Content Harry Potter
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Scene II, Act II:

Curtain lifts. Center stage - Ron stands dressed in a clown suit. Hermione swings above him on a trapeze bar wearing little more than a see through fishnet body stocking. Ron looks up and drools at her.

"Say the words, Ronald," she says sweetly, smiling warmly at him.

"Oh, alright then. Bob and Alyx want everyone to know that JK Rowling owns this stuff. We don’t."

"Very nice, Ron," she praises him. "Now for your surprise!"

From the left side of the stage comes the sound of stampeding elephants. Ron looks up in fear and tries to move, but his feet are stuck to the floor.

"Sticking charms," Hermione informs him with a giggle.

The herd of elephants run across the stage while above them floats Harry on his broomstick, zapping the elephants in the rear with stinging hexes.

Once the elephants are gone, there is no sign of Ron. Only a red smear to mark where he once stood. Harry floats over to Hermione and she climbs onto his broomstick.

"What a big broomstick you have, Harry!"

"You have no idea Hermione, but you’ll find out!"

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 14

Breakfast at Grimmauld Place…

Entering the kitchen with Hermione still holding his hand, Harry didn’t notice the sullen atmosphere in the room until he sat down. Looking at Tonks, whose features were rapidly shifting, Harry knew she was upset about something. It was the only time she only lost control of her metamorph abilities.

Silently she handed Harry a copy of the Daily prophet. He quickly spotted what had her so upset.

Boy-Who-Lived Kills One, Permanently Disables
Four Others in Attack at St. Mungos.

Yesterday morning in an attack in the lobby of St. Mungos, the Boy-Who-Lived killed one person and severely injured four others. The Ministry claims that Mr. Potter was responding to an alleged attack of Death Eaters and goes on to claim that the individual killed was none other than Peter Pettigrew, who had previously been listed by the Ministry as having been killed at the hands of the mass murderer, Sirius Black.

The alleged attack began at nearly eleven A.M. yesterday and resulted in a total of eleven people dead, including the supposed Peter Pettigrew and another fifteen injured. Mr. Potter, who was supposedly visiting the hospital in regard to a leg injury, got involved shortly after the attack started, according to Ministry sources. However, the Daily Prophet has located at least one witness who claims Mr. Potter started the fight.

In a related matter, the Ministry of Magic this morning announced that all charges against Sirius Black have been dropped and his name has been cleared. A Ministry spokesman is quoted as saying, "In light of this new evidence we have to acknowledge that a grave miscarriage of justice has occurred and Mr. Black was indeed innocent of all charges."

The Daily Prophet finds these latest events highly suspicious. We call on the Minister to form a special investigative team to look into the events at St. Mungos. We find it highly unlikely that a mere boy, even the Boy-Who-Lived, would be capable of defending himself against six Death Eaters without resorting to dark magic. The Daily Prophet has learned that Hogwarts has indeed been letting its students study dark magic under the approval of Headmaster Dumbledore. The Prophet urges that Mr. Potter be taken into protective custody until such time as a hearing can be held and Headmaster Dumbledore be relieved of his position.

Harry crumpled the paper in his fist and tossed it down on the table in anger.   "So? Am I under arrest then, Tonks?" he demanded of her. Hermione gasped and unraveled the paper to read the article.

Tonks swallowed nervously. "No, Harry. But Amelia did ask me to get more information about the spells you used yesterday."

Harry chuckled. "Well, if those spells were dark then you better plan on throwing most of the Wizarding world in Azkaban for using spells by the same author."

"Harry, I know you don’t like this, but help me out here. Amelia’s request isn’t unreasonable. She could have ordered you in for a formal inquest. Right now I’m just supposed to ask you for more information," she said carefully.

Harry sighed and his shoulders drooped. "I know, Tonks. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be angry with you." Straightening his shoulders he looked her in the eye. "For Wormtail I used ‘Levititus ossis torqueo magnopere’."

Hermione looked up and frowned. "Harry, that’s an old healer spell created by Merlin himself. But you didn’t complete the incantation, you left out the restrictive clause."

Harry smiled coldly at her, the smile never reached his eyes. "I know. Wormtail, I’m sure, found it a novel experience."

"Harry," said Remus cautiously.

"No, Remus! I don’t regret killing him. He was a murderer, an evil and twisted thing who gave up his rights as a human a long time ago. You weren’t there when he betrayed my parents. You didn’t see the enjoyment he got out of killing Cedric Diggory. I can still hear Voldemort’s words in my dreams, ‘Kill the spare’ and Peter did exactly as he was ordered. I don’t like having to kill, but as someone very special pointed out to me last night, sometimes, in order to save lives, you must take lives."

Hermione reached out to touch Harry’s hand and he seemed to visibly relax.

Tonks scribbled some notes on a parchment then looked up at Harry expectantly. "What about the second spell? You took out five Death Eaters, permanently blinding them, and turned them into muggles in the process."

Harry leaned back in his chair and put an arm around Hermione’s shoulders. "I’ll let my smart witch explain to you exactly what Lucerna judico means."

Hermione bolted out from his grip and stood up. "Lucerna judico? You used that? Harry that spell has been un-castable for over a thousand years."

