Content Harry Potter
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Scene II, Act III.:

Harry, and Ron sit in desks on the stage. Alyx walks up to the center stage and reads from an index card.

"We acknowledge the almighty and august majesty of JK Rowling and offer up the following sacrifice in her honor! These Characters belong to her! NOT US!"

Luna steps out from behind the curtain wearing a g-string bikini and walks up to Ron. "You’ve been picked Ron, come with me."

Ron follows Luna to a white metal column where she ties him to the column, then she playfully squeezes his crotch once. Ron’s eyes glaze over in lust.

Harry presses a button on his desk and there’s a loud roaring noise as the metal column that Ron is tied to slowly begins to rise. Ron looks around in panic as his feet leave the ground.

Hermione dances across the stage wearing tassels and a pair of daisy duke shorts, as she dances she sings to Ron. "Fly me to the moon…"

Harry snickers as the rocket clears the launch pad, then he beckons Hermione over to check out her boosters.

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 15

Buckingham Palace…

"The Prime Minister, Your Majesty."

Queen Elizabeth turned from the window as the Prime Minister entered the library.   The room, not normally used for official business, was comfortable, but not opulent.   Not many knew, but the Queen preferred to do business in a relaxed atmosphere, rather than the normal formality tradition sometimes called for.

"Your Majesty," the Prime Minister said, bobbing his head politely to his queen.

"Mr. Blair," the Queen acknowledged warmly, as the door closed behind him. "I had not expected to see you again so soon.   May I assume you bring good news?"

"I believe so, Ma’am.   As you know, the Royal Family evacuating the country could very well cause a panic.   However, a grand tour to showcase the Crown Jewels may do very well as a cover story."

"A grand tour," Elizabeth mused.   "It is an interesting notion, but with the recent turmoil, won’t our departure seem rather suspicious?

"Perhaps.   But with no official word to say otherwise, all the public can do is guess.   And quite frankly, Ma’am, I’d rather have the Royal Family safe, regardless of what message it may send to the people."

"They are my subjects, Mr. Blair. I cannot just leave them to face the dangers to come," she said with some asperity.

"The government will do all that it can to safeguard the lives of the people, Ma’am," the Prime Minister said with a note of desperation in his voice.

"I’m sure that’s true, but if the Royal Family could remain in England during World War II, I see no reason why some of us cannot stay during this crisis. A crisis, I might add, that we are not even sure exists."

"I have it on very good authority, Ma’am.   I believe the danger to be very real, and that they have already begun," he told her.

"The business in Bristol and Liverpool?" Elizabeth asked. At his nod, she tapped a finger against her lower lip in thought.   "It fits with what you have told me thus far, but I still think it a bad idea for the entire Royal Family to flee.   I’ve discussed the situation with His Royal Highness and we are both in agreement.   The Family will leave, but the Duke and I will remain behind.   This way, the line of succession is protected, and the Royal Family is not seen in a bad light."

"Are you sure about this, Ma’am?" the Prime Minister asked, concerned. "Perhaps one of the younger…"

Elizabeth laughed.   "No, I don’t think so.   I have been on the throne for nearly fifty years, sir.   When my time comes, I will die on the throne, in England, not fleeing from the danger that now threatens my country."

She turned away from him then and looked out the window, watching the groundskeepers sweeping snow from the walks in the deepening gloom.   The grandfather clock in the corner struck the hour and a door down the hall closed loudly.

The Prime Minister watched the Queen and thought quickly, desperate to find a way of evacuating her with her family.   He knew she could be stubborn if she felt her course was the correct one to take, but he could not accept that she would place herself in harms way simply on principle.

"Ma’am," he began.

"How long until the plans for the grand tour are in place?" she asked him quietly, not looking way from the window.

"A month, Ma’am, perhaps a bit more."

"Very well, sir.   Make the arrangements for the grand tour.   The entire Royal Family, except the Duke and I, will leave the country as you suggest," she said, firmly.

"It will be as you say, Ma’am. But if I may suggest, when the tour begins, perhaps you and his Royal Highness should retire to Balmoral Castle," he said, closing his eyes in defeat. In his mind, he was already thinking about the possibilities of rescuing them from Balmoral. Perhaps a job for the SAS, if they haven’t already been compromised, he mused.

"We will consider it, sir," the Queen said, slipping back into the persona of the distant, cool monarch the public saw so often. "In the meantime, know we are not displeased with you. You have served our people faithfully and well."

Sending a Message…

Harry felt Hermione and McGonagall leave the room via the portkey he’d made. Then he focused his attention on finding Emma Granger. Even from this distance, he could feel her fear and pain. Harry had to fight the urge to make the leap right away. If need be, he could apparate right next to Emma. But he needed to try apparating to a location nearby rather than nearly on top of her.

His intent was a stealthy entrance. The ideal move would be to just grab the Grangers and apparate away. But if there was an anti-apparation ward in place where they were being held, he’d have to collapse the ward first and that would take time. Sure, he could apparate out of most anti-apparation wards, but tandem apparating? Not something he wanted to test tonight if he could help it.

Reaching out with his senses, he did his best to ignore the pain the Granger’s were feeling as he tried to learn more about their location. There are seven others with the Grangers, in a small room about sixty miles south of here, he thought.

Suddenly there was a flare of pain from one of the Grangers. Harry realized his options had dropped from several to one as one of the Grangers was undergoing a Cruciatus curse. He check his invisibility cloak one more time, then closed his eyes, his magic flared heavily and he vanished.

He appeared in a small bare room. Dan lay panting on the floor, his eyes glazed with pain and his arms and legs bound. Standing over him, a Death Eater had just finished casting the Cruciatus curse and was preparing to cast it again. Before the Death Eater could get his curse off, his head exploded in a shower of blood and gore from a soundless Reductor curse from Harry. He was pissed and not taking chances tonight.

Harry moved behind another Death Eater and fired another Reductor to the base of the man’s head, causing it to explode outward, and spraying the Grangers with blood and gore. In a panic, the remaining Death Eaters hurled several curses in Harry’s general direction. Most missed, but a Reductor that had hit the wall behind him peppered his back, legs and buttocks with wood splinters. His horntail vest saved him from all of the lethal fragments, but several very large splinters hit him in the lower back and legs. A few splinters were embedded in his buttocks and legs, but stood out enough from his flesh to give away his position under the cloak.

"It’s got to be Potter under an invisibility cloak," snarled Nott.   "ACCIO CLOAK!"

The damage was done. Harry didn’t lose his grip on the cloak, but it did shift enough to reveal more of him, so he quickly cast a full body shield. The shield was good for most spells, but would not stop an Unforgivable.

He moved to another spot and killed two more Death Eaters, blowing through their shield and hitting them with Reductor curses. Then he dropped his invisibility cloak and moved to place himself between the Death Eaters and the Grangers.

Nott turned to Dan Granger, who was still on the floor, and pointed his wand. "Avada Kedavra," he shouted.

Without thinking, Harry conjured a metal shield, strapped to his forearm, as he dove in front of Dan. The curse hit the shield and shattered against it. Harry bit back a groan as the impact of the Killing Curse against his shield broke his arm in several places. He screamed as he continued his roll, crushing his broken arm between his body and the floor. The shield broke in the roll and fell away.

With his good arm Harry hit Nott low in the belly with a cutting hex, neatly eviscerating him.

Nott screamed as ropy lengths of intestine and bowel exploded out of his belly, and then he collapsed, sitting atop his own entrails. In a daze, he tried weakly to scoop them back into his body. Harry quickly banished Nott’s wand before turned to the two remaining Death Eaters.

One of the two remaining Death Eaters dropped his wand in fear. Harry immediately turned to the other. He rolled again to avoid another killing curse and returned fire with a bludgeoning hex. It hit the man’s body, lifting off his feet and tossing him backwards like a rag doll.   The Death Eater crashed through a wall and slammed into a support beam, bending his spine with such force that it shattered. Bone fragments shot through his body at a tremendous speed, shredding his lungs and piercing his heart. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Harry slowly climbed to his feet and swayed slightly as he looked at the remaining Death Eater. He was in no mood for niceties. His arm, back and legs were throbbing in pain.

"Legilimens," Harry said, shoving the man’s shields aside and forcing his way into his mind.

"You will take a message to your Master," he told the Death Eater as he implanted the commands and poured power into the man through the link. The man collapsed to his knees, drooling and convulsing as Harry mercilessly continued his mental assault.

Two minutes later, Harry released Voldemort’s servant from his mental grip and the man slowly climbed to his feet and shuffled from the room. The Death Eater was a walking dead man. Harry had destroyed his center of consciousness, turning the man into a walking magical bomb.

The magic he had just performed had seriously weakened him and it would be a day or so before his magic was up to full strength again. He was drawing deeply on his reserves just to stay on his feet. He watched the retreating back of his walking bomb for a moment longer. A groan from behind him drew his attention back to the Grangers. Harry glanced at Nott, who lay nearby whimpering weakly, and decided he was no danger.

