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Standard Disclaimer:

Alyx glanced up and frowned. “Bob, why do you call it a standard disclaimer? If anything our disclaimers are totally nonstandard.”

Bob grunted sourly and glanced at the section heading. “Tradition,” he muttered.

“Tradition?” Alyx repeated drolly.

Bob sighed and put down the “Do It Yourself Home Lobotomy Kit” he was planning on sending to several pushy readers that had been clamoring for this chapter. He hoped that it would send the correct message about bugging authors.

“Yes, Tradition,” he repeated. “For the past two hundred years, since the founding fathers of fan fiction wrote the first spin off of the Declaration of Independence, we have always started with chapters with the STANDARD DISCLAIMER. We have told people time and time again that we don't own Harry Potter or the Potter Universe and we have tried to convey our displeasure at the canon versions by claiming the last two books were actually written by ghost writers. It is tradition!”

Alyx blinked. “Someone wrote a spin off of the Declaration of Independence?”

“Yeah,” Bob replied. “It was a crack fic, the Declaration of Incontinence.”

Alyx winced and frowned. “Alright, but why do we need to make such a big production over our disclaimers? We've had celebrity torture sessions, dancing hippos, the Dolly Llama, technicolor penguins.”

“Don't forget Snape on a rope,” Bob piped up happily. That disclaimer where they hung Snape was one of his favorites.

Alyx stamped her foot and glared at Bob. She didn't like any of the Snape torture disclaimers, and loathed any disclaimer that so much as touched a precious hair on Alan Rickman's head. The Dolly Llama was one of her favorites too, although she was willing to admit she couldn't understand a thing he said.

Bob sighed and turned to Alyx. “Look, you like the disclaimers where you get to use power tools on unsuspecting readers don't you?”

“Oh yeah,” she answered dreamily.

Bob handed her a power drill and pointed her in the direction of Tumshie. “Tradition, knock yourself out.”

He grinned as she bolted off the stage with the drill running at high speed. Turning back to the readers he gestured to the chapter below. And now that we have the traditional disclaimer out of the way, on with the story.”

Mutant Storm
Chapter 10
A new path

Hogwarts Infirmary (the next day)...

Jean walked into the infirmary feeling rather smug. The Daily Prophet delivered at breakfast had a front page spread about the death of two Death Eaters who'd been killed in Gringotts for violating the treaty of 1638.

Most of the Slytherin table seemed to be shocked at the gruesome images, while the Gryffindor's cheered the news. Draco threw down the paper and ran from the Great Hall, tears streaming down his face. Even Snape seemed to be subdued.

The article had been surprisingly factual for once. Well, factual to Xavier's facts, she thought to herself with a smile. No mention of Harry had been made, and the two involved had been identified by Gringotts, along with a detailed description of their crimes. It was also rumored that Gringotts had seized the Malfoy family vaults and was conducting an audit to see if there were any associated vaults under other names that should be confiscated as well.

One other piece of heartening news, at least to Jean, was a small announcement that the Prophet had terminated Rita Skeeter for failing to come to work.

She approached the curtains surrounding Harry's bed and was surprised to hear two voices coming from inside. Harry seemed distraught and Ginny was trying to calm him down.

“It's all right, Harry. You only did what you had to do to save lives. No one can fault you for that,” Ginny said softly.

Jean smiled. He must have explained to Ginny what had happened at Gringotts. It made her feel better to know that he was willing to talk about it.


“No. Stop this, Harry. You're tormenting yourself for no reasons,” Ginny said firmly.

Jean sighed quietly and stepped behind the curtain.

He was sitting up and Ginny was sitting on the edge of the bed, hugging him tightly. She was rocking him slightly and smoothing his hair as his head rested on her shoulder.

Jean looked at him with a critical eye, noting his pallid color and the slight wet wheeze in his breathing. He was much better, but he wasn't completely healed yet. She shook her head in amazement. Yesterday, she would have had to take him to a thoracic surgeon and he'd be months in recovery. Today he was ready to leave the bed and by tomorrow, probably the infirmary.

She moved to the other side of the bed and Ginny looked up at her, startled. Jean held up a hand and shook her head.

She sat on the edge of the bed and Harry opened his eyes when he felt the mattress shift. She reached out and caressed his cheek. Unbidden, tears started to flow down her cheeks. “Hey there,” she said. “You had me scared silly.”

“I'm sorry,” he whispered.

She leaned over and kissed his head. Ginny slowly released him from her grip and he looked at Jean and blushed.

“How are you feeling today?”

“Better. Tired,” he replied. His speech was breathy.

She pulled up his pajama top to examine the site of the knife wound. All that remained was an angry red line of puffy skin that looked tender. It looked like it had been healing for a month! She gently lowered his top and shook her head in amazement.

“Magic,” Harry said with a grin, then he started to lay back. Both Jean and Ginny jumped to help him, then grinned at each other.

“Now can you tell me what you were doing in Gringotts, mister? I don't recall saying you could gallivant around the country. And what happened to your potions class?”

“I was taking Hagrid's advice about the scale, Mum. And Madam Perotti canceled the class because her daughter had just given birth. She's going to spend two weeks with her, helping out.”

Jean frowned. “I hope you didn't spend too much,” she grumbled. “You know you're supposed to tell me when you spend over a thousand galleons.”

He shook a finger at her. “Only if I spend it from the Potter vaults. The Black vaults have no such restriction. Besides, I didn't spend anything. I bartered for their services using some True Silver.”

Ginny gasped. “True Silver! That's very rare!”

“It is,” Harry said with a nod. “But there is some in my vault.”

“They say Queen Victoria was given a ring made from True Silver and it saved her life from an assassin,” Ginny added. “It was charmed to nullify poisons. I've seen pictures of the ring and a bit of True Silver.”

He grinned slightly, then began to cough. His lungs burned and spots danced in front of his eyes. The next thing he knew both Jean and Ginny were holding him upright. He leaned against them, panting heavily. Madam Pomfrey stood at the end of the bed measuring out a dose of potion and looking at him worriedly.

“You need to be careful today, Mr. Potter,” she ordered. “Your lungs are still healing, so I want you to keep the talking to a minimum.”

She handed the dose to Jean, who helped him drink it down. Ginny laughed at his sour expression and handed him a glass of water.

Poppy ran a few tests, then she straightened and backed away with a slight smile. “You're doing much better today, Mr. Potter, but you'll be keeping me company until tomorrow at the earliest.”

He nodded to her, too tired to talk. Ginny propped a bunch of pillows behind him and he smiled gratefully at her before leaning back.


He turned to look at Jean. “Do you feel up to showing me what happened?”

“Professor, I asked him not to talk yet,” protested Poppy.

Jean turned and smiled at her. “I mean to see his memory, Poppy, not have him describe it.”

Poppy looked uncertain, but Harry tugged on Jean's sleeve and nodded to her. She turned and they locked gazes, while Ginny and Poppy watched in wonder.

A minute later they looked away and Jean sat back. “I see,” she murmured thoughtfully.

“You saw his memory?” Ginny exclaimed.

When Jean nodded, Ginny shook her head in amazement.

Someday he might be able to show you memories also, Ginevra,” a voice said in her head.

Ginny gasped and turned to look at Jean incredulously.

“You know, I heard that, though it was very faint,” Harry whispered.

Jean turned to look at him and smiled broadly. “Good! Keep practicing and maybe you'll build up that talent.”

Ginny stared at the two and she looked decidedly unhappy. Harry immediately knew what was wrong.

“Ginny,” he said quietly, taking her hand in his. “Occlumency doesn't stop mutants. Mum's sending to you has nothing to do with shields. Professor McGonagall tested yours and says they're very good.”

“So you can't read my mind?” Ginny asked looking between the two.

Harry shook his head and Jean nodded. “I can't,” Harry replied. “All I can do is know if you're happy, or sad, or anxious or angry. Mum could tell you your life story, but she doesn't look at people like that unless she has a really good reason for it.”

“I rarely look into the minds of others, Ginny. It's an invasion of privacy,” Jean added. “But everyone has surface thoughts that are hard to block out.”

Harry chuckled. “Yeah, so she won't know if you and I slip into a broom closet for a good snogging.”

Ginny blushed. She and Harry hadn't gotten to that point in their relationship.

Jean looked at the two suspiciously, but a noise distracted her from commenting.

The whine of Xavier's chair announced his arrival. Jean stood and walked over to the curtains, parting them enough for him to maneuver his hover chair through.

Xavier smiled, seeing Harry sitting up and he looked relieved to see not only Jean, but another pretty red head who seemed more interested in Harry than anything else.