Tonks glanced between the two looking annoyed. "Alright, I get it. It’s an old spell, but what…"

"No Tonks, you don’t understand. Merlin himself designed Lucerna judico as a means of judging criminals. Loosely translated it means ‘The Light of Judgement’. No one since Merlin has been able to cast it. It could be cast it in a room full of people and only those who are evil, truly evil, would be affected by it. It’s incredibly powerful and the punishment can vary based on how evil the person is."

Tonks nodded in understanding and looked relieved. "Good, no one will be able to mistake spells by Merlin as being a dark spell. I’ll write this up and get it to Amelia this morning."

Harry looked at his guardian curiously. "Tell me Tonks, do you really believe that there are light and dark spells?"

"It’s what we’ve been taught for years, Harry," Remus said. "Why?"

Harry conjured a ball of fire in his hand and looked at it for a while. " The Incendio charm is a useful spell. It provides light and warmth and we use it to cook our food. But what if I hurled this ball of fire at Mr. Granger?"

Dan looked momentarily worried until he saw the look of amusement in Harry’s eye.

Harry dispelled the flame and looked up at the shocked faces. "Another example, perhaps. A patient lies dying of a disease that wracks the body with uncontrollable pain. In a few days, the patient will die but, for the moment, you can keep them alive, even if you can’t control or ease the pain. Would it be evil to use the killing curse to end their suffering early? I’ve found old medical texts which suggest that, at one time, giving ‘mercy’ was common place. And even older medical texts suggesting that the killing curse might have one time been a healer spell."

Remus, Tonks and Hermione looked at Harry in some confusion. Dan Granger leaned   over the table from his seat. "I think what Harry’s trying to say is it’s the intent that matters."

Harry smiled at Dan gratefully. "Thanks Mr. Granger, that’s exactly what I’m wondering. We’re taught that there are light and dark spells and I’m wondering if there’s really a distinction for most spells. For example, I just gave a reason why the killing curse could be used for good and the Incendio charm used for evil. It boils down to intent. A Stupefying charm is considered a light spell, but Bellatrix’s intent when she cast that at Sirius was to hurt him. A light spell resulted in a death. So was it truly a light spell when it was cast?

"Now mind you, not all spells can be thrown into such light. The Cruciatus curse, for example, has no good use that I can see. But I’m coming to believe that, for a bulk of magic, there is no light and dark, only shades of gray and the intent of the caster to make it light or dark."

"Sweet Merlin’s beard! This is exactly what Lily once said shortly after they went into hiding. She wanted us to start using some of the darker spells to protect ourselves, arguing that it was the intent that made the spell dark, not the spell itself," Remus said softly.

"Harry," Hermione asked now curious. "What’s the difference between say an Auror like Tonks using the killing curse and a Death Eater using the killing curse then?"

"It’s all in the intent, Hermione. The Auror takes no joy from the act and probably feels like I did when I got home yesterday, bloody awful. The Death Eater enjoys what he/she is doing. The Auror does the killing as an act of justice. It’s done for the greater good and always as a last resort. The Death Eater shares no such high minded attitude."

"But you didn’t try capturing Wormtail," Hermione pointed out gently.

"I know, Hermione, but I’m not an Auror, either. Wormtail was killing people. I did what I felt was necessary to make sure he’d never kill again," Harry replied softly. He leaned back in his chair and sighed heavily. "And because of that, it looks like I’m going back to being hated by the Wizarding World again."

Hermione glanced at the paper, knowing he was right.

"Hated? Because of one newspaper article?" exclaimed Emma.

"Mum, last year the press tore Harry apart. People who didn’t know him thought he was either an attention seeking prat, or outright insane," Hermione said softly.

"Why do I even bother anymore? I’ve got enough money, I could move every one of us someplace new and we’d never have to work a day in our lives. I’d never have to read another newspaper article calling my sanity into question or scrutinizing my every action. What’s so special about this world that makes it worth saving?" Harry asked softly.

The adults exchanged concerned looks, unsure how to answer the young man.

"Because the man I love wouldn’t abandon this world without trying to save some part of it," Hermione replied sharply, unwilling to allow him his moment of self-pity.

He grinned slightly at her words and gripped one of her hands tightly. "Remind me of that when they’re spitting in my face on Diagon Alley and burning me in effigy in Hogsmeade." When Hermione scowled at him, he quickly changed the subject. "So, when do we meet with Arthur?"

"Ginny’s set up a meeting in the Leaky Cauldron for noon. She and her brothers are getting a private room and are planning on being there about an hour before their Dad shows up," Hermione replied.

Tonks and Remus both frowned. "Harry, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to be meeting with Arthur Weasley," Tonks said hesitantly.

"You’re probably right, Tonks, but I’m going to go to it anyway. I may not owe much to the Weasleys, but I owe Ginny this," Harry said firmly, then he glanced up as Ginny walked into the kitchen.

"Owe me what?" she asked yawning.

"Meeting with your father."

Ginny smiled at him, knowing he wasn’t happy about the meeting, but would do it anyway.

"Ginny, about last night, I apologize. I had no right to be so rude to you," Harry told the red head.

"It’s all right, Harry.   I understand," she said seriously. She sat down at the table and reached for a pitcher of juice. Hermione was right, she thought. He really is a gentleman most of the time. If I didn’t have Neville I’d tear her hair out to get my hands on him!

Malfoy Manor…

Voldemort was angry, and when Voldemort was angry, everyone was afraid. Earlier that morning, a very foolish junior Death Eater gave the Master a copy of the Daily Prophet, where they reported the death of Wormtail.