Harry turned and checked on Dan and Emma. Both seemed to be heavily dazed. Thankfully, most of the damage seemed to be solely from multiple Cruciatus curses, rough handling and their bindings, things that were easy to fix.

Harry stood in front of Emma and gasped in pain as he tried to kneel in front of the woman. He banished the ropes that bit cruelly into her wrists and ankles, tying her to the chair. Her clothing was mussed, but she seemed to have escaped any sexual torture and Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

"Mum? Come on Mum, you have to focus. I need your help," he urged Emma.

Emma shook her head painfully and her eyes slowly swam into focus. "Harry?" she asked wearily. Shock, both mental and physical, was beginning to affect all of them.

"Yes Mum, come on. I need your help. I can get us out of here, but I need you to help Dad. I’m going to take you home…to Hermione. Healer McNeil will be waiting for us."

"Hermione? Is Hermione alright, Harry?"

"Yes Mum, she’s at home. Please listen to me. We need to leave before others come. Help me with Dad, please," He urged her. She was still groggy from the ordeal and he needed her help to get them out.

"Dan’s hurt?" she asked, then she cried out as she saw Dan lying on the floor, his breath shallow and uneven. She slowly slid off the chair to kneel at his side. Harry banished the ropes on Dan, then he cast the strongest pain relieving charm he could think of on the both of them. Harry couldn’t afford to cast one on himself. He was low on energy and he needed to have his mind clear for a tandem apparate.

Harry knelt next to Emma. "We need to leave here now, Mum. I’ll take his hand, you grab…my shoulder, Mum."

Emma stared at him for a moment, confused.   He had two hands, so she wasn’t sure why she was supposed to grab his shoulder.

Harry reached out and grabbed Dan’s hand in his. Emma, without really thinking about it, grabbed Harry by the other hand. He moaned and broke out in a cold sweat. Spots danced before his eyes and he quickly closed them. Fighting to stay awake, he apparated with the two of them. There was an enormous snapping sound as they vanished and the walls of the room burst outwards.

Nott died as the roof of the building collapsed.

Grimmauld Place…

It had been Harry’s original intent to take the Grangers directly to their bedroom. But when Emma grabbed his broken arm, all thought fled in the wave of pain and the onset of shock. In such a case the body operated on instinct alone. Harry, Dan and Emma appeared in his bedroom at Grimmauld Place. Emma passed out on top of her husband and in doing so she released Harry’s hand. He swayed on his knees in relief and managed to get to his feet.

"Dobby," Harry whispered hoarsely.

There was a popping noise and then a gasping sound, then another popping sound. Harry couldn’t turn fast enough to see Dobby before the elf vanished again. He stood there confused, wondering where Dobby had gone.

Down in the living room on the first floor, Hermione had taken to pacing in front of the fireplace. Remus and Tonks sat nervously on one of the couches, while Amelia, Danni and Professor McGonagall sat on another couch. They had been waiting for Harry to show up for nearly an hour.

They all jumped when a popping sound startled them. Dobby appeared in front of Hermione, his ears drooping low and his hands twisting in his tea cozy. One huge tear fell from his huge eyes.

"Miss Hermione! Yous must come quicks. Master Harry and yous parents is hurts awful bad in Master Harry’s room."

Before Dobby had even finished talking, Hermione was sprinting up the stairs with Remus and Tonks hot on her heels. Hermione burst into Harry’s sitting room and continued on at a full run to the bedroom where she skidded to a halt.

Her parents were laying on the floor covered in blood. Harry stood facing away from her, his back was also covered in blood. Hermione put a hand to her mouth and froze, unsure whom to approach first. Remus and Tonks pushed by her and went to check her parents. That broke Hermione from her stasis and she went to her parents as well.

Danni entered the room next and gave Harry a quick glance. The fact that he was still standing reassured her, while the amount of blood on the Grangers was worrying. She dealt with them first. Harry’s back was bloody, but not to the extent of the Grangers. What they hadn’t realized was that the Grangers were covered in the blood of Death Eaters.

Danni ran a fast diagnostic spell on the Grangers then rocked back on her heels. "This isn’t their blood. Other than exhaustion, damage from being place under the Cruciatus curse and being bound, they’re fine," she said in disbelief, then she glanced sharply up at Harry. Remus cast a quick cleansing charm to clean away the blood from the two muggles.

Harry still hadn’t acknowledged their presence. Unbeknownst to the others, he was struggling to maintain consciousness and losing. His swaying had become more pronounced. Tonks stood, walked over to him and grabbed him by the arm. He made a moaning sound and slowly collapsed. Danni rushed to his side and started running diagnostics on him, while Tonks held him up by the shoulders.

"He’s got a severely broken arm and the blood on his back and legs is his. We need to get him onto the bed and undressed. Remus," she continued, snapping orders, "conjure two more beds for the Grangers and get them into bed. Then administer two doses of anti-Cruciatus potion, along with some pepper-up. Hermione, help Remus. The potions are in my bag. Get them. Nymph help me get Harry into bed."

In a short amount of time, Danni had brought order to the chaos. Dan and Emma were resting comfortably in the beds Remus had conjured, while Danni worked on removing over a hundred wooden splinters from Harry’s back. She had forced a bone mending potion and some blood-replenishing potion into him, and was trying to keep him asleep while she worked on him. McGonagall had charmed the room and blankets so the air had a touch of a chill and the blankets were warmed. Then she conjured a table and chairs so everyone could sit and wait for the injured to awaken.

Hermione sat between her parents, her gaze torn between them and Harry, who was on the bed at the far side of the room. It was less than an hour later when Emma woke up.

"Mum?" Hermione asked timidly. She had heard the story about Neville’s parents and was terrified her parents would suffer the same fate.

"Hi sweetie," Emma said looking up at her daughter.

Hermione grabbed her mother’s hand and wept with relief.

"Shh, Hermione, I’m fine. How’s your father?"

Professor McGonagall stepped up behind Hermione and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Healer McNeil says your husband’s fine, Mrs. Granger. He’s sleeping right now and should wake up in a short while. You’ll feel sore and uncomfortable for a few days, but the feeling will pass."

Emma laid her head back on the pillow and relaxed for a moment, and then her eyes sprang open. "HARRY! Where is he?" she asked, trying to sit up.

Hermione placed her hands against her mother’s shoulders and pushed her down on the bed gently.   "He’s going to be alright, Mum. He was hurt worse than either of you, but by tomorrow most of his injuries will be healed." She then glanced over at Danni who was still removing huge splinters from Harry’s back.

"Thank God! I thought I’d die when he jumped in front of that green spell they shot at your father. You should have seen him, sweetie. I’ve never seen anything like it."

Hermione gasped and whipped her head back to look at her mother. "Harry took another killing curse?" she asked horrified.

"No, I don’t think so.   A metal shield appeared, strapped to his arm. Harry jumped in front of the curse and the shield appeared just in time. It hit the shield and it sounded like a bell exploding. His shield shattered when the curse hit it," Emma said, then it hit her and she started to tremble in the bed. "That was a killing curse? He jumped in front of that curse aimed at your father? I could have lost Dan?"

Hermione sobbed and looked over at the prone form of Harry on the other bed. Danni bent over him and removed another splinter from his back. Emma, alerted by the sound of crying, watched her daughter intently. She could see Hermione was torn between staying with her parents and going to Harry. She reached up to caress her daughter’s cheek to let her know she understood. Hermione turned back to her mum and managed a watery smile.

"Mrs. Granger, your husband is alive, you are alive and Harry is alive. Concentrate on that for now," Amelia said softly. "You’re all very lucky to be here."

Emma closed her eyes tightly, trying to hold back the tears.   Before she could speak however, another voice broke in.

"Aye, if Mr. Potter conjured a shield to stop a killing curse, he performed a feat most wizards are not capable of performing." McGonagall looked over at the young man Danni was working on. "One hundred points to Gryffindor for conjuring, Mr. Potter. And another fifty points for Gryffindor bravery, although I’m tempted to subtract points for that instead," she murmured shaking her head in amazement.

Remus and Tonks snorted in amusement and even Hermione smiled.

"Concentrate on what? Oh man, did anyone get the number of that lorry? My head is killing me," announced a groggy Dan Granger.

Hermione squeaked and hurled herself at her father. He automatically wrapped his arms around her.

"Ouch, easy…Whoa…Calm down, Pumpkin. We’re fine now," he murmured into her hair. Dan looked up at Emma, who smiled back at her husband.

Still holding Hermione, Dan looked around the room in confusion. "Alright, can someone explain to me how I got here? Last I remember, I was on the floor in a strange place."

"It appears, Mr. Granger, that earlier today you and your wife were abducted from your office. I’m sorry to say that three of your employees were killed. Later, a note was sent to Harry Potter. In it, the kidnappers offered to free you both if Harry surrendered to them," Amelia offered quietly. "It seemed that Mister Potter had other ideas, however. After sending your daughter here to Grimmauld Place, he went off looking for you."