“Good Morning, Professor.”

“Good Morning, Harry,” he replied, then he looked over at Ginny.

“Erm, you remember Ginny. I introduced you the first time you brought the Blackbird to Hogwarts,” Harry whispered.

Xavier nodded and smiled at the young girl.

“Charles, Madam Pomfrey has asked that he keep speaking to a minimum today. If you don't mind, I'll show you his memory of what happened.”

Xavier nodded and the two fell silent.

“That's eerie,” Ginny said with a slight shiver.

“It's not that bad, really. No worse than relying on a stick to do things. Think about it. Most of the human race has to rely on machines or muscle power. Mutants and wizards just have different options open to them.”

Xavier broke contact with Jean and faced Harry. “We're all human, Harry. Remember what I told you? The definition of a species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. Muggles, wizard or mutant, we're all human.”

Xavier sighed and shook his head. “We'll get into this discussion another time. Right now, I'd like to talk about some of the things that happened yesterday.” He then looked at Ginny, who was holding Harry's hand.

Harry spotted the glance and frowned. “You can speak freely, Professor. Ginny is one of the few I would trust explicitly, unless it comes to pranks.”

Ginny blushed and looked down, smiling to herself. She knew Harry enough to know that for him, trust didn't come easily and was not given lightly.

Xavier and Jean both looked surprised at Harry's comment.

“Very well,” Xavier said softly. “When you were hit with the Cruciatus curse, why did it affect you?”

Ginny gasped and her hand tightened painfully around his. He had told her he had killed twice yesterday, but hadn't given her any real details. And he certainly hadn't mentioned being hit with a unforgivable curse.

“I was still solid at the time, Professor,” he explained. “Malfoy's head exploded and it caught me by surprise. I didn't expected that to happen. That gave Bellatrix the opportunity she needed to hit me with the curse.”

Ginny looked torn. She wanted to question Harry to find out what he meant, but at the same time, she was horrified to discover he had been put under the torture curse.

“And you were phased when you were hit with the killing curse?”

Ginny gasped and lunged for Harry, wrapping her arms around him tightly. Surprised, he wrapped his arms around her. “Shhh... it's all right,” he whispered in her ear. “I'm fine.”

Xavier smiled, pleased with what he saw. Harry having a girlfriend, or even a serious relationship, was one of first normal behaviors he had seen from the lad.

He looked up at Xavier, still holding Ginny. “Both the Goblin and I were phased at the time. The curse passed through both of us, but it wasn't without effect. I felt tired immediately afterward. I wouldn't be surprised if getting hit with several like that would put me to sleep.”

Ginny pulled away slightly and looked at him intently. There were dozens of questions she wanted to ask and he knew it. Impulsively, he kissed her cheek and she blushed deeply.

“I'll explain it all to you later, Ginny. Once I've satisfied the Professor and Mum, we'll talk. All right?”

She nodded and sat up.

He turned back to Xavier. “I know I should have been more careful, Professor, but it was too late to dodge. Beside, even if I'd had the time, Griphook would have been killed.”

When Xavier held up a hand, he fell silent.

“I'm not questioning your actions, Harry. What you did was fueled partly by the desire to save lives, and partly by anger. Bellatrix LeStrange took something critical to your life away and you wanted her to pay for that.”

He paused for a moment, then he leaned forward in his chair.

“Being a civilized man does not mean being someone who will not take a life, if there is cause to do so. And when the act is complete, a civilized man will regret the actions taken. I remember the first time I was forced to kill someone in order to save the lives of myself and others. I spent weeks agonizing over what happened. But then a friend asked me a simple question. He asked what would have happened if I hadn't killed that day.”

Xavier paused and looked at Harry intently. “Think about that. Had you not done what you did, would you be here now, to have this pretty girl hugging you? She doesn't think you're a murderer for killing two dangerous and ruthless people. You caught them in the act of committing murder and stopped them. In doing so, you saved not just one person. You've prevented them from killing anyone ever again.

“In the end, you did what was necessary to save a life and returned alive from a fight you neither asked for, nor wanted. I daresay Miss Ginny is quite happy to have you back alive and relatively in one piece.”

Ginny nodded as she looked at Harry. “It's true. What you did was heroic.”

He winced. He hated when someone applied that label to him.

Ginny's eyes clouded, knowing how much he hated being called a hero, and wanted to kick herself.

“She's right,” Jean said quietly, seeing their distress. “I know you hate the term, Harry. But think of it this way. What you did was was show that you hold goblin life with the same esteem that you hold human life. Ragnok from the Goblin Nation was most impressed by your actions. I know you still don't want to fight for the wizards and you weren't!” she hurriedly said to his glare. “You fought for yourself and to save that goblin. That it was also a benefit to the wizarding world is simply a side effect.”

Harry glared at her a moment longer before looking away.

Jean moved closer and took his face in her hands. “I don't want you to fight for them anymore either,” she said softly.

“Jean,” Xavier said warningly.

She ignored him and plowed on anyway. “Don't fight for them, Harry. Yesterday I saw exactly how narrow minded and cruel they can be. I saw what you've been seeing all along. Don't fight for them, fight for yourself and for your friends. What will happen to Ginny and her family? Or Hermione and Neville?”

Xavier sat silently seeing where Jean was heading. It was a good tactic really and it was a more visible goal than trying to save a bunch of xenophobic Victorian era wizards.

Harry sighed heavily and refused to look at anyone.

“Harry,” Ginny said, “Hermione, Neville, Luna, and even Ron, are willing to fight at your side. Not just with you, but for you. And you know where I stand.”

“I know,” he replied. “It's just that Dumbledore...” he trailed off, then he coughed heavily, clutching his ribs, the pain reminder that only yesterday he had a knife in his lung. After he managed to gain control of himself he looked up at Jean.

“When this is over, can I tell them to piss off?”

Xavier smiled, and Jean chuckled, shaking her head.

“You'd leave us?” Ginny asked in a strangled voice.

He tightened his grip on her hand and shook his head. “No, but if I do leave wizarding Britain, I can assure you I plan on taking the very best of it with me.”

She flushed and looked down, his meaning was crystal clear.

“Oh, my,” Jean murmured.

Xavier looked at her. “Jean?” She turned to face him and their eyes met for a moment. “Indeed.”

“Ginny? Do you know what your family has planned for Christmas?” Jean asked.

Harry looked up at her, confused.

“I don't know. The usual, I suppose,” Ginny replied.

“Would you ask your parents if they, and the rest of your family, would be interested in visiting with us over the holidays? We'll supply the portkeys needed.”

She nodded uncertainly. “I can ask, but if I know my mum she'll want to spend Christmas at home.”

“Ask her to write me, Ginny. I'm sure we'll work something out,” Jean said, then she turned to Xavier. “Charles, can we talk privately?”

Ginny turned back to Harry once the adults had left. She could see he was fighting fatigue. She brushed his hair out of his eyes and kissed his forehead. “Sleep for a while, Harry. I still have an essay to work on. I'll go do that and come back in a couple hours after you've napped.”

He nodded and gave up the fight. His eyes closed almost immediately.

Ginny stood and turned to walk out of the enclosed area when he stopped her.

“Ginny, tell Hermione not to do anything about the Death Eaters just yet. Everything has changed and we need to rethink things,” he said sleepily.

“I will, now go to sleep.”

“Mmmm.” he mumbled and she grinned, then exited the curtained area.

A moment later Poppy stepped in and ran a few tests. She was pleased to see him sleeping. His injury had been dangerous, and despite her healing, she was concerned about infection. His lung still had some blood in it and that could cause all sorts of problems if they weren't careful.

In an empty classroom near the hospital wing, Jean and Xavier talked in low tones about Harry and Ginny.

“Are you sure it's wise to invite the Weasleys to the castle, Jean?”

She crossed her arms and stared out a window for a moment, then she turned to face him. “Sure? No. But I know that Ginny is practically the first normal teenage thing he's done since we've brought him into our lives. She loves him, Charles. Really loves him. And he loves her. The difference is that he doesn't know it's love. He has the emotion but he has no real experience with it and can't recognize it for what it is.”

Xavier nodded slowly. “Yes, I think your assessment is spot on. Now explain the invitation.”

Jean sighed. “Haven't you ever wanted to be normal, Charles? Didn't you ever want to invite friends over, just for the sake of it? Harry yearns for normalcy with a passion like nothing I've ever felt before. His feelings for Ginny are real, and I'm certain that someday I'll be meeting her parents as parents of my daughter-in-law. I invited them because I'd like to meet them.

