeared.
Three hours later Harry was sitting outside the door to Kingsley’s office. He had sat in there and told him everything, everything from the horocruxes to the hallows, to the night of the Hogwarts battle, and at last, Professor Snape.
Kingsley had listened attentively, not saying anything unless there was some need for clarification. Harry was grateful that he had not interrupted; it was something that he had needed to get out all at once, and interruptions would only have prolonged the relief that he now felt so sweetly. Kingsley had smiled kindly at him when he finished his story and said in his deep, rhythmic voice, “Thank you, Harry.”
He had asked how he would feel about the public knowing the truth and Harry had replied that as long as they left him and his friends alone then it was fine. He knew it was time for the answers to be given to everyone, to give the people an answer for all their celebrations.
Kingsley had shaken his hand. He hadn’t needed to say anything more because from that silent gesture Harry knew that he was proud of him, no matter how long he had taken to get the truth out. It had made Harry swell with pride to see his big dark eyes smiling down at him with acceptance and to feel his big powerful hands shaking his like an equal.
There was one last thing Harry had mentioned to him during their meeting: Auror training. He had slipped it in at the end of their conversation when Kingsley had asked him how he was doing now and what his plans were for the future. The moment the words had left his mouth Kingsley had clapped him on the back and said “Wait outside so I can free up a bit more time.”
That had been about a half an hour ago. Now Harry was sitting outside the door, waiting for Kingsley to finish another bit of important business.
Harry looked up as the door opened and Kingsley walked out. He beckoned Harry foreward.
“Come with me,” his voice boomed.
He took Harry across the hall and up several flights of stairs through more hallways, down an elevator, up another elevator, through a door and finally into a little office entitled “New Tactics”. Inside there were several desks cluttered with papers and newspaper clippings and books. There was a young man sitting inside. He looked about 23 years old, he had dirty blonde hair that hung messily about his head, glasses that were slipping down his nose and light grayish blue eyes that glinted with the excitement of a young mind working at its passion. He looked friendly and timid and gave a sort of twitch of a smile as they entered the room, flashing his teeth brilliantly and then nervously looking back down at his books.
“This is where we’ve been coming up with a new program for Aurors Harry. That attack at the Burrow a few days ago is only one of many so far that have been deemed ‘unusually different’. It seems that Carrow and the other escapee have learned from the best how to evade capture but not only that. They’ve learned a new type of fighting and defense, it’s sort of odd to say but, well, it’s rather a lot like muggle fighting.”
Harry looked at him cocking an eyebrow, still unsure what exactly this had to do with him.
“You see Harry, Carrow is not like Voldemort. He never wanted power or immortality, he’s simple and has little ambition. However, he is smart enough to have realized that the one thing wizards can't deal with is muggles. We don’t participate in muggle activities, we don’t learn their ways, we have very little to do with them really. Carrow grew up on the streets of London with his sister, they didn’t know they were magical, they didn’t know about the magical world. They learned to be thieves and murderers from a very young age, and pain was their greatest asset in getting what they needed. They became sort of wild animals, doing anything they could to reach their own ends and losing all emotion and conscience. The two of them fought to survive and in their world you had to be the toughest, the shrewdest, the strongest and the fastest to do that. And they were the best. They could fight like lions and disappear without a moment's notice. There style is simple but like nothing any of us have ever dealt with. Amycus completely disappeared after his attack on you and Ginny but there have been reports from a few different places of similar attacks— people moving like wild storms beating up innocent people in their homes with absolutely no motive. They’re hungry for pain. They have no desire other than to inflict as much of it as possible upon whoever they can get their hands on. Amycus is the one we’re most worried about, his sister is safely locked away but he has evaded capture time after time. He knows how we work and he’s been careful not leave a trail. The last attack was yesterday afternoon on the easternmost border of Scotland, a town called BallyWale I think. Two muggles disappeared. Anyway to get to the point here, times are changing. Our world has made incredible strides towards peace and freedom but with every step forward that good takes, the bad side takes another as well. It’s an opportunity we’re not going to let evade us. We’ll learn to fight fire with fire, or in this case, fist with fist. We’ve been studying muggle warfare and we’re trying to implement a new fighting technique into our auror training. This is Ezakiah Cleaves over here.” He gestured behind him to the bespeckled boy, who looked up and gave another awkward smile”, He’s been my right-hand man in this project. Harry if you study hard and get your NEWTS done quickly this year, I’ll have you be the first one to enter our new program. Would you like that?”
Harry didn’t know what to say. “I, well, I—Of course. I mean yah! Of course I would.”
“Good. This is a new world Harry, a new world. We’re going to make sure it’s the best we possibly can you and I."
"Good man.” Kingsley’s deep booming voice ended with those last words and he clapped Harry’s back again before leaving the office with a sweep of his robes.
Harry turned back to the man in the desk who was pouring over a pile of books and clippings, he looked up as he sensed Harry’s gaze. His glasses were falling off his nose and he pushed them up with his finger and smiled a shy smile, “Hi. Would you happen to know much about the muggle sport of boxing?”
It was hard to believe that he would really be getting the opportunity to train as an auror, Harry thought as he walked up the path to Hogwarts castle around three o’clock that afternoon. From the things he had discussed with Kingsley and Ezakiah Cleaves (who most people just called Ez) the new project meant learning not only advanced magic and concealment and all that but how to survive and even fight without using magic at all. Harry had laughed at Ez’s many fascinated looks while Harry explained the art of karate to him. It sounded better than Harry’s wildest dreams, it would be like a magical boot camp in the British Foreign Legion. He couldn’t wait to tell Ron about it, but there was one more stop he had before he could return to the Borrow.
He glanced down at his watch, it was the one that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had given him for his birthday last year and it was a good one, however many years it had been previously owned. He loved it. The time was 3: 17 pm and he was running late.
As he entered, he put on the invisibility cloak so that he wouldn’t be stampeded by a hundred gawking students and rounded the castle to the farthest side where the cemetery stood. There, on the very edge of it, stood an enormous towering statue. It was made of white marble and was shaped like an open book with its pages open towards the viewers. On the marble base was written “This is a memorial to all those who gave their lives in connection to the Wars of 1998 both on these grounds and elsewhere. May they rest in peace.” As Harry approached he could see many names written on the pages, carved into the marble. There were pictures of smiling faces beside each name and the dates of their birth and death.
Harry turned around quickly. Ginny was leaning against a tree on the otherside of the cemetery.
“You’re shoe.” she said walking over to him.
Harry looked down and saw that he had neglected his cloak so that part of his shoe was visible from beneath it and must have looked very odd stomping through the grass all by itself. He had forgotten about Ginny in his wonderment at the memorial. He took off the cloak as she stopped next to him.
“You said ‘meet me at 3:00 in the cemetery’ on that coin you left me with. I’ve been waiting here over twenty minutes.”
“Sorry, I got caught up a bit at the Ministry but I’ll tell you about that later.” he turned back to the great stone book.
“So this is it.” he said and it wasn’t a question.
“This is it.” she replied and it wasn’t an answer.
He layed his hands on the cool marble and read a few of the names, ‘Burbage, Charity’, 1957-1998, ‘Creevey, Colin, 1981-1998’, ‘Lupin, Remus, 1960-1998’ his fingers ran down the list, each face smiling happily up at him from the cold marble, unmoving. ‘Tonks, Nymphadora, 1973-1998’, he took his finger away when he reached the end of the list, ‘Weasley, Frederick, 1978-1998’.
“It’s beautiful.” Harry said.
“It is.” Ginny said and her fingers found his and intertwined to touch the cool marble as one.
Harry stood reading through the list again looking at the faces of those he didn’t know and those few he did. After a few minutes he decided he had had enough. He turned away and he and Ginny walked back through the grounds, steering clear of the heavily populated areas.
They talked as they walked. Harry told her about his meeting with Kingsley and how he had finally told him about what had happened that night at Hogwarts. Ginny had looked at him then and he knew she had been waiting for that. He went on to describe the new crazy plans that Ez and Kingsley were creating for the auror department. She laughed as he described to her all the new methods they wanted to teach. She had never heard of ‘boxing’ or ‘karate’ or ‘tasers’. He talked and talked about the muggle army and what he had learned about self-defense from growing up with Dudley. She listened, laughing away at his animated descriptions of Dudley’s favorite violent TV shows such as ‘Kung-foo Hustlers’. Eventually his ramblings winded down and they returned to relatively normal conversation.
They both turned around quickly. Harry hadn’t been paying much attention to where they were going and they had strayed far too close to the front of the castle. A pair of dreamy eyes were staring at them from behind a rather large leafy bush.
“Luna! Ah---hi!” Harry stammered looking around worried that someone else might see him.
“What are you doing here? You’re too old to be a seventh year.”
“Yah, I know I am. I’m just visiting. So how are you Luna?”
She stood behind the bush, her butterbeer cork necklace around her neck and her eyes looking as dreamy as ever.
“I’m fine. My dad is spending the next month in Brazil to try establish a colony of Wattlebirds there but when he gets back I will make sure he apologies. I never wanted anyone else to get trapped in there too. My dad isn’t very brave sometimes but he has a good heart.”
She pulled something out of her pocket suddenly and held it out to Harry. “I almost forgot to give you your wrackspurt remover. I always find it useful to carry around wherever I go. You never know when they’re going to come at you.”
Harry took the strange little device that looked vaguely like a shoehorn.
“Thanks a lot Luna. Really, for everything, I couldn’t have done without you and everyone else last year.”
“Thank you. That’s quite a compliment coming from Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. I wonder if they can still call you that now that you’ve actually died too?”
Harry tried to keep from smiling. “I dunno.”
“Hey Luna? If you wouldn’t mind not mentioning this to anyone, Harry’s not really suppose to be here and we don’t want everyone coming looking for him.” Ginny said as she looked anxiously up at the castle.
“Of course. I’ll just go on back to my reading now like I never saw you.”
“Thanks Luna. Oh by the way! That new issue of the Quibbler was really good! I think you should help you dad out a bit more, you have a real talent for it.”
“Thank you. Daddy says I can help him whenever I want but I like it best when he does it. Well, I’m at a really good spot in my story right now and I’d like to know what happens next, if you wouldn’t mind?”
“No of course not, Luna, we’re sorry to have interrupted your reading.”
“Oh that’s okay. It happens a lot.”
“Bye Luna.” Harry said as she sat back down with her book disappearing again except for the top of her very blonde head behind her bush.
“Talk to you tomorrow Luna!” Ginny called pulling Harry away from the front of the building where there were now a number of kids outside on the grass. They walked back around to the other side where the grounds were still vacant.
“I’ve got to go now. Ron will be by himself now that Hermione’s gone back to her parents house and he’ll probably be going out of his mind in boredom if I don’t get back soon.”
“That’s true. Knowing him he’s been bouncing a quaffle off of his ceiling for the last eight hours—just wait and see. He's never been very good at finding useful things to do by himself.”
“I’ve got to start on my NEWTS. Maybe I’ll attempt the first chapter of that pile Hermione’s left for me.”
“Or could try and teach Ron some Kung-foo or whatever that nonsense is you were going on about before.”
“It’s not nonsense Ginny! It’s really going to mak—“
“Harry relax! I was only joking. Jeez! I can crack jokes about anything I want except anything manly and war-related.”
Harry laughed and Ginny laughed too.
“You know I love your hero obsessions. I just enjoy making fun of those who ask for it. And talking about something called kung-foo definitely qualifies as asking for it.”
“You’re right, you’re right.”
“I know I’m right.”
“So what are you going to make fun of next. I haven’t been through enough? I need to be mocked by my girlfriend too?” He smiled playfully.
“What a tragic life you have.”
She kissed him.
“So does that mean you’re done making fun of me?”
“Oh I suppose, although you’re hair does stick up sort of weirdly in the back and I must say that scar on your forehead is pretty funny looking... but I like it. It’s very cute.”
She kissed him again.
“I’m glad you said that. I’ve grown pretty fond of it after all we’ve been through together me and that scar.”
He reached up to touch it but she held his arm back from his face.
“One more.” She kissed him a third time.
“Okay, you can go now.” She said releasing his arm.
“I'm glad I've got your permission. I’ll tell Ron you fell down the stairs.” Harry answered.
“Oh. You should! But you’ll have to let him believe it for more than a few minutes so he’ll do something funny and rash.”
“Hmm...maybe I will, but I really have to go now.” He said walking slowly backward but not wanting to turn away yet.
“Okay, first Hogsmeade weekend is next month.” she called after him.
“Right, so I’ll see you tomorrow?” He said pulling the invisibility cloak over himself, now half way down the hill but still not taking his eyes off her.
“You read my mind! Try not to be late again…”
“Can’t make any promises.” He disappeared beneath the cloak and although she had no way of knowing, his eyes never left her until she was gone from view behind the great oak doors of Hogwarts.
“Aww! Don’t bloody joke like that Harry! You had me going there for a while. I was already trying to think of a way to get to Hogwarts without mum knowing!”
Ron and Harry were sitting in Ron’s room and Harry was telling him about his day. Ron was sitting on his bed with this legs crossed, bouncing a quaffle idly off the wall. Harry made a mental note to Ginny it was the wall and not the ceiling.
“Yah, well I couldn’t help it! The look on your face was worth it all though. Oh by the way when’d Hermione go?”
“Oh, ‘bout seven I’d say, somewhere around there, really early, wanted to get back to her parents you know.”
His ears went slightly pink and he dropped the quaffle the next time it came to him.Harry decided not to cause him further embarrassment.
“So we’ll have to start on our NEWT stuff soon, won’t we. I can’t believe Kingsley is going to let me do this! You should join up too so we can do it together.”
Ron’s face lit up at the thought, “Yah! That would be wicked! I did want to at first—be an auror I mean-- but George has been bugging me to come down and help him with the shop. Lee has to take a leave of absence for a while in the spring and George says that business is getting out of control. At the rate they’re going they’ll not only have more than enough money to buy Zonko’s but they’ll have to in order to fit all their orders in! They’re making so much money now…I’d like to have a piece of that.”
Ron’s eyes glazed over a moment as he sat and dreamed about the money he could make as a partner of Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
“Being an auror pays really good too. Or at least it does now. Ez said the program pays a lot better now than it use to. Before the Ministry tried to cheat its workers out of as much money as they could but Kingsley appreciates people and makes sure they get what they deserve.”
“Who’s this Ez bloke again?” Ron caught the ball and held it under his arm to look at Harry. “He’s the guy who’s trying to learn muggle fighting right?”
“Yah, his real name’s Ezakiah but he goes by Ez. He’s Kinsley’s head for the new auror program.”
“Ezakiah? Who name’s there kid Ezakiah?” Ron said thrusting the quaffle at the wall again, “Honestly, where do people come up with these names? I heard this muggle kid in St. Mungo's when we were there a few weeks ago, and his mum called him Aarwinsky, I thought she sneezed at first but the kid turned around. Then there was another kid named Hugo, and I can't even begin to think what possessed his parents to name him that! Nice kids, mental names.” The quaffle hit the wall with a thud and he caught it again absentmindedly. Harry laughed.
The rest of the night went by without much excitement, Harry liked it best that way, and by the time he found himself warm and snuggled up in his bed, he was so happy and content that even an encounter with Amycus Carrow wouldn't have been able to spoil his mood. He drifted off to sleep with the knowledge that he would be spending the year in happy normality with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, and that his conscience was clear and his future had never been brighter.
Last edited by katishere; July 30th, 2008 at 6:45 pm.
Re: Nineteen Years
Hey, guys! Sorry it took so long to get this up but as I've mentioned on my Feedback thread I had mucho stuff going on and no mucho time to write. Anyway, this is only half of the chapter (the other half will be up tomorrow sometime). I just put up half of it because otherwise it would be really long and this way I can have something to put up tomorrow even though I have stuff to do tomorrow (I'm going back to tutor my cousin again).
Hope you're all doing well!
Stuff, news, chit-chat, mistakes, favorite recipies etc: FEEDBACK
Re: Nineteen Years
The second half is up! Once again I stuck the divider in bright orange so you can find it a bit easier. I had a bit of a computer problem which is why it took so long to get up today. My internet decided to erase all the edits I'd done to my cinal post and not post the second half for some crazy reason and so I had do all the changes over again. I might have missed a few things in my frustration so please point out any typos! Ugh. Until later then!
Re: Nineteen Years
It was now midway through September and the days had been passing with a fury as Harry and Ron set themselves to their NEWT work. Together they spent most of their time lying on their stomachs in the backyard with a book in front of them and a quill in their hand trying to get through the seemingly endless amounts of work that Hermione had left them. Hermione herself, who was back with her parents, would visit once a week and sometimes more, to quiz them and give them extra help despite the fact that she already had about triple the work they did.
Harry hardly had time for anything other than the NEWT work and visiting Ginny, which he did as often as could. All their plans for visiting friends and seeing sights had been postponed with their work load as well as Hermione’s decision to tour businesses and centers of various occupations to broaden her view of career options, which was already enormously inclusive. Everyday for the past week she had gone to visit some sot of business or magical job office, no matter how ludicrous the job sounded, to see what it was like and whether she might want to consider it in the future. Harry and Ron had tried to tell her she was crazy but she went right on with it anyway.
At the moment, Harry was attempting, with little success, to concentrate on his Charms homework. Normally he found his NEWTS studying to be very interesting because it was all really advanced magic and almost always required hands on practice which meant lots of fun with Ron, but this chapter was all theory and the warm sun on Harry’s back was making him lethargic so that he found himself reading the same sentence for ten minutes straight without getting a single word of it through his head. Ron was lying in the grass next to him, practicing a charm that he hadn’t been able to get the hang of from the chapter before and was obviously becoming increasingly frustrated with. He was suppose to be removing a button from a piece of cheese that Hermione had but together for him to help him practice. The charm, Primum nonnocere, was suppose to be able to remove an object lodged within soft material without causing damage to the material itself. The piece of cheese was very full of holes from unsuccessful attempts at button removal and was starting to melt from the hot sun.
“Let’s take a break, Harry! I’m not getting anywhere with this stupid charm. Why in the world would we ever need to get a button out of a hunk of cheese anyway? And it’s not like the cheese is going to be all that miffed if it gets a hole in it.” He sat up and threw his wand down beside him. “Let’s go to Diagon Alley today. Hermione’s suppose to get back from that Troll training tour at two so we could wait till she gets here and go huh?”
“Yah.” Harry said yawning and taking his glasses off to wipe his eyes. “This chapter is about as dull as listening to professor Binns only we don’t have Hermione to take notes for us. It’s a half an hour till 2:00. Want to play quidditch or something—urghhh!!”
Something hit his head with a screech at that precise moment. It was an owl. It dropped a letter and then landed on the very droopy hunk of cheese in front of Ron, watching Harry haughtily.
“It’s a Ministry owl. Open the letter Harry.” Ron said, the owl nibbling at the lump of cheese disdainfully.
Harry put his glasses back on, picking grass off of them from having dropped them in surprise at a large owling landing on his head. He tore the official looking seal and opened up the letter, reading it through quickly, excitement building up in his chest.
“It’s from Kingsley! He says that Ez has found some really good stuff and that they think they’ve got enough information to start with now. They want me to come in and tell them what I think! Next week on Thursday at four o’clock!” Harry looked up, “They want my opinion!”
“Well of course they do Harry. You’ve fought the greatest Dark Wizard in history about a half dozen times and then finished him of last fall, why wouldn’t they want you’re opinion--Hermione!”
They both looked up in surprise as Hermione appeared with a crack beside them.
“Hi.” She said looking slightly frazzled and sat down next to them.
“What are doing back, it’s not even two yet?”
“Well sorry Ron,” she said grumpily, “I left early. Those filthy beasts are utterly unbearable! The smell was horrendous and the workers smelled as bad as the trolls and were twice as rude. The whole place was chaotic and dirty and horrible! I don’t know what I was thinking even looking at such a place! Ugh!”
She crossed her arms angrily.
“Cheer up Hermione! You can have any job you want with your talent, there’s no reason why you’ll have to sink as low as training security trolls.”
Hermione blinked. “Thank you Ron.”
The Ministry owl gave an impatient screech from atop the now very melted hunk of cheese and Hermione gave a start.
“Harry got an owl from Kingsley. They’ve got some progress done on that auror-muggle-fighting thing and they want him to come in and look at it next week.”
“Oh that’s wonderful Harry!”
“Yah it is and--” the owl gave another very loud screech and flapped its wings, “—I guess I’d better send my reply.”
He tore of a piece of his Charms notes and wrote ‘I’ll be there!’ on it, then handed it to the owl who took it and was off in a flutter of feathers and bits of cheese.
“So how are your studies coming along? Not so well by the looks of it…” She gave a small smile at the mass of melted cheesy gunk now strewn across the lawn in front of Ron.
“Well, I managed it once but I don’t really know what it was I did and I haven’t managed it again in the last three hours. Harry and I were just about to take a break. We figured it would be a good chance to go over to Diagon Alley like we had planned before. What do you think?” He gave her a tentative look that was obviously preparing for her to be angry for shirking their work.
Hermione waved her wand and the mess disappeared.
“Why not? I suppose you’ve worked hard enough for today. You’re both doing really well you know. You too Ron, I was checking your tests that I gave you last week, and you both got solid E’s. That deserves a break I think.”
She smiled and stood up holding out her hand to Ron who was still lying on the ground with a shocked expression.
He took it and stood up too, “Blimey, I didn’t think we’d get off that easy. Are you feeling okay Hermione?”
She gave him a smirk, “I’m fine Ron. We all need a break. Let’s go Harry. We’ll have to go tell you’re parents where we’re going before we leave though Ron.”
Harry started stacking up his papers and books, “You two go let them know, and I’ll finish cleaning up here and meet you inside.”
“Alright,” Ron started walking towards the house with Hermione and Harry heard him say, “So you think I’m doing pretty good, huh?”
Harry smiled to himself and tucked the letter from Kingsley into his pocket. He shoved all his notes and assignments into his Charms book which he, in turn, stacked on top of his Potions, and Transfigurations book. He was taking five courses in all and the other two were Herbology and Defense against the Dark Arts. Ron was taking the same ones as Harry but Hermione was taking every single one possible, minus Divination, eleven in total.
Harry walked into the kitchen carrying his and Ron’s books. Mrs.Weasley was chopping up something for lunch on the counter. She turned around to see who it was that had come in.
“Harry! Ron and Hermione are waiting for you upstairs. Have a good time and I’ll have supper ready for you when you get back.”
“Of course dear. Do be careful though.”
Harry turned to head up the stairs. He opened his door to his room.
Ron and Hermione broke apart looking embarrassed.
“Oh, sorry Harry.” Hermione looked at Ron whose face was very red, he shrugged and smiled weakly.
“Well, at least this time we haven’t got a war to fight right?”
Harry didn’t really know what to say, “Yah, do you still want to go or should I let you two carry on?”
Hermione stood up immediately, “Oh no. We still want to go. Get your stuff and we’ll be off.” She pulled Ron’s hand up and he stood. They shared embarrassed grins between themselves.