It took nearly a dozen junior Death Eaters to clean up all the pieces of that foolhardy individual. Now Voldemort was handing out Cruciatus curses like prizes at a circus, as Lucius was the latest recipient.

"Lucius," Voldemort spat, staring down at the man at his feet, his red eyes blazing, "send for that fool, LeStrange. I want Potter killed even if it takes every servant in that school!"

"Yes, my Lord," the blond replied. Lucius stood up, shaky on his feet and watched the world spin around him as he tried to gain control.   Once his balance returned, he left the room to find Rodolphus LeStrange.

The Leaky Cauldron…

Harry, Hermione and Ginny entered the Leaky Cauldron wearing their concealment cloaks. Harry had seen to it that everyone in his group had received one as a Christmas present.

Tonks and Remus were both upset about this meeting, but Harry had remained firm. He was sure that Tonks and Remus were somewhere nearby just in case, but he was also sure that they wouldn’t be needed today.

Harry walked over to the counter to talk to Tom, the owner and manager of the Leaky Cauldron.   "You have a private room reserved under the name of Weasley?" he asked, his face hidden by the hood of his cloak.

Tom peered into the opening of the hood and shuddered. The charm on the interior of the hood made him faintly nauseous. He hadn’t dealt with these strange, cloaked people before the group that had removed Narcissa Malfoy from his care and he was convinced they were Aurors. He was sure they were somehow related to the Ministry.

Tom looked around the room carefully to see if anyone was watching them before replying. "Room number three, top of the stairs on the right," he replied quietly. If they were Ministry, he didn’t want to annoy them.

Harry tossed a galleon on the counter. "Much thanks, Innkeeper," he said, trying not to laugh and motioned Ginny and Hermione to the stairs.

Entering the room, he saw that Bill and the twins had already arrived. They still had an hour before Arthur was due. He held the door open for Hermione and Ginny and ushered them in. Fred, George and Bill stood up, grinning at the cloaked figures.

Closing the door, Harry pushed back his hood and sat at the long table provided by the Inn while Hermione explained about the cloaks and their purpose. The Weasleys, being who they were, thought the whole idea of the Brotherhood was one of the funniest pranks they’d ever heard and told Harry that he was probably the only person to succeed in pranking Dumbledore.

"Guys, I want you all to understand that, no matter what happens here, if you can maintain a relationship with your father, you should. It’s possible that I may never speak to him again, but for your own sakes, don’t shut him out of your lives," Harry said seriously.

"The problem is," began Bill, speaking for the others, "we believe that what they did was little better than stealing from one of us, Harry. Mind you, I won’t hold Ron’s actions against Dad. I think Ron’s cheese has slipped off his cracker somewhere and he’s not playing with a full chess set anymore. My brothers and I, well, we appreciate you giving Dad a chance to explain."

"Hey, what am I? Chipped beef?" protested Ginny

"Would you like to be?" asked Fred.

"I’m sure we can arrange it," added George.

"Don’t we have a chipped beef candy yet?" asked Fred.

"No, it’s still on the drawing board," replied George.

"Would you three like to experience my improved Bat Bogey hex?" asked the petite red head.

All three Weasley men cringed, while Hermione and Harry laughed.

"You guys know that Dad owes not only Harry, but Hermione an apology," Ginny told the others.

"I don’t think…" started Hermione.

"No, Hermione. Ginny’s spot on. What Ron tried to do to you was inexcusable under any circumstances. We," Bill said, pointing to all of them, "were deeply angered by his actions, and shamed that he’d do that to you. I know you have a family of your own, but we always thought of you as part of ours. What Ron did was abhorrent."

Hermione looked down at the table and bit her lip. She had worked hard to put that particular incident behind her, but with Bill and the others talking about it, it all came crashing down on her again. Her eyes filled with tears and she felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her. She looked up to see Harry holding her, Ginny and Bill each held one of her hands and even the twins looked at her with somber expressions on their faces.

Trying to regain her composure, she stammered out an apology, but the twins wouldn’t hear of it. "Shut it, Hermione," said George.

"You have nothing to apologize for," Fred added fiercely.

"And you don’t have a Bat Bogey hex to threaten us with," George teased gently.

"Oh quite! A defenseless babe, she is," Fred said, haughtily buffing his nails.

"Boys, Hermione probably knows more spells than all of us combined. Why, just the other day she was telling me about this circumcision spell she’d learned about that could be done from a distance," Ginny said in wide eyed innocence.

Every male in the room cringed and swung his gaze to the bushy haired young witch.   When she smiled sweetly at them, they all grimaced and looked away.

Harry was about to say something to Hermione when the door opened to admit Arthur Weasley. His clothing was rumpled and it was obvious he hadn’t slept well recently.

Harry stood and walked around to the back of Hermione’s chair, placing his hands on her shoulders. He looked at the elder Weasley coldly. Ginny popped out of her chair and went to her father. She grabbed him by a hand and tugged him forward.

Arthur took off his hat and held it in front of him like a shield. "Thank you for coming, Harry. I know I can’t expect your forgiveness, but I wanted to tell you how sorry I am and maybe give you a little understanding as to why I did what I did," Arthur offered softly.

