Ah yes! As amazing as it may seem, this is indeed an update. I won't bore you with the stories of writer's block and minor disasters that kept me from updating for so long. Most of that junk is pretty boring. I'll just say that I'm hoping that things are back on track and that it won't be anywhere near as long before the next chapter is posted.
That said, here is the next chapter. I'm not entirely satisfied with it, but it's as good as it's going to get. I hope you like it!
Thanks to all who have replied in the past! I appreciate it! Let me know what you think!
Harry woke early the next morning, a sense of deep unease almost overwhelming him. It took him a moment to remember where he was. To remember what it was that was causing his disquiet.
And then the events of the night before came back to him… bringing with them a profound sense of guilt.
There were many present the night before who hadn’t deserved the words that he’d thrown at them. And only a few who had.
Molly Weasley hadn’t deserved the things that he’d said. And he knew that he wouldn’t feel right again until he’d apologized.
“No time like the present,” he muttered under his breath. He looked over at the other bed in the room and was relieved to see that Ron was still sleeping. He slipped silently out of bed. He went into the bathroom and took a quick shower before dressing and sneaking downstairs.
He found Molly already at work in the kitchen, just as he’d expected. He watched her work for a minute, aware that she was as yet oblivious of his presence.
She was singing softly under her breath as she prepared a large breakfast for her family…which now included many surrogate members. A family that he was eternally grateful for being a part of.
“Mrs. Weasley?” He said softly.
He saw her start in surprise and turn to face him. “Harry!” She exclaimed, holding a hand to her chest. “You scared the life out of me. What are you doing up so early?”
Harry smiled slightly. “Couldn’t sleep,” he said wryly. He took a step closer to her, a sorrowful look on his face. “Can I talk to you?”
“Of course, dear,” Molly said, wiping her hands on her apron. She walked over to him and placed a hand on him arm, leading him to a chair at the table. They both sat down. “What is it?”
Harry took a deep breath and looked down at his hands. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m really sorry about what I said yesterday.”
“Oh Harry,” Molly said softly. She took his hand and squeezed it gently. It hurt her to see him in so much pain… as much as it had hurt her the night before to hear his words. Even knowing that he was right. That she wasn’t his mother… that didn’t prevent her from feeling like she was. Like someone had to see him as their child first and as Harry Potter, savior of the Wizarding World second. As his parents would have.
“I wasn’t angry with you, I was just… reacting… Because I wanted it to be Sirius standing there, scolding me for what I’d done. I… It just hurt so much that he wasn’t here. He’s supposed
to be here.”
“Oh Harry,” Molly said again. “I understand that. I do. Though the thought of Sirius scolding you…” She smiled sadly and Harry grinned wryly in response.
“I know, about as likely as Fred or George ever scolding me. Instead, he would have been asking me why I hadn’t let him in on the prank.”
Molly nodded in agreement. “He loved you a lot Harry. You were friend, brother and son to him, all rolled into one. But he’s not the only one who loves you. Arthur and I look on you as a part of the family and that will never change. You understand that, don’t you?”
Harry nodded. “I know. And it means more to me than I can possibly begin to explain. You are the closest thing to a mother that I’ve ever had and I’m thankful every day that you opened up your lives to me, especially with all the baggage I bring along.”
Molly sighed. That damned overactive conscience of his. “Harry, you do realize that Arthur and I started opposing You-Know-Who long before we met you? And that our children would have as well, with or without your influence? We are targets because of our decisions, not because of our fondness for you.”
It was Harry’s turn to sigh. “Yes, I know that. I just… it feels like I’m putting you all in even more danger.”
“And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He turned to find Ron in the doorway, a small smile on his face. Hermione was two steps behind him, nodding her agreement to his words.
Harry smiled faintly in return, unable to shake the feeling of responsibility. “Still…”
“Still, nothing!” Ron said, entering the room and taking the seat next to his mother. “We choose to stand by you Harry. We choose to take a stand and defy Voldemort and all he stands for. It’s our choice… And you have to accept that.”
“I agree,” Hermione said. She joined them in the kitchen, an intensely serious look on her face. “We chose your side a long time ago, Harry. It’s the right place to be. It’s where we want
to be. It’s not fair of you to try and take that choice away from us.”
Harry blanched slightly at her words. He’d never thought of it like that… Never dreamed that by trying to protect his friends he would actually be interfering with their own choices and beliefs.
Ron smirked at the expression on Harry’s face. “Sorry mate. Like it or not, Hermione and I aren’t about to let you face Voldemort on your own. Your fight is our fight.”
“Besides,” Hermione said with a slight shrug. “You’d do the same for us.”
Harry looked from Hermione to Ron and then over at Mrs. Weasley, who was watching them all with both pride and fear evident on her face.
Harry took a deep breath. “I… I really don’t know what to say. Just… thank you.”
“No problem, mate,” Ron said with a grin.
The three of them just smiled at each other for a moment before Harry finally shook himself. He had a lot to catch up on.
“Enough of this life and death nonsense,” he said. “Who the heck are all these new people running around Order Headquarters? And why is He-Who-Is-Annoying-As-All-Hell after them?”
Ron snorted softly at Harry’s moniker for Voldemort, while Hermione and Mrs. Weasley managed to look disapproving and amused at the same time. As Hermione begin to explain, Mrs. Weasley stood and returned to making breakfast.
“Well,” Hermione said slowly. “They call themselves the Scoobies…” Harry snorted at this and Hermione threw a faint smile in his direction. “I know. I haven’t quite gotten any of them to explain it clearly yet, but…”
“Focus, Hermione,” Ron said, rolling his eyes.
Hermione glared at him, but consented. “Anyway, Buffy and Faith are Vampire Slayers…”
“Hold it!” Harry exclaimed, interrupting her with a look of disbelief on his face. “Vampire Slayers, plural? What about that whole ‘one girl in all the world,’ thing?”
Hermione gaped at him in surprise. He knew what Vampire Slayers were? How was that
had to look up Vampire Slayers after finding out who Buffy and Faith were. To have Harry spout off part of the legend from memory was a bit of a shock.
Harry noted her look… and didn’t take too kindly to it.
“What?” He said, looking at Hermione with annoyance. “I can know things! Besides, who tutored who in Defense Against the Dark Arts last year?”
Hermione had the grace to look sheepish and Ron laughed. “He’s got you there, Hermione!”
Hermione glared at Ron for a moment before smiling apologetically at Harry. “Sorry… It’s just not often that you know something that I had to look up.”
Harry looked at her silently for a moment and then laughed. Well, there was that…
“Please continue,” he said with a grin. “I’m curious about the whole ‘more than one slayer’ thing.”
Ron snorted. “Well, according to Buffy, she kind of died.”
“Ah,” Harry said. His eyebrows drew together. “Only kind of? Interesting… and a little bizarre.”
“Her friend Xander did CPR,” Hermione said. “And that explains how Faith became a Slayer… Of course, thanks to Willow, it’s not only the two of them anymore. She activated every potential slayer in the world.”
The significance of that statement wasn’t lost on Harry. He swore softly under his breath, ignoring Hermione’s disapproving glance. “The Wandless Witch!” He exclaimed softly. “Well, that certainly explains why Voldemort’s after her!”
Ron and Hermione both looked at Harry in surprise. “How did you know that it’s Willow he’s after?”
Harry shrugged. “The Death Eaters were questioning Dawn about the Wandless Witch last night. I heard them while I was moving into position.”
Hermione studied him silently for a moment. “What else did you learn while ‘moving into position’ Harry? What happened last night?”
“Nothing,” Harry said, his tone stating clearly that she wasn’t going to get more out of him than that.
Hermione exchanged a glance with Ron, but they let the subject drop… for now. Harry knew that they’d wait until they had him truly alone before annoying the hell out of him with questions. He couldn’t wait…
“So yes,” Hermione said, returning to the previous topic of conversation. “Willow is a wandless witch. I believe she refers to herself as Wiccan.” Harry nodded. “Then, there’s Giles… I don’t think that you met him. He’s Buffy’s Watcher.”
Hermione looked at Harry questioningly and he nodded again. Yes, he knew about the Watcher’s Council and their purpose/role in Slayer lore. He’d also read about the destruction of the Watcher’s Council earlier that year.
“So they came to England to… rebuild?” Harry asked.
Hermione nodded. “Yes.”
“But somehow, Voldemort got wind of them being here and decided that he wanted Willow for himself?”
“That’s the consensus,” Hermione said. “As for the others, Dawn is Buffy’s younger sister, which I think you knew and Xander is one of her best friends. He’s a muggle, though from the way that Dumbledore looks at him, there’s more to the story than we know.”
“And he trusts them?” Harry asked. “Dumbledore, I mean.”
“Yeah,” Ron said. “Really Harry. They are
Slayers for Merlin’s sake. That’s right up there with you
in the good guy rankings.”
Harry nodded again, somewhat slowly. “So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.”
