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Forever White Knight - Knight Gallery, Chap 5?

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This story is No. 5 in the series "Forever White Knight". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Another UNFINISHED partial chapter.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > General > Alternate UniverseDanaShortFR18195,8655297,05912 Dec 0812 Dec 08No
Warning: This is another unfinished work, approaching Novel length. It follows probably two, maybe three chapters after the currently stalled second chapter of Knight Gallery. I haven't made the picture for it yet.

Some who read the Caer Azkaban Yahoo group will have seen this in either pieces, or most of it in the FILES section. Apparently many wanted it here, even though it is out of sequence and unfinished. Ok, why not.

I don't own most of the characters, locations, or concepts used in the following story.

For a fuller disclaimer, or for the other parts in the larger story of which this is a part, please visit either Twisting The Hellmouth at: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Series-138

I hope you enjoy this little tale. And now, here's my Celebrity Host:

---======---

The darkness of the room is broken by the dim flare from a burning cigarette, as an unseen smoker inhales.

As the light fades again, a footstep can be heard echoing in the darkness, and suddenly a pool of light snaps into existence, and into this pool steps the man.

Rod Serling turns and with his characteristic smirk starts a narrative.

"A Life and a destiny are not, always the same thing. And in some instances one can preclude the other. But if both were to be shattered together, it is entirely possible that during the chaos the ensues when the rules are discarded that both may be savaged, a life worth living, while still fulfilling the destiny. Assuming of course that there is any desire to fulfill it in the first place.

"And that brings us to our next little offering. A picture I like to call, 'The Path Unwalked' "

With that the lights shift to display a picture hanging in the dark air of the room, showing a teenaged boy with messy black hair and round glasses, his forehead marred by a lightning bolt shaped scar, and a slender wand clutched in his hand, while a brunette girl can be seen in the distance behind him looking around in curiosity.

+=+

Boredom. Pain. Occasional unwanted visions.

This was his life these days. Mostly in that order, with the boredom taking up most of the time.

How long it had been he wasn't sure. It might have been a month. Emotionally he was certain it had been much longer than a month, while logically a part of his mind argued that it couldn't have been, since he was still here. In all honesty he didn't really know which was the case.

His small cell in the deep bowls of Azkaban had no window by which he could tell the passage of time. In fact the only break in the dull monotony of sitting in his vaguely lit chamber was the occasional visits from the Dementors, the soul sucking demons which guarded the infamous Wizarding prison.

He would hear them coming on occasion, as the distant gates and doors would creak when opened or closed, and that was his cue to start meditating on the pain.

It had taken him a long time to discover the secret of the pain.

His mind drifted back to the trial which had started this whole thing, when he had been sentenced by Cornelius Fudge to thirty days in a cell for contempt of court due to his failing to appear on time for his hearing on the charge of the use of underage magic.

He had gotten in trouble this time for a spell he actually had cast - a Patronis he'd cast to defend himself and his cousin from a pair of Dementors which had attacked them during his summer break.

When he had shown up at the time and location stated in his notification, he found he was both late and in the wrong courtroom for his trial, and the members of the Wizengamot had been less than pleased to hear his excuse that no one had told him of the change. Especially when the documents he held out to them to show his side now displayed the time and date he was claiming not to have been provided. When he then testified as to how he came to cast a Patronis charm in a Muggle neighborhood, the sheer disbelief that Dementors, who were strictly controlled by the Ministry and were only allowed to roam freely on the island of Azkaban was resulted in any defense he tried to raise being summarily dismissed.

It had been with great apparent joy that Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic had broken his wand and informed him he would be expelled from Hogwarts for his repeated and willful violations of the Reasonable Restrictions Against Underaged Wizardry, then had sentenced him to thirty days confinement as further punishment for his failure to appear as instructed, thus wasting the court's time.

Not stated in the court was that the thirty days would be under the care of the Dementors on Azkaban - that part didn't come out until the Minister's Undersecretary, an ugly toad like women who wore far too much perfume escorted him past the normal detention facility used for short-term punishments, and down the hallway to a room in which what he could have sworn were the same two Dementors he had faced with his cousin were waiting for him. Not that there was much visual differentiation from one Dementor to another, but unfortunately over the past few years he had encountered so many of the demons that at this point he honestly felt he could make out distinct differences from one to another, and these two really did seem to be the same pair he'd seen the day before.

As he felt his consciousness being overwhelmed by the visions of his parents murders, and the chilling call of "Kill the spare", the last thing he heard was Ms. Umbridge telling him how since he liked to talk about Dementors so much she hoped he enjoyed his stay at Azkaban.

He had awoken some time later to find himself in this cold, dark cell.

And that had been the start of this long, boring period of time. Sitting alone in the dark for long periods of time was nothing new to Harry, he'd practically grown up that way. He was well versed in ways to entertain himself. Eventually he'd started placing himself in a light trance and going through his memories, almost like watching them in a pensive, in order to pass the time. As the days, or perhaps weeks passed, he started organizing them, sorting them into virtual file folders in his head, so that he could more readily recall happy events to help him pass his time.

The first several times the Dementors came by, apparently to deliver food and replace or clean the waste bucket in the cell, he had found himself overwhelmed by the visions and memories their presence caused.

But then one day he had made a discovery. One which along with his memory sorting had quite likely saved his sanity. He had been having periodic visions whilst dreaming, punctuated by flashes of pain occasionally from his scar when awake - similar to those he felt when facing Voldemort in one form or another.

He had just come out of one of those dreams, awakening with his head flashing in pain only to see the Dementor in his cell with him swiftly backing out the door.

As the pain faded, the voices returned, and the Dementor paused, then started drifting closer.

In a panic, Harry had grasped onto the remnants of the pain, almost tugging at the scar from within his mind in an attempt to shield himself from the memories being stirred by the Dementor, when he saw the creature pause again and float back out of his cell once more.

Thus he started adding pain to his life in Azkaban, deliberately torturing himself, and as he later came to believe from the other visions he experienced when trying to sleep, Voldemort as well, in his attempt to avoid the feelings, voices, and memories stirred by the Dementors presence.

While not quite as good as a Patronis, it seemed that the pain would keep them away, forcing them to hurry in their supposedly daily exchange of the food for the used waste bucket, then departing swiftly out the door and down the hallway.

After that day he no longer suffered from black outs whenever the Dementors were around, instead he would grab onto the ethereal edges of the scar and pull with all his mind, causing his head to almost explode in flashes of blinding pain, but driving the voices away at the same time.

And since he was in control of the pain, it was a situation he found he preferred to being a helpless victim of the evil creatures.

Time had passed slowly since then, but he had one other distraction, the occasional nocturnal visions, or perhaps dreams of Voldemort.

One vision showed him breaking down the door to #4 Privet Drive, and torturing his relatives in an attempt to find Harry. It was during this vision that Harry for the first time in a dream tried to push the pain through his scar, and was rewarded with seeing the Dark Lord fall to his knees before his relatives. His Uncle, who had been writhing on the ground under the torture of a Crucio had climbed to his knees and picked up the Dark Lord's wand, then even as Voldemort tried to summon it back from his grasp had snapped it, calling Voldemort a freak just like his worthless nephew, and had started to kick the dark lord in the ribs.

Harry's vision ended as Voldemort had portkeyed away, arriving in amongst a circle of his concerned followers, all of whom had been unable to join him in the assault on the Muggles due to the blood wards on the house which only their Lord could pass.

Harry had hit his scar once more as he saw Snape approaching Voldemort with some potion vial, and then the vision was washed out in a further wave of pain and anger fueled by the Dark Lord's rage and Harry's deliberate twisting of the link between the two of them.

When he awoke the next time, he found there were two trays of food on the floor, as well as the customary empty bucket. From this Harry determined he must have spent at least a whole day passed out from unusual vision and its after effects. He was torn over how to feel about the contents of the vision, however. If it was real, then his Uncle had actually driven off the Dark Lord after being hit with several Crucios, as had both Dudley and his Aunt, who had been tortured first, in hopes that one of them would break and disclose Harry's location as other than the first answer his supposed family had given him of, "Who cares where the worthless freak is? He ran away to one of his freak friends. three weeks ago after scaring Dudley with his stick."

He had other visions of Voldemort. It seemed the Dark Lord was extremely unhappy that his followers couldn't manage to retrieve some bauble from some place called the Department of Mysteries. He often tortured them for their failings, then Harry would tug at the pain from his scar, causing a feedback loop, and the Dark Lord would scream out as well, clutching his head in agony as he was tortured as well.

Harry really hoped that those visions were real, as he found a perverse pleasure in the idea that while Voldemort could hurt him through the scar, that Harry could at least return the favor. And that by doing so when the Dark Lord was already angry, it seemed to make him even madder. Perhaps he could cause Voldemort to burst a blood vessel and kill himself.

=+=

A creaking of a distant door alerted Harry to the approach once more of the Dementors.

Harry settled himself into the corner furthest from the door, and began to focus on the mental equivalent of his scar, tugging at it in his mind, and imagining that he could hear the Dark Lord crying out in pain yet again as Harry's actions forced a feedback response from their link.

Harry was wondering if the faint cries he thought he could almost hear in his mind were real when the door to his cell creaked open, accompanied for a change by a wash of light, and the scuff of boots on the floor.

Harry had just started to wonder at this change when he heard a vaguely familiar, soft female voice ask "Oh my gods, Harry Potter, is that you?"

Slowly, guardedly, Harry released his grip on the pain as he opened his eyes, then squinted them back closed against the unaccustomed brightness filling his dismal cell.

Standing in the doorway was an almost familiar face. He thought he'd seen it before, probably at school, but couldn't really place it.

He looked through the mental folders from school, searching through almost an index of faces, working his way backwards through his fourth, then third, and finally second years before he found a match. He cross-referenced that match and pulled up the associated information, thinking as he did so that organizing his memories had been a really good idea if he'd be able to do this for everything.

Opening his mouth he tried to verify his identification, saying "You were the Hufflepuff Prefect, weren't you?"

Unfortunately all that came out was a croaking sound, as he hadn't spoken out loud even once since he was sent here, however long ago that was.

The woman came closer, bending down to try and hear him better. "What did you say, Harry?"

"Hufflepuff." he managed, "You were the Prefect. My First and Second years. Nimi Tocks or something like that?" He found his voice was rapidly getting better the more he spoke.

The woman's eyes opened wider and she rocked back as if shocked that he identified her. "Tonks. Nymphadora Tonks, but just call me Tonks, ok. Yer, I was a Prefect Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh years. Now I'm an Auror, and working for Dumbledore in the Order of the Phoenix. You remember me?"

Harry shrugged, "Not much else to do here. So are you here to take me home? Is my month over?"

Tonks face fell and she let out a breath, "No, I'm not here to take you home, but yes, your month is over. School has been back in session for almost a week. Everyone's been told by the Ministry that you were expelled for use of underage magic and after apologizing to Minister Fudge you retreated to the Muggle world."

Harry frowned, "I knew I was expelled, but if my month is over, why didn't they let me go?"

Tonks shrugged, "From what the Order can tell, no one knows you're here. According to what we learned from the Judges you were held in Contempt of Court and remanded to the Ministry holding cells for thirty days, after which you were released from Ministry custody. I'd guess only Fudge and a select few of his underlings know where you really are. We had only heard a rumor that someone was being held here in secrecy and since no one could find you I came to check it out on the long shot that the secret prisoner might be you."

"And you can't take me with you?" Harry asked in frustration.

Tonks shook her head. "No, I can't. I managed to get in trouble with my supervisor today so I'd get assigned guard duty today at Azkaban, mostly so I could check out the rumor of someone being held here in secret. I certainly can't just decide to release a prisoner on my own. But at lest I can tell Dumbledore and the Order you are here. My Cousin has been going spare worrying about you ever since you supposedly disappeared after you were released by the Ministry."

"I was released?" Harry asked, "How is that possible when I haven't left this cell since I first arrived right after my trial."

Tonks looked thoughtful, her blue hair shifting to a maroon color as she considered the question, "I don't know, Harry. I suppose it could have been Pollyjuice, like with Moody last year, or someone using a Glamour charm, I don't know. But I do know you were last seen leaving the Ministry through the Muggle London exit. Everyone in the Order has been searching for you since the day you were released. We had several people trying to pick you up at the Detention Facility but apparently you were taken to Fudge's office before you were let loose, and according to him you apologized for causing so many problems, and vowed to never trouble the Wizarding World again with your lies. We have confirmed reports that people saw you leave Fudge's office and get on the elevator, and Arthur Weasley said he saw you cross the lobby, then despite his calling for you to wait you got in the phone booth and left for Muggle London. Once he got outside himself you were gone, and that was the last anyone saw of you."

Harry stopped her, staring at her hair, "Um, Tonks, why does your hair keep changing colors?"

Tonks grinned and suddenly her hair turned green. "You mean like this?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah."

"I'm a Metamorphmagus. I can change my appearance if I concentrate. And if I don't pay attention, my hair will change by itself."

Harry looked intrigued. "Kind of like an Animagus?"

Tonks nodded. "Exactly. Only I can look like other people."

Suddenly Harry was struck by a thought. "Tonks, how, I mean, if I was a Metamorphmagus, how would I know?"

Tonks shrugged, "Unless you found yourself shifting by accident, you probably wouldn't know. Me, I found out because my hair would change color, like it does now, but much slower, ever since I was a little kid."

"What if someone cut off all your hair, and it grew back by the next morning, and never changed after that, no matter how you tried to comb it?" Harry asked.

Tonks looked at Harry with renewed interest, taking in his entire appearance. He was thin, and dirty, but now that he mentioned it, his hair looked like it always had in the pictures, not like it had been two months since it was last washed or cut. "It's possible, I suppose. If you are, you can try and change something about yourself. Concentrate on how you look, try find what my instructor called your Master Template. Apparently a metamorph has the ability to adjust that template. And that changes your body. So try and find your template, and change it."

Harry nodded. "Ok."

A soft chime came from within Tonk's robes. "Ah crap." she muttered, "Harry, I have to go. I'll let Dumbledore know you're here and that you seem more or less ok. We'll come up with a way to get you out of here, ok?"

Harry nodded. "Ok. Please hurry."

Tonks nodded and pulled the door closed behind herself as she dashed up the corridor, leaving him once more in almost total darkness.

More days passed after that, and Harry worked on trying to find his master template, and when that failed, he worked instead on trying to create one from scratch. He created an image of himself, as detailed as he could, covering every part of his body from the soles of his feet to the last hair on his head. He then tried altering the image, picturing himself with longer hair, his hair down to his shoulders. Nothing seemed to happen, but he continued to try and focus on that altered image as he went to sleep.

The nest day when he awoke he was surprised to feel his hair brushing in his face as he sat up. Disoriented briefly by the suddenly longer hair, he pulled some of it away from his head and looked at it in the faint light filtering dimly through the bars from the corridor outside his cell's door. It really was all his hair, just like in his mental image. So he closed his eyes, and bringing the image up again, concentrated on it, picturing his hair once more his normal short length. And even as he held it in his fingers, he could feel it changing, like a kite string being spooled back in, as his hand was slowly drawn back towards his scalp, to a slight tingling sensation all over the top of his head.

Over the next several days he practiced with more and more changes to his template. He found that the first time he tried anything it was harder than the second or third, almost like he had to force himself into the change the first time, but once he'd made it, he could always go back to "Normal" with little or no effort, and he putting a change back in place much easier a second or third time, almost like changing to a pre-tuned in channel on an old TV.

He made himself taller, then shorter. He found it was easier to make himself smaller than to make himself larger. A lot easier. But by concentrating on it over time, he managed to pack the weight he'd lost since being locked in the cell back on his frame, then he started slowly adding muscle. Whenever he increased his size, even though it was by miniscule amounts, he would find himself exhausted, so tired that even without embracing the pain from his scar he could sleep through the visits from the Dementors without noticing they had been there, sometimes more than once, until after he awoke.

Finally one day he was awoken from resting after another attempted increase in mass, to find Tonks bending worriedly over him. "Harry? Harry, please wake up. Harry?"

Blearily he opened his eyes and looked up at the worried young Auror. "Wazit?" he asked.

Relief flooded over her face and she sat back a bit. "Cor, Harry, you had me at my wits end. I came by to check on how you're holding up, and I found you passed out here in your cell, two days worth of food piled inside the door. Are you ok?"

Harry forced himself to sit up, nodding at the worried woman as he replied. "Tired, hungry."

Tonks scooted back, then looked at the meager offerings on the trays by the door, and scowled before taking in the changes to his frame since she saw him last. "How can you even survive on this, let alone be putting on weight?", she mused.

Harry smiled and reached for the tray she was holding. "By eating it, then concentrating on adding mass to my template. You were right, I'm a metamorph, like you are."

Tonks would have dropped the tray, if Harry hadn't already taken most of its weight from her hand by then. "What?"

Harry picked up the spoon and started shoveling the stale, dried gruel into his mouth, robotically swallowing to force it down his throat as fast as possible, then washing it down with the tepid water from the plastic bottle included with the 'meal'. "I tried to find my template, like you told me to, but when I couldn't, I ended up making my own, by visualizing myself from head to toe. Then I worked on changing the length of my hair. It took a while to get the change to stick, but after I did, the next time I woke up, I had long hair. Then I made it shrink again. That was easy. Then I played with other changes. It seems to be a lot easier to make myself smaller, but not larger. And the first time I try any change it's really hard. Especially if I'm making myself larger. But I finally figured out that part of my problem was mass. I could make myself smaller by making myself denser, but to make myself larger, I needed more of me. I could be tall and skinny, or short and fat. Because both used the same mass."

Tonks nodded. "Wow. Yeah, you can't make yourself larger than you are. As I recall that's one of the problems with Anamagi, they have to have a form which is smaller than they normally are, because their magic can make themselves temporarily loose weight, but there's no way to just add it - even in transfiguration the matter has to come from somewhere. Usually from the air around you, but somewhere."

Harry nodded. "Well if I do it a little bit at a time, I found out I can make myself grow. But it really wipes me out when I do it." Having finished the first tray, he slid the second one, which held fresher, less dried out and crusty gruel on it, as he changed the subject, "What about Dumbledore. What are you doing to get me out of here?"

Tonks face fell as she heard the boy ask the question she'd been dreading. "He's not, at least not quite yet. He thinks you are safer here than you would be anywhere else for now. Voldemort attacked your family's house in Little Whinging, and since you've been expelled from Hogwarts, you can't go there. My cousin wants you to move in to his place with him, but Dumbledore doesn't think that's a good idea for some reason."

Harry felt a flush of anger as he choked down the last of the second tray's gruel. "Who's your cousin? I think you mentioned him last time." Harry asked, as he tried to avoid blowing up at the Auror.

"My mother is Andromeda Black. Narcissa and Bellatrix were her sisters. And Sirius was their first cousin. Of the entire Black family, other than my Mother, he's the only one I can stand."

Harry lost his attempt at clamping down on his anger, and the empty trays started to shake, the empty plastic bottles falling over as he frustratedly asked, "And Professor Dumbledore thinks I'm better off here, tortured by Dementors than with my Godfather?"

Tonks backed away a bit as first one, then the other bottle suddenly popped it's lid, the plastic caps flying through the air to bounce off the walls of the cell. "Well, he's afraid that Voldemort will find you."

Harry threw up his hands and cried out, "So what else is new? Almost every year since I learned about the Wizarding World I've had to deal with Voldemort. First year when he was possessing Quirrell. Second year when he was possessing Ginny, and let's not forget last year and the fun filled fiasco in the graveyard. Truth be told I'd rather face Voldemort than be locked up in this cell with no where to go, nothing to eat, and nothing to do."

Tonks looked around the dismal cell, trying to come up with any possible way to alleviate Harry's frustration but failing miserably. "I know, Harry, I also argued against it, but his point was that here you were at least safe from Voldemort, and that until he could figure out a way to insure your safety that this was the best place for you for now. Both Sirius and I tried to explain to him just how bad it is here, but he wouldn't listen for some reason. He just kept insisting that you had to be kept safe from Voldemort."

Harry gave up and sat back down in his favorite corner, glowering at the young Auror, just as the soft chime came from her robes. "Damn. I'm out of time again. Look, cheer up, we'll keep working on the old man, and we'll get you out of here. In the meantime, I'll make sure to get sent back here again soon, and try to smuggle you in some things. Food, books, a light, things like that, ok?"

Harry nodded dejectedly and watched as she dashed back out of his cell, pulling the bars closed behind her before once more dashing up the corridor towards the rest of the prison.

=+=

It was a few 'days' later that Harry came up with a possible plan for escape. He was sitting in his corner, focusing on the pain from his scar and watching the Dementor switch his used bucket for an empty one and a tray of food, when he thought, "What if I could look like a Dementor, then I might be able to just walk right out of here, without Dumbledore's help."

So that day he started trying to modify his template to look like a Dementor. But right away he ran into a problem. Under their robes, he really had no idea what a Dementor looked like. He could modify his hands to take on the skeletal claw like appearance, it took a long time to do so, and he had to do it one part at a time, starting with the fingernails and the skin, then working down to the flesh and bones of each finger, one piece at a time, and he thought he was able to manage the face, even with the empty eye sockets and the hole for a mouth, he felt it seemed more like a mask than a real Dementor's face, something was missing, and he didn't know what. More troubling was that he couldn't even begin to picture what the rest of the creature's body looked like under the tattered black cloaks they always wore, and so he had hit a stumbling block with no apparent way to surpass it.

He continued to practice the three components he had worked out however, until he could slip on what he referred to in his mind as the 'Dementor Mask' whenever he wanted to, even if it did end at his neck and elbows.

The block was smashed quite by accident however, only a few days later.

Harry had once more exhausted himself, pouring all his magic and energy into adding a bit more mass to his body and passing out as a result. He was once again awoken by someone standing over him, but this time instead of the now familiar face of Auror Tonks, it was the decayed face of a genuine Dementor floating over him, it's skeletal hand reaching down to gently trace along his shoulder.

Startled, Harry moved to push the creature away, and as his hand flew up in surprise, one of the claw like fingernails of the creature dug into his arm and snapped off.

With a sudden jerk the creature lurched back from Harry, who coming more awake now and realizing what was in his cell, started frantically reaching for the scar pain in an effort to prevent himself from being flooded with the mental and emotional assault the Dementors inflected on their victims.

But the Dementor seemed as startled as he was, as it swiftly vanished from his cell, the door swinging closed on its own in the Dementor's wake.

It was as Harry was reaching over to his arm to dig out the broken off claw that he realized something amazing. In his mind he now had an image of a Dementor. Not just of the face, or of the hands, but of the whole body. Top to bottom, and even inside as well as out. It floated there in his thoughts, almost like his own Master Template, although the Dementor's was far more hazy and less distinct. But he could see the whole thing.

Carefully, Harry sat back in his corner, the imbedded fingernail claw forgotten for the moment, as he mentally examined the wraith-like image of a Dementor in his mind. After looking at it in minute detail from every angle, he decided to try an experiment, but before he did so, he decided to eat.

He Made his way over to the cell door, where he found three trays of food, and the customary empty bucket laying there. The oldest tray held barely chewable, dry, crumbly mass. The middle bowl was crusty and mushy, but wasn't ad dried out as the first had been. The obvious newest bowl was still slightly warm, moist and pasty. It almost tasted good, especially when compared to the other two bowls. All three bottles of tepid water were the same, and more than able to wash down their accompanying meals.

His hunger sated, he returned to his preferred corner, and once more closed his eyes to better focus his mind on the odd Dementor image. The image was larger than his normal template, but not by much, and from what he could tell it felt a lot less, solid. Something told him he had more than enough mass within his body to take on that shape.

But at the same time he was worried about trying as large a change as would be required to replace his own template with that of the Dementor. Mentally comparing the two images, he decided to try an experiment, and turning to his Master Template, he returned the hands and face on his Master Template to normal, then he tried to copy the entire thing off to one side, like the Dementor Image was. It took several tries before he was able to create an actual copy of his Master Template, as opposed to simply seeming to move it, but eventually he held two images of 'himself' in his mind, one solid, and one semi-transparent, like that of the Dementor. The interesting thing about the semi-transparent image was that due to its state he could actually see more detail than on the actual Master Template. With the Master Image, he could see the various blood vessels, bones, muscles, and internal organs, as well as the cosmetic, surface details. On the Master Template, all that was readily visible was the surface, just like looking in a mirror.

Comparing the two ghostly images, that of himself and of the Dementor, he saw a tremendous number of differences he hadn't known to look for before. Somehow he now knew, with a level of detail any Muggle medical doctor or Wizarding healer would sell their soul for, where every nerve, blood vessel, bone, sinew, gland, or organ, went, how it functioned, and why.

Finally ready for his last step, he gently grasped the Dementor Image, and copied it on top of his actual Master Template. There was a sudden explosion of pain unlike anything he'd ever imagined before, and his mind went dark...

=+=

Harry awoke an unknown amount of time later. The first thing he noticed was that he could see clearly. The cell wasn't light any better. But then again, he wasn't seeing with his eyes anymore either.

What seemed to be a soft glow seemed to be emanating from everywhere, even the air of the room. But as he concentrated on it he realized it wasn't light he was seeing, it was energy. He was seeing the heat of the room, the air closest to his body was the coldest, and the walls furthest from him the warmest, and brightest. Where he had been laying on the floor was almost dark, and as his once more skeletal hand swept against it, he noticed that it really was cold - frost was starting to form on the stone where he had previously been laying. But it didn't really feel cold to him, or rather, it still held some heat, which he somehow knew he could absorb if he tried to hard enough.

Slowly rising from the floor, a far more difficult task than he would have expected due to his almost emaciated legs, Harry moved over to the door to his cell, and tried to will it to open as it did for the Dementors. But nothing happened.

In frustration, Harry reached out and extended a bony arm through the bars, and rubbed it along the walls to either side of his door, but to no avail.

He did find that he could faintly 'see' through the walls, however, his strange energy based vision detecting his hand and arm as being somewhat brighter on the other side of the wall than not.

Feeling dejected by his failure to open the door despite having transformed into what appeared to be an actual Dementor, Harry turned and tiredly walked back to his corner and sank down onto the now frosty stone floor.

He mentally called up his Master Template, and saw that indeed it looked like a solid version of the Dementor Image, complete with spindly limbs, and a lack of any sex organs, either internal or external.

He examined the ghostly image of his normal form, and decided to try an experiment. He carefully made yet another copy of his Normal Image, then made a second copy of the Dementor Image.

Taking the Normal Image, he looked at the brain and nerves of the Dementor Image, trying to identify what allowed them to sense the energy around them, and also what allowed a Dementor to manipulate the energy around them, absorbing it to feed themselves. Isolating those parts, he carefully tried to twist the copy of his Normal Image to incorporate the Dementor's energy sensing and manipulating abilities.

The only place he saw a problem was with the eyes. The Dementor's vision center was tied to a series of nerve receptors all over its body. Harry wondered if he might not be able to 'see' better if he was completely naked, but decided against experimenting with that for now. In a human, the vision center of the brain was tied to the optic nerve coming from the eyeballs.

Harry could try and tie the vision center to both, but wasn't sure what would happen if he did so. He was afraid that the incoming information might cause an overload, leaving him unable to 'see' despite having two discrete sources of information.

He finally gave up trying to solve that problem for now, and decided to leave the optic nerve disconnected on what he was calling his Test Image, instead opting for the energy sensing 'vision' he was using at present, since he wanted to try the energy absorbing abilities in a human body, and figured it would help to be able to see what he was doing. Plus it was far better suited for someplace dark like this.

Having completed the necessary changes, Harry focused once more on copying the new, modified image, leaving him with three ghostly human images, one his old normal image, one the modified image, and the third a copy of the modified image. He also had the solid Dementor Template, and the ghostly Dementor Image.

He then took the copy of the Test Image, and carefully put it over the Dementor form of his Master Template. Another wash of pain and darkness was his reward.

=+=

Once more he was shaken to wakefulness. This time however, instead of the horrifying visage of a Dementor bending over him, it was a glowing form which felt tasty somehow.

Blinking his eyes to no avail a few times, Harry's mind caught up with events and he blearily made a guess, "Tonks?"

=+=

Nymphadora Tonks was worried and frustrated.

First off was Professor Dumbledore's insistence that Harry was better off sitting in Azkaban all alone than he would be at #12 Grimmauld Place protected by the Fidelius.

When pressed for details all he'd say was that he'd underestimated the connection to Voldemort.

Dumbledore hadn't really been the same ever since the attack on the Dursley's the week after Harry had been released from the Ministry after having gotten in trouble for foolishly playing with a Patronis charm in order to show off to his cousin, then refusing to appear as instructed, at least according to the official reports. Tonks no longer held much belief in the official reports however, based on her discovery of the supposedly released Harry Potter sitting forgotten in a cell deep under Azkaban.

If Fudge and his cronies would go to the effort of putting the boy here, while faking his release after supposedly holding him for thirty days in solitary confinement at the Ministry detention center, then it wasn't as much of a stretch to imagine that there may well have been Dementors in Little Whinging as Harry had claimed. And if there were Dementors, then Harry's use of the Patronis spell was more than justified, as the Underage Magic laws specifically allow for the emergency use of magic if one can show they felt their life was threatened.

But despite her and her cousin's efforts in trying to reason with the Headmaster, he kept muttering about some connection and how important it was that Harry be kept away from headquarters and also kept safe.

Safe was the part she couldn't equate with a cell in Azkaban. How the Headmaster considered someplace like this safe she couldn't understand. He had asked if Harry was coherent and responsive, and upon hearing that he seemed to be so, seemed to dismiss any further concerns in regards to the Dementors effects on the teenager.

She had returned as soon as she could, this time by coming into her shift late, and being immediately sent to relieve one of the guards at the prison. And this time she'd come prepared, or so she thought.

She'd smuggled an entire top-of-the-line Auror's model seven compartment expanding trunk, purchased in Diagon Alley with money her cousin had given her, and included a bathroom with ever-running hot and cold water for the tub and shower, as well as a full kitchen which was stocked full of food, a small library which her cousin had filled with various selections from #12, and while he couldn't use it here, also a full sized bedroom with a closet filled with both Wizarding and Muggle clothes. The trunk was currently shrunk down to the size of a pack of gum by its built-in shrinking charm.

Her plan was to give it to Harry so he could get decent food, and perhaps get cleaned up. She'd have to caution him not to change his clothes or stay too long inside, as if the Dementors came by and found him missing, or saw the trunk inside his cell, there'd be all sorts of problems, both for him and for her.

But what worried her now was his face. More specifically his eyes.

The normally expressive green eyes were now unfocused, even as he sat up and seemed to take in his surroundings, the eyes were not moving with any apparent control.

"Harry? Are you ok?" She asked softly.

"Huh?" he queried, his face turning to her and his eyes seeming to look off somewhere behind her, if they were seeing at all.

"Harry? Can you see me?" she asked.

Harry shrugged, "Not really well. Everything is kind of fuzzy."

Tonks's worry grew significantly as she bent to examine his face more closely looking for any sign of damage.

Carefully she held a finger up in front of his face and asked "Can you see my hand?"

His eyes didn't shift, but he answered, "Yeah. You're holding up your index finger."

Tonks moved her hand off to the side of his head, then held up two more fingers. His unfocused eyes didn't move. "And now?"

"Three fingers, to the right side of my head. I can see everything, Tonks, just not clearly." Harry tried to explain, before closing his eyes and leaving them that way.

A wave of relief swept through the Auror as she concluded that at least he wasn't blind. Deciding the vision issue was most likely due to his being without his glasses and sitting in the dark now for over two months, she decided to give him his belated birthday present from herself and his Godfather.

"Ok. We'll worry about it later. I have something for you from Sirius and myself. Call it a belated birthday present, since you were locked up here for your fifteenth birthday." With that she pulled out the trunk and set it on the floor.

"Ooh, glowy." Harry said, his eyes still closed, as he reached out and lifted the small metal object from the floor with unerring accuracy despite his still closed eyes.

"It's a trunk, like the one Moody was trapped in last year. We stocked it with food and books for you. And it has a bathroom, a real bathroom."

Harry's face swiveled towards her, and his closed eyes opened once more in surprise, the unfocused orbs pointing all the same in her direction, "No more gruel?"

Tonks laughed and looked at the disgusting trays, two again, of supposed food laying on the floor of the cell by the door, then answered, "Not unless you really want to eat it."

Seeing his shift the box in his hands around in confusion, she decided to explain before she ran out of time and had to head back to her station upstairs. "Put it down and I'll show you how it works, and key it to you."

Harry reluctantly set the box on the floor and stepped away from it as Tonks gave the command "Restario Engorgio" causing the trunk to grow from it's small size to a three foot tall, by four foot wide and five foot deep metal box. Placing her hand on the top she softly said the commands she'd been taught to relinquish ownership of the trunk, then taking Harry's hand she placed it on the ID panel and softly spoke the commands to link it to him instead. "Ok, Harry, the trunk is keyed to you. This means you shouldn't ever be able to loose it. There are a full set of instructions in the library, but the key things to remember are the commands to shrink it, which are 'Reduxis Maximus' and to restore it to it's full size, which is The reason there are two words together is so you won't accidentally change it when you don't intend to. It's also keyed to you and you alone, so only you can shrink or enlarge it, and only you can open it. In fact, when shrunken it should have had a notice-me-not spell on it, so no one but the owner can see it." She realized, looking in confusion at the trunk. "Can you try and shrink it down again?"

Harry spoke the shrinking command, and Tonks watched as it dwindled down in size, then she looked around the room wondering what she'd been staring at, before remembering that she'd been showing Harry his new trunk. "Looks like the charm is working now. Can you see it?" She asked.

Harry reached out and lifted something she really couldn't look at from the floor and held it out to her, "It's right here." He said as though confused by her actions.

"Ok, put it back down and re-enlarge it." Tonks instructed, happy to note that even when she knew he was holding it, she couldn't maintain awareness of it.

Harry did as instructed, then looked at her expectantly. "Ok, so this is the Command Pad. If you open the trunk without placing your hand on the pad, all you will find is the first, normal compartment.

Harry opened the trunk and found an empty space taking up the interior of the box.

Closing the lid again, he looked at her expectantly.

"However if you place your hand on the control pad and say the name of a room or compartment - bedroom, kitchen, bath, library, storage, or for the alternate compartment just compartment, you will find that the trunk opens to a ladder which leads down inside."

Harry tried, placing his hand on the panel and saying the word "Kitchen", then opening the trunk. He looked down inside, then reached out and started climbing carefully down the ladder attached to the side. Tonks followed him a moment later.

Harry was standing in the kitchen turning to face the various cupboards with a look of annoyed frustration on his face as he complained, "Everything's too bright and blurry to make out anything in here. Tonks, could you show me to any food?"

Frowning at his apparent inability to see, Tonks opened a cupboard and pulled out an empty glass. "Cleaning Cupboards. Just put your dirty dishes inside, and when you close the door, everything is cleaned and sterilized." She explained, before opening another cabinet, and pointing out the contents, "Cold drinks, held in stasis while in this cabinet. The one next to it has hot drinks. Think of them as a Muggle refrigerator. Just put the remainder back in the cabinet when you are done, and the next time you pull them out they'll be back to their optimum temperature."

As she set the jug of chilled pumpkin juice on the table, the chime once more came from within her robes. "Darn, I gotta go kiddo. Look, I want you to spend as much time in here as you can, be careful and don't get caught, but try and use your eyes in the light some more, I'm worried about you. I'll try and get some OptiOpto specs for you before my next trip, so you can start reading some of the books in the library, ok?"

At Harry's nod she bolted for the ladder, trying to get back to her desk before they started wondering why she was always late getting back from her breaks.

=+=

Harry nodded and watched as Tonks swiftly climbed the ladder out of the trunk, before he picked up glass and filled it from the pitcher of pumpkin juice.

He was still trying to adapt to using the Dementor Vision, which wasn't as easy as one might think. First off, the Dementor Vision was full 360 degrees, not just what was in front of your face like with normal human eyes.

Second was the fact that it didn't really see anything, instead what he was interpreting as visual information was more a sensitivity to the various levels of energy all around him, and this trunk was filled with it, so much so that it made his nerves practically want to sing.

The other thing, the one which was more frustrating, was that while he could focus his attention in one general area, he couldn't make out any fine detail. He could 'see' the objects around him by the energy they gave off or the motion of the air around them, but he wasn't really seeing anything, so when it came to figuring out what anything was, he was finding the challenge to be impossible for his limited experience and his otherwise normal human mind.

Finally giving it up as a lost cause, he sat down and concentrated once more on the templates inside his mind, calling up the original template, and peeling a copy of it off, and casually tossing it over the Master Template with the ease of experience. A brief wash of sensation, no pain at all, and he found himself sitting at the table with his eyes closed, but he could still see light filtering faintly through the lids.

Opening his eyes he took his first real look around the inside of the trunk. He was more than a little in awe that Tonks, who he barely knew, and his Godfather, who he really didn't know all that much better, had gotten it for him.

Not that it made up for being trapped in prison with Dementors, but he had a hard time imagining anyone going to the effort of actually getting something like this, for HIM.

Granted, it wasn't the first time his Godfather had gotten him an expensive gift - back in 3rd year he'd bought him a Firebolt - the best racing broom in the world, even two years later. But even so the thought that someone cared that much gave him pause, he was no one special, just Harry Potter, the Freak.

Finishing the delicious juice, Harry opted to explore the rest of the trunk rather than try to eat any food - he recalled how people who had been starved should ease themselves back onto real foods, and while he hadn't been starved due to the daily bowls of lumpy gruel, he figured that to some degree the same rules applied here. He'd start with some juice for now, then later try some soup, before exploring the rest of the kitchen to see what other foods it might hold. Easier to withstand temptation if he didn't know what the possibilities were.

To the left of the wall with the ladder was a doorway, another to the right. Choosing the left-hand one because it was closer, he walked through the door, noting a brief moment of chill as he passed the threshold, and found himself in a bathroom. A large, luxurious bathtub dominated the room, a shower segregated by a curved wall of glistening glass taking up one corner, and a functional looking toilet in another. A second doorway stood across the large room, just beyond a glistening marble sink.

Making his way through the bathroom, which was easily as large as the kitchen, he passed through the door, again feeling the brief chill as he crossed the threshold, and he found himself standing just inside a bedroom.

One wall was dominated by a large, luxurious looking bed, while the other wall held only a large fireplace protruding somewhat and demarking what seemed to be the sleeping area from what seemed to be the dressing area, as instead of the large bed, he found himself standing beside a large floor to ceiling cabinet, which when he opened one door, he found was filled with Muggle clothes. He also noted a metal trunk looking much like this one from the outside was permanently affixed to the floor opposite the fireplace at the foot of the bed. Opening it he found it to be entirely empty.

Passing the fireplace, he crossed the next doorway, once more noting the expected chill, and found himself in what he assumed was a storage room, as it held nothing but rows of shelves on both sides, leaving an empty corridor to the doorway at the far end. The only exception being yet another metal trunk affixed to the floor just beside the door into this compartment. Like the one in the bedroom, it also was entirely empty. He hurried through the empty room, and emerged in another room of shelves, these however were filled with books, with a large comfortable looking chair, a second fireplace, and a study desk taking up the far end of the room. There was a small pamphlet sitting on the desk, which he idly picked up before walking through the nearby doorway.

The last doorway returned him to the Kitchen, even though he hadn't made any turns whilst checking the various rooms. He concluded that the rooms were all the same shape, only varying in size, with the storage room and library being the largest, the Kitchen and Bathroom being the smallest, and the bedroom being somewhere in the middle.

Sitting at the table he poured himself a second glass of pumpkin juice, and looked at the pamphlet. It turned out to be the owners manual for the trunk. The two empty trunks in the bedroom and the storage room were actually the last two compartments of the seven compartment trunk. The one in the bedroom was what anyone would see when he opened the trunk normally. And the one in the storage room was the 'alternate compartment', which was intended to allow the trunk to masquerade as a more common two-compartment Wizarding trunk.

Apparently the security features on the primary compartment weren't as strong as Tonks had implied, being designed to be penetrated with only a little effort, and the features for the second compartment were only a bit harder, but could be bypassed with Pollyjuice or any other method which exactly duplicated an authorized user's fingerprints and voice. However to access any of the other five compartments checked for a match of the wizard's magical signature, as well as the password, vocal recognition, fingerprint, retinal, and DNA scan. Apparently any wizard other than the owner had to pass at least four of the five to be allowed access, and all access attempts on any compartment were logged. In the event a wizard needed to give access to the trunk, or was altered to such an extent that they failed the scans, a trunk could be returned to the manufacturer, and they could override the security to access the trunk.

The recognized owner of the trunk however was a different story entirely. Apparently the trunk bonded with its owner's magical core, actually becoming almost a part of that wizard or witch. The trunk's owner could actually summon it from any location, without a wand, simply by visualizing it's appearance in their hand. Even if the trunk is not shrunken at the time, it would shrink and teleport to the needed location at its owners call. The only time this couldn't be done was when the owner was inside the trunk itself. Trying to summon the trunk at that time would only cause it to shrink and return to whatever location had been marked as "home" when it was registered. It was recommended in the manual that this be someplace the owner considered safe, and that at least one authorized user other than the owner be at that location, in case the owner was injured and was unable to exit the trunk under their own power.

Apparently attempting to open the lid of the trunk from any of the five internal compartments would restore the trunk to full size, making it visible to anyone who looked at it, as opposed to it's shrunken state wherein it should only be visible to its authorized users, the exceptions being persons with charmed lenses or magical eyes designed to see through obscuration and notice-me-not type spells.

A note was made that these trunks were not intended for the general public, and that they could only be sold to government agents and law-enforcement personnel.

Picking up the glass, he placed it back in the cabinet Tonks had pulled it from, then returning the rest of the pumpkin juice to the stasis cabinet, he climbed the ladder, noting in passing the chill as he penetrated the dark "bottom" of the trunk, returning to the darkness of his cell.

Shrinking the trunk he placed it in his front pocket, before sitting down again and focusing his mental inventory of template images. He pulled the Test Image back towards the front of his mind, and tried connecting both the Dementor Vision and the normal connection from the optic nerve to the brain's optic center, then after once more peeling a copy of the test template off, he mentally tossed it over his Master Template, and after experiencing the expected wash of pain, tried to open his eyes and see what would happen.

The first surprise he got was when he noticed his trunk was gone. Reaching down he felt the front of his pocket, but there was no sign the trunk had ever been there.

Looking around the cell, he noted that he could see everything clearly, and behind the visual representation of the things he saw, he found he was still 'seeing' the energy of the world around him, however no where as clearly as when he had used the vision before. It seemed like given his normal visual imagery to process, his brain was concentrating more on that as opposed to the information available from the Dementor's energy sense. But when he closed his eyes, he found that he still had about the same acuity as he had noted before, perhaps even a bit more, he considered as he reached his arm through the bars and waved it against the wall, watching through the stone as the shadow of his arm moved. But once he opened his eyes, all he could make out was the wall itself, which seemed to give off a faint glow, but nothing more.

He sat down again and looked once more at his empty pocket, where his wonderful trunk had been before he changed his template. Thinking back to something he'd once discussed with his Godfather about what happened to his clothes when he changed into a dog, Harry had a desperate idea. Closing his eyes again, and ignoring the restored clarity of the energy sense, he focused on the image of his Normal Image once more, before peeling off a copy and laying it over his Master Template. He felt the wash of sensation, and his awareness of the energies surrounding him dimmed to almost nothing, but a quick check of his pocket turned up nothing. His theory had failed, he hadn't gotten his trunk back by turning back to his "normal" self again.

On a final whim, he tried visualizing it coming to his hand, summoning it as the manual had instructed. He was more shocked than not when moments later he felt the cool weight of the shrunken trunk settle on his palm. He peered dimly at the object, before experimentally placing it back in his pocket, and closing his eyes again, focusing on peeling another copy of the Test Image he settled it over his Master Template, and after a brief wash of sensation he was once more aware of the energies swirling around his cell. And was once again missing his trunk. However a brief bit of concentration, and he held the seemingly glowing object in his palm once more.

Looking at the glow, he realized that if he could see it so clearly with his Dementor Vision, then most likely so would the real Dementors, so with a bit of sadness, he returned the trunk to his pocket, and simply copied the Test Image and tossed it over the Master Template, making no real changes to his actual template to see if that would be enough to make the trunk again disappear.

It seemed it wasn't enough of a change, but a copy of the Normal Image followed by another copy of the Test Image, thrown over his Master Template in rapid succession was.

=+=

Tom Marvolo Riddle aka Lord Voldemort was not happy. Actually that was an understatement along the lines of saying that the grand canyon was a rather large ditch.

He had several reasons for his current distress. First of all was the utter incompetency of his followers. He had asked of them but two things, first to obtain a small sphere from the Hall of Prophecy so he could learn the full contents regarding himself and Harry Potter. Second was to find and kill the annoying boy.

And after over a month they had failed utterly in both tasks. Not a single one of his servants had managed to find clue as to the location of the missing fifteen year old child.

He himself had questioned the boy's useless relatives, but from what he learned they knew, and cared even less, than he did regarding the boy's location and condition.

Voldemort however was more than well aware that wherever the child was that he was still alive, for practically every day, like clockwork almost, the brat would cause blinding, and even debilitating headaches to the most feared Dark Lord in centuries. It was so bad he was starting to loose face with his followers.

And if there was anything a tyrant who ruled through fear and intimidation could not afford, it was to look weak before the ones he ruled.

As the next bout of pain flared up, right on time, he vowed to deal with at least the first issue himself. If no one but himself and the boy could remove the prophecy on the shelf, then he'd just have to go and do so tomorrow. Before the boy could torture him again.

=+=

Harry watched as the Dementor flowed out of his room.. At least he'd managed to verify that his hybrid form wasn't vulnerable to the mental effects of the Dementors. If anything, Harry felt almost drawn to them, like they were a walking buffet, instead of something to avoid. He watched as the door to his room swung closed on its own as the Dementor turned to head down the hall, its form enticingly visible to him now through the walls as it drifted further and further away. He found himself wishing once again that when in Dementor form that the door would open for him as it did for them

He finally came to the conclusion that using his Metamorphmagus ability wouldn't help him to escape like his Godfather's Animagus ability had. Suddenly his thoughts came to an almost screeching halt. Animagus, like his Godfather and his own Father.

He had been so focused on the potential from being a Metamorphmagus that he had forgotten that his Godfather had used his ability to turn into an animal to get out of a cell similar to his own, and then to escape the island. Why shouldn't he be able to do something similar, assuming of course that his form was something useful.

Settling back in his favorite corner, Harry tried to concentrate, much like he had many days before when trying to find his Master Template, only this time he wanted to look inside himself to find his Animagus form. Assuming it would be something like the various form images he already had at his disposal, the original Normal Image, the original Dementor Image, and the hybrid Test Image he had come to prefer, especially when he noticed that when the Dementor which had just left had been present, Harry hadn't even faintly heard the voices of those who had died for him, nor had he heard anything but a faint echo of a scream of pain from the Dark Lord, no instead he had felt an almost overwhelming urge to siphon the energy from the Dementor when it had entered his cell, and he'd grasped at the pain from his curse scar more to prevent him from attacking the demon rather than as any sort of defense against its presence.

Putting that aside for the time being, however, Harry started to search through his mind for any animals he may find. He immediately discarded his Patronis, knowing that the large silvery stag was more an icon of protection dating back to his earliest memories of his lost family than anything else. Similarly he looked at, and discarded the ghostly images of the wolf and the dog, determining that they must be based on early memories of both Remus and Sirius. He continued his search into the night, his mediation shifting gradually into sleep as his conscious mind silently passed the quest off to his subconscious.

=+=

It was only because of magic that the Dark Lord, along with five of his Inner Circle were able to gather inside the London phone box which acted as the Muggle entryway to the Ministry of Magic.

As Voldemort reached out and dialed 62442, the doors slid closed and a voice echoed in the mystically enlarged room, "Please state your name and the purpose of your visit."

"Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, here to retrieve a prophecy and eliminate anyone foolish enough to get in our way." The Dark Lord said with a smirk on his inhuman face.

Six badges slid out of the phone, the first with his image on it, saying simply "Dark Lord, Retrieving a Prophecy and causing destruction along the way."

The other five simply read "Minion of the Dark Lord, Murder and Mayhem Support."

Clipping the badges to their robes, the six dark clothed figures stepped out into the lobby of the Ministry, their emergence causing a slight stir amongst the many employees and visitors making their way to the floos to exit the building, as the day was winding down.

When a voice from the Security Desk tried to stop them on their way to the stairs to level nine, Voldemort simply uttered a " Avada Kedavra" and marched past as the blast of green light silenced the attendant.

The immediate response from the civilians, reporters, and workers in the lobby was pure pandemonium.

There were exclamations of "He who must not be named!" and cries for the Aurors, while most of the civilians, other than the few scattered journalists, stampeded towards the floos in an effort to escape. While some of the reporters also moved towards the floos, they did so more in an attempt to be the first to report the information that the Dark Lord was indeed back, and apparently attacking the Ministry.

Voldemort and his followers simply ignored them all, walking past the desk and towards the stairs which led down to the 9th floor.

The first actual resistance the group met was from a pair of Unspeakables coming up the stairs they were heading towards. Having seen the killing curse shot at the guard, they drew their own wands and fired stunners in response.

A shield raised by a Death Eater with a silver hand stopped both stunners,

A volley of curses were returned towards the pair of Unspeakables, and both forms slumped to the ground, unmoving.

Meanwhile the group of Death Eaters and their Lord continued down the stairs, leaving panic and mayhem in the wake of their passing.

=+=

Harry awoke sometime later to the darkness of his cell, now backed by the soft energy glow from all around.

What drew his attention first was that he now seemed to have found a potential Animagus form, or rather two of them. During his rest the search he had started had concluded by itself at some point, and now floating in the forefront of his consciousness, next to the disregarded Patronis and it's accompanying Marauder images, were the translucent images of a bird and a snake.

The only item of confusion was why there would be two of them. The bird made a sort of sense, due to his smallish size, and love of flying. When he considered all the Anamagi he knew of, he could see traits from their animal form in their normal human form as well. But then where did the snake come from?

He looked at the serpentine image, noting idly that all the images seemed to be about the same size, whether they be human, Dementor, snake, or bird. Most likely this meant that the images were not in any sort of scale, but rather subconsciously made to fit the scale of the Master Template.

As he examined the snake, he thought of his ability for Parseltongue, his almost unnaturally quick reaction times, and mentally shrugged, ok, so there was more than a bit of snakeniess in him as well. Perhaps like the Parseltongue he got it from Voldemort.

Choosing to try the bird form first, on the grounds that as opposed to a snake it could fly, which would allow him to get off the island without having to try to swim to England, he carefully peeled a copy off of it, and more slowly than he had of late, settled it on top of his Master Template. As he finished putting everything where he thought it went, insuring that the mental image of "himself" was now entirely that of the bird, he felt his magic start to churn, sucking at all the energy within his core. Unlike before when he changed from one shape to another, this time he seemed to be needing more power, more magic than he held within himself. But in an unconscious response to his growing desperation, he felt the Dementor's energy absorbing ability kick in, and start drawing all the energy around him into his core to replace the rapidly depleting magic. There was a sudden drop in the temperature of the air around him, as it became more than icily cold, and Harry once more felt his mind slipping into unconsciousness as the darkness rushed up to consume him.

=+=

Throughout the prison, several Dementors noted a powerful swirl of energy emanating from a normally unused location far from the majority of the cells and prisoners. Turning towards the disturbance, they drifted slowly off to investigate.

=+=

When he awoke the next time, it was to discover that he was indeed a bird. And unlike all the previous times he had tried a transformation, he didn't feel the least bit drained or tired, in fact he actually felt energized, like something all around him was feeding his core and helping to sustain him, similar to how in his Dementor and the modified form he'd derived from it could absorb the ambient energies of his environment, but on a far greater scale. There was only one problem, he was almost entirely blind.