Dan looked at Emma and Hermione, the worry written on his face. Both nodded to him, confirming what Amelia was telling him. Leaning back against his pillows, he closed his eyes against the headache. "Thank God everyone’s alright," he breathed.

Danni looked up from removing the last of the splinters from Harry’s back. With all of them removed, she quickly sealed the remaining wounds and cleaned the blood off of him with a few spells. Then she walked over to her other two patients to check them out. After running a few tests she straightened up, smiling.

"By tomorrow afternoon this will be little more than a painful memory for both of you. The potions are working just fine," Danni said. Hermione smiled wanly at the healer, but the relief was evident in her eyes.

"What about Harry?" asked Tonks softly.

Danni frowned slightly and looked over at the bed where Harry lay sleeping. "His injuries were far more severe, but he’s responding very well. He broke his arm in four places, how I’m not sure. But that’s healing nicely and should be completely healed within the hour. I’ve removed the splinters in his back; there were quite a lot of them. When he wakes he’ll need more blood-replenishing potion. His magical reserves are depleted, but are returning at an astounding rate. I think he’ll be as good as new by noon tomorrow. I’m just curious how he managed to wrack up so much damage so quickly."

"He was protecting us," Emma whispered, then she turned to Hermione and chewed on her lip slightly. "I remember two Death Eaters exploding, then suddenly Harry was there, between us and the remaining five. One of them cast that Ava kedra…Advra krava…that green curse, and Harry dove in front of Dan, who was on the floor.   He continued fighting from the floor until there were no more to fight. I think I was in shock and he… he… he called me Mum," she said in a wondering tone. Hermione looked surprised for a moment, then she smiled gently at her mother.

A low moan was heard from Harry and everyone’s attention turned to him. Hermione looked at her parents, then over to Harry, then back to her parents, not knowing what she should do. Emma made the choice for her.   "Go to him, sweetie. We’re fine now, thanks to him," she said softly.

Hermione looked at her father, who nodded in agreement. She then jumped to her feet and quickly joined Tonks and Remus next to Harry’s bed. Remus helped Harry roll over onto his back and sit up. Tonks was about to conjure some pillows for him to lean against when Hermione solved the problem by sitting behind him and letting him lean against her. Danni gave him more blood-replenishing potion.   With a weak smile, he looked up at Danni and nodded gratefully.

Looking around, he noted Amelia’s presence. "Pensieve anyone?" he asked in a tired whisper. It was time to face the music.

Tonks produced a standard Auror’s witness Pensieve and helped Harry extract the memories. Then she handed the Pensieve to Amelia. Amelia looked ready to pocket the small Pensive when she paused and looked around at everyone.

"Harry would you mind if I run this through, here, for everyone to see?" she asked him.

"It’s easier if they see it than having me repeating the same story over and over again," he said softly. Hermione shifted slightly behind him, making him acutely aware of her presence. She ran one hand through his hair, which had a calming effect on him.

Then he tried to bend his arm up to caress her, but he winced and stopped.

"Don’t move that arm much tonight, Harry. It’s going to be very sore until the bones are finished knitting. The muscles and tendons will also need a bit of time.   You’ve stretched them in ways they weren’t meant to move," Danni told him as she helped him straighten it out again.

Amelia placed the Pensieve on the table McGonagall conjured, then she invoked the memories in presentation mode. The air above the Pensieve shimmered and a three foot high Harry Potter appeared just in time to watch a similar sized Hermione and Professor McGonagall portkey from the head suite at Hogwarts.

Harry turned his head from the images and looked elsewhere.

Tonight I became a murderer, he thought. Peter was different. Killing him was simple justice. But I didn’t know those men. I knew nothing about them. I just killed them. His shoulders hitched a few times and Hermione’s arms tightened their grip on him. Doesn’t she understand? I’m a fucking monster! I didn’t even flinch when I killed them.

He closed his eyes tightly and tried hard not to weep. He’d left one man alive, but that man was as good as dead anyway. He’d killed seven men tonight, seven men with parents who loved them. Some were probably husbands, fathers, uncles, and brothers. Harry listened to the sound of the fight from the Pensieve and he shuddered in dismay.

He opened his eyes when he heard a soft voice calling his name. He looked up at Amelia’s smiling face.

"Harry, having reviewed your memory, I can’t find any fault with what you did. You went up against seven to one odds and had two muggles to protect at the same time. I know this doesn’t make you feel any better about the actions you took, but a trained Auror couldn’t have done better than you did tonight. In fact, I don’t know an Auror who could have done what you did tonight," Amelia told him.

Harry nodded mutely. As he watched her pocket the Pensieve, his eyes began to droop. He was finding it hard to stay awake with Hermione running her hands through his hair.

"I’d better get a team out to pickup up the pieces. Fortunately the pensieve will allow us to figure out where to apparate to. Professor, let me give you a note explaining the students’ absence from school. This way they won’t get into any trouble," the Director said, moving towards the door.

McGonagall nodded gratefully. A note from Amelia would go a long way in making sure none of them invoked Dumbledore’s ire. Amelia left the room with McGonagall close behind her.

Danni dosed Hermione’s parents with a sleeping draught. She turned to do the same with Harry, but he had already fallen asleep in Hermione’s arms. Smiling at the pair, she helped Hermione stretch out next to him and, within moments, both were asleep.

Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts, That Same Evening...

Upon her return to the school from Grimmauld Place, Minerva went directly to the Headmaster’s office.   Stepping past the Gargoyle guardian and onto the slowly moving staircase, she tapped the letter she held against her leg and frowned.   It had been a long night of waiting and she’d felt useless through most of it. Once Harry and the Granger’s had returned to the house, injured, but safe, she’d been able to relax for the first time in several hours.

After speaking with Danni, Amelia had quickly written a letter, excusing both Harry and Hermione from Hogwarts for several days. While Minerva agreed with the Director in the need for their absence, she knew that Albus would cause problems for Harry over it.  

Finding herself outside the office door, she straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath.   There was no help for it.

Knocking, she entered the Headmaster’s office when bidden.   Albus welcomed her, his eyes twinkling.   After offering her a chair, he sat back and waited.

"No offer of a lemon drop, Albus?" Minerva asked tiredly.

Dumbledore’s eyes lit up.   "Would you like one?   Most people turn them down," he said, almost sadly.

"No, I don’t want one.   But it never seems quite like a proper visit to your office without the offered lemon drop."

"Ah, I see."   He steepled his hands beneath his chin and regarded her across his desk. "What has happened, Minerva? Where did you go this evening?" he asked quietly.

"I bring a letter from Amelia Bones, Albus," she replied, placing the letter on his desk. "In it, you will find that she has excused Hermione Granger and Harry Potter from Hogwarts for a few days."

He sat up quickly. "What?"   Taking the letter, he read it quickly.   Looking up, his blue eyes bore into McGonagall’s. "Explain this," he ordered.

"A family emergency, Headmaster," she said firmly.

"Family emergency?   I could understand that for Miss Granger.   But Harry Potter has no family, Professor. Would you care to explain his absence?" he all but demanded of her.

"I’m sorry, Sir, but the reason for their absence is none of my business.   As Deputy Headmistress, it is my duty to see that those students who miss school have reason to do so.   A family emergency, confirmed by Amelia Bones in her capacity as a Board member, fulfills that requirement."

"I repeat, Harry Potter has no family.   Why is he not in school as he should be?"

"You’ll have to discuss that with Amelia, Albus.   She did not think it necessary to explain her reasoning to me," Minerva said calmly.   Technically, it wasn’t a lie.   Amelia hadn’t explained her reasons behind the letter, mainly due to the fact that Minerva was already aware of them.

Dumbledore continued to stare at her, as if waiting for something.   When Minerva refused to say more, he rubbed his eyes tiredly.   "Very well, Professor. I think that will be all for tonight."

"Of course, Headmaster.   Good night," she replied, standing.

As she closed the office door behind her and stepped onto the revolving staircase once more, she sighed deeply.   The meeting had gone better than she had expected, though she did not envy Harry.   She’d bet her tartan bathrobe that the Headmaster called Potter into his office soon after the young man’s return.

Malfoy Manor, Early Morning…

The sole surviving Death Eater from the Granger kidnapping plot shuffled into Malfoy Manor, heading straight for the Master’s chambers in the basement. Lucius followed, but not to close. Something about the man’s manner had set off warning bells in Lucius’ mind.

A hush descended as the man entered Voldemort’s chamber. He shuffled to a stop a few feet from the Dark Lord, who looked up from his chair in surprise. The man began to shake and convulse and, as he did, he pulsated with a bright white light. Suddenly the Death Eater screeched once, his back arched and those in the chamber could clearly hear bones in his back snapping. Then he straightened up to stare Voldemort in the eye.

"I will give you this warning only once, Tom. Do. Not. Fuck. With. Me. Or. My. Family. Again." The man’s lips moved, but it was Harry Potter’s voice that was heard throughout the chamber.