Harry grabbed his jacket and the pouch that Hagrid had given him two years ago and together they all walked out into the sunlit afternoon on there way to a much deserved break.
The Leaky Cauldron was packed with people when they got there, and Harry instantly wished he had brought his invisibility cloak along. He tried to keep his face hidden and walked quickly through the crowded room but just as they were about to exit the other door a voice called from behind them.
“’arry Potter? ‘Es that you? Blimey it ‘tis!” Harry turned around and looked at the red, pimply face of Stan Shunpike. It was sort of an odd thing to see him here in a happy and normal environment since their last encounter had been a hundred feet in the air, flying as fast as they could in a storm of death eaters who were all trying to kill Harry, Stan included although not consciously so.
“Um, hi Stan. You’re, ah, your doing good then.”
“I’ll say! Thanks to you, I ‘ad spent a year ‘n Azkaban and by the time I got ‘ot I s’pose the death eaters ‘ad me under the Imperius or som’ot because I hadn’t a clue ‘bout nothin’ till ‘bout the middle of las’ year. They didn’t believe me for a while but that bloke Kingsley did me right and said he’d seen it back las’ summer and that I was tellin’ the truth’. He also told me personally that I’d attacked you over the summer but you saved my life. I couldn’t believe my ‘ears when I ‘eard it. Saved by ‘arry Potter.”
“Er, no problem, listen I’ve got to go” Harry tried to hide his face from the view of the rest of the room but there were whispers going around all throughout and he knew he had to get out of there quick. They tried to get past Stan and out the door but he persisted with the conversation.
“So I read ‘bout what ‘appened with all that stuff las’ year. They’re saying you died or some’ot but came back to life. ‘S ‘at true?”
“Um, well sort of but I’ve really got to go now. I’ll have to talk to you later alright Stan?”
He pushed his way out the door and ran to the wall with Ron and Hermione right behind him. Chairs were squeaking in the bar and the voices were getting louder with the occasional shout of “It’s Harry Potter!” or “What was it like?” or “Three cheers for Harry! Hurrah!”
Hermione tapped out the pattern on the bricks and the wall opened up to reveal the wonderfully busy lane of Diagon Alley. They hurried through and left the cheering crowds of the Leaky Cauldron behind then as the wall resealed itself into solid brick once more.
The room was quiet and cluttered as Ezakiah Cleaves sat pouring over his books and papers. He had so far collected information on several different areas of muggle warfare including something called ‘the Foreign Legion’ the United States Marine Corp.’, and the ‘the British Armed Forces’. He had studied several books on ‘weapons’ which had given him chills at the idea of such barbarity. Very little of it made any sense to him and he had decided against the use of weapons.
Instead he went for the books about body movement and training for speed and strength. He liked the idea of some of the things they taught. The muggles sure knew how to get along without magic. It was incredible the things they did with their hands and feet. He read through a book entitled ‘Self-defense 101: a guide to simple procedures that will save your life!’ by Timothy Brooks. It was filled with descriptions of simple arm and hand movements that caused terrible pain in the adversary with minimal effort on the defender’s side. There was even one move that claimed to use only one finger and tapped the side of the head to knock a person unconscious in an instant. He hardly believed such things were possible but he knew that if it was, they had to learn it.
He had attempted the use of telephone during one his study sessions to make a call to the head of a ‘boot camp’ in a northern part of England that he had read a pamphlet on. It hadn’t gone very well because he was not familiar with the muggle talking device and the conversation ended with a long string of rude words from the other end and then it had gone silent and he had decided to just put it down for now.
Instead he had felt it was time to find someone who taught these things for real. Someone who already knew how to do the ‘boxing’ (a very odd name for a sport in his opinion) and ‘karate’ (another odd name and an even stranger concept from what he had seen—it was comical to him but the books said it worked and it made him curious) and who could teach them these arts one on one. He rubbed his eyes and pushed his glasses up on his nose, running his free hand through his hair.
They needed a muggle.
Harry was glad that Diagon Alley was busy because it meant that very few people took the time to notice him and apart from the occasional hoot of somebody passing by or a pat on the back he was left well enough alone. These people had businesses to run and things to buy instead of the Leaky Cauldron bunch who were more prone to simply drinking and telling wild tales.
The street was full of all the old sights and sounds that had filled Harry with wonderment before the war began. The shops that had been boarded up in the past few years due to the danger of attack, were now reopened and filled with people, the signs all newly painted and the shelves refilled with items.
Even Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor was back in business. There was a line of little kids with their parents waiting for ice cream, looks of wonderment on their faces as each scope was handed to them in varying colors and flavors.
They went and bought an ice cream, Harry got Chocolate Raspberry, Ron got Mint Chip, and Hermione got Caramel Vanilla Swirl. They laughed as they looked at each other all licking away at their ice cream cones like little children again.
Harry felt like it was his first time again as he walked through the shops with Ron and Hermione and he remembered fondly the day when Hagrid had first brought him here over seven years ago. He felt all over again that raw, new amazement at seeing all the lights and magical items and colors and smells. And better yet, now that Voldemort was gone and people could walk freely through the streets once more, the atmosphere was different than it had been the past few years. It was wonderful to see people enjoying themselves, without panicked looks or dodgy eyes, just happy and free.
After finishing their ice creams, they went into Flourish and Blotts, mostly for Hermione’s sake, and Ron and Harry looked at a stand bearing the title ‘Newest Quidditch Releases’ and were happily content to spend their time there. Hermione however, perused the shelves all throughout the store, picking up book after book and reading bits of it to herself for nearly an hour. By the time she finally came back to them holding a pile of new books in her arms and a smile on her face, Harry was already half way through ‘Best New Quidditch Players of the Season’. He had spotted the name ‘Oliver Wood’ under ‘Ballycastle Bats’ with the quote beside it:
‘Oliver began his career as a reserve player for Puddlemere United but has since been traded to the Ballycastle Bats of North Ireland where he plays Keeper. Last year Ballycastle went to the league championships but took second place although Oliver made two of the best saves of the season, according to the Daily Quidditch Correspondent, Andrew Whitacker, and hopefully will be able to take the team even farther in the coming season. Oliver has shown enormous aptitude for professional quidditch and this is one player you’ll want to keep an eye on.’
He had showed the page to Ron who hadn’t been surprised.
“It’s Oliver Wood, Harry-- he was bound to get recognized at some point. He’s a brilliant Keeper. I wish I was as good as him.”
As they left the shop Harry spotted Quality Quidditch Supplies and both he and Ron made a beeline for it, Hermione rolling her eyes and tromping along behind them.
“Alright, you let me look at books so I’ll let you look at crazy flying balls that try and kill you and broomsticks that go much too fast.”
Ron’s eyes were alight with the glories of the newest brooms and gear and he turned to her with a huge grin, “What’s not to like about going much too fast?”
Harry had to agree.
They walked in and were greeted by a tall stand bearing the sign ‘GoblinGear: coming soon!’ with a picture of various outfits designed by goblin armor makers. There were half a dozen people all standing around the sign gawking at the sleek designs for the newest addition to quidditch. Each piece was all black and seemed to be made of a sort of soft leather but closer investigation was really millions of incredibly tiny metal links joint to create the very tough looking material that moved like cloth. There was the GoblinGear logo, a velvety purple quaffle with pointed ears and an enblazoned GG, on the front of the chest piece and on each glove as well as the boots, the shin guards and the elbow pads. It was quite a sight really, in Harry’s opinion and Ron seemed to agree.
“Blimey those look sharp.” he said his eyes seemingly unable to tear themselves away, “I’ve never used armor before! All we got on the Hogwarts team were ratty old gloves and quidditch robes, but this stuff is wicked.”
“I’ll get some for Ginny, I’ll buy it as soon is it comes out!” Harry said turning to Hermione his eyes also alight with the beautiful sight.
“Oh, Harry!” Hermione said aghast. “You know she’d never want that! Honestly GoblinGear? She’s not one for fancy things like that. Think about it, she wouldn’t accept it.”
Harry pictured her in the jet black armor with the velvet goblin-eared quaffle across her chest and her red hair falling about the suit. Her expression was mutinous and the image quickly burst as he snapped out of his moment of insanity.
“You’re right. She’d never wear it; I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Ron looked longingly at the picture as Harry turned away.
“I’d wear it…” He said hopefully and Hermione hit him in the shoulder.
Harry frowned thinking about his list of things to look at for her, none of them really seemed like Ginny.
“What now? Everything I had planned to get her is something she would never accept. I wanted to buy her something top-of-the-line like a Firebolt or something like that but I know she won’t want it and I want her to want it.”
“I told you, she doesn’t want anything! She wrote me a letter last week saying I could let everyone know about her Captaincy and Head Girlship but that I had to make them all promise not to make a fuss about it. She doesn’t want presents, but she does want you to come watch her first match in November and she knows you’ll have to find out before then. So just go visit her or take her out somewhere instead of buying her things she doesn’t want and would never use.”
Harry sulked for a moment but decided she was right. Ginny didn’t like expensive things or high-quality gifts, she liked going places, seeing things, and doing things and she would appreciate a visit from him much more than a set of bulky, manly, goblin made quidditch armor. Harry sighed, it was still very sharp looking.
After looking around the rest of the shop purely for fun, Harry remembered that he didn’t have much money, he had used what little he had left for the ice-cream and would have to get some more.
“I have to stop by Gringott’s before we go anywhere else. I’ve only got three Knuts left and I’ll need some for later anyway if I’m going to take Ginny somewhere nice.”
“Alright, let’s do it now, then," Ron said with a sigh looking round at all the shiny brooms and gadgets and robes that would never be his, "this is just depressing me. It’s all too expensive anyway.”
“You have a very nice broom Ron! Be happy with that.” Hermione said drawing his attention away from the shelves.
“Yah, it is a pretty good one I suppose." He sighed again, "Well, come on then let’s get out of here.”
They headed away from Quality Quidditch Supplies and down the lane till they stood in front of the great crooked building that was the entrance to the Gringotts’ labyrinth. The moment they walked through the first set of doors and came upon the inscription of warning on the second set, Harry realized what had gone down beyond those doors the last time they were here. Ron stopped dead beside him staring at the words at the very bottom:
‘Thief, you have been warned, beware,
of finding more than treasure there’.
“Blimey. I forgot about that.” He turned a frightened face to Harry, “Reckon we ought to go in?”
Harry and Ron both turned to Hermione. She bit her lip.
“I don’t know. We did cause a bit of trouble for them. Do you think they’ll remember us?”
“Oh, gee Hermione, I don’t know,” Ron said sarcastically, “you mean those kids who broke into a high security vault, stole a priceless object, practically their entire staff, exploded through five layers of tunnerl and made off with a dragon?…Nope doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Well, I mean obviously they’ll remember what happened,” she looked exasperated, “but did they really get a good enough look at us to be able to remember our faces?”
“Well, it was for a good cause and we did save the world in the long run so maybe they’ll give us a break.” said Ron uncertainly.
“Yah maybe…”Harry said without taking his eyes off the door.
They all stood there looking past the second set of doors into the cavernous hall of the bank, each unwilling to be the first to move.
“Well,” Hermione said looking at Harry, “You could just take Ginny to the park or something, right?”
Harry went in.
Ron and Hermione hesitated behind him but followed after a moment. The three of them walked as swiftly as they could without drawing too much attention to themselves until they reached the far counter. Harry tried to hide his scar behind his hair and smiled casually at the goblin.
“Hi, um, I need to make a withdrawal.” He rummaged around in his pocket and drew out the key. “Here’s my key.”
“Name?” the goblin said dully.
Harry cringed, foiled already. “er…Harry Potter.”
The goblin stared at him.
“Harry Potter?” He made a deep gravely sound in his throat and Harry swallowed hard but the goblin did nothing more but glare menacingly through his beady eyes.
“Very well. Follow me.” and with that the goblin took the key and walked swiftly away to a door on the end of the hall. Harry was shocked and turned to Ron and Hermione whose faces were both filled with relief.
“Go on then Harry, let’s follow.” Ron whispered, giving him a shove towards the goblin who was already half-way down the marble hallway. They followed quickly. The goblin stopped at the last door and opened it, he seemed to hesitate for a second before holding it open for them with a begrudging look on his wrinkled face.
“Thank you…sir.” Harry said as he, Ron and Hermione slipped quickly into the dank, torch-lit tunnel, not wanting to do anything to test the goblin’s patience.
The goblin gave a grunt as response and seated himself down into the front of the little cart, with the other three in the back. They took off and were flying down the tracks in an instant, the wind whipping their hair. Harry couldn’t help but notice the many scaffoldings and support beams that were placed around the walls of the tunnel, repairing the damage they had caused with the dragon. He wasn’t sure if this goblin knew it was them or if he was just one of the goblins who disliked the changes that had been brought about between them and wizards by Harry’s defeat of Voldemort. Either way Harry was relieved that he wasn’t showing signs of violence.
They came to a halt outside Harry’s vault and the goblin opened it with the tiny golden key. Harry felt his head grow hot as he tried to shovel as much gold as he could into his bag while also hiding the contents from the view of Ron and Hermione. He didn’t like showing off his wealth to anyone even though he knew they understood. He had offered time and again to share it with the Weasley’s but had since given up hope as they had denied the offer each time insisting it wouldn’t be proper. He turned and shut the door quickly before jumping back into the cart and nodding to the goblin stuffing the bulging bag of gold into his jacket quickly. Hermione gave him an encouraging smile and Ron appeared to be studying the repair work with interest. Harry was grateful that they had pretended not to notice however obvious it was.
As they stepped back out into the brightly lit hall the goblin handed Harry back his key.
“Here.” he said in a gruff voice but paused before letting go, “Harry Potter...this is hard for me to say. I have a fierce allegiance to my kind and you have caused plenty of trouble for this establishment,” --so he had recognized them-- “but, however crude your methods, you have made a better world for us and despite what some of my kind are saying, we are grateful to you.” He looked like it pained him to say this and Harry gave him a tentative smile.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Umph.” he grunted and turned away, hobbling over to his counter again.
Harry looked at Ron and Hermione, Ron gave him a thumbs-up.
“Well that was nice, but let’s get out of here before we meet a goblin with a differing opinion.” Hermione said pulling Ron by the elbow towards the front doors, Harry followed.
As they stepped back out onto front steps and hurried away from the silver inscription that bore the warning they had so valiantly ignored last year, they were too hurried to notice the brawl happening on the street below them until thy were right in the middle of it.
“Bloody hell.” Ron said as they all stopped dead at the foot of the steps.
There was a man who had his wand pulled on another, much younger, man who was lying on the ground, his face turned in the other direction, having just received a blow to the face. The man with the wand was obviously drunk and he staggered toward the one on the ground clutching his wand and sneering.
“You’re filth!” The first man said spitting at the other’s feet and swaying oddly. “You're muggle-- mudblood filth!”
Ron clutched Hermione’s hand instinctively at the mention of ‘mudblood’ and Harry pulled them both a safer distance away. The rest of the street was moving about warily, avoiding the two and casting disgusted looks at them.
The drunk swaggered forward a bit, calling drawlingly, “Muggle mum, with lots of little muggle kiddies, and where’s your daddy? Gone! The piece of scum!”
At that, the man on the ground struck out hard with his legs and kicked the drunken man over, then got to his feet and pointed his own wand at the man with a surprisingly adept ‘expelliarmus’ and disarmed him.
The drunk looked dazed as his wand flew from his grasp.
“Don’t-you-talk-about-my-family-like-that-ever-again!” the man said and sent a kick towards the drunk with each word and then turned around in a huff.
It was Dean Thomas, his eyes looking murderous and his lip bleeding down his chin.
“Oi!” He said, the anger instantly melted away and replaced by shock. “Harry! Ron, Hermione! I—I, sorry!” he lowered his wand and turned back to the man on the ground who was fumbling around on the ground for his wand, and then he turned back to them looking embarrassed.
“Dean, are you alright?” Harry took a step toward him, eyeing his bleeding mouth.
“Yah,” he wiped his lip with his sleeve, “It’s just this nutter.” He shook his head in the direction of the other man who was picking himself up the ground and glaring at Dean’s back.
“Do you know him?” Harry asked wondering what had started the fight.
“Well, yah. He’s a neighbor actually. He drinks too much, and when he gets drunk he tends to lash out towards muggles.” His eyes darted quickly at Hermione, “and muggleborns like me.” he turned around and the man glared at him again over his shoulder as he hobbled away muttering things under his breath.
“He’s not really that bad when he’s sober though. Just a nutter who lives by himself and talks to his couch. It’s fine, I get it a lot from him. Just wish I hadn’t met him here of all places.” he sighed looking around at the people who were still giving him angry glances for disturbing the peace.
“Anyway, sorry about that.” He held out his hand to Harry and Harry shook it. “How are you doing?”
“Fine Dean, actually really good. I’m studying with Ron and Hermione to take a NEWTS test in April, and I’m going to do Auror training as soon as I can after that.”
“Auror! Wicked, that’s great Harry. Of course, what else would the famous Harry Potter do besides being an auror?” He laughed and shook Ron’s hand next and nodded politely to Hermione with a smile. “So you two doing alright as well?”
“Never better.” Hermione said returning the smile.
Dean lauged again, “Yah, well I suppose that's true. Good, Well I’m actually on way up here,” he motioned to the door of Gringott’s. “I’m working with there now like your brother Bill,” He said to Ron, “Well, he’s way higher up than I am, I just assist the goblins to carry stuff around to the vaults…” He looked down at his shoe.
“That’s a really great job Dean. You’ll do great.” Hermione said kindly
He looked up appreciatively. “Thanks. Well I probably should get going now. Where are you lot off to?”
They both looked at Harry. “Um, well we were just sort of looking around.”
“Well, then I’ll see you guys later I guess.”
“Sure Dean. Good luck.”
They started to turn and then Dean caught Harry’s arm “Oh, Harry?”
Harry looked back waiting, “Yah.”
Dean looked slightly nervous. “How’s—How’s Ginny?” He looked at Harry carefully and Harry felt slightly uncomfortable.
“She’s doing really great now. She’s back at Hogwarts and everything so, she’s great...Now.... Really.”
Dean took a deep breath, “I heard she was attacked a few weeks ago by one of those death eaters and, well, I mean you understand…”
“I know. No problem. It wasn't a big deal, she's all healed now. I’ll tell her hi from you next time I see her.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you all later!”
He turned and dashed up the steps to Gringott’s and the three turned as well to walk back towards the Owl shop. Ron put an arm around Hermione as they walked and Harry felt a bit awkward especially having just talked about Ginny to one of her ex-boyfriends. He and Dean had always got along very well but during their sixth year Harry had formed a sort of boiling jealousy of him whenever Ginny was mentioned. He struggled to rid himself of the feeling now, Dean was a good guy. He still cared for Ginny even if he didn’t love her. Of maybe he did. Harry swallowed. No, no, that didn’t matter, Ginny loved Harry not Dean and that was what mattered. Harry let that be the final thought on the subject and then pushed it from his mind.
They walked around for another hour or two and then left for home. Hermione said that since Harry had promised not to buy Ginny anything large and fancy that she was going to go ahead and share the news with everyone officially about Ginny's school accomplishments. There was no way of stopping Mr. and Mrs. Weasley from celebrating frivolously but at least knowing that Harry would refrain from making a fuss was a comfort to Hermione's promise.
Hermione stayed for dinner that evening and slipped in to the conversation that Ginny had written her just yesterday. She said a few things about what had been going on and then with a quick glance at Harry and Ron she casually mentioned that Ginny had just found out that McGonagall was making her Head Girl and Quidditch captain, and then quickly stuffed a piece of chiken in her mouth. Sure enough Mrs.Weasley let out a shriek and jumped out of her crying, and hugging everyone her dinner lying forgotten on the table. Mr. Weasley looked delighted as well although he attempted to continue eating which was hard to do with Mrs. Weasley's shrieks constantly piercing the quiet. She drilled Herimone for information and Hermione told her that they had postponed making the captains and the Heads until everyone was in school because they weren't sure how many kids would be back after last year's events. Hermione performed the story beautifully and Mrs. Weasley must have hugged them all at least fifty times before she stopped crying. Hermione gave Harry a look of ' told you so' and Harry felt bad that he had ever thought Ginny should have brought this nightmare upon herself while still at home. He sighed. It was a very long night.
Ezakiah yawned widely as he opened up another file of muggles already involved in the Wizarding world and began shuffling through its pages. He had been at it all day and it seemed he would never find anyone who would be a suitable teacher of muggle fighting. He rummaged through the papers in the current file whose title bore the name ‘Slone, Aarwinsky’ and read through a brief description on the boy.
‘Ten years old; older brother was taken hostage by death eaters, ministry had to explain to his family the circumstances when their son was returned with an addled memory. Decided against memory wipe so that family can visit him in St. Mungo’s. Lives in London.’
That wasn’t what he was looking for. He shut the folder and picked up another, if this one didn’t have anything good in it then he was going to call it a night and go home. He opened the file and read from a list with the heading ‘muggles relocated due to targeting by death eaters and endangerment in relation to dark events’. He scanned down the list and stopped on a name midway down. This could be it…
Last edited by katishere; July 30th, 2008 at 6:45 pm.
Re: Nineteen Years
Everything was peaceful and quaint at number four Privet Drive. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley were happy to say that that ‘terrible last year’ was well behind them now, thank the stars. Vernon had returned to his job at Grunnings after a long explanation they had devised as a family. They told their friends and neighbors that a relative had gone terribly ill and they had had to care for him over the past months. But alas, Great Uncle Charwinkle had passed away only last June, at this Vernon would shut his eyes for a moment and bow his head and Petunia would dab her eyes with her hankie and pat him on the shoulder. With this as their cover story they found themselves happily embraced back into the neighborhood of Little Whinging, baskets of flowers and baked goods brought to their door to comfort the mourning family. The truth behind it all stayed nicely a secret and life returned to normal as though the past year had not existed.
Dudley was however, not his usual self. Ever since the time, now over three years ago, when he had been attacked by a strange creature that magical folk called a dementor, he had found himself quite suddenly sickened by his lifestyle as of yet. He was fat, mean, a bully, and hated by nearly everyone who wasn’t a part of his gang-- and even some of them hated him.
His life had come crashing down and he had still not quite recovered. His gang had deserted him and he could honestly care less. His computer was now too slow to run his favorite Alien Explosion game and he hadn’t bothered to ask for a new one. The Great Bambino reruns had ceased to bring him pleasure and he had come to the sad realization that watching television was really just staring at a bunch of dots of light move about a screen. His parents were worried that he had come down with some sort of sickness and had taken him to several doctors.
They had put him on another diet.
He really didn’t care. His whole life had been spent bullying and beating up on people who were much smaller than himself, which was pretty much everyone, and now he found no pleasure in either activity. The person he had spent his life tormenting was now gone forever and he actually missed him. Not because he wanted to hit him with his shoe or force him to clean his room but because he just missed him. He felt bad, he wanted someone to talk to, and all he had to eat was a half pint of carrot juice and three leaves of spinach. Life just couldn’t have gotten worse for Dudley.