The darkness of the cell was actually greater in bird form than it had been as a human, and far greater than he had grown accustomed to with the Dementor or Hybrid forms.

Although, as he peered around the cell, it seemed he could detect sources of light, but they weren't being illuminating, if that made any sense.

The brightest object in the cell was the door. It had several bands of bright colors on it. The walls also held twinkles of illumination, as did the very air around him to a far lesser degree.

But none of these lights provided any actual illumination. It was more like they were colors of darkness, allowing him to almost make out the shapes of the objects, however if he hadn't had the experience with the Dementor Vision he probably wouldn't be able to make out even the faintest bit of sense from what he was seeing now. Or not really seeing, perhaps sensing, somehow.

Ignoring the oppressive darkness for a bit, he made his way laboriously across the floor, deciding after only a few wobbly steps that whatever type of bird he was, it certainly wasn't made for walking long distances. A sort of hop seemed to work best, but even that was harder than he expected it to be.

Upon reaching the door, he was once more frustrated to find that the bars were still too narrow for his avian form. While he could easily get his head and neck through, that was about it. Once he got to his, er, shoulders and wings, he found himself wedged rather tightly, requiring several jerks to jar himself loose whereupon he fell to the floor of his cell with a frustrated squalk.

Giving up, he focused on his Hybrid Image, formally labeled the Test Image, and shifted back into it so he could examine the experience he'd just garnered as a bird, and refine his escape plan.

=+=

The call came in to the Auror department that there was a disturbance in the Lobby only moments after the guard had been killed.

Quickly gathering the on-duty Aurors, Amelia Bones, the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement led as many people as she could to the elevators.

Arriving in the Atrium, she noted the havoc reigning supreme and stopped one of the panicked Ministry workers to question him as to what was going on.

"V-V-Vol-You-Know-Who is here! He went downstairs! Killed a guard with the Avada Kedavra!" He said trying to pull away.

"Who?" Amelia questioned, only getting that someone had used an Unforgivable on the desk guard, then gone downstairs, to either the Department of Mysteries, or the Courtrooms.

A frustrated look of fear flashed over the worker's face as he tried again, "Vo-V-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!"

Suddenly Amelia felt a rush of actual fear, as opposed to the annoyed frustration she had been feeling up until that point. If Voldemort was here, then Harry Potter hadn't been lying. And if that was the case, then why would he have apologized to the Minister a month ago when he was released from custody? Unless something else was going on. Whatever the situation, she had a Dark Lord inside the Ministry to stop, then she could look into why the once-called Savior of the Wizarding World had recanted his story if it had been the truth.

Gathering her Aurors, she led the way down the stairs, following the sounds of fighting into the bowels of the Department of Mysteries.

Gathering her forces, she ordered them to concentrate on one target at a time, and selected the most noticeable target first - the short heavyset Deatheater with the silver hand.

A volley of spells from her Aurors, and the first target was down, four plus their leader left to go.

=+=

Voldemort and four of his followers had made it to the Hall of Prophecy after a running battle with the Unspeakables, and now a bunch of Aurors.

Leaving the riffraff to his remaining servants, Voldemort began to scan the various rows of orbs, looking for the shelf with the single prophecy he was interested in.

=+=

Harry sat in his preferred corner of the cell, and considered his brief experience as a bird.

He was sifting through the anatomical details of the bird-form which he hadn't really looked at before on anything more than a gross scale, tracing the neural pathways in an attempt to find where the feeling of energy and vitality had come from, having determined after an examination of the eyes and their connection to the optic center of the brain that the non-illuminating lights he had seen may have been magic, such as the spells in place on the door and walls of the prison, and even the very air in order to control the prisoners and prevent escapes.

He had already determined that the reason it had been so dark was that the bird's eyes were physically far smaller than his human ones, and thus literally collected less light with which to see in the same conditions. He was tracing an unusual configuration on the brain, one with a suspicious similarity to the area he'd previously determined was used for the Dementor's energy absorption abilities, when he heard the distant creak of a door. As best as he could tell it wasn't time for the Dementors to visit yet to exchange his bucket and leave their gift of gruel and water, which reminded him he needed to dispose of the previous 'gift' sometime, before the Dementors started piling up untouched trays and grew concerned.

Turning in the direction of the sound, he could see the glow of what he was pretty sure was a Dementor approaching his cell. Of more interest, a second, more distant glow was approaching as well.

A second sound, from the other direction outside his door drew his attention, and looking towards it he saw yet a third Dementor approaching. He started to feel the first pangs of concern as to why so many of the creatures would be coming towards his cell at the same time.

=+=

Targeting the tallest of the remaining Deatheaters, Amelia had her people once more concentrate their attacks. Again a massed volley of fire rained down on a single target, and once more the target fell.

Just as she targeted the largest of the three remaining minions, their leader reached out to the shelf and lifted a sphere, holding it up towards his head as though to listen to it..

Even as the third Deatheater dropped to the floor, the orb began to speak, its eerie voice stilling all activity within the chamber, even the smaller battles between the various Ministry personnel and the remaining pair of Deatheaters stopped as everyone was captivated by the voice from the sphere. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches....born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...", Suddenly Voldemort cried out and clutched his head in both hands, the sphere falling to the floor and shattering, cutting off the words in mid-stream with the final word, "And Ei."

Meanwhile Voldemort screamed out "Potter!" and fell to his knees, still holding his head, his face a mask of pain, almost as if he was suffering the effects of the Cruciatus.

The two remaining Death Eaters surged towards their master, lifting him from the ground and vanishing with the plop of an activated portkey, while the ministry workers who were still standing moved to check on their fallen comrades, and secure the prisoners. It was swiftly determined that one of the captured Deatheaters was none other than Lucius Malfoy, while the other to even more shock from his co-workers was found to be Augustus Rookwood, who worked in the Department of Mysteries as an Unspeakable. But the greatest shock came when the final mask was removed from the body with the silver hand. It took a few minutes to confirm the identification, but as soon as he had been enervated, it was confirmed by his own words under Veritaserum, the final captured Death Eater was none other than the slain hero Peter Pettigrew! The gathered reporters were stampeding over one another to reach the floos down in the lobby at that point.

=+=

Harry grew really concerned as the fourth demon drifted silently in through his open cell door.

While he wasn't suffering any ill effects from their presence in his new Hybrid form, four Dementors was far more than he was comfortable with having floating in the same room as himself.

Hoping it would work for multiple creatures as well as it had worked for singular ones in the past, Harry reached mentally towards his scar and started twisting for all he was worth, flooding his being with wave after wave of debilitating pain. With a shuddering jerk, all four Dementors started to drift back, away from the source of the disturbance, their natural Legilimency serving to funnel the phantom pain to their own heads, an experience they were unaccustomed to, and did not appreciate at all.

Harry shuddered with the sensations as he watched them slowly drift out of his cell, the door swinging closed on its own behind them, then he continued to watch through the walls as they hovered for a brief time in the hallway, as though communing with one another, before silently drifting away, three in one direction, and the forth in the other.

Finally alone, Harry released his grip on the curse link, and slid gratefully into another period of blessed unconsciousness.

=+=

Back at Riddle Manor, the barely aware Lord Voldemort struggled to his feet, swaying slightly as he made his way from his two remaining inner circle followers, and towards his chair.

As he turned around, he fixed his burning gaze on to the shuddering forms of Walden Macnair , and Avery Nott, gasping out, "Find the boy, and KILL HIM NOW!" before falling back into his chair.

From what he had heard of the prophecy, things were even worse than he had expected, but now things started to make sense. It explained how all those years ago a mere infant could have bested him. ...Power the Dark Lord knows not... What could it be? Of course if he knew what it was, then he wouldn't know it not, now would he? And for the first time since he had learned to master his Magic, Tom Riddle felt the stirrings of fear.

=+=

Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister of Magic for the British Empire was not a happy man.

He had barely made it home when he had been summoned back to the Ministry due to some sort of ruckus.

Arriving in the Atrium he found a scene of utter chaos and pandemonium, people rushing from place to place as Aurors tried to direct the flow. Eventually making his way to the DMLE offices on the second level, he found the occupants to be as busy as an anthill kicked over by a child, but with a much more organized feel than he had noted downstairs.

In short order he found himself directed to Amelia Bones, who was holding court with several of her underlings, as she continued to work to stabilize whatever the situation was outside. "Amelia, what is going on here?" he demanded walking up behind her in a huff.

Whirling around she focused her gaze on him for a few moments in silence before asking, "Remember that Dark Lord you spent the last four and a half months insisting wasn't back? Well he and a handful of his Deatheaters assaulted the Department of Mysteries about an hour ago to get at a Prophecy Sphere. Two Aurors, and four Unspeakables were killed, with several other Ministry workers injured and sent to St. Mungos for various injuries."

Fudge blustered, saying "Are you sure it was him? I mean, it can't be. He was dealt with years ago."

Amelia went on however, unfazed by his outburst, "It gets worse. You know that child you had us expel over the summer for Underaged Magic? Well according to the prophecy he's the only one who can stop Voldemort."

Cornelius felt even more blood drain from his already paling face, and the world started to spin as Amelia went on, "Oh, and your good friend Lucius Malfoy was one of the Deatheaters captured during the raid. Alongside one of our own Unspeakables, and, get this, Peter Pettigrew."

Fudge staggered back against a desk as he realized that there was nothing he could do at this point, no possible action he could take to save his career. He was ruined, pure and simple as soon as the public learned of this. If Malfoy was indeed an active Deatheater, then his public association with the man over the past several years would guarantee his dismissal. Let alone if he was proved wrong on the issue of Voldemort's return. But if that boy had been right in his claim the past year about Pettigrew as well, even if it only had been published in the Quibbler, then he was washed up, he'd be lucky not to end up sharing a cell in Azkaban with Lucius.

Deciding that only decisive action had a hope of keeping him out of said cell, he turned to Amelia and started issuing orders. "If that's the case, then find the boy immediately. I want every Auror out looking for him. Get someone over to his Muggle relatives and see if he's there, or they know where he is and get him back here immediately!"

Turning towards the elevators he hurried to his own office. He had a floo call to make.

=+=

Harry swam back to consciousness with a pounding headache.

Blearily opening his eyes, he sat up and leaned against the wall of his cell, taking comfort in the cold stone against the back of his throbbing head.

Slowly he held out his hand, and concentrated on calling his trunk to him.

Feeling it appear, he softly set it down on the floor beside himself, and softly called out, "Restario Engorgio", causing the trunk to grow to it's full size, slightly shoving him out of the way as it enlarged.

Closing his eyes again he inhaled and let out a slow breath, before pulling himself to his feet, and placing his hand on the command pad, said "Kitchen", before wearily lifting the lid and carefully making his way down the ladder.

Once inside the cheerfully illuminated trunk, he opened the familiar cupboard and removed the half emptied pitcher of pumpkin juice.

Foregoing a glass for the moment, he lifted the spout of the pitcher, and poured quite a bit into his mouth, relishing as the cool sweet liquid passed down his throat.

Feeling slightly restored, he decided to try an experiment, and closing his eyes again he concentrated on switching once more to his bird form.

As with all the other transformations, the second time was practically effortless when compared to his first try, and after a moment he found himself peering up at the table which now seemed to tower above him, while his headache was instantly washed away by the feeling of vitality and energy flowing through his body. With a soft warble of sound, he tried to flap his wings and lift himself off the floor, but there wasn't enough room in the kitchen for him to do so, as he kept hitting a cabinet, cupboard, wall, or piece of furniture every time he tried to extend his wings, no matter which way he faced.

He was able however to verify that what he was seeing was definitely magic, as he could clearly see the differing spells on the various doors, and more importantly he could see both the differences and similarities between the various heating, cooling, stasis, and cleaning charms.

The air inside the trunk also seemed to sparkle with traces of magic, but the color was entirely different from that of the air in his cell.

Returning his mental attention to the neurological structure of the bird-brain he'd been studying before the Dementors had interrupted him, he decided it was time for another experiment. He once more made a copy of his Hybrid Image, and very carefully modified the eyes and optic nerve to incorporate what he believed were the differences which allowed his bird form to see the spells on things. Then he once more compared the Dementor's energy absorbing section to the similar part of the bird's brain, before carefully modifying the new Test Image to incorporate the structures of both. He idly wondered why two such different creatures would have such similar, yet not designs for absorbing ambient energies, but the only conclusion he could come to was that the form followed the function. Hopefully by melding the two forms together, he'd be able to draw on both sources, the ambient energy the Dementors seemed to absorb, as well as the magical energy which seemed to help sustain and re-enervate his bird form.

Happy with the changes, he first returned to his 'normal' Hybrid form before climbing out of the trunk and into the darkness of his cell.

Once back in his corner sitting next to the trunk, he closed the lid and ordered it to shrink, before placing it once more into his pocket. Then with a deep breath to steady his nerves, he carefully peeled a copy off the newest Test Image, and carefully settled it over his Master Template, and triggering the change.

Once more a rush of energy swirled through him as his body reformed, forcing itself into the new configuration he'd designed. While the changes were entirely internal this time, they still took a tremendous amount of energy, and he felt his awareness slipping away yet again.

=+=

Dinner in the Great Hall was interrupted when the fireplace at the far end flared to life in a roar of green flame, a woman's head calling out "Under-Secretary Umbridge, you have an urgent flue call from the Minister of Magic."

Delores Umbridge smiled smugly as she crossed the Great Hall to stand before the fireplace. "This is Senior Under-Secretary Delores Umbridge."

"Please hold for the Minister." The voice from the fire replied pleasantly.

Moments later an obviously stressed Minister Fudge appeared in the fire, his head rendered in shades of green. "Delores?"

"Yes Minister, what can I do for you?"

"Delores, I need you to question everyone at the school. I need you to find out if anyone there has any idea where Potter is. He's back, Delores."

"Potter?" Delores said, face flushing, "He can't be back, I've had him locked in a cell in Azkaban since the hearing under your authority."

Gasps rang out around the Great Hall as everyone clearly heard what their Defense Instructor had just said.

"What are you talking about, Delores?" Fudge said, the enormous sinking feeling he'd had ever since he heard the news Voldemort had returned suddenly being replaced with an almost giddy feeling of free- fall, as though an enormous chasm had just opened beneath him and swallowed him whole. "Where are you anyhow?" he asked, having just noticed the sounds coming from the other side of the fire.

Dumbledore, who had risen from the Head Table as Delores started to answer the flue call stepped in front of the fire and asked, "Cornelius? What is this all about?"

Delores Umbridge on the other hand had just realized what she'd said, where she'd said it, and who she'd said it in front of, as she answered in the softest voice she could, "I'm in the Hogwarts Great Hall."

Fudge scowled at her before turning his head towards Dumbledore "Apparently He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacked the ministry this evening in an attempt to steal a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries. The prophecy was heard before it was destroyed, and apparently it said that only Potter could stop the Dark Lord. Then He and two of his Deatheaters portkeyed out with the Dark Lord apparently screaming Potter's name and holding his head in pain. We also captured three Deatheaters, one who worked in the Department, and the other one appears to be Peter Pettigrew."

Seeing a perfect opportunity to get Harry back into Hogwarts where he could keep an eye on the young man and guide him despite his foolish choices over the summer, Dumbledore went on, "And what's this about Harry being in Azkaban?"

Fudge visibly paled despite his head being rendered in the flames in shades of green as the implication sunk in of what Delores had just blurted out, but hoping to prove his innocence in the matter he turned to his Under-secretary and demanded of her, "I'm not sure myself, Albus, The last time I saw the boy he had asked to come by my office on his way out to apologize to me. Delores, what did you mean he's been in Azkaban since the hearing?"

Delores looked like she wanted to be anywhere other than where she was at the moment. Her eyes darted swiftly from side to side as if seeking a path of escape, before she took a deep breath and answered, "Potter is in a cell in Azkaban. You wanted him silent and out of the way, so I took care of it."

Fudge's head vanished from the fireplace and a thud could be heard through the flue as he apparently fell to the ground on the other side. Albus was visibly in a towering rage, although inside he was extremely happy, finally he'd be able to straighten so many things out and get Harry back under his control where he belonged. Turning to Delores Umbridge he ordered, "Madam, consider yourself under arrest." He turned back to the fire and called out "Cornelius?"

Fudge's head slowly lifted back into view, but his expression was lax and forlorn. "I'm here Albus."

"I'm calling an emergency session of the Wizengamot as soon as a quorum can arrive. I'd recommend you get yourself to the chamber immediately and start preparing your case. I should warn you one of the first items on the agenda will be a vote of no-confidence."

Fudge nodded meekly, as though it was fully expected, as he replied. "I understand, Albus. I'll head down there right now."

With that the flames in the fireplace died away, and the murmurs in the hallway grew to deafening levels. Dumbledore pulled out his wand and fired a concussive blast into the air to call for attention. "I think you should all retire to your Common Rooms for the evening, there is no cause for alarm, as everything is being handled. More information will be made available as soon as possible. For now I ask you all to refrain from speculating or spreading rumors. Please try and relax until we know more about this attack, and Mr. Potter."

With that he started towards his office, pausing only to look over his shoulder and call, "Delores, please come with me."

=+=

Harry blinked back to awareness in record time. Once more, as he had when he'd been in the bird form, he felt as though his body was flooded with energy and magic. This time as he looked around his once dark cell, he noticed that not only could he see the various spells dancing in the air and overlaid on the objects, but he could almost feel them as well as the combination of the bird's and the Dementor's senses seemed to work together synergistically.

Climbing to his feet he made his way over to the door, then stuck his arm through the bars once more. He found that he could almost touch the spells on the door, there seeming to be a sort of ghostly tactile feel to them, there, but just out of reach.

However that wasn't what was important at this point. What was important was that he still had one last shot at getting out of this place, and he felt ready to try and take it.

Closing his eyes, and ignoring the mental imagery of the energies swirling around him, he turned to the last Image in his mind, that of the snake he thought he had likely gotten from Voldemort.

He carefully pulled a copy of the snake from the Master Image, and settled it over his own Master Template as he had now done several times before with the various other Template Images.

As he settled the last bit of the Snake Image in place over the template and triggered the change, he waited to feel his body shrink yet again.

But nothing happened. He tried to push the change a bit, pouring some of his core magic into it, but still nothing happened. He tried again, pushing as much energy and magic as he could, concentrating on trying to start the change with all his mind, but still he didn't feel anything, then suddenly it seemed like the his Master Template suffered a critical change, and before he knew it, suddenly it had shifted from a stubbornly inert object in his mind to the equivalent of a voracious black hole, sucking at his core for more energy, more magic, and most troubling, it was reaching out, searching for more mass, mass he didn't have but apparently needed to complete the change. He felt himself stretching, both physically and mentally, clawing first at the air, then at the walls around him, then at the air and walls beyond them, further and further out from his cell, reaching out with all his being and sucking in all the magic and energy he could reach. The air in his cell dropped instantly below freezing, the stones cracking and shattering with the sudden change in temperature as the various spells which protected them from magical attacks were sucked away, drawn like all the other wards and spells on the prison into Harry's suddenly hollow core. He felt it as the crumbling stone was drawn to him, and his core mixed it with the magic and energy it was drawing in to transfigure it to flesh, flesh saturated with magical energy, but even still it wasn't enough, the roof started to collapse, providing the rest of the mass needed but there still wasn't quite enough magic to finish the transformation, Harry could tell that whatever he was trying to do was going to fail, and most likely fail spectacularly, because even after consuming all the energy and magic within range, he was just a little bit short. Harry felt a brief moment of panic, then he felt himself reach out through his scar, reach out to Riddle, and start to draw both magic and energy from there. The link wasn't designed to do this, and started to implode, the force of the energies moving through it causing it to pinch off like a soda straw with a vacuum inside.

And just like that, with the last bit of energy and magic he needed pulled through the collapsing link, Harry felt the transformation finish, as the remainder of the walls and the roof and or floor from the level above him rained down on his body crushing him with the falling rubble, and the world went dark yet again, this time awash in the sensations of biting cold and poking, sharp, jagged stone trying in vain to penetrate his scales and puncture his sides.

=+=

Harry awoke to the most claustrophobic feeling he had ever imagined. For a boy who spent his formative years trapped in a cupboard, that was saying a lot.

He felt like he was being squeezed on every side, even from the bottom, and the rock which surrounded him was bitingly cold, sapping the energy and strength he had so much he could actually feel it flowing out of his body, making him want to curl up and hibernate.

Despite his rapidly increasing lethargy, Harry forced his body to move, bunching his muscles and trying to work his way on top of the rocks surrounding him.

With a great amount of effort he finally managed to get to a point where while still squeezed, the pressure seemed to be mostly from the sides, and no longer from the top and bottom.

With more than a bit of trepidation, Harry gathered himself and focused his mind on changing back to his latest Hybrid shape, hoping that the feelings of energy and vitality he had experienced in it the first time would be enough to overcome the feelings of tiredness and lethargy he was suffering from at present.

He pushed the last of his dwindling resources into forcing yet another change to his Master Template, and with more than a bit of relief felt his body pulling in, away from the walls of ice covered stone which surrounded him.

When he was done, he found himself laying on the ground in a large depression, mounds of rubble from at least two levels worth of collapsed walls, floors, and ceilings littering the landscape, which was only visible to his Dementor Vision, as not a trace of actual light, or even the slightest hint of magic was present for his eyes to see.

While the almost hyperactive feeling of being energized he had been hoping for was still missing, he did note that despite the bitingly painful cold, he felt much better than he had as the snake.

Carefully climbing over the icy stone, he began to explore, looking for some way out.

=+=

Arthur Weasley watched with anticipation as Albus Dumbledore called the Wizengamot to order.

Members were still streaming in to the chambers, answering the summons to the Emergency Session called by the Chief Warlock.

Arthur had already heard the news of the attack on the Ministry earlier that evening, although he had missed the excitement, still being in his office up on Level 2 when the attack occurred.

It wasn't hard, therefore, for him to understand the hangdog expression on the face of Cornelius Fudge. After having spent the last four, almost five, months continuously declaring how Harry Potter was a lying alarmist, and decrying the very possibility that Voldemort may have returned, to have the Dark Lord publically invade the Ministry at one of the busiest times of the day, being seen by hundreds of wizards, including several reporters, it was pretty much a given that the Minister's career was over.

The interesting tidbit Arthur had yet to confirm which he had heard was that a prophecy had been revealed during the Dark Lord's assault somehow, and that it named Harry as the only person able to defeat Voldemort. He was hoping to get some time with either Amelia or someone who would actually know what occurred at some point. He was still worried about the boy who despite his disappearance from the wizarding world he thought of as almost another son.

One thing which Arthur couldn't understand was why the Minister's Senior Under-Secretary was present under apparent Auror Guard. She had come in along with Albus a short while ago, and had been trailed by a pair of Aurors the entire time she'd been present.

Hopefully once things got moving at least that question would be answered.

=+=

Harry made his way through the lowest levels of Azkaban, climbing over the various piles of rubble, and staring in shock at the occasional still in-tact support pillars which continued to hold the majority of the prison still in place above him.

The falls of thermally shocked stone seemed mostly cosmetic after the first two floors, and even on the level he had been held the main support structures seemed to be entirely intact, if a bit cracked here and there.

He stopped suddenly when he came upon a cloaked figure laying amongst a mound of debris.

The energy emitted from the pinned Dementor was so low as to make it almost indistinguishable from the rubble surrounding it.

The demon wasn't moving, simply laying there partly covered by the fallen stone.

Harry reached out and fingered the tattered cloak, his fingers brushing against the skin of one clawed hand by accident as he pulled his arm back

A sudden spark seemed to flash to his hand from the one beneath it, and the cloak collapsed, empty save for some fine grayish powder.

=+=

Arthur sat stunned at the latest revelation. It was NOT what he had expected from this meeting. And based on the absolutely sick expression on the face of his boss, Amelia Bones, it wasn't what she'd been expecting either.

Delores Umbridge, under Veritaserum, had admitted to sending Dementors to a Muggle neighborhood, and had them attack Harry Potter, hoping to silence him on the subject of the return of Voldemort. Not that Harry had said a word about it publically since the end of the Tri-Wizard tournament - all the continuing press had been generated by her department, in an attempt to discredit Harry's alarmist statements which he made upon his return to the stadium after vanishing at the end of the maze.

Delores then explained how she had at the Minister's recommendation, rescheduled the hearing in regards to Harry's use of the Patronis charm to drive off the Dementors. She explained that she was well within the law in waiting until 5 minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin to update his copy of the summons, that she only had to do so in a timely manner before the trial, allowing enough time for the defendant to arrive. Since she was able to arrive from her offices on the first level all the way down to the courtroom on the tenth level, having to take the stairs from the tenth to the tenth level as none of the lifts go past the ninth, it was more than timely. According to her, had Mr. Potter been anywhere in the Ministry at the time she updated his summons, he would have had ample time to arrive.

But the final straw, the thing which made Arthur so mad he could cast a killing curse, and so ashamed he wished someone would cast one on him before he had to face his family, was her confession that immediately following the trial, she had escorted him to the same two Dementors who had been assigned to attack him, and had them transport Harry to a special cell deep in the bowels of the prison, far away from the normal guards and the other prisoners. And the poor boy had been sitting there ever since. Alone in the dark with no contact other than the demonic guards which had put him there. When his thirty days were up, his own son, Percival had taken a dose of Pollyjuice, a ministry controlled substance, so as to appear to be Harry. It was his own flesh and blood who had marched into the Minister's office and 'apologized' for his behavior and for lying about the return of the Dark Lord. It had been his own child who had walked past him and into the phone booth, only to disappear into Muggle London, leaving the mystery of where Harry had gone to when he left the Wizarding World. How could he face his children and tell them that their brother, his and Molly's son had been a part of the conspiracy which locked an innocent young man in the worlds worst prison for over two months. The fact that Umbridge said that Percy hadn't been told why he was asked to impersonate Harry and apologize to the Minister on his behalf was little consolation.

Arthur joined in the unanimous vote to not just pardon Harry, as one member had recommended, but rather exonerate Harry and remove him from that cell immediately, rewarding him with a special dispensation to practice magic as compensation for his unjust punishment, and to immediately reinstate him to the rolls of Hogwarts. It was the least he could do.

=+=

It was a few hours later, during which he had come across three already empty cloaks sticking out from the rubble, as well as two more apparently stunned Dementors, which he was careful to avoid touching. The empty cloaks had been closer to the location of his cell than the ones which still held Dementors, and the last Dementor he had come across, also the furthest away from his cell had a noticeably higher energy level than the first two he had found, and even seemed to be moving, albeit feebly. Also, over the past few hours the temperature had climbed slowly, the frost melting from most of the surfaces, leaving only the areas closest to his former cell still covered in ice.

As he tried yet another dead-end corridor, trying to find one which lead up to a higher part of the prison, he noticed sounds coming faintly through the stone around him.

Looking carefully through the rocks trapping him still, he noted faint traces of activity on the other side of the fall of rock blocking the way.

Harry contemplated the apparent excavation party for a bit, noting that they indeed were moving the stone out of the way, apparently by hand, as he could see no sign of magic from the party on the other side of the wall.

He estimated that given another half an hour they may have a way through cleared.

Coming up with a plan, Harry turned around and worked his way back to the closest of the empty cloaks he had found, and after arriving he carefully extracted it from the crumbled remains of wall and floor he had found it in.

It was one of the ones which had been empty when he found it, but he could still see the fine grey powder mingled amongst the folds of the cloak as he worked it out of the rockfall.

Having finished extracting the cloak, he shook it out carefully, creating a cloud of grey dust in the air which he then backed away from, the cloak clutched firmly in his hand as he made his way back up towards the work party which was still clearing the corridor.

He could now easily see the forms of the men working to clear the debris on the other side of the rubble, and estimated that they would be through now in less than five minutes.

Setting the cloak down on the ground, Harry stepped back from it, and concentrating, he put a copy of the original Dementor Image on top of his Master Template.

A few moments later, and he carefully bent over to pick up the cloak and put it on over the torn remains of his old clothes.

His disguise as a Dementor now complete, Harry waited and watched through the rock as the people on the other side worked to finish clearing the way.

His patience was soon rewarded as with a loud rumble, a slide of dislodged stone skittered away from the new opening, possibly allowing light into the basement, but as Harry realized, in his pure Dementor form he had no eyes, so it didn't really matter. But what it did allow in was a sudden stream of almost glowing air, it's heat so much greater than that of the air already present that it seemed a tongue of flame was licking into the relative darkness of his domain.

He waited as the Aurors, or so he believed continued to clear the rubble, one of them stepping through finally holding a billowing ball of energy aloft, probably a torch of some sort, but as his form had no actual eyes, he had no way to verify this.

Once several of them had made their way into the devastation which was the lowest levels of the prison, Harry moved forward to take advantage of the opening they had provided, and make his way to freedom, only to stumble as a pile of rocks slid out from under him, almost making him fall.

He didn't know who was more stunned. The group of Aurors who spun at the sound of the pile of rocks settling, or he for finding himself literally floating in the air, his feet covered by the edges of the cloak, hovering where the surface of the rocks used to be.

One of the Aurors approached him cautiously, a ball of dancing energy held atop a thick stick of some sort, possibly a table leg. He finally spoke, "Are there any prisoners alive in here?"

Harry slowly shook his head, hoping that Dementors didn't speak to Aurors. While he'd never heard them do so before, that didn't mean they couldn't talk.

The Auror looked saddened by the news, then asked, "Was there a special prisoner being held down here?"

Harry paused again, thinking about how to answer that. Finally he decided to be honest, and slowly lifting a bony hand, he held a single claw tipped finger in the air, signaling the number one.

The Auror gave a huge sigh and turned back to the others to confer. Before they could ask him more questions, Harry managed to maneuver himself through the opening and into the rest of the prison in general, leaving the party of Aurors behind himself as he floated away.

=+=

After a special team of Aurors, including several Order members had been dispatched to Azkaban to retrieve Harry, the next bombshell of the evening, although it was now early morning, was dropped.

Amongst the Deatheaters captured that day was one Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew was brought in, and questioned before the Wizengamot under Veritaserum. He told how he had become a Deatheater right after graduating Hogwarts, and had acted as a spy for his Dark Lord against some vigilante group and the Ministry. He explained how he had convinced Sirius that he was too obvious, and that Remus Lupin was likely a traitor, and thus he had been picked as the Potter's secret keeper. He went on to detail how he had led his Lord to Godric's Hollow, and waited outside while the Dark Lord went in to eliminate the Potters. He then explained how he was still waiting later when Sirius and Hagrid showed up, how he watched Hagrid fly off on Sirius's motorcycle, carrying baby Harry, and how he had eventually gone inside to find what had happened to his Master. He explained finding the empty robes and his Master's wand in the nursery, along with the body of Lily. He had take the Dark Lord's wand with him, and had left, unable to believe that his Master had been somehow destroyed by a baby. Pettigrew then explained how when Sirius had cornered him he had cut off his own finger, cast an explosion hex at the vehicles in the street behind him, and had fled down the sewer in rat form. Finally, to Arthur's further horror, he described the years living with the Weasleys, of pretending to be first Percy, then Ron's pet rat. Then how when Sirius escaped, how he had been caught, until Snape's intervention allowed him to escape once again. And finally he explained his, and the other persons parts in the resurrection of the Dark Lord, how he had cast the Killing Curse on Cedric at his Master's command, how he had then removed his own hand in a ritual which resulted in the return of his Lord to a fully healthy body. There had been scattered questions, but mostly they were asking for clarification on one issue or another.

Eventually, after Pettigrew had been led away, a motion had been offered by Amos Diggory, stating that the Wizengamot declared that Sirius Black was innocent of all charges, and was, like his godson, a victim who had been unjustly held in Azkaban for over twelve years. During the following discussions, when it was discovered that Sirius had never even had a trial, a second motion had been added to research what possible compensation could be offered to the man for the unjust violation of his rights and freedom. The first motion was voted on and passed, but the second was tabled for later perusal, and instead attention was centered on the actions taken by the current administration which led to the current crisis. Fudge had already resigned his position as Minister, with Amelia Bones being appointed Interim Minister until a Special Election could be scheduled and held.

=+=

Harry floated silently through the halls of the prison. He glided effortlessly past row after row of cells, mostly empty, but the occasional prisoner would cry out and surge back away from the bars as he passed.

So far while none of the gates had opened automatically for him at his approach, they all opened when he pushed on them. He was starting to wonder if any of the doors in this place were still locked. If not, then what, other than habit, he wondered was keeping the other prisoners in their cells?

Suddenly as he turned a corner he found himself face to face with another Dementor.

As he looked at the other hovering form before him, it reached out almost as if in confusion towards him, then it dropped it's hand and turned away, starting to drift swiftly up the corridor.

Realizing that it was probably able to tell he wasn't a real Dementor and was off to raise an alarm somehow, Harry chased after it, closing the distance between himself and his prey with an agonizing slowness.

Reaching out he grasped the cloak of the fleeing Dementor with his own skeletal hand, his claws digging into the soft fabric and causing the other form to slew around in the air, banging into the wall by an empty cell.

Harry slammed into the other creature by accident, then suddenly he was overcome with a sudden need, a hunger, and before he knew it he was pulling, sucking at the substance of the other Dementor. The Dementor let out a single banchee like wail which echoed throughout the prison, then crumbled to dust, it's empty cloak drifting slowly to the floor of the prison, while Harry reeled momentarily under the rush of energy he had taken from the demon.

As the turmoil in his mind finally settled down, Harry reached out and lifted the empty cloak from the ground, then holding it bundled in his hands, he turned around and made his way back the way he had come, back towards what he hoped would be the entrance to the prison, along what he hoped would be his path to freedom.

=+=

The blows kept coming. The latest word, brought by a messenger who looked stricken as he ran into the room and up to Amelia's side before a whispered conference was that something had happened to Azkaban. Apparently someone or something had attacked the prison, somehow managing to destroy some of the most powerful wards known to the Wizarding World outside those of Hogwarts, and drain or nullify the magic from possibly every object on the island. The magical attack was so powerful that none of the Auror's wands would function any more. At the same time, the attackers had somehow destroyed the lowest levels of the prison, the specific area where Umbridge had said Harry was being kept. A search and rescue party, armed with muggle inspired torches were supposedly already trying to get through to inspect the damage when the special team from the DMLE had portkeyed onto the island to retrieve Harry.

Arthur didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. What should have been the boy's happiest day of his life, when his Godfather was freed, and he himself was vindicated, looked like it may well have been the last day of his life instead, and based on the timing the attack on the prison had come some time after the attack on the Ministry. And to Arthur that could only mean one thing. Voldemort, having learned Harry was the only threat to his existence, had acted immediately to kill the boy once again, and this time it looked like he'd succeeded.

More DMLE personnel were on their way to the island as fast as portkeys could be made. And as the gathered members of the Wizengamot sat there stunned by the news, Arthur wondered what could possibly happen next.

=+=

Harry was wondering just how tall the prison was.

He'd been going for what felt like hours, crossing a floor, floating up the stairs, then crossing the floor, to float up another set of stairs, and on and on.

Azkaban, now that he was out of the basement, was laid out as a four sided tower, apparently open in the center. Each floor had two stairs leading up to the one above it, and another two stairs leading down to the floor below, but the stars were offset on each level, so one had to ascend or descend in a giant spiral.

Harry had been ascending since his encounter with the first Dementor. He now held three Dementor robes in his claws, having encountered two more of the creatures on his way up the tower, but while the most recent Dementor had been two floors below, he hadn't seen a single prisoner in at least five floors. He had lost count of how many floors he had climbed so far though.

He was starting to wonder if the tower could be endless somehow, when after reaching the end of the current corridor he found not a set of stairs, but a blank wall.

He turned the corner and started along the next side of the tower, hoping to find the stairs on that side. Apparently he was finally at the top at least. Now all he needed to do was get outside, and see if he could fly. At least the time during his climb up the tower had given him ample opportunity to think about that, and he'd come up with an idea. Of course, it meant customizing another template, but what else was new?

=+=

Arthur Weasley had sat stunned, along with the rest of the members of the Wizengamot, as the final issues were discussed. Across the room, he could see Albus, his customary twinkle missing from his eyes, seated in contemplation.

The day was an emotional storm unlike anything in his whole life. He'd been battered by the news about Harry, then about his own family and their both willing and unwilling participation in the various plots, then had come the news that the boy was presumed dead. But the latest news disagreed on that subject. Apparently now that more people had been able to portkey to the island, people with working wands, unlike those who had been present during the attack, they had managed to clear up and repair the majority of the damage to the sub-levels of the prison.

The discoveries they had reported were disturbing to say the least. But there was one ray of hope. There were no bodies. There was no sign at all of Harry. This meant either he had somehow escaped, or someone had taken him away. Or he was hidden elsewhere in the prison.

The disturbing part of the report was in regards to the Dementors. As impossible as it seemed, some of them may have been killed in the attack. There were three empty Dementor cloaks found amongst the destruction, along with two more Dementors who had been damaged somehow. The other Dementors had taken their fallen fellows away, and apparently had not been happy about it, because the Aurors claimed that on three occasions that evening that the Dementors, or something, had let out horrific cries of pain and agony, cries which froze everyone in the tower, but that none of the guards knew where the cries had come from, they seemed to be coming from the upper levels of the prison however.

The details which were brought up that morning in the Emergency session about Fudge and his administration, how it had acted on more than one occasion to mold public opinion rather than deal with the issues, such as when Hagrid had been arrested back when his daughter had been possessed by Riddle's diary, or a few months ago when Fudge had chosen to have the only known witness to events surrounding the tri-wizard tournament kissed rather than questioned, had led to discussions on whether their previous Minister should be sent to Azkaban for incompetency or not. It was determined, in a surprisingly close vote, that Fudge would stand trial on whatever charges Amelia could come up with, and the actual courts would be allowed to decide his fate.

Finally though, as it approached early morning, there were no more issues to discuss, and Albus formally called an end to the Emergency Session, thinking his fellow members for their extraordinary efforts that evening and morning.

But Arthur still didn't move. How could he? How could he go home and tell his wife that they had harbored the man most responsible for James and Lilly's deaths for over 12 years? That their middle son was an accomplice in the imprisonment of Harry? That Harry had been held in Azkaban for the past two and a half months, and now was missing, presumed either dead or kidnapped?

He had finally managed to make it to his feet when yet another harried looking Auror came running into the room, heading towards Amelia Bones, the interim Minister.

Hoping it was news about Harry, he drifted over in time to hear the Auror explaining, "…at least fifteen, maybe more. We'll need to do a full head count when we get the wards back up, so far though they have caught at least six wandering aimlessly through the halls."

Amelia frowned, then ordered, "First priority is to get the rest of the prisoners secured. Have the Aurors consolidate the prisoners to a single area, making sure it has new anti-disapparition wards in place, and then cast colloportus on the doors to the cells until the security charms can be replaced. Next I want a full headcount, see how many managed to Apparate away. We'll work on identifying them after we're certain there are no more escapes. Then we can activate the new Tracking Charms and get them back."

A sudden thought crossed his mind and he asked, "Tracking charms?"

Amelia nodded, "Yes, since Black's escape the Unspeakables came up with a new type of tracking charm, it's only short term, and has to be activated specific to a target, but once we cast the activation spell, the result is they start sending apparition coordinates back to us."

"Would Harry have one of those charms on him?" Arthur asked.

Amelia's eyes light up in sudden comprehension, "Yes, he would! We could cast the activation and see exactly where he's located! Even if it's in the prison, for now it'd still work because the anti-disapparition and apparition wards are down, we could still send Aurors to wherever he is."

Turning to the harried Auror, she ordered, "Get down to the Department of Mysteries and have them start tracking Potter immediately."

Nodding the man turned away and headed out the door.

Arthur smiled a bit to himself, perhaps today would get better after all.

=+=

Harry finally reached the end of the third hallway, and here he found a single stairway leading up to a wooden panel in the ceiling, presumably a trap-door leading outside.

Looking at the apparently heavy wooden door, then down at his frail Dementor body, Harry closed his eyes and changed back to his most recent Hybrid form.

Standing again for the first time in hours, and feeling once more the energy surging through himself, Harry made his way up the stairs and braced himself against the wooden panel, then pushed with all his strength.

He was shocked when with a soft Fop sound, the panel launched into the air and soared away, caught by the wind outside.

Harry ascended the stairs and stuck his head out the hole, squinting his eyes as he took in the early morning sun shining at him over the sparkling waves of the ocean all around him.

He smiled as he closed his eyes and let the crisp sea breeze ruffle his hair, as he concentrated once more, bringing up the mental template images.

First he looked once more at the original Dementor Image. He carefully traced the parts of its brain until he found the section he had been using the night before to float. He carefully copied that part out, and integrated it into the Hybrid Image for the next time. He then pulled up the Bird Image. He copied the image entirely, then he started to work on it. First he added the floaty part from the Dementor, figuring that even if he couldn't figure out how to fly, if he could at least float, he could avoid crashing painfully to the ground the first time he tried. Next he copied the combined Dementor/Bird energy absorption from his Hybrid Image into the new Hybrid Bird. Finally, he also added the Dementor Vision to the Hybrid Bird.

Looking at the result, he tried to see if he'd made any mistakes. But not finding any, he stood up and walked back down the steps, until he was once more in the corridor, and out of the wind, looking up the stairs at the blue morning sky.

He closed his eyes again and focused on first the Harry Hybrid Image, switching from the one without the floaty part, to the new one with it.

There was a swirl of something, and a moment of dizziness, but he didn't black out as he changed his Master Template slightly to integrate the new part.

Carefully Harry tried to lift himself off the ground, and was more than happy to feel his feet float free of the stone, leaving him floating effortlessly in the middle of the air, like a ghost, or a Dementor.

Smiling he lowered himself to the floor once more, and closed his eyes again, this time bringing up the new Hybrid Bird Image.

Carefully settling it over his Master Template, he triggered the change and felt as his body seemed to shrink in on itself, distorting slightly as parts moved from one place to another on his body. When it was done he looked up the steps and closed his eyes once more, noting that now even with his eyes closed he was still able to 'see' all around himself, he triggered the floating once more, and felt as his talons were lifted free of the stone beneath them, leaving Harry to float at the foot of the stairs despite his wings still being tucked securely in to his sides. He opened his eyes again, and focused on the opening in the roof above him, drifting up the stairs until he reached the top. A sudden gust of wind lifted his light avian body up the last bit and hurdled him away into the open sky, free at last.

=+=

Hogwarts Great Hall was awash in conversations.

Everyone was there, which was unusual for breakfast times, most students coming and leaving in waves, so that none of the House Tables were ever really full.

Today was quite different, however. Every student in the school was there, most awaiting the arrival of the morning papers, so that they might find out what the previous night's events really meant.

All anyone seemed to know for sure was that Voldemort was back, he'd attacked the Ministry, and it had something to do with Potter, who may or may not have been sent to Azkaban for something.

Some of the rumors had it that Potter had confessed to murdering Cedric. Others that he had joined the Dark Lord, or had replaced him. One said he was sent to Azkaban for killing his Muggle relatives, and another said he had ran away to live with Sirius Black over the summer, and had been sent to Azkaban in secret after having been caught.

All his friends knew that none of the rumors could be right. Based on the fragments overheard the night before, they all figured Fudge, or more likely Umbridge on behalf of Fudge had thrown Harry in prison to keep him quiet. They had all believed him about Voldemort's resurrection, so him attacking the Ministry wasn't a complete surprise. Nor was the fact that Harry seemed to be the only one who could stop him - after all of the four times they knew of that Harry had met Voldemort, Harry had only lost once, and even that was more of a draw. As a baby he'd stopped the adult wizard completely when he reflected the Killing Curse back at its castor. Then in first year, he had stopped the possessed Quirrell. In second year he'd beaten the spirit of Voldemort which was sucking the life out of Ginny, and last year while he didn't manage to stop the resurrection, he had managed to escape and return relatively unharmed to Hogwarts, bringing Cedric's body back with him.

A sudden hush fell over the students as a tired looking Headmaster Dumbledore trudged into the hall, his normal twinkle absent from his eyes.

Dumbledore stepped up to his seat at the Head Table, and took a deep breath. "Good morning. Last night several events occurred."

Suddenly he was interrupted as a veritable flock of owls dove out of the charmed ceiling towards the various house tables, most clutching that day's newspaper in their talons.

There was a great hubbub as students scrambled to retrieve the papers, and others peered over their shoulders, everyone could plainly see the headlines on at least one paper, either declaiming "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacks Ministry" or "Stubby Boardman manages to clear secret alias Sirius Black's name." on the paper Luna Lovegood was holding.

The students, faced with the possibility of live information from their Headmaster, or reading the papers they had just received, which should still be there when their Headmaster finished swiftly settled down and returned their attention to the Professor.

"As I was saying, several events occurred last night. First and foremost, you should all be aware that Professor Umbridge will not be returning to Hogwarts."

A sudden roar of joy interrupted the Professor's next words, forcing him to stand there waiting for order to return. After a few minutes the students realizing that there was much more to learn terminated their impromptu parties and looked towards the Professor once more.

"Yes, well as I said, Professor Umbridge will not be returning, which leaves us without a Defense Professor for the time being. I shall start a search for a replacement today, however until alternate arrangements can be made, all students scheduled for Defense will instead report to Madame Pence in the library for a study period."

As a wave of murmurs passed through the crowd Dumbledore waited, then as the students quieted again he continued, "Minister Fudge resigned his position last evening, and Amelia Bones, the former head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has been named as the Interim Minister."

A soft cheer of approval rose from the Hufflepuff table, as various students tried to offer congratulations to Susan Bones, Amelia's niece.

As the students settled again, Dumbledore continued, "As you can see from the papers, Voldemort proved he has indeed returned by attacking the Ministry, three Deatheaters were captured, including Peter Pettigrew. This led to the charges against Sirius Black being re-examined and in light of evidence proving his innocence, all charges against him have been cleared." A sudden murmur ran around several Gryffindor students at that news, most notably Harry's friends.

"There are other details which are still being looked into and in need of resolution, so I'll leave it at that for the moment. Please go about your day normally, and if we have any additional information we will let you know at dinner this evening. Thank you for your attention." With that, Dumbledore sat down and looked towards the various dishes offered for breakfast that morning.

Hermione stood up and cleared her throat, then called out, "Professor Dumbledore?"

The Professor looked up, his face becoming a touch more unsettled as his eyes fell on Hermione's face. "Yes Ms. Granger?"

"What about Harry? Is there any news?" Hermione asked hopefully.

Professor Dumbledore frowned a bit more before he responded, "It was found that the charges of Underaged Magic against him this summer were not only unfounded, but unjust, resulting directly from deliberate actions by Ministry personnel. As such, his name has been returned to the rolls for Hogwarts, and he may return at some point in the near future."

Ron stood up and asked, "What was that about him being in Azkaban?"

The last visages of calm fell from the Headmaster's face, and with great sadness he answered, "When he was supposed to be taken to a Ministry holding cell after his trial to serve thirty days for contempt of court, it seems he was instead transported to Azkaban and locked up there until some time last night."

"So where is he now?" Hermione asked softly, worry evident in her voice.

In a voice so soft it would have been impossible to hear were it not for the utter silence in the hall, Dumbledore answered, "I'm afraid we don't know."

=+=

Voldemort was barely coherent as he climbed to his feet. He kicked the sheet off to the side way as he made his way to the bathroom in the master suite of Riddle Manor.

The reflection in the mirror was a poor one at best. His face looked drawn and haggard, mute testimony to the agony he'd endured in the past day due to that blasted brat.

Worse, he could barely feel his magic, the child's last attack somehow having been directed at his magical core, and the pain he'd experienced as his very essence had been pulled through the mental connection they shared had been the worst of his life. He would have thought the Cruciatus was the worst pain possible, until Potter started burning out his brain from the inside. But what he experienced last night had as far eclipsed the pain from Potter's regular attacks as they did the results of the Cruciatus curse.

Slowly he washed his face, taking in his red eyes, red today from being bloodshot, not glowing with malevolent power as they usually were. This morning that power was simply gone. He returned quietly to his bedroom, taking care to minimize his movements as he dressed, then he made his way downstairs to find several of his followers gathered in the drawing room.

But the sight which stunned him the most was the gaunt and drawn out faces of several of his followers. Followers he had been assured were irretrievably locked away in Azkaban. While he'd been toying with the idea of raiding the prison to free those who were still salvageable, he had been more concerned with finding the boy and ending the pain he was being forced to suffer almost daily from the child's incessant attacks.

Turning to one of them he asked, "Bella, how did you get free?"

She smiled tremulously up at him, before casting her eyes down to the floor, then asking, "I thought it was your doing Milord."

Frowning, Voldemort demanded coldly, "Explain."

She took a breath and started , "Last night, late, something attacked the prison. Word was that it was your forces. Whoever it was broke all the wards, and unlocked all the cells. We were able to escape and apparate to the mainland, then after we had recovered, apparate here to rejoin your service. We were told you had launched an attack on the Ministry yesterday, and according to the papers this morning there are unconfirmed rumors you also attacked Azkaban to free your followers and either kill or kidnap Potter."

Voldemort's eyes narrowed and he growled almost animalistically, "Potter."

Nodding Rookwood stepped in, "Our sources in the DMLE say that he'd been held in Azkaban for the last two months. That's why no one has been able to find him, my lord. But when they sent a team to retrieve him last night, after your attack on the Ministry, they found Azkaban had been attacked as well, and the area Potter had been held in was totally destroyed. No sign of Potter could be found, however."

"He was in Azkaban the past month? All this time we've been looking for him he's been sitting in Azkaban?" Voldemort asked in incredulity.

Rookwood nodded, "That much seems to be confirmed, My Lord. Potter was being held in Azkaban. What no one knows is where he is now. Apparently the Unspeakables are trying to find him with a tracking charm, but are having no luck in activating it."

Looking over his recently escaped followers he asked, "What kind of tracking charm?"

Rookwood shrugged, "I'm not certain, My Lord. We do have some notes from Croaker. It seems he reported the development of some sort of dormant tracking spell, which could be remotely activated. It was placed on all prisoners transported to Azkaban after Black's escape."

"Find out how it was placed, and how to remove it. I want everyone who escaped to stay elsewhere until we can verify there are no tracking charms on them. Use the safe house, it has a Fidelius, anti-portkey and anti-apparition charms on it, so even if they are tracked, the searchers shouldn't be able to get to them."

His recently freed minions all nodded obediently, and were led away by one of the others.

"Also make sure we have someone ready inside the DMLE at all times. If they get a location for Potter I want a team there before the Aurors can respond. I want that brat DEAD!" Voldemort ordered as he turned towards the kitchen to find some food.

=+=

Harry was happier than he'd been at any time in his life.

The sheer exhilaration of flying under his own power was indescribable. The speeds he was able to reach, the fidelity of control he could achieve, was simply mind-blowing. Harry felt like he literally was a part of the sky, and through that, of the earth, connected to the whole world around him in ways he could never hope to express.

He flexed a single feather on his right wing, causing him to bank to the left, the world swinging beneath him as he turned in the sky, catching the last rays of the setting sun.

He had been in the air the entire day, and he had loved every moment of it.

The first few minutes had been a bit harrowing, as the wind had plucked him from the top of the steps and pulled him up and out, into the air over the small island, carrying him swiftly over the water and away.

He'd carefully extended his wings, feeling for the first time how they cut into the air around him and shaped his path.

Experimentally he'd first folded his wings in, and stretched them out, like doing a breast stroke in the air, forcing his body to move forward, accelerating away to outpace the wind. Next he'd tried to glide, simply stretching his wings and allowing them to take his weight, making subtle adjustments to their position or shape and seeing how it altered his movement through the air. He made a game of it for a while, making smaller and smaller adjustments to see just how subtle a change he could make and still have it effect his flight.

He got to the point where he learned to clench the skin around various groups of feathers, or even a single feather, causing them to shift, and thus changing the airflow around him, and his subsequent path through the invisible medium.