At Harry’s nod, he looked down for a moment to gather his thoughts before beginning. "When Dumbledore approached us the summer before your first year, we were in terrible shape financially. I only make three thousand galleons a year and we had Percy, the twins and Ron going to Hogwarts. It costs six hundred galleons a year to send a child to Hogwarts, and there was Dumbledore, offering us money to befriend a boy. I have to admit I felt uneasy about it, but the lure of the money was strong, Harry. We didn’t know you at all then, and my uneasiness grew as the years went by. By the end of your second year, we owed you a Life debt for saving Ginny. I wanted to stop the payments at that point, but Molly wouldn’t hear of it. She called Dumbledore to the Burrow and he sat down and explained that all of your money would go to your muggle relatives when you died."   Arthur paused, an expression of disgust and doubt on his face.

"He needs to know everything, Dad," Ginny said firmly.

"Right.   Well, as I said, Dumbledore said all of the money would be left to the Dursley’s when you died, as if rewarding them for their years of abuse.   And he made it clear that you would die, Harry.   He said there was no way a child could fight Voldemort and win.

"The summer before your forth year, Ron learned about the money and insisted that he be given some of it. By that point I knew we’d lost all honor. Between Ron and Molly, they wouldn’t allow us to back out. While I know my boys and Ginny thought of you as one of the family, Molly and Ron had ceased to do so.

"Harry, nothing I can say will earn your forgiveness, or Hermione’s. I just want you both to know I deeply regret what has happened…what has become of all of us," Arthur concluded.

Harry stood silent for a moment, staring at the elder Weasley, his eyes hard and his magic burning behind them.   "You’re right, Arthur. Forgiveness is not something you can simply expect to receive with a few words. However, I’m willing to give you a chance to earn it. I know of the letter you’ve sent to Amelia and I’ve told her to do nothing about it for now."

Arthur looked up sharply. He’s telling Amelia what to do? What is going on here? Arthur wondered.

Hermione smiled as Harry slipped into what she called his ‘Teacher’ mode.

"Yes, Arthur. Amelia does listen to me in this matter. Now here’s what you’re going to do. We’re coming down to a major turning point in the war against Voldemort and because of the failure of our leaders we’re going to lose Britain. I, and a few friends, like your sons and daughter, are aware of what’s going to happen and we are working to preserve what we can. But make no mistake; the Wizarding world in Britain is about to come to an ugly end.

"You have two choices Arthur, and I am only offering them to you because of your family, who I happen to consider part of my family. You can either continue as you have been, miserable and alone, and soon the war will catch up with you. Or, you can help us and, in the process, maybe heal the breech between you and your children. I don’t know yet if it’s possible to heal the breech between you and I. And as for Hermione, that’s up to her.

"Having said that, here are my terms. You’ll join your sons in what I call Team Weasley. Bill is the team leader and you’ll take direction from him. When I give the signal, Team Weasley will begin some tasks that your sons know about. In the meantime, you’ll cease all contact with Dumbledore and his bird watching society, preferably resigning from them. Make no mistake here, Arthur, if I find out that you’ve talked to Dumbledore or any of his cronies, I’ll wipe your memories and have you tossed into Azkaban," Harry said coldly.

Arthur nodded at the young man. Everyone in the room could feel the magic pouring off Harry as he spoke. Hermione was afraid he was going to blow up the building.

Arthur lowered his eyes and shuffled his feet. "I’ll do what you ask, Harry."

Harry nodded slowly and stepped back behind Hermione. He put one hand on her shoulder as if reminding Arthur that there was still some unfinished business between them. Arthur nodded to Harry, then turned to look at the young witch and swallowed hard.

"Hermione," Arthur stammered, "I don’t have the words to say to you. What my son did and tried to do to you was repugnant. He dishonored our family and our name, and in doing so, hurt you in ways I can’t even imagine."

"I can, Dad," murmured Ginny. "Ron’s actions make him undeserving of the name Weasley."

"I know, Ginevra," Arthur said quietly. "That’s why the divorce papers I filed also include a formal declaration disowning Ronald. He will take his mother’s name of Prewitt."

The four Weasleys exchanged a shocked glance. This was unexpected. Ginny leaned against Fred, crying softly and he wrapped his arms around his sister, holding her. Even Hermione’s eyes filled with unshed tears. Harry bowed his head and closed his eyes. The Weasley’s had caused him considerable pain in the last year, but they’d always seemed so solid, so…family. And now that rock was breaking apart.

"I’m sorry," Harry said in a whisper. It was barely audible. Arthur and the others turned to stare at him incredulously.   "I’m beginning to think it must be a family curse," Harry said quietly. "Everyone that…"

"Don’t you dare say it, Harry Potter!" Ginny retorted loudly. She walked over to him and, despite her small stature, seemed for a moment to loom over him with her hands on her hips, staring up at him and glaring. "You didn’t do this to my family. We did it to ourselves and I’ll hex you into next year if you think we’re going to let you accept any blame for this!"

She stuck a finger under his nose and shook it violently at him. When Harry backed up, many in the room began to snicker at the two of them. Harry looked at Hermione in an appeal for help but she was too busy laughing.

Ginny continued to yell at him so he decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. He cast a few illusion spells wandlessly and then cast a camouflage charm on himself. As Harry faded from sight, Ginny looked around in confusion.

When she turned back to the table, she saw Hermione sitting there, and four perfect copies of Harry Potter. Ginny’s eyes narrowed in anger. "That’s not fair, Harry!"