“Despite Ronald Weasley's overly large mouth, Harry has a lot of respect for the Weasley family as a whole. I thought it would be a nice gesture to invite a few of Harry's friends to the castle for Christmas.”

A frown wrinkled Xavier brow, but he nodded. “I, too, would like to meet more wizards. Before Harry came into our lives, we were a tight knit group, but he's forcing us to branch out. I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing, either. Very well, plan your celebration. We have enough room to put up with some visitors for a couple days.”

Jean nodded, pleased that he agreed. It had been a spur of the moment idea, but it still sounded like a good one to her.

Headmaster's Office...

“Come in!”

Scott and Logan filed into the room, sitting in the chairs in front of Dumbledore's desk.

“Ah, Mr. Summers and Mr. Logan.”

“You wanted to see us Headmaster?” asked Scott.

“Yes. I spoke to Charles briefly this morning and he mentioned I should talk with you two. I am wondering, are you up for a little experiment?”

Logan and Scott exchanged a glance, then turned back to Dumbledore.

“What do you have in mind Twinkly?” growled Logan.

Scott rolled his eyes and frowned at Logan, while Dumbledore grinned benignly at the pair. “What sort of experiment Headmaster?”

Dumbledore leaned back on his chair. “Our researchers have turned up little information concerning Horcruxes, or how to destroy them, I'm afraid. I think that whatever information may exist is probably unique and in the hands of Voldemort.

“Given those circumstances, I am wondering if you would help us try to destroy the locket we have in our possession?” He steepled his fingers and surveyed the two men.

“Harry's not available to be opening that Chamber of Sucrets,” protested Logan.

“Secrets,” prompted Scott.

“Whatever,” Logan growled in reply.

Dumbledore shook his head and tried to refocus the pair. “I know. Madam Pomfrey is pleased with his healing, but the earliest he will be released from the infirmary will be tomorrow morning. She also thinks his emotional crisis is passed, for now at least.”

“First kill, it's always a gut wrencher. I've seen grown men break down and bawl like babies over it,” Logan murmured, then sat up a bit straighter. “He'll get over it. By the time his kill count is over ten, he'll not even notice it anymore. Hell, I stopped counting when I passed a hundred.”

Dumbledore stared at Logan in surprise. He knew the man was rough but he had no clue how rough.

“Braggart,” Scott mumbled.

“One eye,” Logan retorted with a grin.

“Gentlemen, can we get back to the matter at hand?” Dumbledore asked. He was already nursing a headache from the dressing down that Poppy had given him, and these two interacted almost like James and Sirius, holding two conversations at one time.

“How do you think we should approach this, Headmaster?” asked Scott.

“I was thinking that perhaps we could go outside and use a large open area, such as the Quidditch pitch. I will, of course be, willing to provide the magic to shield you both from any magical backlash.”

The two nodded and Dumbledore stood. He grabbed a small chest from a shelf behind his chair.

Seeing that Logan was looking at him curiously, Dumbledore shrugged a bit uncomfortably. “I don't have Harry's Mage sight, but I am concerned that too much handling might be harmful. Putting it in the chest at least lets me move it around easily.”

Logan nodded and the three men filed out of the office.

Dumbledore led them down the stairs and out of the castle. When they reached the Quidditch pitch, he opened the chest and levitated the locket out. He moved the locked until it was halfway down the pitch. “Is that too far away for you to hit, Mr. Summers?”

Scott shook his head. “I hit what I look at, Professor, but can you conjure a strong stone wall behind it? I don't want to take out your goal posts at the same time.”

The old Headmaster blinked as if the request surprised him, then he nodded and conjured the wall with a wave of his wand.

“Everyone ready?” asked Scott.

“Yeah, yeah. Just blast it, Cyclops. You always talk to damn much,” growled Logan.

Scott reached for his visor and a bright red beam lanced out to hit the locket. There was a buzzing sound for a moment, then an explosion that knocked all three men over on their backs.

While the smoke cleared, Scott looked around. “Logan? Are you all right?”

“Stupid question, Sparky” muttered Logan. “When am I not?”

“There's always hope,” Scott said with a wince, then he looked at Dumbledore. “Are you all right, Headmaster?”

“I seem to be in one piece,” said the old man, then he stood and looked down the pitch. “Oh, dear. I hadn't counted on that.”

The center of the Quidditch pitch was now a crater some thirty feet wide and nearly ten feet deep. In the center of the crater was the smoking remains of the locket, melted and barely recognizable.

Dumbledore summoned the remains to a spot at his feet, then he cast a spell which gave him temporary Mage sight. He looked down at the remains of the locket and could see no magic left in the piece. Stooping, he picked it up and smiled.

“It's done,” he said in a relieved tone.

“Great! That means it's Miller time!” Logan offered.

Scott stared at him. “It's not even ten in the morning,” he protested.

“It's never too early for beer.”

Scott shook his head and turned away from him. “It's really destroyed?”

Dumbledore smiled. “Yes. With your help, we have eliminated another Horcrux. Only two more to go, then Voldemort can be dealt with.”

Hogwarts Infirmary and the Muggle Studies Classroom...

Harry laced up his shoes, then slipped his school robe over his uniform. Madam Pomfrey had given him permission to leave and he was in no mood to stick around. She had kept him an extra day, so he had spent three days, rather than the expected two, in the infirmary, but at least now the threatening infection had been beaten off.

He looked up and grinned at Ginny and Hermione, who stood just inside the door to the infirmary, waiting for him. It was early still and he wanted to get to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Standing, he straightened his robe and walked over to them. Hermione handed him his book bag. “Still no sign of the ferret?” he asked.

Ginny shook her head. “No, and most of Slytherin seems fairly somber about the affair. But there has been one interesting fallout from it.”

“Oh?” he said, holding the doors open for them.

Neville was on the other side, waiting for them. “Morning, Harry.”

“Good morning, Nev. Ginny said something interesting has happened.”

Neville grinned. “You'll get a kick out of it.”

Harry stopped and looked at the three of them. “What? Voldemort has quit and decided to become a shoe salesman?”

The three stared at him like he was crazy. “Right. Forget I said that. Now someone start talking.”

“I was in the library,” Hermione said.

Harry's eyes widened. “Now there's a surprise.”

Neville started to laugh.

“Do you want me to tell you or are you going to continue making snide comments,” Hermione retorted, her hands on her hips.

Neville stopped laughing and bit his lip.

“All right, I'll shut up,” Harry said placatingly.

She glared at him for a moment longer, then nodded in satisfaction. “I was in the library when Daphne Greengrass sat down next to me. She told me that most of the fifth, sixth and seventh year Slytherin girls are not supporting Voldemort and don't want to support him. She said that Voldemort seems to think they are good for one purpose only - breeding. They want to help in exchange for protection.”

Harry paused and looked at her intently. “They want our help?”

Ginny and Hermione nodded. “To put it bluntly, Daphne doesn't want to be some brood mare for the Dark Lord,” Ginny added.

He nodded thoughtfully. “All right, let's see what we can do about this then.”

He reached into his bag and pulled out his mobile phone and flipped it open. Rather than dialing in a number, he threw a small switch on the side. Ginny and Neville stared in astonishment when the top screen went blank. A moment later, Jean's face appeared.

“Harry? Is something wrong? You don't normally use this channel,” Jean said worriedly.

He shook his head. “No, not wrong, but we need to talk. Do you think we can arrange a private meeting for later this evening? Maybe after dinner?”

Jean frowned slightly. “All right, but you know Scott, the Professor and Logan are still here? The Professor and Logan were planning to leave soon. Should I ask them to stay?”

Harry was silent for a moment while he thought. “Maybe dad, but I don't think this affects the Professor or Logan, yet.”

“After dinner then, in the Muggle studies classroom,” Jean said. Having Scott stay over for a few days was something she was looking forward to.

“Got it. Talk to you later, mum,” he said, then he closed the phone and clipped it to his belt.

“Could she see you too, Harry?” blurted Neville.

He nodded and grinned at his friend before turning to Hermione. “I need you to get Daphne to come to this meeting. Offer her a promise of safety if you must, but get her to come.”

Hours later, Jean was surprised to see Harry walk into the classroom with his friends, who all took seats.

She stood, but Harry waved her to her seat. “Wait, mum, not everyone is here yet.”

The door opened admitting Luna and Ron, and then a moment later Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis walked in.

Jean and Scott shared a confused look, then Jean turned to Harry. “You called for this meeting.”

“Right,” Harry replied, then he stood up. “Hermione says the Slytherin girls don't want to support Voldemort. And I suspect that they aren't all that keen about supporting Dumbledore, either?”

He paused and looked at Daphne and Tracey, who nodded in agreement.