But that medium wasn't invisible to him at all. With his enhanced senses he could see the sunlight dancing through the air, heating it slowly throughout the day. He could see the warmer pockets verses the colder pockets, he could actually see the updrafts and downdrafts, by watching the dance of energy all around him. And to his surprise he could see the magic. All around, everywhere he looked there were subtle signs of magic filling the world. It was beautiful in a prismatic sort of way. Eventually he found himself over land, and had dipped down enough to get a general location, before climbing as high into the noon day sun as he could. Once his wings could grasp no more purchase against the air he had stretched them out and looked down, seeing the world spread out below him, the sky a deep purple, and the curvature of the earth plainly visible to his naked eyes.

Through the scattered clouds, all of the British Isles were visible like a softly bent map below him, the coast of France also identifiable by its shape off to his right. Recalling his geography, he sighted in on London, and folded his wings in to his sides, allowing himself to plummet weightlessly for several minutes, the world slowly growing below him, changing from a distorted map, to a genuine landscape as he returned to the earth.

Eventually he flipped out the tops of his wings, subtly changing his motion from a dive into a slant, and finally he extended his wings fully and settled into a glide, orbiting slowly lower and lower as he approached the city, various landmarks easily identifiable from his now vastly lower height.

He deliberately flew past the Tower of London before climbing a bit and following the Thames a bit, only to duck in and glide over Buckingham Palace, swooping low and skimming the water in St. James Park before climbing into the air to catch the last bit of the setting sun as it slipped below the horizon.

=+=

Harry floated over the darkening city, trying to think of where to go.

He only had one choice, really. He couldn't go to Diagon Alley, as sooner or later he'd come to the Ministry's attention, and he'd end up back in Azkaban before he knew it. Either that or kissed.

He briefly toyed with a mental image of the Ministry sentencing him to the Kiss, and instead of him losing his soul to the Dementor, him draining it as he did to the four he'd destroyed that morning. He wondered how would they react if he casually destroyed their ultimate weapon? Label him a Dark Lord for sure, and probably chop off his head or something.

No, he couldn't go to Diagon Alley. Nor could he go to the Dursley's. They would be just as likely to kill him as look at him after Voldemort tortured them looking for him.

The only place he could go, the only place he could hope to be safe, was with his Godfather.

There was only one problem with that - he didn't know where his Godfather was. All he had was a vague address - Grimmauld Place. Not even a street address. Heck, he wasn't even certain that it was a street, it may be a community in London, like Little Whinging was in Surrey. But it was all he had to go on.

Hoping that by asking around he may get at least a general idea of where to go, he looked for a quiet, isolated place near lots of people that he could land and return to Human, so he could ask directions. After a while he spotted a small alley off a busy road, with lots of foot traffic, and only a small group of people near the front of the alley.

Gliding to the back of the alley, he settled down on the ground for the first time that day, and with a brief bit of concentration, he shifted his Template back to his hybrid Human form.

He glanced down and frowned at his clothes, rags really, and decided he should take a few moments to clean up before accosting perfect strangers for directions to someplace he could at best vaguely describe.

Holding out his hand he summoned his shrunken trunk, a brief wash of joy flooding over him as it's slight weight once more appeared in his palm.

He settled it on the ground against the right hand corner of the walls, and with a softly uttered "Restario Engorgio" he caused it to enlarge. As it finished growing, he placed his hand on the control pad, and asked for the Bedroom.

He then opened the lid and climbed down inside, closing the top behind himself.

=+=

An alarm started chiming in the Department of Mysteries.

All day long they had been trying in vain to activate any of the tracking charms on the escaped prisoners. So far they had found three of the fourteen prisoners, and one missing boy. One had been died, having splinched himself in escaping the island, the other two hiding in various locations. All three had responded immediately when their trackers were activated, although the tracker on the splinched one had failed almost immediately after activation, not having a source of magic to use to sustain itself for more than a few brief moments. The other eleven prisoners had also responded for a while that morning, however attempts to apparate to the described location failed, and attempts to locate the area with other means had also been unsuccessful, and earlier that afternoon all fourteen traces had disappeared, first one, then after a brief pause, the other thirteen winked out one after the other until all were silent.

But the most troubling failure, the one which had the newly appointed Minister breathing down their necks all day long was the one for the missing boy, Harry Potter.

Every attempt to activate his tracker had fizzled, as though he simply didn't exist. Similarly, any other type of tracking charm, from the simplest "Point-Me" to the most obscure divination spells, nothing seemed to work, as far as their best minds could tell, Harry Potter had vanished from the universe. Working under the assumption that something was obscuring their searches, they had finally in frustration set up a charm to repeatedly attempt to activate the tracking charm and provide an audible response if it succeeded. This was the cause of the alarm.

But by the time the closest Unspeakable was able to get to the modified scrying bowl they had used and try to retrieve a set of apparition coordinates, whatever had been obscuring Potter had reasserted itself, or rather something was now obscuring Potter - the tracking charm was definitely receiving a signal, the only problem was that the coordinates were gibberish, as though wherever he was at was unplottable and inaccessible.

Despite the failure of the charm to provide a location this was greater success than had been seen so far today, and the Unspeakable on duty happily launched a small flock of paper airplanes notifying several people from the DMLE, the Unspeakables, and even the new Minister herself of the change in the situation. If nothing else they at least now knew that Harry Potter was alive.

=+=

Nymphadora Tonks had managed to get her name on the short-list of Aurors selected to go when they got a location for Harry. She had informed her supervisors that she knew him from her last two years at Hogwarts, and had convinced them that after his recent treatment at the hands of the Ministry that a familiar face might be a good thing to have with the group assigned to bring him back.

She had been overwrought all day long, ever since the news of the attack on Azkaban had come out. She was so angry at herself for allowing Dumbledore to convince her that Harry would be safe there from Voldemort at least that even the news her cousin had finally been cleared wasn't enough to raise her spirits. All she could think of was how poor Harry had been a few days ago when she had given him the trunk, How his eyes had seemed to be losing their ability to function after over two months in the dark. And how he had still held hope that she could get him out of there, but had been willing to trust her and hadn't insisted she take him with her immediately.

Why she hadn't used the trunk to try and smuggle him out she didn't know. The idea had occurred to her several times. She had considered setting the trunk to return to her home, then having him climb in and recall it from inside, but hadn’t been sure how the wards of the prison would react to the trunk trying to leave via magical means, especially if it contained a prisoner.

Similarly, she had considered just leaving the trunk on her person with Harry safe inside, and taking him home that way, but again she hadn't been sure she'd be able to get it onto the island undetected, getting it off didn't seem like it would work, as surely the Unspeakables had considered such a plan in the past and had taken steps to prevent it.

But when she had gone to the island this morning, in response to the announcement that the wards were down and prisoners were escaping, she had held out hope that one of the escaping prisoners was Harry. Later learning that the DMLE now knew of Harry's presence, and was aware he shouldn't have been there, and that the Ministry had acted illegally to put and keep him there in the first place had raised her spirits significantly, until she learned the target of the assault seemed to have been Harry's cell.

A passing thought had been that Harry may have caused the damage himself by trying to use the trunk for escape, and the wards had reacted violently to the attempt, but after seeing the damage to the lowest floors of the prison she had to discard that theory. Whatever destroyed the lower levels was powerful. The fact it was able to strip all the wards from the entire island, and neutralize all the wand cores, and actually harm the supposedly indestructible Dementors, these all added up to something or someone, like Voldemort, after Harry. And when she added in the rampant rumors from the Ministry about the attack earlier the previous evening, and the prophecy Voldemort heard about Harry, the timing made a chilling sense.

Still, as soon as she could get away from the island, she had checked her living room as best she could for any sign of the trunk in its shrunken state, however the fact that she wasn't keyed into it's notice-me-not charm made her lack of success frustratingly inconclusive. Harry could be dying inside the shrunken trunk which could be laying in the center of her coffee table, and she'd never know unless she caught a glimpse of it from the corner of her eye.

Her dark mood had grown all day long, as her subconscious convinced her the boy was dead, and it was her fault for leaving him there despite Sirius's pleas that she do something, go to her bosses, go to the papers, something to get him out of the prison. She was blaming herself for his death for the 1000th plus time when the paper airplane from the Department of Mysteries sailed over to her desk, landing and unfolding itself into a piece of parchment.

The note said that the tracking charm on Harry had finally activated, that it had remained active, indicating he was alive, but that the trace was inconclusive as to location. Immediately Tonks realized she knew where he was - he was in the trunk. The trunk was inherently unplottable, not just hidden with an unplottable charm, but literally impossible to plot from outside. Even House Elves would not be able to answer their master's call inside the trunk according to the salesperson.

Tonks spirits had soared as she made her way towards the Department of Mysteries. Harry was alive. And while she didn't know where the trunk was, she knew he was in it. Too bad she couldn't tell anyone.

=+=

Harry collected a full set of Muggle clothes, from socks and underwear to shirt and pants, even a nice pair of trainers, then had made his way to the Bathroom.

He had never realized a shower could feel so good. By the time he was done his skin had started to get all wrinkly, but he didn't care. He swiftly dried off using one of the wondrously soft white towels, then pulled on the clothes, only to find they were quite a bit too small.

Apparently whoever had purchased them for him had been using older measurements, or he had been more successful in his "Enlarge Harry" program than he had realized.

In either case, he would have to change the clothes or himself to fit, and since he lacked a wand with which to change the clothes, that left himself. Fortunately this was something he had gotten experience with over the past few weeks in prison.

Settling himself on the bed in the bedroom, Harry closed his eyes, blocked out his Energy sense, and concentrated on bringing up his Master Template. Carefully he tweaked the image, noting that if he tried he could picture the clothes on top of the body in the template. They seemed to have been there all along, just so faint that they were almost invisible unless he concentrated on them.

He slowly pushed the limbs in until they fit the sleeves and pant legs, he slightly shrunk the feet to fit the shoes without pressing in on the toes, and he compressed the torso until the pants and shirt met properly.

When he was happy with the results, he released the changes, and felt his body shift around. Opening his eyes again, he returned to the bathroom to look at himself in the full sized mirror which took up the entire wall opposite the ladder.

Satisfied with the results of his morph, Harry turned to the ladder and climbed back up and exited into the alley.

He shrunk the trunk and placed it in his pocket, before turning towards the front of the alley and the group of people he could vaguely make out milling around in the shadows there.

=+=

Once more the tone of the alarm changed in the Department of Mysteries. But this time there was more than the single Unspeakable present. Almost everyone who had received an airplane had come to see the tracking bowl in person, including Madame Bones.

So it was no surprise that as soon as a set of coordinates were announced by the Unspeakable monitoring the bowl that several people dashed for the exit.

Hopefully Harry would be brought back shortly.

=+=

Lord Voldemort looked up from the book he was searching through as several of his lower level Deatheaters apparated in, disturbing the quiet of his study.

"My lord, we have a location for Potter." One of them gasped out of breath.

Voldemort scowled at the trio of his followers and demanded, "Then why are you here? Go, all of you, and kill him. I promise a place at my side to the one who brings me his head."

With a glance between themselves, all three donned their masks and apparated away again, leaving Voldemort alone once more in his study.

He set aside the book he'd been pursuing. Perhaps he wouldn't have to try and sever the link after all. Things were finally looking up.

=+=

Harry walked up the alley towards the group of five people he could see standing in the darkness just this side of the busy sidewalk.

As he got closer to them, he noticed that something about them just didn't look right.

Granted, he hadn't seen many people with the Dementor Vision he'd picked up in prison, mostly just Tonks, and then the Aurors and various prisoners he'd passed on his way out of Azkaban, and all of those had been seen using only the Dementor Vision, as opposed to the hybrid Human-Bird-Dementor vision he was using now. Had he been limited to only his human eyesight he would never have seen the five figures clustered to one side of the dark alley. But to the energy senses from the Dementors they stood out like candles in the darkness. But when he looked past them to the rest of the pedestrians passing along the street, their candles were more like birthday candles to a 60 watt bulb. The pedestrians passing along practically glowed with energy, much as the Aurors and prisoners had to his Dementor Vision earlier that morning. By comparison the five figures cloaked in darkness were a dying flashlight, its batteries failing and the bulb barely putting out any light at all, while the rest of the people he could see looked like the flashlights in an Eveready commercial.

His musings were interrupted when a young girl, about his age, who glowed even brighter than anyone else he had ever seen, stepped into the alley and walked up to the dark figures.

He was too far away to make out her words, so he started to close the distance, hoping he could discern what made her different from the other pedestrians, and the figures in the dark equally as different in the opposite direction.

As he closed he could hear one of the five, a taller man and apparently the leader of his group replying, "…ell Breakfast doesn't usually deliver itself, but who am I to complain if someone wants to volunteer to take the edge off my hunger."

The other four moved to block any possible rout of escape for the girl, and they slowly drove her deeper into the alley, away from the street and towards Harry.

One of them looked up and noticed Harry standing there watching them and she spoke up, "Looks this might be like our night tonight, boys. We've got a second volunteer for breakfast."

"Good, then we won't all have to share the bint." One of the others said.

"I dunno. He looks kinda scrawny ta me." The fourth interjected, looking between the girl who looked a bit put out at his presence for some reason and himself.

Harry was just starting to wonder if there was anything he could do to defend himself and the girl against what he had recognized had to be a pack of Vampires when the girl took it on herself to break up the party.

"Actually, I don't think you're going to be puttin' the bite on anyone." She said with an American accent, as she pulled a wooden stake from behind her back and slammed it into the chest of the Vampire who'd spoken to her first.

The vampire cried in pain as fire erupted from the hole around the stake, causing the girl to jump back in shock and knock the female vampire over onto the ground.

Her voice cried out "Crap, not Cat's Claw! What the fuck do vamps burst into flames instead of dusting!"

Harry was about to jump the vampire closest to him when he heard a series of pops from the closed off end of the alley.

Stepping away from the vampires for a moment, he swung around to look behind himself, only to find Tonks and three other Aurors had just apparated into the alleyway.

"Wotcher Harry" Tonks said with a smile.

"Tonks?" he asked in shock at her sudden appearance.

"It's ok, Harry. We’re not here to take you back to Azkaban. Minister Fudge's been replaced, and..." Tonks trailed off as her eyes took in the fight between the girl and two of the male vampires behind him, as well as the burning vampire on the ground blocking the exit from the alley. "What's going on here?" she asked.

"Vampires" Harry replied as he ducked a lunge from the Vampire he'd been planning to attack.

The other Aurors had pulled their wands out and were preparing to launch curses at the dark creatures so were totally unprepared when three more forms apparated into the alley behind them.

Before anyone knew what was happening, Tonks was hit from behind by a purple curse and collapsed with a cry of pain to the ground, splattering Harry and the other three Aurors with blood as she fell.

"It's a trap" one of the other Aurors called out, even as he was hit by the sickly green light of the Killing Curse.

Harry dove for the wand still held in Tonks's hand, plucking it from her limp fingers as he rolled on the ground to avoid a red colored curse fired at him from one of the two remaining Aurors.

"Shoot at the Deatheaters, not me!" Harry called as he fired an Expelliarmus at one of the black robed figures, blowing it back into a wall and sending it's wand sailing over his shoulder and into the continuing melee behind him between the girl and the vampires.

He noticed that the Aurors had indeed turned their attention to the remaining pair of Deatheaters, one of them firing a Reducto in response to the Crucio which was being launched at his partner.

The Deatheater dodged the blue light, dropping his Cruciatus, which left the Auror still groaning on the ground, and launched a green AK back at the still active Auror.

Meanwhile Harry was busy with his own Deatheater. Having taken one out of the fight, the second apparently chose him as the greatest threat, and fired another Killing Curse at him. With no place to dodge, Harry tried the only thing he could think of at the moment, and Accioed the closest Vampire.

The male vampire which had lunged at him when the Deatheaters had first shown up flew through the air, right into the path of the green light, which impacted it in the back, causing it to explode into a ball of flame, which faded from sight.

Harry fired another Expelliarmus at the Deatheater, but his target ducked the scarlet blast, before launching a purple spell at Harry in return.

Rolling out of the way, Harry let the purple light splash off the wall behind him. As he rolled back to his feet, he took note in passing that the girl had retrieved the wand he'd blasted out of the first Deatheater's hand, and had apparently used it to stake another of the Vampires, leaving only the female and a single male left from the original group of five. He took in the trail of colored pixie-sparks flowing from the end of the wand as she spun in the air to plant the end of the wand into the chest of her last male opponent, pulling it back out and kicking away as his body burst into flames to join the other one still smoldering on the floor of the alley, next to the charred remains of the first Vampire she'd killed.

Returning his attention to his own fight, Harry fired a Flipendo at his opponent, then dodged to his left, painfully slamming into the wall on that side as the pink curse was reflected back at him from some sort of shield.

Trying again, Harry launched a Stupefy with all his strength, actually feeling the resistance from the spell being forced through Tonks's wand and out towards his opponent.

It impacted on the same shield, but instead of bouncing back as the Flipendo had, it seemed to plow on through, dispelling a strange green aura in the air with its passing, before blasting the Deatheater backwards into the wall with enough force to crack his skull, and leave a trail of blood as his body slumped to the ground.

The still active Auror at that point, possibly distracted by Harry's actions, was caught on his wand arm by a blue curse, and screamed in pain as his arm exploded into a shower of bone fragments and gore.

Harry took the opportunity to fire an Incendio at the remaining Deatheater, setting his robes aflame.

The Deatheater gave a high pitched scream of pain, and vanished with the plop sound of an activated portkey, leaving Harry alone in the alleyway with at least two injured Aurors, one stunned Deatheater, another stunned but also possibly dead Deatheater, a dead Auror, and the girl and the last Vamp who were still fighting behind him.

Turning he caught the last moments of the fight as the girl slammed the tip of the wand once more into a Vampire's chest, dancing back moments later with a practiced ease as the female vampire also burst into flame, even as the body of the last male vampire finally crumbled into smoking ashes.

She looked over towards him and took in the bodies surrounding him in the alleyway. "So, boy-toy, you do this often?" she asked with a sultry voice and a slight grin.

Harry could only shake his head in denial as he made his way over to Tonks to see what he could do to help her.

The girl stepped closer, the wand still held in her hand, and she asked, "So, you're a magic user, right?"

Harry nodded as he knelt beside Tonks and rolled her over to see the devastation which had once been her back.

"Good guy or bad guy? I wasn't really able to tell, bein' as I was busy with the fang-gang back there, but it seemed like the guys in the black robes and masks, they were bad, which would make the guys in the red robes who aren't 'fraid to show their faces good most likely, but then they seemed to be shootin' at you as well, so I've gotta ask."

Harry frowned at her before pointing the wand at Tonks and trying a Episkey on Tonks, hoping that the healing spell would have some effect.

"Woah, there" the girl said, stepping up beside him, "Why ya shooting the hurt chick in the back?"

"Healing spell" Harry replied, trying again with as much effort as he could, once more feeling the resistance as he forced the magic through the wand, and noticed that it warmed noticeably in his hand. The light blue spell washed once more over Tonks's back, and there was a visible change as the wounds stopped seeping blood, while Tonks gave another moan and seamed to settle down a bit.

"Then I guess that answers the Good-Guy/Bad-Guy question, both for you and the folks in red. So, what's your name? Mine's Faith."

Deciding he'd managed as best he could for the moment, he cast a Ferula at her back, covering the wounds with bandages before turning to the moaning Auror who was holding on to the stump of his shattered arm as he rolled on the ground. "Harry" he said over his back as he tried casting another over-powered Episkey at the man's arm, hoping to staunch the bleeding. He dropped Tonks's wand as it heated to painful levels, and the wash of blue light had little effect when it impacted the open surface of the wound. Instead Harry reached to his pants and pulled off his belt, taking it and wrapping it just below the Auror's shoulder.

The man passed out as Harry pulled the strap tight and tried to tie it off.

Harry picked Tonks's wand up and pointed it at the first Deatheater he'd hit, casting a quick Petrificus Totalus at the unmoving form, but frowning when nothing happened.

"You break your stick?" the girl asked, holding out the slightly scorched wand she'd used to dispatch three vampires, "You can have mine. It's not a bad stake, but it's kinda flimsy, and the twinkly light thingies are distracting."

Harry took the offered wand, sliding Tonks's wand into his back pocket, even as Moonie's admonition NEVER to put your wand there unless you want to blow your butt off echoed through his head.

Another application of Petrificus Totalus, and the Deatheater was in a full body bind. A few moments later, and the second Deatheater was likely restrained, although from the stillness of his form he likely wasn't going anywhere in any event.

Finally, with the girl still trailing behind, he approached the Auror who was laying on the ground moaning in pain as he recovered from the effects of the Cruciatus.

Kneeling down he asked the Auror, "Hey there, is there any way to get someone out here to help you?"

The girl behind him had pulled out a cell phone as the Auror looked up at him through his pain. "Potter, you all right?"

Harry nodded. "Good." the Auror said, then closed his eyes and passed out.

Harry turned to see the girl closing her phone. "I called my folks. They'll be here in a moment. Maybe they can help."

Harry frowned, "I doubt it. If anything they'll probably just add to the complications. More people to be obliviated once the rest of the Aurors get here." A sudden thought struck Harry, and he asked hopefully, "Unless they're Wizards?"

The girl started to laugh for some reason, and replied, "Nah, X and Cat ain't Wizards."

Suddenly an older man and woman stepped forward from the back of the alley, causing Harry to raise his wand. He hadn't heard any sounds of Apparition or Portkey travel, so he was stumped on where they could of come from.

The girl, Faith, stepped forward however, saying, "Chill. They're the 'Rents. I called 'em, remember?"

Harry slowly lowered the wand taking the pair in.

The man was in his late thirties or early forties, dark brown hair and brown eyes, wearing a pair of dark Dockers and a white T-Shirt underneath an unbuttoned Hawaiian Shirt depicting some island beach somewhere. The interesting thing about the shirt was he could swear the waves were slowly rolling up the beach.

The blonde woman beside him was a bit younger, perhaps in her early to mid thirties, with a slender, yet curvaceous frame. The most striking thing about her were her almost glowing green eyes, rather reminiscent of his own. She was dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a white tank top, showing a bit of cleavage.

"Hey Faith, what's up?" the man asked, looking around the alley as though unconcerned by the scattered bodies and obvious traces of combat visible all around.

"Got some really bad wounded, I was wondering if you and C could do your thing?" Faith asked.

The man, X, looked down at Tonks who was laying at his feet and frowned, then turned to catch the woman's eyes. They locked gazes for a bit before they both smiled at one another, and as Harry watched, the woman headed over to the injured Auror while X kneeled down and placed his hands gently on Tonks's back.

He looked up and said, "This one first. She hadn't much longer. It's goanna take our full effort." And then the woman nodded and stepped back from the unconscious Auror, before simply vanishing into thin air.

Suddenly X's hands started to glow with a yellow light, and Harry could see sparks, like electricity dancing over Tonks's back. She opened her eyes and screamed in pain, throwing her head back and bucking on the ground. Harry moved to intervene, but the girl, Faith grabbed his arm with an impossibly strong grip and murmured, "Let Xander do his thing. She'll be ok, you'll see. Getting healed that much hurts like a bitch, trust me I know, but it sure beats taking the long dirt-nap."

Slowly the light show died down, and Tonks relaxed back onto the ground, breathing evenly, before opening her eyes and looking around in a panic. "Harry!" She called out in concern.

The girl let him go and even as X, or Xander, stepped back, he was at Tonks's side, helping her to sit up.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Deatheaters. They attacked while we were talking. And Vampires, but Faith killed them." Harry paused a moment, then reached in his back pocket, and continued, "Oh, and I may have broken your wand."

As he was talking, he noticed that the blonde was back, now holding the stump of the Auror who had lost his arm and frowning at it as if trying to come to a decision. He could see X bending over the Deatheater he'd slammed into the wall, and shaking his head, before suddenly vanishing into thin air like the woman had done a few minutes before.

A masculine scream of pain came from beside him, causing both he and Tonks to whirl around, only to stare in amazement as the Auror laid on the ground, the stump of his arm glowing so brightly they had to look away, the alley seeming awash in daylight for a moment, before the light faded and his screams died away into a choked sob. A voice from behind them caused them to whirl again as X said, "The guy in the Scream costume over there is dead. I'm assuming you want his buddy to stay put, so I didn’t do anything to him. Your friend in the red robe who's passed out will be fine when he wakes up, he didn't need much, and the guy with the arm should be ok now, but we couldn't do anything for the other one, we were too late."

Harry frowned as he processed everything the man before him was saying, then he looked back at the other Auror who's arm had been glowing and was surprised to see his arm was now fully intact, the missing sleeve and his bloody robe the only signs that anything had happened.

"Uh, who, who are you?" Tonks asked from his side.

"Alexander and Cat Harris, at your service. Call me Xander" the man replied sticking out his hand towards Tonks.

=+=

Faith looked at the magic kid she'd met in the alley when huntin' the vamps which'd set of her evil-meter and interrupted her private exploration of this version of London.

Vacationing with the 'Rents was cool. The coolest part to her still was driving across the ocean in that kick-ass car Cat had made for X. She coulda sworn Xander was ready to cry when she led them down to the alley out back of the Raven and showed him the ride sitting there.

He'd grabbed her up and started making out so bad she was embarrassed for a moment, but then they settled down and started acting like the adults they were pretending to be, heck, they even shifted into their older looking personas for some reason before declaring 'Road Trip'.

X had asked her where she wanted to go, and as they started the motor she was feeling kinda bitchy, so just to be a pain she said, "England. I wanna go to England and see James Bond and all that shit."

X and Cat had laughed, like she was being funny, then they'd peeled out of the alley and hit the highway.

Before she knew it somehow they'd driven to New York City, but Faith was pretty sure they hadn't gone through any portals along the way, There'd been a few tunnels as they went through the hills, but there was no way they could drive from Toronto to New York city in like three hours. After stopping for dinner in New York though, Cat asked if she wanted to drive. X had started to protest, but then she pointed out that the last time they'd driven it he'd crashed the car. That shut him up real quick, though he made a face and said in a small voice "It was your idea. I liked that car."

Agreeing though, he handed her the keys, and bent over to whisper in her ear, "Whatever she tells you, don't let her make you crash the car. I like this car."

Faith had giggled. She had fucking giggled. She didn't giggle. Faith Janusson, or Harris, depending on where she was at the time didn't giggle. But she had.

It was a kick-ass day, especially compared to all the shit that had gone down the day before at her 'Rent's Graduation. She hoped when she graduated in two years that whoever the new mayor was didn’t try to become a huge fucking snake and eat her class.

At least they'd been able to kill it. Too bad about the Library though. And the Gym. At lest most of the school was still there. Sort of.

Anyhow, as X had settled in into the back, and Cat had taken up Shotgun, Faith had turned on the engine and started the car. It was like the sweetest ride she'd ever seen. It was something called a Cord, and it had these cool silver pipes coming out of the old fashioned front end, and these long square windows in the front.

She couldn't help it, it made her think of this really corny movie from when she was a kid, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, the engine in the Cord didn't make noises like that, more like a purring lion, a really big, really happy purring lion, but for some reason the damn song from the movie had started looping through her head as she drove towards the harbor at Cat's directions.

Then shit started getting weird. Not that living with X and Cat didn't mean weird shit wasn't normal for her, like, how could it not be when your Kitchen is on the second floor over a vampire club in Toronto Canada, and the Dining Room was in a basement across from the school in Sunnydale California, in a totally different reality, and seven years apart. Or the fact that the actual devil's head was stored in a glass box on the Living Room table as a conversation piece. And said conversations may include Arch-Angles and Elder Gods. Hell, X and C were a god somehow that still made her head hurt to think about it. But even for all of that, this got frigging weird, as she suddenly started to sing the fucking song out loud while driving the car. After a moment, Cat started to sing along too, while X snored away in the back seat.

And then the car was fucking flying. In the fucking air. Over the water, she realized suddenly towards England. And she was still fucking singing, then a portal opened up, and she drove right through it X sleeping in the back, and C singing that fucking Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang song along with her, and she realized she felt stupidly happy about the whole thing.

Finally they got to England, it didn't take long, and it was already morning when they landed started driving, but then Cat had her pull over so they could switch drivers.

She wasn't too pissed off, it had been kinda fun to drive a flying car and stuff, but even though she'd just taken Driver's Ed that last semester, driving on the backwards side of the road was starting to freak her out - she was scared someone would run into her head-on.

So they pulled into a parking lot, and Cat got out and switched places with her, then they started the engine up again, which woke X in the back, and he sat up, took in the road signs, asked where they were, was told London, said "Ok dear" and went back to sleep.

Soon they stopped at a hotel, and Cat woke X up again, and he checked them in using his real name, but looking like the older Janusson persona. When she checked, her ID said "Faith Harris" and Cat was going by Cat Harris as well. She was kinda happy about that, because she still had a hard time believing from time to time that anyone would want her, let alone someone like Cat and X, who could have whatever they wanted if they really cared.

She'd scoped out the rooms, staked the smaller one as her own, and had crashed, telling X and C that she'd go out later to check out the town. They told her to be sure to take her phone and that she should have plenty of money in her wallet. They didn't tell her to stay outa trouble, probably 'cause they knew better than that, but Cat did tell her she loved her and to be careful, that this was a new London for all of them.

So she'd crashed for a while, then when the sun went down she'd changed her clothes, grabbed her wallet, phone, and Cat's Claw, her lucky stake, hell about her only stake these days, and after slipping a room key in her back pocket had hit the streets.

London was cool in a weird, other place kinda way. The people all spoke English, but it was like English English, not normal English, so some of the things they said were really weird, and she was kinda digging the accents everyone had as well.

Then she'd felt the vamps. There were five of 'em, four guys and a chick, all hangin in an alley waitin' for someone to come by that looked tasty.

She could tell from her evil-meter that these were nasty vamps, like the ones back in Sunny-D, or the occasional ones she was asked to take care of by the Enforcers in what X called FK-World, for the TV show from when Xander was growing up.

So she'd stopped and offered herself, playing the 'Little lost runaway' routine, even better since they could tell she wasn't a local from her accent, and she went with them towards the back of the alley, even though she wanted to kill the tall one right away when he went with the corny breakfast line, like she hadn't heard that one over fifty times before. Really, the stupid vamps needed to pool together and hire some new writers 'cause their dialogue was all crap.

Just about the time she was ready to go for it, some kid showed up from a bit further down the alley.

He set off her radar as well, but not in an evil way, more in a weird and powerful way, which was pretty normal for her with the kids she hung out with, kids like X's friends Willow and Amy, who were Witches, Or Jono who was a Wizard, or even Cordy, who was just a Cheerleader, but still set off her radar to a small degree for some reason.

Anyhow, this kid was just there all of a sudden, making the Vamps really happy 'cause now they got two happy-meals instead of just one.

Faith decided to make her move before the kid got hurt, and pulling out Cat's Claw, she shoved it in the big vamp's chest.

That's when things turned to shit.

Instead of Dusting like the Vamps in Sunny-D did, or just fallin' down dead like the ones in FK-World, this bastard burst into flames, taking her stake with him.

Faith'd jumped back, knocking two of the other vamps down, then there were these funny pops, like fire crackers, and four more people who set off her alarms like the kid did, although none as strongly as him, had appeared, all wearin' these stupid red bathrobes. She figured some kinda cult or some shit. Probably bad guys, but they were talkin' to the kid not fighting.

Faith was kind of busy dealing with the vampires since she had no stake and wasn't able to find anything usable in the alley, damn English people must keep the things clean for some stupid reason, so she was just knocking two of them around, the bitch for some reason standing back and watching, while the fourth one was tryin' for the kid still.

Then three more pops came, this time making people in black robes with white masks appear, and these seemed to be the bad guys for sure, They shot some light at the chick in the red robe who seemed to know the kid, and really fucked her up. Then they shot at the kid, but he'd already shot something at one of them and knocked him into the wall, more importantly to her though, he'd also knocked the guy's stick right over to her. She wasted no time at all grabbing the stick and putting it where it belonged in the closest vamp, pulling it back out before it could get on fire like Cat's Claw had.

She saw the kid somehow toss the vamp after her into the way of one of those light thingies, making him go poof in a ball of fire, which was cool, 'cause that just left the two she was fighting to deal with, the robe folks could deal with one another for a while as far as she cared.

She did have to duck a red light at one point, but other than that, all she had to do was stake the last guy, and then the chick.

The kid finished taking out the black robed guys about the same time she finished off the vamp-chick, so she went over to introduce herself, and make sure that he wasn't a wannabe big bad of some sort, despite the good vibes she was getting off him.

She watched as he zapped the chick he'd been talking to with blue light, then as he went to do it again asked him what he was doing. He said he was trying to heal her, so she let him, watching as he cast another spell which covered her in bandages when the blue light didn't seem to be doing much more.

He then tried the blue light on a guy who'd lost his arm to one of those spells, dropping his stick when he did so.

When that didn't seem to do much, he pulled his belt off and used it to tie the guy's arm so he wouldn't bleed to death.

He then picked up his stick and pointed it at one of the guys in the black robes, but nothing happened.

Faith asked him if he'd broken his stick, and offered him the one she'd used to dust, er, scortch the vamps.

He took it and zapped both of the Black Robe guys with some sort of spell, then had gone over to the one Red Robe guy who wasn't dead or injured. The guy was just laying on the ground moaning, like he'd been kicked really hard in the balls or something. The kid asked the guy about backup, but all the guy did was ask the kid, Harry, if he was ok, then pass out.

At that point she decided that if the kid needed help, she should call in the 'Rents. They could at least help out with the injured, and she needed to tell Cat she'd let her special stake burn up in the first vamp.

She pulled out Cell and called for X. "Yo, X, I gotta sitch here, and I could use you and Cat here ASAP."

As soon as he said "Ok", she flipped the phone closed and went to tell Harry that help would be on the way. He seemed to doubt they'd be able to help, then he asked if they were Wizards.

Faith had just finished reassuring him that they weren't Wizards, when the guy jumped like a cat who'd gotten his tail stepped on.

He whirled around and raised his wand, pointing it at Xander and Cat as they stepped into the alley from wherever they'd been when she'd called them.

"Chill. They're the 'Rents. I called 'em, remember?" she told him, stepping between him and X, so he wouldn't accidentally shoot his stick at Xander and piss him off. She could almost see Xander pulling his sword out and cutting the kid to pieces for shooting colored lights at him or something.

The kid dropped his stick and stood back as X asked her what was up.

She told him, and waited as her 'Rents did their consensus thing, arguing inside their heads about what to do, and the best way to do it.

Finally they came to an agreement, and X went to the chick, while C took a look at the dude with the arm blown off.

Xander called out to Cat, "This one first. She hadn't much longer. It's goanna take our full effort." And started to do his thing.

Cat vanished into Xander's head, so they could both put their full effort into helping the woman who looked like she'd been hit in the back with a shotgun at point blank range, only there wasn't a hole all the way through her like an actual shotgun woulda made.

As the woman started screaming Faith reached out to stop the kid from getting in the way, holding him back until she was fixed up. She tried to reassure him telling him, "Let Xander do his thing. She'll be ok, you'll see. Getting healed that much hurts like a bitch, trust me I know, but it sure beats taking the long dirt-nap." Shuddering a bit as she remembered her encounter with the spiky blue guy who'd gutted her like a fish. She'd died that night, and it was something she'd never forget - Cat and Xander had literally brought her back to life, but she remembered it had hurt like hell and then some.

When X had finished, and Cat was back, Faith let the kid go, just as his friend looked up and called out "Harry!"

Faith watched as she asked the kid what happened, and he replied, "Deatheaters. They attacked while we were talking. And Vampires, but Faith killed them."

Apparently the wannabes in the black robes were called Deatheaters. What a stupid name.

She then watched as X jumped into Cat's head. She wasn't sure if their ability to do that was cool or not. The thought of having someone else literally being a part of you was kinda creepy.

The Red Robe guy started screaming as Cat worked to replace his arm, apparently having decided to go all the way rather than just heal the stump and leave him a cripple.

When she was done, X came back and went to check on the dudes in the black robes, then the guy who'd been stomped in the balls.

Faith saw X telling the chick in red and Harry what the what was with everyone, then when the babe in the bathrobe asked, he gave her his name and offered her his hand.

Faith had seen it before, where he'd introduced himself and the other party just stood there dumbly. Of course sometimes they were scared shitless, but this time the chick just looked at his hand, then up at him, then back down at his hand, before finally reaching out and taking it, "Nymphadora Tonks, call me Tonks or die. So you're an American?"

Xander nodded. "Yes. We're here on vacation. Looking to see the sights, and maybe meet a spy or two, do you perchance know a James Bond?"

Nymphadora-call-me-Tonks-or-die looked confused for a moment then broke out laughing.

Faith scowled. Laughing was not a good sign, was it?

"Did you ask about James Bond? Like Doubble-Oh-Seven James Bond?" She asked, getting herself under control.

Xander nodded "Do you know him?"

Tonks started laughing again, while Harry looked between her and Xander in confusion.

Finally Tonks answered, "You do know he's just a Muggle Movie character, right?"

Xander shrugged, "Ok. I can accept that. So, do you know him?" he asked again.

Now Faith was confused. If X knew the guy didn't exist, then why was he still asking like he was real?

Tonks shook her head and replied, "Nope. Never met 'em. But I've seen all the movies."

Xander smiled and relied, "Yeah, I've seen a bunch of them back home as well. I wonder if they're the same here. Anyhow, if you do run across him in the next week or so, let him know we're in town and would like to meet him."

Faith was really confused now. Xan-Man had lost it or something, but Tonks replied politely, in her best 'placate the mental patient' voice, "I'll do so."

=+=

Xander looked over as Faith ambled up to him, a strange look on her face. "Uh, X, if you know JB's fake here, why're ya askin' ta meet him?"

Xander grinned and replied, "Faith, just because they have movies about someone doesn't mean they're not real. We told you about the people at the SGC, and that TV show Wormhole Extreme, didn't we?"

Faith nodded, and Xander continued. "If I was a super-spy and I wanted to keep a really good cover, I might pretend not to exist either. But there's one other reason I went ahead and asked."

"What's that?"

"We're here. What was it you said when we asked you where you wanted to go?"

"To England, to see James Bond." Faith replied.

Xander smiled and said, "Exactly. And if we're here, then it is only reasonable that in this here there IS a James Bond in England."

Faith's eyes widened as the implication sunk in. "You mean, the flying car and all that, that was because of me?"

Xander shrugged, "Cat and I, we wanted to give you a nice vacation. So we set it up with Mike. Whatever you wanted, if it could be done, you'd get it. So since we're here, then that means we're here because it's where you wanted to be."

Faith frowned. "I didn’t want to go huntin' Vamps. Oh crap! I forgot."

Xander watched as Faith ran off, heading over to where Cat was talking quietly with the Auror who's arm she'd replaced. At some point in the past few minutes she's also repaired his robes. Oddly while they still had blood on them, none of it was from his exploded arm. Quickly checking the echo of his wife inside his mind, he saw that she'd decided to remove the incident from his mind, instead making him think he'd been knocked out with a stunning spell.

"Who's Mike?" a young male voice asked from his side.

Xander turned and saw the young man who Faith had said she'd been helping out, standing beside him. "Mike is a friend of the family." Xander answered, looking at the boy beside him. There was something odd about him, and not just the strange lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead either.

"So, what's your name?" he asked the boy in interest.

"Harry. Harry Potter. And you're X?"

Xander laughed, "Only Faith calls me X. My name's Xander. Short for Alexander Harris."

Cat had come up behind him, leaving Faith over with the three folks in red robes, and added with a laugh in her voice, "Short for Alexander Harris and a whole lot of titles he means."

The boy frowned for a second at this, then asked, "And you're not Wizards?"

Xander looked at Cat and wondered for a moment if this was a Gozer question, but deciding it probably wasn't answered honestly, "Nope."

"Then how did you fix up Tonks and the other Auror?" he asked in confusion. "That was better than any Healing Spell I've ever seen."

Xander grinned and answered, "It's, just a thing we do. Sometimes."

"What else do you do?" Harry asked.

Xander shrugged, "Kill Vampires, tend bar, used to go to school until last week, save the world on odd occasions."

Harry was really confused now. "I thought Muggles didn't know about vampires or magic?"

Now it was Xander's turn to be confused, "What's a Muggle?"

Harry shrugged, "I they're people who don't know about and can't use magic."

Xander grinned and answered, "Then there ya go. We're not Muggles."

Harry looked over at Faith and asked, "The girl, Faith, she's your daughter?"

Cat and Xander exchanged another glance before nodding, "Yep. Why?"

"Does she go to a Magic School?" he asked.

Xander shook his head, "No. She goes to the same school Cat and I just came from. Perfectly normal, other than sitting on top of a mouth to hell, that is."

"I think she's a witch." Harry answered.

Cat frowned, but Xander interjected, "Why would you think she's a witch?"

"When she held the wand, the one she used after her stick"

"Stake" Xander interjected.

"Stake got burned up, it was leaving a trail of sparks."

"And?" Xander asked, not quite understanding.

"It wouldn't do that for Muggles." Harry explained.

"But we're not Muggles." Xander replied.

Harry shook his head, but before he could reply again, there were several more pops, and another group of people wearing red robes, along with a few wearing Aqua robes appeared at the back end of the alley.

Looking around, they immediately started gathering the pair of black robed bodies. "This one's dead" came a call from the red robed man who had moved to the body slumped against the wall.

"Got a live one here" the woman standing over the other called. "Banged up and seems to be in a Body Bind."

"Get them back to Headquarters. Process the live one, and ID the dead one. We'll handle the paperwork on this end." One of the Red robed figures called, apparently in charge.

One of the people in an Aqua robe came up to Xander and asked him, "Do you have a card?"

Xander looked confused and asked, "What kind of card?"

The man in the robe asked, "Are you a Wizard, or related to a Wizard?

Starting to think it may be a Gozer question after all, Xander said, "No, I am not a Wizard, nor am I related to a Wizard."

Nodding the man pulled out his wand and pointed it at Xander's face, before muttering "Obliviate."

=+=

Harry looked up as he heard a CRACK sound, almost like apparition, but a lot sharper and louder.

A wizard in Aqua robes was standing in front of Xander, who held a sword in his hand.

The wizard had his arm outstretched with half a wand pointing towards Xander's head, the other half still falling thorough the air towards the ground.

Everyone in the alleyway froze, and suddenly Harry locked up in a rictus of pain, unable to move or even scream, as both Xander and Cat literally exploded with normally unseen energy, literally burning Harry's Dementor Senses away with the overload, much like would happen to ones eyes if they looked at an exploding atom bomb from only a mile away.

His Bird Vision was only barely able to adapt, as streams of magical energy poured out of both Xander and the sword he was holding, reaching towards every red or aqua robed wizard in the alleyway save Tonks, and wrapping them in, something.

As the broken part of the wand clattered on the ground, Xander spoke. "You will NEVER point a potentially deadly weapon in my general direction again. Understood?" he said coldly to the shuddering wizard before him, breaking the total silence of the alley.

The wizard, looked dumbly at the broken end of his wand, terminating abruptly less than an inch from the ends of his fingers, then he looked back at the man before him, a sense of threat palpably rolling off him as he glared at the wizard in obvious anger.

"Y-y-yes sir. I'm sorry." The wizard said in a quiet, broken voice.

Xander simply nodded, and said. "Very well. Don't do it again." Once more Harry saw streamers of magic stretch from the sword to wash over just that wizard this time, before fading away again.

Looking over at the still frozen Harry sharply, Xander's expression suddenly shifted, and with a stricken look on his face he rushed over to Harry's side.

"Crap!" Xander said, reaching a hand out to touch Harry's arm. As his fingers made contact, a wash of something cool and soothing flooded his body.

His muscles unlocked even as the pain faded away, his blasted nerves immediately healing, the pathways restored with a soft tingle of momentary beestings, then he was once more sensing the world around him with the Dementor Senses he had become accustomed to, despite the fact that Xander and Cat now glowed before him like a noon-day sun.

"I'm sorry Harry, I didn't realize that loosing control would hurt you like that. I'd noticed before that you were sensing us, but I hadn't thought. I'm sorry." Xander muttered as Cat came up behind him and placed a hand on Xander's shoulder.

"It's ok." Harry said. "What was that?"

Xander shrugged, "Most of the time I, and Cat tend to, er, suppress our power. Go stealth as it were. But if we lose control, sometimes we end up broadcasting at full force. I hadn't realized that doing so could overload your senses like that until I felt your pain."

Harry frowned, then asked, "You said you weren't Wizards. So, what are you?"

Xander offered a lopsided grin and replied, "I'm just a man on vacation."

As Harry rolled his eyes, an odd sense of familiarity rolling over him at the words, Cat spoke up. "Harry, how is your Mythology"

Harry shrugged, "I've studied most of the creatures with Hagrid, why?"

"What about deities and Pantheons?" Cat asked, a swirl of magic rolling off her to surround the four of them as Faith walked up behind him. Harry noticed that the Aurors in the alley all seemed to have forgotten about them for some reason, working on collecting their fellows and vanishing one by one, or when side-alonging one of their fellows, two by two, until only an arguing Tonks and the lead Auror were left in the alleyway with them.

"Hey Harr. I think what C and X are tryin' to tell you is that the're Gods. Or rather, a God. It's kinda freaky if you don't understand." Faith interjected.

Cat glared at her and said, "Yeah, but I wanted to put it less bluntly."

"Gods?" Harry asked, "Like I am the only Lord your god? Gods? Worship me or die gods?" Harry started to back away from the crazy, if powerful people before him.

"Gods, like in the ancient Greek, or in the case of my wife, Roman and Egyptian gods, yes." Xander said.

"C's pops is Janus, this really cool dude who's face is always changing depending on his mood or some shit. And her mom is Bast, this kick-ass Egyptian sun goddess who likes cats." Faith explained.

Xander looked over at Tonks, who was still arguing with the remaining Auror, who's wand had come out, and said, "Harry, we need to help your friend before that idiot does something he'll regret."

Harry looked up and saw what was going on, even as the swirl of magic around them dropped away, and suddenly he could clearly hear the voices of Tonks and the other Auror. "I don't care if the minister himself sent you. I am not leaving you here at a scene of an incident alone. You are coming with me back to headquarters now."

Tonks replied, "Not without Harry. I'm not going anywhere without Harry."

"And for the last time, there is no Harry here!" the other Auror exclaimed. "He's either left, or he went back to headquarters with one of the others."

"Actually, I'm right here" Harry said, stepping forward.

The Auror spun around in shock, raising his wand, but it seemed to take on a life of it's own and no matter what he did he couldn't get it to point towards Harry and the others standing behind him.

Tonks rushed over and grabbed Harry in a hug, saying "Oh Harry, are you ok? Where were you? I remembered you were here when the Response Team showed up, but then you were just gone."

Harry looked at her in confusion and answered, "I was right here. Talking to Xander and Cat."

"Who?" Tonks asked, then as her eyes settled on the figures behind him they widened, as though seeing them for the first time and she said, "I remember you, you saved me."

Xander smiled, and said, "Yeah, but don't spread it around."

Tonks seemed unsure what to make of that, but turned back to the Auror who was still struggling with his wand, trying to get it to point where he wanted it to, and failing for some reason. "See, I told you Harry was here. And the Minister HERSELF DID send us to collect him."

Hearing that, Harry was suddenly reminded of the brief conversation interrupted what seemed like ages ago by the appearance of the Deatheaters, and asked, "I thought you said you weren't here to take me back? I don't want to go back to prison!"

Cat frowned and stepped forward asking coldly, "What prison?"

"Azkaban" Harry said softly, like that was all the description she should need. He felt a soft ruffling suddenly through his mind and suddenly Cat's expression changed, flowing through horror, to sadness, and settling on anger. Anger directed at his friend Tonks.

"You left him there!" Cat said stepping forward towards Tonks, "What the hell were you thinking leaving a child in a place like that?"

Xander was suddenly standing behind him, his hands on both of his shoulders, and he bent over and said softly in Harry's ear, "Harry, first I want to apologize on behalf of my wife. She didn't know what Azkaban was, so she read your mind to find out, and saw your memories of your time there. She didn't mean to intrude on your privacy that way. Second, I want you to know you will NOT be going back there, or anywhere else you don't want to go. As of now you are under our protection. We both agree on that." Harry was confused as to how Xander could know what Cat had done, or why, and what she was thinking, but for the moment figured it was part of the God thing they'd been talking about and let it slide.

"I didn't have any bloody choice!" Tonks was saying, her own frustration evident on her face. "I wanted to take him out of there the moment I found him, but I couldn't very well take a prisoner and just walk out to the Apparition Point, and even if I did, the other guards sure as hell wouldn't of let me take him away with me! I asked Dumbledore to help me get him out. And he tried to tell me it was the safest place for him at the moment. When I could I got back to him, to let him know we hadn't forgotten about him, I even brought him a bloody trunk so he could get some decent food. I thought about trying to smuggle him out and to hell with Dumbledore, but I wasn't sure I wouldn't get caught. So tell me, other than joining him in the cell next door to his what the bloody hell you think I could have done that I didn't? Go to the papers? They would have kissed him and hidden the body before the owls carrying the first editions had returned to their roosts! And that's assuming the bloody papers, who were in Fudge's control even listened to me! No, Our only hope was to convince Albus-he's-safest-there-for-the-moment-bloody-Dumbledore to stage a rescue mission and raid the place before Fudge could do anything to hurt Harry!"

Cat backed down a bit, but then looked over at the other Auror who had stopped fighting with his wand and was simply staring at Tonks in shock, before he asked, "You were working against the Ministry? I'll have your badge for this! You can't smuggle things into Azkaban, it's against the law!"

Cat glanced over at him and said coldly, "Forget about it." Harry saw a stream of color come from her and wrap around him for a moment before fading away, and at that moment the Auror went back to playing with his wand which now didn't seem to want to even point anywhere towards the back of the alley, the tip sliding away like a pair of magnets repelling one another.

Harry looked over at Cat and said, "I don't blame Tonks. She tried to help. It's Dumbledore I blame, and Fudge. But Dumbledore putting me in a hellish prison is nothing new, he's been doing it all my life."

Cat frowned at that, and started to say something, but was cut off as Tonks spoke up, "Fudge wasn't the one who put you in Azkaban. It was his Under Secretary Umbridge. Fudge only inspired her to do it. But she's there now, and Fudge resigned when what she did came out. Madame Bones, my Boss's Boss is now in charge. And she wants to meet you and apologize for what was done to you, especially since she feels it was partly her fault, since she was one of the Judges who fell for Fudge's lies."

Harry looked doubtful at that, but Xander squeezed his shoulders, and suddenly he realized he felt safe. If what Xander had said, that he was under Xander's and Cat's protection, then perhaps things would be ok. "Alright. I'll go see her, if Xander and Cat come along."

"Yo H! what about me?" Faith asked.

Harry smiled and added, "Make that Xander, Cat, and Faith come along."

The Auror had once again stopped playing with his wand to say, "They're Muggles. They can't go to the Ministry."

Xander shrugged, and replied, "I doubt we're Muggles. And if Harry's going so are we."

Harry piped in, "Faith's a witch, I think."

Faith looked confused at that and said, "Nah, I don't go for any of that mumbo-jumbo. I leave that to Glenda, Red, and Gandalf. I don't have the patience for that meditation crap."

It was now Harry's turn to look confused. He looked back at Xander and said, "I thought you said she didn't go to a Magic School?"

Xander took a breath and answered, "Back home we don't have any schools for Magic. Just regular ones. If someone wants to study magic, they have to do it on their own, or from someone who already knows. Willow, Amy, and Jonathan, friends of ours back home are all studying under Mr. and Mrs. Giles, a retired mage and a techno-pagan."

Tonks answered, "If they want to go meet the Minister, I won't try and stop them." She looked pointedly at his wand which refused to point where he wanted it to, and added, "And I doubt you could either."