"Of course it isn’t, but it is funny, Ginny. Even you have to admit that." The reply came from four different throats, and all four Harry’s looked at her earnestly, though their eyes danced merrily.

The twins, finally catching onto what Harry had pulled, fell out of their seats, laughing.

Grimmauld Place…

Emma sat in front of the warm fire in the sitting room attached to their bedroom. She watched her husband pace back and forth muttering under his breath. Finally, she put down the dentistry journal she had been attempting to read.

"Dan, would you kindly sit down and tell me what is bothering you or should I call Remus and ask him to stun you? I swear you’re wearing a hole in the carpet," Emma said in exasperation.

Dan whirled on her. "Aren’t you the least bit upset? Didn’t you hear her this morning?"

"Of course I heard her, Dan. My question is why, are you upset? You suspected she felt this way about him for months now."

"Suspecting and knowing are two different things! She actually came out and said it, in front of witnesses!"

Emma placed the journal onto an end table and looked up at her husband, giving him her undivided attention. "Well? What’s your objection? That young man not only loves her, he’d give his life to make sure she’s safe and happy. He’s rich beyond belief and it hasn’t affected him. He’s downright humble. He’s generous to a fault and cares about people he’s never even met. He’s spending money to save people who don’t even know him! By Wizarding standards, he’s the strongest wizard the world has ever seen. And still he’s humble about it. It embarrasses him. He obviously loves her despite an upbringing that should have left him incapable of loving anyone. So I’ll ask again. What is your objection?"

"They’re too young!"

Emma smiled at him gently. "By our standards, yes, they are young. But are they really, Dan? Harry’s never had a real childhood. That poor boy went from infant to adult in a quarter of the time the rest of us take. And Hermione, well…she’s always tried to be more mature than her peers. But that’s all beside the point. In the Wizarding world, they have a life expectancy that’s double ours and they still marry young. Harry’s parents were married within weeks of their graduation from Hogwarts, and they had Harry only a few years later. They do things differently in this world. No abortions, divorce is only possible if the head of your family agrees to it. People get married earlier and stay that way, happily I might add."

Dan looked at her curiously, "How do they manage that?"

"I talked to Tonks about it. Apparently a couple needs to have a compatibility spell run on them before they can get married. If the compatibility is less than seventy percent, the couple must attend yearly counseling sessions for the first twenty-five years of their marriage if they insist on going through with it. If they’re over seventy percent, they don’t need to attend the sessions. Tonks told me that Ginny ran a compatibility test on Harry and Hermione and it was off the scale. According to Tonks and Remus, Harry’s parents had a compatibility of one hundred and eighty percent. Harry and Hermione are over three hundred percent.

"If it’s any consolation, Dan, I know for a fact that your daughter’s virtue is still intact, although I suspect that won’t last long. Our daughter’s chosen herself a man who honors her by not pressuring her like someone else I remember," she said sternly, though her eyes danced with amusement.

Dan’s expression colored in embarrassment and he looked down at the carpet, shuffling his feet in embarrassment.

"I think part of your problem, my beloved husband, is that you see Harry sniffing around our daughter and then you remember how you were at his age. You were a horny little devil in your day my dear, and still are. But Harry isn’t you. According to Hermione, she’s had to walk him through things that any boy at his age should have known. In fact, I’d bet that she’ll be leading him for a while until he manages to gain some confidence in himself."

"Alright, alright. I get the picture! You don’t have to draw diagrams and illustrations. Harry’s an angel."

Emma frowned and sighed deeply. "Shall I kill you here and now, or should I wait for Hermione to come home and let her do it? I swear some decisions are tough to make."

Dan glared at her angrily and Emma pretended to recoil in fear before laughing at him.

"Honestly Dan, what you need to understand is our daughter has fallen in love with a good man, an honorable man, a man who loves her as he loves nothing else in this world or any other. That’s all you need to understand and accept it! She’s happy with Harry. Be happy for her. She’s even had a vision of my mother telling her that Harry was her chosen mate. She’s a smart woman…yes woman, Daniel Granger! She’s not just our baby girl anymore. She’s a grown woman who’s also a legal adult in this country. She’s smart enough to make sure she doesn’t make us grandparents too early."

Emma reached over and grabbed his hand, pulling him down onto the couch she was sitting on. She kissed him passionately, then looked deep into his eyes. "I’ll tell you this only once, Daniel Granger. Do not interfere with Hermione. She’s happy and the last thing you want is both of us angry with you."

"I wasn’t planning on interfering, Emma. But if I can’t at least complain to you, then who can I complain to? I’m her father, I’m supposed to hate any man she brings home. I always thought I’d find a lot to complain about with any guy she brought home. Instead, she manages to find the one guy in England who places more importance on her happiness than she does. Age is about the only thing left for me to complain about," Dan said, trying to disguise the whine in his voice. He shivered as Emma nibbled on his neck.

"Then find something else to do besides complaining about things you can’t change," she murmured huskily against his neck.

Dan slid one hand down to rest on her hip and did exactly what his wife asked him to do. After all, wasn’t that what a dutiful husband was supposed to do?  

Grimmauld Place, that evening at dinner…

Harry and Hermione had returned earlier that afternoon from their meeting with the Weasleys. Most of the their guests had already left, the sole exception being Luna, who had asked to stay over so she and Draco could celebrate the New Year together. Narcissa found the small blonde girl quite entertaining despite her apparent oddness and had invited Luna to share her bedroom with her.