Harry turned to his parents. “Even if the other Houses gather together and offer them protection, and I'm sure we will, these girls all suffer from the fact that they come from Death Eater families.”

“Not all of our parents at Death Eaters, Potter,” Davis said angrily.

Harry nodded. “Good, that will make it easier. What I propose is we open up the Eastwick estate and ask the Goblins to ward it, then provide portkeys. For temporary problems, we could probably offer them places to sleep in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. But we need something more permanent if things get too hot for them, and they probably will.”

The estate was one of the Black properties, It was large, and very secluded.

Jean nodded slowly, but something was bothering her about this. “What about Dumbledore?”

Harry shrugged. “He doesn't matter,” he replied, dismissing him entirely. “He wants me to fight this war? Fine, I'll do it, but not with him leading or in any way involved. I won't follow his lead and if he doesn't like that I'll push him out of the way.”

Everyone stopped and stared at him.

“Harry, you can't mean...”

“I do, mum. I will not play his games anymore. He can handle the search for those items he needs. But I'm not playing by his rules. This is my war and I'm not a member of his Order. He has no control over me anymore.”

Jean stared at him and he shook his head in dismay. “Do you know what he did today?” he asked quietly.

She shook her head. “No, will you show me?”

“No. Everyone needs to hear this. If you still don't understand or feel you need to see it, I'll show you later,” he replied quietly.

She nodded.

“I was in Defense class today. Shacklebolt was the Professor de Jour when a notice arrived sending me to the Headmaster's office.

Ah, come in Harry, have a seat. Lemon Drop?” asked Dumbledore.

He sat and shook his head.

Dumbledore frowned for a second then plunged on. “I suppose you are wondering why I asked you here. But now that Madam Pomfrey has released you from the infirmary, I wanted to speak to you about your actions.”


Dumbledore stood. Walking to a window, he gazed out for a few moments, then turned to Harry. “You killed two people, Harry. I know how that must be bothering you.”

Harry scowled. “At first it did, but Professor Xavier made me realize that what I did was necessary.”

Dumbledore looked pained. “I have a lot of respect for Professor Xavier, but his ways are different from ours. Civilized people do not go around killing each other. You could have easily taken them prisoner had you wished to do so. I want you to consider that. You took the lives of two...”

Two murderous scum. I killed two rabid animals, Headmaster. Unlike you, I do not hold any forgiveness in my heart for them. They were a danger to me and to everything I hold dear. What the hell do you expect of me? To kiss Voldemort on the cheek and ask him politely to surrender?” Harry demanded angrily.

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and Harry felt him probing around the edges of his shields. Harry's lips twisted slightly, then he tweaked Dumbledore's probe, forcing him to withdraw.

Dumbledore winced and massaged his forehead. “Harry, we cannot just go around killing these people. We need to put them in prison and see if we can educate them and bring them back into society as productive members,” he said patiently, as if instructing a small child.

Harry stood, shaking his head in dismay. “You're nuts. No, that's too mild. You are completely stark raving mad! Logan would tell you to go fuck yourself, and I'd find myself having to agree with him. Let me make one point absolutely clear in your mind, Headmaster.” He slurred the title making it sound like an insult. “If I decide to fight this war, it won't be on your side and I won't be taking orders from you.

I may not actively seek out the Death Eaters, but if they come after me and mine, I will kill them. I. Do. Not. Take. Prisoners.”

Harry turned and pushed against the door. It was stuck fast.

I haven't dismissed you, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore said from behind him.

No, I'm dismissing myself,” Harry replied. His hand flashed white and the door suddenly flared, then crumbled to ash. He stepped through the opening and went down the stairs.

Dumbledore stared at his door in dismay. He had tried to reach the boy and had failed yet again. Sitting at his desk, he could only consider how he could convince Harry to see his point of view.

Harry turned to the others. “That's the difference between he and I. He wants to rehabilitate people. I want to live my life in peace and I'm not willing to give up my life for the likes of Malfoy or LeStrange.”

“You killed Bellatrix?” Neville asked in a strangled voice.

Harry nodded. He hadn't been trying to keep it a secret from his friends, but apparently no one had told Neville about it.

Neville stood and stepped up to face Harry. His expression was full of anguish. Suddenly, he lunged and hugged Harry. “Thank you!” he chanted over and over. Harry awkwardly hugged him back as he shot a pleading look at Hermione, who stood and came over to the pair. Harry released Neville and guided him towards Hermione, who took him into her arms.

“I think we made the right choice, Tracey,” said Daphne, who watched Harry and his friends with interest.

Scott eyed Harry for a moment, then nodded. “Logan said you'd probably get to this point.”

Jean turned to her husband. “What?”

“He's rejecting Dumbledore and all he represents. From where I stand, I think I can see his point of view. Remember Scrimgeour? Not a single one of them really cared that Harry was badly wounded.”

Jean pursed her lips and nodded slowly. She had noted the same thing, it just surprised her to see Scott coming around so quickly. She had thought it would take him longer. In a lot of ways, he was an idealist, like Professor Xavier.

Harry turned back to his friends and the Slytherins. “We'll give the Slytherin girls sanctuary, in school and out. I'll contact my goblin manager to get the manor house opened and staffed with some elves. They'll supply me with enough portkeys to go around. Is this acceptable to you?” he asked of Daphne and Tracey.

Daphne nodded, but Tracey frowned.

“What's in it for you, Potter?” she asked. “What do you want in return? I'll warn you now that none of us will accept a forced betrothal. That's what we're running from.”

Harry's expression grew stormy. “You think quite highly of yourself, Davis,” he snapped. “Frankly, when Hermione told me about your plight this morning, my first inclination was to let you rot in the mess you and the rest of you pure blood princesses created. However, I am not completely Slytherin. I'll settle for your neutrality in this war, although if anyone wishes to help by offering information or actually fighting on our side, they'd be welcome. As to betrothals, I think I'm capable of handling that aspect of my life without forcing someone into that kind of contract. The only people I intend to manipulate from hereon out is Dumbledore and Voldemort.”

Tracey and Ginny blushed for two different reasons. Davis wasn't used to anyone talking to her so forcefully, and Ginny because Harry's eyes flickered towards her when he mentioned being capable of handling his own love life.

Greengrass stood and approached Harry. Ginny tensed and watched her warily.

“You've changed in the last few days. Why were you in the infirmary?” she asked bluntly.

“They should know the whole story, Harry,” Jean said. “Or at least more than whatever whisper they've heard.”

Harry nodded absently. “Fine, a little show of faith, then. I was recovering from a knife wound that Bellatrix LeStrange gave me. I killed her and Lucius Malfoy while protecting two goblins.”

Daphne nodded in satisfaction and returned to her seat.

Harry shrugged. “I'm not proud of killing those two, but they were vermin. I dealt with it. There are going to be a lot more bodies before this war is over. Including the parents of some of you girls. I won't give any quarter to anyone who doesn't surrender.”

Davis' eyes narrowed. “Good. I'll be happy if someone does in my father. I'm tired of being his plaything over the holidays.”

Jean sucked in a breath and the other girls turned to look at her in horror. Davis shrugged. “He's a Death Eater. What more needs to be said?”

“We'll talk to the others, Potter,” Greengrass said. “You'll get information at a minimum.”

Harry nodded. “Fine. I'll contact my manager and hopefully have portkeys for everyone by the end of next week. Hermione will arrange pickup points to make sure none of you have to travel alone in the castle. We're already doing that with the third years and below.”

Daphne nodded. “Come on, Trace, we have some people to talk to.”

Davis stood and started to walk towards the door, then she stopped and turned to look at Harry.



“I'm sorry. You turned out to be more than I thought you were. I'm sorry I doubted you.”

Harry nodded. “It's all right, Davis.”

She nodded and walked out of the room with Daphne.

Blackmoor Castle, in the English Channel...

The alarm woke up Logan. He rolled from his bed and trotted down to the control room. He had returned to the castle only last night with the Professor in the Blackbird.

Storm was monitoring the controls and displays when he arrived. Unlike the Westchester manor in New York, there was no school here to hide behind. The castle had a complex array of electronic and magical detectors to warn the occupants of intruders.

The school, if ever there was one, would come later, once they were finished with the basics of the base.

“What do we have, Storm?”

“Two wizards on brooms. They were following an owl, but the owl seems to have lost its way. They showed up on the infrared camera about four minutes ago.”

“Can you pick them on the long range camera?” Logan asked.

“I'm panning the camera around now.”

A moment later two figures came into view, each sitting on a broom. Nearby, an owl flew around in circles, hooting in distress.