Not understanding her reference, as he no longer recalled the incident with the obliviator, he shrugged and said, "Well I'll leave it to you then, Auror Tonks.", and then he disaparated, leaving the five figures alone in the now empty alley.

=+=

This was arguably the longest most frustrating day of his life.

Early that morning, Sirius had been awakened by Moody who told him of the break-in at the Ministry, and that Pettigrew had been caught, and that the Wizengamot was holding an emergency session.

The next bit of news made his heart soar and caused him to literally dance around the house in joy.

By order of the Wizengamot he was free. FREE!

But only a few minutes later that all crashed down when news of the assault on Azkaban came in.

Apparently Voldemort, after learning that Harry was the only threat to his plans from the prophecy, had attacked the prison where Dumbledore had SWORN Harry would be safer than here, and had either killed or made off with Harry, and several of his Deatheaters.

Later news said that Harry was impossibly missing, as a tracking charm which had been added to all prisoners on the island while working for some, and visibly failing before apparently being removed from others, had simply failed to even activate for Harry. The most disturbing part of it was that even the dead escapee had shown a response to the tracker. For Harry however, it was as though he simply didn’t exist.

That had been the case all day long. And Sirius was distraught. What was the use of being free, if Harry wasn't there to enjoy his freedom with?

Finally, a bit after dusk, he received a floo call from the Ministry. He had previously contacted them and given them his floo address that afternoon so if they received any news on his missing godson they could notify him immediately.

So he was once more bouncing, if a little reservedly, when he heard that Harry's tracker had gone active, only 12 hours after it had been triggered.

He flood to the Ministry at once so he could be on hand when they got Harry back from whoever was holding him.

But that was when he learned that the tracker wasn't really working - it was responding, but the coordinates were garbage. Something was still blocking Harry's location.

So Sirius settled in to wait.

It wasn't a long wait however, before the signal started pumping out real coordinates. Everyone in the workroom in the Department of Mysteries was ecstatic as several people left to send a team of Aurors to rescue Harry and bring him back. Sirius was happy to learn that his cousin, Tonks was on the retrieval team.

But when time passed and the team didn't return he started to get worried.

He, and several others, including the new Minister of Magic, and Albus Dumbledore were huddled around the Apparition Point the team was supposed to use to return with Harry.

Then the worst part of the evening came.

An Auror rushed in from the Magical Disaster Response Department, the team of Aurors and Obliviators kept ready at all times to respond to any detected outbreak of excessive magic in a muggle neighborhood, these days mostly consisting on Deatheater attacks.

Apparently the current on-duty team had responded to a call in Muggle London, when they arrived on-scene they found two dazed Aurors, one dead Auror, and two Deatheaters, one dead, and the other surprisingly stunned and placed in a full body bind.

The disturbing part was that the three Aurors were the team sent to retrieve Harry, less Tonks.

Sirius could only take solace in the fact that Tonks was still missing, and that Harry's tracker showed he was still alive, although it was once more muddled by something.

There was discussion amongst the Aurors whether to send another team to Harry's last known coordinates or not, but since that was where the MDR team had just come from, all save their supervisor who was still on-site, it was decided that the effort would be useless at this time.

And still time passed.

Finally, as he was about to explode in frustration, there was a double Pop, as Tonks and Harry side-along apparated into the room, followed silently a moment later by three more forms, a young girl about Harry's age, and an older couple closer to his own.

Wands were immediately trained on the new arrivals, but they were swiftly lowered a few moments later as their muggle clothing and distinct lack of wands settled in.

"Who are you?" Madame Bones asked bluntly as she examined the three unexpected arrivals. "And how did you get here?"

The man spoke for them, answering, "Xander Harris, Mam. And we followed Harry and Tonks. We promised Harry we'd come with him to meet the Minister. Who are you?"

Madame Bones looked taken aback for a moment at the reply and return question, however she politely answered, "Madame Bones, the aforementioned Minister Harry is here to meet. And where are my manners!" turning to Harry she said, "Mister Potter, I offer to you my most sincere apologies on behalf of both myself, the Ministry, and the British Magical population at large for the heinous miscarriage of justice you suffered at our hands. I hope you can forgive us, and want to assure you steps have been taken to insure you will never suffer through another travesty such as you have recently endured."

=+=

Harry had been worried when Tonks said they had to apparate to the Ministry. Xander and Cat weren't Wizards, so they couldn't apparate. But Faith had laughed at that and reminded him they were genuine Gods. They could do damn near anything they wanted.

So, after changing his clothes and freshening up a bit, also allowing Tonks to scourgify her robes and remove the battle damage, they vanished with a twin pop only to reappear moments later in an conference room on the first floor of the Ministry building. Less than a heartbeat later, Xander, Cat, and Faith had joined them, appearing silently out of nowhere.

The woman from his trial, Madame Bones, as he recalled, and supposedly the new Minister had challenged Xander and Cat immediately, demanding to know who they were and how they got there, but had swiftly shifted her focus to him, and started making a speech about forgiveness. When she finished, Harry just blinked at her, despite what Tonks had said, he hadn't really expected something like this.

He closed his eyes while still keeping a wary watch on the room through his Dementor Vision, as he took a deep breath, held it, and let it out, counted to three, and did it again before once more opening his eyes and locking his gaze solidly on the minister's face. "I don't know if I can." As she started to frown he went on, "I know most of the people in the Magical World didn't put me in there. I know it in my mind. But not in my heart. Inside, where it counts, I feel like everyone betrayed me, like it was a great conspiracy and everyone was in on it. You were in on it, because you sat there, listened to me, and decided I was lying and sent me to prison. Tonks tells me I wasn't supposed to go to the prison, just to a holding cell, but you still sent me there. You may have thought you were doing the right thing, I don't know, but inside, where it counts, the fact that you sent me there means you were a part of it." Catching sight of the Headmaster his face flushed with anger and he went on, "Dumbledore was a part of it too. He didn't try to help me with the hearing. If he had, maybe I would have been on time when they changed it on me. Even if I hadn't, he could have told you I wasn't late because I just didn't care. But worse than that, after I was locked away, after he found out about it, he left me there. Left me to rot in the care of the Dementors."

Madame Bones interjected, thinking Harry was mistaken on that point, "Now Harry, that's not true. As soon as he heard you were in prison he called a special session of the Wizengamot just to get you out. I know I was there."

Harry shook his head. "When did he do that? How many weeks ago?"

"Last night, after he overheard a floo call between Fudge and his secretary Umbridge."

"That's what I mean. He's known where I was for a long time. At least a week." Harry said.

=+=

Her relief when Auror Tonks appeared with Harry was short lived, changed to alarm as three new figures, dressed in Muggle clothes, and without any visible wands appeared silently behind the recently arrived pair.

Madame Bones had immediately challenged the intruders, asking who they were and why they were there, but as the man's reply reminded her of Harry she realized she could deal with mysterious muggles later, she had a duty to perform thanks to her predecessor.

She had had several hours to construct and mentally practice her apology, and it was only as she offered it that she realized it sounded more like a speech then any apology.

Madame Bones was afraid the ordeal Harry had suffered through had damaged his mind. He was obviously living in a detached reality, one where Dumbledore would willingly let a child sit in Azkaban for any reason. She was unsure what she could do, other than sending him to the mind-healers at St. Mungos. "Harry, I know for a fact Professor Dumbledore wouldn't have left you in Azkaban had he known you were there. He would have to be an evil, heartless monster to do something like that. And Professor Dumbledore is one of the nicest, kindest people I've ever met."

Harry's frown didn't abate, in fact it grew stubborn, and he closed his eyes again. The blonde woman who had appeared just after he and Tonks reached a hand out and grabbed one of his in an almost motherly gesture of affection. After she gave it a squeeze, Harry opened his eyes, fixing the green orbs on her with an inner power that made her want to back down. He would not be someone she would wish to challenge when he grew up, in fact she considered, he was already a powerful wizard. The words of the prophecy echoed in her head "..mark him as his equal , but he shall have power the Dark Lord knows not…", from that it was obvious that Mr. Potter would be a stronger wizard than the most powerful dark lord in the past hundred years.

Thus she almost missed it when he spoke, and had to actually concentrate on her memory to recall his actual words. "Prove it. Have him take a Magical Oath that he didn't hear about me being in Azkaban until yesterday evening, or if he's too afraid to swear on his magic and prove it, have him take Veritaserum and tell me himself he didn't know. Do that and I'll forgive you, I'll forgive him. I'll forgive everyone. Otherwise, from what I feel like right now, you can all go hang."

With that Harry turned his back on her and looked at the three muggles behind him and said, "Can we go now?"

The blonde woman who was still holding his hand nodded, and without a sound they were all four just, gone.

=+=

Harry could only look around in shock as he appeared in a hotel room somewhere without even a sign they had moved.

"How, never mind." He started to ask. "Where are we?"

Faith sidled up to him and answered, "Hotel in London. So-Ho. I think the area's called. I remembered it 'cause it made me think there'd be a bunch of skanks around."

Cat shook her head and added, "Soho Plaza Inn, just off Charring Cross Road. Our suite looks over Leicester Square."

"So why are we here?" Harry asked, looking out the window and seeing a park far below.

"You said you wanted to leave. So we left." Cat answered.

"Now what?" Harry asked with a yawn.

Xander shrugged, "Dinner and sleep, I suppose. Faith, you hungry?"

Faith bounced over and grinned. "Always. Can we go dancing later?"

Xander frowned, then Cat stepped over and whispered in his ear. Suddenly Xander started grinning again, and said, "Harry, why don't you set up that trunk you showed us over here in the living room. If you think you can handle it, we can hit a club and kill two birds with one stone, assuming Faith can pick someplace out that'll let us all in, and have food and decent music."

Faith grinned at the challenge and said, "I gotta swap the threads, after that I'll hit the folks in the lobby, see if they have any recs."

Harry watched the girl run into a bedroom, kicking the door closed as she dashed through.

Xander and Cat headed into the other bedroom on the other side of the living room, leaving Harry all alone with the view.

He stared out the window at the twinkling lights in the park below, then with a shrug he held out his hand and once more summoned the trunk before placing it over by the windows and enlarging it. He called for the bedroom, and climbed down to change.

=+=

After going through his closets for a bit, he decided Tonks had chosen all the clothes.

There was no way Sirius would have selected any of the available muggle clubbing gear for him. He had much better taste.

He finally selected some clothes he thought were neither too drab, nor too flashy.

Making sure his body was still the same size and shape as the clothes, he swiftly got dressed then climbed out of the trunk.

The sight that greeted him was confusing for a moment.

Sitting on the couch next to the trunk was an unfamiliar teenager, unfamiliar until you spotted the trademark Hawaiian shirt. This one was more subtle than the last however, showing a moonlit bay at night, but like his previous shirt, if you watched carefully it almost looked like the water was rippling beneath the waves, and the palm branches in the trees gently swayed.

Curled up in his lap, also looking out at the lights below was a teenaged hottie. Long blonde hair, and a body to die for in tight black pants and a low cut black t-shirt which showed lots of cleavage. Taking a guess he asked, "Xander, Cat?"

The two looked at him and as he met the brown and green eyes, he was certain he'd been right.

"You ready?" the young looking Xander asked as Cat stretched distractingly before standing up.

Harry tore his eyes off the blonde and looked back at Xander, "Yep. Though I think I should be tired."

Xander grinned back at him and said, "You would be, and you will be later. But for now, unless you don't want to come with us tonight, you will e fine. Just don't expect to wake up tomorrow before early afternoon."

Not sure exactly how Xander could be so positive about that, but assuming it was a God thing of some sort, harry just nodded.

The front door of the suite banged open at that point, and a Faith who threatened to eclipse Cat came bouncing into the room, literally.

Faith had on black leather pants and a tight blue crop top, her hair was out of the ponytail she'd had it in earlier, and was now streaming down her back in a shimmery dark brown waterfall.

"Yo, you dudes ready?" she asked.

Harry looked down at himself and wondered if he was underdressed, in a pair of black jeans with a dark maroon shirt.

Cat reached out and grabbed his hand, towing him towards the door, saying, "Come on Harry, food, and fun waits for no one."

=+=

Dinner was burgers, fries, and soda. It was not gruel and tepid water. That made it the best meal he could remember.

Cat was on of the hottest girls in a club full of hot girls, a comparison he couldn't help but make as he sat there across from her, but even so, he kinda thought Faith was hotter. She was certainly sexier, and when she dragged him out to dance… Harry had never gone to a club before, and his experience with dancing was limited to what he'd done at school. If he and Faith had danced like this in school, he'd still be in detention when he was as old as Dumbledore. The way she moved was like having sex with their clothes on. Faith knew how to put the bump into bump and grind, and she seemed to take a perverse satisfaction out of bumping him in a certain area, one which he couldn't stop from reacting to the attention.

Despite what Xander had said, however, after about two hours he couldn't keep the yawns under control. Suddenly he felt a feminine hand on his arm, and he turned in shock, since Faith was in front of him.

He looked down a bit and saw Cat's lambent green eyes staring back at him, as he heard her voice, "Faith, I'm stealing your partner. He's worn out."

He looked back and saw a resigned look on Faith's face, as she said, "K C." then setting the sounds to a vaugly familiar tune with a smile she said, "See ya H.". For some reason the back of Harry's brain wanted to add "Pure cane sugar". But he figured he was just really tired.

He was certain of it when Cat led him through a doorway at the side of the club, and into the bedroom of his trunk.

"Have a good sleep, Harry. We'll wake you if there's any need. Otherwise, sleep until you can't sleep any more. We'll see you this afternoon." Cat then turned and walked through the door which should lead to the bathroom. Harry followed her a moment later, but the room was empty.

With a shrug he went back into the bedroom and collected some night clothes, then he grabbed a quick shower to wash off the sweat from the club, and after towling off, stumbled into the bedroom, and climbed for the first time into the provided bed.

Ha laid there for a while, mentally reviewing events from the past day, but before he got past the day of flying as a bird, his mind shut down and the thoughts turned to dreams.

=+=

Harry dreamed of flying.

Considering that he'd spent most of the day doing so, it was no wonder that his dreams were filled with the sensation of the air beneath his wings as he circled through the sky.

However his dreams were not quite what one would expect.

Harry dreamed of flying.

In his dreams he circled above a city at night, taking in the sparkling lights of cosmopolitan civilization below him.

But he wasn't circling idly. Instead he was searching. Searching for his Wizard.

It had been too long since he'd last seen his wizard. First had been the part of the warm time when his wizard was trapped with the ugly humans. He hated it there, even when he was with his wizard, for while he could handle being in his small cage, and sometimes even enjoyed the feeling of security it gave him, he much preferred to be free to fly. But just as bad, in the place of the ugly humans, his wizard was trapped as well. Never able to be happy, and it hurt to know that. To share the feelings of disparate longing to be anywhere else.

Then, abruptly, his wizard was gone. He had been returning from delivering a letter to his wizard's parent, in the stinky house, when he found his wizard wasn't in the home of the ugly humans. Instead he had gone to the hive of the wizards where owls were not welcome. Oh, some owls, who worked for the hive, instead of their own wizards would go there as they had no other choice, but other than that select few, no other owls were welcome at the hive.

So he'd circled the hive.

Then his wizard had vanished.

He tried to find him, but the trace was unusually weak.

Still, it was his own wizard he was searching for, and nothing could keep him from finding his own. So he flew north, out over the great water, until he arrived at an island.

He had never been there before, but he knew of it - it was the island of the life eaters. Evil beings which sucked the life, joy, and energy out of everything around them. He had encountered them before, when they had attacked his wizard several times at the hive of learning where his Wizard spent most of his time, especially when it was cold.

This island, and the great tower on it was also a place owls were not welcome, not even the ones from the hive of the wizards. He had circled the island as long as he could, as his wings had grown weary, before reluctantly turning south, and heading back to the main island.

After a rest, he had flown once more out to the island, and circled it for several more hours, trying to find a way to his wizard, who was really sad now, but unable to.

So he had returned to the stinky house, and his wizard's parent.

For a long time, longer than he had expected, his wizard had stayed at the island. Every few days he would leave the stinky house and spend the day circling the island, looking for a way to get to his wizard, but never succeeding.

The time when his wizard always returned to the hive of learning came, and passed, and still his wizard stayed in the tower of the life eaters.

The day before that had changed. He had been sent out in the morning with a frantic note from his wizard's parent, addressed to his wizard. With a feeling of futility he had started to head north, knowing that even with a note he would not be able to approach the tower of the life eaters, but he soon became more concerned when he realized he couldn't feel his wizard where he last was. In fact, he couldn't feel his wizard anywhere. His wizard was gone.

Hoping he was wrong somehow, he flew on to the tower, where he was shocked to find that while it still held the life eaters, owls were now welcome there. But his wizard was indeed not there, so it didn't matter.

Sadly, and with more than a bit of frustration, he returned to the stinky house, and gave the letter back to his wizard's parent, who cried with sadness at his failure. He also was crushed with sadness, and refused to eat when his wizard's parent tried to feed him.

He and the parent had spent the day dragging around the house, but the parent had left in the early evening.

When he returned, his wizard's parent wrote another letter, and gave it to him to take to his wizard. Reluctantly he took to the night sky, expecting to fail once more in finding his wizard, as he knew that once a wizard was completely gone, they never came back. It was with surprise and an almost painful surge of joy that he detected his wizard! Close by as well, somewhere in the same city!

He climbed into the sky, trying to find his Wizard. At one point he was sure his wizard was in a house of loud music, and had been trying to find a way in, when suddenly his Wizard seemed to move far away.

He shot off in pursuit of the new location, but the closer he got, the harder it got to find him. He was circling a large house of humans, one of the many towers which made up their city, and he was sure his Wizard was inside, yet at the same time, he was equally sure his wizard wasn’t inside, but was somewhere else, far away. It was very confusing.

Finally, as dawn broke and the sun climbed into the sky, he dove down into the park beside the building he thought his wizard was in if he was there, and choosing a tree close by he settled into the upper branches to nap, focusing on his wizard's location so he'd awaken if his wizard moved. As he settled down, he dreamt of chancing mice.

And Harry dreamed of flying. He dreamed of flying through the air over an open field, occasionally diving down to grasp a succulent mouse in his talons before climbing into the sky once again where he belonged.

=+=

Harry awoke to find himself in a dark, still, unfamiliar location.

The bed beneath him was both warm and comfortable. But the room around him was totally dark - a condition he couldn't recall in recent days.

Closing his eyes, he focused his mind, and found his Master Template had reverted to what he would call "Original Harry". The form didn't seem to have the energy or optical enhancements he had incorporated from his Dementor and bird forms.

Thinking of the bird form, he was reminded of his odd dream. He felt a sudden longing for Hedwig.

At that thought, a shimmery, translucent image of an owl appeared indistinctly in is mind.

He reached out to touch it, but like a wraith, it vanished from beneath his fingertips the moment they made contact.

With a mental shrug, Harry turned to the Hybrid Image, and with practiced ease, peeled off a copy and slid it on over his Master Template.

=+=

Harry once more returned to awareness of the world around him to again clearly see the bedroom of his new trunk.

Glancing down he frowned to see he was once more dressed in the rags he had been wearing while in Prison.

He climbed out of bed, noting thankfully that the rags at least appeared to be clean, and pulled a clean set of clothes from the cabinets in the walls.

Stepping into the bathroom, he asked for the lights, and as the internal lighting came on bathing the room in a cheery yellow glow, he slipped off the rags and climbed into the shower.

A short while later, he set the fluffy white towel into the cleaning cabinet, and pulled on the clothes setting on the sink he had selected earlier, before climbing the ladder and pushing open the top of the trunk.

He emerged into the living room of the suite he'd been brought to the night before, to see the sunlight streaming across the floor and almost striking the base of the opposite wall.

Drawn to the window, he looked out, his eyes seeking a specific tree, and he found in the uppermost branches a small white form just starting to move.

Harry slid open the door to the balcony beside the windows and stepped outside just as the bird in the top of the tree launched herself into the air with a deep coughing sound which could be heard throughout the park below.

Harry watched as his first real friend flared her wings to come in for a landing on the railing before him, causing him to take a half-step back to give her room to land.

He reached out and gently stroked her wing, even as she leaned firmly into his touch, as though reassuring herself that he was really there.

Recalling the distress from his dream the night before he asked her softly, "How are you girl?"

Her golden eyes locked on his, and he almost thought he could hear her voce in his mind, telling him she was fine now that she had her wizard back.

She suddenly leaped to his shoulder and gave his ear a somewhat painful nip, to let him know he was not to vanish like that on her again.

"She's a lovely bird" came a soft female voice from behind him.

He turned around to see a barefoot teenaged cat in denim shorts and a light blue tank top standing in the open doorway behind him with a smile on her face, and her glowing green eyes locked on the bird on his shoulder.

"She's bonded herself to you, did you know that? If you die, so shall she, and she'll never seek an actual mate."

Harry blinked, then looked at the owl on his shoulder, wondering what he should say to that. He felt a connection to his owl, certainly, but a life-bond? That was dark magic.

"No, Humans see it as dark magic. For her, it was a way to stake her claim to someone she cares for. You are her world, Harry, and she simply acknowledged it. She seems to have been quite upset when she couldn't get to you, and was even more upset yesterday when she couldn't find you." Cat explained.

Hedwig was staring at Cat, unblinking and unmoving, so still she may have been a stuffed toy on his shoulder, until she gave a sudden shake of her body as though remembering something, and then holding out her leg, displaying the parchment scroll tied securely to it.

"Read your letter, Harry. Hedwig and I need to have a little discussion." Cat said as Harry untied the ribbon securing the scroll to his owl.

As soon as the letter was free, Hedwig leapt across the distance from his shoulder to Cat's, and seemed to lock gazes with the goddess once more.

Stepping inside with a glance back at the unblinking golden gaze meeting the equally unblinking green one, Harry unrolled the message, noting that the handwriting was from his godfather.

Settling on the couch beside his trunk he started to read.

=+=

Hey Prongslet!

I hope I'm not one of those you won't forgive, nor my cousin Tonks. We both did everything we could to get you out of there, I hope you know. Tonks risked her job and her own freedom in taking you that trunk just so you could have some decent food and a shower.

If you wanted to throw the Erumpent oil in the cauldron with your little performance, you certainly did a good job.

As soon as you and those others vanished, everyone looked at Dumbledore.

Madame Bones told him that you seemed to have lost faith in the entire Wizarding world, and reminded him that we'd need your help if we were to have any chance against Voldemort (She even called him by name!)

She recommended he answer your questions under Veritaserum, but he answered that hw was afraid he couldn't.

When asked to explain, he casually said he was allergic.

The Marauder in me, despite the situation couldn't hold back any more - I was so mad at him. I asked him, "Allergic to what, the truth?" After all, I knew damn well when he'd found out you were in that hell hole, I was there when Cousin Tonks came and gave us her report.

He shook his head all sad like and answered, "No, to the serum. Back during the war with Grindelwald, I deliberately made myself deadly allergic to two of the key ingredients when taken combined. They are used together in very few potions, and all of then are various types of truth potions of one sort or another."

So Madame bones agreed that wasn't an option and asked about the oath. Again he shook his head sadly and answered, "Again I must decline. I've already taken various oaths, as leader of the International Confederation of Wizards, as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, amongst others I'm not at liberty to discuss, which would preclude my being able to swear on my magic to Harry. If I did I would most likely loose it due to a conflict with an oath, I'm afraid the young man will have to come to a resolution without my help in this situation:" He was as calm as the night clerk at a swank hotel. All frowns and sad faces while explaining how if he took an oath saying how he didn't know what was going on, that he'd lose his magic, without actually admitting that the reason would be because he'd known for almost a week.

By the way, Prongslet, that’s how much longer you were there after Tonks found you. I know time in Azkaban can be a funny thing, and in case no one told you yet, you spent a total of seventy one days in that hell. Sixty four before we found you, and another six afterwards until Voldemort attacked the prison and took you out.

It tears me up that it took your greatest enemy to get you out of there. I wish I had had some way of going after you myself. If you ever want to talk about it, just let me know, ok? I at least have been there.

I would like to see you, so I want to tell you this, but you have to be sure to burn this letter, or at least tear the bottom of it off and burn it. The Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix is located at number 12 Grimmauld place, in Greater London. I hope to see you there as soon as you can make it.

All my love, Your godfather, Sirius "Padfoot" Black

=+=

Cat came in, holding Hedwig in her arms as she sat beside him on the couch. She smiled at him and asked softly, "Harry, would it be ok with you if I gave Hedwig a gift?"

Harry shrugged, "Sure."

Cat smiled and settled the bird in her lap, placing her hands on either side of the owl which looked up at her with complete trust in her golden eyes.

Suddenly there was a flare of light, and to Harry's enhanced senses there was a burst of energy which should have been painful, as well as a swirl of magic greater than anything he'd seen before which settled into his familiar leaving her with a soft golden glow to both his magical and energy senses. "What did you do to her?" Harry asked in concern, hearing Hedwig make her soft almost hooting sound, before spreading her wings and shaking them as she often did when first waking up from a long sleep.

"Hedwig was upset because she couldn't find you. So I changed her. I made her a Phoenix, and gave her the ability to find you wherever, or whatever you may be, even if you are in another form, and or in another reality."

Harry peered at his familiar, but other than the soft golden glow, which he knew would be invisible to all other wizards, she still looked like the same owl she always had, although the darker pattern of her feathers had lightened quite a bit now that he really looked at her, leaving her almost pure white. "She doesn't look like a phoenix." Harry said in confusion.

Hedwig turned to look at him, and this time as her eyes locked with his he could suddenly feel her in his mind, much like he had the night before when he was dreaming from her perspective. He could feel the unconditional love and devotion she held for her wizard, how she always wanted to take care of him and keep him out of the trouble he always seemed to find herself in, and he also felt her reveling in the new experiences her mind was enjoying, the feeling of being connected to everything around her, able to touch and see the magic in the very air surrounding her, just as he could in his bird form, and suddenly something clicked. Without pausing, Harry reached inside his own mind, and blindly threw the hybrid bird image over his Master Template, causing his body to shift into it's smaller, avian form.

He looked up at Cat sitting beside him on the couch with a gentle smile on her face as she said, "You make a lovely phoenix, Harry."

Hedwig seemed to concentrate on something for a moment, and with a sudden flare of energy, a pure white phoenix with long tail feathers was standing there.

She let out a melodic trill, testing her new voice for the first time, before hopping off Cat's lap and hopping towards the open door to the balcony.

She turned and looked back over her shoulder and let out a new series of notes which seemed to say, "Come Harry, let's fly.", before she hopped out the door, spreading her wings and bouncing onto the railing.

Harry hopped towards the door, looking at Cat to make sure it was ok, but she just grinned and with a flash turned into a pure white cat which settled down on the couch to watch him with its green eyes, so he followed Hedwig onto the balcony, and as she leapt forward into the air, he hopped up and spread his wings as well, diving down first to gain some speed, then launching forward with all his power to catch up to and overtake his familiar, before the two of them engaged in an aerial game of tag played throughout the nearby city, but mostly centered on the park.

Throughout it all, a white cat sat on the balcony, keeping a lazy eye on the two birds.

=+=

Xander bent down and lifted his wife off the floor of the porch, looking out over the park below them. Hugging her to him and softly scratching the fur on the top of her head as he listened to her purr and felt her contentment radiating from her echo in his mind, he watched the pair of phoenixes, one golden and the other pure white cavorting in the air.

"Are you sure that was a good idea?" he asked her softly.

Wordlessly she passed the memory of Hedwig's tribulations without her wizard to him, and feeling the strength of the bond the two had already shared he shrugged. "Well, I suppose you have more experience with this than I do. But if they start hatching baby phoenixes, you get to raise them, not me.

The mental raspberry from his wife made him smile as he realized that while yes, Hedwig may physically come to see Harry as a potential mate, their relationship was such that any sort of reproductive intimacy would likely never cross either one of their minds. Since it was Cat who had done such a deep scan of the owl-now-phoenix-and-owl-metamorph's mind, he wasn't worried about it. As he'd said she had a lot more experience with reading people's thoughts and determining their likely future actions, an ability which worked much better than expected when one actually KNEW another's motives and driving personality traits from the inside, but unclouded by any of the usual prejudices one normally had when looking at themselves and those closest to them.

As he leaned back against the cool glass of the window, he heard the water in their daughter's bathroom shut off. "Faith will be ready soon. We should go get brunch somewhere. Do they have brunch in England, I wonder, or is that a purely American thing?"

Cat just turned her head up to look at him with her green eyes, her constant purr never abating, before returning her gaze to the pair of birds dancing around the treetops below. Her eyes locked on the pure white form, following it's motion for a few moments, before it seemed to alter course and arrowed for their location, the slightly smaller golden bird following immediately behind.

Hedwig folded her wings as she shot through the window, her form shifting into the smaller shape of an owl as she did so, then flaring her wings once more just inside the room, coming to a halt on top of the still open trunk Harry had climbed out of a short time before.

The golden phoenix sailed in as well, also flaring his wings just inside the door, and managing to slam loudly into the wall opposite before sliding down with an undignified squawk to land on the floor in a lump of drifting feathers.

The door to the bedroom banged open, and a half-dressed Faith leapt out with a stake clutched in one hand, her other holding up her still unfastened pants, as her sock-clad feet slid with a soft whisper across the floor to her apparent distress.

As Faith's feet slipped from under her, her arms swept out in an effort to break her fall, and the stake went sailing through the air to impale itself point first in Xander's face, causing him to grunt in pain and fall back onto the floor.

Cat was immediately back in her normal form and bending over her husband, extracting the pointy wooden object from his head, while Harry emitted a second squawk of distress as Faith rolled to a stop slightly on top of him.

Xander sat up, his face showing no sign of damage, and looked over at his daughter only to complain, "Darn it Faith, that hurt!"

Cat stood there before them, surveying the occupants of the room when Harry suddenly reverted to human form, only to blush with embarrassment when he realized his face was securely shoved in between Faith's bra-clad breasts.

Faith gave a yelp of alarm and leaped back, one hand shoving Harry against the wall rather painfully as the other flailed wildly for anything to use as a weapon, having lost her stake on the way into the room.

Cat, holding said stake, just shook her head, as Hedwig gave a loud coughing hoot of laughter at the other's antics.

Finally realizing there was no danger, other than embarrassment due to the slight bit of slobber and the downy feathers stuck by it amongst her cleavage, rose to her feet and walked over to Cat, her hand outstretched as she tried to maintain her dignity despite her state of undress, and the new accessories affixed between her breasts.

Cat just shook her head and withheld the stake, saying, "Not just yet, young lady. If you aren't more careful you could hurt someone."

Xander, still sitting on the floor where he'd fallen after having his eye punctured and brain slightly gouged by the stake complained, "Aren't I someone? I already said that that hurt!"

Ignoring her husband Cat pointed back at Faiths room and said, "Go, clean up and put a shirt and some shoes on."

Faith reddened in embarrassment and returned to her room, a bit slower than she'd emerged, still holding up her pants.

Cat turned to Harry and added, "Next time, no flying in the house."

Harry looked suitably chastised, as Hedwig gave another barking laugh, before settling down on the trunk looking happily at her wizard, very pleased with their joint flying game, but knowing that the goddess wouldn't have called her back without a reason, and she somehow doubted it was so the god beneath her could get a stick shoved into his brain, even if it seemed to leave no lasting effects.

Harry flushed red again, and his flush was returned when Faith reentered the room a short while later, her black bra now covered by a tight black t-shirt proclaiming the word hate in a flowing lowercase script.

Harry found himself looking anywhere other than at the girl he had spent so much time dancing with the night before, and who's chest he now bore intimate knowledge of.

"Yo H, since when can you turn into a bird?" Faith asked, sitting down and trying to calm her own unaccustomed embarrassment at the recent situation.

Harry shrugged "It's something I learned in prison."

Faith gave him a wicked grin and said, "I've heard of learnin' not to pick up the soap, and how to fight, and getting' degrees and shit in prison, but I never heard of one that taught you to turn into a bird. Kinda a wicked trick, but it'd seem like a bad idea if they didn't want you flying away." Focusing on Hedwig she went on without a break, "And speakin' of flying, who's the new chick?"

Harry reached out to pet his familiar, feeling her butt her head against his hand as he answered. "This is Hedwig, she's my familiar. She's a Snowy Owl, and now, thanks to Cat, apparently a Phoenix as well."

As he said that there was a flash, and a larger, pure white bird replaced Hedwig, who then gave a soft trilling call to the brunette. Faith grinned and said, "Wicked. Well, I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. Is there anywhere in specific we should go to get some grub?"

Harry considered for a moment, then shrugged, "I suppose we could go to The Leaky Cauldron. I'd like to go to Diagon Alley anyways to see about getting a new wand, and Faith needs to see if there's one which accepts her as well, so we can see if I'm right and she's really a witch."

"What kind of food do they serve there?" Xander asked, climbing to his feet and brushing the dust off his current day's Hawaiian shirt - this one depicting a waterfall on the back with a lush jungle filled with occasional flowers took up the rest of the shirt. The most disconcerting thing was that occasionally something seemed to be looking out of the shirt from within the jungle.

Like with most of his shirts, it was subtle, and you were never sure if it was real, or just a trick of your eyes caused by the motion of the fabric. Harry had given up trying to guess. While the apparent animation effects weren't as blatant as some of the wizarding robes he'd seen, Harry assumed that a god would be able to pull off whatever they wanted with their clothes. Harry also noted that Cat was now in full length levis, as opposed to the shorts she'd had on earlier, and the shirt had lengthened a bit and now covered her bellybutton.

Shrugging Harry answered, "Pub food, various wizarding items, and full meals. Pretty much anything you want."

Xander grinned and said, "Then to the leaky Cauldron and Diadem alley it is."

Cat interjected, "Diagon Alley, Honey."

Xander shrugged and replied, "Diagon alley, Honey.", as he strode forward to place a hand on Harry's shoulder, while his wife reached out and took one of Faith's hands in hers.

Hedwig gave a muffled harumph of displeasure as the other four people in the room simply vanished, leaving her alone on top of the open trunk. For a moment she considered trying her new fire travel and following them to the wizarding area, but she decided she needed more sleep, and balanced on the lid of the trunk, she closed her eyes and went to sleep to await her wizards return.

=+=

The group appeared in an alleyway just off the side of Charring Cross road, not far from their hotel, Xander noted.

Harry looked around, then gestured across the street, "Can any of you see it?" he asked.

Faith looked where he was pointing, and saw a run down pub across the road, "Looks like a dive, ya sure ya wanna eat there?"

Xander and Cat however were distracted from the pub's shady appearance by a familiar, if older than expected figure walking past the mouth of the alley. His face was easily recognizable from the Bond-A-Thon he had forced his wife to watch on TV a few weeks ago.

Xander stepped out and intercepted the man, "You wouldn't by any chance be Mr. Bond, would you?"

The man came to a stop and frowned, shaking his head, "Sorry, no. My name is Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Senior. I am trying to fund an establishment my son requested I stop in at around here to procure him a small supply of a beverage called, er, Butter Beer. Junior insists it is a uniquely refreshing beverage, and is hoping I can ship him a case or two back home in New York, but I'm having a devil of a time finding the establishment. Ive been up and down this street twice, but had no luck in finding the Leaky Cauldron."

Xander looked carefully at the man, noting the essence of blessed water still flowing through his veins, and decided he should help. Reaching his hand out to shake he introduced himself, "Alexander Harris."

As Dr. Jones grasped his hand with a firm grip, Xander pushed a bit of his power through their hands and into the man, binding it to the holy water which was already tied to the man. Releasing the hand he gestured across the street, "I believe it is right there, you were just on the wrong side of the road. My friends and I are heading there for lunch, sir. We would be pleased if you could join us."

=+=

Dr. Henry Jones looked in the indicated direction, and to his chagrin noted indeed that the place he had been searching for in vane was right across the road. "Well, I'll be." He muttered to himself. Looking at the four teenagers standing around him. They all looked rather clean-cut, and the boy who had approached him seemed polite enough, as opposed to many of the youths he'd encountered lately, and it had been several years since he'd retired from public life, his failure to age after he and his son drank from that blasted cup having necessitated his eventual withdraw into an almost hermit like life, although he still traveled every year. "Very well, but I insist you let me pay."

The boy frowned back at him and offered a lopsided grin as he replied, "How about an exchange. You tell us a good story, and we'll feed you. I'm sure getting a case or two of that Butter Beer will put more than a small dent in your wallet."

Henry again examined the children. Their clothing all appeared new, and he saw no signs of obvious financial strain from any of them, the cost of his meal shouldn't be too much spread between the four of them, so with a hearty laugh he agreed, "Very well, You can buy my meal, and I shall buy the beverages. Non alcoholic of course, can't be found contributing to delinquency in my doddering old age, after all. Wouldn't be appropriate for a retired Professor."

Dr. Jones almost stumbled as he approached the curb on the far side of the road as the blonde girl asked softly, "That wouldn't be a Professor of Archeology, would it? I think I heard of a Dr. Jones. Indy, I think he was called though, not Henry."

He was so distracted by the sudden twist in the conversation that he failed to notice the way the building seemed to shift as they approached it, growing larger and newer looking, until it was almost respectable looking as the older boy, the one who'd first approached him, reached out and held the door open for the rest of the party.

"That might have been my son, Henry Jr. He likes to call himself Indy. Silly notion I never did understand. Indiana was the dog's name."

The brunette girl grinned at the thought and offered, "Maybe he missed the old mutt, and took his name to kinda remember him by."

Stunned by this insightful observation, he once more failed to take in the interior of the establishment, who's gas lighting and overall decor made it look like something from his own youth, as opposed to a modern day pub. "That may be. That may be. I never considered the possibility before. I just always assumed he needed an alias one day and the only name he could think of at the time was that of the blasted dog."

Alexander led them over to a booth along one wall, where they took seats, the blonde girl sitting next to himself, with the three brunette children on the opposite side, the green eyed boy closest to the wall, the insightful young lady in the middle, and Alexander opposite the blonde girl beside him. He thought he could detect the traces of young love between the girl to his side and the boy across from her, while the other two were harder to figure out, perhaps they were just starting a relationship, or based on their appearances, the three on the other side of the table could be related, they all looked to be about a year apart from one another after all.

"So, Dr. Jones," Alexander asked, "If 'Indy' is your son, then I'd assume you've had at least a few adventures with him, or even without him. Any stories you are free to, and would care to tell? If not we can find some other subjects to discuss. We don't want to intrude on your private life if we don't have to. I assure you Cat, the lovely young lady beside you and myself have a decent grasp on many ancient civilizations, although I think we'd both be the first to acknowledge that some of what we think we know is likely wrong. Ancient history has been kind of a thing for us. Not so much the Archaeology however."

Henry was taken aback by the young man's manners, and was about to reply when the girl opposite him grinned and said to the boy beside her against the wall, "Yeah, with seven and four thousand years of experience each X and C should have a decent grasp on what they remember."

The boy on the outside of the bench turned to her and scowled, "Faith, what part of low profile don't you get?"

The girl shrugged unashamedly, "Look, this is Dr. Jones Senior. He may not be James Freaking Bond, but he knows about the supernatural. He drank from the freaking holy grail after all."

Henry suddenly felt a bit frightened. These children knew exactly who he was, more importantly they knew something which he and his son had gone to great lengths to keep quite over the intervening years. Suddenly he wondered if their meeting him hadn’t been a setup of some sort leading to some nefarious scheme.

The youngest boy seemed confused, however, and asked, "Holy Grail? Like in Monty Python?"

The girl grinned at him, "Nah, if it happened like in the movie I saw, there were these Nazis, and they were trying to get the grail for Hitler and shit, and Indy, that's this Dr. Jones son, who had already kept the Arc of the Covenant away from them went to rescue his father after getting his dad's book. Eventually the Nazis and the Joneses get to the cup, all the Nazis get dead, and both Father and Son have to drink from the cup, one to test it and the other because he's dying after having been shot. It was the last movie in the trilogy, which was sad as I always liked those flicks."

Dr. Jones was now really confused. The girl's portrayal of events was chillingly accurate, if a bit abbreviated. The fact she knew his son had also managed to find the Arc was also disturbing, but the reference to movies just confused him.

Alexander just sighed and shook his head, then looked around the room for a moment. Suddenly his body shifted, and an older man, perhaps in his late thirties was sitting across from him beside the two remaining children. "I fear I need to re-introduce myself, thanks to my daughter's outburst." The man said once more extending his hand which Henry found himself automatically taking, "Alexander Harris, Interdimensional traveler, and husband to the lovely goddess Cat by your side."

Henry shook the offered hand again then turned to his side and blinked. The girl he had been sitting with had been replaced by a ravishingly beautiful woman who's smile seemed to hint at mischief as she offered her own hand, "Dr. Jones, Feel free to refer to me as Cat Harris, I'm the daughter of the Egyptian goddess Bast and the Roman god Janus, wife to Alexander Harris, who forgot to mention his other titles as Protector of Mankind, chosen Champion of the Elder God Janus, and wielder of Kusanagi, he is also now referred to as the Undestined God, who's purview seems to be free will."

Henry Jones blinked at those revelations, but his mind stuck on one above all the others. "Kusanagi? The mystical Japanese blade considered to be their equivalent of Excalibur?"

Alexander reached behind his back to a scabbard Dr. Jones only now realized had always been there, and pulled a gleaming black blade from it with a practiced ease.

Laying the blade across both hands, and offering it across the table to him he said, "Yes, this is Kusanagi."

The Archeologist in him taking over he examined the ancient and supposedly mythical blade. Its shape was reminiscent of a Katana, although it was shorter, and had a bit more curve, yet no where near that of a scimitar. The handle seemed to be made of some sort of leather, but from some snake or sea creature, as there seemed to be almost impossibly small scales covering its surface and making it shimmer in the soft light from the gas lamps illuminating the room.

As he moved his hand over the blade, not quite touching the surface, he was amazed to note that while it's shiny surface seemed to reflect the light of the room from it, his hand made no reflection, and indeed the only reflections seemed to be of the light. He could shadow the blade, blocking the reflections, but the surface was not acting as a mirror by normal definition.

Finally he sat back and asked softly. "Where, if I may ask, did you obtain it?"

"In Hell, Dr. Jones. Literally in hell. I ended up there when trying to save my world from a portal demon, I managed to stop the demon, but I and the vampire with me at the time were taken to hell in the process. We were soon separated, and I spent the next twenty to thirty years wandering around trying to survive. Shortly after my arrival I was fighting a large, ugly demon, and after I killed it I was going through its possessions, looking for anything of use, and I came across the blade wrapped up in several layers of cloth. Something made me take it, my old sword was almost done for at the time. Over the years I noticed that she never dulled, and that none of the demons seemed able to touch her."

"How did you manage to get out, if you were really in Hell?"

Xander grinned happily, "The best thing that ever could have happened to me while I was in Hell. I met my wife."

Dr. Jones blinked at that, but before he could comment a voice intruded, "As I live and breath, it's Harry Potter!"

Henry turned his head to take in the toothless man staring excitedly at the boy hiding in the corner of the booth against the wall.

The boy, apparently Harry, spoke up resignedly, "Hi Tom. Please don't spread it around that I'm here. I just want a bit of lunch with my friends."

Tom eyed the rest of them carefully and asked, "Muggles?"

Harry shrugged, "Faith's a witch I'm pretty sure. Everyone else saw the Pub, so there shouldn't be any problems with the statutes."

Henry wondered idly what statutes those may be, and why he'd call the girl beside him a witch, and why none of the others objected, but decided to hold his tongue for the moment.

"Ok then, So what can I get you folks?" Tom, the apparent owner of the pub asked them.

A brief period of Question and Answer resulted as people endeavored without aid of a menu to determine what was available, and select what they would prefer to eat. Everyone ordered a round of Butter Beers, based both on Harry's recommendation and the fact that Henry had been sent after the aforementioned beverage and wanted to try it for himself to see if it was indeed worth all the fuss.

Their orders finally sorted, Tom went away, and Henry asked softly, "What was that all about?"

Harry shrugged, "The Leaky Cauldron is a Wizarding establishment. It is generally only visited by Wizards and Witches, and has a set of charms to keep Muggles out."

Henry frowned at that and asked, "That's the second time I've heard that word. What's a Muggle, and why would you want it in or out for that matter?"

"A Muggle is someone with no magic. Actually someone with no ability to work magic could also be a squib, but that term is reserved for non-magical children of magical parents." Harry explained.

Henry looked at Cat and Alexander and asked, "I suppose a God and a Goddess would count as Magical, and if young Faith is a witch, I'd assume by the proprietor's greeting that you are a Wizard. That leaves me. I've certainly not done any magic in my life, so how was it I could find this place if Muggles, which I assume I am based on your description, can't get in it?"

"That would be my fault," Alexander explained, "When I first introduced myself outside, I gave you more than enough magic to see this place. In fact, it's quite possible that if you tried you could learn to use some of the magic as they do here, but since it's mine, and not yours, once you use it up it'll be gone. However for any tests they may try to run on you, it will appear as though you are a wizard of moderate power, just untrained."

Harry looked interested in that and said, "So you can make a Muggle into a Wizard?"

Xander shrugged, "I don't know. What I did with Dr. Jones was just tie some of my magic to the holy water infusing his body already, so he could access the pub. I wasn't trying to make him into a real wizard."

Henry shook his head, "That's quite alright. I've already lived for a hundred and twenty three years without Magic. I think I can do for however long I'm still around quite nicely without it."

Faith blinked, "A Hundred and twenty three years?"

Henry nodded, "It seems my son and I stopped aging when we drank from that cup. Quite a problem when you don't look your age, you know."

Cat smiled and said, "Your body, and likely also your son's is infused with the blessed water. Over time it will dissipate growing more and more diluted until the effects fail. But you may find you live for several hundred, or ever possibly thousand years before the effects finally give out. Of course, if you dilute your blood by sharing it or draw on the power because of suffering serious injury it will shorten the time a bit."

Henry nodded again, having figured out the cause for his and his son's apparent Immortality quite a while ago, but he hadn't been aware that the effect was temporary, assuming such a word could be used for a condition which may last a thousand or more years. "We had figured as much, although we hadn't realized it was something that would eventually wear off. In a way, that's good to know. I can see how life could grow boring after too long, no matter what you did to try and spruce it up."

Cat shrugged, and said, "As an actual Immortal, I can say with experience that eternity can be boring if you don't seek challenges to keep you busy. Life without purpose is the greatest waste of time."

Henry nodded, "Then I will agree with Junior, and join him on his quest for Atlantis when I return to New York. If nothing else, it should present a challenge to locate an entire civilization everyone else believes to be no more than a myth."

Cat smiled at that, and lunch proceeded with mostly idle conversation.

At the end of the meal, Dr. Jones bid his fare-wells to the four others, and clutching several shrunken cases of Butter Beer, the incantation he had practiced under Alexander's direction to return them to normal running through his head, he made his way back to his hotel, happy for the chance meeting on the street with the two Gods and their young companions.

=+=

As they walked through the back of the Leaky Cauldron Harry was explaining how the wall opened into Diagon Alley.

"So you take your wand and you tap the, crud. I forgot I don't have a wand, and neither do any of you, that was part of the reason for today's excursion."

Xander just grinned over at Cat and said, "Just show us the wall, Harry. Don't forget, Cat is the daughter, and I am the champion of the God of Doorways and Portals."

Cat chimed in, "Don't forget Civilization, new beginnings, and change."

Xander nodded but went on, "Yeah, that too, but I'm really thinking it's the doorways part that counts here, Hon."

Cat shrugged and as Harry indicated the wall waved a hand negligently in its general direction. The bricks started flowing into their archway configuration and the party walked through without even breaking stride, the arch collapsing behind them as they walked away.

=+=

The sight of three Muggles walking up Diagon Alley in the company of The-Boy-Who-Lived was almost guaranteed to draw a crowd. Even more when ever since the invasion of the ministry two days before, the news had all been centered on Harry and his new hyphenated title.

However no one even seemed to notice the four figures as they made their way through the crowd.

Harry noticed however, his enhanced eyes seeing a virtual bow wave of magic emanating from Xander's sword as they moved through the throngs of people all out and about that day in order to gather the latest news.

That morning's paper had held an article about Harry's abbreviated interview with the newly appointed Minster, and his accusations that Dumbledore knew he had been held in prison and had done nothing about it. General public opinion was undecided, but more or less in support of the idea that the Headmaster would not have left a child in such conditions no matter the situation.

Soon the quartet made it to the steps leading up to Gringotts, and headed up the steps and into the bank.

No sooner had they crossed the threshold than the wizards inside beheld a sight few would ever forget.

Every goblin present suddenly and in unison threw themselves to the ground, their prostrate bodies facing the door, and stayed there.

The wizards looked towards the doors, and saw none other than Harry Potter, newly renamed "Boy-With-The-Power-To-Vanquish-The-Dark-Lord", and three muggles.

The branch manager, and leader of the local Goblin clan slowly crawled out of his office, keeping his face fearfully towards the floor and made his way slowly through the band towards the front doors, as the shocked silence began to give way to noisy urgings from the various wizards and witches to get up and get back to work.

As the Manager approached, he cried out in a voice obviously filled with fear, "My lord, have we displeased you in some way?"

The gathered humans looked towards Harry Potter in confusion, wondering why the Goblins, which acted as though they found most wizards disgusting to have to deal with, would seem to fear a single boy so much, even if he did have the power to defeat You -Know-Who.

Harry was as confused as the rest, looking first at his companions, then back at the prostrate goblins in growing panic. This was the last thing he needed. Finally he spoke, "Um, no, not that I know of."

The Goblin seemed to ignore him, coming finally to a rest at Xander's feet.

Looking down, Xander turned to his wife and mentally asked for help. Following the instructions of her echo, he spoke with confidence, "Arise Goblins. You have not angered me yet. Return to your posts with our blessings."

The wizards watched as the various goblins throughout the bank slowly climbed back to their feet, grins rarely seen by humans adorning their faces.

The Branch Manager also stood, then bowed deeply to first Xander, then to Cat, and finally to Faith, addressing each in turn, "My Lord Alexander God of Freedom, Guardian of the Evening. My Lady known as Cat, Goddess of Fairness, Guardian of the Day. My Lady Faith, Daughter of Justice, Guardian of Night, welcome. Might your most humble servant, Grizletooth aid you in any way?"

Faith looked at the non-human being in curiosity. Her Slayer Sense wasn't signaling Demon, despite it's non-human appearance. Instead it felt more like most of these Wizards, but skewed in a different way, certainly not a human, but equally certainly not a demon or other creature that needed slaying. "How do you know our names, and what's with that Guardian shit?"

The Goblin bowed his head, looking away from her once she stopped speaking, and answered, "We worship your pantheon, My Lady. We all know of you, your Father, Alexander, God of Freedom, Guardian of the Evening, and Champion of Janus, and his two wives, She who is known as Cat, Goddess of Fairness, Guardian of the Day, blessed daughter of Janus and Bast, and Dawn, the Goddess Beginnings, Guardian of the Morning, daughter of Janus and Gaia, eldest of the born goddesses, born with the very creation of the universes, and paradoxically the youngest and most innocent of deities in our religion. As well as yourself, the Lady Faith, Daughter of The Undestined God, and Guardian of the night. The four of you guard our souls in turn whatever the time, and watch over us to insure we strive for fairness in all our dealings. There are more in your pantheon, of course, such as the Lady Buffy, sister to Dawn, Immortal Champion of our Lord and Lady in their aspect as the Undestined God. You and your wives saved us from the end of our world, leading us here to a new one, and ordering us to be fair in all our dealings, or you would return and wreck vengeance upon us. We have followed your tenants ever since, and have become the preeminent bankers for the Magical World because of it."

Xander blinked at that, and then turned to his wife. Out loud he asked, "Other than that one sect you had back home which failed because they didn't know your name, this kind of thing ever happen to you before?"

Cat shook her head slowly in response.