Every morning he woke up in his cluttered room full of forgotten, useless toys and lay staring at his ceiling, wishing he had something exciting to do like his cousin Harry who had lived his life with magical schools, dark wizards, flying brooms and lots of friends. After an hour or so of contemplating his life, or lack there of, he would roll out of bed (once a considerable feat but the diet was taking its toll) then make his way dully down to breakfast (the first leaf of spinach and a bit of the chunky orange liquid that was at some point a carrot) and then sit on the couch still very dully until his parents kicked him out to go play with his friends. At this he would wander dully out along the street, sit dully on a park bench, or else stare dully at the passing cars from the park swing set.
Then he would return home after a couple of hours, eat his second helping of spinach and carrot essence, tromp up to his room and stare at the moving dots of light on his television screen for the rest of the afternoon until his mother called him down for dinner which meant he would finish off his rations and then lie in bed once more until he was asleep, almost always dreaming of creatures in large black cloaks that could only be driven away by his cousin Harry.
On one such dull day Dudley awoke, rolled out of bed and made his way downstairs as usual but instead of making his way to the kitchen as he normally did, he was forced to make a detour by a knock on the door. This was a pleasant surprise; Dudley liked the feeling of taking a left instead of a right so early in the morning.
He opened the door and stared at a skinny young man with dirty blonde hair and glasses that were sliding down his slender, pointed nose.
“Um, Good Morning.” The man smiled nervously and held out his hand.
“Where are you taking me? Harry, for goodness sake, you’re going to make me go blind!” Ginny said squirming under Harry’s firm grip.
“Sorry. I just don’t want you to see.” He loosened his hands slightly to give her some air and pushed her along through the grass.
“Well, if you would tell me where we’re going then you wouldn’t have to worry about me looking.”
“But that would defeat the point.”
“Just stop fussing. We’re almost there.”
“Ohhh fine. What’s this all about anyway?”
“Well, Hermione told us about—“
“—oh. Right, I should have known. How did that go down anyway?”
“Let’s just say you should be receiving the life-size talking, moving portrait of yourself seated on your throne of gold any day now. Your parents were insane—well, your mum was insane. Your dad looked very happy as well but somehow managed to keep his shrieks of mirth within him. Your mum had a bit more difficulty in that area.”
“I knew it! I found out in August but I didn’t want anyone to know until I was safely away because I knew my mum would never take it quietly. Oh! I would never have been able to stand it if I had been there. Hermione made you promise not to buy anything right?”
“Yes, yes, I’m not buying you anything,” Harry said exasperatedly, “however I am taking you somewhere but it’s a surprise.”
She smiled behind Harry’s hands. “Really? I had no idea! Is that why I’m being lead, blind, away from my room without any knowledge of where I’m going. I thought you spilled some Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. Well now I’m excited!” She smiled again, mocking him.
Harry smiled too but of course she had no way of knowing.
“We’re almost there.”
Harry had both hands over her eyes and was leading her forward through the afternoon sun towards the farthest line of trees that were the forbidden forest. It was Saturday and Harry was ‘borrowing’ her secretly from school for the evening. He took a few more steps guiding her carefully around a large tree branch and then stopped.
“Okay we’re here.”
He took his hands off her eyes and stepped up beside her, his arms folded, watching her expression with glee. She opened her eyes slowly and grinned. She didn’t say anything but raised an eyebrow at Harry with a huge smile on her face, a fire roaring to life behind in her brown eyes.
Harry handed her a helmet and lead her toward his flying motorcycle, parked neatly beside a large tree, the paint new and shining, and the sidecar gone. Harry tapped the gas tank with his wand and it revved up.
She pulled him towards her, put both arms around his neck and kissed him.
After a minute Harry pulled back so he could look at her. “So do you want to go for a ride or are we just going to stand here and look at it?”
She bit her lip, the corners of her mouth widening in a smile.
“Let’s go!” she said and turned toward the bike.
Harry seated himself in the front and pointed to a button between the handlebars, as Ginny sat down behind him.
“You’re dad put some new features on this thing, this one he borrowed from that old Ford Anglia he used to have.”
He pressed it and the motorcycle gave a flicker and then disappeared. Ginny grinned widely, and handed him a helmet.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better present Harry.”
Harry winked, and tapped his helmet.
“Just to warn you, I picked these up from George’s shop. Had them custom made, they’re like those invisibility top hats they made back a few years ago but better. He placed it on his head and the moment the strap clicked, his body melted into the trees behind it.
“Very cool.” Ginny said doing the same.
“We can’t be seen on a flying motorcycle with muggles about now can we? Hold on tight.”
Ginny wrapped her arms around Harry’s waist and tucked her chin onto his shoulder.
She whispered into his invisible ear, “Nice work, biker boy.”
The motor revved again and took to the darkening skies.
A door opened suddenly from the side of the hall and a smiling face appeared out of it.
“Kingsley Shacklebolt—the man of the hour. Just who I was itchin to see!”
“Robards.” Kingsley said his voice not sounding at all pleased to see the man who had suddenly burst from the doorway.
“Okay so here’s the deal: Savage, Proudfoot, and Henderson are tying to get this planet under control but the three of them just aren’t enough to get things done. I know you’re working on this new super-auror, muggle squad or whatever but is there any chance you can hurry up the process?”
Kingsley stopped and turned around slowly without a word. He stared unblinking into the other man’s hazel eyes, not with menace or anger but just with an air of strength. Robards swallowed hard and took a step back.
“Okay, okay, take your time. I know you’re doing what you gotta do but I need some more men. We’re using way too many Hit Wizards for Auror assignments and it’s just making my job more stressful.” He knew immediately that was the wrong thing to say as Kingsley furrowed his brow at the idea that his job was getting ‘stressful’.
“Well, there’s been a serious disturbance off the coast of Florida in the US, the muggles are blaming the Bermuda Triangle or something bogus like that—about twenty people went missing there two days ago including multiple wizards and the three aurors I’ve got just are not enough to get things done. I sent Savage over there to Florida and Proudfoot is in Scotland trying to settle that whole death eater scandal and Henderson is working like mad to find where Carrow and his buddy went off to. It’s just not enough.”
“It will have to be enough—it’s all we have.” Kingsley said his eyes calm but commanding.
Robards swallowed again.
“Well, okay. If you….” He trailed off as he glanced at Kingsley's face.
“I allowed you to remain head of the old auror department despite what happened last year. I haven’t forgotten. I advise you not to remind me.”
Robards’ eyes grew wide.
“Right. Um,” he wiped his brow which was starting to glisten, “You’re right. I’ll just go see about these disappearances then.”
“I suggest you do.”
Kingsley nodded politely and Robard hurried away without returning the gesture.
Gawain Robard was the head of the old auror department, purely out of Kingsley’s forgiving nature. He had led the aurors on muggleborns collecting throughout last year and even tried his hands in ‘snatching’ a few times to collect the reward. He had come begging back like a coward but Kingsley knew enough to see that he had been acting of his own accord. However, he had needed someone to head that position until the new program was off its feet and he trusted that Gawain was frightened enough of him to not revert to his previous methods of leadership. Kingsley was watching him, he did not like Gawain, he was a fool and a slacker but he was the only one who knew the job and he would have stay just a bit longer.
Kingsley looked up as another man came rushing towards him, however this one he was glad to see. Ez came skidding to a stop in front of Kingsley and pushed up his glasses with a nervous smile.
“I think this will surprise him.”
The sun set just as they reached the place called Vantage Hill. Harry landed carefully and they got off just in time to watch the last rays flicker on the horizon. The view was incredible; it seemed that the whole of the world was stretched out in front of them as they stood together beside the bike looking out from the hilltop.
“That was amazing Harry. I’m so glad you didn’t buy me anything stupid.”
“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve been practicing riding it whenever I had time but I needed a final test run.”
“You did wonderfully. I never knew you were the type to take to riding motorcycles through the sky. I like this new side of you.”
Ginny examined him as though trying to pin point the change in him. She smiled and he gave a smile back.
“I like seeing your wild side.”
“I’m glad.” he said playfully, “You know I was thinking, it might be time to get that tattoo, you know the horntail across my chest, I think you were right, it’d be really macho.”
“It’s about time.” She flicked an eyebrow skyward and laughed.
Harry pulled a blanket out of his knapsack and spread it out on the ground for them to sit on, he pulled out two butterbeers as well and they sat down. He handed one to Ginny and took a drink from the second.
“I’m going to see Kingsley and Ez on Thurday.” he said as they sat down under the steadily darkening sky, the stars unfolding like glittering jewels with every moment that passed.
“Really? That’s great! Are they ready to start so soon or is it just a meeting?”
“I don’t know. The letter just said they'd made some progress and wanted me to come in and give my opinion on what they’ve got so far. I can’t believe it Ginny, they want my opinion. Mine!”
“Harry you’re the best there is. You beat Voldemort. You’re brilliant at fighting dark wizards; they’d be daft not to want your opinion.”
“I know I’ve done a lot but I didn’t do it alone and I’m only 18.”
“It doesn’t matter; nobody can deny you’ve got what it takes to be an auror. You’ll be the best there ever was. I know you will.”
Harry’s ears felt hot and he took another drink of butterbeer.
“Well, now that you know about my captaincy, I want to talk quidditch.”
Harry grinned as Ginny turned around with her legs folded and put down her drink in a very serious manner.
“You know I love it when you talk quidditch.”
“Yah well, I’ve had try-outs and we’re in for a very interesting year.”
“Well, no. Not bad, exactly, just very," She pursed her lips, searching for the right word, "inexperienced. We’ve haven’t really got a lot of kids to choose from anymore and even fewer that have any talent whatsoever. I’ve got a few promising players though. Dennis for one--”
“Yup. He tried out and he wasn’t too bad. He wanted to try out for a beater, but he could hardly swing the bat since it weighed about twice as much as he did so I suggested he try for seeker instead. He definitely has the right build and he was the only one who managed to even spot the snitch so he got the spot. He’s nothing on you of course, but then you’re legend.” She grinned at Harry.
“So who else’s on the team, anyone I know?” Harry said leaning back on one elbow and eager to hear more, he missed Hogwarts very badly and Quidditch was just another thing about it that he longed to have again.
“Well Romilda tried out.” Ginny said rolling her eyes, “She wasn’t really that bad but she didn’t get a spot. She tried for chaser. I gave the spots to a boy named Henry Cannon and another boy named Travis Anderson. I’ll be the third Chaser, I like it best. Henry’s pretty good and Travis is excellent. They’re both fourth years. Ritchie Coote and Jimmy Peakes made it back as beaters, none of the other people who showed up could even figure out which end of the bat was up. Keeper was the hardest to place, we had about ten people try out and a few of them were really good, not like Oliver, but I can't deny they were a slight inprovement on Ron. The two best were Euan Abercrombie, a fourth year, and Natalie McDonald, a fifth year. Euan saved four and Natalie saved five so Natalie got the spot. All in all I guess we’ve got a pretty good team, it’s just that they’re all new to it except Coote and Peakes and I. We’re starting practice this week and our first match is in November. You’ll be there right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
There was a crackle of branches suddenly from behind and they both turned around. There was nothing to be seen and no explanation for the sound. Harry put down his bottle of butterbeer slowly, peering into the bushes on the ledge behind them. He turned back to Ginny.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yah,” She peered into the bushes too, “It was probably just a rabbit or something like that.”
Harry turned back to the bushes uncertainly, “Yah, probably.”
He took his wand out of his rucksack anyway and put it beside him just in case.
“So what did you do yesterday?” Ginny asked leaning back on her elbows beside Harry.
“We went to Diagon Alley actually, Ron, Hermione and I.”
“And how’d that go?”
“Fine, it was nice to get away from our homework. Hermione’s making us work at a break neck pace but for some reason she decided we deserved a break yesterday.” He said with a puzzled look, remembering Hermione's sudden willingness to let them shirk their studies.
“Well, that’s nice.” She was clearly waiting for him to elaborate on his hint about Hermione’s odd behavior.
“Yah, um, I sort of accidentally walked in on them before we left,-- not that it was my fault,” he added quickly as Ginny gave him a look, “the door was open and it was my room anyway." He sighed, "So, I guess things are going well for them.”
“Good.” Ginny said smiling, “I’d like to have Hermione in the family.”
Harry felt a bit uncomfortable at this statement and glanced back at the bush. Ginny noticed his look and smiled to herself but said nothing further on the matter of marriage.
“Did you get anything at Diagon Alley?”
“Um, we bought an ice cream and Hermione got a bunch of books but other than that no.”
“So what did you do all day long?”
“Well it wasn’t all day. We didn’t get there till after two.”
“Okay, so what did you all afternoon?”
“We looked around; we went into Gringott’s--”
“Oh! Bet that was fun! How’d it go with the goblins since the last time you were in there nearly destroyed the place, broke into a vault and stole a dragon?”
“Surprisingly alright. The goblin who helped us even thanked me after for helping them get a better life or something like that, it looked painful but it was way better than I expected. I thought he was going to punch me or something. Oh that reminds me!”
“Almost getting punched reminds you of something? Mmm, this ought to be good.” Ginny said, perching her head on both elbows in mock fascination.
“When we left Gringott’s there was a fight outside.”
“What like a duel?”
“No a fight—fist fight, a brawl between a drunk and another guy.”
“Wow. Did anyone get hurt?”
“Well not badly, the guy got a fat lip and the drunk just got really confused. Guess who the other guy was?”
Harry ignored her jive and continued “Dean Thomas.”
“Oh…” Ginny eyed him carefully, “That’s…nice.” She looked puzzled, “so—was he okay?”
“Yah, he was fine. The drunk was a neighbor of his who just liked having a go at muggleborns. He said some horrible things about Dean’s family but Dean put him in his place.”
Ginny nodded, “Good for Dean.”
“He says hi by the way. He heard about the attack a few weeks ago and he was worried about you.” Harry’s voice oddly forced.
“That was very nice of him—Harry are you okay?”
Harry looked up realizing his face was stony and quickly tried to smile, “Yah, yah I’m fine--”
At that moment Ginny jumped suddenly to her feet and whirled around. Something came crashing out from behind the bushes with a small ‘Ow!’ and a thud, landing in a very small heap on the floor. Harry pointed his wand at the crumpled figure not entirely sure it was dangerous but unwilling to let down his guard.
“Who are you?” he said swiftly stepping in front of Ginny. Ginny’s face was oddly contorted with a range of emotions and she seemed to be in shock for some reason that had nothing to do with the figure on the floor.
The figure gave a grunt and rolled over. It was a little boy, probably no older than six or seven, his face was dirty and his clothes were ripped but he seemed unhurt other than a few scrapes and bruises. His freckled face was small and draped with locks of his wavy brown hair, nearly covering his grey eyes. He stared at Harry and Ginny with surprise as though it had been they who had just fallen off a hill and not himself.
“Who are you?” Harry repeated less gruffly, lowering his wand.
“Liam.” he said breathlessly, still staring at Harry with wide grey eyes.
Harry glanced at Ginny who was still looking oddly into space, a mixture of fear and bewilderment on her face that didn’t really fit the situation. She didn’t seem to notice Harry’s gaze so he turned back to the boy.
“What were you doing the bushes Liam?”
“Looking for lizards.” He spoke very quietly, obviously frightened and his eyes flickered to Ginny for a moment.
“Why did you fall then?”
The boy looked bewildered too as his eyes returned to Harry.
“I don’t know.”
“Did you trip, did you jump, did someone push you?”
“I was just walking,” He said sitting up at last and looking behind him pointing to the bushes up on the side of the hill, “when I saw a lizard over there and then it was like something yanked me and crashed me down right here.” He looked back at the two of them with sad eyes as he surveyed his bruised, splintered hands and the rips in his jeans.
“Alright, you’re okay.” Harry turned to Ginny and stowed his wand in his pocket. Ginny looked at him, a trace of something still in her eyes, but otherwise seemingly normal again.
“Are you alright?” Harry asked putting a hand on her shoulder.
She smiled reassuringly, “Yah, I’m fine, just had a weird feeling that’s all.”
She shook it off and smiled at Harry, the odd look in her eyes disappearing at last, “I’m fine”.
She turned towards the little boy who was now dusting himself off forlornly and picking the splinters out of his palms. She walked towards him and kneeled down beside him. The boy eyed her cautiously as she moved towards him but she smiled her radiant smile and held out her hand.
“Here let’s see what the damage is.”
He looked unsure for a moment but then relaxed and placed his little grubby hand in hers. Harry smiled at the little boy’s look of awe as she examined his injuries with gentle fingers cleaning the splinters out of his palm.
“There you go-- Liam, I think it was, right?”
He nodded shyly.
“You’re going to be fine here let’s get up.” She helped him up and looked over at Harry who scratched his head absentmindedly.
“So what are you doing out so late all by yourself?” She asked the boy.
“I was hunting lizards.”
“Oh yah, that's right you already said that. Well, does your family know you’re out here?”
“Where do you live? Maybe we should take you home.”
“I live on the top of the hill. I can get back alright by myself.”
Ginny looked at Harry who shrugged.
“Um, okay then why don’t you go on home Liam, it was nice meeting you. I’m sorry you got hurt.”
Liam gave a shy smile, his freckly cheeks dimpled and his grey eyes twinkling.
“It was nice meeting you too-- What’s your name?” He said suddenly.
Ginny looked taken aback at the little boy’s forwardness after having been so quiet and shy.
“Um, I’m Ginny and this is Harry.” She motioned at Harry who held up a hand with a half-smile.
“Is that your motorcycle Harry?” The little boy skipped forward towards the parked motorcycle and Ginny looked at Harry with amusement.
“Yah it is. Listen Liam why don’t you go on home now okay?”
“It’s a great motorcycle! My brother wants to get a motorcycle but mum won’t let him. He’s seventeen and he goes to Hogwarts.”
Harry and Ginny exchanged a look.
“Really? Hogwarts?” Ginny said, “That’s really cool, I go to Hogwarts too and Harry just graduated. What’s your brother’s name maybe we know him?”
“Jackson. He’s in Gryffindor. I want to be in Gryffindor when I go there. I think Gryffindor’s the best. What house were you in?” He said looking at Harry.
“Um, Gryffindor as a matter of fact. Ginny’s in it too.”
“That’s good. It’s the best.”
“Yah, Okay Liam how about we take you home now? Ginny and I have to go soon.”
“Where are you going?” He said trying to clamber aboard the motorcycle.
Harry caught him up and put him back on the ground.
“Where do you live?”
“In a house, now just go on home Liam okay?”
“What kind of a house? Is it a big house? Does it have lots of windows? I like houses with lots of windows--”
“Liam!” Harry said rather more forcefully than he had intended, and the little boy’s face got sad and quiet again. Ginny frowned at Harry and then took Liam’s hand gently.
“Come on we’ll take you back up the hill. You live just on top of it you said?”
“Yes,” he said pouting in Harry’s direction, “It’s the house at the top.”
“Okay let’s go.” and she helped him back up onto the hillside from which he had fallen. Harry sighed and followed.
It didn’t take long to spot the house, which was very cozy looking small and neat with a little white fence and a chimney, seated only a little ways up from where they had been.
“Here you are, now go on home. It was nice meeting you.”
Liam let go of Ginny’s hand and took a few steps towards his house, then turned around.
“Will come by and visit me sometime?”
“Why not?" Ginny said giving him a smile, peaking out of the corner of her eyes at Harry.
“Good, you're nice. Bye.” He waved and tromped off towards his house.
Ginny turned around to Harry and took his hand laughing.
“That was one annoying kid.” Harry said as they made their way back to the motorcycle, the moon lighting their way.
“Oh, Harry! He was cute. A bit forward but adorable all the same.”
“His brother, Jackson, he’s in you year—do you know him?”
“Oh, yah. He’s really nice too. Now that I know that’s his brother I can see the resemblance. I’ve known him forever. He’s really funny and kind. He was part of Dumbledore’s Army last year but his parents took him out of school pretty early on.”
“Hmm.” Harry said quickly losing interest in the subject of one of Ginny’s other guy-friends. “Well that was a really weird interruption. Where were we before?”
“I think you were talking about Dean Thomas.”
That wasn’t much better, “Oh, yah... I said I’d tell you hi from him. So—hi from Dean.”
Ginny laughed, “Thanks you can tell him hi back from me next time you see him.”
“Okay. I will.”
Ginny shook her head at the look on Harry’s face and rolled her eyes. They returned to the motorcycle and their forgotten butterbeers.
After another minute or so of sitting under the stars together Harry looked at his watch “Well it’s starting to get late, I should get you back to school. You don’t want Filch to catch you out at night.”
“Oh it’ll be fine, he’s getting old. I can outrun him.”
Harry smiled and kissed her.
“I'd like to see that.”
He handed her a helmet and folded up the blanket stowing it back in his rucksack along with the empty butterbeer bottles. He made to sit down on the motorcycle but Ginny took his arm and pulled him back.
“Come on, we were rudely interrupted. We've got to make up for last time."
She pulled him close and put her arms around his neck.
“Well I guess it is your present.” Harry murmured leaning forward.
Ten minutes later they took off into the starry sky invisible to the world and flew towards the distant towers of Hogwarts castle together leaving the Vantage Hill vacant once more and the little house at the top of the hill, quiet.
Last edited by katishere; August 15th, 2007 at 12:51 am.
Re: Nineteen Years
Thursday morning dawned warm and humid. Harry sat on his bed and stared at the wall for a long time. He went over and over in his head the thoughts he had puzzled over in the past few days. He thought of the things he wanted to learn in his training, how to fight, how to do spectacular, powerful spells and how to be an auror like his parents. He thought of Ron and Hermione and how Ginny had hinted that they were getting pretty serious. He thought of Ginny and how he felt about marriage. The wall instantly faded away into a scene of Ginny in a flowing gown and a tall, once faceless man, standing beside her, who now bore Harry’s features. He loved Ginny and that much was certain by now, but he didn’t want to rush things, they were both younger than Ron and Hermione and they had had less time together too. Harry just liked the way things were already and he hoped she was happy with that too just for now. After all they’d been through together he thought they deserved at least a few normal teenage years. They had all the time in the world now.
His thoughts returned to the coming day then and from there the wall melted into a scene of himself doing back flips through the air and dodging curses with super skilled motions, rolling around on the ground like a flash of lightening, avoiding dangers and shooting complicated spells at his enemy. He sighed. He still had a long way to go. He was scrawny and had never really done much sports, although he was surprisingly fast. Dudley had taught him that from his many summers of ‘Harry hunting’. It was going to take a lot of work to get the results he was looking for.
After a few more minutes of pondering all this, he sighed again and rubbed his face, the wall reappearing and reality returning to him once again. He stood up and got dressed and then made his way down to the kitchen.
Ron was already seated there, a pile of toast on a plate in front of him and a letter in his hand which he was reading. He gave a start when Harry said ‘Hey’, and stuffed the letter in his pocket and the toast in his mouth.