Voldemort stood, enraged. Several of his servants moved to grab the possessed man. As they did, they burst into flame and Voldemort himself started to smoke, despite the fact he had not touched the Death Eater. As he writhed, he screeched in pain. "What manner of magic is this?!? POTTER!" Voldemort wailed.

"I won’t warn you again, Tom. Stay out of my way or I’ll hurt you worse that you can possibly imagine," the youth’s voice intoned.

The possessed Death Eater lifted one hand and a blast of blue light erupted from his palm, striking Voldemort in the forehead. The Dark Lord collapsed.

When the light faded, the possessed man was dead on the floor.

Voldemort moaned and painfully climbed back into his chair and shivered in fear. Potter had sent him a vision and it terrified him worse than the pain from the burns Potter had inflicted on him.

It was a vision of himself, immortal but powerless.   Hunted, on the run and alone, respected and feared by no one. To the Dark Lord, it was the worst sort of hell.

"Lucius!" Voldemort snapped as he watched men removed his dead servants.

Lucius rushed forward. "Master?"

"We must find out how Potter has become so powerful. Instruct our spies in Hogwarts and elsewhere to redouble their efforts. Potter is a threat to everything we plan to do!"

"It will be as you command, Master," Lucius said, bowing low, his limbs shaking. He turned away, intent on making his escape, but was stopped.

"One moment, Lucius.   I have another task for you.   Send something in way of thanks to our former Potions Master. No deed should go un-rewarded," he snarled.

Grimmauld Place…

Harry awoke to the murmur of voices. The bed had a warm spot next to where he lay. He rolled a little and could smell the fragrance he had come to associate with Hermione. A small smile danced on his face. It wasn’t a dream! He was sure he’d come out of a deep sleep last night to find himself cuddled up with Hermione. He vaguely remembered snuggling closer before drifting off again.

Deciding he’d never be able to go back to sleep, he blinked his eyes a few times and waited for the world to swim into focus. He sat up and every muscle in his body complained. He stifled a groan and winced. Then he noticed Hermione standing next to his bed.

"Come on, Harry," she said softly, taking his hand. "What you need right now is a hot soak with those salts of yours, then some breakfast. After that, Danni wants to check you out again."

He nodded and stood unsteadily. He noted that the Grangers were sitting around a table in his bedroom with Remus and Tonks. The beds the Grangers had used last night had been banished already. Everyone was watching him, making him nervous for some reason. He tried to straighten up as best as he could and smiled as he padded his way to the bathroom.

"I’ll have Dobby bring you some clothes, Harry. Go soak. We’ll make sure breakfast is ready when you come out," Hermione called after him as she closed the bathroom door.

An hour later Harry returned from his bath feeling much better. He walked over to the table where Hermione sat with her parents and the others and took a seat next to her. Dobby and Winky appeared and set platters of food on the table. Feeling very hungry this morning, he loaded his plate up with more food than he normally at breakfast.

He was about half way through his small mountain of food when he noticed everyone staring at him. Then it struck him why Hermione’s parents were staring at him. He swallowed nervously. "Um… I’m sorry. I don’t know how Hermione ended up in my bed. But we didn’t do anything, honest," he blurted.

Dan and Emma looked at each other before bursting into laughter.   Hermione looked up at Harry, mortified, as she realized what he had just said.

Emma reached over and grabbed Harry’s hand in her own. "We’re not upset about that. Good gracious, no. First off, Hermione wouldn’t let you do anything she didn’t want you to do and you’re too much of a gentlemen to force yourself on her. Secondly, you were in no condition to do anything but sleep last night. And finally, when Hermione makes that sort of decision, we trust her to make sure she picks well. From what I can see, she has," Emma said seriously. She began to laugh again when she noticed Hermione blushing to her roots and staring down at the table.

Dan coughed once and looked embarrassed. "Harry, I… We… owe you our lives. This morning, while you slept, several of us talked about what we saw in the Pensieve. Quite a handy tool, that is. We saw you jump in front of that killing curse and, had your shield not worked… well, it did, thank heaven. I’m not really up on all this life debt and wizard debt stuff but…"

"Mr. Granger, it’s alright, really. I couldn’t let anything happen to either of you. I promised Hermione I’d bring you home safe," Harry said, interrupting him. Hermione smiled at Harry, her heart in her eyes.

"We won’t press you about it, but it’s not just alright. You saved our lives," Emma said fervently. "Last night I witnessed the best and the worst that the Wizarding world has to offer. Believe me, Harry, you are the best. I’d once thought that you were very lucky because Hermione had fallen in love with you. Now, however, I wonder if she isn’t the lucky one."

Harry looked at the faces around him and his vision blurred as tears began to well up. "You shouldn’t say that, Mrs. Granger. I killed more than seven men last night. I didn’t even think about offering them mercy or asking if they wanted to surrender. I should be locked up in Azkaban for what I’ve done," he finished in a whisper, staring at his plate.

Hermione grabbed Harry’s head and force him to look at her. "Don’t you dare say that, Harry Potter," she raged, truly angry. "Are you telling me you’re ashamed of saving my family? Besides, we saw you let that last Death Eater go last night, the one that dropped his wand."

Harry’s eyes dropped to the table again. "I didn’t let him go, Hermione. I sent him back to Voldemort to die. I killed his mind and gave him a mission to perform before his body stopped working. And if he performed his mission correctly, he probably killed a few more Death Eaters in the process."

Hermione gasped and Tonks leaned forward over the table. "What was his mission, Harry?" his guardian asked quietly.

"To tell Voldemort not to mess with me and my family…and that includes the Grangers. My Death Eater then gave Voldemort a vision of his worst nightmare, immortality without any power or status, being hunted, alone and shunned," Harry whispered. "Right about now, Voldemort’s learning the meaning of the words fear and pain as he experience the power of a magic he doesn’t know."

Dan snorted. "Well if so, then it’s about time. He’s been living off of the fear he creates for years, from what I heard. If someone can make him afraid, it will be a novel experience for him."

"Harry, I couldn’t have done what you did, and I’m trained for it," Tonks said, staring him in the eye. "COR! You jumped blind, into an unknown situation, took down the bad guys and saved the hostages. And while you should probably skip the part where you injure yourself next time, you still have a lot to be proud of. Even the muggle hostage rescue teams do it by killing the bad guys. Sometimes it can’t be helped."

Harry looked down at the table, still unable to meet anyone’s eyes for any length of time.

"Harry, I know it’s little consolation, but those men killed our staff," Emma said, then she choked back a sob. "They probably would have killed us too if you hadn’t helped."

Harry looked up. All three Grangers had tears in their eyes. "They killed your staff? How many people?" he asked intently. Hermione was at a loss for words, all she could do was grip Harry’s hand in her own.

It was Dan who spoke for them. "Three, Harry. Two assistants, Kathy and Jean and our receptionist, Morgan," he said softly.

"The MLE has stepped in to assist the Muggle police, but two of the women had families," added Tonks. "The families will be told that the terrorists that committed this crime were killed in a shoot-out with the police so they’ll have a little bit of closure."

Harry closed his eyes in pain. "Remus?" he asked quietly.

Remus looked up from his tea. The scene at the table had become increasingly personal and uncomfortable to the older wizard. It was like sitting in on a private family conversation.

"Remus, please, get together with Mr. Granger and see that those families are taken care of."

Remus nodded. Even though Harry had inherited all of Sirius’ estate and Remus was only the executor for the will, Harry decided to retain Remus to help him manage the combined Potter and Black estates. Harry understood how Remus was hampered by the strict anti-werewolf laws which kept him from earning a decent salary. Harry’s hiring of him solved that problem, but more important to Harry and Remus both, it kept the two of them close together. Both were effectively alone, except for the other. Remus thus became surrogate uncle, mentor and financial advisor to Harry.

"What time can we return to Hogwarts, Hermione?" Harry asked, trying to change the subject.

"Professor McGonagall left here last night after you fell asleep, but Danni told her you wouldn’t be allowed to move around much until this afternoon at the earliest. She said she’d be here to check you out today before you could go back."

Harry nodded and got up from the table. As he passed Emma, she reached out and took his hand and pulled him into an embrace.

"I know you feel bad about what you were forced to do last night, Harry, but I want you to know that to us, you did the right thing. And as far as I’m concerned, you are a part of this family."

Harry’s eyes filled with tears and he sniffed a few times. "Thank you, Mrs. Granger," he whispered. Emma’s hugs were similar to Molly’s, back when he trusted her, but they were different in one interesting way. Molly’s hugs seemed to be designed to stifle and smother, while Emma’s hugs were light, almost as if she were trying to express her joy in being close, while still allowing freedom. It was something he’d have to think about. Clearly motherly hugs came in different flavors.

Dan looked over at the two of them and smiled. "Harry, last night you called me Dad and Emma Mum. If you’re not comfortable with that, then call us Dan and Emma. I think we’ve gone well beyond the Mr. and Mrs. stage," he said, and then glanced at his daughter.