Faith offered, "Alternate Reality kinda thing, you think there's another Xander, Cat, and me, along with this Dawn person?"

Xander shook his head, "Not as far as I know. My understanding was that while there are duplicates of me, Cat is a one-of-a-kind in the multiverse."

Giving up the question for the moment, he looked over at Harry. "So, why are we here in the first place? I thought we were going to see if a wand would work for Faith?"

"We are, but I need to get some money so I can get a replacement wand for myself, and you'll probably need to change money from pounds to galleons in case you need to buy her a wand as well." Harry said with a shrug.

"My Lord, if you need funds, I will be more than willing to provide them." The Goblin offered with a toothy smile.

Xander looked up at the goblin, "They use those gold coins with the spells on them for money, right", At the goblin's nod he went on, "Then money is easy. In fact, I like your money, making it doesn't feel as much like stealing as does creating paper currency. But I thank you for your offer." He said handing the goblin a particularly shiny Galleon out of thin air.

The Goblin held the offered coin in his hand, looking at it with a bit of wonder, even as Harry spoke up in disbelieving shock, "You can't create Galleons with magic, they're specially charmed against it!"

Xander shrugged, "It's a God thing. I'm still getting used to it even after all these months. But Cat makes me practice a lot. Remind me to tell you sometime about the first time I made clothes. A bit of gold with some extra twists, not all that hard at all. An entire automobile, I rebuilt the Cord, but I really don't think I got it right, even with Cat's coaching."

Grizletooth had placed the particularly shiny Galleon reverently on a shelf behind his desk before turning back to the assembled group. "Well, what can I help you with today then?"

Harry turned to the Goblin and asked, "Can I please have a ride to my vault?"

The Goblin nodded and waved a hand towards the door. A few moments later a second goblin entered the room, bowing deeply to the assembly, then looking expectantly towards Grizletooth.

"Please take Mr. Potter to his vault and bring him right back." His boss instructed. With a second bow, the goblin escorted Harry out of the room.

Grizletooth then turned back to his more important guests. "So, My Lord, how can Gringotts serve you today while we await the return of Mr. Potter?"

Xander looked at his wife then turned back to the elder Goblin, "Tell me about this religion of yours. I've never had worshipers before, and I'm not sure I really like the idea."

"It is a simple faith, not requiring much effort. We sit and read out loud the stories of our old world, how greed and corruption caused its ruination, and how you and your family came to us from a portal, and seeing how we had fallen, chastised us, then prepared to depart. We then tell the tale of how Bustleback fell down before you and beseeched your intersession to save our race from the world we had led to ruination, and how you eventually agreed to take all who swore to change their ways away. How our ancestors, a small percentage of the whole of our population at that time, but even more than we are today, gathered together in the millions, and your family gathered together and opened a great hole in the air along the edge of a ridge at the bottom of an almost dried seabed.

"We remember ow for days, while you watched and accepted the oaths of all who passed, our people walked from one world to another, and all those who were deceitful in their swearing could not pass through the hole, instead falling off the cliff on the other side to their deaths on the sharp rocks and the salty mud below. However all those who were honest in their promise to always treat others fairly walked out into the green plain we could all see through your shimmering arch.

"For several days, from all over our world, all those who truly agreed change their ways were given passage. And you and your wives also provided drink and food, a fizzy brown juice, unlike anything our ancestors had ever tasted, and golden cakes filled with the cream of the gods. Every year for almost six thousand years, on the last day of winter in order to commemorate this passage we brew a sweet beer, and bake golden cakes to mark our passage from the old world to the new, from the hell we had created ourselves to the heaven you and your family led us to."

Xander's eyes twinkled and Faith started laughing as Cat said, "Ok, Xander. It has to be us. I mean, come on only you would feed refugees RC and Twinkies!"

Xander grinned and once more conjured something for the goblin. He held out his hand and in his palm was a plastic wrapped Twinkie, his other hand holding a plastic bottle of soda. "Try these, Grizletooth. Tell me what you think."

Grizletooth looked awed as he shakily held out a hand to accept the offerings. He carefully unwrapped the cellophane and slid the Twinkie out of it, smelling the golden cake as he did so. "This is not how the remembrance cakes smell It is far sweeter." Carefully, he bit into the cake, and his eyes rolled in his head at the taste. Finally he lifted the icy cold plastic bottle and twisted the cap, then smelled the soda before taking a cautious sip. Again his eyes widened, and he set the bottle of soda down, along with the barely eaten Twinkie. "My lord, they are as described in the holy texts. This is the cake and ale of the gods, as given to our ancestors. I thank you for your gift."

Xander grinned and said, "Give me a moment, Grizletooth." He then turned to the other two and said, "Ladies, I'm going to run to 7-11 and make sure this isn't one of those shrimpless worlds, only more with the snack foods then the crustations."

That said, Xander vanished soundlessly.

Cat smiled and said softly, "He's getting better at that. He actually managed to find a clear alley behind an open store in Los Angeles."

It was less than ten minutes later when Xander returned, holding a shopping bag, a six pack of soda cans and a white cardboard box visible through the thin white plastic.

"Good news, Grizletooth, You can get them here. All you need to do is either find, or arrange a local supplier. I present to you native Twinkies," He pulled the white box with its red lettering and pictures of the golden cakes on the sides, "and RC Soda." Xander pulled the six-pack of cans out and setteled them on the manager's desk next to the plastic bottle he had conjured earlier.

Grizletooth looked in shock at the two items, "You mean the cake and ale of the gods, they come from muggles?"

At Xander's nod Grizletooth started to laugh.

He was just starting to recover his composure when Harry returned to the office, the eyes of his goblin escort almost popping out as they took in the sight of his laughing leader, and the items on his desk.

Xander casually conjured another Twinkie for the goggle eyed goblin, and pointing at the cans said, "They're still cold. Help yourself" before collecting his family and Harry and heading back out to Diagon Alley.

=+=

The unspeakable agent sat in the Ministry cafeteria, and despite the obscuration charm on his robe, he scowled at his coffee.

His latest assignment was looking to be far harder than he'd first expected. Not that it had sounded all that easy in the first place.

When he'd been called in to work early that morning, he had been summoned to his Boss's office, where after a flirtatious glance at her secretary, he'd headed straight in.

Looking at the formidable woman behind the desk, he opened with the same joke he'd used for the past fifteen years, ever since she had replaced his original supervisor. "Yes 'M?"

She put on a mock frown of irritation, flawed by her humorous affection for her favorite operative, and said, "Sit down. I have an urgent assignment for you straight from the new Minister."

Sitting he had looked at her expectantly. She handed him some wizarding photos, obviously taken by the techno-wizards with one of their classified gadgets inside a pensive. The pictures were silent, as the pensive cameras couldn't capture sound, but the scene they showed was one he'd already heard about. A group of people were clustered around a secure apparition point when an Auror and a young boy appeared. A few moments later three other people dressed in muggle clothes, an upper middle-aged man with dark hair wearing a sword on his back, a slightly younger, rather short looking blonde woman, and a young brunette girl about the boy's age also appeared in the apparition point to the obvious shock of all present other than perhaps the other recent arrivals.

The Man spoke, answering someone, who as the view shifted turned out to be the new Minister, who then turned to address the boy who had arrived with the Auror. The Boy, Harry Potter from both the agent's knowledge of the incident and his identification from previous pictures, listened as the Minister spoke to him, his initial look of confusion giving way to one of sadness. He replied to the Minister, then when she spoke again, he started to get agitated.

Harry's obvious agitation grew as the Minister held a discussion with him, and Harry started gesturing towards the familiar figure of Albus Dumbledore. Madame Bones responded to his apparent questions, but her response only served to convert his agitation to outright anger. He obviously tried to calm himself, and the blonde woman stepped forward and grasped his hand in an almost maternal show of support, but despite all that it was obvious failed. His anger seemed to shift though to a frustrated resignation, and he spoke quite a bit, then he turned in frustration to the strange people behind him, said something, and the man reached out to grasp the girl's hand, and then all four figures inexplicably vanished, leaving the Auror alone in the secure apparition point.

"These are pictures of the people who somehow managed last night to penetrate a secure apparition point, and abduct Harry Potter from within the ministry's wards, with no detectible traces of what sort of magic they used.

"We need you to find out who they are, where they came from, why they are here, and what their intentions are. With the now official acknowledgment of the return of Riddle, we can't afford to have unknown parties potentially in control of the only known individual with the ability to stand up to him"

"So you want me to find these people and interrogate them?" he asked his boss, "Or do you want me to eliminate them?"

She shook her head, "Not just yet. They are NOT to be sanctioned unless they are threatening Potter's life. In fact you are to avoid any direct contact with them at this time, we only want you to gather intelligence. Find out who, and what they are. They appear Muggles, only the girl seemed to have any sort of wand, and her wand looked more like a wooden stake than any wand I've ever seen. Find out how they got in and out of the Ministry, find out where they took Potter, and what their plans are if you can, and find out where they came from, as far as we could tell this is the first time anyone in Britton has encountered them. I want you to backtrack them and find out where they came from."

The agent had nodded, then he'd taken his leave from his boss, offering a risque double entendre to her secretary on his way past her and out the door towards his office.

He had researched the incident the night before, when Aurors had been sent to pick Potter up and had encountered an ambush apparently consisting of both an unknown number of vampires and at least three death eaters. The reports from the three surviving Aurors indicated that Potter engaged the Death Eaters, while the unknown girl somehow dispatched the vampires on her own.

That Potter had acquitted himself so well against the superior numbers of death eaters, emerging from the battle unharmed while one Auror was killed, another tortured, and the other two apparently stunned and or obliviated with some new curse, since the standard obliviation tests showed nothing from the two Aurors, who could tell events, but seemed either unable to recall, or in the case of Auror Tonks, able to relay the information about what had happened. In any event the dead Death Eater, the evidence that a third had been set aflame at some point, and the thoroughly disabled Death Eater had proven the potential in the Prophecy - that any fifteen year old boy, the same day he was rescued or kidnapped from a two month long stay in Azkaban where he was only fed the minimum rations of gruel and water needed to survive was able to fight, and beat three adult Death Eaters, he could well imagine that if properly trained the boy could well put Riddle back in the ground, and this time keep him there.

Noting that the incident took place suspiciously close to the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley, he had collected muggle versions of the photos of the three muggle looking strangers, and began a search of the local muggle hotels, boarding houses, and inns.

It had taken him most of the morning before he hit paydirt. In Soho he located a large high-end muggle hotel where the desk clerk recognized the brunette girl. A check of the security cameras and cross-referenced with the registry after a few quick spells to make the muggle believe he was with the local MI5, and he had names. Alexander Harris, forty five, his wife Cat Harris, thirty five, and their daughter Faith Harris, sixteen. They had checked in the day before, and even more useful, they had a car in the garage out back.

After taking more notes, including that the Harrises had pre-paid in cash for two weeks, and their suite number, he obliviated the clerk of any memory he had ever been there, then headed out back to investigate the car.

Whatever they were, they certainly weren't Muggles, despite their appearances. If nothing else had, their car proved it. Looking like a modern version of a classic Duisenberg type automobile, the car's plate declared it a Cord. Later research showed that the Cord motor corp. went out of business between world wars one and two. They certainly hadn't made any vehicles in the past few years. But what gave away the fact they weren't muggles were the enchantments on the seeming ordinary vehicle.

Careful analysis showed several unknown spells and charms apparently built into the vehicle, imbuing it with a sort of self-awareness and allowing it to move independently. It was also resistant to every tracking charm he tried to apply. He was reminded of some of the vehicles and other creations from the tech-wizard branch of the department, although this went as far beyond their most impressive creations as theirs normally did the muggle automobiles they were meant to mix amongst. This car certainly wouldn't be mixing anonymously anywhere it went.

Giving up on that end of the investigation for the moment, he returned to his office to contact his counterparts in the states. Since so much reminded him of his own business, he thought it only prudent to insure they weren't running some sort of operation over here without telling him first.

His floo call to his cousins across the pond however only raised more questions than it answered. He had handed them pictures of the three individuals, as well as several of their unique transportation, but the Americans came up entirely blank. Which was even more disturbing. If these three weren't Americans, then what were they? The plates on the Cord were Canadian, but were another dead end - they were registered to an Alexander Harris, but the address listed was an empty warehouse in Toronto. Ownership of the warehouse was being researched by the cousins who were now intrigued, but the only thing they had been able to offer was some footage from a satellite which they had removed from their mundane counterparts - that was how the Americans referred to the Muggle CIA - which seemed to show the car flying above the ocean, and the general direction was consistent with its heading towards England, the time of the recording also consistent with their arrival and check-in at the hotel.

But other than proving that the enchanted car could apparently fly, and that they came from the direction of the US, and verifying their likely arrival time, the Americans hadn't been able to do much towards solving his quests.

Which led him here for his late lunch.

His attention was suddenly diverted when he noticed the female Auror from the incident last night, Tonks he believed was her preferred moniker, walk in talking to one of her co-workers. "So then after introducing himself calm as can be, he asks if I know James Bond."

The man with her started to snicker, and she went on, "Yeah, kind of my reaction too. I explained to him that James Bond was just a fictional muggle movie character, and he nodded as though understanding, and said he knew, but he still asked that if I ran across him in the next week or so, to let him know he and his family were in town" she started laughing again but went on, "and they would like to meet him."

The man with her was laughing so hard he barely got out between gasps, "So what did you say?"

She grinned and replied, "I agreed to pass the message on. If I met him, that is." With that the two broke out laughing again, whilst unbeknownst to them the Unspeakable Agent's scowl had changed to a look of concern.

=+=

Olivander's Wands has been in business for almost 2,400 years. And Mr. Olivander, has been crafting wands for all that time as well.

While none of the current day witches or wizards are aware of just how old the creepy guy is, they all acknowledge that he's been a fixture for as long as they can remember, and then promptly dismiss the fact. After all, that was what the spell was supposed to do.

He'd had a good laugh when he'd seen Nicolas Flamel's first Chocolate Frog Card, wherein it said he was the first person to create a Philosopher's Stone. He still remembered selling little Nicky his first wand over six hundred years before. "Seven and a half inches, oak, with a core of Phoenix Ash. Good for Alchemy and Transfigurations."

Of course Olivander remembered every wand he'd ever made, and who he'd given them to - a part of his soul was in every one. Oh, not literally - he didn't trust in Horcruxes, knowing that if one fell into your enemy's hands that they could use it to control you utterly. No, keeping all the parts of your soul intact and were it belonged was the best course of action.

His shop had been in this location for going on nine hundred years, since before there was a Diagon Alley, in fact it was his shop's location which spawned the creation of the rest of the alley around it.

And in that time he thought he'd seen everything new there was to see.

He'd thought wrong.

The bell on his door opened to admit a customer. Smiling, Olivander prepared to silently apparate behind them into the corner by the window as he usually did. One of the few thrills he got these days was from shocking and freaking out his customers. Many of the things he did, like measuring them, were for the sole purpose of his own entertainment.

Concentrating on apparating silently, his eyes were still closed as he appeared in the shop.

So when he opened his eyes to look at his customers he was unprepared for the sheer pain of seeing the blinding energy within the cores of two of his guests.

=+=

Harry led Xander, Cat, and Faith into Olivander's so he could replace his wand, and they could see if they could find one which would work for Faith.

While Xander and Cat weren't agreeing with his ascertation that Faith was a witch, neither did they disagree, so he felt the best way to prove himself right was to find her a compatible wand.

As the door closed behind them Harry looked around taking in the amazing amount of both energy and magic contained within the shop.

He noticed a cascade of magic he was coming to identify as relating to apperation as if washed from the back of the shop to an empty corner, and turned in time to see Mr. Olivander appear silently behind them, then open his eyes and scream out in pain, before falling to the floor of the shop clutching his head.

Cat immediately bent over him and reached out a hand towards his head, a wash of golden light flashing from the point of contact for a moment as Mr. Olivander stilled and his body unclenched.

The old man took a deep breath and opened his ancient silver eyes, fixing them on Cat, then swiftly passing them over to Xander, then finally looking at Harry and Faith. He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath, obviously composing himself as Cat stood back up and offered a hand down to the old wizard.

Olivander stood shakily to his feet, and asked, "Wha-Who are you, and how may I help?"

Cat smiled as she helped him stand, then replied, "You can call me Cat. My husband over there goes by Xander. And to answer your unasked question, we're gods."

Olivander simply blinked at that, then shrugged and turned towards the other two, "Ah, Mister Potter. I heard what they did to your poor Holy and Phoenix wand. I assume you've come to find a replacement?" At his nod he turned to the fourth customer, and focused on her squinting his eyes as though still trying to figure out Cat had done to him so that their power wasn't as painfully overwhelming as it had been before. Harry remembered the feeling and wondered idly if Mr. Olivander had something similar to the Dementor Vision he had, which had been overwhelmed by Xander and Cat's presence at first, until Xander had changed it somehow. "And the young lady?"

Harry spoke up, "She's a witch. I think. I'd like to find her a wand to make sure though. No one else seems to think she is one."

Mr. Olivander looked at him and nodded, "She is a witch. She has a rather powerful if unused core. But what made you think she had the ability?"

"She was using a wand to stake vampires, and it left sparks in the air as she moved it." Harry explained what he'd seen in the alleyway.

Mr. Olivander nodded, then turned back to the first two, "I expect the two of you don't need wands if you really are gods as you claim. I can't say as I haven't ever met an actual god, just deluded mortals proclaiming themselves as such. However never in my life have I seen a well of power such as yours, either. Did you know to me your cores look exactly the same?"

Xander and Cat shared a glance before he explained, "Well technically Cat's a goddess by birth, and after we got married, we sort of joined together. The two of us are considered a single god. I'm not really a god by myself, despite what my wife and her family keep saying."

"From what I can see you are mistaken. You have every bit as much power in your core as she does, as I said, it looks identical to me, which is unusual, as even magically joined twins have minor variations in their cores - they're often mirrored, but never actually identical." Olivander said, "But the main point is I hope you are not looking for wands, as I don't have any which would fit you." Turning to Harry he went on, "You and the young lady, however I should be able to help. Who should we start with?"

Faith looked at Harry as though to say, "You first" but Harry simply pointed at her and proclaimed, "I've gone through this once before already, let's let Faith have a shot first before we start trying to find another wand for me."

Olivander pulled out his tape measure, but at a glance from the young lady, and apparently feeling the eyes of the deities on him, he put it back away with a small chuckle. "I usually measure the customer's wand-arm. It makes them think I am doing something more than trying to match a pair of cores and a container together. Silly none of them realize they come in to get their wands when they are still children, yet those wands can last them their entire lives - if the length of the arm had any correlation to the length of the wand they would outgrow their first wands as they matured. But no one seems to question it, and it makes them feel better as well. So, which arm is your wand arm, young lady, and may I ask you your name?"

Faith shrugged, "Faith Harris, and I dunno. I stake vamps with both arms, but I write with my right, if that helps."

"Vamps, as in Vampires?" Olivander asked while staring at Faith as though peering deep inside.

"Yeah, I'm a Vampire Slayer. Kinda goes with the job." She explained.

Olivander had to pause again, "A vampire slayer, I say I didn't think any of those still existed. Last I heard of a Chosen One was well over a thousand years ago."

Faith looked sad and said, "I've heard that is the case more often than not. At least lots of times someone, or something has taken the place of the fallen slayers. I wonder what keeps the vamps down here?"

"Mostly the Wizards, as well as the elder vampires, I expect." Olivander explained as he made his way over to a shelf of boxes and seemingly pulled three out at random before turning back to Faith and holding one out, "Here, wave this, let’s see if you get any response."

Faith opened the box and pulled out a slender wand of pale wood. She cautiously held it by the tips of her fingers and sort of flailed it around.

Olivander shook his head and said, "No hold it properly, as though it was a knife and you were going to cut some cheese or something."

Faith adjusted her grip to a proper wand grasp, and then moved her hand again. This time a trail of colored sparks left glowing motes in the air.

"Excellent. Though it is unusual to find such a good match on the first try. If you don't mind, let's try this one as well." He said, extending a second box towards her.

Faith opened the second box and pulled out a dark woden shaft, a bit thicker than the light one she had tried the first time. Again she waved her arm, leaving the same sparks.

"Interesting, very interesting. I dare say that should be impossible. But alas, this seems to be a day for that. Come to think of it though, the one time I sold a Slayer a wand, it didn't seem to matter which one I gave her - they all had the same apparent level of compatibility. She finally grew frustrated and just took the one closest to her and left. It may be a Slayer thing." Olivander offered the third box to Faith as he said, "Well, let's try this one and see if I'm right. If so, feel free to chose whichever you like the looks of. Unusual way to match a wand, but if I am right, whatever wand you have won't make much of a difference."

Faith pulled a third wand out of its box, this one a deep reddish color. Again she gripped it firmly and waved it around, leaving a trail of sparks to hover in the air before slowly fading away. "Incredible. Well, it looks like my memory served me right. Apparently a Slayer can use any wand without worrying about compatibility. How odd."

Harry was confused, "What do you mean?"

Olivander gestured at the three open boxes, their contents readily displayed, "Ash and Dragon Heartstring, Walnut and Unicorn Hair, and Redwood and Phoenix. Three very different woods and cores, normally a wizard will have either a violent reaction to an incompatible core, or it will be relatively inert. I often use three such wands to see what core works best for a customer, then I start trying various lengths and woods to find the best match. But in this case, all three reacted the same to her, truly unheard of normally. Most wizards would have to practically force their magic through a wand with an incompatible core, assuming they could get it to react at all."

Harry thought back to the fight in the alley when he broke Tonks's wand, and asked, "Does it make the wand warm, and you kind of have to push extra hard to get the spell to work?"

Olivander nodded, a twinkle in his eyes as he answered, "Yes, like you did to poor Nymphadora's Cherry and Phoenix wand. You somehow burnt the core out of it. I had to fit her with a whole new wand this morning. I was surprised though, since your original wand was a Holly and Phoenix, I would have expected hers to be relatively compatible with you."

Harry flushed in embarrassment and said, "I may have pushed a little hard with the healing spells. I think that's the straw which broke the camel's back. During the fight it only heated up on me, I didn't even notice I was having to push to get the spells out."

Olivander turned towards him, holding out a box, "While Ms. Harris decides what color she would prefer, do give this a wave. Twelve inch Holly and Phoenix Feather."

"My old one was eleven inches." Harry pointed out as he pulled the wand from its box.

"Indeed, but this wand wanted to be twelve. I don't argue with the wand, it never works. I just put the pieces together and let the finished wand come into being as it were. Not that I don't sand them and polish them, taper their length and work on the handle and such, but the basic wand is what it wants to be, and I can't change that. Remember it's the wand that chooses the wizard, not the other way around." Faith cleared her throat, and Olivander continued, "Unless the witch is a Slayer. Then she gets to choose, apparently."

Harry noticed he didn't feel the rush of power he had when he first picked up his old wand. Despite their similar appearances, this wand didn't click with him at all. It was much like waving Tonk's wand had been. Still, he obliged Olivander by making several passes through the air, but there was no response from the wand at all.

"Curious. I was offered the feather for that wand by Professor Dumbledore just a few days after your old one had been snapped. He asked me to make a replacement for you because sooner or later he said you would need it to face You-Know-Who. I didn't know about the prophecy back then, of course, but I obliged his request, figuring that even if you didn't come to get it eventually someone would show up for it. After all free cores are rare indeed." Olivander explained.

Harry looked confused and asked, "What prophecy?"

Olivander blinked his silver eyes at him and answered, "You haven't heard? My I suppose you might not have. Two days ago, the same night you were taken from Azkaban by You-Know-Who, he also broke into the Ministry. He went to the Hall of Prophecy, and pulled a Prophecy sphere labeled HP LV off the shelf, and everyone there heard it. It was quoted in the paper even, 'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches, born as the seventh month dies, the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not, and any time the two shall meet, the Dark Lord shall face defeat.' Of course the last part wasn't heard by everyone, as the sphere was broken in the middle of it, but one of the Unspeakables there said he'd heard the whole thing once before, so the paper was able to publish the whole thing. That's why they are so worried after what you said to the Minister last night - you are apparently the only one he can't beat, and if you won't fight him then everyone is worried that all hope is lost."

Harry sat there digesting what the older man had said when Xander spoke up. "Um, Harry, kid, don't worry about any prophecy. Um, Cat and I, well, um, one of the things is, um, you know how we keep mentioning the Undestined God? Well, it seems that wherever we go, destiny goes all whacky. If you don't want to face this dork lord, you don't have to."

Harry started to laugh, "Dork Lord?"

Xander shrugged, "Heh, why give him any respect. Maybe he’ll die from humiliation."

Olivander however cleared his throat "Back to the matter at hand, however, we now have a serious concern."

Harry looked confusedly at the older wizard, "What's that?"

"The wand, Harry. It didn't respond to you at all. It should have been as compatible with you as your old one, despite being a bit longer. Do me a favor and give the other two core samples Ms. Harris is looking at a quick wave - the white and black ones, if you please."

=+=

Olivander felt his scowl darken as neither wand responded in any way to Harry's touching them, nor did his core seem to be interacting with any of the three types of foci.

This was almost unheard of, but again with well over two thousand years of experience, few things were truly new to him.

He had encountered a case of magical saturation once before, where a particular wizard had been over exposed to so much magic it altered his very being. The result was there wasn’t enough differential between the wizard and the available core materials to create a focus. The wizard was still able to use a wand, they were just all very poorly suited to him, and he tended to wear them out in a matter of months. In fact he was the first other Wizard Olivander had ever taught how to make a wand, and all his current competition within the wizarding world had grown from the mans need to constantly replace his wands as he burned them out.

Olivander himself had a similar problem, however he had a core he could use, a shard of crystal taken from his first Philosopher's Stone many centuries ago. However his solution was only good for himself, as his magical saturation came from having consumed the elixir of life for thousands of years, until his very tissues were saturated with it.

This was not the case with young Mr. Potter, however. But it was obvious that something extraordinary had happened to him between the time his old wand had been broken, and today, as he had examined the remains of the previous wand, and other than the damage caused by snapping the wood and the core, it had been in perfect condition.

"I think we may have a problem fitting any wand to you, Mr. Potter. Something has effected your compatibility with the materials I use for a wand core. Phoenix Feather is one of the most magically saturated items I know of, only a Basilisk has more natural magic stored in its flesh than a Phoenix. The fact that the Phoenix Feather wand is not responding to you would imply that your magical potential is higher than that of the feather. The problem here is with how a focus works. A wand works in three ways at once, first by providing a logical aid to the wizard's mind for directing the magic. Second, it provides a physical channel for the magic to pass through, and finally, the magical core, possessing a higher magic potential than the wizard's internal core, focuses the magic and intensifies its effects. The problem we seem to be encountering is with your potential verses that of the wand cores. Instead of the cores having a higher potential than your own, they seem to have a lower one. This means that while the wand can still provide the logical aid to your mind, and the physical conduit to direct the magic, the wand's core actually works against you, creating resistance to your spell. And over time you will burn out any core I could use, other than perhaps Basilisk. I don't use Basilisk as a core because almost every part of the creature is either poisonous, or magically resistant and therefore useless as a core."

The god, Xander, stepped over and stuck out his hand, "Can I see one of the wands, please?"

Olivander handed the Holly and Phoenix wand he had expected to give to Mr. Potter and watched as the god seemed to examine it.

He finally nodded, then handed it back. "Harry, come here a moment."

The boy walked over and Xander reached out and took both his hands, closing his eyes for a moment as though thinking about something.

He then dropped the boy's hands and stepped back, closed his hands again and concentrated. A moment later he opened his eyes and smiled, then he held out an empty hand, which instants later seemed to be holding a duplicate of the wand in his own hand. "Here Harry, try this one." He said passing the new wand to the boy.

Harry gave it a cautious wave, and a trail of sparks danced in the air, brighter than anything Olivander had seen in his life. "What is it?" he had to ask.

"Holy Holly, with blood of a Human-Vampire-Immortal-Primal-God hybrid as a core. I doubt you can get much more magical than that." Xander explained offhandedly.

Olivander blinked and then asked, "Blood core? But won't it go bad?"

Xander shook his head, "I doubt Harry and I will have any bad blood between us. But if we ever do, then I won't care that his wand stops working, now will I?"

Harry had a huge grin on his face as he looked intently at his new wand.

Faith came over and handed him the three boxes he had allowed her to chose from, but all three still held their wands. "Are none of them acceptable for you?" he asked with concern.

The girl just grinned and reached out to pluck the Holly and Phoenix wand he still held in his other hand, saying "If H ain't goanna take it, then I will. It'll work, right?" she asked, giving it a small wave and releasing a shower of sparks.

"Of course it will. Would you like holsters for them?" Olivander asked.

As both children nodded, he ran into the back of his shop and pulled a pair of bracelet like top-of-the-line holsters out, then rushed back out front to his customers. "Here you go, they are charmed to be unsummonable, have a build in notice-me-not charm on them, are water-proof, and use pocket storage for the wands when not in use. Made from Dragonhide. These are Auror models, so please don't spread about where you got them, ok?"

Faith strapped the holster around her right wrist, then poked the end of the wand into the visible hole on the side of it. "Um, Mr. O, I think the wand'll be too big to fit in" She cut off as the tip of the wand easily slid into the holster, and the shaft swiftly followed, until just the end of the hilt was visable, looking like some sort of decoration in the middle of the leather looking strap around her wrist. "Uh, nevermind." She said, taking the holster off and looking at the back side of the bracelet, running her fingers over the thin piece of leather with the end of the wand sticking out. She tugged at it, but it wouldn't budge. "How do you get it out?" she asked.

"Put it back on, and flick your wrist, thinking about having your wand in your hand." He advised.

Faith did so, and as she moved her arm violently, the wand flashed out of the holster and reappeared in her hand, trailing sparks once more. "Wicked" she said with awe evident in her voice.

"Indeed." Mr. Olivander replied.

Turning to the elder two he asked, "Will that be all then?"

At their nods he did some quick math. The two holsters, and the work on the wand Dumbledore had asked him to make. He couldn't very well charge for the wand the God had crafted, apparently of his own blood, indeed the honor of seeing that made him want to simply send them away without charging, even for the rather expensive holsters, but over the millennia he had learned the value of always being fair in a trade, even to yourself, and so he quoted a price, "That'll be one hundred fifteen galleons, if you please."

Xander walked over to the counter and offered a green bag, once more pulling it from nowhere discernable. "Thanks for helping. I know Faith and Harry appreciate it. Also, please keep quiet about Harry's wand not being the one Dumbledore had you make. You can honestly tell him you sold it to us, since Faith took a likening to it. Oh, and also I'd appreciate it if you kept the fact that Cat and I are not normal to yourself."

Olivander nodded, the last thing he wanted was a genuine deity angry at him. He noticed for the first time the very functional looking sword strapped to the man's back and shuddered internally. Defiantly didn't want the man, or his wife, angry at him.

He watched, not even bothering to count the gold in the bag, thinking the goblins might prefer to open it themselves, as the four walked out of his shop and headed up the alley back towards the Leaky Cauldron.

=+=

Amycus Carrow sat in the Leaky Cauldron hidden under a glamour to disguise his identity. They were there ostensibly to gather intelligence, but for him the reason was far more basic - he was there for his first taste of Firewhiskey in thirteen years. Ok, at this point it was more like his 50th taste, but it was still the first bottle he'd had since being sent to Azkaban for the attack on the Longbottoms.

Alecto, his wife who was sitting next to him under her own glamour charm didn't understand the importance of Firewhiskey, and why he'd missed it so much in his life. It was able to dampen the pains in his life, pains which the years in Azkaban had only served to make ever more acute.

It all started with the stinking Muggles, and their filthy spawn like that bitch Jessica.

Back in Hogwarts, Jessica had gotten off on tormenting him with her body, always out of bounds for him because the family insisted he marry another Pureblood. Once she learned he couldn’t even date her because of his family, she had taken an almost malicious pleasure in taunting him, deliberately leaving her robes open and showing him glimpses of what she had beneath them, while acting all prim and proper in front of everyone else.

Was it his fault he'd finally failed to restrain himself? That he'd finally had to do something about it?

It was a good thing he'd had the sense to wait until just after graduation, to wait until she back was in her muggle house with her muggle family before he finally sought her out.

Of course the muggle clothes she had been almost wearing as she swam in the pond behind her house was the last straw.

He had come out of the bushes and stunned her, then taken her away with him, apparating to a cottage he knew of where they wouldn't be disturbed.

What he did there, while enjoyable at the moment, had been very disturbing when he looked back at it. He had become little more than an animal, and it was all that mudblood's fault.

Still afterwards he had disposed of the body, and that was all there was to it, just a bunch of memories that made him somewhat queasy to his stomach when he looked back at them. Or so he'd thought at the time.

The real problems had come a few weeks later. He'd been sitting in the Three Broomsticks, in Hogsmeade, when his Uncle Rosier came and sat down. And welcomed him to the ranks of the Deatheaters. Apparently he hadn't been as alone as he'd thought in that cottage, or someone had pulled the memories of what he'd done from his mind. Either way he was given a simple choice - join Lord Voldemort and help him take care of the Muggleborn problem, or face Azkaban for raping and murdering a witch. It wasn't that hard of a choice - all he'd have to do is what he'd already done, after all. Useless bitch. It was all her fault.

So he had joined the ranks of the Dark Lord. And some of it had been fun. But most of it, well that was what the Firewhiskey was for.

The bottle, the glorious bottle was almost empty when they came in to the tavern.

Four fucking Muggles!

A boy in his teens with black hair, a girl about the same age with long brown hair, a man in his thirties or forties with black hair, and then his breath hitched as he saw her. The final woman was shorter than Jessica had been all those years ago, and much older than she had been upon graduation. But the hair was the same, the eyes were the same, even if Jessica's had been a dark blue while this woman's were a shining green, but despite the few differences the greatest similarity was their bodies, and how the sluts liked to show them off.

Without even thinking about it he stood and walked to stand between them and the doorway to Muggle London. "What do you think you are doing here?" he asked coldly, his speech slightly slurred by the alcohol running through his veins.

The bitch spoke, her clear alto also serving to remind him of Jessica all those years ago. "Leaving at this point. Please move." Her American accent threw him for a moment, but he pulled his wand as he saw the older man start to step forward, only to be stilled by a glance from the blonde.

"I don't think so. Are you a filthy muggle, or a mudblood?" he asked dangerously, using his height to try and intimidate her.

She frowned up at him, apparently unaffected and said, "Neither. Now please move."

"Fucking muggles coming in here fucking up our world. Goddamn filthy mudblood bitches causing problems and teasing honest young men with their slutty bodies. Look at how you are dressed! Someone needs to teach you bitches a lesson." Amycus screamed as Alecto came up to stand beside, and slightly behind him.

He pointed his wand at the blonde bitch and forcefully shouted, "Crucio".

Nothing happened. He tried again, pouring all the hate he had into the curse, all the anger and frustration he'd built up during the years he was wrongfully cast into Azkaban for doing what they made him, "Crucio!"

Again nothing happened. He shook his wand a bit. It wasn't the best match for him, one of the many extras kept by the Deatheaters for when they needed a disposable wand, or for when someone couldn't go get one legally, such as himself and his fellow escapees. But it had been working fine earlier that day, even if the spells out of it were a little week. He lifted the tip to see if there was something on it perhaps, blocking the spell. And as the front of the wand came to point at his face his spell, actually both of his spells, came out together, two combined Cruciatus curses right in the face. And since he was the one who'd cast them, he was the one who would have to lift them, but he couldn't the pain was too great. He soundlessly fell to the floor, his body locked unmoving as every muscle clenched in pain, his tendons ripping and bones cracking under the unusual stress from the contracting muscles.

=+=

Alecto had watched as her stupid husband got up to confront the muggle family as they came in from Diagon Alley. There was something about the boy that seemed familiar, but why she should recognize some mudblood brat she had no idea.

She also pulled her wand when he pulled his, just in case the man tried anything, or more dangerously the boy who was already fingering what appeared to be a high-end quick draw wand-holster on his right wrist.

When her husband's Crucios failed to work, however her attention was slightly distracted, so she didn't notice the boy actually drawing his wand, especially when Amycus suddenly fell to the floor, victim somehow to his own curse.

The first notice she had was when a red light blasted her off her feet, sending her sailing, already unconscious, twenty feet through the air to slam into the wall behind her, her wand rolling across the floor from her now limp fingers.

=+=

Harry lowered his new wand, amazed at the power of the simple stunner he'd launched at the woman.

He looked down at the man on the floor, his body still frozen in position as streamers of energy shot from his wand into his head. Hoping it would help, he whispered as softly as possible, "stupefy" and another red blast shot out of his wand, striking the man on the floor, and stopping the streams of energy from shooting into his brain.

The body on the floor started to tremble and blood ran from its nose and mouth as it lay there, while Harry stepped back away, his footsteps echoing in the utter silence which had descended on The Leaky Cauldron in the aftermath of the short altercation.

Softly whispered words started up, things like, "Look, it's Potter and those Muggles who were with him at the Ministry last night." And "Did you see that, blasted fool crucioed himself." Or "That was the strongest stunner I ever saw" "That was a stunner?", and "I see how he could defeat the Dark Lord, did you see that stunner?"

Tom meanwhile had called the Ministry, and a pair of Aurors stepped through the floo to take charge of the situation.

=+=

Lord Voldemort was not happy. If anything he was a little scared. However he was masking that by being angry. Very angry.

Whatever the Potter Brat had done to him with his last attack, it seemed to have actually damaged the Dark Lord's magical core.

The night before, one of the three Deatheaters who had gone to kill the brat had returned, his robes in flames as he activated his portkey. So he had appeared in the hall of Riddle Manor on fire. In a wooden structure. Hadn't anyone ever taught these idiots "stop drop and roll"? He cast a flame freezing charm at the moron and almost collapsed to the ground at the effort it took him to extinguish the flames. Then he learned that the mission had failed, mostly because this looser couldn't handle something as simple as a fire spell. So he had cast his usual Crucio at the idiot, but he had been forced to drop it after barely twenty seconds as he literally ran out of power.

That had been the day before. He had spent the previous night examining his magical core, and to his astonishment he found it mostly gone. In a rage, he tried to attack the brat through the link they shared, and had found himself even unable to force anything along it - all the pain he tried to send the boy simply came back at him, like the connection didn't even exist.

When coupled with the prophecy, more of which had been published that morning in the Daily Prophet, thanks to an unnamed Unspeakable who couldn't help but speak, apparently, he had grounds to be worried, after all, when heard in full it certainly explained why every time he had faced the brat he'd lost, first when he was an infant, then again when he had been possessing Quirrell, and finally in the graveyard.

He reluctantly concluded that the first thing he would need to do was repair his magical core. And the only way he could do that was to reintegrate most of the pieces he had broken off of his soul. Each piece had held a fraction of his Magical Core, and while those fractions were minute compared to the rest of his core at the times he had broken them off, when compared to his now damaged core they were quite significant. By his calculations if he reabsorbed four of the fragments, he would double the size of his current core, at which point he would have enough power to use several of the core-enhancing rituals he had employed before to strengthen his magical power and endurance. At least he could keep Nagini and the diadem which was hidden safely in the Room of Hidden Things at Hogwarts, but the others would have to be destroyed, and the soul fragments reabsorbed so he could once more access the fractions of power they contained. With even two Horcruxes his Immortality would still be assured. In truth, even one would suffice. So he had contacted the Malfoy brat to have him retrieve the diary from his father's vault. He had sent Bellatrix to retrieve the cup from her family's vault at Gringotts, Rudolphis was instructed how to retrieve the ring from the old Gaunt house, and was sending Macnair for the locket in the cave.

Once he had the rest of his soul, other than the parts in his Familiar and the piece stored under his enemy's very nose, he could repair his core, and send all his minions together to finish the Potter brat for once and for all. After all, while the prophecy said he could never face Potter and win, it said nothing about his trusted Deatheaters.

=+=

Harry watched as the Auror tried a second time to cast Priori Incatatum on his new wand. Fortunately this time it seemed to work, and indeed showed that the only two spells the wand had ever cast were the pair of stunners he had told the Aurors about casting. Despite the several witnesses, the Aurors were having a particularly hard time believing Carrow had shot himself in the face with a Crucio. Such a thing should be impossible, no matter how drunk you were, unless you did it on purpose.

In the meantime the other Auror who had remained while the rest transported the two recaptured Deatheaters to a secure ward at St. Mungos, returned from where he had been speaking into the floo. "Mr. Potter, there is a special session of the Wizengamot meeting this evening. The Minister has asked that you attend, as she knows there will be issues needing to be addressed concerning yourself, as well as both your Godfather and the Dark Lord. Can I tell her you'll be there?"

Harry looked at the Auror suspiciously, then glanced behind him at Cat and Xander, who had caused a bit of a stir when they admitted they didn't carry wands, therefore seeming to confirm the rumors that they were Muggles, despite their repeated denials of the fact. "Only if my associates can come as well. It's not that I don't trust the ministry, well actually I take that back, I just don't trust the ministry. They have kidnapped me, framed me, locked me illegally in their own prison, badmouthed me, and demanded I do things instead of letting me make up my own mind. Even though I just met Cat, Xander, and Faith yesterday, I already trust them more than anyone I know."

The Auror shrugged, "Since they're Muggles, they won't be able to enter the Wizengamot chambers. Since you are technically Lord Potter, and are entitled to a seat on the Wizengamot, you could bring the young witch, Faith, I believe her name is, with you, but the Muggles won't be able to pass the threshold. Also, the rules are that a member of the Wizengamot is only entitled to a single guest at a time, so you could only bring one of them, even if they weren't Muggles."

Xander grinned, and said, "If you want to go, Harry, we'll be there with you, don't worry about it."

Faith grinned and stuck her wand back in the holster on her wrist, after the Aurors verified that it amazingly had never cast a single spell. When they explained she and Harry had just gotten their wands from Olivanders though the lack of spells being shown by the Priori Incantatum on hers made sense. The Aurors were a bit surprised that both wands looked the same, until Cat tool Faith's wand and held it next to Harry's, pointing out that the grips were not identical - Harry's was a bit larger, fitting his slightly larger hands. "Yo H, if you wanna see the Wizengezers, I'll hang with ya."

It was all Harry could do not to laugh at the expression the Aurors made at her blatant lack od respect to the most august body in magical Briton.

Once he assured the Auror he'd be there, in the Wizengamot Council Chabers on the tenth floor of the Ministry, at seven that evening, they were allowed to head back out the doors to Muggle London.

"So, Harry, what do you want to do now?" Xander asked him as they stepped out the door onto Charing Cross Road.

Harry thought about it and said, "Do you know where Grimwauld Place is?"

Xander shook his head and turned to Cat, "Any idea how to go somewhere no one knows how to get to?"

Cat looked speculatively for a moment then asked, "Why do you want to go there?"

"That letter I got this morning? It was from my Godfather, Sirius Black. That's apparently where he lives, and he asked me to come and see him at - Hmm. I can't remember the number now either, but it was on Grimwauld place." Harry explained.

Cat smiled brightly and asked, "I assume you've met him at least once before?" At Harry's nod, she went on, "Then I want you to picture him in your mind. Not just his face, but try and think about all your memories of him, everything you know about him, and use all of it to make a mental picture of him."

As Harry closed his eyes and started picturing his Godfather, he felt Cat reach out and pick up one of his hands, and then he felt a swirl of magic, even with his eyes closed, and his Dementor Vision showed a brilliant flash as they moved, and suddenly they were somewhere else entirely. "Open your eyes, Harry."

Harry did so and stared at the house across the street. "That's it! Number twelve Grimwauld Place!"

Faith, who was standing with Xander looked around in confusion, "There isn't a number twelve here, Harry. It's like they skipped the number or something."

Xander looked at her in confusion then asked, "Um, Faith, you mean you can't see the big house right in front of us?"

As Faith shook her head, Xander glanced at Cat and frowned. "Must be some sort of spell blocking it from her. Have you ever heard of something like that?"

Harry's eyes gleamed, 'The Fidelius! It's what my parents tried to use to hide from Voldemort. It would have worked if their Secret Keeper hadn't betrayed them."

Xander reached out and placed a hand on Faith's head for a moment. Suddenly her eyes widened as she saw a house literally appear between the other two houses to either side of them. "Wicked!" she muttered before walking up and ringing the bell on the front door.

=+=

Inside the house pandemonium broke out as suddenly the front doorbell, which had been silent since the Fidelius had first been cast on the house woke the portrait of Mrs. Black, who started screaming about filthy Muggles. Meanwhile the members of the Order in residence looked at one another wondering what to do as they took in the unfamiliar figure of a young girl standing on their front porch.

=+=

The doorbell had rung a second time before Moody and Sirius made it downstairs to see what was up.

"Why is someone ringing the door?" Moody asked.

"I don't know" Hestia Jones, one of the three Order members already in the living room answered. "There's some girl outside ringing it."

Moody's eyes, both magical and non narrowed at this and he turned around to stare at the man behind him on the stairs. "Black, did you give anyone new the secret?"

Black shrugged and said, "I sent a letter to Harry last night which had the secret on the bottom and asked him to come visit, but I don't think he'd be described as 'some girl' unless he was in disguise.

Moody's magical eye peered through the door and took in the girl on the other side. Something about her looked familiar, but he didn't think he'd ever seen her in his life. Still as he noted what looked like a really thick wand in the back of her pants, as well as one strapped to each leg, he grew more than a bit concerned.

Waving everyone else back, he advanced on the door and flung it open, slamming it into the still screaming portrait of Mrs. Black. Skiping out of the direct line of fire opened by the door he kept his magical eye focused on the girl for any potential hostile move she might make, but she just stood there smirking.

"Hi. I'd like to sell some girl scout cookies." The girl said in an American accent.

Moody's normal eye took in the Auror style quick draw wand holster on her wrist, and he raised the threat assessment of the innocent seeming girl to it 's highest potential level.

Stepping close and pointing his wand at her he growled, "Let's try that again. Who are you, and how did you get here." He demanded, his wand held steady on her center of mass from les than two feet away.

The girl gave him another smirk and said, "Name's Faith, and I came up the walk." She said, gesturing behind her. Moody flinched at the start of the movement, but as he noticed three other figures still on the street watching them his concern grew. He took a moment to scan them for wands, but found nothing on all three of them, then remembering the Auror style holster the girl was wearing, decided not to dismiss them as potential magical threats just yet.

It was as he was coming to this conclusion, his attention having slipped for a brief instant as he had looked at the three behind him when the girl made her move.

Faster than was humanly possible, she reached forward and SNAPPED his wand, then stepped back, avoiding his reflexive lunge to grapple her, and felt her hand on his arm accelerating him out the door of the house, then his body defied physics as she spun him headfirst into the wall of the house, before landing on him and knocking the air from his stunned form.

A sharp piece of wood was suddenly shoved against his chest, a wooden stake, not a wand as he had initially assumed, and she said in a now menacing tone, "Now, who are you, and why were you threatening me with a deadly weapon?"

The others in the house couldn't move, even Mrs. Black went quiet as the retired Senior Auror was taken down in less than a second by the innocent seeming girl on the porch. Everyone drew their wands as they saw her pull the sharp piece of wood from under her to and shove it forcefully against the grizzled older man's chest.

Sirius had made it to the door and looked out towards the street, only to freeze as he saw his godson and the two adults who had vanished him from the Ministry some how the night before standing there watching the girl who he now recognized as te one his cousin had told him had taken out five vampires by herself while Harry and the Aurors had been busy with the Deatheaters.

Moody on the other hand had decided to cooperate as he replied as calmly as he could while still trying to catch a breath without impaling himself on the wooden stake shoved painfully against his chest, "Retired Auror Moody, and I was just covering you in case you made a hostile move. You were the stranger coming to a hidden location after all. What was I supposed to do, invite you in and offer you tea and biscuits?"

The girl shrugged, and said, "Would have been better than pointing your stick at me. I don't like it when people threaten me. It makes me edgy. And when I get edgy, the things that make me that way tend to die. It's a Slayer thing."

Moody frowned as the word Slayer rang a bell somewhere in the distant reaches of his mind, but he couldn't place it at the moment. "If I apologize Lass, will you let me up?" he asked instead.

She narrowed her eyes at him, then took in a man she'd seen at that Ministry place the night before staring at Cat, Xander, and Harry, while other people crowded behind him looking out the door at her and the old man she was sitting on. She shrugged, and said, "If you apologize, AND promise with one of those wizard things not to do it to me again."

Moody frowned, then shrugged, "I apologize Lass. But seeing as how you broke my wand, I can't do it again if I wanted to. And without my wand, I can't give a Wizards Oath."

Suddenly he felt her move, and her free hand brushed against his right shin. He cursed inwardly as she pulled his backup wand from his leg holster and carefully handed it to him, pointing away from her. "That's ok, I think you can use this one."

Moody struggled to calm his racing heart as he tried to figure a way out of giving a vow to a stranger never to raise a wand at her again.

=+=

Harry watched as Faith skipped up to the door and rang the bell. He wasn't sure what to expect, but he hadn't really expected the door to remain stubbornly closed as she rang the bell a second time, then finally to bang open eliciting a scream from someone inside as it banged against the wall and Mad Eye Moody came surging out of the door to point a want at Faith from point-blank range.

He'd watched as Faith talked to Moody, seeming to make him mad, then she gestured towards them, and as Moody looked at himself, Cat, and Xander, Faith moved. If he hadn't been watching he would have missed it. If his eyes hadn't been enhanced with the bird vision, and his Dementor vision aiding as well he would have missed it.

Had he lost his concentration for an instant, he would have missed it. Faith's hands swished in front of her, breaking Moody's wand. She then stepped back as Moody charged physically towards her, and somehow tripped him, grabbed his waist, spun him in the air and slammed his head into the side of the house, them threw him onto the ground and jumped on top of him, catching his chest with both her knees, before pulling her stake from her waistband and shoving it against hs chest so he couldn't move.

All that seemed to take less than a second, although in all honesty it might have taken three.

As Faith started questioning the Auror she had, er, captured, he looked back towards the door, and he saw his Godfather Sirius standing in the doorway looking at him in apparent shock, while Remus and two other people he didn't recognize were looking past him at Faith and Professor Moody.

With a glance behind him, followed by another glance over at Faith and the Auror, who she seemed to be handing a wand to now, Harry headed up the walkway towards the house, and his Godfather and friend.

=+=

Remus wasn't sure what to make of things. The girl at the door had suddenly taken out Moody moving with more speed and strength than a werewolf. If she wasn't standing in broad daylight he'd think she might be a really old, powerful vampire.

Then as he looked up the walk past Sirius, he saw Harry walking up to the house, followed by an older couple dressed in Muggle clothes.

He glanced back down at Moody who was being handed a wand and told to swear or he wasn't getting up, then back at Harry, and he decided the old ex-Auror could take care of himself.

He stepped back, allowing Sirius to also step back into the house, and the three apparent guests not sitting on top of retired Aurors entered the house.

As soon as Harry stepped in, the portrait of Mrs. Black started screaming "Muggle! Get your filthy self out of my house!"

Harry turned to look at it as the other two came in behind him. Jones and Fletcher, the other two Order members in the house at the moment still held their wands in their hands, as did he, but they were quite carefully not pointed at either Harry or the two other strangers, the lesson still being learned by Moody outside fresh in their minds.

=+=

Moody gripped his backup wand and looked the girl on his chest in the face as he again replied, "Look Lass, I can't give you a binding oath never to point a weapon at you again. I don't know you, and even if I did it would be foolish to give such an oath."

She frowned and said, "Then we can stay here. I'll accept your apology, but I want an oath. Either that or cookies." She said with a pout.

"Fine you can have the cookies. Just let me up." He said, feeling gratification at finally winning the argument it seemed he'd been having for several minutes. Long enough for his anger at being taken down so easily by this slip of a girl to be replaced by frustration that she wouldn't let him up.