No one really minded, with the guests gone the house felt empty again. Harry sat with everyone else at the kitchen table getting ready to enjoy a cozy evening meal. He glanced around the table noting the silly grin on Dan’s face and Emma’s smug look. He nudged Hermione and nodded in the direction of her parents. She looked for a moment, then looked away, her face flushed.

"I’ll explain later," she whispered.

Harry nodded and tuned into the conversation going on between Remus and Tonks.

"It’s all a matter of timing, Tonks," Remus said heatedly.

"I don’t see how you can say that, Remy. We have so much to do that, even if we start now, we may never get it all done in time," Tonks retorted.

Harry jumped into the conversation. "I set the kick off date when I did because we don’t know when the end will come. The problem is, if we set it too early, we risk tipping off our hand. The end will come with massive confusion, Tonks, and if we’re careful we’ll be able to slip by, hidden by the noise of all that confusion."

Tonks eyed Harry carefully. "Yes, I see that, Harry. But if we start earlier, we’d be able to save more people."

"I’m telling you we can’t do it, Tonks. This won’t be a case of saving everyone, this is a case of saving what we can," Harry snapped in reply. His hands trembled in frustration.

"I’m sorry Tonks," he said a moment later. "I didn’t mean to snap at you. Look, I don’t like the idea of only saving what we can either. I want to save them all, but I can’t. It’s just not possible, and everyone keeps telling me if I go after Voldemort right now, I’ll lose. I truly want to save them all Tonks, even if they hate and fear me," Harry ended in a whisper.

Tonks stood quickly, knocking over her chair with a loud bang. She stepped over to embrace Harry. She could see that the conversation had caused him quite a lot of distress.

With most of the eyes at the table fixed on Harry and Tonks, no one noticed Hermione’s eyes glazing over. She shuddered once, then again. Finally, she spoke in a voice unlike her own.


Harry jerked away from Tonks and looked at Hermione in alarm. Luna was already passing him a parchment with a copy of what she had said. Harry let her repeat the prophecy while he double checked it against the parchment one more time before touching her gently on the shoulder.

Hermione shuddered again and her eyes focused on Harry. She looked at him in confusion until he handed her the parchment. She gasped and paled, trembling against him as she read.

He reached over and gently removed the parchment from her hand. Then he made several copies, which he passed around the table. Now others would be able to work on deciphering the newest prophecy.

Harry then focused on Hermione.   Placing a finger under her chin, he forced her head up gently and met her eyes. "Hermione, don’t worry about it tonight. In fact, I’m handing this over to Remus. He’s as good a researcher as you are," he said softly.

Tonks pulled a small vial out of her pocket and handed it to Emma. "Put three drops of this her tea tonight. She’ll sleep straight through," she whispered. Harry caught the dialog and nodded to Tonks.

"You’re tired. Why don’t you go with your mum, take a hot bath and I’ll stop by later to see if you’re still awake? Right now though, I’d like to talk to your dad. Guy stuff, you know," Harry said, his eyes calm and comforting.

She nodded uncertainly and let her mother lead her out of the kitchen. Harry watched her leave before leaning back in his chair and sighing in relief.

"You didn’t really have something to say to me did you, Harry?" asked Dan.

"Actually I did, Mr. Granger," Harry replied, picking up one of the copies and tossing it in Dan’s direction. "I’m no expert in prophecies, but something in this screams muggle world to me, not wizarding world. I’d like to ask you for a couple of favors. First off, we’re going to need to find a way of monitoring what’s going on in the muggle world. That suggests some sort of radio I think, but I’m not sure what kind. You still have that Gringotts card, so I’ll need you to find out what kind of radio we need and pick it up for us.

Dan nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I can see that. Maybe we should go with a scanner or some kind of short wave receiver. I’ll work on it. What else do you need?"

"Alright, the next is going to be harder. Hermione loathes the fact that she’s a seeress. To her, divination is hogwash, plain and simple. What I want to do is take her mind off this for a while. New Years is two days away. I was thinking that maybe I could take her out tomorrow, or even a holiday show on New Years Eve? I could take her into muggle London...someplace fancy maybe? But I haven’t a clue where to take her."

"Depends on how much you’re willing to spend for an evening out, Harry."

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment. "I have thirty five hundred pounds of muggle money in my dresser upstairs. Would I need more than that?"

Dan swallowed in surprise then shook his head. "No Harry, you won’t need more than that. I do believe there’s an excellent show at the Royal Opera House. But Hermione would need a formal dress for that."

"I’ll pick up the tickets for you, Harry, and take her out for a new dress tomorrow. You just have to worry about getting yourself dolled up," Tonks offered.

"Excellent! I’ll let you use my card for her dress, Tonks. Between shopping, a show and dinner, she’ll be too busy to worry about that prophecy," replied Harry.

Grimmauld Place, Breakfast, New Years Day…

Hermione woke up late. She slipped out of bed and threw on a robe and some slippers before padding softly down to the kitchen for breakfast. Her mind was a whirl recalling last night. Harry had arranged for Tonks to take her out the day before to purchase a formal evening dress, but no one had told her the reason for it. Tonks decided that if she was going to need a formal dress, she’d need a total makeover as well. With Emma tagging along, the three women had spent the day shopping.