“Zoom in on them, Storm. Let's see if we can get a face shot.”

Logan moved closer to the monitor, examining the picture. “I think one is a woman,” he said quietly.

“It appears so,” Storm agreed. “Aren't those Death Eater robes?”

“Could be. But neither is wearing a mask.”

Logan reached around Storm and flipped a few switched on a console. A speaker crackled and then the sound of a phone ringing was heard.

“Hello?” asked a sleepy voice after nearly a minute of ringing.

“Hey, One Eye,” Logan said loudly.

“Do you have any idea of what time it is?” grumbled Scott.

“Yeah. Funny thing though? It's just as early down here as it is up at that fancy magical school. Look, I ain't callin' to interrupt your beauty sleep or because I miss you. We have a couple wizzies floating around the edge of those award things. I don't think they can find the castle, but we managed to get a photo of them. I'm sending the photo to your phone now.”

Hundreds of miles to the north Scott sat up in bed and watched the photo download to his phone. Once it was finished he saved the image to the phone's memory. “I don't recognize them, Logan, but they look like Death Eaters.”

“I told you we should install some SAMs,” Logan complained, Storm rolled her eyes at his comment.

Scott shook his head. “Right, like Professor Xavier will really let us install surface to air missiles at the castle. Listen, let me go see if I can find someone to ID these people.”

“All right. Call us back,” Logan said, then he cut the circuit.

“Let's keep an eye on them, Storm. I don't think I like this.”

Logan picked up a headset and pushed a button. “Professor? I'm sorry to wake you, but we have a situation developing here.” He paused. “Right, we'll see you in a few minutes.”

Hogwarts, McGonagall's Quarters...

Scott had a problem. He had dressed and left Jean still sleeping and quickly found himself standing in front of the entrance to Dumbledore's office with no idea how to get in. Every time he'd been to the office previously, either Jean was able to extend the stairs or they were already in place. He did know the gargoyle that ran the stairs was password protected and the password was always the name of a candy.

Frustrated, he stormed off in the direction of the only source of help he knew he could reach.

Minerva McGonagall hurriedly put on her robe. “I'm coming!” she shouted at the incessant knocking.

“This had better be an emergency or so help me I'm going to turn someone into a pillow for my bed!” she grumbled, then she wrenched open her door.

“WHAT?” she exclaimed, then she blinked in surprise. “Mr. Summers?”

Scott looked very embarrassed. “Professor, I'm sorry for waking you, but I need someone to look at something and the Headmaster is locked in his office. You're the only one who may be able to help, unless I blow the gargoyle to bits,” he said with a tinge of annoyance.

Minerva frowned. She, too, had her own share of irritation at Albus over his gargoyle. “Come in, Mr. Summers,” Minerva said. “Tell me what is so wrong it couldn't wait until the morning.”

Minerva ushered Scott into a modest sitting room. She sat down on a chair. He sat down across from her on the couch and reached into his pocket. He pulled his phone, opened it and set it to display the image Logan had sent him.

Minerva's eyebrows rose seeing the small color display. She had seen Harry, Jean and the others operating electronics in the castle and had been impressed, but this was the first time she had seen any of it up close.

“Logan called me. We have two people on brooms skirting the edges of our island. According to Logan, they were following an owl that seems to be lost and highly distressed.”

He slid the phone across the coffee table between the two of them. “Logan managed to get a picture of them. Can you identify them?”

She blinked and hesitantly leaned in to examine the tiny image. Shaking her head, she reached into the pocket of her robe. Pulling out her glasses, she put them on and the image cleared. “The Carrows,” she muttered, then looked up at him. “These are Amycus and Alecto Carrow. They're wanted Death Eaters, murderers and very dangerous. If you wish, I'll call the Aurors for you.”

She paused when he shook his head. He reached over and picked up the phone. After a moment he spoke.

“Logan? Scott. Your visitors are named Carrow, Amycus and Alecto. They're wanted Death Eaters and highly dangerous.”

He listened for a moment, then sighed. “All right. I don't like it, but I agree it needs to be done. If Storm won't do it, use one of the Jump Jets. One high speed pass should unseat them. Keep me informed. Scott out.”

He snapped the phone closed and smiled weakly at Minerva. “I'm afraid Voldemort is about to lose two more of his people. All in all, it's been a bad week for him. Logan should call back soon.”

Minerva conjured some tea for both of them. “I take it your Mr. Logan is going to kill them?” she said distastefully.

“There really isn't much we can do, Professor,” Scott replied in an apologetic tone. “We don't have your magic and they know roughly where our base is. If Storm won't knock them from the sky, then Logan will.”


Scott smiled. “Another of our X-Men, Professor. Professor Xavier found her in a west African city. She was stealing to live. He brought her back to the school and now she's one of our best teachers. She's called Storm because she can control the weather. If she wanted to, she could pelt them with hail the size of a Quaffle.”

Minerva blinked at Scott in surprise. “The weather!” she exclaimed, then her eyes narrowed. “Do all your X-Men come from similar backgrounds?”

He nodded. “It's probably one of the reasons why Harry fit in so well with us. Most of us have no family to speak of. And most of us can relate to how he grew up. I was effectively blind until I met the Professor. He spent the money to have my visor built. Storm was starving and didn't know how to read. Jean lost her family, and Logan doesn't even know if that's his real name. Harry came into that and we did what we normally do. We rallied around him, protecting and supporting him.

“Jean doesn't want him to grow to be an X-Man, but no matter what he does grow into, he'll always be part of the X family.”

Minerva nodded and sipped her tea. She was glad that Harry finally had people that put him first. It was something he needed badly.

Blackmoor Castle, in the English Channel...

Xavier entered the main control room and glanced at the screen. As much as Logan wanted to kill the two intruders, he didn't dare do it without at least talking to the old man.

“Scott identified these two as Death Eaters?” he asked softly.

“Yes, Professor. He said they're wanted by the authorities and considered extremely dangerous,” Logan replied.

Xavier closed his eyes, concentrating on the pair. They were outside of the wards, but that put them nearly two miles away. It was a very long distance for him to control one, let alone two people. Finally, he opened his eyes and shook his head. “I cannot control them from this distance. But I did discover they are looking for me. The owl they were following hit the owl confusion ward Harry told me about and got lost.

“They have orders to bring me before Voldemort, after killing everyone else in the castle. I suspect they think that will convince me to switch to their side,” Xavier said.

Logan growled. “What can we do about them? They know roughly where we are. We can't let them leave here. Too bad they're not near the dragon. They'd make a tasty snack for the critter.”

Storm looked at Logan and shuddered. She had seen the dragon from a distance and the creature frightened her. She felt that anything with that many teeth wasn't natural. Being non-magical, she was unable to hear the dragon when she spoke to her.

Xavier nodded reluctantly. “Storm?”

The woman turned to look at Xavier. “Are you sure, Professor?”

“I would not ask if I could do it myself.”

She nodded and her she looked at the monitor for a moment.

Outside the castle a strong wind whipped in the direction of the Death Eaters still circling behind the owl.

The wind flattened against the water and started whipping around in a circular motion. In seconds, the water spout was a hundred feet tall and barreling down on the two shocked Death Eaters. Alecto screamed and her broom caught the leading edge of the vortex. She pivoted and the broom was sucked in.

Amycus could scarcely believe his eyes. One moment she was there, and the next moment she was gone! He had time to inhale, the beginnings of a shout before the vortex pulled him in.

Amycus had the sensation of intense spinning before he mercifully blacked out. His body was carried high in the vortex while the crushing centrifugal forces stopped the flow of blood in his body. Then, to add insult to injury, tons of sand and rock, sucked up from the seabed floor pummeled and scoured the body until little of it remained recognizable as a being human.

Logan turned away from the monitor with a pleased smile. He flipped a switch on the panel and waited.

Hogwarts, McGonagall's Quarters...

Scott and Minerva talked pleasantly for a while. She was rather curious about him and his relationship with Jean. Scott catered to her curiosity, since she seemed mainly concerned that he would somehow interfere with Jean learning magic. He did his best to allay her fears in that regard.

His phone beeped. “Excuse me a moment, Professor,” he said, then he opened the phone.

“Logan? What's the status?”

His expression grew set and he nodded. “All right, I'll pass the word. Thanks.”

He closed his phone and slipped it into a pocket. “Well, I was right, Voldemort just lost two more followers. Professor Xavier said they were there to force him into cooperating with Voldemort. They were supposed to kill everyone else in the castle, then drag him before Voldemort.”

Minerva's lips tightened and she nodded unhappily.

Scott watched her carefully. “You disapprove, Professor?”