“And the prophecy?” Hermione asked softly.
Harry sighed, shaking his head. “That’s a bit too much to ask at the moment.” He looked at his two friends meaningfully. “To tell them
.” He glanced at Mrs. Weasley and then back at Ron and Hermione. “Later,” he mouthed silently.
Ron and Hermione glanced over at Mrs. Weasley themselves and then nodded at Harry. “Sure,” Ron said.
Hermione opened her mouth to add something when a loud crash echoed through the downstairs. The three friends grinned at each other.
“Tonks is here,” Harry said.
Sure enough, moments later Tonks stumbled into the kitchen looking rather sheepish.
“Tonks!” Molly said, looking mildly surprised. “What are you doing here so early? Don’t you have to work today?”
“I am working,” Tonks said with a grin. “I was here all night. I’m assigned to protect Harry 24/7 now, remember?”
Ron sat up straighter. “Hey! That’s right. What’s up with the guard Harry?”
Harry sighed again. “That’s a long story.”
“Which I’m sure you’ll be all too happy to tell,” Tonks said. “In a moment. First, I just wanted to let you know that Kingsley is here for the morning shift. Anderson will be here later. I have to run home for some things but I’ll be back soon. We’re going to Privet Drive this afternoon to pick up your things.”
Harry nodded. “Sounds good.”
“And,” Tonks said with a grin. “I thought you’d like these back.” She held out the bag of books that he’d purchased the previous evening.
Harry grinned. “Thanks Tonks! I’d forgotten all about those.”
“What’s that?” Ron asked, glancing in the bag as Harry took it from Tonks. His face scrunched up in disgust. “Books?”
“Books?” Hermione echoed in disbelief. She grabbed the bag out of Harry's hands and started pulling them out.
Harry snorted. “Yes, Hermione. Books. Contrary to popular belief, I can read… even research without being forced to if I feel so inclined…”
Hermione blushed. “Sorry.” She looked down at the books. "The Art of Occlumency?"
“Didn't think there would be anyone around to teach me,” Harry said with a shrug. He turned to Tonks. “Walk you out?”
“Be right back,” Harry said to Ron and Hermione as he jumped to his feet and followed Tonks out of the kitchen.
“What’s up?” Tonks asked as the door to the kitchen shut behind them. Harry didn't answer until they reached the front door.
“For starters, I just wanted to say thank you for everything that you did for me last night," he said, shifting slightly on his feet. "I know that it put you in an awkward position…. Your job and everything.”
Tonks smiled. “Happy to help,” she said brightly, causing Harry to grin in response. “Besides, it ended in a promotion. I’m one of the private guards of the Proeliatoris Popularis
now, aren’t I? How many Aurors can say that?”
“Three,” Harry said smartly and Tonks laughed.
“Right,” she said. “Three. In the whole history of the Wizarding World. Now what else can I do for you?”
“Well,” Harry said slowly. “I was kind of hoping that you, Kinsley and Anderson could spend some time training with me. You know, advanced spells, warding… Fighting.”
Tonks studied him for a moment, her face suddenly serious, as was Harry’s. Fun time was over, reality was back with a bang. “I don’t think that will be a problem. We can rotate through… fit it in with your other training.”
Harry smiled faintly. “Sounds good.”
Harry nodded. “Any news on Malfoy and the other Death Eaters I captured last night? Are they going on trial?”
Tonks shook her head. “All of them are escapees from Azkaban. Protocol dictates that 5 years be added to each of their sentences for the escape. They go on trial in four days for new crimes against the Wizarding community. You will likely be called upon to testify... And if things don't go our way... well... I guess that's up to you.”
“I can always make sure that they're sentenced to rot away in prison,” Harry said softly, his voice unsure. They deserved that and more, he didn't question that. He just wasn't sure if he liked having that kind of power. It was more than unsettling.
As was having to decide if he wanted to help Draco set one of them free.
Harry shook his head cynically. His life was not like other peoples.
“That it?” Tonks asked.
"Not quite," Harry said slowly. "What if I were to ask you for some details on the transport of the prisoners... For instance how, when and where they'd be transferred to Azkaban from. Would you find that out for me?"
Tonks looked at Harry uncertainly. "Why would you want to know that?"
"Do you trust me, Tonks?" Harry asked seriously. "I mean, do you really trust me? Enough to get me this information without knowing the details?"
Tonks studied him intently. "There was
someone else there, wasn't there? That's what this is all about. You need this information to what? Solidify them in the Death Eater ranks? Who is it?"
"Do you honestly think that I'm going to tell you that?"
"No. But I want you to tell me that you're sure that they can be trusted."
"I am. Veritaserum sure."
Tonks stared at Harry in disbelief for a moment. "And where
did you get Veritaserum?"
Harry smiled sheepishly. "What Snape doesn't know won't hurt me?"
Tonks snorted. Wasn't that the truth.
"Honestly, Tonks. Just how long do you
expect Lucius Malfoy to stay in Azkaban once he gets there? One week? Two at the most?"
Tonks studied him for a moment, her mind racing. "I won't say that you're wrong," she finally said slowly. "But to let him go..."
"I'm not even sure what I'd do with the information yet Tonks. It's just... If he's going to get out anyway, why not on our terms? Why not in a way that I can use to my advantage?"
Tonks was quiet for a moment. "Let me think about it Harry. I'll tell you this afternoon, okay?"
"Sure," Harry said with a shrug. "I understand."
"Thanks. Anything else?"
“No,” Harry said. “Thanks again, Tonks. I’ll see you later.”
“Sure Harry. Bye.”
Harry turned to go, but stopped when she called his name.
"Why ask anyway? When you could just order me to tell you?"
Harry laughed shortly. "Because that wouldn't be right, Tonks. And that's not the way that I want to do things. This is too important."
"Okay," Tonks said, nodding her head slightly. "I'll see what I can find out this morning and I'll keep you updated."
Harry smiled brightly at her. "Thanks Tonks."
"Sure Harry," Tonks said. She waved and then exited through the front door.
Harry watched her leave and then headed back towards the kitchen… to find that a few more people had entered since his exit… including the twins.
And they were the first to react to him arriving back in the room.
“All hail the great and powerful warrior of the people.” George said, falling to his knees and genuflecting before Harry. “We bow down before you!”
“Oh great and mighty hero!” Fred exclaimed, imitating his brother. “We are at your service!”
It appeared to be the general opinion of most of the people in the kitchen that Fred and George had finally lost it.
Harry just snorted. “Oh get up!” He shook his head as the two boys got to their feet. “Gits!” He muttered under his breath. He studied them carefully. “How’d you two learn about Proeliatoris Popularis?
I know you didn’t go to the library.”
The twins seemed to shudder at the very thought before exchanging evil grins. “We read the decree,” George said.
“Yeah,” Fred said with a smirk. “Certain ‘Boy’s Who Lived’ shouldn’t leave important papers just laying around…”
Harry snorted again. Well, that explained it. They’d gone through his things. “Oh yeah, ‘just laying around’ in a locked and warded drawer in my room.”
Mrs. Weasley gasped, glaring at the twins. “Boys! You didn’t!”
George’s eyes widened. “Now Mum…”
“Don’t ‘Now Mum’ me, George Weasley!”
“It’s okay, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said, his voice reassuring. “It’s all a matter of public record as of midnight last night. The whole thing will probably be printed in the Prophet today or tomorrow as it is. Besides… I’m sure that they’re paying a price, albeit a small one, even as we speak. How are those boils feeling, boys?”
Fred scratched absently at the back of his hand. “Actually, they kinda itch.”
“And I don’t understand that,” George said, scratching his neck. “We did the counter curse.”
Ron snorted. “You did a
countercurse, George. Not the
Hermione sighed. “Oh Harry. You didn’t.”
“Of course he did,” Ron said with a smirk. “Sweet little curse you cooked up there Hermione..."
“And what curse would that be, little brother?” Fred asked, glaring at Ron.
“It’s one that Hermione developed last year while researching for the DA,” Harry answered with a grin. “She'd read a lot of theories on doubled curses and she thought she'd see if it would work..."
"Which it did," Ron added. "Brilliantly."
Hermione blushed and Harry's grin grew larger. "This particular one appears to be a standard boils curse, easily reversed by the counter-curse you used. But if you happen to use
that counter-curse, the second part of the spell is activated.”
“Pox,” Ron said gleefully. “The counter-curse of which is... well, let's just say it's confidential
, just like Harry's papers were supposed to be. Look forward to at least twenty-four hours of itching guys.”
The twin’s eyes narrowed at their younger brother. “You know, you’re taking far too much glee in this,” George said softly.
“And we won’t forget it…” Fred finished.
“Oh yes you will!” Molly exclaimed. “I don’t want to hear anything about either of you pranking Ron because of this! You deserve those pox and more! Going through Harry’s private papers! I raised you better than that!”
“Don’t worry Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said soothingly. “I have a project for them. It will allow them to truly show their… remorse.”