Hermione didn’t know the reason for the dress and makeover until the 1935 Park Ward Rolls Royce Limo Harry had hired pulled up in front of number Eleven Grimmauld Place and dropped them off in front of the Royal Opera House. Hermione actually felt like a storybook princess for a few hours, which was exactly how Harry wanted her to feel. Afterwards, they’d dined in a little out of the way muggle restaurant recommended by their driver before returning to Grimmauld Place. She was still bubbling with excitement when she padded into the kitchen the next morning.

Hermione stopped short when she spotted Tonks tending what looked to be a massive black eye on Harry. His lip was split and bleeding as well.

"What happened to you?" she practically screamed at him.

"Diagon Alley, Hermione. That happened to me," Harry replied heavily.

Remus pushed a copy of the Daily Prophet over towards her. Numbly she took a seat and began to read.

Attack on Diagon Alley by Unknown Hooligans!

New Years Eve celebrations on Diagon Alley were cut short last night when a group of masked hooligans began attacking people and destroying property. Ministry Spokesman Percy Weatherbee is quoted as saying, "We are sure the attackers were Death Eaters, supporters of You-Know-Who". The Prophet, on the other hand, does not believe it at all. We have reason to believe these were really Hogwarts students under the command of either Harry Potter or Albus Dumbledore or both. Both of whom are suspected of teaching Dark Arts within the school.

Over forty people have been sent to St. Mungos as the result of the attack and another twenty are confirmed dead. In addition to the wounded and killed, with the exception of Ollivanders and Gringotts, most of the shops in Diagon Alley were destroyed or heavily damaged.

The Daily Prophet calls upon the Ministry to stop lying to the public and to take steps to clean up the mess at Hogwarts. If Harry Potter has not turned dark, then we demand that he immediately be placed in protective custody and removed from the influence of that school and its shady Headmaster.

And if Harry Potter hasn’t turned to the dark side, then why didn’t he stop the attack? No. We at the Prophet believe it’s time the Boy-Who-Lived owned up to the fame and responsibility he has to the Wizarding World. We have coddled that boy for far too long and this is the thanks we get for treating him so well? We think not!

Hermione looked up from the article and her eyes narrowed speculatively. "Alright, I see there was problem on Diagon Alley last night, but how did you get injured, Harry?"

Harry sighed as Tonks handed him a potion for his black eye. He downed it in a fast gulp then he put the cup on the table before he replied. "I wanted to get more owl treats this morning and I thought it would be nice if I picked up some flowers for you. I didn’t get more than ten feet into the Alley when I was mobbed. People were throwing rocks and cobblestones. I think I was called every name in the book this morning. Apparently the Prophet thinks I’m evil and the people are believing them again."

He shook his head, wincing as he did. "It’s fifth year all over again," he murmured. "Only this time the Ministry isn’t the one telling the Prophet to crucify me."

Harry stood and started to walk out of the kitchen, his stance and gait giving evidence to the pain he was in. It was obvious that he had been hit in more places than his face.

"Where are you going?" Tonks asked him, concerned.

"I think I’ll go lay down for a while, then maybe take a hot soak," he replied.

Harry left the kitchen and Tonks bit her lip worriedly. She hadn’t the heart to tell him that, since the attack at St. Mungos, his mail, which was still being screened by the Ministry, had increased by one thousand percent, over three hundred howlers a day! Once again the wizarding world was turning it’s back on Harry Potter.

Hermione checked on Harry an hour later, only to find him sleeping fitfully. She knew he’d wake up soon so she grabbed a book and pulled a chair over to sit near him. She was determined to make sure he didn’t allow public opinion of him sway him from his course.

#10 Downing Street…

It was very late and the only people still awake in the mansion were either custodial staff or part of the security force. Four indistinct shapes moved through the mansion barely visible. The main security room was one of the first stops. Several softly spoken ‘Stupefies’ later, the shapes moved up to the main bedroom. As they did, anyone they encountered was also stunned.

The bedroom contained the Prime Minister of the British Isles, one of the most powerful politicians in the western world. Tonight he slept alone, as his wife was staying with family in the country. Harry, Bill Weasley, Amelia Bones and Remus Lupin slipped into the room.

Harry cast multiple illusion spells over the muggle security system. He was the only one strong enough to maintain multiple illusions at the same time. Remus and Bill were along to take care of any people they met, and Amelia would do the talking for them. Amelia removed her invisibility cloak entirely before approaching the bed.

Amelia gently shook the shoulder of the man sleeping on the bed. The Prime Minister sat up with a start. A long time politician, he knew that wake up calls in the middle of the night were never good.

"Do not be alarmed, Minister. We are not here to harm you," Amelia said softly.

"Who are you? Where is security?" asked the frightened Minister.

"Your security staff have not been harmed, Minister. We, ah… put them to sleep for a while so we could discuss a few things, then we will be on our way, leaving you safe and sound," Amelia answered calmly.

The Prime Minister’s eyes narrowed and he tried to take command of this strange situation. "We? Madam, from what I can see, you and I are alone."

At a gesture from Amelia, the rest of them dropped their invisibility cloaks. The Prime Minister looked surprised, then he nodded. "So, you’re from that other Ministry, are you? Very well then, tell me what you must."

"Sir, first off we are not formal representatives of the Ministry of Magic, although I am the Director of Magical Law Enforcement. In all likelihood, the information you’ve been getting from the Ministry of Magic is tainted, so please listen carefully. We do not have a lot of time.