She placed her cup on it's saucer then put that on the table. “No,” she replied heavily. “I suppose it's necessary. That doesn't mean I like the idea of killing. I know that the Headmaster will not approve of killing Death Eaters.”

Scott shrugged. “I can understand that point of view. But I, for one, am glad Harry killed those two Death Eaters. And the same can be said for the two that tried to find our base tonight. They will never kill again.”

He paused for a moment, then he continued speaking. “Harry saved three lives that day, two goblins and his own. I wish he hadn't had to kill, but I'd rather not lose a son that I've only recently gained. He's become very special to me.”

Minerva smiled. “You are an interesting man, Mr. Summers. I daresay Harry will do well with you and Jean raising him. How is he coping with what happened?”

“He's dealing with it, Professor. Jean is keeping an eye on his emotional state, and so is that little red head who's so fond of him,” he replied with a grin.

“Yes, Ginny Weasley is quite persistent.”

Scott stood. “Will you talk to the Headmaster and let him know what has happened?”

She nodded. “I will, in the morning.” She looked at him over the frame of her glasses. “For now, however, I intend to return to my bed. And I'd suggest you do the same, Mr. Summers.”

He smiled. She sounded remarkably like his ninth grade algebra teacher. “Yes, Ma'am. Good night. And thank you for your help, and for the tea.”

Malfoy Manor...

The loss of the Carrows was noted by only a few people.

Harry was satisfied with the outcome. It proved to him once and for all that his family would do what it took to protect themselves.

Dumbledore had been upset by their deaths, which he felt was unnecessarily harsh. He wasn't happy with Harry, either. The deaths of LeStrange and Malfoy senior created holes in Voldemort's inner circle and Dumbledore was concerned about who would replace them. He had spoken to Harry very firmly about refraining from using deadly force the next time he fought.

Harry's response was a less than politely worded suggestion concerning self gratification and a notice that it was his war, not Dumbledore's and Harry would do what ever it took to survive it. Needless to say, Dumbledore was not pleased. Nor was Jean, but only for Harry's use of language. Logan, had he been present, would have been proud of the vocabulary Harry had picked up from him.

The other person upset about the loss of the Death Eaters was Voldemort. Bellatrix was his bed warmer for those few times he felt the inclination, and Lucius was a major source of money. He lost access to that money and would have to live without it until Draco reached his majority, in nine months time.

“I want the goblins punished!” screamed Voldemort at his assembled Death Eaters. “And find Alecto and Amycus!”

Snape shivered and prostrated himself like the others, while Voldemort handed out Cruciatus curses like they were Halloween candy corn.

“Snape!” the Dark Lord snarled.

He lifted his head and thanked himself for having the sense to relieve himself before the meeting started.

He scuttled forward. “My lord?”

“What does Dumbledore know about this?”

Snape shivered. “Not much, my lord. I suspect that Dumbledore has lost faith in my services. He rarely tells me what is going on anymore and I find myself often omitted from meetings.”

Voldemort's eyes narrowed and burned redly. “For your sake, I suggest you find a way of reestablishing your position with him. I have little use for those who cannot perform their duties.”

Snape bowed his head. “I will, my lord.”

Voldemort paused. “I think it's obvious that the Carrows have failed in their mission to procure the services of the mutants. Perhaps more direct action will be required.”

“My lord?”

“Perhaps we can garner the attention of this Xavier by stealing Potter's new mother,” the Dark Lord mused.

Snape grinned and stared at the floor. Stealing the mudblood bitch would devastate Potter and she looked enough like her sister that perhaps the Dark Lord would let him play with her.

“You are magnificent, my lord,” he murmured.

Voldemort looked up and frowned at him. “Get back to that castle and earn your keep, spy, lest I lose my patience and decide to destroy you utterly!”

In terror, Snape bounced to his feet and stumbled from the room. It would be another hour before he calmed down enough to know he had soiled himself, despite his precautions.

“Send for Wormtail,” Voldemort commanded. “I have need of his services.

“Parkinson, you will withdraw your daughter from that school. If she is to take Bella's place, she must begin her training,” he added.

Otis Parkinson bowed deeply. “You honor my family, my lord. I will withdraw her immediately.”

Voldemort nodded and continued to issue orders. The time was coming close for them to strike and strike hard against those fools following the Ministry and Dumbledore.

The Room of Requirement, Hogwarts (mid November)...

Harry stood in the room, looking around in confusion. “What is this, Hermione?” he asked. Around them, the room was a jumble of junk, books and other items.

“I'm not sure,” she replied uncertainly. “I asked the room to show me what Malfoy was doing and this is what it gave me.”

Harry groaned and Ginny looked at him with concern.

“Why didn't I think of that?”

Ginny slipped her hand in his and he smiled ruefully at her, while Hermione looked on smugly.

“All right so what among this trash is Draco playing with?” Neville asked. He looked around dubiously.

Harry's eyes took on an eerie glow and he looked around the room carefully. “There is so much magic here it's hard to make it all out.”

“You can see magic?” Ginny asked in surprise.

He nodded. He wasn't keeping secrets from his friends any longer. He hadn't told them about his main mutant talent yet, but he had stopped hiding his magical abilities.

Hermione shook her head and stared at him. It irked her that he was so talented in magic and so deficient in the theory, and seemed to have no interest in learning it.

Harry walked down one of the corridors, glancing at objects. Many glowed with magic, but he was certain that whatever he was looking for, would jump out at him when he saw it.

Ginny followed, fingering objects, checking books and other items trying to see if there was something that Malfoy could be using, like a book of spells. Her attention was drawn to a strange looking globe that pulsated and glowed if she held up a hand to it and then she walked into Harry's back.

She fell on her bum and looked up at him in annoyance. “Warn a girl, will you?” she said.

He grinned and offered her a hand up. “Sorry, Ginny. It's just that I think I might have found what we're looking for.”

She bounced to her feet and peered around him at the small pile of lumber, some tools and a partially assembled cabinet. It didn't make any sense to her.

“Hermione!” Harry called. “Over here! I think I found it.”

Then he did something she never would have expected. He moved behind her and pulled her into a hug from behind, resting his cheek on the top of her head. She couldn't help but smile and revel in the warmth and strength she felt in his arms. She felt safe, and loved in his embrace.

She turned in his arms, wrapping her own arms around him, and snuggled as close as she could without removing his clothes and slipping under his skin.

“Hem hem.”

Both looked up at Hermione and Neville, who were grinning at them.

“Don't do that, Hermione!” complained Ginny. “I about died.”

Neville chuckled at them and Hermione laughed, then looked around. “What did you find, Harry?”

He released Ginny and walked over to the pile of planks and the partially assembled back piece. “Each piece of wood has a thin tendril of magic that extends out of the room in the same direction,” he said, then he nudged the partially assembled piece with his foot. “This assembled portion has a single, thicker tendril of magic shooting off of it. It is as if the tendrils of the pieces have been combined.”

Then he turned pointed to the hammer. “Finally, there is a residual magical signature on the handle of that hammer. I can't say for sure it's Malfoy's, but its fresh, probably less than two days old. And we know that Malfoy was in here last night.”

“Looks like a cabinet or a wardrobe,” commented Neville. “A big one. I have a similar wardrobe at home that is big enough to walk in.”

Hermione pursed her lips and looked around at the mess on the floor. “I think we might have caught a break here. At the rate he's putting this together, it will take him months to finish it. That gives me time to try to figure out what it is.”

“Not too much time, Hermione,” Ginny warned. “This can't be good.”

Hermione pulled a sheet of parchment and looked for a flat surface to use.

“What are you doing Hermione?” asked Harry.

“I was going to sketch this so I could refer to it when I was researching it,” she replied as if it were obvious.

“Wizards,” Harry muttered. It had become an epitaph for him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his mobile phone. He opened it and aimed at the mess on the floor. Ginny and Neville stared at him like he was crazy and Hermione suddenly grinned. He took nearly a dozen shots of the material before looking up again. “My mum has a color printer on the computer in her classroom. We can print these there.”

“Harry,” Ginny said uncertainly. “How can your phone take pictures?” She had been rather pleased with herself, she knew about the mobile phone and what it could do, but now he was making it do things she didn't understand.

“It's a phone and a camera,” Hermione explained. “It takes a muggle type still photo. I can even use it for video.”

“So, muggle photos don't move?” Neville asked.

“Not normally, but give it a few years and they probably will,” Harry replied as he moved around the mess on the floor snapping photos.

Harry grinned and aimed the phone at Ginny and pressed a button, then he turned it around so she could see herself on the small screen. Neville and Ginny clustered around the small screen and Harry looked over to Hermione, who rolled her eyes at him.