“’ey ‘arry.” he said thickly.
Harry pulled out a chair and sat down, helping himself to some toast from the pile in front of Ron and motioning towards the letter’s hiding place.
“Who was that from?”
Ron swallowed and tried to act cool, “Oh, just Hermione.” He picked up another bit of toast and munched it, his ears slightly red.
“What’s she up to?” Harry asked conversationally.
Ron seemed to give up on acting cool and put down his toast.
“She was just telling me about that internship she’s going to start and how excited she is and” his eyes gazed steadily at his toast, “that she’s really proud of us because of how good we’re doing on our NEWTS. She said she thinks we’re both going to pass with flying colors.” He gave Harry a sheepish glance and Harry smiled.
“Well that’ll be a first won’t it?” Harry said with a laugh.
Ron looked relived and laughed as well, “Yeah, I suppose so.”
A thought suddenly occurred to Harry as he sat reminiscing about their many hours of working on homework, and studying together throughout the years. He had been looking forward to the meeting today but it seemed weird, after all the years of adventures together, to be experiencing this alone.
“Ron, do you think you’d want to come with me today?” he asked all of a sudden.
Ron looked surprised but pleased, “Sure! That would be wicked.”
“Yeah, it would wouldn’t it? I don’t want to go by myself, and you’re my best mate.”
“If I do okay on my NEWTS maybe I’ll be able to join up too, I’ve always thought it’d be brilliant to be an auror. But, do you think Kingsley would mind? He didn’t exactly invite me.”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, he said before that he just wanted me to be there as a sort of introduction and to get my opinion, but obviously I can’t be the only auror who gets trained. I kind of want someone to be there with me anyway, I don’t know why I’m so nervous but it’d be loads more fun with you there. I’ll send him an owl and ask, but he knows you and your dad and he knows you did amazing stuff last year so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”
Ron’s ears turned slightly red again and his hand moved unconsciously to the spot where he had stuffed Hermione’s letter.
Harry smiled to himself and finished off his bit of toast. He left Ron to his toast and hidden letter in order to write a note to Kingsley. He walked into the closest room from the kitchen on the first floor landing in order to find some parchment and a quill and realized after a moment that it was Ginny’s. He smiled at the cozy little arrangement of it, the bed squished against one wall and the desk sitting beneath the window. The posters on the wall of Gwenog Jones, the Weird Sisters and a few other assorted new clippings he hadn’t noticed before. He walked up to the clippings on the wall and found that she had collected a huge amount of Daily Prophet articles, from last year’s events. He read the titles ‘Muggleborn Act Met With Enthusiasm’ next to which had been scribbled ‘but only by thickheads and death eaters’, ‘Harry Potter: Undesirable Number One’ which had the ‘un-’ crossed out and had Harry’s face carefully attached to the article with the words ‘come home safe Harry’ written in a corner, ‘Hogwarts Undergoes Welcomed Changes’ next to which were the words ‘oh yes, we really must commend the addition of Dark Arts to our curriculum’, and ‘Ministry Embraces New Leadership’ next to which she had written ‘We all feel so much safer with Voldemort ruling the world.’ Harry snorted and chuckled as he glanced around at the rest of the many clippings all with similar headings and similar phrases added in Ginny’s carefree, elegant scroll. Harry had never really appreciated how much she had had to go through last year or how much danger she had been in regardless of her severed ties to the ‘Undesirable Number One’. He turned away from the wall remembering why he had entered the room in the first place and rummaged through her desk for a parchment and quill.
He found some almost immediately as Ginny’s desk was littered with rolls of parchment and numerous quills in varying states of use. He ripped off a bit from one and dipped a fairly usable looking quill in the ink well at the top corner of her desk to scribble out a note to Kingsley. When he had finished he held it up and reread it to make sure it sounded okay.
I was wondering if it might be okay to bring along Ron Weasley to today’s meeting at 4:00. He has also expressed interest in becoming an auror and I think you’ll remember from my account of last year’s events that he is very capable of participating in this project. Hope it’s alright to ask on such short notice.
He was trying to sound as professional as possible even though he had known Kinglsey for a number of years, it seemed implied that a letter to the Minister should be strictly business. He decided that was as good as it was going to get and left Ginny’s room to search for Ron’s owl Pig. Pig, or rather Pigwidgeon as Ginny had christened him, was now a good deal larger than he had been when Ron had first received him but he was still as hyper as ever and his new size only made him more of a nuisance than before, and that was saying something.
Harry found Pig in Charlie’s old room where Ron had put him in his cage to keep the noise level down in his own room. Pig hooted loudly and began hopping around in his cage when Harry walked in and it took nearly ten minutes to get him to settle down long enough for Harry to give him the letter.
Finally he was off and Harry made his way back down to Ron who had ate his way through the rest of his toast and was now rereading his letter from Hermione. This time he didn’t shove the letter away as swiftly and just folded it up sheepishly when Harry entered.
“Did you send it?” he asked brushing off his crumb-speckled T-shirt and looking at Harry.
“Yeah. Just now, I used Pig, hope you don’t mind.”
“Nah, he’s a pain anyway.” Ron said waving his hand nonchalantly at the window through which Pigwidgeon’s form was slowly disappearing in the distance in a sporadic pattern of loops, dives and twirls.
“Well, I suppose we should go back to our studying till we get an answer huh? I hope he lets me come, it’d be wicked to join up come April if I get enough NEWTS.” Ron continued as he and Harry dragged out their school books and settled themselves on the lawn.
“I can’t wait to get started. I never really thought about how much war has become a part of my life. I guess the battle with Voldemort always seemed like just something I had to do and something I couldn’t avoid but now, with him gone, I can’t think of anything else to do.”
“I agree with you completely mate, Quidditch is definitely out of my future and I don’t really fancy troll keeping so why not just go with what I already spent my school career doing? Not that I was much of a help through all that but still, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to the struggle for my life even if I was more of a hindrance in the end.” Ron said bluntly.
“You weren’t a hindrance Ron. I couldn’t have done it without you and Hermione.” Harry assured him truthfully.
“You couldn’t have done it without Hermione, that I agree with whole heartedly, but then that’s Hermione, right? The world would probably spin off into space it if it weren’t for her.”
Harry smiled but persisted still on the point he had been trying to make.
“You’re right mate, Hermione did pretty much everything except shout expelliarmus but you saved my life and got the sword and destroyed the horcrux and everything.”
“Well, sure after I left you both stranded in the wilderness and tried to chop your head off with that bloody thing.”
“You had a right to leave though Ron, honestly. What you said was true, I didn’t have a plan and I had no idea what I was doing. Besides that locket was messing you up, it made everyone irritable and you wore it more than us. You shouldn’t have had to carry it so long.”
“It wasn’t the locket.” Ron said looking up at Harry his study books lying unopened and his eyes looking distant. “I feel terrible about the things I said Harry, but especially because they happened long before the locket.”
Harry didn’t know what to say and Ron sighed looking thoroughly miserable.
“It all really comes down to the fact that I’m just Ron Weasley, the guy who sits next to you in Charms—I’ve been such a selfish prat these last few years and every time you saved the day again I got more and more resentful. It didn’t help that Hermione was always right there beside you when you came up victorious. It was just a whole mix of everything, leaving my family, being cold and tired and hungry and knowing that we weren’t getting anywhere—not that it was you’re fault, Dumbledore gave us about as much help as Luna’s wrackspurt remover so I don’t blame you for all that aimless wandering—and then knowing that it would be you in the end anyway who saved the day no matter what I did.” He raised his eyebrows and picked at a blade of grass.
“I had started thinking that you would be exactly the same if I wasn’t there, I didn’t really see any way I could be of help and having Hermione so taken up with her part just made me more confused and then when I heard about Ginny. That’s when I really started whacking out. You know how insane I get about her, any of us brothers would kill anybody with our bare hands who so much as looked at her wrong, and hearing about her being tortured by death eaters just pushed me over the edge.” He stopped and looked up at Harry sadly. “I’m a bigger prat than Percy, and that’s saying something. I’m sorry mate.”
Harry shook his head, “Don’t be. I was worried about Ginny too but I knew she would be okay with Hagrid. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve blown up on you guys for no reason. It happens, and your reasons are perfectly justified.” Harry went on, “You stayed by me through thick and thin and took no credit for anything but I owe you just as much as Hermione for my still being here today and I mean that.” Ron raised an eyebrow.
“You did save my life.” Harry added.
“I just pulled you out of a lake.”
“And I would have drowned if you hadn’t.”
Ron gave a half-nod, “True, don’t know why you jumped in a bloody frozen lake half naked in the middle of the night anyway. That was a bit thick Harry.”
Harry grinned, “I’m lucky you decided to be thick-headed first.”
“Yeah, I guess I did save your life.” Ron said.
They exchanged a wordless confirmation that nothing more needed to be said on the subject and both opened their books.
“So. What have we got today?” Ron said looking at his schedule that Hermione had made them both with words that flashed in different colors to outline in careful detail the work for each week.
Harry pulled his own schedule out of his potions book and examined it. A list of assignments was flashing orange under the heading ‘Thursday’ and Harry read them off.
“We have to do lesson 12 for Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration and then we have to practice that potion again from last week, the reviving one.”
Ron groaned, “The lessons are okay but that potion was impossible! How was it my fault that I stirred it too quickly and ended up setting it on fire? It said nothing about the speed of your stirring.”
Harry shrugged and pulled out his other books.
“What do you want to start with? We might as well get the potion over with now, don’t you think?”
“I suppose.” Ron said grumpily, standing up to get his cauldron and potion ingredients.
They set to work brewing their potion again which had not gone smoothly last time.
Harry looked at the ingredients list and pulled out his wiggenweld bark proceeding to grind it into a fine powder with the blunt side of his knife.
Ron was doing the same and they sat together mixing in the various ingredients with painstaking accuracy to make it just right. After an hour and a half of fumes, bubbling liquids and plenty of sweat they had finished the first half of the potion which meant they had to let it sit for exactly two hours stirring it twice clockwise every thirty-seven minutes. They both sighed, wiped their brows, and opened up books once more.
“Reckon we should start on Charms next?” Ron said flipping through his book and scanning chapter thirteen of ‘Charming at NEWT level’. It looks like a bit of a break from this mess,” he said with a shrug of his hand at their potions area with bits of ingredients and their tools and scales strewn across the lawn.
“Why not.” Harry answered tiredly. He pulled out a quill and parchment to take notes and scanned the sky absentmindedly for Pigwidgeon and Kingsley’s response.
“I hope we get an answer about this afternoon soon.”
Ron looked up as well, “Yeah, well I expect it’ll be here any minute now. ‘Course seeing as Kingsley’s got the world to look after at the moment it’s probably best we keep up our patience.”
Harry nodded but at the same time he was eyeing a speck in the distance that was growing speedily and seemed to be performing mid-air loopty-loops.
“You’re right but I don’t think we’ll have to test our patience any longer—isn’t that Pig over there behind the tree line?” Harry pointed and Ron put squinted into the sun and smirked at the bobbling figure twirling towards them from the trees.
“Yep. That’s Pig alright, bloody idiot of a bird that he is.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes but then seemed to remember what he was carrying, “Oh, I hope I can come! Sounds wicked!”
“I’m sure you’ll be able to. Kingsley knows you, he’s alright.”
Pig flew straight up into the sky above them once he had reached their spot and then did a flip and dove dramatically towards the ground but miscalculated on his final loop and ended up crashing spectacularly into Ron’s potion and spilling it everywhere in a brilliant cascade of iridescent blue liquid.
Ron jumped to his feet coated in the potion which was beginning to smoke and shouted “YOU BLOODY PRAT OF AN OWL!”
Pigwidgeon ruffled his feathers to dry himself off and pruned his wings haughtily before hopping over to Harry and dropping a slightly soggy note onto Harry’s lap. He gave Ron an indignant look and then flew off towards the house.
Ron siphoned of the potion moodily mumbling about that ‘idiot bird’ and ‘never going to pass his NEWTS if he couldn’t get past this ruddy lesson’. Harry opened the letter which was stamped officially with the ministry seal and pulled a simple note in Kingsley’s writing. It said only one word:
Harry looked up with a grin, and said “He says ‘sure’.” Ron looked up from drying his cauldron out with surprise.
“Yup. Look.” Harry held up the note. Ron laughed.
“Oh that’s professional. Wow. This is cool.”
“Told you it’d be fine.”
“Yeah, well…you were right. Here help me with this mess so we can finish up and get ready. What do you reckon they’re going to show us today? Think they’ll have any weapons like you told me about—what were they those-- mashing guns?”
Harry set to work helping Ron clean up the mess of potion and ingredients. “Machine guns? I dunno….maybe.”
“Wicked.” Ron said his eyes glazing over with images of auror training.
“I wonder if Hermione knows about them. I suppose she would huh?” He said airily.
“Probably seeing as she’s muggleborn.”
“Wait till I tell her I’ve learned how to use a matching gun. That’s pretty macho right?”
“Um sure, but it’s machine gun Ron. Machine. Gun.”
“Yeah, yeah. Marching, right.” Ron answered dazedly and Harry knew it was a lost cause.
At a quarter till four Harry and Ron tidied themselves up and said goodbye to Mrs. Weasley who was busy knitting a new sweater for Ginny (the third one in the last week). This one bore a broomstick crossed with a quill and had in elegant gold lettering the words ‘Gifted Child’ scrolled across it. Harry smiled inwardly at the thought of Ginny’s appalled look upon receiving it.
When they entered the Ministry’s sweeping halls they were both bursting with excitement at getting to hear first hand what was going to be the next generation of the Auror.
It only took a few minutes to find the room where they were supposed to meet and Harry looked at Ron with a huge grin, lifted his hand, and knocked.
A moment later the door opened to reveal the bespectacled face of Ezekiah Cleaves smiling down at them nervously.
"You must be Ron Weasley," he said holding out a hand to Ron who took it and nodded. "The Minister's running a bit late but come on in anyway, there's someone you might want to, er, meet."
He opened the door wider so that they could crowd into the cramped little office and as soon as Harry had stepped past the threshold he nearly passed out from surprise.
"Dudley!" He stammered out in shock staring back and forth from Ez to his cousin in disbelief. He looked considerably thinner although not entirely enough to classify him as 'skinny’. It was the same piggish face although now it lacked the enormous width to finish the effect, and the same blonde hair. It was the first time Harry had seen him since he had reconciled all his years of torture at the beginning of last summer.
"What in Merlin’s beard are you doing here?" Harry spit out still quite in shock.
Dudley gave a very un-Dudleyish look of meekness and motioned at Ez.
“Cleaves asked me to help…”
Harry turned to Ez.
“We needed someone who had experience with muggle fighting, someone who was good at it and someone who already knew about our world so we wouldn’t have to explain it all to them. It just so happens that your cousin here was the perfect man for the job.”
Harry smiled weakly, “Wow. That’s really…unexpected. But great all the same” he added to Dudley hastily although he wasn’t quite sure this was true. “So, eh, how are you doing Dud? Everything go alright last year?” Harry winced at the words, oh yeah, it must have been a lovely time for them to be ripped from their quiet, normal life and thrust into the hands of people they hated on the run from sure death for ten months.
Dudley shrugged. “I suppose so; we were in hiding that whole time.”
“Right…sorry about that but you would have been killed for sure, you know with Voldemort and all running ramped…” he trailed off. “Oh, by the way. Ron, meet my cousin Dudley. Dudley, meet my best friend Ron. I think you might have met before a couple of times, but not really very properly...” Harry was thinking back on the ‘ton-tongue-toffee’ incident and decided it would be best not to recount the details.
Ron gave a nod and held out his hand which Dudley took awkwardly.
“Erm, nice to meet you Dudley.”
Dudley seemed to be attempting a response but just grimaced oddly and stared at the wall instead.
“Well good.” Ez said with a bit of a nervous laugh, “Now that we’re all caught up and introduced we can get on with things--” Kingsley walked in right at that moment, “and here’s the Minister.”
“Mm, good afternoon Harry. Ron good to see you here, I’m glad you came along, I thought you might.” His deep voice twinkled as he spoke as though he had he hadn’t really thought but known it, Kingsley had a presence like that, it reminded Harry a bit of Dumbledore. What he ‘thought’ was very rarely wrong. He inclined his head at Dudley. “Mr.Dursley, welcome to the Ministry.”
Dudley cowered wide-eyed behind Ez and gave a faint nod. Kingsley didn’t seem to notice.
“Excuse me for being late but cleaning up Voldemort’s mess has been chaos and I’ve just been dealing with another casualty of riots in South Hampton.”
He sighed. “Shall we get on with it then?”
“Sure.” Harry said and took a deep breath. It had been a quite a shock to see Dudley here in the Ministry of Magic after having been so sure he would never ever be a part of his life again. This was a different Dudley but he couldn’t forget the old one. The shock had nearly made him forget what they had come for but now he remembered and the excitement returned. He gave Dudley the most sincere smile he could muster with some difficulty, and the three of them followed Ez and Kingsley down the hall and deeper into the ministry. They passed the center hall which was under construction—they were building a new fountain to replace the horrid thing that had been their before, under the rule of Voldemort.
“What’s the new centerpiece going to look like Ki—Minister?” Harry said as they strode past.
“Oh, you’ll see soon enough.” His voice twinkled again. “This way.” He turned down a hallway and led them down a side passage.
“This training room is part of the original one but we’ve added on an entire wing to accommodate our own little improvements. It’s only connected to the main building by a passage from the sub levels of both buildings. Through here.”
They strode through a door that read ‘Auror Building: Authorized Personnel Only’.
They were obviously traveling underground and leaving the normal Ministry building behind. The tunnel was lit with single light bulbs, all along the side and the walls. The ceiling and floor was all one continuous slab of concrete that echoed ominously as they walked along. They came to the door at the other end and halted. Kingsley turned to Harry, Ron and Dudley with a serious look.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he said in his booming voice.
“Yes.” Harry said instantly without a second’s hesitation and Kingsley nodded with a twinkle in his eye.
“Mr.Weasley? You wanted to tag along for this meeting—shall I assume that you’re going to pursue this career as well?”
Ron glanced at Harry sheepishly. “Well, if you don’t mind. I mean, I’m not brilliant like Harry or anything but…..yeah. If I can I want to. It’s sort of routine now, you know, being in the thick of something horrible all the time so might as well get paid for it eh?”
Kingsley nodded and turned to Dudley who was looking slightly intimidated by his powerfully authoritive presence.
“Dursley? You’re taking up a post in a world you’ve been taught to despise. Can you put aside what’s passed in order to be what we need you to be?”
Dudley swallowed and swayed on the spot for a moment but took a deep breath, and said “Yeah, yeah I am.”
Kingsley nodded and studied them all for a moment, his gaze full of approval and then turned to Ez.
“Lead them in Cleaves.”
Amycus listened carefully to the conversation going on behind him, practicing to perfection the art of inconspicuity that had been his life forever. There was a group of unsettled townsmen, mostly ignorant tradesmen who had been brain-washed by the Ministry the year before, some just bigots and some just permanently inclined to hate the government. Amycus felt the corners of his mouth twitch upward ever so slightly as they argued.
“We’ve got to do something. This Shacklebolt piece-of-scum is trying to make us all into tree-hugging buffoons--”
“Rebellion! That’s what I say!”
“Aye! I won’t be told to treat my house-elf like an equal, I won’t be made to feel inferior by a band of sword-making goblins—all these treaties and ‘magical cooperation’ acts are just unnatural. We’re the wizards! They can’t claim what we’ve held for hundreds of years of history!”
“Honestly—giants being given land! And the Muggleborns! They’re trying to cover it all up now but last year finally showed us some progress towards cleaning up our blood lines!”
“Well you’re one to talk with your sister being a muggle herself!”
Amycus felt his mouth twitch again as they bickered like children.
“Ah-shut up! I’m just saying at least they finally took some action.”
“Shut up the both of you! What it all comes down to is: We’re not going to let our world, our way of life, be compensated for inferior races!”
There was a collective grunt of agreement.
“We’ve held our superiority for hundreds, maybe thousands of years and no ‘reform’ is going to tell us other wise.”
Another roar of approval.
“It’s time for rebellion, protest, and upholding of the way of life we’ve always known. We’re wizards! (‘That’s right!’) We better bloody well be treated like wizards! (‘Aye!’) We bow to no race of half-breeds!”
Amycus took the uproar as the opportune moment to slip out of the room. He had heard enough. It was laughable how easily this diversion had shown itself. He had had a growing worry about the swiftness with which Kingsley was learning his patterns and getting closer and closer to him but now he had nothing to fret about whatsoever. Rebels with pitchforks, mallets and pickaxes would soon be rallying across the small town suburbs and Kingsley’s new ‘Ministry Reformed’ and little band of heroes like Harry Potter would soon be overwhelmed once more with other troubles. Amycus Carrow was back on the streets just like the old days, hidden and untraceable, like smoke on the wind, and best of all: answering to no man. He let his mouth crease into the smile he had been holding back as he left the local pub--full of increased ruckus and banging of goblets--behind him without looking back.
“Bloody hell.” was all Ron could utter when they entered the entrance hall to the new training building. Harry couldn’t help but feel that that about summed it all up.
They were standing in an enormous, sweeping, room filled with equipment and matted floors for spell practicing, mirrored walls that went up fifty feet or more, turrets and floating platforms high in the air all interconnected in what looked like a vertical obstacle course, a gym filled with muggle equipment and several doors leading off of the back wall which was a good distance away. Against the wall from which they had just entered was a there were so many books stretching way up to the ceiling that Harry thought even Hermione would be hard pressed to read them all and that was saying quite a lot.
“This is just what we whipped up for now.” Said Ez with a wave of his hand “It’ll be a work in progress as we decide what else we need. Dudley helped us choose all the muggle things—I’ve no idea how to work them but I suppose you know right Dud?” He said turning towards Dudley who looked a bit taken aback at having a comment addressed to him.
“Well, there we go.” Said Ez eagerly, he was definitely in his element here, Harry thought to himself. It was almost comical to see him so enthused, his nervous twitching heightened with excitement. He was positively shaking with glee and every few seconds he had to push up his glasses which were sliding down his nose at twice the normal rate now. “So anyway, this is where we’ll do the basic stuff, training, excising, and studying-- all that stuff. Then through that door on the left we’ve got the exam room which is where we’ll test you on all the things you’ve had to learn. It’s not too different from how it was before, I had to do it too; it’s a sort of an all-encompassing obstacle course that we’ll arrange beforehand according to the exam. Through the door on the right is the bathroom, and through the door in the middle is a fully-decked out lounge and kitchen for in between whatever it is we’re doing.”
“Bloody hell.” Ron repeated eyeing the middle door with a look of stunned bliss.
“This is excellent!” Harry said in awe. “When can we start?”