That got the twins attention… along with everyone else’s.
Fred and George looked at each other uncertainly. There was something about Harry’s tone… something that made them a tad nervous. “What?” George asked cautiously.
Harry nodded to the side and the twins followed. They were soon huddled together, Harry whispering softly. When he’d finished there was a moment of absolute silence… The twins looking somewhat stricken… Harry looking quite smug.
“Really?” Fred asked finally. Harry nodded.
The twins exchanged a look. “Okay,” George said finally. He nodded to Fred. “We’ve got some work to do.”
“Yeah,” Fred said. “But how are we going to…”
Harry held up a hand. “Just leave the final touch to me. I’ll take care of it.”
The twins exchanged another look and then nodded as one. “Okay.” They turned and headed out the door, their heads close together.
“Boys!” Molly Weasley exclaimed. “What about breakfast?”
“Later Mum,” George said distractedly.
“Work to do,” Fred added. He sighed. “In the library,” he finished morosely. They disappeared from the room.
“Well!” Molly exclaimed. She looked over at Harry, only to find him carefully avoiding her gaze. She clucked her tongue once, but then seemed to let the matter drop. She started handing out full plates as Harry took the open seat across from Ron and next to Ginny.
“Morning Ginny,” he said with a grin.
“Harry,” Ginny said, smiling back at him. She leaned a little closer to him and lowered her voice to a whisper. “What scheme do you have started with my brothers?”
Harry laughed. “I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about Miss. Weasley.” He glanced at her mother and then back at her, mouthing, ‘I’ll tell you later.’
Ginny grinned and then nodded towards Ron and Hermione.
“Oh, them too,” Harry said, winking at his friends. He then tucked into his food with gusto.
They had all just about finished breakfast when the door to the kitchen opened again, this time revealing Professor Dumbledore.
Harry took one look at him and sighed. “So it’s that time, is it Professor?”
Professor Dumbledore smiled slightly. “Indeed my dear boy. We have many things to discuss.”
Harry nodded slightly. “Yes. We do.” He turned to his friends, leaning close so only they would hear. “Stick close. I have a lot to discuss with you two once this conversation is over with.” Ron and Hermione nodded, their faces serious.
Harry stood. “Shall we go to the parlor?”
Professor Dumbledore nodded and followed the young man out of the room. Once they were both inside, Harry turned to his Headmaster with a somewhat defiant look on his face. “Please begin Professor.”
Dumbledore sighed slightly. “I wanted to begin by saying again how truly sorry…” He paused as Harry held up a hand.
“It’s time to move beyond that, Professor. I haven’t forgotten your actions… nor have I forgiven them. But now is not the time to dwell on that. The time will come when I will no longer be angry about what happened last spring, but nothing that you say now
will change how I feel about it. You risked everything by keeping the truth from me… And we probably lost perhaps more that we can afford to have…” Harry was a lot calmer today, but his point was still the same… and still valid. “Do you understand that Professor? I mean, do you really, truly understand how close we were to losing this damn war before even starting to fight? Because I was there in that room at the Ministry, surrounded by Death Eaters. What if one of them had managed to finish me off? Where would our war have been then?” Harry looked at Dumbledore, shaking his head. “We both know where it would have been, Professor. It would have been over
. All because you didn’t see fit to tell me what was going on.”
Dumbledore looked at Harry sadly, his shoulder’s slumping ever so slightly. “I do realize that Harry. I understand now just where my folly has led us. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes… and pray that someday you find it in your heart to forgive an old man’s folly. I truly wish that I could undo what I have done… And I understand why forgiveness may not come…or why hatred may not be easily set aside.”
Harry sighed again, rubbing his temples tiredly. “I don’t hate you, Professor… but I'm not sure that I exactly trust you anymore either.”
The twinkle in Professor Dumbledore’s eyes died for a moment. “And that distresses me more than you can imagine. But know this Harry, any question, any task that you ask of me from now on, I will answer or perform to the best of my ability. You have my word.”
Harry nodded slightly. “All right Professor…I spoke briefly with Hermione and Ron last night and they told me a few of your plans. I would like to state that the most important thing here and now is that I master Occlumency as soon as possible. You and I need to have daily sessions until I’m an expert in the art. If you think that working with Willow will help me, than I will gladly accept her help. All other areas, hand to hand combat, weapons, advanced spells and Auror fighting techniques will take a back seat until that is completed. It is essential that Voldemort be kept out of my mind.”
This statement seemed to bring something else to Professor Dumbledore’s mind. “Speaking of Voldemort… Where did you learn the Memoriae, Harry?”
Harry was silent for a moment, studying his Headmaster carefully.
“I think you know where, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked that question in quite that way.”
Dumbledore sighed, looking at Harry sadly… and with a hint of fear in his eyes. “It isn’t safe to use his knowledge like that Harry. To reach inside his mind…”
Harry shook his head, interrupting Dumbledore. “It’s not like that Professor. In fact, that’s exactly the point. I didn’t
reach into Voldemort’s mind for that knowledge... The knowledge, the ability
, it’s just there
. I read the Memoriae in a book and I knew that I could perform it. I just knew it. The spells, well they were transferred to me somehow, but it doesn’t have anything to do with going into
Voldemort’s mind. It was always within my power to decide whether or not to use them… and that brings us to an important point. It is essential
that we make sure that it remains
within my power to decide what I shall and shall not do.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I must say that I am relieved to hear that, Harry. It is good that you are taking the initiative when it comes to defending your mind against Voldemort.”
Harry nodded in acknowledgement. “There is something else that I must ask of you Professor. I know that in working with you on Occlumency you will be privy to thoughts and memories that I am simply not comfortable with you knowing. Things that aren't mine to reveal. I must ask that anything
you see while we are practicing be kept in the strictest
“Of course Harry,” Dumbledore said.
“I’m sorry Professor, but an ‘of course’ simply isn’t good enough.” Harry sighed as he felt the tension in the room go up a notch. He knew that Dumbledore had some idea what had truly happened the night before. Ron and Hermione had told him enough of the conversation that had happened after he left for him to know something of what the Professor was probably thinking… And that made it all the more important for him to feel secure in the Professor’s silence. He couldn’t let anyone find out about Draco. It would endanger everyone too much if the Slytherin boy didn’t feel like he could trust Harry.
“Exactly what kind of pledge do you require?” Dumbledore asked quietly.
Harry shrugged. “Something binding. Something that would make you rethink any desire you might have to reveal what I know. It’s important Professor. More so that you can probably imagine at this point in time.”
“Oh, I think I might be able to imagine quite well,” Professor Dumbledore said, his expression thoughtful. “Perhaps…”
But whatever it was that he was about to suggest was interrupted by the abrupt arrival of Dawn in the room. She seemed blithely unaware that anything was amiss in the room… for a moment anyway.
“Have you seen Buffy?” She asked brightly. She stilled as she suddenly realized what she had walked in on. “Oh! My bad! I didn’t mean to interrupt.” She looked from Harry to Dumbledore, seeming to note the tension. “What’s the sitch? Can I help?”
Harry smiled tiredly at her. “We were just having a slight… difficulty in reaching an agreement.”
Dumbledore sighed. “I’m afraid that Mr. Potter no longer trusts me… with good reason, I’ll admit. I was just trying to come up with a form of vow that he will trust.”
“Ooh!” Dawn exclaimed. “Pinky-swear! Totally
Harry couldn’t help himself. He laughed.
And Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. “What do you say, Harry? Will a pinky-swear suffice?”
Harry grinned, unable to keep up his stern expression in light of such bubbly company. He shrugged slightly and held out his right hand, pinky extended. Dumbledore linked his pinky with Harry’s. “I, Albus Dumbledore do pinky-swear not to reveal any information that is revealed to me during Occlumency lesson’s with Harry Potter.”
“Good enough for now,” Harry said, his own eyes starting to twinkle. “I just hope that you understand the consequences of breaking such a pledge…”
Dumbledore looked confused for a moment and Harry grinned at him. “Dawn?” He questioned, having an inkling of the response she would give.
Dawn gave an answering grin. “If the pinky-swear is broken, the offending digit is forfeit.”
Dumbledore’s eyes widened. “Pardon?”
“Break the vow, lose the pinky,” Harry said simply. “It means that if you break your confidence with me, you must face the consequences of a life without your right pinky. So consider your options quite carefully before speaking.” Harry’s face took on a serious expression. “Because I must tell you, Professor, if you break my confidence I will
call in the debt.”
And that, more than anything, seemed to solidify the seriousness of the situation for Professor Dumbledore. His expression was quite grave as he nodded in acknowledgement. "I swear on my magic that I will not reveal anything I learn without your express permission, Harry. Does that suffice?"
"Thank you Professor," Harry said, his expression grave. "I appreciate it."
Professor Dumbledore and Harry stared at each other for a moment and then the Professor turned to Dawn.