Hermione looked down at her feet and blushed prettily. Are my parents deliberately trying to embarrass me today? She wondered. First there was the gentle teasing when I first woke up in Harry’s bed and now this.

She glanced up to see Harry sitting on his bed with Danni checking him over. She relaxed in her chair when Danni straightened up and smiled at him. Apparently he was recovering nicely from last night’s activity. And while she knew better, she secretly hoped some of that recovery was due to the fact they had spent the night in each others arms.

Hogwarts, Dinner Time…

They made it back to Hogwarts just before dinner. Harry stayed close to Hermione, who was still a bit shocked by the events of the previous night. At dinner, however, he received a message from the Headmaster. Scanning it quickly, he tried not to scowl when he discovered that Dumbledore wanted him to come to his office.

Sighing, Harry passed the note to Hermione. McGonagall had supposedly been given a note from Amelia in regard to their absence. Now it was time to find out if that had been sufficient or not.

Harry left the Great Hall and walked up the stairs towards the Headmaster’s office. This would be his first face-to-face meeting with Dumbledore since returning from holiday, and he really wasn’t looking forward it. Danni had performed admirably, but the pepper up potion he took before leaving Grimmauld was quickly wearing off. His back and leg were sore and he wanted nothing more than to stretch out on his bed and sleep.

He paused in front of the guardian and pulled out his cane to use. Then he adjusted the aura around the Gargoyle and murmured, "Stinky Socks," effectively resetting the password to the stairway. He was tired of being summoned to the Headmaster’s office and no one telling him the password. Let the Headmaster be the one to guess next time. He climbed the stairs tiredly and entered the office without bothering to knock.

Dumbledore looked up as Harry entered and frowned. He had to remind himself that Harry had exhibited tremendous power during their last encounter and did not want to provoke him again. "Ah, Harry. Do come in and have a seat. Would you care for a lemon drop?" he asked mildly.

Professor Snape leaned against the wall behind and to the side of the Headmaster. He scowled at the youth as he entered.

"No, thank you, Headmaster," Harry replied in a polite tone.

"Now Harry, the reason I asked to see you this evening is that I’d like to find out exactly where you’ve been for the last day and a half. While Miss Granger could conceivably have a family emergency, you have no family."

"I do have a guardian, Headmaster, and she is legally considered family. It would help if you would stop forgetting that fact. I’m sure Amelia’s note explained the situation, and even if it hadn’t, Professor McGonagall probably gave you enough of an explanation."

"Amelia and Professor McGonagall both merely said it was a family emergency involving both you and Miss Granger. I am glad to see you both back in one piece and from that I’ll assume the emergency is over?"

"Oh, it’s over for now, Headmaster. I can’t promise there won’t be a repeat. But if there is, it won’t be deliberate on our part, that I can assure you."

Dumbledore frowned. Harry clearly had no intention of telling him what it was all about.

"Very well then, Harry. In the future, when such emergencies come up, please let me know about them before you leave school grounds. As Headmaster, both you and Miss Granger are my responsibility."

Harry didn’t comment, but sat staring at the old man calmly, waiting.

"Now, on to the other reason I asked to see you tonight. I’d like you to begin taking ‘remedial defense classes’ under Professor Snape. That will be the cover story, of course. What he’ll actually be teaching you is…"

"No," Harry said quietly.

"I beg your pardon?" Dumbledore said, surprised.

"What part of ‘no’ was unclear, Headmaster?" Harry asked politely, his expression guileless.

"I am Headmaster here, Mr. Potter.   When it comes to class schedules, you, as a student, will do as I say," Dumbledore said, he face red with anger.

Bolting from his chair in anger, Harry leaned over Dumbledore’s desk heavily. "You’ve got to be out of your sodding mind! That greasy git couldn’t teach me a thing about Defense. I’m earning an outstanding right now in Defense, according to Professor Blackthorne."

At their incredulous looks, Harry’s lips twisted into a sneer worthy of the greasy git in question. "What? Wasn’t being stuck to the ceiling enough of a lesson for you two? What do I have to do next?"

"Mr. Potter! Professor Snape will be teaching you advanced dueling techniques. Techniques that, I might add, are not taught to even seventh year NEWT level students. You need this level of instruction, otherwise you will not be able to face Voldemort," Dumbledore said hotly.

"I’ve already had instruction far in advance of anything he can provide," Harry said sneering in Snapes direction. "As for Voldemort? Well Albus, it occurs to me that you’ve already killed one Dark Lord, so I’ve decided to let you kill this one as well. Think of the fame and glory you’ll get for it," Harry replied with a broad smile.

Snape bristled and started to move away from the wall. Dumbledore stopped him with a wave of his hand. "No Severus, if the child refuses to take advantage of the opportunity we’ve provided for him, there is little we can do to persuade him. You are dismissed, Harry" Dumbledore said coldly, waving a hand at him.

Both men watched as Harry left the office, then Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and sighed heavily. "See Severus, as I predicted, he would not accept the offer of training. His involvement with the Brotherhood has become too deep. And it’s spreading. Besides Miss Granger, others here at Hogwarts are wearing Brotherhood uniforms. I don’t know what this ‘family emergency’ business was all about, but it was probably something related to the Brotherhood. More disturbing is the fact that Amelia wrote that note and McGonagall delivered it."

"I think Minerva bears watching, Headmaster. She has, of late, shown an increasing tendency towards divided loyalties," murmured a relieved Snape. He really didn’t want to risk teaching Potter dueling, but the offer had to be made.

Dumbledore looked lost in thought for a moment before looking up. "Her loyalties may be confused, but Minerva is loyal to Hogwarts first and foremost, Severus. However, you may be right. I’ll keep an eye on her. In the meantime, thank you for your help. I’m sure you have homework to grade."

Snape, recognizing the dismissal, nodded and left the office.

Dumbledore sat at his desk reviewing his conversation with Harry. The longer he sat, the more worried he became. Harry had said he would not fight Voldemort! In the heat of the argument it had been ignored, but now it was glaring him in the face! Harry must fight Voldemort. It was his destiny!

Gryffindor Head Suite…

Hermione curled up on the couch with her potions text. She was already dressed for bed in pajamas and a robe. She was waiting up for Harry, a little concerned because he had been called to the Headmaster’s office after dinner.

She looked up from the couch in their little common room when the door opened and he limped in. Around this time last night he was preparing to enter a battle to save her parents lives. Tonight he looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

"Hey, you alright?" she asked in concern.

"Yeah, I guess so. When I left Dumbledore’s office all I wanted was a hot soak. Now I’m not so sure. Bed sounds a lot more inviting," he said tiredly.

She nodded in understanding as he disappeared into his bedroom and she went back to reading her book. After another hour of reading, her own eyelids felt heavy enough for her to retire. She carefully marked her place in the book and stood up. She was about to head for her own room when, on impulse, she opened the door to Harry’s room.

An ever-lasting candle burned in one corner of the room and in the soft, low light, she could see Harry twisting and turning in his bed, caught in the grip of yet another nightmare. She walked over to his bed and watched him for a long moment. He turned his face towards her in his sleep and she could see him tremble. Making her decision, she tossed her robe on a nearby chair and slipped under his blankets.

She lightly touched his cheek with one hand and his tremors slowed. His breathing began to even out and eventually the tremors stopped altogether as she lay there, not quite touching him, except for her hand on his cheek.

He rolled to one side and threw an arm around her, pulling her closer. His eyes opened for the briefest of moments and then closed again as a soft smile appeared on his face.

Her smile matched his as she wormed her way closer to him, stealing some of his warmth.   Her eyes drifted shut as her body relaxed against his. As they slept, neither noticed Crookshanks take up position at the bottom of the bed. After all, cats always take the choicest bed positions.

Hogwarts Great Hall, Breakfast…

For Harry, getting out of bed the next morning was an exercise in will power. He awoke to find himself spooning with Hermione in his bed. At first he was confused and surprised that he wasn’t alone. He was sure he had gone to bed that way.

Having Hermione in his bed however presented him with several embarrassing problems. The first was that, sometime during the night, his hand had come to rest on her breast and he now found himself cupping it softly. Another problem was the fact that he awoke to find himself grinding his erection against her bum. Sure, she was wearing pajamas, but still! And it certainly didn’t help that she was occasionally grinding back against him. If he could have died of embarrassment at that moment, he would have.

Slipping quietly out of bed, he never noticed Hermione’s smile as he grabbed some clothes and padded quickly into the bathroom.

His morning shower was necessarily chilly and brief. He was surprised when he returned to his bedroom and found the bed empty. He was also grateful, in a way, because it meant he didn’t have to deal with that issue so early in the morning. Dressing hurriedly, he debated on whether he should wait for Hermione or head down to breakfast on his own. Ultimately, his Gryffindor courage failed him and he snuck from the Head Suite while Hermione was still in the shower.