“Well we’d like to start as soon as possible.” Kingsley said in his deep, powerful voice. “You two were here today mostly on experience, you’re the best newcomers out there and we want you to be the core of the new department but we need everyone we can get. I’m sending out a call already to your classmates, a few of the names that particularly stood out this past year and anyone else who seems appropriate. We’ll need you all to start working on the basic spellwork and study material with these old manuals from the original training program.” and he pulled out two thick and very worn looking books. Ron’s face fell instantly. “It’s still relevant stuff but we’ll be working with much more once you’ve gotten this down.”
“More homework. Lovely.”
“Well, this is the intensity of auror training times about fifty at the moment, at least with what we’re planning to teach you.” Ez said with that same boyish grin that made his thin face and gray blue eyes light up as though he was a small boy who had just been told that Christmas was coming twice this year. “This muggle stuff is great, really superb, I don’t understand how we could have been so mental all this time and not taken them seriously. Those muggles sure know how to get on without magic. Absolutely brilliant.” He shook his head at Dudley as though commending him for the genius of the muggle race and then turned back towards Harry and Ron. “Er…well, shall we take a look at the rest of the place?” He pushed up his glasses.
Carrow walked leisurely down a narrow street, mentally tallying the things he had been wanting to do. Now that he had some cover he could have a bit more fun. He had gotten his pleasure out of Potter and the little red-haired trouble maker, a pity they had survived, maybe he’d pay them a visit again. No, he thought to himself. That was a little too dangerous even with this new idiot rebellion mucking up the Ministry. Potter was too close to the inner ring and it would be foolish to try and get him again. He could have plenty more fun with others though. He glanced over his shoulder and made a sharp right turn onto a deserted alleyway. It had been so blissfully easy to do what he did best while he was at Hogwarts. Those brats who called themselves ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ were some of the best he had ever punished. He was a good punisher. Perhaps he’d look up the residences of a few more of them to give him some pleasure while he waited for an opportunity to get his hands into something bigger and better.
He crouched low behind a large dirty dumpster and looked up towards a broken window above a small steel framed balcony. He glanced around for a moment and then stepped onto the dumpster and with cat-like agility swung himself onto the balcony and was through the window in a fluid motion.
There was that other kid—Longbottom and his friend—Finnegan--who had done so many double detentions with him throughout the year. He could pay either of them a visit.
He stood up and gave his wand a flick with a silent spell and his wand tip ignited with a soft yellow glow. He kicked at an old dusty couch which was covered with a sheet that was probably at some point white but now resembled a very dull shade of charcoal grey. A cloud of dust went up and he walked further into the otherwise empty room.
There was the tall black boy who had escaped- he seemed like a fair challenge. Or there was the bizarre blonde girl who had always seemed to show up in the wrong place at the wrong time and cause trouble.
He dusted himself off.
This would do for the night. He moved towards the door which could hardly have been used in at least a half a decade and locked it magically, putting imperturbable spells on it and reinforcing it so that ‘alohamorha’ would be useless. He moved to the window he had come in from and set a charm upon it so that it would show only the empty room no matter where he was inside, he made the room unplottable, undetectable by a tracing spell, and continued on with a number of less friendly security devices. All this was second nature to him, he had lived as a nomadic thief along with his twin sister all his life, and he knew what to do and how to do it. It was common practice.
He stood at the window looking out over the darkening afternoon sky and continued his list.
Sadly, the tiny, annoying Creevey boy had already been killed although his brother was still alive, not that either of them would have put up much of fight anyway.
There were many more he could remember running about the stone hallways of the ancient school building doing their stupid, noble, mischief and he figured he would have time for all of them while he waited. It had been so easy under Voldemort, but now that he was free again he realized how very confining it had been. He had missed the adventure, the skill, the art form that he had mastered but now he had it back. He smiled and tapped his wand against the window sill idly. Somewhere in the distance a car honked loudly. Stupid muggles, he thought to himself.
Kingsley had to leave shortly after they finished touring the rest of the building because of an urgent message about a group of wizards missing in Florida, but before they officially ended the meeting he set them some more work to practice and gave them several ministry pamphlets about the subjects covered in auror training. Harry and Ron took one look at all this and quickly put it all aside. They had so much to do now with this on top of their NEWT studies which were already taking up most of their time. Harry pushed homework out of his mind for the moment; auror training was worth it, especially with all they’d just seen.
“I’m starved, let’s find some food.” Ron said rubbing his stomach hungrily. “You know all the right spots for good grub don’t you Cleaves?” Ron said thumping Ez in the shoulder cheerily so that he nearly fell over.
“Erm,” He spluttered in surprise and fixed his glasses and then regained his composure, “Yeah, there is this one wizard owned place down the street, I’ve eaten there a few times during the lunch hour.”
“Let’s go—Harry’s treat.” Ron said eagerly heading towards the door and then looked back, “Dud you coming?”
Dudley seemed to think very hard for a moment before deciding that anything was better than carrot juice, even if it was ‘wizard food’.
“Coming.” He said and hurried after them.
Fifteen minutes later they arrived at the quaint little pub (they had had to walk since Dudley would have no part in ‘apparition’) and twenty-five minutes later they were all happily fed and watered
“Ah, well, this is been quite the afternoon.” Ron said leaning back with an arm behind his head leisurely, sipping his butterbeer. “So how are you liking the wizarding world Dudders?”
Dudley glared at him, obviously not liking his use of ‘Dudders’, but seemed to remember that he was suppose to be nice now and went back to looking small and glum with a resentful sigh.
“It’s fine.” He picked at his plate with his fork as though his kidney beans were much more interesting than any sort of conversation with Ron.
Harry looked at Ron who raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
Harry swallowed a little nervously. He wasn’t very use to holding normal conversations with Dudley and he wasn’t very sure what to say.
“So, er, Dud—how are your parents? All settled back in Little Whinging and all?”
Dudley seemed a bit uncomfortable too; this was all very new to the both of them. Any quality time they had spent together in the past had mostly consisted of large quantities of swearing or something getting beaten by Dudley’s Smeltings stick, usually Harry.
“They’re back, everything’s normal again for the most part and Dad’s back at Grunnings.” Dudley looked very small as he spoke, a considerable feat for a boy who had once achieved the rough equivalent in size and weight to that of a small orca whale. Harry thought he actually looked fairly normal now. Weird.
“So I’m guessing they’ve cooked up some cock story about a dying cousin in Belfast or something huh?” Harry said, unable to hold back the disdain in his voice at his aunt and uncle’s determination to destroy all evidence that they had any relation to him or to any ‘abnormality’ whatsoever.
Dudley looked defensive. “Listen, I’m sorry about the way things were”--Harry could not ever remember the words ‘I’m sorry’ ever leaving his cousins mouth with a straight face--“but you don’t have to talk like that. They’re still my mum and dad and they never let you starve or get yourself killed or anything”—who was this person that had once been Dudley?—“so why don’t you just shut it.”
Ah, there was the Dudley Harry had know for seventeen years.
“Oh yeah, they never let me get killed, it would have been too suspicious to the neighbors. I just got locked in a cupboard for half my life and had cans of beef stew pushed under the slat in my door once a day.”
“It was a great uncle. Actually.”
“What?” Harry was utterly confused. That didn’t seem like the insult he had been expecting.
“It wasn’t a cousin they used as a cover story; it was ‘Great Uncle Charwinkle’.”
Ron seemed to be thoroughly fascinated with the conversation and was watching them with an amused expression as he drained the last of his butterbeer and nodded approvingly when Harry looked over.
“Yeah, Harry,” he made to scoff at him playfully, “It was Great Uncle Charwinkle. Anyone with a decent brain would have known that.”
“Shut up,” Harry said with a grin and threw a fork at him, which Ron batted away with a hearty chuckle. Perhaps Dudley really had changed, he wasn’t even responding to a perfect opportunity to continue an argument that Harry had provoked, that was certainly evidence of something very, very different.
After they had all paid and left the building, it was time to say goodbye. Harry had offered to take Dudley home but he was still insistent on staying apparition-free for the time being so Ez obliged to take him back to the Ministry and Floo him home with a temporary connection to number four Privet Drive. Ron shook his hand goodbye with a hearty farewell and Dudley seemed almost for a moment to be sincere in his accompanying ‘Nice to meet you’. Harry smiled at him awkwardly, unsure what else to do and finally settled on shaking his hand as well. Dudley lingered a moment looking uncertain and then sighed and followed Ez back towards the Ministry.
Later that afternoon Harry, Ron and Hermione were lounging by the quidditch pitch and eagerly discussing the events of the day. Hermione had listened with fascination as they described the new auror department and she had dug into the Ministry course booklets and training manuals as though they were some heavenly treasure.
“Some of these spells are amazing, I’ve never even been able to pull anything this spectacular off—Ron, are sure you want to do this?”
Ron glared at her. “Thanks Hermione, it’s nice to have such a supportive friend.”
“Well, I’m just saying, you’ve never shown any great enthusiasm for, well, working, and this stuff is pretty much the heaviest load you can possibly take. When did you suddenly decide you wanted to be an auror?”
Ron looked at his shoe and shrugged. “Well, I’ve been thinking about it. I thought about it a lot really. After everything we’ve done I figured, why let the excitement die with the evil, neurotic, mass-murdering, Dark Lord?”
Hermione sighed and Harry finished off Ron’s answer with “In other words-- he decided this morning.”
Harry just barely dodged the empty ink well that went whizzing past his head.
They went back to talking and Harry and Ron were soon immersed in fantasies of auror battles with new evils, fighting crime like muggle super-heroes (something that had taken Harry and Hermione the better part of an hour to explain to Ron who subsequently decided that radio-active spiders were the worst idea he had ever heard of). Hermione quickly abandoned the talk to return to the auror manual with a whisper of ‘boys’ under her breath that neither Harry nor Ron noticed.
Half-way through dinner that night, George showed up for the second time that week and his smile was nearly as wide as the way Harry remembered from before. The light had returned to his eyes but it was changed and Harry knew it would be what it had been once.
He told them all (once his mother allowed him to breathe again) about the shop and some of the new products he and Lee had been working on. Business had been going up considerably, especially with all the publicity with the Weasley name, Harry noticed a shadow move across George’s face but he seemed to realize it too and gave a sad smile.
“Well, anyway, we’ve decided on another month before we put an offer in for Zonko’s. If business keeps up the way it’s going we’ll buy it and start in on the Hogsmeade clientele which, with Hogwarts so close and filled with promising customers, should be excellent. Ginny’ll be thrilled; she’s been begging us to buy it for ages.
“By the way, isn’t there a game next week? The first match of the season isn’t it?” He was talking to Harry now.
“Oh, yeah. Should be interesting, Gryffindor versus Slytherin right off the bat. It’s Saturday morning.”
“Wicked, I can’t wait to see Ginny heading the pride of our house, mind you Fred and I did teach her everything she knows.” Harry noticed Mrs.Weasley’s head turn sharply but no one made any other movement at the mention of Fred’s name. “She plays a right sight better than this oaf,” George said pushing Ron’s head over playfully and Ron brandished is dinner fork threateningly.
“Ronald!” Mrs. Weasley glared at him as she collected the dinner plates and he sighed and lowered his weapon reluctantly.
“Ah, I was only joking. You’ll have to learn to control that temper of yours.” He leaned in and said in an undertone so Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t hear “Especially now that I hear you’re going to be, oh what was it now, an auror?”
Ron scowled. “How’d you find out? Merlin, I’ve only been decided for about half a day and somehow you already know.”
George gestured towards Hermione who was sitting primly, reading ‘Great Wizarding Achievements of the Twentieth Century’. “The lovely Miss Granger mentioned it while you were in the bathroom dear brother. Never thought I’d see the day when ickle Ronnikins would choose the top job—another four years of academics on top of that!” He said it sarcastically but he smiled with genuine pride and patted Ron on the back before continuing in a hushed tone. “I’ll be expecting some inside connections for our business now if you go through with this. You too Harry, the Ministry was buying up our defense stuff like treacle tart last year and I’m going to expect you keep that up for us.”
“Oh sure we will-- when Percy gets a life.” Ron said sarcastically, still skulking, but he seemed please by the notion that George thought he could offer them ‘connections’.
The conversation died as Mrs. Weasley came bustling back over with pudding for each of them.
They spent the rest of the night talking quidditch and building up their various theories about Saturday’s game. By the time George left Harry was so tired and full and happy that he hardly even remembered finding his room before he was fast asleep, clothes and all.
Last edited by katishere; December 23rd, 2007 at 8:22 am. Reason: because it needed it
Re: Nineteen Years
The Seeker and the Sought
The Hogwarts grounds were getting chilly as winter prepared to sweep in a bit earlier than usual. The school was still bustling about with excitement and the start of term jitters hadn’t quite worn off. The Gryffindor’s went to class as usual, Denis Creevey among them, as slight and boyish as ever. He was in his fifth year now but he was hardly taller than the average third year. The Creevey family had always been known for their stature. It was a sort of family expectancy now. He was skinny and his light blonde hair hung curled out at his ears and falling windblown across his forehead as it always had. But where he had once been outspoken and boisterous, there was now a quiet boy who was often lost in his own thoughts.
As Denis stepped into a long, crowded hallway he felt the stares of students on his back and heard passing comments of ‘Creevey boy’ and ‘dead’ and ‘the battle’ from behind cupped hands. He was use to getting stares and having people whisper around him; his brother had been killed only a few months ago and everyone had seen his name on the memorial and many had heard the stories from older siblings or friends. Denis missed his brother immensely, never a day passed where he didn’t think about Colin. It was hard for him to understand why his brother, his brave, good, honest brother, had to be one of the fallen. Colin had been his idol, his best friend and the one he had aspired to model his every move after. But he hadn’t been able to follow Colin that final night, he hadn’t been able to sneak back and he hadn’t been able to fight like Colin.
He turned his head downward as he passed a group of sixth year girls who were whispering something under their breaths, and clutched his books a little closer as though maybe they would disguise him enough to make people look away.
He wasn’t the only one subject to the whispers and awkward questions though. There were many who had lost family in the battle. Nearly everyone had been affected in some way or another, but there definitely those who felt it more than others. Ginny Weasley was being constantly bombarded with questions about her experiences, what was going on with Harry now, what had happened last year, if it was true that she had kissed him to bring him back to life and a thousand other stupid, tactless questions. She also had lost an older brother and he could see it in her face sometimes when a whisper was sent a little too loudly in her direction that it affected her as much as it did him. He didn’t know how she could be so brave about it though. He liked her and her friend Luna a lot. They were always kind to him and she was one of the few who he felt safe around, the few members of the DA who had yet to graduate. They were the people who had been through it all—the DA—through Carrows’ tortures, the ridiculous classes, the battles, the losses and the return. They were the one’s who had suffered the most.
Denis wandered back up to the common room after class and sat with a few of his other friends to study but they soon left to play a game of exploding snap and Denis stayed behind to think some more, and his thoughts turned instead to quidditch and the first match which was only days away. Gryffindor was playing Slytherin; Denis thought to himself how very fitting that was. The first term back after the battle of a lifetime and their first match is a slightly smaller scale battle between the same two sides. He supposed they weren’t all bad, many of them had shown their true colors during the battle and blood had stained green and red badged robes a like. But war hadn’t ended the fact that a fair few of the Slytherin population had parents locked in Azkaban or dead along with Voldemort for being Death Eaters.
Denis was a part of the Gryffindor team now. He wasn’t exactly sure why he had decided to join but it had just seemed right. He needed something different, something to change from this horrible monotony that made the whole in his heart feel all the more obvious. Colin had always admired the quidditch team and they had feverishly watched Gryffindor through its many successes and near misses throughout their years. When the call had gone out for try-outs it had almost seemed as though he had just magically found himself at the pitch amongst the others without ever consciously making the decision to go for it, or even thinking about it really. Ginny was the Captain this year and she had been very kind to him. He was grateful for that. At first he had tried for beater, more because it was the first thing that came into his head when she asked his position than because he had really wanted to be one, but he had been much to small and Ginny had suggested he try seeker instead.
Suddenly, at that suggestion, he had found a reason to explain his whim to join the world of quidditch, and an incentive to actually go through with this whim instead of following his instinct and agreeing with the voice that kept saying ‘What in the world are you doing with a broom in your hand Creevey?’. He would be a seeker, a lonely job but something he could be good at, something that would fill a little of that hole because Colin would have been proud, delighted to see his brother take up the position that had been Harry Potter’s. It was daring, brave, and reckless—exactly what he needed. He wanted it bad. It had been wonderful, flying about on his borrowed broom, completely at ease for once in a very long string of months. He had been alive again, and free, and that been stunningly incredible to feel.
The match was this Saturday. After having been through what they had all been through this past year, it seemed bizarre that something as normal as quidditch could still be taking place. Somehow it heightened the intensity of everything, they were older, wiser, and they knew much more of the cold reality of the world then they had before.
“Where you off to Den?” It was his friend and fellow Gryffindor fifth year Carson Lowry calling him from the staircase. He looked around abruptly and realized he was standing at the foot of Gryffindor Tower.
“Oh, uh—are we on free hour now?” Denis inquired a little dazed.
“Yeah, I told you just a moment ago, we’re going up to the common room to work on that Charms essay we kept putting off all week. Are you coming?”
Denis nodded and followed his friend up the stairs.
“You alright Den? You seem a bit…preoccupied lately.” Carson said carefully, feeling kind of awkward talking about his friend’s recent behavior but not wanting to let him go on like this if it was what he thought it was. Dennis blinked.
“Have I?” he said vaguely, his mind having trouble concentrating on his conversation as the stone steps slipped by monotonously. “Sorry. I’ve been thinking about the match a lot, it’s my first one—what if I make a fool of myself?” He looked up like a little boy on his first day of school.
Carson was relieved that he didn’t have to say anything about Dennis’ brother—quidditch was much easier to talk about. He rolled his eyes at his timid friend.
“Right. Listen--you won’t make a fool of yourself Den, you’re a natural—I mean gosh, your barely have enough on you to make a target for a bludger at all and one tiny movement and it’d go whizzing past you. And when you’re on form you’ve got enough energy to fuel a muggle city and all their bizarre contraptions.” He rolled his eyes as if the idea was the most preposterous thing he’d ever heard and punched his fist lightly into Dennis’ shoulder like a salute. “Slytherin doesn’t stand a chance.”
Dennis scratched his head and took a deep breath without looking entirely reassured. “Thanks Carson. I hope you’re right.”
“It’s the truth. Come on, let’s play some Snap or something, that essay can wait a little longer.”
He couldn’t shake the feeling that it was more than just quidditch he was worried about. He headed up to the tower behind Carson wondering vaguely whether Harry Potter had been so nervous before his first match.
“Harry! Get your coat—we’re going to be late!” called Hermione looking flustered and bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet by the front door of the Burrow.
Harry shoveled the rest of his porridge into his mouth at top speed and dashed up the stairs for his coat.
Ron was coming down the hall, fully dressed but looking tired and disheveled, holding Harry’s jacket in one hand and attempting to flatten out his bed hair with the other.
“H—h—here…” He said stuffing the jacket into Harry’s hands and succumbing to the prodigiously large yawn.
“Thanks. You ready? Hermione’s about to have a fit.” Harry said quickly and Ron nodded reassuringly.
“Yeah, I’m ready—hungry though but I’ll get something when we get there. Mum and Dad already leave?” he added as they scrambled back down the stairs together towards Hermione who was looking anxious.
“Yes, they apparated almost twenty minutes ago. What have you been doing? We were supposed to be there already!” Hermione said as she dragged them out the door.
“Merlin’s beard Hermione, give it a rest! I was getting dressed,” Ron replied looking incredulous, “I only woke up ten minutes ago! Besides the match isn’t for another hour and a half anyway so I don’t know what you’re going bonkers about.”
Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation. “We told them we’d be there at 7:30, it’s now nearly 8 ‘o clock—we’re late.”
They reached the edge of the Weasley property, spun on their heels and disappeared with a ‘pop’.
It was a cold morning when they arrived, despite the fact that the sky was crystal blue and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had found a spot in a deserted section of the grounds to chat and relay various bits of the events in their lives since their separation.
“Kingsley said Ron could come with me to that meeting—you know the one I told you about--and guess what?”
“What?” said Ginny who was sitting beside Harry .
“We’re both joining up! And they’ve got this huge building and it’s got books by the millions—it’s incredible Ginny, you’ve really got to see it!”
She nodded smiling at his enthusiasm, “That’s great Harry, I’ll definitely have to see it.”
Harry didn’t feel she was quite as excited as she should be and wondered vaguely if he should add in about the training course but Ron interjected before he could get it out.
“Oi! What about Dudders? You’re leaving out half the fun Harry.”
Ginny glanced questioningly from Ron to Harry with one eyebrow half raised. “Dudders?”
Harry sighed. “Yeah, well, Dudley really—he’s my cousin.”
“The one who hates you?”
“Well, no, not really. It’s a bit odd really, he’s hated me all his life and I’ve hated him all of mine but last year he sort of made up before I left those few days before my birthday. I guess he changed his mind and now he thinks I’m alright or something. Anyway, he’s changed a lot, well he’s still a spoiled git, but he’s not mean or bossy anymore--”
“—not to mention he’s about five hundred pounds lighter.” Ron added in.
“—and Ez and Kingsley have gotten him to help teach us how to fight like muggles. It’s sort of ironic really seeing as all his years of boxing were mostly spent on my skull or the bodies of innocent neighborhood children, and now he’s suppose to be teaching it to us for the benefit of humanity. Anyway, that’s what’s up with Dudders.”
“I think that’s wonderful,” Hermione said matter-of-factly. “Now you’ve really got family Harry.”
“I—yeah, I guess so.” Harry said unsure whether he would ever really consider the Dursleys ‘family’. Maybe he’d be willing to admit an estranged family tie to Dudley eventually, but on a whole he preferred to imagine the Dursleys as figments of his imagination.
“That sounds great Harry, I’m really happy for you. And Ron,” Ginny added turning to Ron with a mixture of happiness and bemusement, “I can’t believe you’re going for an auror position Ron. That’s brilliant.” Harry noticed that there was a twinkle of admiration in her eyes and she let it show unabashedly which made Ron swell with pride. It wasn’t often that Ron became the model brother for his little sister, nor was it often that he did something involving a great deal of study, both of which seemed to have taken Ginny, pleasantly, by surprise.
“Well, you know me, I strive for the excellence.” Ron said with an airy wave of his hand.
Ginny snorted and Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Merlin—I’ve got to get down to the pitch!” Said Ginny suddenly, jumping up from her seat after noticing the crowds of students in the distance, all dressed in various levels of team pride as they made their way down the path from the Great Hall to the stadium. “I’ll see you down there, okay?” She said as she ran off towards the quidditch pitch in a blaze of fiery red hair.
“Yeah good….luck,” Ron said trailing off because she was already half-way down the hillside, “What a lovely goodbye.”
He sighed. “Well, I’m bored.”
“Don’t worry-- we’ve got entertainment coming our way.” Said Harry, watching the crowds that Ginny had disappeared into, behind where Ron and Hermione were sitting, with amusement.