“If you’ll excuse us, Miss Summers? Harry and I have some other matters to discuss.”
Dawn shrugged. “No big. Crisis averted and all. I need to find Buffy anyway.” She drifted towards the door. “See you both later.”
“Bye Dawn,” Harry said as he watched he go, shaking his head slightly. These new additions to his world were going to take some getting used to.
“An interesting group, are they not, Harry?” Professor Dumbledore asked with a smile.
“You could say that,” Harry said with a smile. His face turned serious again as he thought about the occurrences of the past few days.
Dumbledore studied Harry carefully. “What do you think about Article 29-143, Harry?”
Harry sighed softly. “I don’t know Professor. It’s… a bit overwhelming actually. I can protect myself and my friends without The Ministry prosecuting me and that’s great. But the power that they’ve given me… It’s too much, don’t you think? I mean, what guarantees do they have?”
“None,” Dumbledore said softly. “They can only trust in you and hope that you are worthy of such trust. It is a heavy weight to carry. And do you want to know what I think, Harry?”
Harry shrugged. “Why not?” He said wryly.
“I think that you are more than worthy of such trust… you only need to believe it. Plus, I do believe that you are extra lucky in the friends you have and ones that I am sure you will soon gain. Hermione and Ronald will without doubt provide you with much needed guidance in times of uncertainty. And I am sure that Miss Summers and Miss… Faith, both of whom carry a similar burden to the one just placed on your shoulders, would be happy to help you in any way that they can.”
Dumbledore paused for a moment. “I don’t think you realize it, Mr. Potter, but you are a truly unique individual. You have consistently acted in a selfless manner, thinking only of what is best for everyone but yourself. You have an innate sense of what it right and what is wrong that has never steered you false. Trust in that. Trust in yourself. I have faith that when it comes down to it, you will always choose what is right over what is easy.”
Harry was silent for a few moments and then sighed again. “Thank you Professor, for your faith in me. I do appreciate it.”
“There are a few other things to consider Mr. Potter. Most pressing being what actions you will take once you reach Hogwarts once again. Your new legal status must be considered.”
“You mean this whole Proeliatoris Popularis
thing? I honestly don’t know Professor. This whole thing is so new. I have no idea what’s going to come of it. I’m just relieved that I can protect myself and my friends now and not have to worry about going on trial.” Harry sighed, shaking his head. “I’m fifteen years old, Professor Dumbledore. I may not want to be kept in the dark and treated like a child, but I don’t reckon that I know everything just yet either. So far as I’m
concerned this whole article whatever thing is moot when we get back to Hogwarts. I may not be overly happy with you right now, but I do trust you in most things… I believe that you truly only want what is best for me and for every student at Hogwarts.”
"So as it stands now...?"
"I won't use my new status at school as long as I feel that the actions you're taking are in the best interest of everyone in the school. If I feel that you are not acting in the best interests of me, my friends or the Wizarding World, I promise to bring my concerns to you before taking any action. I only ask that you be truthful with me and explain everything
that's going on. If we still don't see eye to eye, I will act as I see fit. That's the best I can do Professor. Is that acceptable to you?"
Dumbledore was silent for a moment and Harry could feel the intense scrutiny that he was under. Finally Professor Dumbledore seemed to make up his mind about something and he nodded. "Yes, Harry, that is acceptable to me. You wish to be treated as an equal... As who you are and who you must become. From now on I will try to look on you not only as my student, but also as Harry Potter, Proeliatoris Popularis
. Because no matter how either of us feels about the situation, that is indeed
who you now are."
Harry nodded slightly in acknowledgement.
"As for the Order of the Phoenix," Professor Dumbledore continued. "We no longer need to be quite as covert as we have been. But still..."
Harry nodded again. “The Order is best kept secret for now,” Harry agreed. “There is no telling who outside of these walls can be trusted. If the entire Wizarding community learns of it, we are left vulnerable… But
if we are to be revealed, we do not need to fear repercussions. This Order is deemed necessary by me
in the fight against Voldemort. It is therefore protected under the law and those in it are free from punishment or recriminations.”
Dumbledore laughed. "You have grown up, haven't you, my dear boy? I'm only sorry that it took me so long to realize it."
Harry grinned. "Well, I had to show some maturity sometime, didn't I?" A little coaching from Hermione hadn't hurt either...
"Tonks said that she and Kingsley would be taking me to get my things from the Dursley's?"
"Yes, this afternoon," Professor Dumbledore said. "I suggest that you retrieve everything that you own... For unless you choose to return to you relatives next summer, you never have to go back."
A genuine grin appeared as if by magic on Harry's face. "Really? No one's going to try and talk me into returning? I can tell them goodbye for good?"
Dumbledore smiled softly. "If that is your wish. You were deemed an adult by the laws of the Wizarding World last night, Harry, by the very nature of Article 29-143. I'm not sure that the blood magic will even apply anymore."
"Well I guess I can write that in the positive category for this whole Proeliatoris Popularis
thing." Harry paused for a moment, considering what life without the Dursleys would be like... "Hey, does that mean I'm allowed to apparate now?"
Professor Dumbledore smiled. "I'm sure that lesson's can be arranged... and you're allowed
to do pretty much anything that you believe will help you in the fight against Voldemort."
"Oh yeah," Harry said, shaking his head slightly. "That's going to take some getting used to... I wonder if I can send Umbridge to Azkaban just because I don't like her..." Harry shook himself slightly. "Forget I said that sir. Is there anything else that you wanted to discuss Professor?"
"Not right now. We'll begin our lessons in Occlumency tomorrow morning. Would you prefer to work here or in my office at Hogwarts?"
Harry shrugged. "There might be less distractions at Hogwarts."
"Indeed," Dumbledore said as a screech rang through the downstairs of the house, followed swiftly by the sound of stampeding feet. "So Hogwarts it shall be. I have spoken with Kingsley and recommended that Miss. Faith accompany you to Privet Drive to retrieve your belongings. I trust that this is acceptable to you?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t have a problem with it. But are you sure that any of them should be going out? It’s like placing an extra bull’s-eye on our backs, isn’t it? The Boy Who Lived and
a way to the Wandless Witch in one group…?”
Dumbledore paused, looking at Harry with an unreadable expression on his face. “The Wandless Witch?”
Harry snorted. “It’s who the Death Eaters were looking for last night. Ron and Hermione confirmed that the Wandless Witch is Willow. And after that whole thing last night, it seems that they know exactly who to go after in order to get to her.”
Professor Dumbledore nodded. "That may be the case, but with everything that has happened recently, I would prefer that Faith go with you." His eyes twinkled brightly. "I also think that meeting her will be an interesting experience for your relatives."
Harry shrugged again. "If you say so."
"I have some things that need to be taken care of. I will floo you tomorrow when it's time for your lesson."
"All right," Harry said. He turned to leave the room, pausing when he reached the door. "Thank you Professor." He left without waiting for a response.
"You are welcome my dear boy," Dumbledore said softly.
Dawn entered the library and looked around, searching for her sister’s familiar blonde head. “If I were a Buffy, where would I be?” She muttered to herself.
There had been a time when the last
answer anyone would have given to that question was a library… seeing as how a Buffy’s natural
habitat was something along the lines of a mall or a club.
Now was not then, however and the Buffy in question had become quite comfortable in libraries.
Not to mention cemeteries.
Unfortunately for Dawn, however, this was not a time when Buffy could be located in a library.
She instead found an identical pair of unusually serious red heads studying an ancient magical text.
She shrugged slightly. In her world, ancient magical texts were the norm. This being the case, she felt no hesitation whatsoever in approaching them.
“Hey guys,” she said, dropping into the seat next to Fred. “Whatcha reading?”
The twins exchanged a look. “Willow’s spellbook.”
“Ah,” Dawn said, a slightly evil glint lighting her eyes. “Trying to figure out how to harness Willow’s calamity, huh?”
The twins grinned. They’d known they’d liked this girl for a reason. “Looking forward to seeing someone in bouncing pink curls?”
Dawn pouted. “Well it just so happens that I agree with Harry. One of you should have taken a picture." A slightly dreamy look crossed her face. "I can just see it... What I wouldn’t give to have been there…”
“Yeah, well, we promised Harry that’d we’d have it testable by the end of the summer,” Fred said with a slight sigh.
“And Snape’s going to be your test subject?” Dawn asked somewhat gleefully. Both
of the twins sighed at this. “Unfortunately no.”
Dawn studied them with surprise. “Why so glum? And why not test it on Snape?”
“Well, Harry has determined…”
“Quite correctly, I might add…”
“That when some of the more adventurous students at Hogwarts discover this little invention, he’ll get to see Snape in pink curls to his annoying little heart’s content…”
“And so, he’s set his sights on a slightly more ambitious target…”
The twins sighed again before answering her in one voice…
Dawn gaped at them for a minute in shock before breaking into giggles. Priceless… absolutely priceless. The twins scowled at her for a moment before giving in and laughing themselves.