She frowned and said, "No. Cookies, then I let you up. If you had invited me in for tea and cookies, like you said, this wouldn't have happened. But instead you pointed your stick at me and threatened me. I can understand your position, that's why you aren't dead. But I want either your oath, or the cookies before I let you up."

Moody scowled and turned his head towards the house to ask his fellow order members to fetch him some cookies so this crazy girl sitting on him would let him up, only to see the strange blonde woman he'd spotted on the sidewalk step through it into the house and close the door behind herself.

Looking back up at the girl she saw him smirk, and he gave a groan. He knew he would never live this down - as if spending a year locked in his own trunk as a prisoner of a Deatheater wasn't bad enough, now a teenager had taken him down and was holding him hostage for biscuits.

=+=

As Xander entered the house, he was surprised by the palpable miasma of evil which filled the place, almost like back home in Sunnydale, only much more concentrated.

He stared for a moment at the animated picture on the wall yelling at him and demanding he leave, before turning around and extending his senses to see if he could track down the source of the oppressive emanations.

Cat closed the door behind herself as she stepped into the house, then she also turned to look at the picture on the wall. "Filthy muggle slut! How dare you enter my house! I'll have you know this used to be a respectable pure-blood home. Your kind would never be tolerated here. Kreacher!" the painting screeched.

A small greenish hominid appeared before the painting with a slight pop, and it turned towards the portrait. "Yes Mistress?" it enquired with a slight bow.

The painting gestured behind it at Cat, Xander and Harry and demanded, "Get these filthy muggles out of my house this instant!"

"Yes Mistress." The being said before turning around. The moment it's eyes fell on Xander and Cat they widened, and with a whimpering sound it suddenly fell over dead.

Cat frowned as she felt its soul start to implode. Moving swiftly she leapt forward and caught the falling body before it could hit the ground, calling for her husband to help her.

=+=

Xander gave up his search for the source of the evil emotions flowing through the house, having located several small sources including the screeching painting, and one rather large one in one of the rooms on the second floor, but noting large enough to flood the house like it was.

Turning as his wife called his name out loud, he saw her catching some sort of creature as it fell over dead, even as Cat summoned him mentally to help her save the being she held.

Without a second thought, he jumped completely into his wife's mind, figuring she knew better than he what she wanted to do, and why.

=+=

Sirius had been hugging Harry for all he was worth when his mother's portrait had summoned the elderly house elf and ordered it to eject the newcomers.

He had been about to intervene, knowing that the orders of a living master would supersede those from the image of his former mistress, no matter what the house-elf's preferences, when suddenly Kreacher gave out a whimper and fell limply towards the ground.

He watched as the blonde woman dove forward, catching the creature's body in her arms and calling out "Xander!"

The man who had come to a stop just inside the house, near the umbrella stand turned at the woman's call, then without any noise or other sign simply vanished into thin air, as though he'd never been there to start with.

Sirius reached an arm around Harry as he watched the woman lower the body of Kreacher to the floor, then gently place her hands on either side of his head.

She looked up suddenly and yelled out, "Who is it that thinks they own this being?"

Sirius suddenly felt compelled to step forward, "I, I do. When my mother died, I inherited him, along with the house."

Cat scowled at him and commanded, "Free him. Now. Of all commands."

As he hesitated, he felt a surge of power rolling off her small frame, more power than he had ever felt from any witch or wizard before, as she commanded, "NOW!"

Sirius quickly pulled off his shirt and threw it at the dead elf, saying "Kreacher, I free you of all bonds."

The woman rewarded him with a smile as a golden glow suddenly surrounded the house-elf's body the moment his shirt touched it.

And then Kreacher took a breath.

=+=

Albus Dumbledore was frustrated.

He had scheduled a special meeting of the Wizengamot for this evening in hopes of getting the rest of the issues aggravated by Voldemort's attacks on the Ministry and Azkaban resolved, and hopefully in his favor.

He was very unhappy with the way things were turning out. The pressure on him to meet Harry's challenge from the previous evening of either testifying under Veritaserum or take a magically binding oath that he hadn't known about Harry's being held in Azkaban before he heard about it in the Great Hall at Hogwarts wasn't going away just because he'd offered plausible reasons why he couldn't do so.

More upsetting was that the contents of the prophecy had gotten out. By now even Harry would know about it, and that would just serve to make him even less controllable. The whole reason for isolating him at his relatives house the previous summer had been to make him more pliable, an unwelcome independent streak having developed over the past year while he had been participating in the Tri-Wizard tournament. Not once had Harry come to see him for advice on how to meet the various challenges. If Harry wasn't dependant on him for instructions, then how could he guide the child to do what was necessary and sacrifice himself to stop Voldemort?

At least someone in the Department of Mysteries had been smart enough to lie about the last line, saying that the prophecy which everyone had heard cut off ended with 'and any time the two shall meet, the Dark Lord shall face defeat.' as opposed to the actual last line, 'and either must die at the hands of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.' Of course, once the boy hears the fake version, he'll start to think of himself as unbeatable when it comes to Riddle. Better that he explain about the actual ending as soon as he can get the child alone, before he gets any foolish notions and heads after the Dark Lord without developing the link between the two of them to its fullest potential. That reminded him, he needed to see about Severus 'teaching the boy occlumency', and insuring that what he did was to fully break down any mental barriers the boy may have developed over the years to keep the spirit of Voldemort out of his mind.

But first he needed to get the boy back here where he belonged, where he could control things.

He'd see about passing some sort of legislation if he couldn't get the boy to return on his own. After all, what was the use of being the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW if you never used your authority to help things turn out for the greater good?

=+=

Moody was starting to get desperate. The girl on his stomach would not relent. She demanded he either give her his blasted oath, or chocolate chip biscuits!

She wouldn't let him conjure any, or try an Accio, neither would she let him send a patronus for help. She simply sat there, smirking evilly, and waiting for him to either give in and offer his oath, which he would not do, or someone to offer her his ransom. And the other order members seemed to have disappeared,

=+=

Sirius watched as the glow around Kreacher faded, leaving a younger, healthier looking house-elf in its wake.

Groggily, as though awakening from a deep sleep the house-elf opened its eyes and looked around in wonder.

"Kreacher!" the portrait of his mother bellowed, "What are you doing laying around! I told you to eject those filthy muggles!"

To his astonishment the house-elf scowled and looked up at the image of the older woman before snarling, "Shut up!"

He then looked around at the staring humans and with a surprised grin said, " Kreacher is free! No more spouting stupid Blood Purity for Kreacher. No more listening to stupid picture. Kreacher can do whatever Kreacher wants, and Kreacher doesn't want to listen to you anymore!"

Suddenly the portrait of his mother fell off the wall, a shocked look on her face as it hit the floor and fell forward so she could no longer be heard.

The woman stood up, helping Kreacher to his feet, and Sirius suddenly realized the man was back as well, standing silently beside him as he watched the house-elf look down at himself, before looking up at the woman and saying, "Kreacher is healthy again! Kreacher won't have to be retired! Kreacher thanks the pretty not-muggle!"

The woman smiled and said in a soft voice, "You can call me Cat. And you are welcome. It was the least we could do, since it was your trying to go against all those stupid conflicting orders that almost killed you."

The house-elf shook his head and said, " Kreacher didn't almost die. Kreacher was dead, and Kreacher was being destroyed instead of going to where dead house-elves go."

Cat smiled again and rubbed a hand along Kreacher's head and said, "Well now the next time you die you won't have that problem. And that won't be for a long time in any case. So you be happy and enjoy yourself, ok Kreacher? And if you ever need me, just call for me really hard. I can't promise I will hear and be able to come, but if I can, I will, ok?"

Kreacher nodded, smiling, then a frown came over Kreacher's face as he looked down at the shirt on the floor. " Kreacher has been given clothes. Kreacher has no place to go, and no work to do. Kreacher is useless."

The woman, Cat, looked over at him and said, "I expect your former owner might be willing to hire you, as a free elf, if you want. You'd have to work out with him what oaths to take and how much he should pay you and such. It was at my request he gave you clothes, because you were being shredded by all the conflicting orders, and couldn't handle it anymore."

The house-elf nodded solemnly then looked up at Sirius and said, "Kreacher is sorry for all the nasty things he said. Kreacher didn't mean them. Will Master Black still want Kreacher to help? Kreacher can do much better job now, Kreacher can even help make nastiness go away."

The man beside him seemed to perk up at that and asked, "You mean you know what makes this place feel this way?"

Kreacher nodded, "Is many things. There are evil things in house Kreacher has to hide, and there are spells over house Kreacher had to renew to help hide evil things. But Kreacher can help Master Black get rid of evil things, other than Master Regulus's pendant. Kreacher tried to destroy it like Master Regulus asked, but couldn't so Kreacher hides it with other evil things that are supposed to be here until Master Regulus can tell Kreacher what to do with it."

The man frowned and asked, "Is that the locket upstairs?"

Kreacher's eyes widened and he ghasped, "You is like Mistress Cat! You is Not-Muggle too! Kreacher is sorry. Kreacher will get locket if Master Not-Muggle asks."

The man smiled, said "You can call me Xander, and I am not your Master, neither is Cat your Mistress. We would like to be your friends though."

Suddenly Kreacher was on the floor, hugging the man, Xander's legs crying, "Kreacher is not worthy of being friends with Not-Muggles, Kreacher is lowly house-elf. Kreacher is bad house-elf. Kreacher is sorry."

Xander knelt down and helped the sobbing elf to his feet, staying crouched so he was at eye level with the smaller creature. "Kreacher, it's not your fault you were forced by the orders given to you to do things you didn't want to do. The fault for that lies with the ones who enslaved you, and then kept you as a slave." He glanced up at Sirius, and Sirius felt a chill run down his back as though he was looking into the eyes of his doom.

Kreacher spoke up, "Master Black was kind master. He never hit Kreacher. He made sure Kreacher had food. He was good master." Softly he added, "He was better master to Kreacher than Kreacher was house-elf to him."

Sirius decided to follow this Xander's example, and crouching down to be at eye level with the elf he said, "Well, Kreacher, if you want to continue to work here, there will be some rules." As Kreacher nodded he went on, "First, unless you object for comfort reasons, I want you to wear a uniform, some sort of clothes with the Black Family crest on them, so everyone knows you work for me." Kreacher's eyes widened as he tried to picture himself in wizard like clothes. "Next, I want you to be sure not to work more than twelve hours in a day, and to take at least one day off each week to go away and do something you enjoy."

"Kreacher enjoys working." The elf said solemnly.

Sirius thought about that and asked, "Is there a particular kind of work Kreacher enjoys more then others?"

The elf nodded "Kreacher enjoys gardening. Kreacher likes being outside."

"Then one day every week I want you to spend the whole day outside, unless it is raining or too cold or something and you'd rather not be out there. Is that ok?"

Kreacher nodded and said, "Thank you Master Black for keeping Kreacher. Kreacher won't let you down. Kreacher will be the bestest house-elf ever!"

He looked over and saw approval this time in Xander's eyes, so with a smile at the elf he said, "You're welcome Kreacher. Now why don't you go upstairs and get that evil locket you were talking about."

Kreacher nodded and vanished with a Pop, returning by the time Sirius and Xander had risen to their feet.

As Sirius reached out for the locket in Kreacher's hands, Xander stopped him, saying "Kreacher, put it on the table over there. It's dangerous somehow" he said to everyone in the room.

The woman, Cat walked up and looked at it, an expression of dawning horror on her face as she said, "It's a Soul-Bind!"

Everyone in the room turned to her in confusion as she explained, "Someone has shredded a part of their essence, of who they are, and has affixed it inside this locket. If anyone were to wear it and open it, the piece of soul could come out and possess them, drawing on their life-force in an attempt to create a duplicate of the person's old body at the time their soul was shredded."

Xander added, "And even without that, if the person who did this were to be killed, this piece of their soul, being bound here to this world would keep them from passing on to the next level of existence. They would remain here, a wandering spirit unless they could regain a body somehow."

Harry suddenly whispered, "Voldemort!"

As everyone looked at him he explained, "In second year, Ginny had a diary. By the end of the year the spirit inside it, which belonged to a student named Tom Riddle tried to kill her and create a new body for itself. I barely managed to stop it after stabbing the book with a fang from the Basilisk I killed, and then Ginny was ok. That sounds like the Soul-Bind Cat just described, and it would explain how he could possess Quirrell in first year, after having been killed back when my parents died. I bet the diary was a Soul-Bind, he might have even made more than one, this could be a part of his soul as well!"

Sirius turned a questioning gaze on Remus and whispered "First year? Second year? Basilisk?"

At Remus's confused look he turned back to his Godson, promising himself to have a long chat about things later, and watched as the woman, Cat reached out and lifted the locket from the table. "Well, there's one way to find out." She said, then to everyone's horror she placed the chain around her neck, and opened the locket.

=+=

Xander watched as his wife settled the chain around her neck, then opened the locket before anyone could stop her.

An inky blackness seemed to swirl out, and drift down to settle into her chest.

He felt, through the echo of Cat in his mind, the surprise of the soul fragment as it was released, but couldn't find a host.

He watched as Cat played with it, much like a cat with a mouse, as it struggled to find purchase in the form it had entered, only to encounter nothing wherever it moved.

Finally, as its essence started to fade, Cat reached out a small tendril of power, just enough to sustain it, and slowly started to draw its memories out.

He could feel his wife's disgust as the life of the man, Tom Riddle, flowed through their minds. They watched as through the early years the boy was constantly abused in the orphanage he had been consigned to upon his birth.

They recalled his joy as he learned he had a talent, a gift for making things happen, a power the other children who picked on him lacked.

They saw as he reveled in the hurt he could provide his former tormentors, returning their childish taunts with physical injuries, and enjoying their cries of pain.

They saw as he slowly filled the cabinet in his room with trophies wrenched from the fellow unfortunate children he grew up with.

They watched as his joy in causing pain grew to be a solid part of his life and personality, as he reveled in the power it gave him over others.

They followed as he received his Hogwarts letter from Albus Dumbledore, and witnessed his joy and wonder as he journeyed for the first time into the Magical World, learning that he was not as unique, as special as he had first thought, but thrilled and excited about the opportunity to learn a whole new way to employ and access his gift.

They watched as he was sorted into Slytherin house, the hat proclaiming him an heir of the house's founder.

That night they saw as he was once more picked upon by his fellow housemates, much as he had been in the orphanage, this time because they saw him as a MudBlood.

They saw as he swiftly disabused them of that idea, instead proclaiming himself the heir of Slytherin, and rapidly cowing his fellow students, even those several years older than himself.

They watched as he threw himself into his studies, vowing to become the most powerful, proficient wizard in the world, a wizard so great people would remember him instead of Merlyn.

They saw as towards the end of the school year, he asked the Headmaster, a man named Dippett, to please let him stay at the school over the summer, but instead he was forced to return to the Orphanage he thought he had left forever.

They watched as over the summer he learned that while he might not be able to use his wand, that the lessons he had studied the year before had aided his control of his magic even without a wand. And they watched as he tortured his fellow orphans. They saw the horrid things he did to a younger pair of children, a boy and a girl as he used various wandless magics to torture them almost to insanity while he held them inside a cave one afternoon.

They witnessed his return to school, and saw as he once more threw himself into his studies, seeming to be the perfect student, always polite, always helpful to the teachers and staff.

And they saw as when no one was looking, he would practice his wandless magic as well, honing his skill in causing pain, torturing small animals he captured in the forest, and laughing about their helplessness.

They saw a second summer come and go, and then a third, in his fourth year, they saw him discover Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets, wherein he discovered his first true friend, a serpent which had lived beneath the school since its founding, Salazar's Basilisk. It was shortly before school let out for the summer, and his joy at his success in locating the hidden chamber was balanced by his frustration at how short a time he had to assess it's potentials.

Once more a summer came and went, and they watched as Tom, now fifteen returned to the school, eager to renew his acquaintance with the Basilisk, and to continue his explorations of the chamber, and the secrets it held.

They watched as Tom decided that after school he would take a new name, and they looked on as he spent dozens of hours working on anagrams of his name to find something suitable, finally coming up with "I AM LORD VOLDEMORT" He liked that one especially.

They watched as Tom learned and practiced new curses, finding particular joy in the Unforgivables, especially the Cruciatus. He learned Legelemency that year, as well as a crude form of Occlumency. He also learned how to obliviate and implant false memories by using his fellow students as test subjects. Often when he was finished, he would obliviate them once more, then have them look at a reflection of the Basilisk, thereby petrifying them. He did this so many times that as the year was winding down, and the summer of 1943 was approaching, he overheard that there was a good chance the school would be closed.

Not wanting to see this happen, they watched as he prepared to frame a fellow student for the problems, and with a final attack, this one fatally injuring a fourteen year old girl, names Myrtle who looked directly into the eyes of his snake as it emerged from the chamber's tunnel into the girl's bathroom. This was exactly as Tom had planned, and he used the murder to sheer off a piece of his soul and anchor it into a diary he had been keeping up to that time, creating what his head of house called a Horcrux.

They then saw how he turned in his fellow student, a Griffendor named Rubeus Haggrid, blaming the petrified students on the pet acromantula the boy was keeping in a closet.

They felt his sanctimonious adulation as his plan went off with only a minor hitch - Myrtle came back as a ghost, but was unable to tell anyone what had happened, since she had been obliviated right before he had made her look into the eyes of his friend.

The school year ended on that high-note, and he was once more banished.

This time, however since he was now sixteen, they watched as he soon left the Orphanage, and traveled to Little Hangleton, where he met with his uncle and learned all he could about his family, on both his father's and his mother's sides.

They watched as he them murdered his paternal family, using his newly perfected Avada Kedavra curse, then using the skills practiced on the petrified students on his maternal uncle, make the man take the blame.

They saw as he pulled the Gaunt family ring off his uncle's finger as the man was sent to Azkaban for the rest of his life, and they felt the satisfaction Tom felt at yet another successful plan.

They watched as in his sixth year, he was once more named Prefect, and made top student for his year. He visited with the Basilisk several times, but far less often than before, as on more than one occasion he was almost caught by the ghost of Myrtle either coming or going from what was now considered her bathroom.

They watched as he spent a final summer restlessly traveling around, using his newly licensed Apparition ability to move effortlessly from place to place. They watched as he conducted several rituals he learned of in the chamber, rituals designed to strengthen one's magical core, or to siphon another's core into one's own, leaving the donor unfortunately dead. Tom killed four more people that summer, one elderly witch, and three muggles he tortured to death wandlessly.

They witnessed his final year at Hogwarts, feeling his immense satisfaction as he was named Head Boy, proving once and for all his superiority to all the other students in the school. They watched him pretend to make friends with the Ravenclaw Ghost, one of Rowena's children, and learn the location of a long hidden family heirloom.

They saw as he graduated with the top honors of the school, and felt his satisfaction turn to dust when Headmaster Dippett turned down his request for consideration to fill the school's opening for a Defense teacher. They watched as he made his way into the chamber one last time, bidding the serpent inside farewell, then casting a curse on the position he had wanted, so it would never remain filled for more than one year.

They saw him journey that summer to Albania, where he obtained the long hidden diadem, and murdering a local peasant, converted it into a second Horcrux.

They followed him back to England, where he took a job in Nocturne Alley, working for Caractacus Burke, where he used his skills in mental manipulation honed at Hogwarts over the past three years to persuade various witches and wizards to part with rare and valuable heirlooms at ridiculously low prices, so they could be resold at Borgin and Burkes.

They watched him pretend to befriend an older witch named Hepzibah Smith after learning she had several objects she believed belonged to the founders of Hogwarts. Having made a Horcrux of Rowena's diadem, he had decided he wanted something from each of them, as another way to show his superiority over even the illustrious founders.

They watched as he killed her and stole a locket and a cup from her, using her death to create a third Horcrux, this time using a cup which had belonged to Helga Hufflepuff. Then they watched as he altered her house-elf's memories so it would take the blame for poising it's mistress.

Finally they watched as he selected a random street tramp, a muggle no one would miss, and murdered him with the intent of using his death to convert the locket of Salazar Slytherin into a fourth Horcrux.

That locket was the same one Cat was now wearing.

And as the last of the memories flowed through their minds, the last of the soul fragment faded away, lost forever.

=+=

Sirius watched in horror as a black whisp emerged from the locket and sunk down into the woman's chest.

For a few moments nothing seemed to happen, then Cat became perfectly still, not even breathing, as her eyes started glowing a soft green.

At his side, the man, Xander had also frozen.

Harry tried to assure him that the two knew what they were doing, but if he hadn't seen what she had done with, no, for, Kreacher, he wouldn't have believed his godson.

Eventually, however Cat took a deep breath, shaking her head and Xander also started to move, reaching out and taking his wife's hand.

She looked up at him, tears in her eyes, and said, "So that's how you create a Monster."

Everyone looked confused at her odd comment, as the man took her in his arms and gave her a hug, "He wasn't created, he had already been broken, something missing even as a small child, remember the first time he caught a bug in the yard? Most children would have played with it, herded it around, and if they managed to kill it have been sad. He pulled the legs off on one side and was happy to see it struggle, then he pulled the others off and placed it on top of an ant hill. He knew what he was doing, and he enjoyed watching as the ants tore the rest of the beetle apart, while it still struggled. He wasn't sad until it finally stopped moving, and at that point only because he knew it wasn't in pain any more. To be that way at three, he was already a monster. Already evil."

The looks of confusion and concern at the odd conversation grew as the woman started to cry, sobbing into her husband's shoulders, while he looked down at her with love and affection obvious in his face and eyes.

Finally, Harry asked, "Was it Voldemort?"

Xander nodded as Cat worked to overcome her sadness at a life so ruined from so early an age, at all the anger and hurt she had experienced as she lived his life from his point of view.

"Mostly it was Tom Riddle. The, he called it a Horcrux, was made when he was about twenty, and it was his fourth. He planned at least five, one using an artifact from each of the founders, as well as the diary you mentioned earlier. That one had been his first, created in Fifth year, when he was sixteen." Xander explained.

"How do you know that?" Remus asked.

"Cat tapped the soul fragment. Siphoned off it's memories. We both watched his entire life from birth to the creation of his fourth Horcrux. Everything he did, every thought he had, whatever he was, from beginning to end. We lived his life as he saw it, through the day he split off this piece of his soul. By the way, there are at least two more pieces out there, a cup which belonged to Helga Hufflepuff, and a Diadem which once belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. He hadn't yet found an artifact of Gryffindor he felt worthy of infecting with his essence. But he had plans to do so before be began his campaign to assume what he sees as his rightful place as ruler of the world." Xander explained.

Remus blinked as he tried to envision going through someone else's life, even just skimming it in the brief time the two had been frozen immobile. "Who, and what are you? I've seen you do magic without a wand, so I know you're not Muggles. But something about you makes my wolf want to submit, it is scared to death you might see something as a challenge for some reason."

Extending his right hand, while keeping his left securely around the woman who had finished sobbing and now was just clinging to him he said, "Alexander Harris, call me Xander, and this is my wife Cat. Out Daughter Faith is the girl outside demanding cookies from the old man, although she's just doing that because it's getting a rise out of him. Someone really ought to go ransom him. She prefers Chocolate Chip, if you have 'em. If not, Cat or I can conjure some up for you."

The Order members looked at one another in confusion, then Hestia looked out the window, and saw that the girl was indeed still seated on Alistor, although she no longer seemed to be holding the stake against his chest, rather she was holding one of his arms which held a wand in it, and her other hand was on his second arm, keeping both penned to the ground.

As she moved towards the door, the mention of biscuits diverted her to the kitchen, so she could try and find an appropriate ransom for the older man.

=+=

Moody had been taking the opportunity to subtly question his captor. He had managed to wiggle the wand to point at her and had wordlessly sent a truth spell at her, which she apparently hadn't noticed. She didn’t seem to mind answering questions at least, although the depth of her answers seemed to leave more than a bit to be desired.

Her genuine confusion when he'd asked her who told her where the Order's Headquarters was located had surprised him, as instead of providing a name, she'd asked him what Order.

He had prompted with the full name, "Order of the Phoenix, Lass."

And she'd shrugged, before answering, "Never heard of 'em. But I did get to see a Phoenix today. Two of them, actually. They are cool. As long as they don't bang into the wall scaring you when you're in the middle of getting dressed. I gotta get H back for that somehow. It's one thing to look, another to burry your face in a girls tits without asking first."

Dismissing the part about the phoenixes and the Potter Lad's apparently caddish behavior, he focused again on the breach in security. "So how did you manage to find this house if you didn't know where Headquarters was?"

Her eyes widened and she asked, "Oh! So this is the Headquarters. So are you in that Order then? Do you have a Phoenix? I couldn't see the house at first, you know. Dad had to do something so I could. And we came here because Harry wanted to see his Godfather. He didn't remember the address, so instead the 'Rents had 'em focus on an image of his Godfather and we jumped to wherever he was. But then I couldn't see the house right in front of me, and X asked C if she thought it was a spell, then H offered this Fidelous idea from when his folks were hiding, and Dad did something and then the house appeared."

Moody scowled. He surreptitiously checked for the feel of the wards, but they seemed unperturbed, so whatever this girl's father had done had been to her, not to them. This only went a small way towards easing his mind. The fact that this girl's father could somehow bypass the secret troubled him greatly. "I take it your father is the man who was with you then? Was the blonde woman your mother as well?"

"C is cool. They are the greatest 'Rents like ever. Sometimes they can be a bit strict, but you always know where you stand with them, and when they come down on you, at least you know why, and usually you knew beforehand that you'd get shit for it. And when you follow the rules, they let you hang, hell, they'll go party with you, and not all embarrassing and shit either. They're like my best friends, and they're my folks also. Honestly, getting the Slayer gig and meeting X and C was the best thing that ever happened to me. Otherwise I'd still be in Beantown, probably cooling it in Juvie, or," she shudder slightly on top of him as she said this, "walking the streets with the Ho's like my Bio."

All he could get from this was conformation that the pair were her guardians, but possibly not her real parents. Rather that she met them because of getting a job as a Slayer, which could be some sort of assassin, based on her proficiency with taking him down.

"So when was this?" he asked, hoping to learn more about the man who could breach his wards so easily. "Late last year, 'round the start of October. Met X and C in a graveyard, scared the shit outa me. Then we went to the library where we met a fake watcher, and C went medieval on the bitch." She giggled as she continued, "She literally turned the bitch into a poodle. Told her to get out and never bother me again."

Having confirmed that the pair certainly weren't Muggles, despite appearances, he tried to focus on the Slayer part. "So what's a Slayer, Lass?"

"Vampire Slayer. You know, One Girl In All The World and all that shit." She explained.

Moody's eye widened as he recalled the ancient legend of the Dark Creature's boogieman. No proof had been found other than old stories that such a being had existed, but if she was one it at least explained how she could take him down so easily. Anyone who could go toe to toe with vampires. Vampires! That was where he remembered her from - the reports that a girl had fought several vampires while Harry and the Aurors had been fighting the Deatheaters. He had seen a picture of her from when Harry had briefly been at the Ministry. So that meant that the couple inside were also the ones who had so casually breached the wards at the Ministry as well, abducting Harry from a secure room in the bowels of the underground building without any evidence of magic. Suddenly he felt a little better about their breaching his own wards. Not much, bit a little. "So do they train the Slayers?"

The girl shook her head, "Nah, that was the Watchers. X used to be a Scoobie. Kinda still is, but he doesn't do as much anymore, says the Creator won't allow it. C is just his wife. They met in Hell, and got married in Toronto, then went to Vegas for their honeymoon, before coming back to SunnyD to settle down. Which is when they met me, and settled me with them, instant family." Suddenly she blinked, and her face darkened as she realized what all she'd been saying, the spell apparently having worn off.

As she opened her mouth again to say something however, Alistor was saved as the front door banged open and Jones came out carrying a tray of biscuits. "I heard you will release your prisoner for chocolate chip biscuits?" she asked holding the tray of what appeared to be freshly baked biscuits out to the girl on top of him.

"That was before he went and used some sort of whammy on me." Faith growled.

Alistor sighed and raised his wand in resignation. "I swear on my magic not to use a whammy on you again, nor to point my wand deliberately at you without reasonable cause, and that I will refrain from casting hostile spells at or on you unless you are already engaged in hostile actions against myself or others under my protection." A flash of light came from his wand as Hestia gasped, as he looked the girl in the eyes and asked, "Is that good enough Lass? I can't promise naer to have to raise my wand against you because I don't know everything that might happen in the future. But I can promise that if I do, it'll be for a good reason. And I'm sorry for the Truth Spell, but the security of this place is my job, and I needed to know how you violated it."

The girl seemed to settle down, and grinned at him and said, "Appology accepted. But don't do it again. Next time I won't be so nice." With that she flipped to her feet and snagged the tray from Hestia's hands, pulling one of the cookies off the top of the stack and shoving it whole into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed then said, "Mmmm, just like Mom makes. Hey!" turning towards the house she dashed up the steps calling out, "Yo C, did you give 'em the cookies!"

Moody climbed unsteadily to his feet, still shaken at having been taken down so effortlessly by the girl, and still hurting on his head and chest from her attacks. "That Lass is a demon." He growled.

"If she takes after the other woman I'm not surprised. We watched her heal Kreacher with just her hands, then she destroyed something called a Horcrux or a Soul-Bind belonging to the Dark Lord we'd apparently had inside the house all this time." Jones explained as she led him towards the front door.

"Horcrux! Those are bloody dangerous. They can possess you if you aren't careful and activate them." Moody growled.

"Well, that's what she did. She activated it, and then apparently destroyed the soul fragment, stealing its memories as she did so. It really shook her up, apparently she had to relive his life, and watched him grow from a nasty sounding kid named Tom Riddle to the adult Dark Lord in waiting who made the Horcrux, and apparently it was his fourth of at least five planned. We know what happened to the first, and now the fourth, but that leaves the second, third, and any more he's made floating around we'll have to find and destroy before we can kill him for good." Jones explained as she led him into the sitting room, past the fallen painting of Mrs. Black which was making muffled sounds of agitation into the carpet against which it lay.

=+=

Harry followed his Godfather and Remus up the stairs, while Cat, Xander, and Faith remained below with the rest of the Order in the living room. Xander had mentioned that if he needed anything to just call out and they'd be right there.

As Sirius led him to a bedroom he was looking around the house, taking in the old fashioned furniture and the generally disheveled and run down appearance the place had.

Harry sat on the bed indicated and the interrogation began.

"So, Harry, who are they, and more importantly how did they get past the Fidelius? Moody said the girl didn't even know what the Order was, let alone where its headquarters are. If you don't know that you're not supposed to be able to see the house. You didn't show them your letter, did you?" Sirius asked with a serious expression on his face.

Harry shook his head, "Padfoot, when it comes to Magic, nothing works with them as expected. Faith couldn't see the house though, until Xander did something to her."

"So, Prongslet, what's all this about Voldemort and Quirrell in First year, and Voldemort, a diary, and a basilisk in second year?" Sirius asked, wanting to get to the important points.

Harry's face became distressed as he struggled for words.

Suddenly a burst of flame appeared in the center of the room, and a pure white phoenix sailed over to land on the bed next to Harry.

As the bird started to sing softly to him, he reached a hand out and stroked it's feathers, the distress bleeding away and replaced with a look of contentment.

"Well, first year, our defense professor, Quirrell had been possessed by the spirit of Voldemort. He was killing Unicorns and drinking their blood, and trying to steal the Philosophers Stone Dumbledore had hidden on the third floor of the school. Eventually at the end of the year, Ron, Hermione and I had to go through the traps the teachers had set up to stop him because no one would listen to us. When Quirrell attacked me, his hands started burning, and Voldemort was ejected from his body as he died. He then tried to possess me, but he couldn't for some reason, so he fled. Then Dumbledore showed up and took me to the Hospital Wing."

Sirius scowled and he growled out, "Dumbledore knew about this?"

"Yeah, he's the one who put the stone there just before school started." Harry answered.

"What about Second Year?" Remus asked.

"Second year was when Ginny was possessed by Tom's diary. She let the Basilisk out, and it petrified several students, and a cat. Finally, again at the end of the year, Ginny disappeared leaving a message in blood on the walls saying her body would rest in the chamber forever. I had found the Chamber by following the snake, so I took Ron and Professor Lockhart and we went down to rescue Ginny. They got stopped by a rock fall, so I went on alone. I had to fight the Basilisk, but Fawkes poked its eyes out, and the sorting had gave me a sword, which I used to stab it when it tried to eat me. Then Fawkes cried on the wound where it's fang broke off in my arm, and I used the fang to stab the book, and saved Ginny." Harry explained.

Remus looked at Sirius, then back at Harry. "You do know that sounds insane, I mean what would the sorting had be doing in the chamber with the Basilisk, and where would it get a sword, let alone be able to give it to you?"

"Fawkes brought the hat when I asked him to go get help. And the sword fell onto my head when I put it on. It was Gryffindor's sword, according to Dumbledore." Harry tried to explain.

"Dumbledore knew about this as well?" Sirius asked incredulously.

Harry nodded, "Of course. He knows everything that goes on in the castle. You know, every year something has tried to kill me there. The Troll on Halloween my first year, then Quirrell/Voldemort, The Basilisk and the spirit of Tom my second year, the Dementors my third, the tournament last year, it's a good thing I was expelled, or who knows what would happen this year." Harry said.

"Wait a second, back up, what troll on Halloween?" Remus asked.

Harry took another deep breath and explained, "I assume now it was Quirrell who let it in - he came running into the Great Hall yelling about a troll in the dungeons. Dumbledore ordered everyone back to their common rooms, but I noticed Hermione wasn't with us - she'd been in the loo all evening crying after Ron said some nasty things to her our last class. So I took him up there to apologize and get her to come back to the common room with us. Unfortunately the troll was there as well, trying to kill her. So Ron and I fought it and killed it. Well Ron killed it, I suppose."

"Two First years had to fight a troll and kill it in the girls loo?" Sirius asked.

"Three, Hermione helped." Harry added.

"And Dumbledore knew about this as well?" Sirius asked, his eyes narrowed in anger.

Harry nodded, "Yeah, he showed up as soon as the troll was dead."

Remus sighed, "I'd heard the rumor of first years having to fight a troll to get sorted that used to be spread on the train every year to scare the Firsties, but I never thought it'd happen. Albus has a lot to answer for, especially since he never mentioned any of these incidents to either one of us, if I'm judging correctly from your expression."

Sirius nodded, then set the situation aside for the moment to focus on more important issues. "Um, Harry, where'd you get a Phoenix?"

Harry smiled and stroked the bird beside him, still singing softly. "This is Hedwig. I've had her since first year."

Remus and Sirius exchanged glances, then looked in concern at the boy and the bird before them, "Harry," Sirius said, "Hedwig's an owl, not a phoenix."

The bird looked up at him, then with a soft pop, transformed into the familiar snowy owl they all knew.

Harry lifted the now smaller bird onto his shoulder and replied, "I know that. But she's also a Phoenix."

"How…" Remus trailed off, peering at the bird in question.

"Since when has Hedwig been able to turn into a phoenix?" Sirius asked, "I've been taking care of her for the last few months, and I'm sure I'd have noticed her changing into a bloody firebird."

"Since this morning when she brought me your letter. She talked to Cat, and apparently Cat felt sorry for her, so she gave her the gift of being a PhoenixMagus. It’s like an Animagus, only from owl to phoenix, instead of man to dog, or stag, or whatever." Harry explained.

"What is Cat? First she does whatever she did to my house-elf, and now she turns your bloody owl into a phoenix!" Sirius exclaimed.

"She's a goddess. Literally. Her father was Janus, and her mother was some Egyptian goddess I forget." Harry explained.

"Harry, gods and goddesses aren't real" Remus tried to interject, "They are muggle myths based on their encounters with wizards and witches."

Harry shook his head, "No, they're real. They just apparently don't come to this world very much for some reason. But the Goblins recognized them, apparently they worship Xander and his family because they saved the Goblin Race from the destruction of their world a long time ago and brought them here."

Neither wizard knew what to say to that as Harry went on, "Then Olivander also agreed that they were really powerful, and had the same cores, which isn't possible, but according to Faith Xander and Cat are really aspects of the same being somehow, so it makes sense that they have a single core."

Both adult wizards tried to reconcile what they'd seen downstairs, along with what they'd just heard, and the physical evidence of an owl which turned into a phoenix, and they each decided that it was possible, and to accept the possibility for now, instead of trying to force some alternative explanation.

"Ok, well, would you mind telling us about Azkaban? I understand if you don't want to talk about it, but sometimes it helps. We were both so worried about you when you disappeared, then when Tonks found you in that place, it was all I could do not to try and go rescue you myself, even knowing I'd more than likely just end up in the cell next to you, or kissed." Sirius explained.

"Yeah, cub, I was out looking for you everywhere, then when Padfoot told me where you were, I wanted to storm the docks and steal a boat to go get you. He had to hold me back and explain that Tonks was working on something, getting you a trunk or something like that, so you could at least get some decent food?" Remus added.

Harry nodded and closing his eyes held out his hand, and something appeared in it that neither one of them could really look at. He set it down and ordered it to expand, stepping back a bit as it grew. "It's great, Moony! Just like Professor Moody's, only with more rooms, and they all have doors between them. It's a whole apartment! It has a bedroom, and a kitchen, and a huge bathroom, and even a library full of books!" He turned to Sirius and hugged his Godfather, "Tonks told me you helped her get it and set it up. Thank you! It's the best thing I ever got, even better than the Firebolt! Thankyou!"

Harry then went on to describe how he'd learned to be a metamorph Magus while in the cell, demonstrating by changing his hair, then he asked hesitantly, "Can I get you two to promise to keep a secret for me?" At their hesitant nods, he went on, "I wanted to look like a Dementor so I could try to escape. But the best I could do was a kind of mask." He said, then closing his eyes, he put the Dementor Mask onto his Master Template, feeling his face and hands flow into the new configurations. He heard his uncle and godfather gasp in shock, then he let the mask fall away, allowing his body to return to the normal hybrid form. "That was as close as I could get."

Opening his eyes he saw the shocked expressions on both their faces, and realized he was going to need more than just their words to keep quite about the rest. "I hate to ask this guys, but could I get an oath not to disclose my secrets from both of you? Please? I really want to tell you the rest, but I don't want someone making you tell them later."

The two adults looked at one another and seemed to commune mentally for a moment before reaching in unison for their wands. "I, Remus John Lupin, swear on my life to keep secret the information that Harry James Potter is about to disclose to me until such time as he grants me permission to share the information with others." Sirius echoed his words a moment later, only changing the name to Sirius Orion Black.

As they lowered their wands, Harry said, "Now don't let this frighten you, ok?" he asked.

As they nodded, Harry once more closed his eyes to change his Template. Pulling the original Dementor Image, he peeled a copy off it, and placed it on his Master Template, feeling the changes as his body conformed to the new image.

Remus and Sirius watched in growing horror as their charge suddenly was replaced by a floating Dementor in tattered muggle clothes.

A cold chill filled the air, as their worst memories started flowing to the surface.

Hedwig transformed back to a phoenix, and started singing, her notes countering the negative mental effects coming from the foul creature before them. Then suddenly the Dementor was gone, replaced by Dumbledore's phoenix, only with green eyes.

The Phoenix joined Hedwig in a duet for a few moments before changing into Harry once again, although this time he was dressed in the same rags the Dementor had been wearing. "I can also turn into a snake, but I think it's a Basilisk, because when I did it the first time is when I kind of broke the prison."

"Wha, what do you mean you broke the prison?" Remus asked, Sirius still in shock from seeing his godson change first to a Dementor, the most evil creature of his worst nightmares, and then into a phoenix, one of the most pure and magical creatures known to man.

Harry shrugged and said in a soft voice, "Voldemort didn't break into the prison and take me away, I escaped by myself. After I awoke from turning into the snake, I changed back to my normal form, and found several dying Dementors. I killed one by accident, and took it's cloak, turned myself into a Dementor, and made my way up to the top of the prison. I had to kill three more Dementors on my way, I found I could kiss them like they do to wizards, and literally drain them until they turned to powder. Finally when I got to the roof, I turned into my bird form, I didn't know it was a phoenix until this morning, and I flew to London. When I turned back to human, I met the Vampires and Faith, then got into the fight with the Deatheaters and the Aurors, and met Xander and Cat."

Finally Sirius was able to speak, "Harry, you can't have a magical Animagus. It's not possible. And you can't turn into a Basilisk, you can't become anything larger than your normal form. Smaller, yes, as long as it's not Magical, but not larger. James and I were only able to access our forms because they were still growing when we first changed into them, so while our animagi forms were scrawny, they were at least reachable. It's a basic rule of magic."

Harry shrugged and replied, "If we were outside, and it was night, I might try to show you, but like I said it pretty much wrecked the prison because there wasn't enough room. Also I think I converted some of the stone into flesh for the transformation, and I also sort of sapped the wards and stuff for the magic I needed. I barely pulled it off, if I hadn't been able to tap into Voldemort for that last bit it probably wouldn't have worked at all."

Sirius bent forward and hugged his godson. "Only you, Harry, only you could pull something like this off." He looked at Remus with a glimmer in his eye and said, "And you know what the worst part is?"

"What's that?" Harry asked with a bit of concern.

"We can't brag about it to anyone because of the blasted oaths we just took!" Sirius said with a grin.

Harry smiled back, but his smile faded when he realized what he was now wearing. Looking down at his clothes he scowled, “Darnit, there goes another set of clothes! It’s a good thing that trunk you got me had several different outfits in it.”

Harry closed his eyes and held out his hand, summoning his trunk. “I don’t know if you got to see it after Tonks got it, but if you haven’t, I’d love to give you a tour. I want to grab a quick shower and replace this outfit I keep ending up in anyhow.” Harry said.

Remus and Sirius exchanged a glance, then Remus spoke up, “I think Sirius saw it when he dumped most of the Black Library into it the other day, but I never got a chance. I’d love a tour of the trunk I heard so much about.”

Harry opened the lid and they all three crawled down into the aforementioned library. Harry led them through the kitchen, then to the bathroom, the bedroom, where he grabbed a new set of clothes, then through the empty store room, and back into the Library, where he told the pair he’d be right back, before dashing through the kitchen and into the bathroom to catch a quick shower before dressing in the new set of clothes, and rejoining them in the library, where they all three found seats beside the fireplace.

The rest of the afternoon, and early evening was spent with the three catching up. They were called downstairs for dinner, and then before they knew it, it was time to head over to the Ministry for the Wizengamot meeting Sirius had been summoned to, and Harry had promised to appear for.

=+=

Harry, Faith, Cat, Xander, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Alistor Moody, and Hestia Jones all appeared silently and unnoticed in the hallway outside the Wizengamot chambers.

As they dropped their linked hands, Moody looked around in silent amazement, "Never even felt the change. It was like one second we were at Headquarters, and the next we were here. No tug, no spin, nothing."

Xander shrugged, "It's just another way of moving from place to place. I've learned several in the last year, Shimmering, Blinking, and Flashing, I haven’t tried Orbing yet, but this one I learned from Cat's Uncle Mike, he calls it Jumping. It’s my preferred method of travel if I'm not switching Dimensions. I tend to either use a portal still for that, or Flash if I'm alone or in a hurry. If I need a time offset it seems that I have to use a portal though, as even with Flashing I can't seem to alter the when yet."

Moody just blinked at that. He'd tried to figure the pair out, but so far had failed. He wouldn't give in to just ask the question of what they were outright, it was something he'd figure on his own, once he'd gathered all the clues.

"Well Lad, this is where we'll have ta part company. Young Harry can take the lass in with him, as she's a witch, Lord Black can bring Lupin as his guest, and I can escort Ms. Jones here, but even if we wanted to, we couldn't bring you inside the Wizengamot. Only Witches and Wizards can pass through the doors."

Xander shrugged, then looked down at his clothes, still the same Sunny Bay scene Hawaiian shirt he'd had on the whole day with a pair of blue jeans. He looked around at the other wizards, and noted the robes they were all wearing, then his clothes suddenly shifted to match, although his deep purple robe lacked the W of the Wizengamot on it, seen on several of the others around.

Moody shook his head as he transfigured his own robes into formal Wizengamot robes, "It's not the clothes lad, it's the room it’s self that's charmed."

Cat's clothes also shifted, as did suddenly Faiths into a simple, elegant black robe as some of the apparent guests were wearing. Xander looked over at Harry and suddenly the boy found himself dressed in purple, with the W on his robe.

Then before Moody could comment again, Xander reached out and took Cat's hand, and as calmly as you please walked through the arch and into the Wizengamot chambers beyond. Moody just stood there, his magical eye rolling in his head as he tried to figure how they were bypassing the charms on the chamber, before letting out a Harumph and following the odd couple inside.

He noticed a new table had somehow made room for itself behind the traditional Potter bench, and Cat and Xander were seating themselves there even as he led Hestia over to his bench. She bent over and whispered in his ear, "I told you they seem to ignore the rules."

Moody scowled at her and set about preparing for what he expected would be an interesting meeting.

=+=

Interim Minister Bones looked across the Wizengamot chambers, feeling a wash of relief flood through her as her eyes came to rest on Harry Potter, sitting beside the girl who had been with him the night before at the Potter Table.

Rising from the Minister's Bench, she made her way swiftly down and across the chamber to speak with the boy before the meeting was scheduled to begin. She still have about ten minutes before she was committed, but she had already all but made up her mind on the situation.

"Mister Potter, I am glad you agreed to join us this evening." She said walking up and putting up a privacy charm and a notice-me-not spell on the area around the Potter table.

"Minister Bones." He said neutrally.

"Mister Potter, I have a question for you. Yesterday you issued a challenge to Headmaster Dumbledore that he either take an oath, or subject himself to your questioning under veratarasyrum. My question is twofold, first, if he continues to refuse to accede to your request, or the unthinkable occurs and it is shown that he was aware of your location, is there anything we, the wizarding world can do to regain your trust?"

"If he claims he didn't know, he is lying. And as long as the sheep of the Wizarding world believe in liars, there is no way I can trust them. It is as simple as that." Harry said.

Nodding the Minister decided she had been right in her plans. With a brief nod at the boy and his guest, she dropped the two charms and returned to the front of the chambers, but this time instead of seating herself at the Minister's Bench, she took the final step and sat down in the High Warlock's Bench.

It was only moments later that Albus Dumbledore, who had been circulating the room himself in the time before the meeting came rushing up to him and whispered, "Amelia, why are you in my seat?"

Amelia nodded towards the long vacant Dumbledore bench, and said, "Sit there for now, Headmaster. We need to have an initial vote before we do anything else this evening, and as it pertains to you, I'm afraid you can't take charge until after it has been settled."

Dumbledore frowned at the implications, but knowing this wasn't the time or place for an open disagreement, he sullenly trudged back down the steps and moved towards his family seat, even as the doors in the rear closed, and Amelia lifted the hammer to strike the meeting to order.

=+=

Hermione and Ron sat in the Gryffindor common room, quietly discussing the day's news about Harry. Apparently after being taken from Azkaban by Voldemort, Harry had escaped the night before and fought alongside four Aurors, one of whom was killed, in a pitched battle against both Vampires and Deatheaters, where he was credited with disabling one and killing another.

He had then appeared in the Ministry along with three strangers all dressed as Muggles, and had accused Dumbledore of deliberately leaving him in Azkaban.

Then earlier today, he had apparently caused some sort of disturbance at Gringotts, wherein all the Goblins fell to the floor when he entered the bank, crying for him to forgive them.

Then after apparently visiting his vault, or having a private meeting with the heads of the Goblins, he had stopped by the Leaky Cauldron and incidentally captured two more Deatheaters, somehow tricking one into casting the Crucio on himself, while blasting the other through a wall with a simple stunner.

While the two of them were certain that there was a core of truth to all the stories, their sheer magnitude was so overwhelming that it was impossible to determine just how much was real, and how much was sheer fabrication to sell papers. The fact that the Prophet had updated it's edition three times that afternoon only went to show how popular the apparent news of Harry was these days.

What they both really wanted to hear was when their friend was coming back to school. Already he had missed almost two months of classes, and even with her best efforts she feared he'd never be able to catch up.

=+=

Voldemort was incensed.

He had gone beyond angry hours ago when the Malfoy brat tried to tell him that his mother couldn't find the diary, and that he was unable to leave school to go look for it himself. How dare that brat tell HIM what he was able and unable to do! Did he not realize that his relationship to the Dark Lord was less than that of a house-elf to its master?

Then the worst blow, Macnair had shown up with the locket he'd retrieved from the cave. But it wasn't the same locket. Instead it was a fake, When he opened it, he found a note; 'To the Dark Lord, I know I will be dead long before you read this, but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more. R.A.B.'

R.A.B. could only have been that traitor Regulus. How he wished he had known the depths of his betrayal at that time. His suffering would have been eternal, had he been able to arrange it. But now there was nothing he could do but fume. One of his Horcruxes was lost, and most likely destroyed. If it was only hidden then the loss wasn't as great as if it was destroyed, for wherever it was if it still existed it would serve at the least its purpose as an anchor should he be killed again.

No the greater problem was now he was a Horcrux short. He would have to contact Severus and have him retrieve the Diadem from the Room of Hidden Things.

Turning away from Macnair's dead body on the floor, the Dark Lord tried to ignore just how much the single Avada Kedavra had taken out of him.

=+=

Severus Snape cringed as his Dark Mark started to burn.

He had not been having a good week. Ever since news that the Potter Brat was in Azkaban had become public, his life had been going down hill.

He had only learned of the brat's location the day before it came out publicly, when the Headmaster had taken him in to his confidence about the boy's location.

However the Dark Lord had launched his assault on the Ministry before he had been able to slip away and inform his master of his discovery. And once the news was made public, he realized that bringing up his at this point would only serve to earn him more punishment than he had already received.

He had used his best, strongest healing and pain relieving drafts to try and help his master recover from the brat's latest attack, but his failure to restore his master to his proper condition had earned him a weak Crucio, although he privately believed it may have represented his Lord's best efforts at the time, much to his secret relief.

Now he was being summoned again.

Whatever his lord wanted, Severus was sure it wasn't going to be pleasant.

=+=

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was more than a little perturbed by the way things were going.

The evening had started much as he'd planned, and he'd been pleasantly surprised to see Harry show up with that unfamiliar young witch he'd been with at the Ministry the night before.

The only sour spot was the looks he was receiving from some of his Order members, the looks from the two remaining Marauders were almost poisonous, while the looks he was receiving from Jones and Moody were mostly baffling. He had been on his way over to speak to them when he had seen the Interim Minister taking HIS seat on the podium.

He'd immediately changed course, and made his way up to ask her what she was doing, only to be told to take his FAMILY Bench. He hadn't had to use that in over thirty years, not since assuming the post of Supreme Warlock.

He was still fuming about what she thought she was doing as he walked to the indicated seat, when he heard her ringing the meeting to order.

Swiftly he crossed the last few steps and sat down with a frown as she usurped his job in calling the meeting.

The other members were seated at their respective tables moments later, and Minister Bones stood to address the assemblage.

"Good evening. Supreme Warlock Dumbledore had originally called this meeting to conclude the most urgent business raised in the past few days by the attacks on the Ministry and Azkaban. But before we move to address those issues, I feel we need to address a related concern.

"As you may have heard, Lord Harry Potter, who is seated amongst us tonight for the first time despite his still being underage, claimed that Lord Dumbledore's knew of his being held in Azkaban, and had agreed to leave him there. When I protested, recounting how Lord Dumbledore had called an Emergency Session of this body immediately upon learning of his incarceration, he challenged the Headmaster to either agree to questioning under Veritaserum, or failing that to take a magically binding oath to the effect that he had no prior knowledge of Harry's location. After he departed, Lord Dumbledore regretfully announced that due to having made himself deathly allergic to several ingredients of Veritaserum as a precautionary measure during the war with Grindalwauld, and that due to his positions as both Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, that he was unable to take the oath either.