Harry took his customary seat among his friends and mumbled his greetings. Then he began to fill his plate, refusing to look anyone in the eye. A few minutes later, Hermione joined them, sitting down and greeting everyone as if nothing had happened. Harry blushed and stared down at his plate, pushing his food around on it.

"Harry, are you alright mate?" Neville asked in concern.

"Yeah Harry, you look flushed today. Maybe you have a fever," Ginny said worriedly.

Harry glanced around the table. Hermione was giving him an amused, hungry look that made his stomach feel woozy.   "I’m fine, just fine," he mumbled, and then nearly jumped out of his seat when Hermione put a hand on his thigh under the table.

"He’s alright, he just had a hard time getting up… out of bed this morning," Hermione said with a barely concealed snicker.

Harry winced mentally and he looked at the others, the appeal clearly written on his face. Ginny took one look at him and suppressed a laugh. She then shot a look at Hermione that clearly said she’d want more information later. Neville, Draco and Terry looked totally confused by Hermione’s comment, while the rest of the girls smiled warmly in his direction.

All in all, it made Harry even more nervous. He was about to say something when the appearance of the morning post saved his hide as everyone turned his or her attention to the owls.

He rarely got mail so he turned back to his breakfast. At the far end of the Gryffindor table, and again at the Slytherin table, several eagle owls delivered their messages before taking flight.

After letting the Outcasts have enough time to read their mail, Harry brought up a topic he’d meant to talk to them about ages ago.   "Guys, listen up for a second. I have a question I’d like you all to think about in regard to Professor Blackthorne. I’m wondering if we can trust her enough to bring her into our plan or not. Don’t give me your idea right now if you’re not sure about her. Think on it. I’m trying to decide if we should set up a meeting with her or not," he said seriously.

Ginny looked up from her breakfast and shrugged. "I like her, Harry. If you think she can help, then let’s bring her in," she said bluntly.

Hermione and several others nodded agreeably. Luna however looked uncertain.

"Luna? Do you have a problem with Professor Blackthorne?" Harry asked worriedly, then he looked around. "I’ll be blunt here. This is something we all agree to, or it doesn’t happen. You guys have been looking for me to lead this and, to a large extent, I may be. But I can’t do this all alone. I need your help."

Luna’s eyes were unfocused as she turned to towards Harry. "I don’t know. I like her and I trust her. But something about her makes me think that we still haven’t broken the DADA Professor record at Hogwarts."

Harry felt a chill crawl down his spine.   Shaking it off, he looked thoughtful for a few moments. "Alright, Luna. If you’re not sure, then we’ll hold off doing anything for now."

The Gryffindor Head Suite Common Room (a few days later)…

Hermione sat in the common room with Susan, Luna and Ginny. The boys were out breaking in the new brooms Harry had purchased for them all. Harry and Draco were decent flyers, but Terry and Neville needed some work. With the guys away, it was time for one of those most mysterious of activities: Girl talk.

Ginny bounced on the couch and faced Hermione. They had just finished talking about Susan and Terry and now Ginny wanted the real dirt from Hermione.

"Alright, Hermione. It’s time to confess. Since the attack on your parents, Harry’s been acting like he’s crushing on you. You’ve got him so tongue twisted he has trouble talking. He’s become clumsy and I… no we…want to know what’s going on," the redhead demanded, grinning at her friend.

Hermione looked around at the three other girls and their eager faces. She sighed for a moment, then, uncharacteristically, she giggled. "It started on the night my parents were attacked…when I accidentally fell asleep in Harry’s bed. He was too exhausted and hurt to do anything more than sleep and that’s what we did. Since then, I’ve joined in him in his bed every night. I’ve tried sleeping in my own bed, but the nightmares… well, they don’t seem to happen when I’m with him. His nightmares seem to fade away too, when I’m with him.

"The problem is mostly Harry’s. I suppose I really should talk to him about it, but he’s been so busy being an absolute gentleman that I have been more interested in seeing what lengths he’ll go to, to be a gentleman."

She giggled again before continuing. "In the last two nights he’s been going to bed fully clothed. I thought he’d just get used to it, but that hasn’t happened."

Luna looked at Hermione for a brief moment and Hermione shuddered as she felt a wave of curiosity and concern pass through her. Then Luna’s expression became unfocused again.   "That’s mean, Hermione. You really should talk to him. You’ve forgotten that Harry needs your guidance. He doesn’t need you teasing him," Luna said gently.

Hermione blinked in surprise, looking at the Ravenclaw.

Luna put one hand to her forehead. "What? Don’t you think I can’t see what Harry’s really like? Just because I don’t say things out loud doesn’t mean I can’t see them."

Hermione flushed at the younger girl’s comments. "I’m sorry, Luna. I guess I never…"

"I know, Hermione. You aren’t the only one to think that. But I can see Harry quite well. In many ways he and Draco are similar. Both have no idea how to really deal with women. Draco’s father exposed him to the very worst kind of women, and while that left him very experienced in the mechanics, it also left him woefully unable to deal with a woman on an emotional level. Harry’s the same way, though for different reasons, and he lacks the experience on top of that.

"You know he cares too much about you to make any kind of move without you telling him it’s alright. Climbing into bed and teasing him is only confusing him. He clearly loves you very deeply. I think a lot deeper than is normal for someone his age. Do yourself and him a favor and tell him what you want and need from him."

Hermione leaned back on the couch thinking about what Luna had said. It made sense to her. Harry had become more assertive with her when he knew where the limits were. But when she introduced the bed into the mix, he’d backed off, uncertain how to proceed. She’d have to talk with him.

"You’re right, Luna. I’ll have to talk to him about it…" she said, then stopped as the door to the common room opened and the guys entered. Neville was pale as a ghost and supported between Harry and Draco. The rest of them had silly grins on their faces.

Ginny looked up in concern. "Neville?" she asked worriedly.

"He’ll be alright, Ginny. He just got a little carried away and followed Harry into a corkscrewing power dive. He never hit the ground, but I think he shocked himself silly," replied Terry as Draco and Harry sat Neville down next to her on the couch.

"A corkscrewing power dive?" Ginny said flatly. "From what height?"

Harry and Draco looked at each other. "About five hundred feet, would you say?" Draco asked mildly.

"Closer to six hundred, I think. It’s hard to tell at that height," Harry replied. Then he shrugged and grinned. "He did bloody marvelous, Ginny! He pulled out just in the nick of time, still following me. It was only afterward that he got all wobbly like this."

Hermione looked at both Draco and Terry. "I take it you two also followed Harry into that dive?" she asked sweetly. None of them had as yet realized they were in trouble.

Draco and Terry exchanged a look, then nodded, grinning goofily. Hermione expression grew firm and she looked at the other girls, who were mirroring the expression.

Ginny turned to Hermione, her eyes flashing dangerously. "Do you want to take care of yours while I deal with mine?"

Ginny grabbed Neville by the arm and lead the unsteady boy back down to the Gryffindor Common Room. The other two girls led their own boyfriends from the room as well.

Harry looked at Hermione and winced at her glare.

"I’m in trouble, aren’t I?"

"Sit," she said, pointing to the spot on the couch next to her.

Harry sat heavily on the couch and waited for the verbal lashing he knew was coming.

"Do you remember that time in your bathroom over the holiday?" she asked him gently.

Harry blushed and looked away from her.

"Look at me," she said softly. When his eyes met hers, she continued. "I’ve been coming to your bed at night because I’ve tried sleeping alone and the nightmares are unbearable. How you manage to sleep at all with your nightmares is beyond me. But don’t be embarrassed by sharing the bed with me, Harry. I’m hoping that someday we’ll share a lot more than that."

"I hope so too, Hermione, but it’s been hard…"

"It certainly has," she said, interrupting him with a giggle.

Harry blushed again and she moved into his lap.

"Oh don’t worry about it, Harry. It’s a form of flattery that a girl can learn to really appreciate. In the meantime, however, I expect you to start wearing your pajamas again or just your boxers. No more of this being fully clothed in bed, Mister," she said playfully.

"And here I thought you were going to yell at me about Neville," he murmured, while playfully nibbling on her ear.

Hermione laughed and squirmed away from him, his breath tickling her ear. "No, if Neville is barmy enough to follow you into a corkscrew power dive, then I’ll let Ginny yell at him. You fly like you were meant to have wings."

Hogwarts, Late That Same Night…

Muffled moans and heavy breathing competed with the rustle and sigh of clothing as it was moved aside.   The absolute darkness added an eerie intimacy to the tiny space, though the couple was too occupied to notice.

They stroked and teased each other to a fever pitch. They backed away for a moment and the young man muttered the contraceptive charm. As they reached for each other once more, the door to the little broom closet was thrown open and they frozen as light washed over them.

"Well, look what we have here," a rough voice said slyly.   "Two students out of bed and half out of their clothes.   Oh my, what trouble we have!"