Yes, Harry was more of a prankster than they’d ever given him credit for…
“What’d you ever do to him?” Dawn asked, still snickering.
Fred and George looked at each other for a moment and then grinned wryly. “There was
this incident with certain private papers being removed from a locked drawer...”
Dawn laughed softly. “Ah, I see.” She looked at the book in front of them. “So, are you getting anywhere with the spell?” Dawn asked, reaching out and grabbing the spellbook before either boy could react. She realized that something was up when both boys reacted, grasping desperately for the book. She pulled it out of their reach and started to read… Something that was decidedly not
the potion that Willow had been working on. “This isn’t the metamorphosis potion!” She gasped, looking at the twins in horror. “This is a love spell! And love spells are bad! Bad
, I tell you! They end up with axes and knives and rocket launchers and stupid little girls on train tracks!” Her voice had continued to rise in octave as she spoke and at the end she was practically shrieking. Fred and George looked at each other in terror and both began speaking at once in an effort to calm her.
“That’s not it!” George said.
“Not at all!” Fred exclaimed.
“It’s not a love potion that tries to create
“It’s one that reveals
“It’s not even for us
“We just think that Ron and Hermione have been in denial long enough, that’s all!”
“We just want to help them out!”
Dawn took a deep breath and then took a closer look at the book. She let out a sigh of relief when she realized that they were telling the truth. The potion wasn’t designed to create love, only to reveal feelings that were already there. It wasn’t completely harmless, but it wasn’t as dangerous as some of the other spells kicking around.
“Well, all right… As long as you approach this with the purest of motives, I won’t object,” Dawn said. “But anything else and I can promise you that it will
The twins exchanged a glance. “You sound pretty sure of that.”
“Oh yeah!” Dawn said. “I’ve seen it happen.” She held up a hand. “Pushed a rival of the object of my affection down the stairs while under the influence of one. Laid down on train tracks when I thought I’d lost him.
Love spells are not things to be taken lightly.”
“We understand,” Fred said seriously.
“Yeah,” George agreed sincerely. “We just think that Ron and Hermione need a little push before they make themselves and everyone around them miserable.”
“Besides, someone in our family should have some luck in the love department,” Fred said somewhat bitterly.
Dawn’s eyes widened slightly and she looked over at George who sighed slightly.
“Bad breakup,” George supplied. “His last girlfriend, Angelina, never quite forgave him for getting kicked off the Quidditch team last year. Kinda put a strain on their relationship.”
“Quid-what?” Dawn questioned uncertainly. She tensed as both boys opened their mouths, identical horrified expressions on their faces. She could sense the barrage of words that were about to be thrown her way… and wasn’t quite ready for that. “Hold that thought. The Quid-whatever explanation can wait. Let’s focus on the spell.”
Fred and George glanced at each other and then shrugged. “Well, according to the book, all we have to do is get Ron and Hermione to drink the potion and then we say the spell. Then, nature takes it’s course. They reveal all those feelings that they’ve been hiding from themselves.”
“And from each other,” George continued. “We reckon it’s just what Ron and Hermione need.”
“Just one problem,” Fred said with a disappointed sigh. “The incantation is translated here, but it has to be said
“And Fred and I don’t happen to speak
“I do!” Dawn said brightly. She paused nervously as the twins looked at her rapturously. “Not important!” She exclaimed quickly. There was no way she was letting them get her involved in this. “Besides,” she continued heedlessly. “It doesn’t matter if you understand the words, you just have to say it.”
As soon as the words left her lips, she clapped a hand over her mouth. Ooh, bad! Such information in the hands of these two could be quite dangerous…
And sure enough, matching evil grins spread across identical freckled faces.
“You’re my hero,” Fred said with a sigh, gazing at her with something akin to adoration.
“Bloody brilliant!” George added.
Dawn just sighed. “Willow’s so
gonna kill me…”
The Sitting Room…
Harry's first stop after finishing his talk with Dumbledore was the kitchen. Finding that empty, he moved on to the sitting room, where he found Ron and Hermione talking with Willow and Faith.
He stood silently in the doorway for a moment, taking the time to study the two young women he’d just met.
He started with Willow. She was a small redhead with a pixyish face... and there was this light, sparkling glow that seemed to surround her. But Harry knew a facade when he saw one. Oh, he didn’t deny that Willow was probably everything she seemed to be, but underneath... underneath, there was power. He just couldn’t seem to decide what kind it was. Sure, almost everything about her was light and airy, but there was a hint of something else. Something that told him that there had once been a different kind of magic there.
Something dark and dangerous.
It made him a little nervous.
And then there was Faith. Dark hair, dark revealing clothes, dark lipstick. Everything about her screamed aggression... and there was a look on her face that told him that she wouldn’t take crap from anyone. But that too was a facade. Harry didn’t know what it was. Something in her eyes or in the way she held herself screamed of vulnerability... and a desire for redemption.
It was intriguing to say the least.
Yes, Dumbledore had been right. They were a very
He was about to speak and let everyone know he was there when Faith looked up. She grinned at him, winking slightly as if to let him know that she’d been aware of his inspection the whole time... And considering the fact that she was a Slayer, she probably had been.
“Well, well, well,” she drawled, her grin growing wider. “Look who it is. Anger-boy in the flesh.”
Harry’s eyebrows raised slightly as he stepped further into the room. Apparently he’d earned himself a new nickname.
“Faith is it?” He said, his tone distant, but polite. He was reserving his judgment for another time... and he was determined that they know it.
If possible, Faith’s grin grew even wider. “B was right. They really don’t give you enough credit. All full of caution aren’t you?” Harry shrugged slightly, not denying or confirming her words. “But we’ll win you over, won’t we Red?”
Willow smiled over at Harry. “Don’t mind Faith, Harry. You’ll learn to... tolerate her.”
“Ouch Red!” Faith said, throwing Willow a wounded look. “That really hurt, you know?”
Willow laughed. “Sorry Faith."
"I get no love..." Faith grinned. "All right, Anger-boy, let's get a look at you," she circled around Harry, looking him up and down. "A bit scrawny, but we can work on that. Got any experience in hand-to-hand?"
"We tend to use our wands," Harry said dryly.
"I'll fix that," Faith said with a wink. "Some conditioning, weight training, running, basic moves... You are so
gonna hate me by the end of the summer." She winked in Willow's direction. "Well, at least Kennedy won't be here to call you a little maggot..."
Willow winced slightly at the mention of her ex-girlfriend, then smiled at Harry. "Really
, don't mind her." She glared jokingly at Faith. "Didn’t we agree to try not to scare the poor boy? At least, not quite yet?”
Faith shrugged and Harry laughed. “Not to worry Willow. I don’t scare that easily.”
There was something about the way he said it that had everyone in the room staring at him intently. They stayed silent for a moment before Willow finally spoke. “No, I don’t suppose that you would.”
Harry looked over at Ron and Hermione who were studying him uncertainly. Harry shook his head. “Okay, this needs to stop. I’m still Harry. Harry with the bad plans and the saving people thing. Sure, some things have happened and I’ve grown up a bit, but there’s no need to keep looking at me like I might lose it at any minute. I’m fine.”
Hermione looked at him doubtfully and Harry sighed. “All right, so I’m not fine, but I will be. I know what I have to do now. No more struggling to figure out what it is that everyone is trying to keep from me. No more standing around waiting for whatever horrible thing is going to happen next. No more just reacting to the bad. From now on, I'll be putting all my energy into preparing for it.”
“Which brings me to Faith and Willow,” Harry continued, looking back at the two women. “I know that you’ve both agreed to help with my training. I’ve discussed the situation with Professor Dumbledore and he agrees that the most important thing at this time is that I master Occlumency.” Harry focused on Willow. “He thinks that you can help me with this, so I wanted to let you know that my first lesson is tomorrow at Hogwarts with Professor Dumbledore. You might want to come so you can learn more about Occlumency and Legilimency. There’s a distinctly Hermionesque vibe to you,” with this he winked at his best friend. “So I’m sure that you’ve already researched the subject, but it still might help to be there.”
Faith elbowed Willow lightly in the ribs. “Anger-boy remind you of anyone right now?”
Willow snorted lightly and nodded. “Buffy in General mode.”
"Well, if General Potter will take some advice," Faith said with a grin. "I'm all for focusing on that Occlu-whatever jazz first, but you might want to start getting in shape right away. And hey, there's nothing like a good run to clear the mind and all that good junk. What time's your first lesson?"
Harry shrugged. "Morning sometime."
Faith laughed. "Well then, why don't you meet me at, say six am and we'll run a couple of miles. It'll be good for you."
Harry sighed slightly. It probably wasn't a bad
"Harry, have you ever been
running?" Hermione asked uncertainly.
Harry laughed. "Not unless you count running away
from things..." Like Dudley and his gang...
"You'll need some good trainers," Hermione said, looking worriedly at Harry's shoes.