He closed the phone and motioned for them to move down the corridor to the exit. Harry smiled to himself. He hadn't solved the Malfoy mystery yet, but he was one step closer.

Hogwarts Library (third week in November)...

Hermione sat with a pile of books surrounding her. Nearby were the printed photos Harry had taken of the pile of lumber, and there was also a line drawing provided by Harry's dad, Mr. Summers, of what he suspected Draco was making. The drawing was precise and listed the dimensions involved. To no one's surprise, looked remarkably like the wardrobe Neville had suggested it might be.

She bowed her head and sighed, her concentration lost. Neville. Just the mention of his name was enough to distract her from her researching. His marks had improved dramatically this year. He had started running and exercising with Harry in the mornings, including some rudimentary self defense. As a result, he had become much more confident than he had been in previous years. He suddenly had an intensity about him that hadn't seemed to exist before.

She knew that part of his confidence came from Harry showing him that he wasn't a bad wizard, as he'd originally thought he was. The rest was all Neville.

She shook her head and turned a page, trying to push the distraction out of her mind, until that distraction showed up in the flesh.


She jumped and looked up at him in surprise. “Erm... Hi?”

He smiled at her. “Can we talk?”

Dumbly she nodded and he took a chair not far from hers and turned it so he could face her.

“I was talking to Harry and he said I should muster my Gryffindor courage,” he said softly, then he grinned at her confusion. He raked a hand through his hair in a gesture he had picked up from Harry. “Merlin, this is harder than I thought it would be. But... well... I like you.”

He leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath.

She smiled shyly at him while her insides were fluttering wildly. “You do?” she said, then blushed. She squeaked those words out. After she had lost interest in Ron, she had thought she'd never have any sort of relationship while in school. She had briefly considered Harry, but he was more her brother than a romantic interest.

To her surprise, her interest in Neville started to peak as he became more assertive. Between the lessons he received from Jean, and the workouts he partook in, he was really coming into his own. The days of shy, uncommunicative Neville were quickly becoming a thing of the past.

He nodded and waited for some kind of a reply. When she said nothing, he squirmed slightly. “I know I'm not Harry, or even Ron. I'm not very athletic or very smart, like you...”

She reached out and pressed a finger against his lips, stopping him. “You don't have to be those things, Neville,” she said softly. “Just be yourself, loyal and true to your friends.”

“Will you join me during the next Hogsmeade weekend we have?”

She smiled softly and nodded. “I think I'd like that very much.”

Neville smiled widely and he leaned a little closer. He reached out and touched her hand. She turned it over, slipping her fingers between his. She couldn't explain it, but it felt very right.

They sat quietly for a few moments, looking at each other, before Neville finally nodded toward the books she had piled up.

“How goes your research?”

She sighed and released his hand. She spread out the photos on the table. “Not well. There are so many things this could be. Mr. Summers gave me a drawing of what he thought it might look like, once it was assembled,” she replied as she slid the drawing toward him.

Neville picked it up and frowned.

“What?” she pressed.

He looked up from the drawing. “Do you remember the cabinet that the Weasley twins pushed Montague into last year?”

Hermione blinked and turned to her books. “A vanishing cabinet. Can it be that simple?”

“It's not just a vanishing cabinet, Hermione. They usually have a mate somewhere,” Neville told her.

She looked at him in surprise, then thumbed through a book until she found the entry she was looking for.

“So it's not really a vanishing cabinet. A cabinet and it's mate are connected. It's a kind of portal!” she exclaimed after reading the entry. She nibbled on her lip worriedly. “Why would Malfoy be working on that?”

Neville scowled. “Because it's a way in that bypasses the school wards, that's why.” He could already see the danger.

She nodded grimly. “I think we should take this to show Harry and the others.”

He nodded and stood, while she gathered up her notes and the book that described the cabinet, then she did something that surprised them both. She moved closer and kissed his cheek.

“I think you're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for, Neville.”

He blushed and looked down.

Muggle Studies Class, (Later that day)...

When Hermione announced she had a lead on what Malfoy was doing, Harry suggested they all meet in the Muggle Studies class. He knew that Dumbledore was aware of the Room of Requirement and he didn't want to tip off the old man, so he kept changing the locations of where they met.

It was a small group, consisting of Harry and his friends, the Head Girl, Cho Chang of Ravenclaw, and the Head Boy Keith Bundy from Hufflepuff. Harry included Luna and Ron in the group, but he had privately warned Ron that one misstep would result in dire consequences. Luna had laughed at that and firmly told Harry that she'd keep Ron in line.

Also present were Jean and Scott. Harry debated about bringing Hagrid into the picture, but he opted not to include him in everything. Hagrid was his friend, but he couldn't keep a secret to save his life.

“So, let's take this from the top. Cho? Keith? How are the students doing?”

The pair shared a look and Keith motioned for her to speak. She turned to look at Harry, noting that Ginny stood next to him and that the two were holding hands.

“Most of the students we can trust have been told, Harry. Others that we feel are questionable have just been told that there is a nonspecific threat against the school. As a result, at least two upper class students are escorting the first and second years. The third and fourth years are traveling together.”

She paused and consulted a parchment. “There's only been one incident so far. Two first year Hufflepuffs were attacked by four fifth year Slytherins. They were stunned by Dean Thomas and Ernie McMillan and left in the hallway for Filch to find. When you asked that we do not do anything just yet, we passed the word to stick with stunners for now.”

Harry nodded, pleased with what he heard. The school was organizing right under Dumbledore's nose and he didn't have a clue.

“Anything else?” asked Harry.

“Yeah,” replied Keith, the only Canadian in the school. His father was a member of the Canadian Embassy staff. “My father says he's heard that Umbridge has been sentenced to fifteen years in Azkaban, but most of the charges were dropped. The only charge that stuck was one concerning her attacking a student in front of Auror witnesses.”

Jean almost growled.

Scott frowned at the noises his wife was trying not to make and glanced at Harry questioningly.

Harry could only shrug in reply. It was typical of the wizarding world, and a classic illustration of what was wrong with it.

Hermione and Ginny shared a distressed look. Both knew that every time something like this happened, Harry lost a little more respect for wizards.

“Thanks, Keith,” Harry replied with a grateful nod. “As you all know, I've been curious about what Draco Malfoy has been doing in the Room of Requirement. A few days ago, several of us got into the room to see what he was doing. We found what looks like a disassembled cabinet, or rather, a partially assembled cabinet. And it looks like Malfoy is putting it together. That's the bad news. The good news is Malfoy is not a carpenter and it looks like his rate of progress is going to be very slow.

“Now, Hermione has been looking into what this cabinet does and she thinks she found the answer.”

Harry motioned to Hermione, who stood and walked to the front of the room.

She held up a picture and with a wave of her wand, expanded it. Scott walked over to help hold one side, then Neville stood and went to hold the other. She smiled gratefully at both of them.

“This is one half of a mated pair of vanishing cabinets. It is patterned after the old muggle magician vanishing cabinet, except that the muggle cabinet hid things with trickery. These vanishing cabinets are actually tied portals. Step into one cabinet and you can come out in the other. The cabinets were first invented in the 1700's, and are identical to the ones used to access Narnia, except these don't perform a transdimensional shift.

“Neville reminded me that with a mated pair of these, you could move between some unknown location and Hogwarts, without triggering the wards. It would be possible to sneak a small army into the castle and no one would know before hand that it had happened.”

She paused and looked around for a moment, then she pulled out her wand and started tracing numbers and symbols in the air. “I've worked out the Arithmantic equations to try to get a feel for the range of these things. If my estimates are correct, the distance is on the order of nearly two hundred miles. The mate could be nearly anywhere in Wales, Scotland or England.”

Cho and Luna, who was sitting in the back, next to Ron, frowned as they examined the equations.

“Your equation is incorrect, Hermione. You misstepped in the second transform by a factor,” Luna said.

Cho looked again at the equation and slowly nodded. These things had a range of thousands of miles. Hermione looked stricken and she stared down at her feet.

“It's not a problem, Hermione. You can't be expected to know everything. Besides, you've had barely a day to work on this. I'm sure you would have found the error when you double checked your work,” Luna offered. “Besides, it's Monday. Everyone knows that Mondays are bad days for Arithmancy, due to the influence of the Lunar Mites.”

Everyone blinked and turned to look at her, but she seemed unconcerned by their scrutiny.

Hermione shook her head, then turned and shrank down her photo, taking it from Neville, then she faced the rest of them.

“What are our options?” asked Harry.