“You’re not in seventh year.” Said a dreamy voice from behind Ron and both him and Hermione turned to stare at Luna Lovegood who was wearing her infamous lion hat that seemed to have grown even bigger over the year it had been out of use. But that was not what the oddest feature of her appearance. It was more that she was covered from head to foot in feathers.
Her face--which had gold star on each cheek--and her hands--which were each wielding Gryffindor banners--were the only parts of free of the great, brilliantly red, feathery stuff. It gave the illusion that instead of an eccentric teenage girl, they were all staring at an extremely over-grown tropical parrot.
“Hi--hi, Luna.” Said Hermione stumbling a bit over the words in effort to compose herself, “We’ve just come to watch the match.” She stepped hard on Ron’s toe so that he shut his mouth and stopped staring long enough to give her a weak smile and then turn to Harry with a look of glee.
“Oh yes, it should be very interesting.” Luna said fingering a protruding feather with her left hand and staring off into space with an air of deep contemplation. “I do think some of their players are a bit new to the game, but Ginny’s captain this year, you know, and she’s very good.”
“Yeah, we knew Ginny’s captain,” Ron said before Hermione could stop him, “seeing as she’s my sister and all. What happened to your robes Luna? Had a run-in with Peeves?”
Hermione pressed down harder on Ron’s foot and he struggled to pull it out of harms way.
“No,” She said apparently unaware of the violent battle taking place between Hermione and Ron’s foot, “It’s a Rutt-feather Cloak. My dad got it for me during his trip to Morocco and I’ve been waiting all month to test it out. It’s supposed to bring you good luck and attract rutts to you. They’re very cute little things but very hard to find.” Luna said emphasizing this point by widening her eyes so wide they might have popped out in a stiff wind.
“Right.” Said Harry wondering what on earth a rutt was and whether or not it even existed (which, considering it was Luna who had said it, he thought it highly likely that they did not).
“Well, we’ve still got fifteen minutes before the match begins but I suppose we might as well get our seats. Want to sit with us Luna?”
“That’s very nice of you to ask Harry. Yes, I think I will.”
And so they all began to walk down from the courtyard. Harry, Ron and Hermione were all trying very hard to look as though it was not unusual to be walking next to someone dressed in a parrot suit with a giant lion hat on her head.
But as they converged with the crowds collecting by the stadium, Harry became increasingly aware of whispering that had nothing to do with Luna’s appearance.
Several people gave him nervous smiles and one brave second year ran up and asked Harry to sign a scrap of parchment which surprised Harry so much that he did. He’d been famous since the age of one, but he’d been asked for autographs, much less at Hogwarts.
“Everyone’s been talking about last year.” Luna said seeming to pick up on Harry’s shock. “You’re a hero.”
Harry blushed slightly and shoved his hands into his pockets uncomfortably and perhaps a bit angrily.
“That memorial in the graveyard holds the real heroes. I just finished off what they started.” Harry said quietly, feeling a little stab of remorse at the thought that people had so quickly forgotten what it had cost them all to be alive now. It really hadn’t been him at all. Had the world already dismissed the hundreds of dead who’d fought for the peace they now enjoyed?
“Oh they haven’t forgotten.” Luna said with a soft smile showing that uncanny ability she had to read Harry’s words with inexplicable accuracy. She turned towards the stadium entrance and they stepped out onto the towering rows of wooden benches into the sunlight. The scene before them was awe-inspiring.
The stadium was packed. People were stuck like sardines in the podiums and it was quite obvious that there wasn’t a single seat left unclaimed.
But that wasn’t what made Harry, Ron and Hermione stop dead at the opening.
The crowds were a sea of color, green, gold, scarlet, blue, and more, and everywhere Harry looked there were posters, banners, flags and hats and coat badges that bore the names, faces and titles of those who’d fought, and some who’d died, in the darkest age the wizarding world had ever known.
Harry stood riveted to the spot in awe, feeling a little like his throat was closing up, as shouts went up around the immensely over-packed stadium.
A group of Hufflepuffs across the way were singing a beautiful, flowing tune and waving flags that bore the faces of Cedric Diggory and Tonks and a few others he didn’t recognize who must have died in the battle.
Another group of students, apparently from varying houses were chanting ‘Freedom! Freedom!’ into the stands with a fevered excitement that was perhaps a slightly aided by numerous bottles of butterbeer and some smuggled bottles of more potent beverages...
A sea of Gryffindors, their faces mostly painted with scarlet and gold, were holding up banners that bore the legend of the Hogwarts crest and said ‘Bravely Fought’ in a flourishing gold scroll beside which another banner said slightly less fancifully “VOLDY’S GONE MOLDY SO NOW LET’S HAVE FUN” and several smaller ones bearing “Longbottom for Minister”. A group of third years who all had very short hair, had spelled out “P-O-T-T-E-R” with the backs of their heads.
There were people with posters of family members killed, shouts going up with the names of ‘Creevey!’ and ‘Scotts!’ and ‘Bones!’ and an entire section was chanting ‘Weasley! Weasley!’ with a sea of banners and flags and t-shirts, all in memory of Fred.
It was the most fantastic thing Harry thought he had ever seen. The entire school (and from the looks of it, a good many other people as well) gathered to represent the heroes of the war, and all at a simple Hogwarts team quidditch match.
He looked down at the field and saw Ginny standing in the doorway, flanked by Denis Creevey (who looked a bit green and clammy) and the rest of the team. With that crazy intuition all girls seemed to share, she looked up at him, sensing his gaze, and stared at him for a moment looking a bit dizzy.
“I told you they hadn’t forgotten Harry.” Luna said with her usual curious smile and then she swept her feathery train behind her and clambered up the rows to one of the last few empty seats.
“Blimey.” Ron said in a sort of strangled voice.
“Yeah, blimey.” Harry echoed as Ginny turned back into the locker, and he took a deep breath as the roar of voices began to die down, Madam Hooch signaling for the beginning of the match.
Hermione wiped her eyes quickly on her sleeve and beckoned them up the stairs to join Luna.
“Come on, we’ll sit with Luna. It’s about to start.” She said, her voice quavering a little with emotion and they all found seats very squished in the last row of benches at the top. Seconds after they sat down the announcer’s voice echoed about the pitch to introduce the start of the match which drew out renewed cheers.
Harry looked around towards the announcer’s podium and spotted a boy he recognized from past years but whose name he didn’t know. He was wearing a brightly colored shirt that said ‘Dumbledore’s Army: Paid the price for Freedom’ and Harry instantly felt a second surge of emotion for the tributes of the crowd.
He didn’t have time to get too sentimental though because the teams came bursting onto the field at exactly that moment, and he couldn’t have heard his own thoughts if he’d screamed them with all his might.
The Gryffindors in their scarlet robes and the Slytherins in their emerald ones soared around the pitch triumphantly and the crowds went completely nuts-- Harry thought his ears would bleed at any moment. It seemed that several people had smuggled muggle bullhorns through Filch’s security and one group nearly toppled out of the stands as they attempted to stand on each other’s shoulder with a sign bearing “Denis: Catch that Snitch!”. Harry saw Denis Creevey, looking very nervous already turn a vivid shade of scarlet to match his robes upon seeing this.
Harry spotted Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in a stand a few sections away and guessed from the look on her face that Mrs. Weasley was contributing very well to the ear-splitting din. George and Lee Jordan were sitting a few rows across from them—George was apparently one of the proud wielders of the smuggled bullhorns.
Harry realized with a pang that he had never seen a house quidditch match from the stands. He had seen them from the windows of detention with Snape, but never sitting in the stands as one of the crowd. It felt extremely odd.
He watched as Madam Hooch gave the usual words to begin the match and Ginny shook hands with the Slytherin captain and seeker Byron Vinton, the whistle blew and then just like that, the match had begun.
The din became monstrous again, Harry couldn’t remember there being so much noise when he’d played on the team, but he supposed being in it set your mind against everything other than the game.
“And Weasley snatches the quaffle immediately and Gryffindor’s in possession,” the commentator’s voice said as groups of scarlet and gold let out woops and cheers, “a quick pass to Anderson, Anderson passes to Cannon, my are they looking good for such a new team.”
Harry watched as a lithe little Slytherin chaser weeded into the Gryffindor formation and stole the ball from sandy-haired Henry Cannon who looked a little frightened but managed an air of determination all the same.
“And Marco Greengrass comes in and takes possession! He’s headed down-pitch--”
Everyone cringed as a bludger went speeding inches from Marco’s head so fast that he nearly fell of his broom dodging it. Peakes shouldered his bat with a smile.
“A close call for Greengrass but Anderson takes the opportunity to regain the quaffle for Gryffindor!”
Harry noticed that Ginny was being lax with her own position, not immediately going for the score but passing it around to the others, and giving them a chance to test their wings. He was pretty sure it was a difficult thing for her to do but Travis Anderson was gaining confidence and that meant it was paying off.
They passed it around, moving fluidly with each other and Harry thought they had all pulled together nicely for being so new to the game. They looked terrified, yes, but they kept hold of the quaffle nonetheless.
“Anderson to Cannon, Cannon dives a bludger, now to Weasley, Weasley does a fake to Cannon and Anderson goes for the goal— IT’S A SCORE!”
The crowd, already noisy, erupted again with shouts and boos—Harry, Ron, Hermione and Luna all cheered and whistled and Harry heard from across the stands George and Lee exercising their bullhorn liberally.
Harry was immensely surprised when he noticed Byron Vinton give a congratulatory nod at Henry. Marco Greengrass and the other Slytherins on the other hand looked mutinous.
Ginny smiled up at them and they all waved as the quaffle went back into play.
“Slytherin chaser Clyde Riff has got the quaffle, he passes to Lyzer, ooh, Lyzer gets a bludger to the shoulder and drops the quaffle! Nice hit by Peakes!”
Peakes and Coote gave a mid-air high-five.
“Cannon goes for another score! Oh—but Slytherin’s keeper blocks and passes it on to Riff again.”
The enormous Slytherin chaser Riff took off across the field with all five of the other chasers tearing after him. Natalie McDonald, the keeper Ginny had told Harry about looked resolute as they sped towards her and Riff’s shot was easily blocked, although Harry wasn’t sure it was necessarily her prodigious skill as much as it was Riff’s stupidity in aiming the shot.
“Both seekers are on the search for that illusive snitch, no sign of it yet though from the air.”
Harry glanced around at Denis who still looked extremely nervous but was circling the pitch carefully on the lookout for that little flash of gold. Harry’s years of seeking went into default and he found himself scanning the sky intensely. There were an enormous amount of distractions today with the immense and boisterous crowd. Watches glinted and badges and banner flashed and waved which made the seeking eyes falsely caught at every turn. Harry narrowed his eyes in concentration. He noticed that there were storm clouds forming in the distance and wondered if they would reach Hogwarts before the match was over.
He was jerked out of his concentration when Ron suddenly jumped up and bellowed “I’ll kill him! I’LL KILL HIM!”
“Weasley takes a nasty bludger hit! Merlin that was a brutal move from such a close distance but Stephen Arley shows no regret as Slytherin takes the quaffle!”
Jimmy Peakes flew over to Ginny and she wobbled sideways on her broom, but she caught herself, shook her head, and nodded to show she was fine, wiping blood from her nose as Coote gave the bludger a hearty thwack at Marco Greengrass.
“Did you see that?” Ron said fuming and turning over to Harry. “He slammed that at Ginny from five feet away! He could have killed her—I’ll kill him. What was mum thinking letting her taking captaincy--”
“Ron, give it a rest, she’s fine.” Hermione said in exasperation, “I don’t think Gryffindor will appreciate it if they get disqualified due to you murdering one of their opponent’s star beater.”
Harry looked down at the pitch but Ginny seemed alright and gave them all thumbs-up.
Ron sat back down grumpily and crossed his arms. “What were Coote and Peakes doing anyway? Smelling the daisies while the Slytherins went around chucking things at our team from a foot away? The idiots.”
“Both Gryffindor and Slytherin seem to be very good this year.” Luna said dreamily. “I wonder if this will be a very long match.”
“It’ll be a very short one if they’ll let me have a chat with that beater.” Ron muttered.
A moment later, Anderson took the quaffle, ducked another bludger and attempted a goal but was blocked again. Harry could see Ginny calling out something to the beaters, and Anderson appeared to be feeling the pressure.
“This time Lyzer has possession for Slytherin and he’s headed fast towards McDonald who’s looking worried—Gryffindor’s right on their tail—Lyzer’s trying to swerve the bludgers, he’s climbing steadily, passes to Riff who passes to Greengrass who…drops it.”
Marco Greengrass swore loudly as everyone scrambled to pick the quaffle back up but a whizzing bludger from each direction sent them all scattering in confusion and the quaffle was lost again.
Ginny did a headlong nosedive for it.
“I’ll KILL HER! IF SHE SURVIVES THIS BLOODY MATCH I’LL STRANGLE HER!” Ron bellowed as she caught it up after a perilous plunge and passed it on.
“Oh dear that was a bit reckless,” Hermione said gripping the edge of the rail as the game raged on.
Gryffindor scored again within another minute but at the cost of several more painful bludger attacks.
“These teams are playing like it’s the World Cup—I’ve never seen a match like this in all my years at Hogwarts!” said the announcer and Harry glanced down at him again to get a better look. He didn’t look much younger than Harry himself and he had brown hair and a handsome face. The air about him gave Harry the idea that he would be right up the alley of Fred and George’s sense of fun but perhaps with slightly better judgment of restrain.
“SLYTHERIN NAILS MCDONALD AND SCORES!” The boy burst into the magical amplifier and the noise became uproarious again with cheers, groans and renewed chanting of various kinds.
The bludger battle became fervent and fast as the minutes went on. Nearly every member of both teams was now sporting brilliant black and blue along with their team colors and several people had puffy lips. Harry kept scanning the sky again out of habit and Denis seemed to be getting desperate, flying higher and higher, circling the pitch with his knuckles white on his broom handle but it seemed that he was often distracted by the other teams or else looking out into the distance towards Hogsmeade in a sort of fevered anxiety to catch sight of the thing he was after.
The sun was well overhead and the score was tied at 110 when Harry noticed a change in the weather. The wind had shifted, growing stronger and colder even in the already chill climate. People all around were buttoning up their coats and pulling their collars up around their necks, but the intensity of the crowd never dwindled for a moment.
So far the game had lasted the better part of 4 hours and still the snitch was nowhere to be seen. People drifted in and out of the stands to get food or take hurried breaks to the toilet and
“Who’s that?” Hermione said suddenly, pointing off at a figure who was pushing frantically through the crowds on the ground at the foot of the stands.
Harry tore his eyes away from the quaffle after a spectacular beater attack by Cootes, and followed Hermione’s finger down to the ground. There was a young girl trying to push her way through the crowds with little success. She looked frantic. A general disgruntlement seemed to be sweeping through the crowd as people attempted to keep sight of what was happening up in the air, impeded by the little girl’s hurried path among them.
Harry looked up for a moment at the hills beside Hogsmeade with a sudden thrill in the pit of his stomach, the game momentarily forgotten, and then motioned to the other two and said, “Come one, I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Uh—we’ll be back Luna.”
She nodded her lion-clad head airily and began waving her Gryffindor banner back and forth in the air, sending a few scarlet feathers floating on the wind.
They made their way painfully through the tumultuous crowds of people and ran down the stairs. “Where’d she go…” Harry muttered to himself as they aided the general disgruntlement considerably in search of the little girl.
“Over there.” Said Ron, pointing to the foot of the stands, and they shoved their way towards her through the elbows of the crowd.
She seemed to lock onto the fact that they were all three looking at her instead of trying to get a view over her head and ran the rest of the way between them crying again with renewed vigor. “He’s going to hurt them!” she sobbed as Harry knelt down speak to her.
“What—who’s going to hurt who?” Harry said with a furrowed brow.
“The man with the cloak by the foot of the hill—I was coming to watch Jack and the match when I heard a noise.” She wiped a tangled mess of tears and hair from her face and continued in a gasping voice at Harry’s enthusiastic bidding, “I hid behind the bushes and there was a strange man—all dirty and squatty-like with mean eyes and dark hair, and he was muttering horrible things and he said he was going to my family and I think he went looking for mummy and Liam--”
“I knew it!” Harry said in a rush of adrenaline, “--When was this?”
“Not a few minutes ago; when he was gone I ran all the way here but no one could hear me!”
“Okay—I’ll find them!” he said as he sprinted towards the quidditch practice shed and grabbed a set of brooms for himself and Ron and Hermione and ran back.
He could see Professor McGonagall looking down at them with concern and she making her way briskly towards the stairs. “Go tell Professor McGonagall what you told me.” He said to the little girl, pointing at McGonagall and then he jumped on his broom and zoomed off towards Vantage Hill, Hermione and Ron struggling to keep up with expressions of complete incomprehension as to what was happening.
Moments later, at the foot of the hill, they had to stow away the brooms and make their way on foot through the gate in order to pass the enchantments that protected the school.
“What in the name of Merlin’s pants is going on Harry?” Ron panted beside him rosy-cheeked from the biting wind.
“Remember that little boy Ginny and I met up on that hilltop--Liam-- that must have been his sister—I thought they looked alike. He lives at the top of this hill. She heard someone planning an attack on their family—it’s probably happening right now.” Harry answered in one long stream between breaths. “Three guesses who.”
Ron glanced sideways looking wary “You think it’s Carrow?”
“He’s a nutter Ron! Who else would do something like this in broad daylight just for sport? And by what he said that night at the Burrow, he’s trying to take out everyone who didn’t get their “punishment” last year. I think he’s going after the DA kids and their families. That would explain why he went for the Burrow, and apparently Liam’s older brother Jackson--the girl said she was looking for "Jack"--was in the DA last year so that would explain why he’s come here next.”
Ron shook his head, “Blimey.”
“Jackson? O’Riley?” Hermione piped up, struggling up the hill alongside Ron and Harry.
“You know him?” Harry said.
“Well not personally but I’ve seen him before, he’s a Gryffindor a year below us when we were in school—in fact he was the commentator at the match just now. Really Harry. How inattentive can you possibly be?”
Harry looked sideways at Ron as they struggled up the rocky hillside that divided the Hogwarts grounds from Hogsmeade, “You’ve know him too?”
Ron shrugged, “I’ve seen him around.”
Harry sighed, “Well fine then, apparently I’m just socially inept.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and Ron snorted something about “not far off the mark when you think about it” under his breath.
They came up to the summit where Harry and Ginny had sat underneath the stars that night not long ago. Crouching low through the tall grasses they moved towards the distant house, there was a light on beside the door but there was no sign that anyone was home which struck Harry as suspicious.
“Be quiet and stay low,” Harry said in a hushed voice, “the little girl said she she’d seen him at the foot of the hill just minutes before she found us, so he could already be here if he was moving faster than us.”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other and Harry knew as always that they doubted his conviction as another wild goose chase for something he’d blown wildly out of proportion.
“Come on, you heard what she said!” Harry said in exasperation “And even if it isn’t Carrow someone’s still snooping about this hillside threatening Liam’s family! We’ve got to keep a look out.”
“Well,” Hermione said carefully, trying to sound sympathetic, “That’s true, but shouldn’t we have stayed and talked to McGonagall or contacted Kingsley or let someone know what was going on before running off to fight a Death Eater who nearly killed you and Ginny last time you met him?”
“She’ll tell McGonagall, and McGonagall will get Kingsley—but we have to get there now or people could be hurt! We can’t take chances over something like this!” Harry said firmly. Hermione looked at Ron again for support but he seemed to agree with Harry and so she sighed and went silent.
They came up to the quaint little door that was made of a beautiful dark-stained oak with a great brass knocker in its center. Harry’s nose felt painfully cold and numb after the run up the hill in the steadily chilling air and the wind was no help, but he put thoughts of warmth and comfort aside and tried to think.
Perhaps they had rushed off in a bit of a hurry, but he knew he couldn’t have waited. If Carrow was here, he was going to find him. There was such passionate relish in him when he thought about meeting Carrow face to face again that it almost frightened him. Here was an opponent that he, Harry, had not been prophesied to kill nor had he been given any protective power over, it was just Harry on his own skill and wit and he wanted this battle with all his heart.
Besides, if there was danger to an innocent boy and his mother, then something had to be done.
“Harry—look,” Hermione said pointing down at the side of the house where a pair of Wellington boots and a small bench leaned against the cozy little cottage wall. There were muddy footprints leading through the grass beside the house and the impressions in the mud had filled with water from the saturated ground.
“They’re recent, if they’d been there more than an hour they’d have dried out in the sun—it’s only just clouded over,” she whispered, appearing to have conceded defeat peacefully and begin putting her mind to work on the situation.
“You reckon he’s already been here?” Ron said looking at Harry.
Harry moved carefully to the edge of the small front window, scanning the hillside and the edge of the forest carefully as he went for any sign of movement, “I dunno; couldn’t have been here long if the girl saw him down by the grounds only a few minutes ago. I don’t expect he would have hung around if he’d just attacked someone, especially near Hogwarts.”
He came up to the window and looked carefully through the tiny of fragment of space between the curtain and the window frame but all was dark and nothing was moving.
“Should we knock?” Ron offered uncertainly.
Harry looked around, feeling his ears grow a little warm as his brilliant intuition once again left them with nothing.
Hermione looked nervous and her cheeks were frosted with red from the cold, “Let’s look around back—maybe there’s another door.”
Harry quickly agreed, and they went through the front gate and along the side garden. Harry couldn’t help thinking that the little cottage bore a great resemblance to the Burrow, and a steadily strengthening feeling arose in him from the dead silence and darkening skies, that he told him he was not wrong after all.
As Hermione had guessed, there was a small back door on the other side. They came around through the cozy little garden as the biting wind blew through their hair and with a jolt of adrenaline they all three noticed at the same moment, that the door was ajar.
“Hello? Mrs. O’Riley?” Harry called in a hoarse whisper to the darkness but there was no answer. Before they had finished crossing the threshold however, a raspy voice spoke from the cold behind them.
“Looking for someone kiddles?”
There was a blinding flash of light and a grunt as someone in the distance called “Harry run!”
The three of them ran out the door, blindly stumbling through the gate out into the long grasses.
“Over here!” called a voice and they ran towards it, slowly gaining their sight back after the brilliant flash. The thunder rolled again and the ground seemed to tremble.
“Denis!” Harry said in an astonished voice through the gale of wind as they skidded to a halt, hidden behind a clump of trees at the edge of the forest where the skinny little blond-haired boy stood with his wand raised. “What happened?” Harry staggered, trying to regain his breathe.
“McGonagall evacuated the match—I snuck off and was looking for you when I saw Carrow about to attack—so I stunned him.” He clutched his wand on the alert, “He could be anywhere, stuns don’t last forever.”
They all crouched, suddenly tense, with wands drawn and looked over towards the house. Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione and felt a sense of pride and nostalgia at their alert stances, scanning the fields and trees like experts, unmoving like they were born for danger—it was odd to remember how they’d all been the ones running around like madmen in a girl’s bathroom once, trying not get killed by a mountain troll. Here they were, taunt and ready like old hats at a game of war.