Harry sighed again. "I'll add it to my 'to-do' list for the day, 'Mum...'" Hermione glared at him, but Harry ignored her. "Which reminds me." He turned to Faith. "Professor Dumbledore said that you’d be going to my relative’s house with us to pick up my things?"
"He asked, I said why not..."
Ron snorted. "Have fun. And if you have a chance to beat up... well, any
of them, don't pass it up."
"What?" Willow exclaimed.
"She'll understand when she meets them," Harry said softly, not really meeting Willow's eyes.
Hogwarts: Headmaster's Office
"Did you speak with Potter, Albus?" Professor Snape asked, somewhat impatiently. Professor Dumbledore had called a meeting of all the heads of house after returning from Headquarters. Snape was the last to arrive and he spoke before bothering to take a seat.
"Indeed I did, Severus," Professor Dumbledore said solemnly. "And I must say that it was an enlightening
"Did you learn anything new?" Minerva asked.
"Not as much as I would have liked, but enough to know basically where everything stands... for now anyway."
"And his new status?" Filius asked worriedly. "How is he dealing with it?"
"As well as can be expected," Professor Dumbledore said noncommittally.
“It’s ridiculous!” Snape raged, unable to keep his displeasure at the situation back any longer. “It is not as if the boy didn’t ride roughshod over the rules as it was! They now made us incapable of punishing him for his missteps?”
“Oh, honestly Severus!” MacGonagall exclaimed in annoyance. “They made him exempt from prosecution, not detention!”
“Minerva is quite right,” Professor Dumbledore said with a faint smile. “Any school rules that he breaks will be enforced as is policy, except
in situations pertaining to Voldemort and his followers.”
“And those situations
of which you speak… who will define those?”
“Harry has just informed me that I
will,” Dumbledore said. “Harry has stated that once we are again at Hogwarts, he will defer to my judgment... unless it interferes with his duties as Proeliatoris Popularis.
And even then, he has promised to discuss the matter with me fully before taking any action.”
"Albus..." Snape began.
"No, Severus," Dumbledore interrupted. "We must be very careful with Harry this year. We must all remember exactly
who he is and not be swayed by our own prejudices. He will not stand for it this year. He has a duty. One that he feels honor-bound to fulfill. He is resolute in his desire to defeat Voldemort and he will not allow for anyone
to stand in his way... And he now has the power to remove obstacles from his path
. Do not forget that Severus, or you will
“Such responsibility for one so young,” Professor Sprout tutted. “Like he hasn’t had enough to deal with in his life...”
“He will rise to the occasion, Ponoma,” Minerva said softly, a hint of sadness in her eyes. “He always does...”
Harry and Ron’s Bedroom, Order Headquarters
Harry had finally managed to get Ron and Hermione away from everyone for a private talk. He had led them upstairs to his and Ron's room and had then placed a number of silencing charms on the room. Thus protected, he turned to his best friends with an exhausted sigh.
"Quite a few days, huh mate?" Ron said sympathetically.
"You have no idea," Harry said, shaking his head slightly. Malfoy alone would have caused Ron to hit the roof...
"Want to tell us about it?" Hermione asked gently.
"What I can," Harry said, almost apologetically. "For some of it... well, I gave my word."
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look and then Ron nodded. "We accept that," he said. 'For now...
' He added silently.
"So what's all this?" Hermione asked, waving her hand at the room. "Secrets? Silencing spells? Sneaking off into London in the middle of the night? What's happening Harry? And what did Professor Dumbledore tell you at the end of term that has you, and everyone else for that matter, all nerved up?"
"The prophesy in the Department of Mysteries was about Voldemort and I," Harry said softly, getting straight to the point.
"We'd figured that much out, mate," Ron said with a slight shrug. "Last night sort of pointed in that direction."
"Are you going to tell it to us?" Hermione asked, her voice faint.
"If you want to hear it," Harry said simply. "You two are my best friends. I trust you both with my life. And you deserve to know everything that's going on, because as long as you stick by me, you're in danger. It's not fair to you not
to tell you."
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look and then Hermione nodded. "We want to hear it, Harry. We're ready."
"So far as I know, Sibyll Trelawney has made only two true prophesies in her life. Both have dealt with Voldemort. One was made to me about Peter Pettigrew and Voldemort's return. The other was made sixteen years ago to Professor Dumbledore." Harry took a deep breath and then jumped right into the prophesy before he had a chance to change his mind. "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 THAT THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT... AND EITHER MUST DIE AT THE HAND OF THE OTHER FOR NEITHER MAY LIVE WHILE THE OTHER SURVIVES... THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD WILL BE BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES
There was silence in the room as Ron and Hermione absorbed what Harry had said. "Oh..." Hermione said softly, her eyes bright with sympathy. "Oh Harry..."
have to kill him Hermione. It's going to come down to just him and me. I'm the only one... And I don't know what the hell
"Don't swear," Hermione said automatically.
"Bloody hell Hermione!" Ron exclaimed. "Enough with that! If Harry wants to swear right now, he damn well can! Merlin, Hermione! If there was ever
a time to swear, this is it!"
Harry sighed in exasperation. “Can you two try to stop fighting for two seconds?” There was a sad look in his eyes. "I really just need..." He sighed again, rubbing his forehead tiredly. "I need your help... I need you to stop arguing and..." His eyes filled with tears and he blinked them back with annoyance. "Please..."
"Oh Harry," Hermione said. She stepped forward and hugged him tightly. "We're sorry..." She looked over at Ron and then back at Harry. "You know that we don't mean
to fight... It's just..."
"Habit?" Ron supplied helpfully.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Ron!"
"Stress relief?" Ron added with a small grin. "Fun?"
Harry snorted. "Yeah... It seems like loads
"Back to the matter at hand," Hermione said hastily. "Are they absolutely sure
that the prophecy is about you?"
"There are only two of us that it could be referring to," Harry said with a shrug. "Neville and I are the only two born at the end of July to parents who had 'defied' Voldemort three times... And he only marked one of us."
"So that's it," Ron said softly. "The big secret... the reason for everything... Why didn't they tell you earlier? Didn't they realize that you needed to prepare? Merlin Harry! He's a fully trained wizard with years
of Dark Magic behind him. They damn well should have been training you!"
"That's what I say," Harry said with a faint smile. "Professor Dumbledore was the only one who knew of the prophecy, so far as I know. I think... I think that Sirius would have told me..."
"Darn right he would have," Ron agreed.
Harry shrugged slightly. "Professor Dumbledore said that he didn't tell me because he cared too much. He didn't want to place the burden on me too early or something like that..."
'"That's stupid!" Ron exclaimed.
"Ron!" Hermione gasped. "How can you..."
has to fight Voldemort!" Ron said, interrupting. "Voldemort,
Hermione! He'sis the only one who 'has the power'
to defeat the most powerful dark wizard in centuries.
He needs to be prepared for that. They should have started preparing him for that ages
Hermione shifted uncertainly on her feet. "Professor Dumbledore must have had a very good reason..."
"I don't care!" Ron exclaimed. "Bloody hell, Hermione! I don't care
what Professor Dumbledore's reasoning was! All that matters is that Harry survives this fight! He should have been training! Hell, all of us
should have been training! We're not going to let that shriveled up old windbag kill
"Of course we're not!" Hermione exclaimed. "And I don't believe that is a part of Professor Dumbledore's plan either. Yes, maybe he went about things wrong, but I believe that he did it only with the best of intentions!"
"Intentions don't matter too much to me right now, Hermione," Harry said softly. "You know the saying about where good intentions lead? That's not far off in this case. Sirius died because of Professor Dumbledore's good intentions. Hell, for all we know, Voldemort managed to rise
again due to Professor Dumbledore's good intentions! I know it's useless to speculate about the past, but do you think that we would have reacted the same in all those situations we found ourselves in, had we known the prophecy? There are so many things that might have happened differently!"
"We'll never know for sure what we might have done had we known, Harry," Hermione said softly. "And like you said, it's useless to speculate."
"But you understand what I'm saying, don't you? You understand that this in my
war. It has always
been my war. It's my job
to figure out how to destroy Voldemort and nobody bothered to tell me!
The lives of everyone I care about lie in my hands. Haven't I always had the right to know that?"
"Could you have handled that? In first year? Second year? Really, Harry... would you have been ready to hear that?"
"I would have had to have been, wouldn't I?" Harry asked. "I was ready to face Voldemort in various forms four out of the past five years because I had to be
. It's as simple as that."
Hermione was silent for a moment and Harry could almost see her thinking back over the years. "Yes," she said softly. "Yes, I suppose it is."
"So what do we do now?" Ron asked. "You're going to be training, we know that much... but what about us? What should we be doing?"
Harry shrugged. "Anything that you can do. I don't know how much work it'll take to get the no magic ban lifted off of you two as well, but I'll Owl Madame Bones about it..."