"Due to what I believe the extreme importance of regaining the trust of the boy we have both individually and collectively so wronged, it is my recommendation that we relieve Lord Dumbledore of the position as Chief Warlock of this body, and also select a new representative to the International Confederation of Wizards, which would unfortunately require that body to select a new Supreme Mugwump. This would have the result of relieving Lord Dumbledore of those responsibilities, thus allowing him to offer his oath to Harry Potter, as a show of good faith.

"Does anybody second the motion?"

To Albus's shock and horror, Sirius Black stood and spoke, "I may not be the best one to say this, as I am slightly prejudiced in this matter. Lord Dumbledore is the only authority still in power who had the ability and responsibility to see to it I was provided a fair trial thirteen years ago. So while I be more than willing to see the man who forsook his responsibilities and left me in prison for almost half my life, I'm afraid I should recuse myself from both seconding this motion, and the subsequent vote."

A muttering surged through the chamber as people considered Black's statement. Then Amos Diggory stood, "I second the motion. I am one of those responsible for wronging Lord Potter, as up until a few days ago I willingly believed the Ministry's assertion that You-Know-Who had not returned, and thus blamed the boy for my own son's death. I have to admit I felt a bit of vindication when I learned of his trial for misuse of magic, and his subsequent expulsion. When I heard of his additional sentence for contempt of court, I felt it justly earned, and further justification for my feelings towards the boy. Had I known he was being held in Azkaban instead of in a Ministry Holding Cell as he should have been, however, I would have acted immediately to rectify the situation. No matter how heinous the crime, unless it involves one of the three Unforgivables, no minor should be exposed to that place, no matter for how brief a time. And I find it hard to believe that the esteemed Headmaster would feel any differently, so I am more than willing to support this motion in order to provide him the opportunity to demonstrate to Lord Potter that this is indeed the case."

Calls of "Hear hear!" rang throughout the chamber as other members announced their unofficial support for the Minister's motion.

Amelia banged the gavel and called out "Motion carries. We will now vote on the issue. Lord Black has recused himself from this vote. All others need to vote either for or against, abstentions shall not be counted."

There was a swift rustling as the various members used their wands to cast their votes, all but Harry, who looked around in confusion. At the Chief Warlock's Bench, Amelia noted his failure to submit a vote and called out, "Lord Potter, you need to register your vote. Please cast either a 'Ita' or a 'Non'. If you were able to abstain from the vote, the word would be 'Abstentus'. All three require a simple clockwise circular wand movement."

As Harry raised his wand and turned it, he called out "Ita."

"All votes are cast. Are all votes final?" Amelia paused for a moment, then continued, "As all votes are final, the motion is passed. We will hold a fifteen minute break so new candidates for both positions can be submitted." Amelia banged the gavel once more, suspending the session.

Albus felt his world crumbling. When he had used his positions the night before as his excuse for not being able to offer Harry his oath, he hadn't even considered that they might be removed in order to allow him the chance to swear the oath he couldn't take to Harry.

And what was with the speech Sirius had just given? He knew Sirius had been angry at his never looking into the lack of a trial all those years ago, but he'd thought the man had gotten past that. After all, it was well known that Sirius had been the secret keeper, and his murder of Pettigrew only served to show the fact. Had Sirius been given a trial as they had originally intended, it would only have served to bring the existence and membership of the Order to light. That was why he'd worked so hard to keep Sirius from having his day in court. It would have done no good, and could have caused a lot of harm, or so he'd thought at the time. Had he realized Black was innocent, of course he would have insured he had a proper trial, assuming he could have insured the man wouldn't try and take custody of Harry.

=+=

Xander watched from the table behind Harry's as the assemblage dissolved into milling groups, all trying to come up with worthy candidates for the newly opened positions of ICW Representative and Chief Warlock.

He decided it was a good opportunity to stretch and take a better look around the room, specifically the far left corner, he felt somehow compelled to go examine the far left corner.

He wandered cautiously in the direction of his unusual interest, not noticing as his wife padded quietly along behind him.

Arriving in the corner he looked around, but couldn't find what about it had so piqued his interest.

Turning around he saw Cat had followed him to the corner, an odd expression of curiosity on her face as well.

He met her eyes and mentally they communed for a brief instant, comparing the unusual draw which had attracted them both, and finding it mostly the same - he had been attracted to the corner, and she to follow him.

Feeling their joined concern grow, they turned again towards the empty corner, only to both jump back as they came face to face with an vaguely familiar black man wearing a white suit.

"Ah!" Xander called leaping back, barely avoiding landing on his wife by floating himself to the side a bit on his way down.

Xander identified the face of the man from several movies he'd seen, but couldn't place the name.

"Greetings Alexander, Snowball." He said in a pleasant sounding, well educated voice which brought mental images of the actor playing the President in Deep Impact, but still no name.

"Um, hi." Xander said, a bit at a loss for a change.

The man frowned, then smiled, "I forgot, you haven't seen those movies yet. I know.", he said then suddenly changing into George Burns, complete with cigar, he went on "Maybe this will be better."

Catching the implication, Xander's eyes widened and he glanced at his wife where she stood behind him, his thoughts shocking her to stillness as well.

"But…"

"Relax, Alexander, Snowball. Your heads won't explode, nor will you lose your sense of your identities. You've grown a lot in the last few months, enough that a bit of time with one of my aspects won't harm you."

Looking behind Cat he noticed that the rest of the room was a tableau of human statuary, like a wax museum frozen in time.

Nodding The Creator went on, "Them it would harm. So I've put the universe on hold for a moment. We need to have a chat."

"If it's about the Auror Tonks, well, she hadn't been dead that long…" Xander started, only to trail off as The Creator shook his head with a smile.

Cat then offered, "I couldn't let that poor house-elf die. It was our fault he was suffering the final breakdown." But again he shook his head, letting out a puff of fragrant smoke which drifted off to disappear into the room. "I forget why I had these things invented. In extreme moderation they can be quite pleasant. Too bad most people can't understand the concept."

Focusing once more on Cat and himself, he said, "No, you've been doing as I would hope and expect from you. I know Michael told you, but I was extremely proud of the way you handled your Graduation, and it wasn't just from High School either, as far as I'm concerned you're no longer on Probation. Just keep on as you have, and everything will work out. Not always for a happy ending, even I can't, and more importantly won't guarantee that, but I'll guarantee you that it'll work out, and life will continue."

"Then why are you here?" Cat asked hesitantly.

"To let you know that there's a job opening I'd like you to consider. If you think about it, you'll realize you learned about it this afternoon. I think a little stay here would be good for your whole family. You can always make it back home before the summer's over, so Faith can have some down-time to relax before her next school year begins, but she could use a local education as well." The Creator pulled another breath through the cigar, then blew it out over their heads once more. "Oh, and the name you couldn't think of before? It's Morgan Freeman."

With that the corner was once more empty, and the sounds from the room behind them resumed.

Xander looked at his wife and asked, "Job?"

She shrugged and answered, "Like they say, he works in mysterious ways."

Turning they headed back to their table.

=+=

Harry noticed as Xander and Cat wandered over to a corner of the room for a bit, then returned to their seats behind him.

Several people had come up and offered him their apologies for his mistreatment, the first being Mr. Diggory. Harry had assured the older man that he understood, that he didn't hold anything against him, and that it was fine, he told him that there wasn't anything he could have done - he wasn't one of the wizards seated to hear his case, and he never knew Harry had been shanghaied to Azkaban instead of the Ministry Cell he should have been taken to.

Another visitor was Griselda Marchbanks, who wanted to impress upon him the importance of getting a proper education.

Additionally, Mafalda Hopkirk came by to personally inform him that due to the legislation passed a few days ago he never need worry about hearing from her office for the practice of underage magic. As far as she could tell from the copy of the writ she had received, he could even practice dark, or even forbidden curses such as the Unforgivables and likely get away with it.

Harry assured her he would refrain from abusing the rights he had been given, and she left, only to be replaced by Professor McGonagall. "Mr. Potter, when can we expect to see you back at Hogwarts where you belong?" she asked sternly.

Harry looked at her confused, "They expelled me, Professor. I can't go back."

"That was overturned the same day they found out you'd been framed and the defense instructor, Madame Umbridge was arrested for her part in it." Professor McGonagall replied.

"Excuse me, did you say the Defense position was open?" Xander asked from behind him, causing Professor McGonagall to jump in surprise.

She scowled at him and admonished, "This was a private conversation between myself and Mr. Potter, Mister…" She trailed off pointedly.

"Harris, Alexander Harris, but call me Xander, and this is my wife, Cat, and on Harry's right there is our daughter Faith, who just yesterday found out she's a witch." Xander answered.

"Well, if you will excuse me, I was speaking with Mr. Potter here privately. I'm not sure about how they do things where you come from, but here we do not intrude on other's conversations unless invited." McGonagall huffed.

"I understand. Proprieties are different everywhere, such as in my culture it's customary to offer your name when you meet someone, unless you wish to be referred to as 'hey you', or I suppose I could do as Harry a moment ago and call you 'Professor', however that may get quite confusing if I were to accept that defense job I asked about." Xander replied wit an honest smile as he nodded his head.

McGonagall frowned, then realized she really hadn't introduced herself, and acted to correct her omission. "Minerva McGonagall, Assistant Headmistress, Professor of Transfigurations, and Head of Gryffindor House at Hogwarts Academy."

"So, about that job, is it open, or have they filled it already?" Xander pressed.

McGonagall scowled at him as she answered, "No, I don't believe the Headmaster has had a chance to start looking for properly qualified applicants."

Grinning, Xander asked, "So what should one have to qualify properly? My wife and I are quite skilled in defense." Xander explained while Faith started giggling.

McGonagall looked at her and scowled. "Is something funny young lady?"

The girl nodded, then gestured at her parents. "Quite skilled. That's like saying Mom can be a little bit dangerous when she's mad. Or Gramps is a little old." She started giggling again, trying to control her laughter.

Turning back to Xander McGonagall decided to humor the intrusive American, "First you need a mastery of some sort in Dark Creatures or Defense, experience as an Auror wouldn't hurt, any applicant needs to be able to present their transcripts, showing at least an E in the subject, and any references would be helpful as well."

Xander nodded, "Ok. Thanks. Sorry to have butted in, but we'd just been told that there was an opening we should look into, and then we heard you, and, I just wanted to know."

McGonagall nodded, then looked at him and Cat as though for the first time, noting that the table they were seated at wasn't quite like the others, also it was somehow between the rows, where it really shouldn't have fit at all, and while Xander was wearing purple robes, the color was all wrong for formal Wizengamot robes, as well as missing the proper W. The woman beside him was dressed in a simple black robe similar to her daughters, which meant neither one of them were Wizengamot members, so they shouldn't be able to enter the room in the first place, unless someone else had accompanied them inside. "Who brought you into the hall, if I may ask?"

Xander shrugged, "I just walked in, with my wife. I suppose you could say she brought me, or I brought her, or we brought each other. I just more or less think we came together."

"But, to pass into the hall you must be in the company of a member of the Wizengamot. Who was it you were with?" McGonagall asked, once more trying to figure who's guests these were.

Xander shrugged again, "Harry here came in about the same time, and we're really just here to keep an eye on his back for him, so I suppose we're with him?"

"And the table?" McGonagall asked.

"We didn't want to intrude on Harry's table, so we made our own. Kind of cheated a bit, as I think it's a little more functional, and the chairs are a bit more comfy, but all in all, like my robe, I think it's a good match. Shouldn't stand out unless someone is looking at it. Just like us.

The elderly witch gave up on trying to figure who had invited the odd pair of Americans in, and turned back to Harry to ask, "So back to my original question, when can we expect you back?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't trust Dumbledore, and I certainly don't trust Snape. I don't know that I want to return."

McGonagall started to reply when the girl spoke softly to Harry, "If you want, H, I'm sure C, X, and me can go for a while at least to watch your back."

"C, X, and I." McGonagall automatically corrected, before catching herself and adding, "And I doubt it very much that C, X, or yourself could just go to Hogwarts without a by-your-leave to keep a watch on Mr. Potter's back. Not that he'd need it in any event, Hogwarts is the safest place in the wizarding world."

Harry started laughing at that, and when McGonagall looked at him he explained, "Earlier today I was speaking with my Godfather and Professor Lupin. Did you know no one had told them about the Troll or the Possessed Professor that tried to kill me in First Year, the Basilisk and evil spirit that tried to kill Ginny and I my second year, and probably the only reason they knew about the Dementors trying to kill me my third year was because they were there. When you add the Dragon from the First Task, the Grindylows from the second task, and the Blast-ended Skrewt and Acromantula from the third task, all before Cedric and I were portkeyed to Voldemort's little party in the graveyard. Yeah, now that I think about it, Hogwarts is a really safe place for me."

McGonagall looked taken aback at that, never having considered that taken together there had been a credible threat to Harry's life every year since he started at Hogwarts. Without a reasonable counter to his point she simply responded, "I hope you change your mind, Mr. Potter. The school just isn't the same without you." Looking behind him at Xander she added, "If you are serious about applying for the position, you should contact the Headmaster with your references and credentials. I'm sure he will be willing to give your application adequate consideration."

She then headed back to the McGonagall Bench to take her seat for the next part of the meeting, which he could tell Madame Bones was about ready to call back to order.

=+=

Xander sat back, contemplating the news that the cursed Defense position at Hogwarts was currently open.

He was pretty sure that's what The Creator meant when he said he wanted Cat and himself to consider taking a job.

What they would be able to do, and more importantly how they could do it as far as both getting, and performing the job was of a bit more concern to him, so it was with only part of his mind that he watched as Minister Bones rang the assemblage back to order, then requested members wishing to offer a nomination to raise their wands, and she would call on them one at a time, starting from the closest to her.

The closest wand was chosen, and the wizard, an older man recommended that she herself be considered for the position of Chief Warlock.

Xander focused back in on her as she stood and said, "Thank you for your nomination, Lord Coleman. I'm afraid I will have to decline it however on the grounds that I was the one who first introduced the motion to vacate the position, and I have enough responsibility as the Interim Minister."

She then continued to request names, and Xander went back to trying to figure how he and Cat could actually teach young Wizards and Witches, without knowing anything.

The echo of his wife interrupted his musings, and suddenly his mind was flooded with a wave of memories, memories of Tom sitting in class after class, and later studying spell after spell, learning everything he could about the Dark Arts. He was subtly reminded that Tom had wanted to take the Defense Position after graduation, and technically had had the knowledge to do an adequate job of it. Granted, he had intended to use the position to mold the minds of the children into future followers, but still all the spells and how to cast them, along with many shields, and a large amount of information on various Dark Creatures was there. Everything they would need.

Now all they needed was to pretend to be normal Wizards. A sudden thought flowed again from Cat, and Xander grinned as he realized just how simple that would be. And they wouldn't even have to lie.

=+=

Harry listened as the nominations for the replacement Chief Warlock were given out. He nodded as Lord Prewett nominated Ollie Olivander, and the old wandmaker reluctantly accepted the nomination before sitting back down. Next, Lord Crabbe stood and stated that he would like to nominate the Dark Lord, on the grounds that he was recognized as the most powerful wizards in the world, so should be considered for the position. As he sat down to a round of boos, while Madame Bones banged the gavel to restore order. Lord Treck then nominated Madeye Moody, who stood and declined the nomination, thanking Treck, but pointing out that he was retired, didn't like politics, and wouldn’t really want the position. Next Lord Ford stood on wobbling feet, and nominated Bartimous Crouch, but Lord Moshehim raised his wand and when calles on pointed out that Crouch was presumed dead, and instead nominated Griselda Marchbanks, the woman in charge of the Education system for the position pointing out that she was both alive, and well known for her competency in her current position.

Finally, Amelia called on Lord Drake, who stood and said, "I would like to nominate Harry Potter for the position. He may be young, but he seems competent, and as Crabbe said when nominating the Dark Lord, he is recognized as a powerful wizard despite his age. After all the prophecy states that he is more powerful than You-Know-Who."

Harry blinked, then he took a breath, let it out, and whispered over his shoulder, "Xander, when someone prays to a god for guidance, does it help?"

Xander chuckled and replied softly, "I don't know. No one's prayed to me before, unless it was the Goblins." He felt a hand on his shoulder and Xander continued, "But my advice to you is to say what you feel, and have fun."

Harry felt a surge of energy through Xander's hand, filling his body and calming him, then he stood to answer the nomination. As he took a final breath so he could speak, he had a funny thought, a combination prank and a simultaneous dig at the old man who had made so much of his life miserable. He placed a solemn and serious look on his face and began to speak.

=+=

Amelia watched as Harry was nominated. From what she had gathered of the boy in the last few days, as opposed to the various reports which had been bandied about reguarding him over the last few years, this would be the last thing he would want. She was interested to see what he did.

He seemed to sink down in to his seat, and whispered something to the girl next to him, or perhaps to the air behind him, she couldn’t tell, then his face grew resolved.

As he stood to answer the nomination a brief smile flickered over his face before it steadied into a more serious expression, one appropriate to the situation.

Harry looked back at the earnest wizards and replied softly, "I'm afraid I can't accept the nomination, since I haven't even graduated from Hogwarts, and in fact aren't really old enough to sit on this body. I thank you for the offer though. I do have an idea, however. Since the Chief Warlock is supposed to be a well known and respected wizard, with proven capability in Magic, I would like to nominate my second year defense instructor; the esteemed author; Holder of the Order of Merlin, Third Class; Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League; and five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award., Professor Gilderoy Lockhart!"

Amelia looked at the boy standing before the Wizengamot with the earnest look on his face. "Mr. Potter, are you sure you wish to nominate Mr. Lockhart? He's not even present to accept or decline the nomination."

Harry shrugged, "I don't think he would have declined it. Let me tell you a little bit about the absent Professor. In my second year, towards the end of the term when I am most likely to face mortal peril it seems, a fellow student, Ginny Weasley was taken to the Chamber of Secrets, hidden deep beneath the bowels of Hogwarts.

"She was guarded there by a Basilisk and under the command of a spirit version of a sixteen year old former student, a half blood, muggle raised boy named Tom Riddle, created towards the end of his fifth year, when he used the basilisk to kill a fellow student named Myrtle, and frame another student by the name of Rubius Hagrid. This student later graduated as Head Boy in 1945. After graduation he began his quest for power under the assumed name 'I am Lord Voldemort'.

"But back to the Professor. Ginny had been captured and taken by the spirit to the chamber where it intended to drain her life force to recreate a copy of it's own sixteen year old body. The only two people who would go with me to face the Basilisk and try to rescue her were her brother, Ron, and the Professor.

"It was during the rescue attempt that while trying to cast a spell with Ron's broken wand he was damaged, losing the majority of his memory. He was later taken to St. Mungos, where he still resides today, trying desperately to recover from the injuries sustained while on a dangerous mission to rescue one of his charges. A mission which did succeed despite his injuries. So yes, I'm sure I want to nominate him. While he still isn't close to being back to his old self, he's getting much better. Last I heard he was reading his own books, and trying to relearn the skills he once possessed so he could once more equal his old accomplishments. I can not hold his injuries against him, injuries he received while helping me rescue a fellow student and close personal friend. If anything I think that being elected to the position of Chief Warlock would give him something more concrete to strive for, a goal to become worthy once more of the title he holds, to show the world the Gilderoy Lockhart remembered by his many fans as described by his books."

As Harry sat down the chamber was filled with impromptu applause, as the gathered wizards found themselves in more than a bit of awe at the fifteen year old boy's speech. Of course, more than one wizard or witch, including Amelia wondered how it was they never managed to hear about a spirit version of the Dark Lord kidnapping students and commanding Basilisks within the walls of Hogwarts, and what Harry meant by the words, 'most likely to face mortal peril it seems' during the course of his speech, and just what happened to the spirit and the Basilisk. Amelia at least intended to find out - her niece was a student at that school, after all, and if it wasn't safe for Harry, it might not be safe for Susan either.

=+=

Dumbledore almost exploded in anger as the boy nominated that fraud Lockhart for the position he'd held with pride for over thirty years. Worse, the man was hardly more than a vegetable, having obliviated himself with a broken wand.

It was only years of Occlumency training which let him sit there, a serene expression on his face as the sheep of the wizarding world stripped him of his well deserved titles and authority.

Where had he gone wrong? He had the entire evening planned. He would show up, express his sorrow that he was unable to satisfy Harry's ridiculous request that he somehow prove he hadn't known where the boy was, then bring up the issue of the young man's continuing education, and his primed assistants, specifically Amos Diggory and Arthur Weasley would submit, and second a motion to have Harry returned to school at once. Once the motion was passed, no one, not even Harry's stubbornness would keep him out of the school, and Albus's much needed control.

Instead he was seated here at his old family's table, waiting while they argued over who would replace him in his positions in order to allow him to make some stupid oath. An oath he couldn't honestly make since he had known where the boy was, and had intended to leave him there for the time being, as he considered it the safest place for the boy to be until he could determine a way to get him back in school. Damn that Fudge and his foolish manipulations! This was all his fault!

Once more he had to draw on his Occlumency skills to calm his mind. He was trying to come up with a solution so he could satisfy the boy, then regain his positions. The Chief Warlock wasn't an issue, he was certain that as soon as he had this settled he could request to be reinstated in his proper position and they would be more than willing to comply. No, it was the Chief Mugwump of the ICW which worried him. Unless he could forestall the actual election of a replacement representative to the ICW, he would be released as soon as whoever they selected presented their credentials. The Assistant Mugwump, that Brazillian Heimlich, would take his place and call for an election at the next session. Even if he managed to get re-instated as the British ICW representative by then, he had too much opposition from the other representatives for him to be able to regain the position he'd managed to hold for almost fifteen years.

As Amelia called for the vote, from which he abstained out of principal, Albus tried to think of any solutions. His excuse had been so perfect, inferring that the oaths he had already sworn would preclude him fro, swearing an oath to Harry that he hadn't known where the boy was. Perhaps that was the solution after all. If he could swear an oath that he hadn't known where the boy was - the wording was tenuous at best, as while he had known Harry was in Azkaban, in the only occupied cell on the lowest level of the prison, he hadn't known which cell, or where in the cell Harry was, so technically he really hadn't known where the boy was. He would have one shot. Better to not swear than be caught breaking the oath. The other option was to let this farce continue, and deal with Harry once he had him back in the castle where he belonged. He could still claim he was unable to swear the oaths because the oaths he had taken would prevent it despite no longer holding the relevant offices. If he did that than perhaps he could get his positions back and return his focus to insuring that the boy was being prepared to meet Voldemort. The independence he had just shown with that speech was a bad sign. But he was sure that with the proper conditions at school this year, and yet another summer isolated at Privet Drive would be enough to straighten him back out.

=+=

Lord Voldemort looked at his familiar and frowned. Without the locket, he would have to sacrifice another Horcrux so as to have a large enough core to redo the enhancement ritual. The wizard who's core he would sacrifice to boost his own was unimportant - any mudblood or blood traitor could be brought in as long as his own core was large enough to start with. The key was that his core needed to be stronger than the sacrifices, otherwise the ritual would fail.

With his core as damaged as it appeared to be, he would need every piece of his soul back he could get. The Diadem from Hogwarts he had sent Snape after wouldn't be enough. He NEEDED that diary, or he would have to sacrifice his Familiar. And that was unacceptable.

He had spoken with the Malfoy Slut, and even with her sister's, encouragement, she had been unable to locate where her husband had hidden his diary. The Diary was his first Horcrux, and held a larger piece of his soul than any of the others, and while the size of the accompanying piece of his core wasn't as large as it was with some of the later pieces, ones crafted after he had employed several enhancement rituals, it was still one of the larger pieces. Therefore he had to get that book back. And apparently to do so he needed Lucius.

His eyes fell on the copy of the prophet proclaiming his attacks on the Ministry and his raid on Azkaban. Of course, he hadn't raided Azkaban, but that wasn't the point, the point was that they thought he had, and whoever had attacked the island had done an excellent job of bringing down the wards. Despite the Ministry scrambling all day long trying to restore some semblance of security, at this point the only thing other than the bars and anti-apparition wards keeping the prisoners in their places were the Dementors. And before his fall he had been in negotiation with the Dementors. If he offered them a chance at more souls than the Ministry did, they would join him - they had indicated as much years before. Perhaps it was time he paid the island a visit, and showed them what a raid by the Dark Lord was REALLY like.

=+=

As the votes were tallied, Harry watched the expression of Madame Bones grow frustrated. Finally she banged her gavel and announced, "The voting is concluded. We have one abstention. All other members present have entered their votes. I am pleased to announce that the new Chief Warlock is Gilderoy Lockhart."

There was thunderous applause and several wizards stood in ovation at the announcement that Lockhart had won. Harry wanted to sink under the table. He'd named the fraud as a joke, because other than himself and a select few, who included Dumbledore, no one knew his books had all been lies, the real actions taken by others who he had drained of their memories then obliviated. It now looked like the prank was on him.

Once the applause had died down and the wizards had all seated themselves, prompted by Minister Bones's constant banging of her gavel, she went on, "As Chief Warlock Elect Lockhart is unable to be present this evening, I shall continue to manage this meeting in his absence." She looked around as though expecting someone to object. After a moment she continued, "Our next order of business is the replacement delegate to the International Confederation of Wizards. I would like to call for nominations at this point."

As murmurs circled the room, she again banged her mallet for silence, then continued. "Once more, please raise your wand if you have a candidate to nominate. I would like to ask that all submitted candidates be both present this evening, and fully able to immediately assume their duties, as it is my intention to dispatch them at once to Geneva to present their credentials."

Harry felt a bit embarrassed. He fully realized that he'd have to fix this somehow. His dig at the headmaster had saddled the British Wizarding World with a mindless leader. Well, considering Fudge that was probably nothing new, but still, if the truth ever came out he would be deserving of the scorn he'd had heaped on him the previous few years.

=+=

Sirius Black watched as his Godson seemed to shrink into his chair. He had been more than a little surprised at the boy's enthusiastic nomination and endorsement of Lockhart - from what he understood the man had been a total fraud. He looked once more at Moony and asked, "You sure it was a prank?"

Moony nodded, "You didn't see the state of the students when I got there. They hadn't had a real teacher in that position for at least two years. Harry once told me all the stories about Lockhart. Did you know his first test was about himself? It had questions about what color he liked, or what his favorite foods were."

"Well it looks like our Prongslet has managed to pull off something bigger than all four of us ever did in school." Sirius said with pride. "Too bad he doesn't seem very happy about it."

Moony nodded as Minister Bones called on Ollie Olivander to submit his nomination.

"I'd like to return the compliment and submit Droben Prewett for consideration." The creepy old man said before sitting back down.

Next called was Lord Kiev, who said, "While she didn't win the post of Chief Warlock, I would like to submit Griselda Marchanks as a candidate for the ICW. She is a worthy representative of our nation."

Next Lord Ford submitted Augusta Longbottom, on the grounds that her several years of experience and no nonsense attitude would make her a steadfast replacement for Headmaster Dumbledore.

Lord Jones submitted Mundungus Fletcher, on the grounds that he might be able to fleece the other representatives and actually provide a worthwhile service to society.

Amelia scowled at him as he sat back down and she called for any more 'Serious' nominations.

Next Lord Drake recommended Arthur Weasley on the grounds that much like Madame Marchbanks he was known throughout the Ministry for his fairness and competency, however Arthur declined, stating that it was all he could do to maintain his own department.

Finally, Lord Droben submitted Tiberius Ogden, stating that the man had more honor than anyone he knew, and would make an excellent representative for Magical Britton.

When no more wands were raised, Madame Bones once more called for a vote, and in short order Augusta Longbottom was selected as the new representative to the ICW. A short break was declared as she was provided with credentials for her new position, and given a portkey to Geneva, with instructions to immediately submit her credentials, so that Headmaster Dumbledore could be released from his position, thus hopefully enabling him to make his oath to Harry this evening.

=+=

As Amelia banged the meeting back to order, she looked down at the Agenda she had been ignoring so far for that evening. "Ok, the next item of business is Sirius Black. Lord Black, allow me to make a formal apology on behalf of all the peoples of Wizarding Britton for your unjust incarceration. We, the Wizengamot would like to provide you with compensation to start to heal the damage to your life our failure has caused. Unfortunately I don't know how we can even begin to repay you for our actions, so we would like to ask you what, if anything you think would be an appropriate recompense?"

Sirius was a bit taken aback at this question, and had to think about it for a moment. Finally he spoke up, "I agree there's not enough gold in Gringotts to pay for the time I lost, sitting in a cell in Azkaban feeling miserable as the Dementors wandered by to torment me. But for a start, I would like to submit a request. I have had enough of the Wizarding world calling the Dark Lord by stupid names. If he must be called something stupid or silly, then instead of his made up 'I am Lord Voldemort' or the asinine 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' or the even stupider, 'You-Know-Who' I would like legislation passed that everyone refer to him as either 'That-Half-Blood-Tom-Riddle-Leader-Of-Those-Stupid-Deatheaters', or just 'That-Fool-Riddle' for short. This should be required in any article or report published or broadcast about him, also in any official Ministry documents, court records, future notices, hearings, and should also be encouraged in normal speech. I think it might be ok to refer to him as 'Riddle' informally, or if you are speaking to his face 'Tom' should also be acceptable. I want the long name used at least once in every article regarding him though. And any further use of 'The Dark Lord', or 'He-Who-Must-Be-Named', and 'You-Know-Who', or even 'Voldemort' by a news agency or Ministry employee should be punishable by a fine."

A murmer buzzed through the room as Amelia banged the gavel again to reestablish order. "I suppose we can set it for a vote. Is there any reason in particular you are asking this of us?"

"Revenge. Tom Riddle and his idiot followers killed my best friend and his wife because in their incompetency they feared a baby. And apparently rightly so, because their so called great leader was beaten by a one year old when he tried to murder him. But as a result of his cowardly attack, and the traitorous act of Pettigrew in betraying my friends, I spent the last twelve years in Azkaban. Yes, if I had gotten a trial I wouldn’t have stayed there, but if That-Fool-Riddle - notice how nicely it rolls off the tongue - hadn't been running around afraid to show their faces behind silly masks, I never would have been there at all. And Harry would still have his parents. Well, Tom Riddle and the idiots who follow him cost me my friends, and the last fourteen years of my life. Tommy boy is ashamed of his heritage, the fact that his mother was a mad-woman, almost a squib, and his father a Muggle who threw him away rather than raise him. Well if I can shine a spotlight on his shame every time he's mentioned, rather than the fear everyone seems to have of the name a teenager in Hogwarts made up because he thought it sounded cool, I will do that. And if that helps people kill his minions faster, because by knowing how stupid they have to be to be spouting 'Blood Purity' while following a half-blooded hypocrite, then it's all for the better."

Goyle shot to his feet and yelled, "The Dark Lord isn't a Filthy Half-Blood! He's the Heir of Slytherin!"

Sirius started to laugh even as Amelia banged her gavel again and again. "He may be the heir. The Gaunts were descended from Slytherin. I'll agree with you there. But that's just on his mother's side. That's what the half-blood means. His daddy was a muggle. If Tommy boy is a Pure-Blood, then who was his pure-blood father? Show me the bench here in this hall with his family name on it, or tell me what country did his pure-blood wizarding family hail from? Where are the other Voldemorts? Or the Riddles? Show me a single family, anywhere in the world with that last name and a history of using magic and I'll retract my request."

Goyle was dragged back into his seat by Parkinson, who was also red in the face at the insult to their master, but knew better than to say anything.

Amelia sighed and said, "Ok, the motion to rename the Dark Lord is on the table. Everyone please vote at this time, this will be a Simple Majority vote."

A few minutes later, and even though there were several abstentions, and it was a relatively close vote, the Dark Lord was officially renamed, and a writ was issued by the Ministry to all official broadcasters and publications, instructing that from now on their terrorist leader should be referred to at least once every time he's mentioned as 'That-Half-Blood-Tom-Riddle-Leader-Of-Those-Stupid-Deatheaters', and thereafter as either 'That-Fool-Riddle', or for informal references just 'Riddle' was allowed. 'Tom' was also acceptable if 'That-Fool-Riddle' was present at the time of use. The fine would be determined on a by-case basis. One of the members of the Wizengamot had complained that the fine restricted the journalist's right to free speech, but Sirius said that they were free to speak whatever they wanted, but if they failed to identify That-Fool-Riddle properly then they were subject to the fine, and would have to pay for what they didn't say.

There was a brief adjournment, then she started on the next item on the list - Harry.

=+=

Harry went still when Minister Bones got to the next item on the Agenda. "Next up, Headmaster Dumbledore is concerned about Mister Potter's educational status. He wanted to discuss it this evening."

Immediately Amos Diggory, after a glance at Dumbledore, who nodded, raised his wand for attention.

"Lord Diggory, you have the floor." Amelia called out with a scowl.

Standing and clearing his throat he said uncertainly, "Yes, er, well, I think we should insure Mr. Potter returns to Hogwarts to complete his education, in the best interests of the people of Magical Briton."

Harry immediately raised his wand as Dumbledore scowled at him.

Amelia called out, "Lord Potter?"

Harry stood and spoke, "I don't trust Dumbledore. And he runs Hogwarts. I don't feel safe at Hogwarts anymore. I pointed out to my Godfather earlier today that every year I have been in that school, something or someone has tried to kill me. I don't really want to go back there."

Griselda Marchbanks raised her wand for attention.

Amelia called out, "Lady Marchbanks?"

Griselda stood. "Mr. Potter, Hogwarts is the best Educational Institution in Europe. And it is the safest place in the Wizarding World. I know that playing Quidditch can be a bit dangerous, but they have a highly skilled mediwitch on the field at all times during the games, just in case of accidents."

Harry, who was still standing, looked at Madame Bones. She nodded at him and said, "Lord Potter."

Harry took a deep breath, "The only time I've had a problem during a Quidditch Game was when the Ministry sent Dementors to the school and they attacked me. I am referring to several other incidents which apparently no one has heard about. In my first year, during my second month at the school, I and two of my friends had to defend ourselves from a troll on Halloween. We were fortunately able to kill it before it killed or seriously injured any of us. Later that year, our Defense Professor, who was possessed by the spirit of Vol- of That-Fool-Riddle " he paused to shoot a grin at his Godfather before continuing, "tried to kill me while attempting to obtain the Philosopher's Stone which Headmaster Dumbledore had chosen to keep in the school. The next year, as I mentioned earlier this evening, I had to kill a Basilisk in order to save Ginny, Third Year it was Dementors. At one time there were over one hundred of them trying to get to myself and Hermione, and I was lucky Professor Lupin had taught me how to cast a Patronis, or we likely would have been kissed. Last year everyone knows about the tasks, the Dragon, the Grindylowes, and the third task. What most people probably don't know is there was a Deatheater pretending to be a Professor there all year long, and I think it was he who entered me into the challenge, although since Minister Fudge had him kissed as soon as he was discovered, I'll probably never know for sure. But it just goes to show, the school isn't safe for me."

There was stunned silence as everyone in the room took this in. Arthur Weasley shot an angry look at Dumbledore, and turned his face away from the Headmaster.

Griselda Marchbanks, who was also still standing looked stunned. "Is all that true?" she asked disbelievingly.

Harry's face flushed angrily and he said, "Yes. I can put it in a pensive, or unlike Dumbledore I can swear an oath, or take Veritaserum to prove it, but yes, it's all true."

Minister Bones interjected, "I think we may need to hold a special investigation into the conditions at the school, and possibly make some changes to better insure the proper conditions for the students. But back to the original point, Lord Potter, you do need to complete your education. To my shame, I was on the board which expelled you from Hogwarts. When we met the night of the break-in, you were re-instated on the rolls for the school, in case you didn't know. This means you are expected to attend until at least passing your Owls. We will do whatever is necessary to insure your safety as well as the other students. My question isn't do you want to go back there, I can understand from your statements this evening that you certainly do not wish to return to the school at this time, but I would like to know if you will be willing to go back there."

Harry sighed. He missed Ron and Hermione. He did enjoy learning at Hogwarts, the best times of his life had almost all been at Hogwarts. He even missed most of the professors. He had been shattered more by being kicked out of school than anything else when he had been found guilty in Courtroom Ten. But he really didn't feel safe going back there. Then he remembered what Faith had said earlier, and Xander's questions to Professor McGonagall, and he turned to look behind him at Xander and Cat, sitting at the table behind his. "Will you guys go with me?" he asked softly.

"Of course we will" Cat answered with a smile.

Xander nodded, as did Faith.

Harry turned back to the Minister and answered, "Under the same conditions as my appearance here this evening. I'll only go if Xander, Cat, and Faith come with me."

=+=

Amelia looked at the young man standing before his family Bench, then glanced at the young lady seated beside him before responding, “If she is a witch, then I suppose Hogwarts might be able to accommodate her. But I don’t see how the other two, Xander and Cat, I believe you called them, could possibly accompany you to Hogwarts.

Suddenly there was a man holding up a wand seated at a table immediately behind the Potter Bench. While he was wearing a purple formal robe very similar to the Wizengamot Robes being worn my all the members, it also obviously wasn’t a Wizengamot robe, being of a different cut, being a more Royal Purple than the reddish Purple of the Wizengamot robes, and lacking the stylized W. She also took in the blonde woman seated next to the man, and recognized both of them from the night before in the Ministry. These were the apparent Muggles who extracted Harry from the Secure Apparation Point in the DMLE, a feat which should have been impossible, that room was warded to allow incoming apparition only, portkeys and even elf-poping were warded against. The greater shock now however was the realization that they’d been sitting there all evening, and she’d ignored the fact up until now. It was almost as if a notice-me-not charm had been in place, however the Wizengamot chambers were warded against almost every sort of magic, including invisibility and notice-me-not charms and artifacts.

Electing to see what he wanted, as opposed to pursuing the mystery of his mere presence, she called on him, “Mister, Harris, I believe it is?”

Standing the man lowered his wand and addressed her, “Madame Minister. Thank you for allowing me to speak before your august body this evening. For most of you who don’t know, I am Alexander Harris, and beside me is my lovely wife Cat. As Harry has asked us to accompany him should he return to Hogwarts, I would like to formally inquire as to the possibility of our filling the currently open Defense position Professor McGonigall was telling me about earlier this evening.”

Amelia scowled, recalling just who had most recently filled that position, and why it was now open. “And you think you are qualified to teach our future generations Defense Against the Dark Arts?”

He shrugged, “I’ve been involved in the War Against Evil almost my whole life, since I was sixteen and one of my friends was killed by Vampires. I have spent a significant amount of time studying the various creatures and how to fight them most effectively, and am sure my wife and I could manage to demonstrate every offensive and defensive spell on the curriculum, no matter what they are.”

Griselda Marchbanks, who was still standing spoke up out of order, “What about teaching, there’s more to the job than just being able to do spells.”

The answer came from an unexpected direction. Amelia saw Retired Auror Moody raise his wand. Curious she called on him.

The grizzled old man stood before the assemblage and nodded at Harry’s table. “The Lass sitting beside young Lord Potter is their daughter. If she’s anything to go by they c’n teach defense. The girl took me down in less’n a second, me with my wand trained on her, and she with nothing but a sharp stick.”

Eyes turned to examine the brunette teenager who blushed a bit under all the attention directed at her suddenly, before Mr. Harris raised his hand. “I think we have enough experience that we could manage to teach the students.”

Griselda, still standing raised her wand for a moment, so Amelia called on her, “Lady Marchbanks?”

Griselda stood and turned to the still seated blonde woman. “Mrs. Harris, might I enquire where you studied, when you graduated, and how you placed, as well as any experience you may have had in both teaching and Defense?”

Mrs. Harris looked around, and her husband who was already standing reached down and helped her to her feet. She cleared her voice and said in a soft alto that carried throughout the chamber, “Well the only time I formally studied anywhere was at the Library of Alexandria, before it was destroyed. I was raised in Egypt, my mother, in her city of Per-Bast. Most recently my Husband and I attended um, you would call it a Muggle Secondary School for the past year, both to refresh our connection with contemporary society, and to assist our daughter during her first year back in school after she’d been forced to drop out due to the changes in her life over the past few years. We graduated in the tenth and eleventh positions, much to our dismay – we’d been trying for eleventh and twelfth, but edged out one student unfortunately. I’ve never taught formally however, but I have had an apprentice under me at two points, as well as assisting Faith in catching up with her year-mates. As for Defense, my mother was considered a War Goddess, my brother Maahes, was also worshiped as a War God, I have assisted my husband in fighting dark creatures since before we were married, and think that like my husband we would be able to, Ace, as they say presently, any test you might want to give us on the subject.”

Griselda swayed on her feet for a moment, as murmurs washed throughout the room from the various tables as their occupants tried to determine what to make of her odd statement.

Amelia however had to ask. “Mrs. Harris, you said your mother and brother were worshiped as Gods? What do you mean by that?”

Cat rolled her eyes and replied, “I mean that a long time ago, the people of the day, upon learning that members of my family and others had powers and abilities they couldn’t understand started to build faiths around them. They labeled them Gods, and asked them for guidance in their lives. Temples were built, and entire religions grew up around them. Over time many of their followers became dependant on their patron deities for things in their everyday life. Finally something had to be done. Much like the International Statute of Secrecy in the early 600s, the Compact was agreed to by most of those around at the time, and as a result the signatories withdrew from contact with their followers, and retreated where only others of their kind could access or contact them. This was a long time ago, just shortly after I was born, actually.

“I never signed the Compact, and despite a bit of pressure, neither has Alexander, so we are still free to mingle with others. Almost as a go-between from our world to yours.” Cat looked over at her daughter before continuing, “Faith is a good example. Had we signed the Compact, we never would have been able to adopt her. And our lives would have been poorer for it. But because we rarely use wands, we didn’t even realize she had the aptitude, until she picked up a wand yesterday, and Harry noticed it trailing sparks as she used it to stake some Vampires which had been bothering her. Now that she’s gotten her own wand from Mr. Olivander we’ll start teaching her how to use it. I expect she should be ready to take her Newts this year.”

Griselda opened her mouth, then closed it, raised her wand half way up, then lowered it again, before turning to her seat and sitting down.

Amelia asked, “Mrs. Harris, when did this Compact come into being?”

Cat shrugged, “Again, I can’t give a specific date, but a bit less than seven thousand years ago. As I said, it wasn’t too long after I was born.”

Amelia narrowed her eyes and asked, “You expect us to believe you are almost seven thousand years old?”

Cat shook her head, “A bit over seven thousand, actually. And Alexander has even more experiences to draw on than I do.” As whispers again swept the room, she went on, “You didn’t think Flamel was the first to create a Philosopher’s stone, did you? He’s only the most recent. The Greeks developed their own Chrysopoeia, and the Chinese and Arab Alchamests have a long history of creating the stone, and it’s al-iksir. Isaac Baulot not only created one in 1632, he wrote a book, called the Mutus Liber, which Nicholas probably used as a reference in his own endeavor. Is it so hard to believe that even ten thousand years ago there were people capable of achieving Immortality? Just because you don’t know them doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, hidden from your society.”

Amelia seemed taken aback at the idea that there were a pair of Immortals, supposedly several thousands of years old sitting in front of her. “Is there anyone who could verify your claim?” she finally asked.

The woman’s daughter, Faith, snickered.

Looking at the young witch she asked, “Miss. Harris? Anything you would like to add?”

The girl looked back at her parents, Alexander simply shrugged, while Cat nodded, then the girl turned back forwards, “Yeah, you could talk to the Goblins. Ever since the ‘Rents apparently brought them here about six thousand years ago they’ve worshiped them as their Pantheon.”

One of the elder wizards across the room suddenly sat up straighter, and said, “Ah hah!”

Amelia banged her gavel once, then turned a stern glare on the reddening older man, some sort of mythologist as she recalled. Suddenly she decided he might have something pertinent to add to the conversation, although she was more than a little annoyed by his submission of that wastrel Mundungus Fletcher for the post of ICW representative. “Lord Jones, you have something to add?”

Standing the old man looked embarrassed for his outburst, but after a moment he cleared his throat and in his best oration voice he spoke, “The Goblin religion. They have four major figures, Dawn, the Goddess of Beginnings, Guardian of the Morning. Cat, Goddess of Fairness, Guardian of the Day. Alexander God of Freedom, Guardian of the Evening. And finally Faith, Daughter of Justice, Guardian of Night. Now while it is plausible that these are indeed the Cat and Alexander of the Goblin mythos, I find it highly suspect that they have an adopted daughter who’s also named ‘Faith’, and who is admittedly a teenager, and brand new to magic. I exclaimed when I realized they’d slipped up in their assumed identities as the Goblin Gods.”

Amelia saw his point and turned back to the two apparent frauds. “Can you explain that?”

Xander shrugged, “Not really. We didn’t even know they cared about us until we stopped by this afternoon with Harry so he could pick up some money to replace his wand.”

Cat spoke up then, “Faith is the first daughter we’ve had, and we’ve never met Dawn. Although since Dawn is the word for when the day breaks, they may have created her to balance us somehow. As for Faith, either they have really good seers, we time travel at some point in our future, or it’s a coincidence.”

Faith then added out of order, “Why are Goblins worshiping humans anyhow? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, yeah, the ‘Rents helped a bunch of Goblins move once long ago and offered them snacks ‘cause they were hungry. I can sort of see X and C being named as Guardians and stuff. C’s dad was Janus, the guy the Romans worshiped as the God of doorways and transitions, like how January, the beginning of the year is named after him ‘cause that’s when the old year transitions to the new one. A Janus is a new start. X was like named as his champion, and both he and C have always been really into the free will stuff, insuring people are allowed to make their own choices. And Cat’s pretty hung up on being fair about things, not stealing from folks by swindling them and stuff – she told me she learned that from Dad before they got hitched, and it changed her paradox or something like that.”

Cat spoke softly, but loud enough that most folks could hear her, “Paradigm honey. It’s how you look at things, or the framework you use to view the world.”

Faith nodded then resumed, “Sorry, he changed her paradigm. And ever since then she’s been crazy careful not to cheat people in any way, even by accident, so I can see them associating her with fairness. But the old guy is right, me and this Dawn chick being named doesn’t make sense, unless they’ve mixed the stories up with some others or something in the last six thousand years.”

Amelia realized that that was almost as plausible as Cat’s idea of seers. The time travel idea was impossible.

“Ok, well assuming they are who they say they are, the question I guess is do we assign them to the Defense post to replace Umbridge, and do we place Faith’s name on the rolls for Hogwarts?”

Dumbledore raised his wand.

Amelia looked down at him, noting that he was almost trembling with rage for some reason.

With more than a bit of reluctance she called on him.

A hush fell over the chamber as Dumbledore stood and looked around. “What is going on here? Who are these people, how did they get here, and why are you even considering this nonsense instead of having the Aurors escort them out of our chambers and questioning them to find how and why they broke our wards?

“Has it escaped all your notices that they shouldn’t even be IN this room? And where did that table they are sitting at come from? They couldn’t have conjured it, as we’re all well aware most spells in this chamber won’t work. In fact only the ones used here to vote and a handful of silencing and privacy spells can be cast in here. So I ask you again, what is going on here? Leave Hogwarts alone, I can find a replacement for Umbridge, which I wouldn’t have needed to do had the Ministry not foisted her on me in the first place. I have run that school for fifty years without any interference, and it’s never had any problems. So leave it alone. It is not the business of the Wizengamot to decide who attends or who works at my school. Those are MY decisions. All I wanted you to do was to tell Harry he HAD to come back where he belonged, not try to placate him by trying to figure out if his new friends should come along as well! He already has friends at Hogwarts, I saw to that the day he started! I mean, he’s had them since the day he started. And both of them would like him to come back. All I want is for you to tell Harry he has to finish his education at Hogwarts where he started it, not drop out like the delinquent troublemaker sitting beside him has admittedly already done! So stop all this nonsense and do what you are supposed to! I’d like to second Amos Diggory’s motion to compel Harry to resume his education at Hogwarts. Now let’s vote on it.”

Professor Dumbledore sat down, his face still red from his apparent anger with the situation, as Amos Diggory raised his own wand.

Amelia sighed as she called on him, “Lord Diggory?”

Standing the man looked nervous as he said, “Um, uh, I, uh, I think I would like to withdraw my motion. I hadn’t realized the scope of the situation with Mr. Potter, and, er, given the situation I don’t think an order from this body insisting he do anything at this point is germane. If he wishes to attend that’s fine, but if he honestly fears for his safety there then he shouldn’t have to go back, unless he actually wants to. I know I wouldn’t have wanted my Cedric forced to go where he didn’t want to because he feared for his life. I also would like to endorse the idea of holding an investigation into the safety of the students at the school. Not just because my son was killed during an event sponsored by the school, either, but because the events Harry told us about his first, second, and third years. If there are Trolls and Basilisks being allowed to wander the school, then something is seriously wrong.”

Dumbledore stood again, “No! This isn’t what is supposed to be happening! We are supposed to be voting on sending Harry back where I can keep him safe and make sure he is ready!”

Amelia shot him a stern glare for his speaking out of order, and banged the gavel once to stop his rant. “Lord Dumbledore, I must insist order be maintained. You more than anyone here should know you need to request your turn to speak. Now please be seated and signal should you need me to call on you.”

Dumbledore seemed to realize what he was doing, and his face bled from the angry red it had been to a stricken white, while his features settled into a neutral mask as he sat back down.

Amelia turned back to Amos and said, “I agree we need to have a through investigation of the school. My niece has told me some horror stories about the Potions lessons which I must admit I tended to discount because I couldn’t picture the top Wizarding school in Europe having a teacher who didn’t really teach.”

Griselda raised her own wand for a moment, then lowered it again, apparently changing her mind.

Amelia looked around the room again and sighed. Alexander, Cat, and Harry were all still standing, Lord Jones apparently having sat back down having said his piece, and Amos was seated once more as well.

“As Lord Diggory has withdrawn his motion, the only remaining motion is Harry’s request to allow his associates to attend Hogwarts with him. Faith as a fellow student, and the elder Harrises as the replacement Defense Instructors. Does anyone wish to second the motion?”

Arthur Weasley raised his wand, as did several others within moments of one another. Arthur being both closest and the one who she’d seen move first she called out, “Lord Weasley?”

Arthur stood and said as formally as he could, “I would like to second the motion to allow the Harrises to attend Hogwarts, Faith as a Fifth Year student, and Alexander and Cat as the replacement Defense Instructors, pending a review by the Department of Education of their teaching skills, along with I would ask a review of all the other teachers. I have also heard horror stories of the Potions Lessons, and since I have four children in Hogwarts, this is of great concern to me.”

Harry shrugged and spoke out of order, “I have no problem with checking the teachers. Most specifically I’d recommend you look into Bins, who’s been dead for years, and is the most boring History teacher in, well, history, and Snape who might be a good potions master, but who really doesn’t teach.”

Amelia banged her gavel one and admonished, “Lord Potter, please wait until you have been called upon to speak. I understand you are new to these procedures, and that you haven’t been given the best examples tonight of proper order.” She glared at Albus as she said that part, “But it is paramount to the proper functioning of this body that order be maintained.”

Harry nodded and raised his wand.

“Lord Potter?” she asked with a nod.

“I would like to apologize for that. I forgot what I had already figured out by watching everyone else.” He turned to Arthur who had already resumed his seat and said, “I’m sorry I interrupted you, Mr. Weasley.” He then sat back down himself, as did both Xander and Cat.

Amelia looked over the gathered body and said, “Then this brings us to the vote. Again, this will be a simple majority. The issue is enrolling Faith as a fifth year, assigning the Harrises the Defense Position, and requiting a through review of all the teaching staff, starting with our newest appointees, followed by the Potions, and I suppose the History professors, then the other staff as the reviewers choose.”

It didn’t take long before the assembled members had cast their votes, and Amelia found she was not the least bit surprised by the outcome as she announced, “All votes are in, are all votes final?” she waited a few moments, then announced, “The motion has passed almost unanimously. There was one vote against, and one abstention. Is there any more business before the Wizengamot this evening?” she asked.