Hannah Abbott and Justin Finch-Fletchley gaped at Argus Filch in shock. They’d always found it amusing when couples told horror stories of being caught by Filch while snogging in a broom closet or an unused classroom, but had never believed it would happen to them.   They’d chosen this particular broom closet to make sure it wouldn’t.   It was located on the main floor, a short distance from the front doors of the school, and a little too close to Filch’s office to be convenient.   He never checked this closet!   Well, almost never…

"Come on then," Filch said, smiling evilly.   "Professor Dumbledore will have something to say about this, I expect."

Fixing their clothing in a rush, both teenagers left the closet, blushing and stammering out their excuses.

"Save it for the Headmaster," Filch said in obvious enjoyment.

Leading the two hooligans through the Entrance Hall and to the stairs, he glanced back once to make sure they were following.   Walking quickly, he snickered to himself.   The best part of working at Hogwarts was finding the little buggers out after curfew and marching them off to a teacher or the Headmaster for punishment.   Watching their bright, shining faces blanch and fall in dismay made his entire day. He went out of his way to give them enough time to be caught in compromising positions. Not only was their punishment worse for it, but their embarrassment at being caught groping and slobbering all over each other made it that much more fun for him.   Oh yes, he enjoyed his job immensely.

Reaching the top of the sixth floor staircase, he turned towards the last set of stairs leading to the seventh floor and the Gargoyle guardian. He glanced up when he heard a throat being cleared.

"What’s this?" a silky voice asked from the top of the stairs.

"Professor Snape," Filch said, his eyes lighting up. Dumbledore was often lenient on his students, but Snape could be downright vicious!   "I found these two slobbering all over each other in the boom closet on the main floor.   I’m surprised they were wearing any clothes at all when I opened the door."

"Indeed?" Snape asked coolly, examining the two embarrassed Hufflepuffs.   He was amused by Argus’ obvious disappointment in finding the two students clothed.   "I’m sure the Headmaster will deal with it."

"But, Sir!" Filch protested, rushing up the stairs towards Snape.   "We shouldn’t bother him with something so trivial.   Not when you’re…"

Whatever the man was going to say was cut off.   Half way up the stairs, Filch’s foot passed through a step, and he fell forward…and kept falling.   The two students grabbed each other, shocked, and Snape’s jaw dropped as the caretaker disappeared.   A loud, piercing scream echoed off the walls, as did the heavy, sickening thud of a body striking stone several floors below them.

Snape jerked his eyes away from the stairs and glared at the two students still staring at the steps where the caretaker had vanished.   "You two!" he snapped loudly.   "Back to your common room.   NOW!"

Justin and Hannah didn’t need to be told twice.   Turning quickly then ran down the stairs, only slowing when they reached the main floor.   There, they passed the still form of Argus Filch sprawled out on the stone floor.   Hannah shuddered when she saw the pool of blood forming near Filch’s head.   Justin grabbed her hand and began to run for the stairs leading down to their common room.

Once the students were gone, Snape placed a barrier at the bottom of the staircase to prevent anyone from following Filch’s path to the main floor of the castle.   He then spun around and rushed back to the Headmaster’s office and explained what happened.

Several minutes later, Dumbledore and Snape approached the staircase and examined it closely.

"You say the stairs disappeared?" Albus asked.

"No, they didn’t," replied Snape, frowning in thought.   "His foot just seemed to pass through the step.   Perhaps an illusion?"

"Hmmm…perhaps," the Headmaster agreed.   Drawing his wand, he cast several detection charms.   "Interesting," he said as he and the Potion Master scanned the results.   "The middle set of stairs have been banished and an illusion cast over the hole."

"And a tripping charm on the step just before the hole," Snape said, sickened at what he was seeing.

"This was obviously meant to kill someone, Severus, but who?"

"Me," Snape said sharply.

"My dear boy," Dumbledore began.

"Oh save it, Albus.   Isn’t it obvious to you?   That bastard Potter exposed me as a spy.   Voldemort knows and it’s now worth my life to leave Hogwarts."

"Yes, but how…"

"Don’t you see?   This trap wasn’t here when I came up these stairs tonight! Someone followed me this far and, once I’d gone into your office, set the trap."

"You may be correct, Severus," Dumbledore said, watching the younger man closely and listening to the sound of footfalls as someone climbed the stairs. "However, I do not think we should inform the other teachers about this."   With a few flicks of his wand, he repaired the stairs and removed Snape’s barrier.    

"As you wish," Severus said, somewhat distantly.

"Albus, Severus!" Professor Sprout called as she rounded the landing and looked up the stairs.   "I just had the most astonishing visit from Hannah Abbott and Justin Finch-Fletchley.   They told me that Argus had fallen through the stairs.   I found him on the main floor…he’s dead, Headmaster," she finished softly, her eyes welling up with tears.   "I sent for Poppy, of course, but he’s dead."

"We know, Pomona," Dumbledore said quietly.   "However, Argus didn’t fall through the stairs, he tripped and fell over the banister."

"Tripped?" Sprout asked in surprised.   "Are you sure? The students said…"

"Those poor children," the Headmaster said sorrowfully.   "I’m sure it’s the shock, Pomona.   Please, bring them to my office and I will speak to them about it."

"Of course, Albus," the small woman said.

When she bustled back down the stairs, Dumbledore turned to Snape. "A memory charm, I think," he murmured quietly.   "In the meantime, I want you to return to your quarters, Severus.   I will tend to the students and Argus."

"As you wish," the Potion Master replied.   As he started down the stairs, he paused and placed his feet carefully when he came to the steps where Filch had fallen.   Finding them solid, he shuddered once, and then continued on his way.

Snape’s Private Quarters…

The trip down to his private rooms in the dungeon had been a nervous affair for Snape.   To make things worse, an ungodly yowling had begun when he’d reached the third floor landing.   When he reached the main floor, he had discovered its source.   Mrs. Norris had discovered her master’s body and was mourning his passing in the only way she could.   That her cries set his teeth on edge was of little concern to the feline, he was sure, and he had to resist the urge to kick the cat to shut her up.

Beginning his decent into the dungeons, he mind raced. The idea that someone would attempt to kill him inside the castle had not occurred to him, though it should have.   He knew that the Dark Lord had a few servants among the student body, mostly from his house. He had been so distracted with the Headmaster’s problems with Potter lately that he had not paid enough attention to his own.

Entering his private quarters, he checked his wards twice.   Finding everything in order, he poured himself a stiff drink and began to pace.

Someone must have been following him.   There was no other explanation for not encountering the trap on his way to the Headmaster’s office.   For the first time, he found himself feeling grateful towards Argus Filch.   If the man hadn’t discovered the trap when he had, the school would have found itself short one Potion Master, rather than one squib caretaker.   And while he wasn’t delusional enough to think many would have mourned his passing, he was human enough to fall into the ‘better him than me’ mentality of man who’d just seen his life pass before his eyes.

Finding his glass empty, he refilled it, and continued to do so until the bottle of Fire Whiskey was empty.   He debated opening another, but knew it wouldn’t help.   He was as numb as he was going to get and his thinking had become muddled some time ago.   Sighing, he made his way into the bedroom and fell into bed.   Within moments, he was snoring loudly, a widening wet spot forming on his pillow as he drooled away what remained of the night.

The bright morning light woke him, sending stabbing pain through his head. With a groan, he rolled over.   His entire body ached, not just his head.   He was sure he hadn’t moved at all as he slept.   He made it to the bathroom, relived himself and quickly washed the rotten taste out of his mouth.   Blurry eyed, he left the bathroom and hunted around until he found a pain-relieving potion. Downing it, he fell into a chair and held his head.

Several minutes later, he looked up in surprise as his fireplace flared to life and the head of Albus Dumbledore appeared in the fire.

"Ah, Severus.   I’m glad to find you awake.   May I come through?" the Headmaster asked.

"If you wish," Snape said, scowling.   He felt better for the potion, but wasn’t up to company.   One didn’t refuse the Headmaster, however.

"Rough night?" Albus asked as he shook ash off his robes.

"One could say that," Severus said, his lip curling in obvious distaste.   "Was there something you wanted?"

"Yes, actually," Dumbledore said, his eyes serious.   "First, you should know that we buried Argus last night."

"So quickly?" Snape asked, surprised.

"He had no living relatives, so there was no reason to wait. Just before the burial, I cast memory charms on both of the students who witnessed his ‘fall’. They’ve been altered just enough to match what I told Pomona about the incident."

"I’m sure it’s for the best," Snape mumbled, wishing the old man would get to the point.

"This morning I received notification from the Board of Governors that there’s to be a review of the incident.   You’ll be expected to participate."

"What?   Why me?"

"Because you were a witness, Severus," Dumbledore said seriously.   "I managed to pull a few strings to get the students excused from the review, but they insisted you had to be there, as the only adult who saw what happened."

"Wonderful," Severus snapped.   "I suppose you’re here to go over the story then?   We can’t have my account differing from that you told Pomona, can we?"

"I’m glad you understand," the Headmaster said firmly, sitting down across from the younger man.   "Shall we begin?"

Snape buried his head in his hands and accepted that he wasn’t getting out of this.   "Whenever you’re ready," he muttered.