“Thought you ought to know Harry—but Ginny’s in the Hospital Wing again.” Denis whispered in Harry’s ear breaking his thoughts, “Took another bludger on and went a bit woozy, I think that first one did more damage than she let on. ‘S alright though. Just thought you’d want to know.”
Harry was, in a way, relieved to hear that—he wasn’t ready to see her against Carrow again like before and he had immediately looked for her upon seeing Denis; if he’d ran off then Ginny most certainly would have too. Even though Ron, Hermione and Denis were here, he had no intention really of letting them near Carrow. Harry wanted to fight this one. Harry wanted to find Carrow.
“Yeah, thanks Den,” Harry muttered and then beckoned Ron and Hermione to crouch low and move closer. “Listen,” he said in a barely audible whisper, “Carrow knows there are more of us this time. Obviously he wasn’t expecting us to be here or for anyone to know what was happening—but he wasn’t too shocked by it either. However he really didn’t expect Denis to come up here, nor that he’d get stunned before he had a chance to attack—that’s going to make him more wary than usual. Two surprises in one day, but he’s a criminal so he takes surprises in stride. And he’s a tracker so once he’s gained his composure he’ll be here again, it’s already been nearly five minutes—he’s probably searching right now, maybe trying to figure out how many he’s up against.”
They all looked around warily through the eerily dark forest towards the house where Carrow’s unconscious body should have been but was no longer. “If you see any motion or hear the sound of an apparition then apparate somewhere else straight away. Denis—use protego and that excellent stun of yours. He’s lightning fast so the key is to not let him touch you or else…just don’t let him get to you. Got it?”
They nodded solemnly. “If McGonagall shut down the match she must have realized that it was serious which means aurors are probably on their way and should be here any moment—but the most important thing right now is to find Liam and his mother.”
There was a sudden shout from the clearing.
They all sprinted into action, running towards the sound under the steadily darkening sky.
“On you’re right!” a familiar voice shouted and there was an explosion of sound as spells and apparition began in a whirlwind.
“Everyone spread out!”
“Harry!” Shouted the familiar voice and Ezakiah Cleaves ran towards them, his wand held aloft in his hand and his cheeks rosy from the biting wind.
“How’d you—never mind! Carrow’s here and--”
“We know.” Harry intervened, “The mother and son who live in that house are missing—we have to find them!”
Ez nodded without further questioning and immediately motioned to the other three who were circling the field searching in vain for Carrow who had obviously apparated at the first sign of aurors.
“A woman and a small boy—stay alert, keep moving. Blue sparks if you find one and red if you get into trouble. Come on!”
For the slight, nervous fellow that he normally was, Harry noted that Ez seemed to have gained a great deal of strength and confidence in the midst of action, he was a good auror. Harry took his orders without question and with a glance to Ron and Hermione they all took off into the trees again as fast as they could, Denis right beside them and Ez and his aurors already speeding off in the opposite direction.
Harry was breathing hard and it reminded him of the thrill of the fight against Voldemort—except that this time he was the one hunting instead of the one being hunted. Through his pounding heart something was roaring with exhilaration and he loved it.
“We should split up to cover more ground—grouping up won’t make much of a difference anyway if we meet Carrow,” gasped Harry through heavy breathing as they ran as silently as they could through the woods looking for signs of a victim.
Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance of uncertainty but nodded.
“Alright then, we’ll circle around towards Hogsmeade,” Ron said hastily, “The others went towards the forest side so, that’s an open spot we haven’t checked.
“Great, we’ll go straight through this part till we hit the grounds again.” Harry said and Ron took Hermione’s hand and they swiveled around to veer off towards the woods leading down into Hogsmeade.
Denis continued to follow Harry. They had slowed to a swift walk. Despite the fact that it was only early-afternoon, the horrible storm clouds and the dense forest made it nearly as dark as night. Harry and Denis were both glistening with cold sweat that chilled them to the bone in the frigid air.
“Do you think he really left Harry?” Denis whispered. “Or do you think he’s still here somewhere, waiting?”
“I dunno.” Harry said simply. His drive at the moment was to find Liam and his mother, but secretly the thing he hoped for too was to face Carrow again. It was rash and stupid and he knew it. He even wondered if he was going mad or suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome that made him hungry for danger, but in the end he really didn’t care, he just accepted it and kept moving.
“I really don’t know Denis.” He repeated.
They slowed eventually to just a walk, and then almost a crawl as the forest grew quieter. The unnerving silence around them seemed to demand equal respect and it spread a pounding adrenaline through them both as they tip-toed stealthily through the undergrowth, their eyes whirling to search out every tiny, minute sound that they heard as though it was a murderer waiting to attack from behind every tree-stump.
“Wait—you hear that?” whispered Harry suddenly, holding out a hand to stop Denis. They both froze and listened intently.
Something was moving up ahead, it could barely be heard over the wind in their ears but something was there.
“Quiet.” Harry mouthed to Denis and began creeping forward again as silently as he could, his heart beating in his throat.
As he stepped out of the trees into what was a very large, elongated clearing, he saw two things. The first was a small boy, sitting with his back against a tree, bound and gagged. The second he heard first, a small ‘pop’ and a whooshing of air and suddenly Carrow was standing there twenty feet away to Harry’s left.
As if in slow motion Carrow turned his head and they stared at each other.
Then they were both gone in a rush of simultaneous movement.
“Protego!” Harry shouted, his wand pointing at the far side of the clearing so that a large shield suddenly surrounded Liam’s body. Even as he spoke the words he was turning on the spot and with a crack he appeared on the other side of the clearing. He caught a swift glance of Carrow appearing close by sending a curse at Denis who was dodging and sprinting with the agility of a seeker and throwing spells like mad, and then Harry disappeared again. He came up right beside Liam’s unconscious form.
Denis was coughing and spluttering, blood pouring from his nose and his cheek swelling rapidly. Apparently Carrow had gotten to him, Harry shouted protego again and a shield erupted in front of Denis right as Carrow appeared in front of him. Carrow fell backwards, repelled by the shimmering charm and cursed as he turned to look for Harry.
They met eyes again, staring at each other with equal amounts of hate. Harry’s wand hand was pointing directly up into the dark, clouded sky and as a shower of blue sparks shot straight and far into the sky like a stream of muggle fireworks. Carrow twirled his wand in his fingers and stepped back, slowly, as though time itself had paused for this moment between them. His cheek seemed to twitch in irritation but his mouth showed the ghost of smile. He glanced down at Denis who was picking himself up off the ground and wiping the blood off his face. Carrow made a clucking noise as though lamenting some lost motive, and then he was gone, and Harry was left with his arm still trailing into the sky, his eyes burning into the air where Carrow had stood.
Silence filled the air again until suddenly there was the sound of several people apparating into the middle of the clearing. Ez, Ron, Hermione and a Hit Wizard Harry didn’t know came rushing towards him. Harry dropped his arm and blinked away from the spot he’d been staring at.
“Where’s Carrow?” asked Ron as him and Hermione ran over to Harry. Ez was helping Denis up and the other Hit Wizard was checking the clearing.
“Gone. Disapparated.” Harry said plainly.
“But—he’s still in the forest somewhere?” Hermione asked looking windblown and rather horrified. Ron was holding her hand in one of his, with his wand still held tightly in the other.
Blue sparks lit the sky in the distance suddenly and Harry sighed in relief—the mother had been found too.
“No. He left. He knew the game was up.” Harry said simply. He lifted the shield charm from Liam and Hermione undid the bonds and, with a little wave of her wand and the word “enervate”, he stirred and opened his eyes looking confused.
Harry bent down so the little boy could see him and smiled reassuringly.
“Hi Liam. Are you hurt?”
The boy shook his head and looked uncertainly around at Ron and Hermione and the others who were coming up behind them now.
“Where’s my mummy and Cassie?”
“Your mother's safe now too,” Ez said as he joined the group with Denis and motioned to the sky where the drifting blue sparks were still trailing faintly towards earth. “Come on, let’s go find her.
He nodded to Harry who recognized that he was being summoned for a word.
“What happened Harry? By the look of Denis I’m guessing you found more than just the boy.” His messy blonde hair was falling haphazardly into his eyes and he brushed it out of the way and cleaned his glasses with a finger, to better study Harry with his grey blue eyes.
“Carrow was here, I think he was trying to kidnap Liam instead of just hurt him, because he hadn’t done anything to him but tie him up and stun him. He must have gone to search for the rest of the family and when we all showed up he figured there were too many of us to have a go so he went to just pick up Liam and escape.”
“That sounds about right. But then what took him so long to get there? He knew the spot, he could have gone there the moment we came and been long gone?”
Harry thought a moment, watching Hermione over Ez’s shoulder as she fixed remedied Denis’s bloody nose. “Well, I’m not sure exactly why, but he’s…strange. He’s not easily detoured even in impossible situations. Maybe he went sneaking about trying to decide whether there were enough of us to fight and still get out alright. I dunno, maybe he was doing something else…” He trailed off, frowning slightly.
“What happened when he saw you here in the clearing?”
“I put protego on Liam so he couldn’t get him, and then I started apparating around to keep him unsure and Denis was firing spells everywhere. Then I cast a shield on Denis once I had a chance, but Denis had already gotten a bit bloodied--and then I sent up the sparks. He just sort of, smiled and disapparated.”
Ez looked at Harry for a moment and Harry realized he was filling up that blazing desire to fight him one on one and quickly tried to look normal again.
Ez seemed to move on and turned to the others, “Alright, lets go meet Wicker and see if Liam’s mum is okay. Someone grab Liam, I’ll take Den.”
Once everyone was accounted for, they all disapparated towards the little cottage on the hill.
Harry felt the horrible compression of apparation and gripped his wand tight until suddenly he could breathe again.
“Liam!” A woman with auburn hair, pulled back in a neat little arrangement came running towards them wildly, followed by two of the others who had accompanied Ez to Vantage Hill. She took Liam up in her arms and kissed his forehead again and again, her eyes filling up with tears.
One of the men who’d been with her came over to Ez. “We found her not too far away, directly over there,” he pointed behind them—the one direction none of them had gone straight off. “She hadn’t even seen Carrow at all and didn’t have any idea her son was missing. There’s a small farm plot over that way and she was gathering vegetables, but we told her what had happened as quickly as we could and brought her back straight away. Poor woman was quite a bit shook up but we assured her that her daughter and oldest son were safe at Hogwarts and that her son had already been found by the look of the blue signal over the forest.” The man chuckled, “Poor kids aren’t going to be seeing much daylight after today. I doubt she’ll ever let them out of her sight again.”
Ez tried to smile as the woman flung herself at Ez now and began sobbing steadily into his shoulder. He patted her on the shoulder clumsily and kept pushing up his glasses.
Liam looked happily content again, apparently he had gotten over the situation quite quickly and he was now tugging on the coat of the man named Wicker and asking him various questions.
Harry heard him say “Are you an auror?” and noted the man’s look of mild annoyance as he answered “No kid—it’s called a Hit Wizard.” to which Liam curiously cocked his head and said “Why?”
“Some quidditch match.” Ron said as he, Hermione and Denis came up beside Harry.
Harry grinned. “Yeah—some quidditch match.” He looked over at Denis. “You alright Den?”
Denis grinned too, looking much better now that Hermione had patched him up. “Alright. Nearly caught the snitch didn’t we?”
“Nearly.” Harry said, tracing his scar with his finger out of habit. In his head he was thinking, next time…
“Come on you lot,” Ez said as he wandered over to them lankily with a large damp spot on his shirt at the shoulder. “You’re family will be worried sick Ron, and Arthur’ll probably shoot me if your mum gets into a rage.”
“Damn,” Ron muttered, “You’re right. We’re in for it Harry! Why on earth didn’t we tell anyone we were going? I’m going to be skinned alive.”
“Oh let’s go,” Hermione said sighing and looking exhausted, towards the little house again and the slope beyond it that would lead them back into Hogwarts grounds.
They made a sort of procession, all in a silent vigil until they reached the front door where they stopped to bid adieu. The wind was still chill and Liam was wrapped tightly in his mother’s coat as she herded him up the doorstep and made sure he was firmly indoors before coming back out to thank them all again and sob a little more on Ez’s shoulder.
“It’s alright—please,” Ez mumbled hopelessly, “Really, no trouble. Just keep a close eye and don’t let them stray too far. I don’t expect he’ll be back though now that he knows we’ve seen him. Really…”
Harry looked up at the sky and noted the dark clouds. “Ez—we’re going to go on back down to Ron’s family, thanks, er, you know.” Harry said awkwardly as Ez nodded and patted simultaneously.
“No problem, say hi to them all for me…if you can manage.” He mumbled to Harry and the others. “Oh and we’ll be in touch with you two about training Harry and Ron. And Denis—we could use you someday if you ever fancy taking Auror NEWTS.”
“Right.” Harry said and with a nod to the two Hit Wizards and a sort of nervous smile to Mrs. O’Riley which she luckily didn’t spot because she was too busy dabbing her eyes on the edge of Wicker’s jacket sleeve, they set off down the hill together.
When they entered the castle and finally found safety from the wind--which was positively howling outside--they were greeted by a wonderful warmth of cozy air and the chatter of students and guests milling about their Saturday afternoon activities indoors.
“Where do you expect mum and dad will be?” Ron asked looking around as though they might pop out in front of him if he waited long enough.
“I dunno, the Great Hall?” offered Harry.
“I’ve got the Gryffindor password if you need it, although I doubt they’d be in there.” said Denis hopefully.
“Thanks Den, but I don’t--”
“Ronald Bilius Weasley!” said a high, shrill voice that sent the four of them a foot into the air before they had turned around to see George, trailed by Lee Jordan approaching them down the hall with a handful of baked goods and mince-meat pies.
“Bloody hell George! Do that again and I’ll chop off you’re other ear.” stewed Ron, dark-faced.
“It’s always nice to keep one’s face symmetrical. Anyway, mum’s been out of her mind wondering where you three are. I think she figures Voldemort’s risen from his ashes to throttle you all in the forest or something. Where’ve you been anyway? Oh and hi Denis—cream puff?”
Denis shook his head politely and George popped a cream puff into his mouth happily and tossed one to Lee who did likewise.
“We had another Carrow run-in...of sorts.” explained Harry. “A small girl found us half-way through the match and said that some strange man had been climbing the hill over near Hogsmeade talking about her family and about doing something horrible and she’d ran for help, so--”
“—naturally you went off to save the day?” George finished for him thickly through a mouthful of pastry. “Not blaming you Harry, not blaming you.” He added quickly raising a hand. “Blimey though—sounds worse than I thought! McGonagall made an announcement that there was a spot of trouble in the forest and the match was cut off for safety reasons but she wouldn’t go into details. Made it sound like someone’d let off some filibusters or something, not that a murdering, raving lunatic of an escaped death eater was on the lose wreaking havoc, of course I guess it wouldn’t have been very appropriate to announce that to the crowd either.”
“Yeah well, that's basically it.” Harry said.
“Lee and I were just down in the kitchens,” George explained as they stared at the loads of food in his and Lee Jordan’s arms, “--cheering the blessed hearts out those hard-working house-elves,” he added with a flare to Hermione who gave a small ‘hmph’ but said nothing. “We figured if we’re going to be visiting our lovely old school, we might as well reminisce a bit right?” He smiled and took a bite of treacle tart but Harry noted that his eyes suddenly flicked towards the distant hall and the joy seemed to rush out of them like the flick of a light. There were more than just happy memories here.
“Well, we’d best be off now.” said George hastily recovering his zest although it was slightly less assuring than before. “Time to investigate what sort of female population this place has developed while we’ve been away. Mum, dad and Ginny are in the Hospital Wing. Ginny got a bit battered up--bless her little head—again. Anyway…see you around.”
And then he and Lee sauntered off and left them all standing here looking tired and glum.
“Well, let’s go find them shall we?” Hermione offered and they agreed.
As it turned out, Ginny had taken a second bludger to the head about a minute before the match had been shut down and had thus ended up in the hospital wing unconscious along with half the other players, each sporting various similar ailment on a large scale of severity. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were there when Harry and the others arrived and luckily for them, Mrs. Weasley hadn’t been as angry as they’d feared--at least once they’d told what had happened. She’d given them a fierce gaze and then simply hugged them all and thanked the stars they were alright.
Denis said goodbye after a few minutes and Ginny told him he had been brilliant, and they'd get Slytherin next in the rematch, and then he left to go back to his common room and find the rest of his friends.
“It’s weird that Denis showed up—I don’t know how he managed to get past McGonagall, although there were about a thousand people there I suppose.” Ginny said once her parents had gone left to return to the Burrow.
“Yeah,” said Ron as they got their stuff and headed out the door—Ginny had been all patched up by Madam Pomfrey although there were still several other players from both teams lying in the other beds. She hadn’t been even nearly the worst case.
“It was a good thing too” Ron said as they rounded the corner, “or right now, we’d probably look roundabout like Aunt Muriel’s cat that one time she sat on it—remember that?” He gave a look of disgust and rubbed his cheek painfully. “Blimey. Well, I guess it all worked out in the end though. Wonder what would’ve happened if we hadn’t found out he was there? Imagine just watching quidditch while Carrow beat that poor family to a pulp? What do you reckon he was planning Harry?”
They all looked at him expectantly. “I think it’s the DA he’s after.” Even as he said it he felt more certain that he was right. Something in Carrow’s eyes seemed to convey his intentions like clockwork. The thing that gave Harry chills however, was that it seemed like he meant for this, almost intended to be foiled, like it was all one giant, sick game of cat and mouse.
“He said something about it that night at the Burrow—something about dishing out all the punishments he missed last year. It doesn’t make any sense otherwise, I mean he didn’t seem to know I was going to be at your house that first time and he doesn’t really seem to be after anything in particular with these attacks. He’s not stealing or anything, just torturing…” Harry trailed off.
“Merlin…he’s seriously a bloody maniac.” Ron said.
“Harry—you’ll have to make sure you tell Ez and Kingsley.” Hermione said quickly, her eyebrows knit in thought. “It doesn’t seem like it’s too hard to scare him away if you can get to him in time, but the others have to be warned because on his own he’s incredibly dangerous. And on his own he's unstoppable!”
“For now.” Harry said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She said quickly, giving him an accusatory stare.
“Well he can’t be unstoppable forever! We can’t just keep on like this when clearly there are things we can learn to match him blow for blow—if we’re going to protect others we need to be able to beat him, I mean, I doubt he’ll just give it up as a bad job and start a career as a dragon keeper once we’ve spoiled his fun. He’s a bloody criminal—and an old death eater!.”
“I know Harry, but that doesn’t mean you have to fight him off yourself or become any kind of superhero to stop him. Please don’t start this obsession again-- he’s not Voldemort Harry.”
“I know that,” Harry hissed in annoyance. “I’m just saying. He’s something different and we’re going to stop him, that’s why me and Ron are becoming aurors, so it is our job.”
“Eventually yes, once you’re done with school and you’ve had proper training.”
“Right.” Harry sighed, sensing that his conversation was going nowhere. Hermione was never going to relent and he was really too tired to argue any more. “So how’s your head Ginny?”
Ginny looked a bit warily from Harry to Hermione before answering. “Just fine. It wasn’t too bad really. Peakes was much worse off—ended up with a broken arm and a concussion. But Madam Pomfrey mended his arm in about two seconds so he’s alright. But he put that idiot Marco Greengrass in the hospital wing too before he went down, so he said it was all worth it.”
“Go down with no regrets—good man.” Said Ron approvingly.
“Yeah well, Marco’s nothing but trouble anyway, even for a Slytherin. Although his sister’s not so bad, she’s in Ravenclaw though, first in her family I imagine.”
"Yeah, well, there’s always those weirdos.”
“Ron…” Hermione shook her head at him, smiling ever so slightly.
The continued on the down hall together and thoughts of Carrow soon diminished as they enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of the castle. The stormy weather provided rain throughout most of the evening, and sometimes when Harry was lost in thought or found himself staring off into space, he imagined there were voices calling on the wind. But mostly he just enjoyed the time together with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, looking forward to his next meeting with Ez, and anxiously awaiting the day when he would finally begin his training.
Re: Nineteen Years
The Fountain of Universal Brotherhood
Harry felt someone staring at him. He turned to look over his shoulder but there was no one there. He stepped forward in the dim light of the dream and felt his bare feet connect to cold ground, mossy and damp with a strange spring to it as though he were stepping on a giant sponge covered in earth. He looked over his shoulder again and through the mist of sleep he saw something move, distantly flicking through the swirls of fog. He waited for it expectantly.
“You’ve got to catch the snitch this time Harry.” Came a familiar voice from behind him and he looked around to see Denis Creevey standing beside him in his quidditch robes emblazoned with the Gryffindor crest. “Catch it Harry!” he said earnestly, as though Harry should be doing something other than standing there on the mossy ground in his bare feet.
Harry looked at him with a puzzled expression, “But you’re the seeker, don’t you remember? I don’t play anymore…” he looked back at the fog wistfully and suddenly it began to swirl. Round and round it went until Harry was caught up in it and it lifted him from the ground. Denis shook his head from beside him, suddenly riding a Nimbus 2000—just like Harry’s first broom—through the swirling clouds.
“This isn’t much like quidditch anymore, Harry.” He said looking sad, “You’d better watch yourself—its one nasty snitch you’ve got.” The air around them seemed to be humming with strange sounds like powerful voices from somewhere far away. Denis looked around into the dark mist and frowned at Harry. “Maybe this isn’t your game after all.”
And then Denis and the distant flitting shape disappeared and all Harry could see was swirling clouds. It became very dark and he realized that he was cold and began wishing he that would wake up soon. An ominous feeling was spreading through him and he began to feel slightly wary, like at any moment the earth might swallow him up altogether even in a dream.
There was one moment where he heard a voice he knew very well but couldn’t place for some reason, whispering words he couldn’t understand, and then everything went silent and black, and he in the next moment he awoke.
“Harry—sorry mate, but you’d better get up.” It was Ron speaking from the doorway looking as though he’d only woken up a moment ago as well. His red hair was sticking up strangely on one side like he’d slept with it all going in one direction. We’re supposed to be going to the Ministry today, remember? Introductory Auror Training Day? We’ll get to meet all the other poor saps that signed up too.”
Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes. “How much time have we got?”
Ron ruffled his untidy ginger hair sleepily and looked at his watch. “’bout a ten minutes.”
Harry sighed and stared at his ceiling trying to recall the details of the strange dream he’d just had, but he could only grasp emptily at the quickly fading images until there was nothing but a mysterious feeling of wariness left in him and the desire to put on shoes.
Reluctantly, he got up.
The Ministry was full of people as usual when Harry and Ron arrived a few minutes later, having hastily pulled on their jeans and t-shirts and apparated into the main atrium. Magical beings of all manner were hustling and bustling along the long hallways looking busy and often irritable.