"And then?" Hermione said softly.
"And then we learn to fight," Ron said, answering for Harry. "We're taking over this war... aren't we Harry?"
Harry nodded. "I can't trust this battle to anyone else any longer... But I need your help. Both of you. Hermione for your knowledge and research skills. Ron, you're the best strategist I know. If I'm going to get through this, I'll need you both."
"We'll be there, Harry," Hermione said. Ron nodded in agreement. "Anything that you need us to do."
Harry smiled slightly. "Thanks. I... I really needed to hear that." His smile spread into a grin as he made his way over to the door and opened it. "What about you three?"
For sure enough, there were three very sheepish looking redheads huddled outside the door with extendable ears.
Ginny only managed to remain contrite for an instant before giving in and grinning up at Harry. "Can you get my ban lifted as well?"
Harry laughed. "We'll see."
The three Weasley's got to their feet and faced Harry.
"You know we're behind you, right mate?" Fred asked, his voice far more serious than normal.
"Because we are," George said, just as seriously.
"I know," Harry said softly. "If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have let you hear the prophesy."
"You knew we were here all along?" Fred asked, looking somewhat crushed.
"What gave us away?" George asked, looking around as if something in the vicinity would give him an answer.
"It's not exactly a stretch of the imagination," Harry said with a shrug. "You two can smell plotting a hundred miles away!"
Fred and George looked at each other and shrugged. "Well, there is that," Fred said with a grin. "Let us know if there's anything that we can do."
"We have some things in development that might help," George said. "We'll give you a tour sometime soon."
"That would be good," Harry said.
"In the meantime, we'll just get back to work on that project of yours," Fred said with a wink. "We'll be in the library if you need us." He was already on his way down the stairs before George started moving.
"What's his hurry?" Ron asked, staring after Fred in confusion. "Don't you both hate the library?"
"Ah yes," George said with a grin. "But it just so happens that we left behind a cute brunette in the library when Ginny came to get us. A very
Faith looked around as she followed Harry, Tonks and Kingsley off the Knight Bus. Moody and Lupin had planned to come, but a last minute incident had sent them out on a reconnaissance mission.
There was something about the place that struck Faith as being... off. It was a quiet little street. Each house like the next, like the next, on and on...
Every car, every yard, hell, even every person
just about the same.
Then she looked at Harry.
"Dude, you so
don't fit in here."
Harry snorted. "So I've been told every day since I arrived." He took a deep breath and started off at a brisk walk towards Number Four.
Faith leaned over to Tonks. "His family... I'm really not going to like them, am I?"
Tonks bristled slightly. "His family
lives at Number 12 Grimmauld Place."
"Whoa, sorry!" Faith exclaimed, holding up her hands in surrender. "His relatives, then. They don't sound too... nice."
Tonks sighed. "I'm sorry Faith. It's just... Harry's a good kid, you know? And he's been through so much. To have been placed with this family... a family that hates him simply because he's different... It makes me angry sometimes. He deserved better."
Faith sighed slightly. "Yeah. I'm sure he did." She looked ahead and noticed that Harry had reached the door of Number Four. "And I think we'd better hurry and catch up Nymphy. Don't want those nasty relations of his taking any shots without us there to back him up."
Tonks sighed at the nickname, but picked up her pace to match Faith's. At least it was better than what the Slayer had dubbed Kingsley... She would never forget the look on his face the first time the girl had called him ‘Baldy’. Tonks snorted softly under her breath and jogged the last few meters, reaching the door just as Kingsley knocked.
It was answered by a portly gentleman with a questioning expression on his face. An expression that turned mean when he realized just who was at his door. "Oh, you're back then," he said, glaring at Harry and then at the rest of the people on his doorstep. "Well, come in then... Alone
! There are chores that need to be done."
"Then I suggest that you do them, Pops," Faith said with a smirk. "'Cause Anger-boy's just here to collect his things and then we're blowing this joint post-hasty."
Vernon Dursley’s face purpled. “Blowing?” He sputtered. “You freaks have come to destroy my home? Well I won’t allow it! None of you, including him
, are welcome inside this house!”
“Dude, we’re not going to blow up your ugly little house,” Faith said, rolling her eyes. “All I meant was that we’d be leaving. You gotta get out more.”
“It’s just a saying, Uncle Vernon,” Harry said with a sigh. “Can I please just come in and get my things? Once I have everything... well, you’ll never hear from me again.”
Vernon Dursley couldn't help but smile at this news. In fact, to his mind, it was the best news he’d heard in about 14 years. “You mean it boy? You’re leaving for good?” His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Wait. What’s changed?”
“My legal status,” Harry said with a shrug. “I’m no longer considered a minor by the Wizarding World. I can make my own choices now, and I choose to leave this damn house and everyone in it behind me. For good. Now can I come in and get my things or what?”
Warring emotions played their way across Vernon’s face. There were two choices. Let him in and soon be rid of him forever. Or deny him access, just for the hell of it.
“Let’s make this an easier decision,” Faith said, upset by the sheer unpleasantness of this man. “You let him in to get his things and I don’t rip you apart bit by bit.”
“Faith!“ Tonks exclaimed.
Faith looked at her and shrugged. “Buffy likes to say that she doesn’t always
use violence. I embrace it.”
“We’re not threatening you, Mr. Dursley...”
“No one but Faith
is threatening you,” Tonks amended. “But I can assure you that nothing will happen to you or you home if you just let Harry in to get his things.”
Vernon huffed indignantly, but relented. “Just him!”
Tonks shook her head. “Faith will stay outside, but Kingsley and I need to remain in the foyer.”
Vernon again looked torn, but likely deciding that it was better to have the two weirdest looking of the bunch out of sight (rather than standing on his porch), he relented. “All right, but no funny business!”
Harry rolled his eyes, but entered the house, followed by Tonks and Kingsley. "I'll just be a few minutes," Harry said before jogging up the stairs to his room.
Tonks and Kingsley looked at each other and then over at Mr. Dursley.
"Umm, nice place you have here," Kingsley said politely.
All he got in response was silence and a hateful glare.
"Lovely," Tonks said sarcastically. She glared back at Dursley for a moment before turning her back on him.
A heavy silence fell over the foyer as one minute became five, became ten, became fifteen, became...
"Where's Harry?" Tonks asked suddenly, looking at her watch in concern. "He should have been back down by now."
Kingsley looked at Tonks nervously and then as one they raced for the stairs.
"Where do you think you're going?" Vernon asked angrily. "I didn't say you could leave this room!"
They ignored him, instead heading straight for Harry's room.
They found his things in a neat pile (consisting of his school trunk and Hedwig’s cage, sans Hedwig) with a note on top. They did a quick search of the room and the top floor of the house. Finding no sign of Harry, Tonks picked up the note and read it aloud. "'Kingsley, Tonks and Faith,
Sorry to run off like this, but I had some things that I had to tend to. Since I didn't think that you'd let me go on my own, I decided to take the matter into my own hands.
I have searched the house, and what is in my trunk now constitutes all my worldly possessions. Please take it and Hedwig's cage to Grimmauld Place and I will meet you there. Do not attempt to find me. Failure to comply with this order would severely compromise the efforts of the Proeliatoris Popularis, and so is illegal by decree. So says I.
I'm very sorry about this. Someday I hope you'll understand.
Tonks stared at the letter for a moment and then swore under her breath. "Damned if that kid hasn't already started reading up on legalese." She shook her head. "I knew that we needed Moody here with us!"
"Invisibility cloak?" Kingsley asked softly.
"Oh yeah," Tonks agreed. She scowled down at the note in her hands. "I'm going to kill him!"
"Let's get his things back to Headquarters," Kingsley said with a sigh. "And figure out a way to explain to Molly Weasley how we lost a 14 year old boy...Again!"
Tonks sighed. "I guess we'd better."
Kingsley placed a featherweight charm on the trunk and picked it up and they slumped down the stairs. “Good day Dursley,” Tonks said as they walked past him and out the door. They had only taken a few steps when Tonks stopped short.
"Wait a minute... Where the hell is Faith?"
Kingsley looked around and then sighed again, realizing that he hadn't seen her since before they noticed Harry was missing. "We're never going to hear the end of this. Two teenagers, granted two very unique teenagers... but teenagers none the less, give us the slip without so much as a hint to where they were going, or even that they'd left. Moody's going to roast us alive."
Harry stepped into an alleyway near his flat. He looked around cautiously before removing his invisibility cloak.
And heard a voice from behind him just as he once again became visible.
"All right, Anger-Boy... The jig's up."
Harry spun around, his invisibility cloak held loosely in one hand. He didn't even bother to reach for his wand. He recognized the voice... and his annoying new nickname, immediately.
"Bloody hell Faith!" He exclaimed. "You scared the life out of me!"
"That's probably what poor Baldy and Nymphy are feeling right now," Faith said, attempting to keep an expression of disapproval on her face. "Your running off is getting to be a bad habit."