Breakfast, Great Hall…


Hermione was a little out of sorts with her boyfriend. Despite their talk the night before, Harry seemed to be suffering from an embarrassment block. She had thought that once she’d talked to him about his embarrassment, he’d get over it. But that didn’t seem to be the case. The funny thing was that, the more he tried to be the gentleman, the more she wanted him. It was almost as though they were having a complex, sexual, non-verbal fight.

She wasn’t sure what she was going to do about it, but she knew she had to do something.

She sat next him, among their friends, and considered her options. Dumbledore standing up to make an announcement from the head table interrupted her musings, however. She looked up in surprise. Morning announcements were rare and Dumbledore almost never made them. He preferred to use the Prefects for passing them to the students.

A hush fell over the Great Hall as the students noticed the Headmaster standing and waiting for their attention.

He peered over his half moon glasses looking at the now silent student body for a moment before he began to speak. "Students, last night Hogwarts suffered a terrible loss. Argus Filch, our caretaker, was accidentally killed in a fall from the upper levels of the castle. Because he had no family, other than Mrs. Norris, he was laid to rest in the castle cemetery last night. Unfortunately, Mrs. Norris is proving somewhat uncooperative and is still loose in the castle. I’d urge you all not to torment the poor animal. Steps are being taken to see that she is taken care of properly.

"Teachers, Prefects, extra night time patrols will be set up to compensate for Mr. Filch’s loss. He walked the halls of this school out of the goodness of his heart, watching over the student body and keeping them safe. Miss Chang, as Head Girl, I expect you to update the Prefect patrol schedule accordingly. Please see Professor McGonagall this morning to find out what time slots need to be filled."

Dumbledore sat down to the muted murmuring of the student body. Filch might have been appreciated by the faculty, but as far as the students were concerned, he was an unnecessary evil inflicted upon them.

Hermione turned back to the table and both she and Harry smiled at each other. Sneaking around to broom closets was something they never had to worry about. The both looked up as the morning post began to arrive.

Harry paled when it became apparent that the bulk of the owls were carrying howlers and heading straight for him. One by one the owls dropped the smoking envelopes in front of him at the table. He flinched as each was delivered. Even his friends backed away in a combination of fear and awe. No one had ever received so many howlers at one time before.

It was Hermione who came to his rescue. Whipping out her wand, she cast a silencing charm on the table, then a shield between the howlers and everyone else. The silencing charm triggered the explosive portion of the howler hex and the letters exploded. More than a few owls that were dropping more howlers were caught in the blast and had their feathers knocked out of place, causing them to crash land on tables, benches, students and the floor.

Harry frowned and his eyes burst into a blazing brilliance for a moment before returning to normal. The owls that still had howlers to deliver suddenly appeared confused. In some cases, they flew back out of the Great Hall. In others, they delivered their burdens to another person entirely. Harry watched impassively as he saw family owls deliver howlers meant for him to the students from those families.

"What did you do, Harry? Those owls were going to deliver to you," asked Susan over the noise. She eyed the other tables and the howlers screaming from them so loudly that few could make out the words.

"I changed my magical signature, Susan. It made the owls think I wasn’t here," Harry replied loudly. "I can’t hold it for long, but I think I can hold it long enough to put a masking charm in place." He then reached over and gripped Hermione’s hand tightly in his own. He smiled his thanks for her response to the howlers.

Harry and the Outcasts watched the turmoil caused by the numerous howlers in the Great Hall and couldn’t help but laugh at the expressions on the faces of some of the other students as the howlers were misdirected. After a few minutes the noise died down and things began to return to normal. Harry packed away the homework he had been reviewing and started to close his book bag when another owl flew into the Great Hall heading straight for the Slytherin table.

There was a moment of silence as everyone cringed, seeing another bird enter. When it became obvious that it didn’t carry a howler, most turned away in relief, only to jump again as a scream echoed off the walls.   It came from the Slytherin table.

"Potter! You bastard! I’ll kill you, you fucker," yelled Theodore Nott Jr.

Harry looked up to see Nott standing by his table, his face flushed with rage. Professor Snape hurriedly left his place at the Head table and went to the distraught boy. Nott moved to avoid Snape and headed directly for the Gryffindor table.

Nott stopped a few feet from Harry and stood, his hands clenched into fists. A hush fell on the Great Hall as Harry stood and calmly eyed Nott with disdain.

"You killed my father, Potter."

"Your father was a Death Eater, engaged in a criminal act that had already resulted in the death of three people. I didn’t kill him, I executed him for his crimes," Harry said indifferently.

"I’ll get you for this, Potter. I swear it on my father’s grave!"

"Oh, grow up, Nott. Your father was nothing more than a rabid dog that needed to be put down. So I did it, and I took six other Death Eaters out with him. I’ll give you a piece of advice, free of charge. You and the other members of Voldemort’s Boys Club aren’t worth my time, so stay out of my way," Harry warned coldly.

Nott reached for his wand. Harry’s eyes flared with power and, before Nott could draw it, there came a snapping sound that echoed throughout the hall. Nott pulled out his wand and gasped as he discovered his wand had been broken cleanly in two. Several other Slytherins stood in outrage as they too discovered their wands broken.

"It seems this is your lucky day, Nott. You’re unarmed," Harry said with a slight smile. Then he reached down and picked up his book bag. He offered a hand to Hermione and they both walked from the Great Hall with the rest of the Outcasts in tow.

At the Head table, Dumbledore frowned. Harry had snapped the wands of ten students. Sighing, he turned and told McGonagall to schedule a field trip to Ollivanders to pick up new wands for those students.

The Leaky Cauldron…

It was a lonely life, but he was adjusting to it. Most of his family wouldn’t talk to him anymore. Finishing his lunch, he tossed a few coins on the table and waved at Tom on the way out.

The tall redhead exited the Leaky Cauldron and peered up at the sky. It was a nice day, brisk, but the sun warmed the winter day nicely. He checked the time and decided he’d walk back to the Ministry. The walk would do him good. Too much sitting had begun to develop a noticeable paunch.

He was just walking past a darkened alleyway when he stiffened as he felt a wand tip press up the back of his neck.

"Into the alley, nice and slow." said an unknown voice.

Trembling, he walked into the gloom of the narrow alley. He managed to get a foot or two ahead of his assailant when he heard, "IMPERIO!"

A gentle calm washed over him and he smiled serenely. He turned around to look at the man who had forced him into the alley.

"Well, Weasley, it seems we have a problem and you’ve been picked to help us solve it. With the corruption in your family, this won’t come as a surprise to anyone."

There was a flash of light and darkness engulfed him. A few minutes later he reconnected to the world and shook his head. He frowned slightly as he noticed that his shoe was loose. He shrugged then, figuring he’d fix it back at the office. Without so much as a backwards glance, he stepped from the alleyway and continued on his journey back to work.

Authors Notes:

Yes, once again we come to the dreaded author’s notes.

A couple points we’d really like to make. If you have a question that you really and truly want answered, post it to our yahoo group, which you can find in Bob’s profile. We are going to try to address those questions better in the yahoo group than we will in future author notes.

We’re not going to apologize for the cliffy from last chapter because, in a way, we’ve left you with another one. There has been a lot of intrigue and drama going on in the past chapters of this story and things are definitely speeding up. The avalanche has begun and it’s coming down on every one.

Yes, that was a mistake on our part. Ron got the money the summer of his fourth year. Our goof. Sorry ‘bout that.

And yes, Hermione did see Harry naked before he had recovered from his Matura. So she got to see a bony, emaciated and sick Harry. Not the healthy buff Harry he’s become. Besides, she was more interested in his health than his…well, never mind that.  

Could Harry sue the Prophet for slander? What makes anyone think the Wizarding world runs like ours does? After all, Sirius got sent to prison for 12 years without a trial. That doesn’t happen all to often in our world. As to the Prophet, we have plans for it. Hang tight.

MidnightPhoenix — If you want your question answered, try our forum in our user group. Author’s notes should not really be used to answer questions. Heck I shouldn’t even be answering this. BAD BOB! BAD BAD BAD! (Alyx slides into the A/N and uncoils a bullwhip. "Cool…punishment!   Come here, honey…")

Pet Peeves:

Bizarre plot twists. Here I was, reading this story of an angry Harry. A veritable cornucopia of Ron/Hermione bashing and the author pulls stupid idea #567 out of his/her butt and decides that Ron is going to be pissed off with Draco for making friends with Harry. Then Ron says, the only way you can prove you’re not a death eater is if you swim the lake. EXCUSE ME? HELLO? I swear I must be the only person reading that story that found that particular chapter to be borderline moronic. The reviews thought it was the greatest thing since sliced French bread.

PLOT TWISTS!!!! If you make Harry do X, then there are several logic results coming from said action. If you can’t think of them, then don’t write. The butt hole is a poor source of inspiration.

Oh and Shame on all you authors out there that have abandoned your stories because it’s now AU with the release of HBP.

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