When no one raised their wands, she resumed, “Then we’ll adjurn. Thank you for attending on rather short notice. I hope we will not need either another Emergency Session or Special Session any time soon. Assuming that is the case, our next scheduled meeting is the normal November session.” She banged the gavel again and called out, “Dismissed.”

=+=

Xander was following quietly along behind Harry as they left the Wizengamot chambers, when Amelia Bones appeared beside him. “Lord Potter, if I could have a few moments of your time?”

Harry stopped and turned to look at her, Faith coming to a halt at his left, as Cat walked up and flanked him on the right. “Yes, Minister Bones?”

She smiled and said, “Since it was your idea, I was wondering if you might be able to go to St. Mungos tomorrow with me to speak with Mr. Lockhart?”

Harry blushed red and said, “Sorry about that. I didn’t really think they would elect him.”

Madame Bones fixed him with a stern glare and said, “I think you should know by now not to say something in public unless you are serious. You endorsed a man who by my understanding from my niece was mostly a useless fraud, and who is currently a long-term mental patient because a backfired spell practically left him a vegetable.”

Harry nodded, “I know. But I was serious when I said he’s been improving, he really was reading one of his old books when I last saw him the last time I stopped by to visit my Godparents.”

Mrs. Bones frowned and asked, “Godparents?”

Harry shrugged, “Neville’s folks – the Longbottoms. They were who I was supposed to be raised by if anything happed to both of my parents and to Sirius. For some reason Professor Dumbledore thought I’d be better off being raised by Muggles who hated me.”

Amelia frowned, “I’m sure they didn’t hate you, Mr. Potter.”

Harry’s face darkened, “With a passion, I’m afraid. Did you know my Hogwarts letter was addressed to ‘the cupboard under the stairs’? That’s because for the first ten years I lived with them, that was my bedroom. The small supply cupboard under the landing where the steps took a turn. Less room than the Malfoy’s give a house-elf. I know because Dobby, one of their old house-elfs told me about his spot in the basement behind the water heater at Malfoy Mannor.”

Madame Bones’s face darkened as she thought of a boy living in a cupboard, and she said, “Another thing for me to research.”

Harry shrugged, “As for Professor Lockhart, I’ll try and swing by St. Mungos in the morning and let him know about his new position. It might actually help him, give him something to work for, other than just regaining the competency he never really had before. You should know, the Gilderoy Lockhart in the hospital isn’t the worthless fop the one I knew at Hogwarts was, he actually seems a whole new person, just one who doesn’t know much, and is trying his best to live up to the expectations raised by his old self.”

Madame bones looked surprised at that, then said, “Well if he can do the job, that’s what counts. But I won’t hesitate to move for his removal first thing in November if he gives the slightest indication he can’t handle it, or that he’s reverting to the gloryhound my niece described him as.”

Harry nodded, then said, “Do you want to meet me there, or here, or just let me go alone?”

“There would be fine, say half eleven?” she offered.

“Sure. I’ll head over early to speak with him, if that’s ok?” Harry asked.

“Of course, Lord Potter. I shall see you there, then. Good job this evening, by the way.” The Minister said before turning around and walking away.

Xander looked around then reached out and placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, and a moment later they were all four back in the hotel room.

“Well, I think I’ll call it a night”, Harry said, turning towards his trunk. “I can’t thank you three enough for the support you’ve given me the last two days. You know you don’t have to go to Hogwarts, right?”

Cat smiled at him then nodded at Faith, “I really do think exposure to other magic users her age would be good for Faith. I know when I was growing up the worst part wasn’t that no one would call me by a name, it was that I never had any friends. I had lots of family around all the time, and they were always willing to play with me, or teach me, or even just walk with me or sit on a boat and float down the Nile with me, but none of them were my age. And it was very lonely. Faith just found out she has a whole new area to learn – magic. Back home in Sunnydale, she’s pretty much left the magic to the Coven, but now she has to learn how to do it herself. I meant it when I said she should be able to pass her Owls with the rest of your class – since a wand is a weapon, and the Slayer in her has an instinctive grasp of almost any weapon I fully expect she’ll be able to use combat spells before she can do a Lumos or a Wingardium Leviosa.”

Faith blushed but nodded at Cat’s assessment, as Xander spoke up, “And as for us, well, the Creator paid us a visit during the first recess this evening, and indicated it would be a good thing if we took the opening at Hogwarts. So we’ve all got good reasons of our own to go to the school with you. Besides, you’re a good kid – we like you.”

It was Harry’s turn to blush as he bid them a good night and climbed down the ladder into his trunk.

Xander turned to Cat and asked, “You want to do anything particular tonight?”

Cat grinned and took his hand, leading him towards their bedroom. Behind him he heard Faith snickering as she turned back to her own room.

=+=

As Amelia Bones made her way up the hallway one of her old Aurors, a recent trainee graduate who preferred to be refered to by her last name of Tonks walked up to her.

“Director, er, Minister Bones, may I speak with you in private for a few moments?” the Auror said, looking simultaniously nervous, committed, and heartbroken about something. With an edge of dreat, tempered with wariness, Amelia examined the young woman for any signs of danger, and not feeling anything threarening from her, led the way up to her office in the DMLE, since she had yet to move into the Minister’s office.

Waving the woman to a seat she asked, “What can I do for you, Auror Tonks?”

The woman seemed to flinch at her question, then drew herself up and extended a sheet of parchment towards her. “Here, At a minimum you’ll need this.”

As Amelia looked it over, she saw it was a resignation for unspecified reasons having to do with her duties.

“What’s this about, Tonks? You were one of my more hopeful candidates in the last several years. Thanks to the low quantity of qualified graduates coming from Hogwarts these last ten years, recruitment has been down quite a bit, but even if it had been at it’s pre-war levels you would have been marked as a trainee to watch.” Amelia asked, looking at the crushed woman before her.

“I knew about Harry. For almost two weeks. I guess it started back in school, during Senior Year – I was a prefect for Hufflepuff as you probably know. What you may not know is that ever since my second year, when my metamorph abilities started to express themselves I had been having special training in their use from the Headmaster. Well shortly before graduation, at our last scheduled session, he made a request of me.” Tonks began.

“Professor Dumbledore believed even then that Voldemort would return, and he wanted me to be available to join a militia he was preparing in the event he did return. The Militia was to have two stated purposes, to safeguard Harry, and to help gather information and thwart attacks by Voldemort and his Deatheaters.

“I was just graduating, and thought the idea thrilling. He also promised to get me a slot in Auror Training, saying I would be even more useful if I was an Auror.”

“So I agreed, and spent the next two years going through Auror Training, but I had already given the Headmaster my oath to help him in his fight against Voldemort and to safeguard the common good. Then Voldemort came back, and the Ministry started denying it. The Headmaster had us start guarding Harry’s house from outside twenty-four seven. If he left for any reason, his assigned guard was supposed to follow at a discrete distance and keep an eye out for trouble. We were even assigned Invisibility cloaks to aid us in our jobs.

“Mundungus Flecher was on duty the day the Dementor Attack ocured, which is why Harry didn’t have anyone watching from a distance at the time, the idiot was passed out drunk in the Dursley’s back yard. When Harry was supposedly released, he had Arthur Weasley try to catch up with him after we heard he was going to see the Minister on his way out. Arthur tried to follow Harry through the phone booth to Muggle London, but by the time he made it to the street there was no sign of him at all.

“After Harry disappeared, Dumbledore went spare. He had us out in force all hours of the day and night searching the streets for signs of the boy. I really didn’t mind, I was worried about the kid. I’ve always liked him, even before Sirius told me he was my cousin. That’s something else I’m guilty of – I’ve known where Sirius Black was since just after the Third Task. Of course, I also knew he was innocent, but short of finding Pettigrew I didn’t see any way to clear his name, and having learned that Fudge had had Crouch kissed on the spot without even being questioned made me decide that there was no way I could bring him back here to try and get him a fair trial. But back to Harry.

“About three weeks ago, Dumbledore heard a rumor from somewhere that there was a secret prisoner at Azkaben. He asked me to try and search the place and see what I could find out on the very remote chance it may have been Harry. So I managed to get myself assigned there for Guard Duty one day, and when my lunch break came around, I headed towards the lower levels to see what I could find. I had almost run out of time, and had pretty much given the search up as a waste of time, when in the middle of the bottom floor I came across a series of cells, and locked inside one right about the center, in almost total darkness, I found my cousin.

“I can’t begin to tell you what it felt like, seeing the poor kid like he was. He’d obviously been starved, he was nothing more than a skeleton with skin. And he couldn’t even talk at first. It was heartbreaking. Even more so when I had to explain that I was just searching for him, I had no way to get him out. Then my alarm went off, and I had to rush back to the admin offices and get back to doing nothing. While I had to leave Harry there in his cell.”

Amelia was shocked. One of her Aurors knew what was going on, and hadn’t done anything about it? But she held her emotions and forced her face to be a mask of calm as she said, “Go on.”

Tonks took a breath then went on. “That night I went straight to Hogwarts. I wanted to get moving on getting Harry out of there immediately. But when I told Dumbledore that I had found him, and where he was, he seemed to settle down, as though a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He’d become almost frantic in the past weeks, since the attack on Privet Drive by Voldemort, shortly after Harry’s supposed release by the Ministry. He would go on and on about having to find the boy and protect him until it was time. I don’t think he slept more than an hour or two a night, if that even. But when I told him I’d found Harry, it was like everything was suddenly ok for him. Then I asked him how we’d get him out of there, and he shook his head and said that until he could come up with a way to insure Harry was safe from Voldemort, that hidden in a cell in the bottom of the prison was the safest place for him. It was like he didn’t care that Harry was being starved, or that he was being tormented daily by the Dementors. Granted, they didn’t seem to patrol down there like they do the higher levels where the majority of the prisoners were kept, but even being visited once a day when they changed out his bucket and brought him his rations was obviously killing the boy.

“After I left Dumbledore, I went to see Sirius. We talked about it for the rest of the night. Sirius actually would have been happier to hear Harry was starving on the streets than locked in a dark cell in Azkaban. But neither of us could come up with any ideas. I recommended coming to you, but he looked at me with those blue eyes of his, eyes which showed the results of being in that place for almost twelve years without even a trial, and he asked me if I could be certain you didn’t already know where Harry was, and that if you had even the slightest inkling I might know, that I wouldn’t end up in the cell next to him, or dead, or both of us dead and transfigured into shells and dumped into the ocean. I tried to tell him I was certain, that you were the most honest person I knew, but he pointed out that the prison was ultimately your responsibility, that you were on the board that found him guilty and snapped his wand in the first place, and that while it was possible you really didn’t know, that until we could be sure we had to stick with people we knew we could trust. I had to agree, even if it was reluctantly. He had a point, if I was wrong, and trusted the wrong person, Harry could easily go from a secret prisoner to a corpse.

“It took me another week to get sent back for guard duty again. Harry was much worse this time. He looked a little taller, a little less gaunt than before, but he was also passed out, with a good two days worth of rations sitting on the floor of his cell. I was in a panic, what could I do if he needed medical attention! I managed to wake him, and he told me he was a metamorph, that he’d figured a way to use the food more efficiently by shifting with it. I tried to tell him that it didn’t work that way, but he seemed to think it did, and he had gained mass, although from what he said it almost drove him to the point of magical exhaustion every time he tried it. He was a lot less responsive that time than the first, and I was even more concerned about him. Dumbledore had remained adamant that Harry was safest in Azkaban instead of where Voldemort could get at him. We tried to get him to allow us to put Harry at, I can’t tell you where, but it’s a house under the Fidelius where Sirius had been staying, but the Headmaster wouldn’t hear of it, because it was also the headquarters for the order, and he kept muttering about some link to Voldemort.

Sirius and I talked again, and he came up with a good idea – if we couldn’t get Harry out of Azkaban, at least we could get some things in to him. He had me get a top-of-the-line Auror model trunk, and stock the kitchen with all sorts of food, so Harry wouldn’t have to eat the practically worthless gruel he was being fed by the Dementors. It took a few days to get the trunk, and get it stocked, I also added clothes and Sirius and I filled the library room with books from the Black Family Library, as well as several school books from Diagon Alley I got him, since it might help him to not only pass the time, but keep up his studies.

A couple of days later I managed to pull Island duty again, and once more I headed down on my lunch to check on Harry. He was even worse than before. He couldn’t seem to focus his eyes anymore, as best I could figure his eyesight was shutting down due to lack of stimulation. So I showed him the trunk, which had internal lights, and I instructed him to spend as much time in the light as possible, and to eat the food in the kitchen, enjoy the shower, but to make sure he was always in his cell where he belonged, with the trunk shrunken and hidden before the Dementors came, and I reassured him that Sirius and I were working on getting Dumbledore to change his mind and let us get him out of there. You know most of the rest – the next day was the attack on the Ministry, followed by the attack on Azkaban. Apparently the trunk did Harry more good than I’d expected, because when the other Aurors and I caught up with him in the Alley after he escaped, he looked as healthy as I’ve ever seen him, if a bit shorter than I think he’d been in Azkaban when I gave him the trunk. And that’s about it. I only ask that you don’t press me for details on Dumbledore’s Militia, as I really can’t answer due to an oath of secrecy I took before I ever even became an Auror.”

Amelia looked at the young woman before her and tried to think. “So, you joined the Auror Corps under false pretences, violated your oath by not turning in a known fugitive, and instead assisting in hiding him, violated regulations by exploring off-limits areas of Azkaban during your break time, deliberately transported contraband onto Azkaban and participated in a conspiracy to aid in the illegal removal of a prisoner from the island. Oh, and are a member of an unauthorized Militia. Are there any other charges I am unaware of, former Auror Tonks?”

The woman cringed under her harsh tone, but seemed to honestly consider the question. “No, not that I can think of.”

“Very well. I am accepting your resignation as of now. You are not to speak of this with anyone until further notice. You will turn in your badge, and any ministry paraphernalia you may have in your possession no later than nine am tomorrow, after which time you will surrender yourself to my office, do I make my self clear?” Amelia asked, a glint of steel in her voice barely masking the anger she felt at that moment, although from the young woman’s expression she could tell she hadn’t kept it from her eyes, despite the mask of her face.

“Yes Ma’am. I’ll be back here tomorrow morning with any Department Issue materials I have, such as restraints, my uniform, and such, and I’ll be here at nine for your judgment on what further discipline I deserve.” Tonks said, a bit of determination showing in her voice, mixed with the resignation to the inevitable,

“Then get going. And Ms. Tonks,” Amelia said, as Tonks paused on her way out the door to meet her eyes, the regret showing clearly in the brown orbs. “Don’t be late. I have a lot to do tomorrow, and can’t afford to waste time waiting for you.”

Tonks looked like she almost wanted to salute as she replied, “Yes Ma’am.”, once more before vanishing out the door.

Amelia sighed as she picked up a blank stack of Memo Parchments – the small pages which were charmed to fly throughout the building to deliver their messages to the various desks. It was still going to be a long night. Somehow the weekend didn’t look like it would be any easier than the week which had preceded it.

=+=

Harry awoke and looked around the bedroom in the trunk as he stretched his body out.

Once more he noted that his form had reverted to the “Default Harry”, losing the Dementor Vision, and gaining a few inches of height as he’d slept.

He climbed out of bed in the darkened room and concentrated on resuming the hybrid form he’d adopted over the past few days, smiling as the room was once more visable, both through the signs of magic glowing all around him, and from the energy given off to the Dementor Senses by everything he could sense. He noted once more that his clothes had reverted to what he had been wearing when in Azkaban, now giving him three sets of tattered rags, and costing him yet another set of pajamas.

Trying an experiment, he removed the rags, and created a new Template Image by copying his current Master Template. He then put the set of rags back on, and switched to the new template once more, noting as his rags simply vanished.

He then tried something new, erasing the new image, so that all he was left with were the Phoenix, Basilisk, Dementor, Hybrid Harry, Hybrid Phoenix, and the original Standard Harry images in his head, along with the silvery Patronis images off to the side.

Coming to a decision, he opened his eyes and padded into the bathroom carefully selecting a set of comfortable clothes which wouldn’t stand out in most situations along his way.

Turning on the hot water he stepped in, allowing the stream to both reinvigorate him and slowly awaken his body.

Once he was clean, he dried off, then rather than adjusting his body to fit the slightly smaller clothes, he returned to his bedroom and put on his new Wand Holster, then pulled his wand out and used it to carefully resize his clothes.

Once he was done, he finished dressing, and carefully stowed his wand back in its holster, before leaning back against the sink and closing his eyes so he could concentrate.

He focused on the image of his Master Template, and carefully peeled off a copy, trying to see if he could also include the wand and holster in the image.

He then pulled the older Hybrid Image, and instead of copying it, slapped it whole into his Master Template, then he opened his eyes again.

He was once more dressed in the Azkaban Rags. With a nod he closed his eyes, and this time copying the new Hybrid Template, the one with him dressed in decent clothes instead of rage, he placed the copy onto his Template, and once more opened his eyes.

It had worked, his reflection was now that of the properly dressed Harry, as opposed to the tattered rags he had been wearing before.

Wondering about Breakfast, he climbed the ladder out of his truck and into the livingroom of the hotel suite.

Faith was in the living room, working out in some sort of gymnastics or martial arts routine, dressed in a pair of shorts and a tight sports bra which suited her a little too well.

She was amazing as she fought against her own shadows on the wall, kicking and punching, dodging and spinning almost faster than his greedy eyes could track. Watching her was like watching a living poem, for the first time bringing actual meaning to his mind of the phrase ‘poetry in motion’.

When she finished her set of movements she turned and offered him a cocky grin.

“Morning H.” She called as she stretched her arms above her head and arched her back, doing interesting things to her torso from Harry's point of view

“Good morning Faith, have you had breakfast yet?”, Harry asked looking around and noting the other two occupants of the hotel room were not present at that time.

She shook her head, “Nah, Cat and X haven't gotten up yet so I haven’t bothered to call room service or anything yet. I am a bit hungry though.”

Harry shrugged and gestured at his trunk “I’ve got a full kitchen in there if you're hungry. You're welcome to join me, I'm sure we could find something pretty good, either already made or I could try and fix something for both of us. You want take a look?”

Faith shrugged and said, “Sure, sounds wicked H. I’d like to see the inside of your trunk anyhow, if you don’t mind. But let's go look and see what's going on with the ‘Rents first. They don't always eat anyhow, especially not breakfast, but it's good to know just in case they were planning something, ya know?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Harry said, turning back towards his trunk. “Just come on down after you see them, I’ll leave the lid open to the Kitchen.”

He climbed down the ladder as Faith walked over to Xander and Cat’s room and knocked on the door.

Once in the kitchen he turned to the storage cabinets to rummage through looking for breakfasty foods he could cook.

Suddenly Hedgwig burst into the room in a ball of flame, carrying a scroll in her claws. She flapped once and settled on the table, holding the parchment out to him.

Harry picked up the scroll and opened it. It was from his godfather, and wasn’t much more than a quick note saying that he was happy to have seen him yesterday, he was proud of how he dealt with everything last night, and that he hoped that Harry would have a chance to stop by again today, but if he did could he please try to have Faith avoid assaulting any other order members, as there was supposed to be a full meeting that afternoon.

Harry set aside the scroll and was turning to the cupboards to see what he could find for breakfast, when Faith, Cat, and Xander suddenly appeared in the kitchen, looking around curiously. Xander was once more wearing what appeared to be his standard clothing choice - this time his Hawaiian shirt however was depicting a scene featuring a volcano. There were fluffy white clouds drifting slowly through a clear blue sky above the peek, with an orange glow coming from deep inside the mountain, and a single river of Lava flowing brightly down the side, seeming to shift as he moved. Occasional wisps of smoke seemed to rise from the volcano as well, while the trees and bushes in the foreground seemed to stir occasionally in a soft breeze. The level of animation on his shirt seemed quite a bit less than normal from what Harry had noticed.

Cat on the other hand was wearing a simple white tank top and pair of tight blue jeans. Xander and Cat were in their apparently from what Faith had told him, ‘normal’ younger aspects as opposed to the older appearances they seemed to maintain in public most of the time since he’d met them.

Xander smiled at him with an unacceptably chipper expression for this time of day and called out, “Good morning Harry! How are you doing today?”

Harry mock glared at Xander then turned back to the cupboard in order to see what he might be able to scrounge up for food.

Finally settling on cereal, as he didn’t really feel like cooking, he pulled several boxes of various brands of sugary goodness out and set them on the counter, then pulled down some bowls, and opening a drawer pulled out spoons. From another cabinet he pulled out all four of his large glasses, then he removed the rest of the first pitcher of Pumpkin Juice, as well as a pitcher of milk, and set them beside the cereal. “Dig in. Pumpkin Juice is on the left, Milk on the right, open whatever boxes suit your fancy.”

Himself he selected the box of Fruit Loops, never having had the opportunity to actually eat them for breakfast, having previously managed to only taste one or two at a time when Dudley threw out the old boxes.

He decided he liked the little rings floating in the milk, and vowed to try each of the cereals when he had the chance.

=+=

Voldemort staggered back as Crabbe’s body fell to the floor. With his weakened core, even a single Avada Kedavra almost wiped him out. He scowled at the thought that he was at present hardly better than a squib.

His eyes returned to the Daily Prophet, it’s headline story mocking him before the entire Wizarding World. While the headline, “Black demands name change from Wizengamot.”, didn’t really mock him, the actual article had so incensed him that he’d literally killed the messenger in a fit of pique. It claimed that Black, compensation for having spent twelve years in prison, he had requested the Wizengamot to pass legislation making any references to him into demeaning ridicule. Apparently his legal name was now to be 'That-Half-Blood-Tom-Riddle-Leader-Of-Those-Stupid-Deatheaters', or for repeated references in a given situation he could later be identified only as 'That-Fool-Riddle'. How dare they even refer to that muggle bastard who impregnated his mother! Let alone try to reaffix the name, and truthfully the identity he had shed over fifty years ago.

Worse, some of his Deatheaters were smart enough to realize that he really WAS a half-blood, and considering that a large part of how he had lured them to flock to his banner had been with calls for blood purity, that he had been making fools of them this whole time.

If they started to try and think for themselves he might have even more problems. Problems he really couldn’t afford when he was barely more powerful than a SQUIB!

=+=

Nymphadora Tonks flooed into the Ministry with a look of grim determination on her face.

She stopped briefly by her old desk and checked it one last time for anything personal she may have left the night before, then she took the shrunken package containing all her official paraphernalia and carried it to her supervisor’s desk, where she unshrunk it and left it for him before taking a deep breath and heading over to Director Bone’s office.

She knocked softly on the door a minute before nine, and it was promptly pulled open from within.

With a last breath, she stepped through the door and into the office, ready to face the music.

=+=

Albus Dumbledore glowered at the students as he ate his breakfast in the Great Hall.

Yesterday had been a disaster. He literally could not think of a day in his life when more things went wrong than they had the day before.

It wasn’t the whole day, in fact everything had been going pretty well until just before that thrice dammed Wizengamot meeting.

Something was off about the whole thing. He couldn’t imagine why Sirius would say what he had, or why Arthur, who had always been trustworthy, had failed in his simple task of seconding the motion Amos had sponsored. Then Amos had gone and withdrawn his own motion!

He wasn’t even wanting to think about how that upstart Bones maneuvered to remove him from two of his posts, positions of authority he’d held for longer than most of these children chattering annoyingly before him had been alive!

And Harry nominating a brain dead fraud to replace him as Chief Warlock? And the Wizengamot agreeing with him! No something wasn’t right. He was certain it was a plot of Riddle’s. Replace the government with his own puppets. Somehow Tom had managed to replace Fudge with Amelia, then he’d used Amelia to neutralize Albus himself, before doing whatever it was he was planning. The other odd thing from last night was his new defense instructors.

The very concept of seven thousand year old Immortals was ludicrous to start with, yet the entire Wizengamot seemed to swallow everything they said almost without comment.

He’d heard of the Goblin Gods long before, the idea of Goblins worshiping humans had intrigued him, but a bit of study showed that the Goblins were quite specific that their Gods were not humans, at least not according to the Goblins. And the idea that their legends had warped over the past six thousand years was believable, unless you considered that the Goblins claimed to have had a written language for even longer, and the story of their exodus, complete with statues and images of their Gods and the event itself were carved in both stone and gold. So how much could their story mutate?

However now that he thought about it, the Goblin Gods did look a lot like the witch and wizard, although they looked far younger in the pictures, more like teenagers, while their Daughter Faith had appeared to be middle aged, easily the oldest looking of the four. He had specifically looked at the images, as he was struck by the fact that the Goblin images showed their deities in what looked like potentially contemporary clothes, with a few changes.

He would have to keep a close eye on them when they arrived. The fact they were lying about their origins and identities was a given. He was certain they were agents of Voldemort’s, but why Harry was helping them, that was one of the things he didn’t understand. Once he got the boy here, he’d have to schedule an afternoon, and have a little chat. Perhaps a bit of Legilimency wouldn’t hurt either. See exactly what the boy thought he was up to.

=+=

Tonks stepped cautiously into the office.

“Well at least you are prompt.” Amelia Bones said, glancing at the clock showed it was almost nine, her voice still as cold as it had been the night before, the anger she had been suppressing still detectable in her slightly clipped tones. She indicated a wooden chair near the center of the office, which had been expanded to allow for a long wooden table facing the chair to be conjured up, with six chairs behind it. “Have a seat and we’ll get started.”

Tonks swallowed as she looked at the faces, both familiar and unfamiliar facing her. Her heart clenched as she recognized two of them in particular. None of the faces looked even slightly inviting, in fact they all held more than a bit of hostility towards her from what she could see, even the two total strangers.

“Ms. Tonks, you are here to answer to charges resulting from your confession last night. At this time this hearing is both informal and off the record, and it is possible that the results will also be kept from the public eye, however you do have the right to a formal trial on the record if you so chose. You should be aware that the charges you are facing are serious, and could result in your incarceration in Azkaban, or even the kiss if it’s determined you acted with malicious or treasonous intent. Before we can proceed, we need to know if you are willing to surrender your right to a public trial and submit yourself to the authority of this board.”

Tonks felt her heart seem to stop at that last admonition. “Informal is fine. I’d rather not make a spectacle out of things. I know I messed up, and am willing to face whatever repercussions you think I should as a result. I am willing to submit myself to the authority of this board.”

“Very well, allow me to introduce you to your Review Board. On the far left, you will recognize your former training partner, Kingsley Shacklebolt. He is here however in his capacity as Acting Head Auror. Next to him you should also recognize Retired Master Auror Alistor Moody. Next to him is Rufus Scrimgeour, acting Head of the DMLE.” Amelia then gestured towards the two unfamiliar people on her right, “Finally there are Sven, and his supervisor Emm, from a little known branch in the Department of Mysteries. They shall be the acting Board for your hearing. Acting Director Scrimgeour will preside. I myself will be acting as Prosecutor. Is there anyone you would like us to call to speak on your behalf?”

Tonks shook her head, “No. I can speak for myself.” she said despite the sinking feeling in her stomach.

“Very well. The charges are first and foremost being an active member of an unauthorized Militia Group. Second, infiltrating the DMLE as either a double agent, or a mole for said Militia Group. Third, acting against orders on behalf of said Militia Group. Fourth, willingly smuggling contraband into the secure facility of Azkaban. Fifth maintaining contact with a known fugitive, who is also a member of the aforementioned Militia Group. Sixth, conspiring with said fugitive to remove a prisoner from Azkaban. Do you understand the charges as I have described them?”

“Yes, I do.” Tonks acknowledged.

“And do you disagree with the veracity of any of the charges? Do you consider yourself guilty, or not guilty on each of the six charges?” Amelia asked coldly.

Tonks bit the inside of her bottom lip as she thought about each of the charges. On the surface, all were entirely accurate portrayals of her activities. The fact that two more members of the unlawful militia were sitting on the board didn’t escape her notice. Neither did their glares at her.

Finally she nodded, “I suppose I am guilty on all six charges. I would ask that my actual actions and motivations be considered, but I will accept the consequences of my actions.”

Amelia nodded. “Very well. The accused has confessed, and has agreed she considers herself guilty on the particulars of all six charges. I believe we may move on to the sentencing phase, unless there are any objections?” as the board sat there, Amelia nodded, “The defendant has asked that the board consider her actual actions and motivations in determining sentencing. Are there any objections to reviewing first her confession via pensive, then questioning her for further details?”

Again none of the board members objected, so Amelia walked over to her desk and lifted a Pensive off it, the bowl already filled with the shimmering silvery liquid of memories. “This is my memory from last night when Ms. Tonks issued her confession to me in private, which led to this hearing here this morning. I would ask you to all review it then you may feel free to clarify any questions you may have prior to discussing sentencing.”

Tonks watched as all five people reached out and placed their fingers into the silvery liquid, their eyes going blank as they fell into the memory from the night before.

=+=

Amelia studied Nymphadora as the board members came back out of the pensive. The entire time they had been reviewing the memories she had sat there patiently, apparently resigned to whatever fate awaited her.

It was time to finally decide that fate. There had been several discussions earlier that morning, and late the night before about the young ex-Auror and what to do about her disclosures.

She hadn’t been at all surprised when the folks from Special Services made their request, they had approached her with similar ones several times in the past two years, and Amelia had always turned them down. Rufus was frustrated that he couldn’t do the same thing this time, but the ball had been taken out of his court, so to speak, and it was now all up to the young lady sitting next to her. How she reacted, how much she was willing to cooperate, would be what decided her fate, be it in prison, or elsewhere.

=+=

Tonks breath hitched as the five members of the panel sat up from reviewing the memories.

They all looked at her, and none of the looks were sympathetic. She really hadn’t expected them to be. She knew she’d screwed up, that was why she’d approached the Minister last night, now it was a matter of paying the price she’d earned by blindly following her old Headmaster.

Madame Bones spoke up, “Do you have any further questions before you deliberate on the appropriate sentences?”

The unknown woman, Emm, nodded, then spoke for the first time, in a strong, cultured voice, “I have one. How many other members are there in this unlawful Militia?”

Tonks sighed, this was the one reason she had hesitated as long as she had before coming forward once it was apparent she could trust Director Bones. While the other members of the Order were technically as guilty as she was, especially the two in this room right now, she couldn’t bring herself to turn them in. Even for a reduced sentence. Especially for a reduced sentence, once she thought about it. Gaining any sort of benefit would be the same as selling them out, and no matter what she was, she was not that sort of traitor. “I won’t betray them. Not at this point. This is one of the things I had researched, and legally the Chief Warlock has the right to raise a Militia. Granted he’s supposed to do it publically, and in the name of the Wizengamot, but unless I see they are breaking other laws, or actively opposing the people of the British Magical World, then whether they follow Dumbledore is up to them. Although now that he’s no longer Chief Warlock, their positions will become a bit more, shaky, not that they weren’t so when he formed the Militia in secret.”

All five board members scowled at him, although the two on the far left scowled a bit less, but then Rufus spoke, “So if they were acting against the interests of the citizens of Magical Briton, you would oppose them. What about acting against the current administration?”

Tonks shrugged, “Madame Bones so far has acted in the interests of the people she represents. If she, like Fudge was acting against those interests, then no, I wouldn’t act against them, because they would still be doing the right thing. In this case it’s not as much a matter of the law, as of the effects of their actions.”

The board members scowled again. Moody spoke for the first time, “So why did you decide to betray Dumbledore and turn him in to the Ministery?”

Tonks frowned, “I didn’t really. I turned myself in. But I had to tell Madame Bones the whole story, and I couldn’t do that without explaining who was involved.”

Kingsley spoke up, “So you think you can just compartmentalize your life? This part is me as an Auror, this part is me as a member of the Order, and so on? What happens when the parts conflict?”

Tonks offered her first smile of the morning, as she said, “Well, I suppose I go to Madame Bones and confess, because it turns out I can’t follow two masters, especially when I believe one is in the wrong.”

“So you believe Dumbledore is in the wrong?” Sven spoke, his voice deep and powerful, with a touch of high society showing through his accent.

“I believe I was in the wrong for ever listening to Dumbledore. I think he believes he is in the right, for now I’m not so sure any more. I used to think he knew everything, now I think he’s as human as the rest of us, more so in some ways. And that humanity means he can make mistakes. I think he was mistaken about Harry. The more I hear about Harry the more mistaken I think he was. But what can I do? I’m just a twenty year old ex-Auror who listened to the wise old man when he asked her for her help, and ended up ruining her life and career, and couldn’t even help either of her cousins.” Tonks explained.

Rufus scowled, “Had you come to us when Dumbledore started up his Militia you know, this wouldn’t have happened. We wouldn’t be here today trying to decide your fate.”

Tonks shrugged, “And if I’d have turned down his offer of help, and applied to the Auror program without his support, it wouldn’t have happened either. I can’t help what might have been at this point, all I can deal with is reality, as depressing as it is.”

Amelia interjected, “I think we’ve strayed off track. Are there any more questions?”

Emm spoke again, a glint in her eyes, “You said you wouldn’t tell us how many people are in the Order. But you did tell us that Fletcher was in it. So we can go pick him up. I want you to consider your options very carefully, Ms. Tonks. If you cooperate with us, we can be very lenient. As you said, most of the people in the Militia haven’t done anything really wrong, yet. We just want to shut it down before they do start breaking the laws. Once we have Fletcher, you know he’ll talk to save himself, so why not help yourself out instead. Just a few names. If you can help us catch a couple more moles in the Ministry, we would probably be willing to dismiss all the charges and let you go. Consider that for a moment. As you said, you’d made a mistake. Why let it ruin your whole life. Give us a few more names, and we’ll do everything we can for you. Or don’t, and we’ll do it for Fletcher, and you can have Potter’s old cell at Azkaban. I think we should take a ten minute break so you can think very carefully about your options.”

Rufus nodded, “I agree. Let’s take a ten minute recess so Ms. Tonks can consider if she wants to cooperate with us or not.

Tonks closed her eyes as all six filed out of Madame Bones’s office, leaving her alone in the lone chair before the table.

=+=

Finishing up Breakfast, Harry turned to his guests, and asked, “So what are your plans for this morning? I need to go to St. Mungos to see Lockhart. Were you planning on tagging along, or were you going to head out today and see some sights? I mean, this was supposed to be your vacation, you know.

Xander looked over at Cat, then at Faith, seeming to come to a consensus. “We’re going with you to the hospital, then I think we need to go back to that Diagon Alley to get Faith some basic school supplies.”

Harry frowned, “Couldn’t you just magic them up, like you did my wand?”

Cat nodded, “We could, but as Xander pointed out, how is that different from stealing?”

Harry was confused, “Um, because when you steal something you take it away from whoever had it. If you magic it up, no one looses anything.”

Xander asked, “What about the merchant who looses the bit of profit your purchase would have given them? Or the manufacturer who also looses their bit of profit? It’s not a lot, but by simply making everything, you are stealing indirectly from the people involved in the creation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of whatever you made.”

Harry scratched his head, then he said, “But you guys make stuff all the time. I’ve seen you make clothes, and you made my wand, and those cake things, and galleons.”

Xander nodded, “Yep. Clothes, we buy clothes from time to time, whether we use them or not is immaterial to the larger economy. Your wand was a special case, the local wand crafter was unable to provide what you needed. In that case, when there is no local source you could have gone through, then it’s not stealing, because there is no one to steal from in the first place. We did buy a wand from Olivander, however, even if it was for Faith instead of for you, and we also bought those wand holsters. So he made enough profit from our stay that he wasn’t damaged by our actions in creating your wand. And finally the Galleons. Cat and I have decided after several discussions that creating paper money is still stealing, even if the effect is spread over a society as whole as opposed to one individual, or group of individuals. In Toronto we are addressing this by working actual jobs to generate income. We’ve paid off the wedding, and the money borrowed from La Croix, and have started to repay the money Cat magiced the first few days we were there. In Sunnydale we decided to actually steal the money we needed there, so we targeted the worst scum we could find with large cash resourced we could divert and we made it look like several rival drug cartels were involved in the thefts. We stole literally billions, enough that it actually hurt them for quite a while, and that we should never need to do such a thing again. With the Galleons, well there I don’t mind. A Galleon is made of gold, and it’s physical worth actually exceeds it’s currency worth, meaning if you melted a galleon and sold the gold for British pounds, then converted those pounds to wizarding currency, you would get more than a galleon for your gold when all was said and done. Also, because it is a physical currency, and not a token against a reserve of gold supposedly held somewhere to back it up, there will be no deflation concerns, so we aren’t stealing from the entire society as we would be with paper money.”

Harry shook his head, “You’ve put a lot of thought into this, haven’t you?”

“Cat did most of the thinking after I pointed it out to her one day that she was stealing from the stores by having me try on clothes, then creating duplicates of the ones she liked on me.” Xander explained with a shrug.

“So you really are going to go through the alley buying Faith supplies, like for any other student?” Harry asked.

“Faith, and yourself, I do believe. After all, you said you were going to go back. Unless you’ve changed your mind, you’ll need your school supplies as well.” Cat pointed out as Faith just grinned at him.

“Yeah, H, plus ya gotta show me what to get. I don’t know shit about magic school, but I doubt a set of notebooks and a shitload of pencils, pens and paper will cut it like it does in regular school.”

Harry shrugged and counted off on his fingers, “Cauldron, potion supplies, parchment, quills, uniform, and text books is probably what you’ll need. Any idea what classes you are going to want to take?”

Faith shrugged, “Magic. How to cast spells and shit, I guess potions since you mentioned it. Might be like Chemistry, and that was wicked cool, even if it did smell like shit, for some reason it was one of my favorite classes. What else do they have?”

Harry shrugged, “Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, History of Magic, Magical Creatures, Defense, Charms, Transfiguration, Astronomy, Divination, and Herbology off the top of my head. I was taking the seven core subjects, History, Defense, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Astronomy, and Herbology, then for electives I was taking Creatures and Divination, mostly because they are the easiest subjects.”

Faith shrugged, “Sounds like I’d do ok then, So I’ll need books and shit for History, Defense, Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology, Astronomy, and Potions, plus whatever for Creatures and that Divination classes. I’ll go with your recommendations there. I’ve never really cared about old buildings, and math is my worst subject.”

Harry choked on the milk he was drinking, and had to clear his lungs before he could reply, “Um, it’s Runes, not Ruins. As in old letters, not old buildings. But yeah, it’s really hard, essentially like a bunch of foreign language classes.”

Cat spoke up then, “And Arithmancy is about how magic supposedly works. It’s really flawed, but it’s how the Wizards see the way their spells function, and how they create new ones.”

Faith shrugged, “Still sounds hard. I’ll pass.”

Xander shook his head, then said, “Oh, Faith, the normal rules for grades are in place here, but the letters are all different, so you need an O to get the thousand dollars, not just an A. And you can’t get any Ts.”

Faith got a funny grin on her face, “A school with T&A who woulda thought.”

=+=

Tonks watched at the door opened, and the six people returned to Minister Bone’s office.

Bones stood to the side, while the other five retook their seats at the table before her.

Rufus was the first to speak. “Ms. Tonks, have you considered our offer?”

Tonks swallowed against her suddenly dry throat. For the past five minutes she’d done nothing more than worry if her slip in mentioning Dung would end in a lot of people who’d only wanted to help getting in trouble. But she kept coming back to the issue of clemency. If she sold them out for her own gain, she didn’t think she’d want to live with herself. The fact that Dung would do so in a heartbeat didn’t change the matter. “I have, Director Scrimjor.”

“And your response?” He asked.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your offer. I understand you will likely get the same information from Mundungus that I am refusing you, but I just can’t bring myself to, well, betray them that way. It would be one thing if I thought what they were doing was wrong, but they’re trying to do the right thing. Heck, most of them probably don’t even realize what they’re doing could be considered illeagle.”

“So you are certain of your decision? While we were in recess, we discussed the penalties you would face if you were unwilling to cooperate, and are ready to pass sentence now if you don’t change your mind.” Rufus asked once more.

The faces looking at her were uniformly grave as they allowed her a final chance

Tonks took a deep breath and closed her eyes, then opened them once more, and centered them on Rufus’s face, and spoke the words which would seal her fate. “I’m certain. Please proceed.”

=+=

Amelia had to step back so she could control the smile which threatened to break out on her face as Tonks passed the final test. A part of her, which still thought of the DMLE as hers was sad to see her go, but for now at least, the Unspeakables were also Hers, so it wasn’t like she was really losing anything. And M had a point on how useful a Metamorph Magus would be as an agent.

Assuming she agreed, of course.

=+=

Rufus stood, and shooting an annoyed glance at Emm for some reason, said formally, “Nymphadora Tonks, having been found guilty of the charges levied against you, specifically being an active member of an unauthorized Militia Group, Infiltrating the DMLE as either a double agent, or a mole for said Militia Group, acting against orders on behalf of said Militia Group, willingly smuggling contraband into the secure facility of Azkaban, maintaining contact with a known fugitive, who is also a member of the aforementioned Militia Group, and finally, conspiring with said fugitive to remove a prisoner from Azkaban, it is the decision of this board that you be assigned two years of training under the Special Services division of the Department of Mysteries, during which time you will be on probation, and answerable to disciplinary actions as determined by either your training officer, Double-0-Seven, or his supervisor and head of the division, M. At the end of that two year period, should you fail to pass your final examinations, you will be obliviated and returned to civilian life. Should you pass the final examinations, you will be provided the opportunity to join the department as a full agent. Do you understand this sentence, Ms. Tonks?”

Tonks could only blink. She had expected to be sent to a Ministry Holding Cell at the least. She wouldn’t have been surprised if they hadn’t followed through on their threat to toss her in Azkaban. Instead, she was getting a new job. A job she hadn’t even known existed. What was the Special Services division of the Department of Mysteries. And training officer, Doubble-O-Seven? Sven. The man on the board to the right of Rufus was to be her new Boss. And that would make Emm, M, her ultimate supervisor. Those names rang a bell, and her face scrunched up as she fixed the man who’s name she realized she hadn’t learned yet with a questioning look as she asked, “Your last name wouldn’t happen to be Bond, would it?”

Moody broke out laughing as he said to Minister Bones, “I told you it wouldn’t take her long, Amelia. Mark my words, she’ll have it all puzzled out in seconds.”

The apparent agent shrugged, and replied, “It’s a good cover. No one believes in me because everyone thinks I’m just a character in a movie. Cuts down on the need for Obliviations.”

Tonks turned towards Moody, his words playing through her mind as she fixed him with a glare. “And you. You set me up!” she accused him. “When I asked about my problems with what I’d done, you told me to do what I thought I should, and not to worry about anyone else. You knew I was going to go see Madame Bones!”

Moody shrugged, “I suspected as much.”

Amelia stepped forward, a smile on her face, “Yes, we know about Kingsley and Moody being in the Order. Actually we have a complete list of order members, have since it was activated. The same night Dumbledore activated his Militia in secret, instead of through the Wizengamot as he should have, both Moody and Kingsley came to me and told me of their positions, offering to resign from the newly reformed Order. Instead I left them in place, my own double agents, as it were. I didn’t know about Harry, or that Dumbledore knew about Harry though until you told me last night. That was why I was so angry, not at you, but rather at Dumbledore. He played me like a fool, just like Fudge did, and I’m tired of it.”

“Then what was all this about?” Tonks asked feeling a bit of anger rise up herself at having been made a fool of. “Was this all just for your amusement?”

Bones shook her head, “No, when you offered your resignation and confession last night, your actions became part of the official record, not necessarily the public record, but the official one nonetheless. I had to take action, and call a review board, or schedule a trial date to officially close that record. This was a fully qualified review board, and their sentence is binding. You are genuinely being remanded to the custody of the Special Services Division of the Department of Mysteries for the next two years. That is your official punishment for the violations you committed. That was why we kept asking you to insure there were no more outstanding issues you could later be charged with by a future administration.”

“So you’re not going to arrest Dung and question him about the order?” Tonks asked, relief finally flowing through her on behalf of the other order members she had feared she’d condemned.

“No. Not that I’d be adverse to arresting him, mind you, especially since he seems to have contributed to poor Harry’s recent problems through his negligence, but as far as the Order of the Phoenix goes, no.”

Tonks nodded at that then looked around the room. Finally she said the only thing she could. “Thank you.”

=+=

Harry gave Xander the address for St. Mungos, and then followed the family as Cat led them to the parking garage.

Inside the garage, Harry was led to a brand new, but rather old-fashioned looking convertible automobile. It had a long hood, with manifold pipes coming out of it, like an old racing car, the front windshield was rectangular, and broken by a strip of metal down the center, and the whole vehicle looked both expensive, and fast.

But none of that was what caught his attention. What caught, and held, his attention was the fact that the entire car glowed.

It gave off energy like a living being, like a magical being even, and it certainly was magical - there were more spells and streamers of magic pouring off the car than anything he’d seen yet. All in all it was a kolidascope of color and energy to his enhanced senses, and a really awesome looking vehicle to his mundane ones as well.

“Wow” was all he said.

Xander reached out and touched the hood of the car with obvious affection. “Yeah, it’s a great car. Cat made it for me when we first met, for our first date, you could say.” Xander’s face seemed to blank out as he said, “God was she beautiful.”

Harry had to ask, “Cat, or the car?”

Xander jumped and turned slightly red, then answered, “Both. But it was Cat I was remembering, although it was Cat in the car, in this little black dress.” His face had regained the far-away look, and Cat was blushing.

“Wow. I wish we’d been this connected back then. I knew you liked the dress, but wow. Now I see how you forgot the ring.” Cat said, reaching out to grab Xander in a hug.

Xander shook himself, dismissing the memory, but kissing Cat for a few moments before turning back to Harry. “As I was saying, Cat made it for me, but then later that night I had to crash it. I really missed the car. So when Cat came up with the idea of a road trip for the summer, she recommended I try to bring back the car. It took a bit more effort than I’d expected, but eventually we had the car back, although with a back seat for Faith. But I still don’t think I got it right. So while this isn’t technically the same car Cat made for me, I think of it as if it was, because when I re-created it, I tried to draw on the same materials which had been in the car originally. That was part of what made it so difficult.”

Harry shook his head and said, “You know it’s alive, right? Like your sword, sort of.”

Xander looked shocked, and so did Cat, but Faith looked at the car with sudden suspicion.

“What is it, Faith?” Cat asked.

“Just a thought. Let’s get going. I wanna see this magic hospital, so we can get to shopping”, Faith replied as she climbed into the back of the Cord.

=+=

Harry was seated in the back seat as the motor roared to life as Xander turned the key, then pressed a silver button on the dash.

He listened to the powerful purr of the engine with a touch of envy, but it was washed away with simple joy as the car backed out and headed up the drive and onto the London streets.

Suddenly, Harry felt himself compelled to speak. “Chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang.” He said with puzzlement on his face.

Faith, sitting beside him repeated him a moment later, also saying, “Chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang.”

Next thing he knew, he was repeating it again, only this time singing, and Faith and Xander joined in, “Chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang, Oh You, pretty chitty bang bang, we love you, and our pretty chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang loves us too. High Low anywhere we go on chitty chitty we depend, bang bang chitty chitty bang bang, our fine four fendered friend.”

Cat then joined in, and all four sang out happily, “Bang bang chitty chitty bang bang, our fine four fendered friend.”

The other three fell silent as Cat continued on her own, “You're sleek as a thouroughbred, your seats are a featherbed, you turn everybody's head today”

Xander then took over, singing, “We'll glide on our motortrip, With pride in our ownership,”

And all four joined in for the last line and a further chorus, “The envy of all we survey! Chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang. Chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang, our fine four fendered friend, bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang, our fine four fendered friend!”

As they pulled in to a spot in front of the apparently closed department store who’s address Harry had given them, Xander reached out and turned off the ignition, and as the car fell silent Faith broke out with “What the fuck was that!”

Xander frowned, “I think I remember that song from when I was a kid. But I have no idea why we were compelled to sing it.” He climbed out and looked at the Cord, taking in it’s flared fenders, the long, sleek hood with the exhaust manifolds coming out in gleaming chrome pipes do disappear under the floorboards. It’s unusual flat windshield, split down the middle into two pieces, and angled back to assist in its aerodynamics. The passenger compartment, almost at the rear of the car, the steering wheel actually marking the center of the powerful vehicle. And the small trunk at the rear.

Other than the back seat being a bit larger, so it was actually functional, and the trunk being respectively smaller, it looked like the car Cat had made. At least on the outside. Remembering what Harry had said, he now looked on the inside. Not inside the engine, or in the trunk, but metaphysically inside, and what he saw stopped him cold. The car had a soul.

=+=

Cat had climbed out and stood next to her husband as he examined the car.

This was the second time she’d found herself singing that unfamiliar song in the car. The first time had been when they had come here from New York, and the car started flying as they sang. She had written it off as something to do with the request they’d made of Uncle Mike, to help them give Faith the vacation she needed to stay sane after all the problems at school in the past few months. The Sisterhood of Jhe, and the Zombie Terrorists, accidentally killing the Assistant Mayor, dealing with the Aspect of the Demon which made both Faith and Buffy into uncontrolled mind readers, then having to try and track down a killer in the school before they killed, and dealing with the Mayor trying to become a True Demon had taken a great toll on her daughter. She shuddered to think what would have happened had not herself and Xander been around.

She saw now as Xander looked below the surface of the car he had recreated from his memories, and she also froze as she saw what should have been impossible. Xander had trapped a soul inside when he recreated the vehicle.

Immediately she tried to get a hold of her Uncle Mike, calling out with all her being for his presence. But instead she got a blank reply in her mind. He’d heard her, but wasn’t coming. Apparently this was something they had to deal with on their own. Great.

She looked over at her panicked husband and said softly, “It’ll be ok, Xander. We can talk to it and find out where it came from.”

=+=

Xander nodded at his wife’s recommendation, and tried to do just that, his mind reaching to the soul of the car, and finding impressions. It was sentient, but more like an animal than a human. While it held self-awareness, it was quite basic, with little independent motivation. It liked, and disliked. It could think, plan, and even hold a grudge. But without external stimulus, it simply was. The car would never grow bored. It could be happy or sad, frightened or angry, but most emotions were transient.

It had once been a racing car. And had been destroyed. It had been salvaged and reborn through the love of a family, a family it grew to love, and which grew to love it in exchange. But the children grew older and left, the adults grew older as well, and her care deteriorated, until she was once more in barely salvageable condition. Then the adults had died. The boy had returned, but he seemed to have forgotten about her, how special she was, and he had allowed them to take her once more to the junk yard, the place she had died the first time, where she had stayed until, something had reached out to her, had pulled her somewhere she didn’t understand, had made her different. She was not the same as before. She didn’t make the noise her old engine had, instead her motor was a powerful rumble. She didn’t have the added enhancements she had been reborn with, but despite the lack of wings, she knew she could fly. Despite not having a proper hull, she believed she could swim, and keep her passengers dry and safe, even as she dove like a fish, instead of floating like the Duck she had been like before. But more was different. Her mind was stronger as well, it’s nature was still unchanged, she was still a car, but now she was faster, could hear those around her, and could feel her new family. She was very happy with the new family, especially since they had added the boy. She now felt complete again. She was content. She wanted them to be happy as well. Her old family sang when they were happy, so she wanted them to sing as well. And they did. And she was happy.

Xander pulled his mind back into himself, and spun to look at his better half. Softly he asked her, “What have I done? I somehow pulled her soul here when I rebuilt the car, and I’ve given her enough power to influence a god. Can a car be a God? Did I help to create a God Car?”

Faith grinned, forgetting the anger she’d felt at being forced to sing that stupid song again, and asked, “Are the Chariots of the Gods, the Gods of the Chariots?”

=+=

To be continued…

The End?

The author is currently looking for one or more beta readers for this story. If you are interested, please email the author or leave a private review.

You have reached the end of "Forever White Knight - Knight Gallery, Chap 5?" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 12 Dec 08.

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