Harry sighed. "You know, sometimes a bloke just needs some privacy. A few hours without someone two feet away. It's important, you know?"
"Well sure," Faith said with a shrug.
Harry looked at her in shock. That really wasn't the response he'd been expecting. He'd thought it would be... louder... and more, heck... disapproving.
Faith noted the look and sighed. "Okay, so I'm really no good at this outraged, mature, responsible 'adult'
thing. I'm nineteen for cripes sake... and so
not the responsible type. Besides, I think you probably know as well as anyone else in this thing what's important and what's not. I also have a feeling that you're not sneaking off for some normal teenage boy thing. I mean, it's not like you have a girl stashed in this place for a booty-call, right?"
"Booty-call?" Harry questioned, confused. Then it hit him what she meant and his face flamed bright red. "Oh no! No, that's not it at all. It's actually really important to the fight against Voldemort... I just can't tell you why."
"That's what I thought," Faith said with a grin. "So here's the deal. You head on in and do whatever it is that you came here to do. I'll stay here and watch your back. When you're done, you meet me back here and I'll escort you home, all body-guard like. What do you say?"
Harry sighed slightly. "Actually, I don't reckon I have much of a choice in the matter..."
"Oh, you have a choice," Faith said with a smirk. "You do as I ask, or we go back now, you kicking and screaming over my shoulder if need be... But who wants to cause that kind of ruckus...?"
Harry gulped slightly, not doubting for a moment that she would do as she said. "Fine, I'll meet you back here, no tricks... All I ask is that you forget where we are right now... in case anyone asks."
“Oh, they’ll ask. I’ve only known them a few weeks and I have that all figured out. They’ll ask. Often. And as annoying as they may choose to make themselves, I promise that your secret is safe with me.”
Harry let out a breath of relief. “Thank you Faith.”
“No big, Anger-boy,” Faith said with a grin. “I know how hard it can be to have the weight of the world resting on your shoulders while the people around you either think that you’re too young or too stupid to handle it. They’ll never understand that we have
to handle it. They have a choice. We never have... and never will.”
Harry nodded slightly in acknowledgement of her words and smiled softly. It was nice to have someone understand without having to explain. To know what it meant to have to make the hard decisions.
“Give me twenty minutes,” he said, starting around to the front of the building. “And I need to make a stop on the way back to headquarters.”
“What for?” Faith asked.
“If I’m going to be running at six tomorrow morning, I’m going to be needing some new trainers.”
“Ah,” Faith said, nodding her head slightly. “That’s British-speak for sneakers, right? Sure. No problem.”
Harry opened the door to his apartment and stepped inside, only to be met immediately by the business end of Draco Malfoy’s wand.
“Damnit Malfoy,” he muttered. “Put that thing away!”
"Ah, Potter," Malfoy said warily, somewhat reluctantly lowering his wand. "You're back then?"
Harry snorted. "You have a talent for stating the obvious, Malfoy... Or were you expecting someone else?"
Malfoy shrugged. "Trust issues Potter. It's not any easier for me to take you at your word than it would be for you to take me at mine."
Harry sighed. "I have a feeling that this will be a learning experience for the both of us, Malfoy."
Malfoy nodded slightly in acknowledgement.
Harry took a deep breath. "So, how are you feeling?" No words had ever sounding so strange to him. 'I'm asking Draco Malfoy how he's feeling... and I'm actually almost
concerned about him.'
He shook his head in disbelief. 'The devil and all his minions must be skating in hell right now.'
Draco looked about as surprised by Harry's polite inquiry as Harry was to have made it.
"Better," he replied, uncertainly. "I think everything's just about healed now." As far as he could tell anyway...
"That's good," Harry said. There was an awkward silence while both of them searched desperately for something to say. "Here," Harry said finally, pulling a newspaper out of his pocket and shoving it in Draco's direction. "Prophet."
Draco nodded slightly and took the paper. "Is there anything about my father in there?"
Harry shrugged. "Not much. Only a short article about attacks on muggles and the capture of a number of escaped prisoners. Your father is the only one that they mention by name. They're going on trial in four days."
"That's in here?"
"Oh," Draco said. "Then how...?"
"I have my sources. As soon as I know more I'll let you know. We'll start working on a plan to free your father... only
your father, by the way... Just in case that's what we decide to do."
Draco nodded again, studying the paper in his hands intently.
"Do you have everything that you need?" Harry asked after another awkward silence. "Do you want me to get a message to anyone? Your mother, maybe?"
Draco sighed softly. "I probably should, to keep up appearances... but I don't know that I want to. Mother's a bit..." He paused, as if unsure what he was trying to say. "To be perfectly honest, I don't know that she'll truly notice that I'm gone. Children aren't exactly high
on Mother's list of priorities..."
Harry winced slightly at his words, fighting to keep himself from letting sympathy overtake any of his dislike for the Malfoy heir. He looked around the room, carefully avoiding Draco until he had managed to bring himself back to the more comfortable state of unwilling allegiance, rather than actual trust or amity.
“So is that a yes of a no?” He asked finally. “Will you father wonder why you didn’t contact your mother if you choose not to?”
“No,” Draco said. “He wouldn’t be surprised if I avoided contacting her... No, I don’t think she needs to know anything... Nor do I think that she’ll care.”
“All right,” Harry said, deciding that it was best to leave well enough alone.
There was another long silence, neither one of them knowing what to say next. Finally Draco just blurted out a question that had been bugging him.
“Why did you do it?”
Harry snorted slightly. “We’ve been over this Malfoy...”
“No,” Draco said, shaking his head. “That’s not really what I meant... It's more... How did you know? How do you always
Harry studied the other boy in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“What I did yesterday? That was the first selfless act of my life. The first time that I have ever
done something simply because it was the right thing to do. Most of the time I don’t even know
what the right thing is... And even if I know, I only do the right thing if it fits my purpose." Draco looked down at his hands, a tortured look on his face. "I stood by and watched my father murder
a girl. I just stood by and watched
." He looked up at Harry, his gaze almost accusing. "You would never do that. I barely know you and I’m sure of that. You’d just jump in and fight, no matter the odds. Regardless of the danger... Even when it’s me
Harry shifted uncomfortably. “Well, in my defense, you were
between me and the girl. I had to save you in order to save her.”
It was Draco’s turn to snort. “So not true Potter. You’re so perversely noble that you would have done the same thing even if I’d been the only one there.”
“Just don’t go spreading that around,” Harry said with a scowl. “Look, I do the things that I do because I have to. It's who I am. I can't stand by and watch something bad happen, especially if there's something that I can do to stop it. As for how I know what's right..." Harry shrugged. "I go with my gut. Hell, half the time it isn’t even a decision
. I do things because they need
to be done. And Voldemort... well, he’s my
responsibility, as is everyone that follows him. I’m not going to let anyone
be hurt by him or his Death Eaters. Not even you.”
Draco nodded slightly in acknowledgement, halfway wishing that he’d just kept his mouth shut. Sometimes it just didn’t pay to think too much...
“Look, I’ll keep you updated on your father, so be thinking about what you want to do with the information. I’ll back whatever decision you make. Right now I’ve got to get going.”
“Ditch the bodyguards again?” Draco asked innocently.
Harry looked at him sharply, but then decided that it was probably common sense that had led Draco to that conclusion. Say what you would about the guy, but he was not stupid... “Most of them,” Harry said with a shrug. “One slipped through, but we made a deal...” He looked down at his watch. “And I have to hurry if I’m not going to break that agreement. I’ll be back tomorrow if I can. Make a list of anything that you need.”
“All right,” Draco said, nodding slightly.
“Goodnight,” Harry said. He hurried out the door, waving his hand in acknowledgement of Draco’s answering ‘goodnight.’
He reached Faith almost exactly twenty minutes after he’d left her.
“Just in time, hotshot,” she said, glancing at her watch. “Two more seconds and I’d’ve been calling in the Calvary.”
Harry blinked in surprise. “Call in the Calvary? With what? Wizards don’t have
“Ah, but Giles’ do,” Faith said with a smirk. “And they also have floo connected fireplaces...”
Harry paled slightly. “Have I ever told you what a kind, wonderful and patient person you are...?”
“Aww, I’m blushing... really.” Faith laughed. “No need to suck up, kid. I said I wasn’t going to say anything and I won’t. Ready to get going?”
Harry nodded. “Lead on,” he said, gesturing to Faith to start home.
“Me lead?” Faith questioned with a snort. “Yeah right. Like I have the first damn clue where the hell we are!”
Harry laughed. “So I guess throwing me over your shoulder and carrying me home was an empty threat on your part?”
“Smart-ass,” Faith muttered. “Just get me home, Anger-boy. It’s almost suppertime and I’m starving.”
“No problem,” Harry said with a shrug. He held out his wand and took a slight step back as the Knight Bus roared to a stop in front of them. He grinned at Faith and gestured to the door. “After you.”