She began to tick them off. “We could destroy the pieces, but that would tip off Malfoy. We could do nothing...”

“Yeah and come in one day to find the room full of Death Eaters,” Cho muttered darkly.

Hermione nodded to her. “Yes. Not a pleasant thought. We could finish the cabinet ourselves and booby trap it.”

“Booby trap?” asked Ron. Normally, he sat quietly in these meetings, just grateful to be included. His relationship with Harry had mended somewhat. Harry included Ron again in their group, but he was cautious around him, as though he expected Ron to turn on him again. For his part, Ron understood that and had promised that he'd die before deliberately hurting Harry again. His actions had cost him far too much and he recognized that.

“A Muggle term, Mr. Weasley,” said Jean. “It means to do something to the cabinet that will cause bad things to happen to anyone using it. The term boob, in this reference, means an embarrassing mistake, because the trap should have been seen as at least a possibility and avoided.”

Ron sat silent for a moment. “Booby trap,” he muttered. “I like it!”

Luna leaned over and patted him on the hand. Ginny snickered behind her hand and Hermione rolled her eyes at him.

“We can't finish the cabinet without showing our hand to Malfoy. What if we knew where the cabinet's mate was? Would that make a difference to what we decide to do?” asked Harry.

Scott scowled. “Actually, it might make quite a difference. Knowing the location would also give us a chance to perhaps find their base,” he mused.

“How would you figure out that, Harry?” asked Hermione. “You can't use Arithmancy to locate it, and even if you do locate it, it might be unplottable and hidden.”

He grinned at her, then turned to Scott. “Do you think I can borrow a map, a compass and one of those portable GPS units? I'll only need an hour, at best, but someone will have to make sure that Malfoy doesn't come near the room until I come out.”

Scott grinned. With Harry's mutant abilities and his mage sight, he would be able to triangulate on the other location.

“I can find out his schedule, or I'm sure Argus has a bathroom that needs cleaning,” Jean murmured with an evil gleam in her eye.

“I'll have what you need by tomorrow, Harry. I'll call Logan and have him fly up with them.”

Harry nodded. “All right. Unless there is something else to talk about, we're done here.”

Late Night, Gryffindor Common room...


“Yes, Hermione?” he replied softly. He sat on one of the couches thumbing through one of his Muggle textbooks. Ginny was in her pajamas and robe, curled up against his side. She was dozing lightly and he didn't want to disturb her.

“You never explained how you plan on finding out where the mated cabinet is.”

He nodded, feeling Ginny stirring as the conversation became interesting enough to attract her attention. She was warm against his side and he felt strangely protective of her.

“It's simple mathematics, really. I can see the flow of magic, and it points to a particular direction. I'll take one piece of wood, and note the direction the flow goes. Then I'll move, say a hundred miles and note the new direction. When you draw a line from those two points they will intersect at the location of the mated cabinet.”

“But even with your jet it will take more than an hour to take those measurements,” Hermione protested. She leaned forward on the couch. Ginny and Harry both noted that Hermione held Neville's hand.

“My jet is faster than most commercial airliners, so there's no reason why I can't use it. I suppose I could apparate, I have an international license for it. But that would mean leaving the wards of the school and by now I'm sure that old fool upstairs has adjusted them to tell him when I leave.”

“So you have another way of leaving the castle that he can't detect,” Neville mused.

Harry grinned. “Cheers, mate. I knew you'd suss it out first.”

Ginny craned her neck upwards so she was looking into his eyes. He swallowed nervously since this was giving him a spectacular view. “I don't understand.”

He tore his eyes from the view and resisted the urge to swoop down and nibble on her neck. “It's my talent. I'm a teleporter.”

Hermione, being familiar with the term nodded slowly. “You can move yourself around then? That can be handy.”

Harry nudged Ginny into a sitting position and she pouted at him, but he stood and faced his friends. “No, you don't understand the implications. Because there is a lot of power behind my talent, it's given me several unique abilities, all under the aspects of teleportation.”

He phased until they could clearly see the fireplace behind him. Ginny turned white and gasped. He smiled reassuringly at her. “I call this phasing and the best way I can describe it is that I'm not really here. It's the first step in the teleporting process. When I'm phased, I can take a direct hit from a killing curse and the only effect is that it makes me tired. I can cast spells in this state, or walk through a wall.”

He phased back into normal space and Ginny immediately stood and ran her hands down his arms as if to make sure he was really there.

“What else can you do?” asked Neville. Hermione sat silently next to him, but Neville's fingers were white from her grip.

“I can teleport things to me,” he replied slowly. Their reaction hurt him. Ginny seemed to be unsure, almost wary of him and Hermione sat speechless.

He looked at Ginny, who had stepped away from him and was staring at him like she was only now seeing him.

After a minute of silence from his friends he sighed heavily. “I see,” he said. “I guess being a mutant does make a difference.”

He started to turn, his eyes burned with tears. Tears that he didn't want to give them the pleasure of seeing. Suddenly he was engulfed from the side by a red blur who latched onto him, holding him tightly.

“No!” gasped Ginny. “It doesn't matter!”

Hermione hugged him from behind. “You surprised us, Harry, that's all. Since you were hurt, you've hinted around the edges of it, but you've never come out and said exactly what your talent was.”

“We never expected it to be... to be...”

“I think the word Ginny is groping for is cool,” murmured Hermione.

Ginny nodded against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her. “I'm sorry. It's a hard habit to break. I'm used to people rejecting me. The Dursleys did it...”

“Them!” growled Neville to Harry's surprise. “Mate, I'd rather be compared to a Death Eater than those people. In fact, from the tales I've heard, they could have been the muggle version of Death Eaters.”

Ginny reached up and wiped away the tears that streaked his cheeks. He leaned into her caress for a moment.

“We're sorry we gave you the wrong impression, Harry,” Neville said. “Like Hermione said, I think you caught us by surprise. I'm not sure exactly if cool is good, but what you can do is brilliant.”

Hermione released him, but Ginny held on and an easy silence descended on them.

“You can go just about anywhere, right, Harry?” asked Ginny.

He nodded, and was surprised when she released him. “I'll be right back,” she said, then she turned and dashed up the stairs to the girls dorm.

He glanced over at Neville and Hermione, who had returned to the couch. They could only shrug, as mystified by her behavior as he was.

A minute later she returned to the common room carrying two boxes. She placed them on the table in front of the fireplace and knelt down, opening one box. She pulled out a red orb that seemed to be made of glass. Inside, a gas swirled ominously.

“What is that?” asked Hermione.

The orb hummed malevolently and quivered in Ginny's hands.

“I was just thinking that maybe Harry would like to demonstrate his ability. And it would give me a chance to try out these new thundering dung bombs Fred and George made.” She tilted her head slightly and a smile tugged at her lips. “Someplace sacrosanct, like Snape's quarters.”

Harry chuckled. “Do you want me to do it, or do you want to come along?”

“You can terliport other people?” Ginny asked in surprise.

He grinned in reply. “It's teleport and yes. Just remember the one cardinal rule. Never let go of me until I say it's safe to do so.”

Hermione and Neville looked intrigued by this. Harry opened the other box and removed the other dung bomb. He cradled it in one arm and wrapped his free arm around Ginny.

“What's the other bomb for? One of these is enough to will fill up Snape's quarters,” she asked.

“You'll see,” he replied with a wink, then the two vanished, leaving behind only a puff of smoke.

“Merlin!” Hermione exclaimed.

Neville chuckled and shook his head. “Leave it to Harry.”

She glanced over at him and smiled weakly. Harry's abilities had startled her. She turned to speak with him and found herself staring into his eyes. He was watching her intently, as if every motion she made was important.

Neville started to lean closer to her and she leaned towards him. She closed her eyes and their lips barely brushed against each other when Harry and Ginny appeared with a small puff of smoke.

“That is the wildest... Oh! Oops!” Ginny said with a giggle.

Hermione and Neville pulled apart instantly and both blushed deep red.

“Erm... I had something in my eye,” Hermione exclaimed, then she flinched. As lame excuses went, it ranked up there pretty high.

“No, you had your lips pressed against Neville's,” Harry replied dryly. “I don't think that's an appropriate position for an eye related problem.”

The castle shook under their feet and Ginny started laughing so hard she had to lean against Harry. A few seconds later the castle shook again.

Hermione eyed the pair suspiciously. “All right, one bomb went to Snape's quarters.” It was a measure of her newly acquired mistrust of the facility that she only called a few of the staff by their title anymore. “But where did you drop the other one?”

“Malfoy's room, right under his bed,” Harry answered.

The four friends looked at each other for a moment, then began to laugh.

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