Things had been picking up for the Magical World since Kingsley had taken over. Under his new management, with Percy as his right-hand man, radical changes were being made in magical cooperation. The alliance with the Goblins, while immensely controversial as a whole, was proving also proving extremely beneficial to both sides and widely pleasing to the magical population. Hermione certainly had not been able to stop raving about what she called “equality at last!” ever since the treaty discussions had begun.
There had been a great deal of upset about things as well however, even episodes of riots and violent protests, but mostly the results had been phenomenal.
“Merlin’s beard!” Ron said in awe as they walked into the Atrium, “that’s new!” Harry followed his gaze to the center of the great room where the Fountain of Magical Brethren had stood on his first visit to the Ministry and where the “Magic is Might” Statue had been erected last year and torn down at the end of the war.
“They finished it.” He said.
The new centerpiece was done and it was not a statue but a scene. Five figures stood in the centermost area of the fountain—a wizard boy in long robes, standing barefoot on the rock that served as their platform and smiling down as though in chatting lightly at a merperson whose head was sticking out of the water, her flowing hair ebbing magically with the water despite the fact that it was made of bronze. Beside the wizard boy was a young witch who held his hand and was poised in motion as though she were leading him up the rock to the little ledge at its peak. There on the ledge was a muggle boy in muggle clothes conversing lightly with a house elf as they dangled their bare feet over the edge to catch the loose spray of imaginary waves. Water danced in circles around these figures, shooting up from magical spouts between crevices in the great bronze rock and adding a sort of surrealism to the scene, like a snapshot frozen in time amongst a bustling world.
To the left of these first five figures, stood another area of rock, this one flat and low in the water of the fountain. The etched figure of a centaur stood there, poised with his bow bent to shoot an arrow high across the expanse of distance in the Ministry chamber, from his arrow shot a fountain of sparkling water, and beside him stood the husky form of a goblin, standing powerfully and looking off into the distance with a glimmering sword in hand. The water was crystalline and the sound of it falling emanated tranquility into the surrounding area. The scene gave off this feeling of such immense peace it almost made Harry just want to fall into the water and float off towards the island to sit beside the other children and never leave again.
A plaque against the marble exterior read “The Fountain of Universal Brotherhood: dedicated to a New World united, not in magic or in race or any other social structure, but in humanity, the virtue that all beings share whether they have two legs or seven, magical or not. All proceeds go to the funds for international magical cooperation and charitable needs of worthy organizations across the globe.”
“Blimey, sort of outdone themselves haven’t they?” Said Ron after a moment. “’Course anything would have been a step up from ‘Magic is Might’ wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah, I suppose so.” Said Harry. “Come on—let’s get on with it then.”
He turned to leave but Ron grabbed his shirt sleeve and held him back. “Wait—is that who I think it is?” Ron motioned across the bronze figures and dancing waters where a tall, pale figure stood staring into the clear water with a distant look in his eyes, his blonde hair slicked back smartly in an attempt at classiness that did not fit the troubled, wild look on his face.
“Draco!” Harry hissed.
Draco looked up sharply, searching around for the face of someone who might have just called his name and Harry and Ron stood there staring blatantly from across the fountain’s shimmering waters. Draco’s eyes found them and Harry could see his cheeks flush and his eyes harden even from this distance as he stared at Ron for a second and then Harry and then looked back down. His hand was resting on the edge of the fountain and as he turned to walk away Harry saw a flash of gold and silver disappearing into the water at the edge of the fountain and then Draco was disappearing into the crowd again.
“The nerve he has to come here and act like he’s actually got a soul!” Said Ron scathingly. “After he tried to kill Dumbledore along with half the school and then stood blubbering at Voldemort’s heels while he took over the world? He just comes waltzing in here like nothing’s happened and drops a bit of his father’s money down for charity! The filthy prattish arse!”
Harry stared thoughtfully at the fountain’s waters and the numerous galleons, sickles and knuts that littered the bottom, tossed in by a hundred passing visitors, and rubbed his scar out of habit.
“Yeah, well, who knows. Come on, Ron. We’re supposed to be there already.”
Leaving the fountain in their wake, they sped over to the information booth in the center of the hall.
“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic gentlemen,” the woman at the receptionist’s desk said sweetly as they walked up. “I assume you’re here for the ten o’clock appointment with the Auror Department?”
“Yes, Harry Potter and--”
“—Ron Weasley, yes, I know.” She smiled understandingly. “Follow me; Mr. Cleaves is holding the meeting in the Conference Hall.”
They followed her.
“Harry—did you hear that?” Ron said with a dazed sort of smile, “she knew my name! And she called us ‘gentlemen’. “Reckon I ought to start growing out a beard or something?” He went on, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “You know—to look a bit more macho?”
“I don’t think the world’s quite ready for that Ron. Besides—your mum’d kill you! She’d probably magic it off in the night like Charlie’s hair.”
Ron sighed and let his hands drop back to his sides. “True that. A shame too—it’d look brilliant once I get all buffed out as an auror.” He flexed his muscles experimentally and then sighed.
“Here we are now,” Said the receptionist with a wave of her hand, “right through this door. Have a nice day Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley.”
They stepped inside the professional, important looking door and were surprised to see that there were already several other people in there. Ezakiah Cleaves was slumped against the wall in one corner looking jittery and a bit tired, Dudley was sitting glumly in a chair on the far side of the room, and a cluster of other people including several Harry thought he recognized from previous years at Hogwarts sat around the meeting chamber. There was a tall, dark-haired boy with a lean frame who Harry vaguely remembered seeing at school a few years ago. Beside him was a small girl, with short brown hair and a thin frame that Harry was pretty sure had graduated during his fifth year. There were some older witches and wizards too, mid-twenties probably who sat in various seats chatting amongst each other, none of whom looked even vaguely familiar. All in all there were about a dozen people not counting Ron and himself.
“Must be the other recruits.” Ron said looking around glumly. “Pity we don’t know any of them.”
Just then there was a rush from the doorway and a new figure appeared.
“Ah—blimey—I ran all the way from Fourth Street like the devil and I’m not even late afterall!”
“Seamus!” Harry and Ron both said together in relief.
They clapped their old friend on the back as he smiled crookedly looking red-faced and sweaty from his dash to make the meeting on time.
“What are you doing here?” Ron asked.
“Well I expect the same thing you are—joining the new auror training program aren’t I?”
“I never knew you fancied being an auror Seamus.” Said Harry quizzically.
“Well,” Seamus said with a laugh, clutching a stitch in his side, “I never really thought about it much, but after last year and all, well—I’ve taken a fancy to getting my hands dirty.” He grinned.
“This is brilliant Seamus!” Ron said looking delighted to know someone else in the room besides Harry, Dudley and Ez. “You reckon anyone else we know is going to join up too?”
“Blimey that reminds me,” Seamus said looking around through the faces in the room and the hallway behind them, “isn’t Dean here yet?”
“Dean?” Balked Ron and Harry at the same time.
“That’s right, he was in the thick of it with the rest last year too—you know that. There’s quite the bunch of us actually that will never be the same after last year; you don’t come out of a year of facing Voldemort and getting bloodied up by death eaters without some sense of fight in you.”
Harry nodded and inwardly agreed wholeheartedly. It was strange; this generation would forever be scarred by the war unlike any other before them, and—he hoped—unlike any that would come after. They were a lost generation, or maybe not lost. Maybe just different.
“Ah—there he is—good man,” said Seamus with a wide grin as Dean came sprinting down the hall and through the door too.
Dean staggered to a seat breathing hard but beamed up at them anyway. “Hi Harry—Ron.” He nodded. “I didn’t think I wanted to miss the next chapter of all this fun. Did Seamus tell you I was coming?”
“Just now.” Ron said, “But what about Gringotts, Dean—quitting already?”
“Well, no, I’m still there, but I’ve decided it’s just not the thing for me—long-term you know? It drives me nuts sometimes, the monotony of it all. After being on the run for so long, living day-to-day, having to survive on adrenaline and instinct, I dunno, I just can’t go back to counting knuts and writing up bills—I want to be back in the action again.”
Seamus clapped his best friend proudly on the back.
“Well, welcome aboard.” Said Ron heartily, “I reckon you’ll get some action. Harry and I’ve already been talking with Ez and Kingsley for weeks—they’ve got loads of brilliant stuff up their sleeves. And you should see the new Auror wing!” Ron slumped back into his seat with a look of ecstasy.
Just then Ez cleared his throat and the conversations quickly dulled to a quiet. He pushed his glasses up his thin nose so that they better covered his grey eyes and walked forward.
“Um—it looks like everyone’s here now.” He nodded at Dean who smiled apologetically. “So…I think it’s time to start then.”
The scattered people all made their way towards the seats, Harry and Ron sat down next to Dean and Seamus and Dudley came to sit rather awkwardly at the end of their row, avoiding eye contact with anyone.
“Okay, thanks.” Ez said his crooked, nervous smile. “So first off—I’m Ezakiah Cleaves, you can call me Ez though to save yourself the breath. I’m heading the new Auror department for now with King—eh, the Minister’s close watch.” He took a breath and then continued. “So, you’re all the applicants for the first group of the New Auror Department. Congrats.” There were a few wolf-whistles and a couple of hoots from the other side of the room.
“Err…basically the old Auror Department—headed by Gawyne Robards who’s going to be speaking to you in a bit—currently has a grand total of four aurors left—including Robards. So that’s why we’re taking in a large group now because we’ve got major need for some order …um, well pretty much everywhere. I’m sure you can understand the position we’re in—changing the foundations of an ageless institution is not exactly going over too well with a lot of people. Maybe you’ve heard the rumors about a group calling themselves “The Resistance” down in some of the back-country areas. While most people are are extremely unhappy with the Minister’s new positions on magical order, there have already been a few shows of violence from some of the groups that aren’t as, em, overjoyed—not to mention we still have to clean up the rest of Voldemort’s mess, catching all the death eaters, snatchers, thieves and crooked politicians that ran ramped for 14 months. Anyway, we’ve been using mostly Hit Wizards for jobs that should be handled by our Aurors, so we can’t waste any time with the usual requirements. We know that many of you have missed some years of school or had a few of them, er, tarnished by certain events regarding The War but this time we’re exempting the preliminaries and as long as you work hard and we can see that you have what it takes, then you’re in. But we still want you to get your NEWTS done—Harry and Ron over there,” he nodded slightly at their row and Harry felt uncomfortable as a dozen curious heads turned to look at them, “have been helping us since the beginning really, and they’ve already started theirs. But to start your training you just need to show up and really.”
He fixed his glasses again and brought out a stack of books. “These are our old training manuals—they have a lot of the preliminary stuff in them, the defense, basic jinxes and duel maneuvers that we were taught during the old program. But in addition to this stuff you’re going to be the first group in a radically new program.” He passed out the old tattered books which a few people flipped through idly. Harry opened his excitedly and read through a few of the titles. The first one was called “A.U.R.O.R: A Useful Reminder Of Regulations”. He skimmed through the worn pages, noting a certain chapter that read “Disarming and Counter-Jinxes During Underwater Battle” and smiled happily at the section devoted to “Expelliarmus: A wizard’s bread and butter”.
The door opened and a man walked in looking flustered and slightly annoyed.
“Oh—eh, this is Gawyne Robards. He’s the head of the old Auror department. He’s going to tell you a bit about the basic training and how the old programmed worked—keep in mind that although the new program is much different, integrally it’s still got the traditional Auror stuff. So…Robards?” Ez pushed up his glasses and wiped some strands of his sandy colored hair out of the way with a nervous smile at the man who nodded with a half-attempt at a return smile.
“Right. Thank you Cleaves.” Robards said shortly. “As Cleaves has said, I’m Gawyne Robards, the Head of the Auror Department as it still stands although, presumably that will change once” he flourished his hand through the air, “all this, new bit comes into full charge.” He took a deep breath looking annoyed. “And, I’m supposed to tell you about the training and requirements, so, here we go.
Under normal circumstances the training takes several years to complete along with rigorous testing before you can become a certified Auror, but apparently Kingsley’s decided to forgo all that necessity and let you all join up whether you’ve got NEWTS or not. However, those of you who don’t have newts will have to complete them within this year in order to continue, but in the meantime, you’ll be training and some of you will have to be prepared to be called on if help is needed which it will. Being an Auror is a serious job, not a game or a day at Dueling Club—you’d all better earn your stripes quickly if you ever hope to survive.”
Harry noticed Seamus grin wildly.
“The job of an Auror is to be an elite force of magical security and defense. As an auror we do the big stuff—the things that Hit Wizards aren’t trained for. Really, the things that no one’s trained for, although currently we have a number of very unqualified pinheads running around with us while we’re short on staff.” Gawyne rolled his eyes and Ez bit his fingernail nervously.
“The training course that’s been instituted for decades of respected aurors is being thrown out the window I’m told, so I can only tell you to expect something you’d never imagine because I can’t make heads nor tails of the plans they’ve given me. The basics of training come down to three main things: physical agility which compromises numerous types of dueling styles and endurance training along with a load of muggle nonsense Cleaves has cooked up—no offense there Cleaves, just being honest—then there’s spellwork which requires a rigorous knowledge of advanced spells, curse breaking, anti-jinxes, defensive magic, and branches of other magical arts such as potion-making”—Ron made a sour face at this—“and transfiguration. The final thing is synthesis and logic which means you have to be able to use everything you know, things you don’t know, and a good deal of luck to be able to get through fast-paced, and probably life-threatening situations without kicking the bucket. It’s a real job, that it is and not one to be taken likely.” He paused for a moment with a deep sigh. “I don’t have much else to say really except thank the heavens I’ll finally be rid of this job, and--I suppose-- good luck.” With that he promptly finished and looked at his watch. “Now I’ve got a protest in Whittleby that’s been getting out of hand and a missing witch in Barstow to attend to, so, if you don’t mind—Cleaves.” He nodded politely, and then he dipped his head again to the group and went back out the door as briskly as he’d come.
There was a moment of nervous silence and then Ez picked up another stack of booklets and passed them hastily down the rows. These were new and brightly colored with various images moving around on the pages and the words:
Auror AG Program
He pushed his glasses up his thin nose again and cleared his throat. “Well…that’s—that’s the first bit done then. Anyway, the major thing we’re changing is what an auror does and how they do it. So…basically everything. Ki—the Minister and I have been working hard to come up with a curriculum that not only works magic and physical agility, but that will teach this new generation of auror how to do the job without magic.”
There were a few interested murmurs that circulated around the room as people contemplated the idea of fighting with magic. Harry felt a rush of adrenaline as an image of a whirling shadow in the dark of the Weasley garden flashed through his mind. He would learn how to be that fast and silent. He would be faster.
“Um, I know that sounds crazy right now, but it’s what has to happen in the light of new events. I know many of you are here because you’ve been through battles already and fought in The War, but we’ve been through so much already that K—the Minister and I, decided we really have to be prepared for the uncertain. We don’t want to leave ourselves vulnerable, and as a society, we wizards and witches are very, eh… naïve, really, to the muggle world around us. We rely on magic far too much—imagine facing an attack without a wand,” Harry easily imagined it, “—we’d be defenseless! We can’t let that happen. The War may be over and Voldemort dead—thanks to Harry”—Harry blushed—“but we’re far from peaceful yet!” His voice was gathering umph and he ceased to stumble over his words like he usually did. Harry stared at him in surprise as he realized how much Ez believed in this. “We’ve still got convicts on the loose and a system of government that’s just started out, thousands of witches and wizards who hate our guts for trying to change the old ways and millions of people who are disillusioned and confused by years of terror and uncertainty! We’ve got to be prepared for anything!” He ended his speech loudly and slammed his pamphlet down on his podium with a feverish passion and his glasses nearly slipped off his nose all together. He swallowed nervously and regained his composure. “So…er—any questions?”
When the meeting adjourned it was nearly 3 ‘o clock and Harry was once again feeling that anxious thrill of excitement that so often accompanied his thoughts about becoming an auror these days. Not wanting to return to the Burrow, Harry and Ron apparated into London for a visit.
“Can’t believe we’re going to be training in January! Actually training.” Said Ron as they entered the warmth of The Leaky Cauldron which was bustling with people. They were greeted by a number of cheers from people shouting their names—something that still happened frequently in public wizarding places despite the number of months that were now between them and Voldemort. Ron’s ears went scarlet.
“I know. It’s finally here.” Answered Harry. “Two butterbeers will you Tom?” He said at the bar, pulling out a few silver sickles and laying them down on the counter.
“Right-o, Harry my boy.” Said the old bartender, turning to find some goblets.
They drank heartily until they were warm and toasty, the weather was starting to get chilly as October drew closer to November and it felt good to sit in the crowded inn.
“Reckon we’ve got some time kill,” Said Ron, smacking his lips at the last dregs of butterbeer. “All we can hope for if we go home is NEWT work singing at us from those bloody schedules Hermione made us. How about we drop in on a certain joke shop, eh?”
“Sure.” Said Harry, just as eager to forgo his lessons, at least for a little while—today was double potions work and spell theory, neither of which Harry was particularly fond of.
“Hey look—Olivander’s is up and running again!” Exclaimed Ron once they were inside the cozy Alleyway. They passed by the newly refurbished shop to see that it was teeming with anxious customers who had been forced to borrow the used, old wands of relatives for the past year and half since Olivander had disappeared and his shop been closed. Loads of parents who no doubt had a wandless child, were crowding the counter and waiting to pick up their son or daughter’s new wand from a very frazzled looking Olivander who appeared to be in good health.
“Looks like he’s bit off more than he can chew.” Said Harry with a smile as Olivander’s white-tufted head disappeared beneath a pile of boxes in a huff of dust.
Ron snorted and led the way on to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
The store was mildly crowded with small children, too young to go to Hogwarts or adults who were hoping to stock up on early Christmas presents before the usual rush. It was as spectacular as Harry remembered it although Harry noted a few empty shelves in some corners that suggested WWW wasn’t quite as quick to invent new joke items as it had once been.
“Harry! Ron!” Lee Jordan appeared from behind a large display of ‘Chocolate Bogs—a surprising home for your candied creatures’, his arms laden with boxes of items to replenish empty areas. He grinned wide and punched Harry’s shoulder genially and tossled Ron’s hair.
“Hey! Watch it.” Said Ron, annoyed.
“Prattish as usual.” Said Lee with a mock sigh and then leaned back to shout, “GEORGE! Two aurors-in-training here to see you. Look alive now! Don’t want to get arrested!”
“Oh come on, has the whole world got to know?” Grumbled Ron.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “Weren’t you just saying back in the Leaky Cauldron how excited you were to be starting training?”
“Well—yeah, but that doesn’t mean I want the whole world to know about my chosen line of work.” He pulled up his chin and straightened up, “Maybe I want to keep a low profile—you know, for safety’s sake.”
“Low profile? Well, maybe you ought to think about losing the ears then dear brother—they stick out so far you’re going to be the only auror who knocks out his assailant just by turning his head. I’ve found that, ah, Sectumpsempra curse works fairly decent if you’d like to give it a try.”
George appeared, smiling, and shook hands with Harry.
“My ears do not stick out!” Ron said feeling his ears anxiously.
“Whatever you say.” George answered, leaning against a counter full of assorted joke-sweets with a grin. “So, Harry—I’ve heard from Ginny recently that you’re working alongside your cousin again. I can sell you some Ten-Ton Toffees at a bargain if you’d like.”
“Thanks George, but I think I’ll go without this time.”
“Oh yeah? Had a revelation or somewhat right?—Ginny might have mentioned that too now that I think of it.” He grinned. “But it’s always a good time for a bit of fun.”
Harry grinned too. “So how’s the business going?”
“Fairly well—fairly well.” Said George smiling, and Lee nodded slyly. “We’ve just put in a bid for Zonko’s.”
“Seriously?” Said Ron, abandoning his ear examination and looking excited.
“Yep.” Said Lee with an air of superiority. “You’re looking at the proud new owners of a burgeoning enterprise gentlemen, fix this moment in your memories.”
“Well,” said George waving a hand, “that’s if our bid goes through. But I doubt we’ll have much trouble, we made a pretty hefty offer.” He winked.
Lee glanced over his shoulder. “Ah, you’ll have to excuse me, those idiot kids are trying to snitch magic beans from the open display—Hey you three! You put one more of those in your pocket and you’ll discover one lodged up your—”
“—Well.” Said George quickly as Lee sent a group of small boys scattering out the door to find their mothers, trailing tiny black beans that hit the ground with a pop and a burst of colored smoke. “It’s an exciting time I suppose. It’s been a dream of ours.” He smiled that not-quite George-like smile that always accompanied reminders of Fred. “Mum said we’d end up as bums carrying on like this but now it’s going to be Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes: renown for the finest jokes to be had.”
“Sounds great George.” Said Harry, “always knew you’d be a hit.”
“Yeah. Listen Harry,” George cast a sidelong glance at Ron and continued, “We owe you everything mate, I mean, you started us off. I know you’ve got enough gold to set you up for life already, but, I want to repay you if I can, with a little interest. I figure you probably don’t want to live with my mum and dad you’re whole life, so—you find yourself a place you like and I’ll put down the galleons for you, alright? Mind you, don’t go blowing me for all I’m worth, but, ah…he’d have agreed with me that we owe you as much.”
Harry was dumbstruck and Ron was spluttering too. “What? No way George! I can’t do that.” Harry said in alarm.
“Sure you can, it’s easy—and didn’t Fred and I say the same thing when you handed us that prize money? It’s only fair. Seeing where that thousand galleons got us, I figure the interest is fairly considerable.” He held up a hand as Harry opened his mouth to speak again, “No arguments, Potter.”
“What about me? I’m your brother!” Said Ron angrily, rubbing his ears again which were reddening distinctly.
“Hold you hippogriffs, I was getting to that.” Said Fred with a sigh. “Now I know you’re doing that whole auror thing, and, as much as I hate to utter the words—I must say I’m proud of our ickle Ronnikins. But as I’m sure that’s going to take a while to actually become a career, what with the eighty-five years of training and all, I was really hoping you’d consider taking up the spot of second Weasley here with me once we’ve opened up our new shop. I’m going to need the help and, well, it was always meant to be a family business. Brothers—you know.”
Ron’s face had paled to chalk. “S-seriously? Be a partner…here? Of all this?” he waved around at the stuffed room full of whirring noises, pops and sounds of giggles and chattering and mulling customers.
“No, of Sweden you dimwit, of course all this!—do you want it or not?”
“Blimey yes!” Ron’s eyes were suddenly filled with awe and excitement. “Of course I do, I—Merlin. Thanks!”
“Now don’t get too mushy on me or I’ll take it back.” George added hastily as Ron gaped open-mouthed around at the store like he’d just come into a rather large inheritance.
Lee made his way back over, shaking his head. “Tiny little hooligans. Were we ever that mischievous George?”
“Definitely not.” Said George matter-of-factly and then, definitively ending the discussion about his offerings to Harry and Ron, he held picked up a small, struggling package from the counter behind him and said cheerily. “Care for a Bludger ‘n Biscuit sampler?”
Last edited by katishere; February 22nd, 2009 at 11:16 pm.
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