"To begin with, the wizarding world is at war and it’s about to spill over into your world in a bad way. There are multiple factions that are currently competing for control of our world. The Ministry of Magic is one, but it’s badly run and compromised by agents of the other factions. There is the Order of the Phoenix, another faction, and they claim to be only interested in helping the Ministry to defeat Lord Voldemort. Voldemort is the third faction and when he wins the results will be tragic for all England."

"And what faction do you represent?"

Amelia smiled unhappily at the Prime Minister. "We represent a fourth faction, one that knows that Lord Voldemort will win this coming war and will take over England, wizarding and yours. Our group has but one goal, Minister. To save what we can. That’s why we’re here tonight, to warn you that you have slightly over four months to prepare. We believe your military has been compromised and that key elements of the civil government have been as well. When the time comes, the legal, civil government of England will fall and there is nothing you can do to stop it."

The Prime Minister climbed out of his bed and threw on a robe, his expression grim. Although the wizarding world was a state secret, every Prime Minister knew of its existence. This wasn’t the first time that a threat had come from the Wizarding world to affect muggle Britain. But, in the past, they’d always taken care of their own problems.

Now it seemed this was something beyond their control. He paced a few steps, and then he turned to face Amelia. "This information is accurate? Do you believe it?" he asked.

The Minister was surprised when Amelia glanced at Harry and he nodded in permission before she replied to him. "Minister, it’s accurate enough that we are taking a number of highly illegal steps to preserve what we believe to be the best of both muggle and wizarding England. Certain cultural items of great importance to both our peoples are going to be relocated to the British Embassies in Washington D.C. and Ottawa, Canada. So please, make sure those embassies are alerted to expect deliveries from a group called "Case Green".

The Prime Minister scribbled some notes down on a bedside tablet as Amelia spoke. She gave him a way of contacting her using the muggle cell phone system, and then she offered to provide help relocating any personnel, but admitted that help would have to be extremely limited and kept secret.

Finally the Minister looked up as Amelia wound down. "Can’t your group help the Ministry to put a stop to this? A lot of people are going to die, damn you! You should be helping, not running away!"

Amelia was about to say something when Harry made a noise. Everyone turned to look at him. His gaze was fixed on the Minister and there were tears streaming down his face. "We can’t help. As much as we want to, we can’t. Some things are destined to be, Mr. Prime Minister. Please, heed our warning and take steps to save what you can," the young man choked out.

Remus walked to Harry and put a hand on his shoulder. Harry glanced at the older man gratefully while the Prime Minister considered his options. Finally he nodded in defeat.

"Thank you for your warning. We will take steps," the Prime Minister replied heavily.

As the four donned their invisibility cloaks, the Prime Minister of the British Isles was already waking up the government. The last thing Harry heard was the Prime Minister on the phone telling the operator to connect him to Buckingham Palace and that he needed to speak with the Queen.

Hogwarts Bound…

"Hurry up, you two!" shouted Tonks from the main foyer.

A moment later, Harry and Hermione came down the stairs. Draco had gone to spend two days with Luna and would meet them at platform 9 ¾. They opted to return to school using the Express just to avoid any questions if they used another method.

From Grimmauld Place they took a Ministry supplied car to the station. As the car pulled away, everyone donned their concealment cloaks. Harry’s experience in Diagon Alley had made him reluctant to go out without some sort of disguise. It was an attitude which worried Hermione incessantly. She knew there was a valid reason for it, but in a way it was forcing Harry into a self imposed prison, similar to what Sirius experienced in the last years of his life. She found the parallel and its effect on Harry disturbing.

The shift in attitude of the public had been swift and it had been brutal. In the span of a few days following the attack on Diagon Alley, the amount of hate mail Harry had been receiving skyrocketed. He was averaging some three to four hundred howlers daily, and the number of cursed mail had also risen sharply. In the past five days, Aurors had arrested twenty-four people for sending lethally cursed objects to Harry in the mail.

Harry’s stoicism in the face of this abrupt turnaround bothered Hermione the most. She knew he was deeply hurt by the situation, but he was burying his emotions and even she hadn’t been able to break through his shell. She hung back, watching him interact with the others, knowing he was faking most of his emotions at the moment. She knew he was faking because she had been unable to draw him out, even for a serious snog session!

They didn’t have to wait long until they saw Arthur and another group of figures dressed in concealment cloaks approaching. It was Ginny and the Weasley brothers.

Arthur looked around at all the figures in cloaks nervously. No one had bothered to explain to him why his own sons and daughter were wearing them. Ginny and Hermione pushed their hoods back and hugged each other while they waited for the rest of the Outcasts to show up.

One by one they entered the platform through the portal, each of them wearing a cloak Harry had provided as Christmas presents. As the kids arrived, they pushed back their hoods and greeted each other. The adults and Harry were the only ones who left their hoods up, concealing their features. Arthur hovered uncomfortably around the edge of the group, but Bill stood close to him. He paled slightly when he saw Molly and Ronald approaching.

Molly’s face clouded in anger and she started to step forward when Tonks stepped into her path. Tonks had assumed the form of that gaunt, old Brotherhood member before arriving at the train station. It was a form Molly was familiar with.

"Do not put your nose into our business, Molly Prewitt. We warned you once before, we will not warn you again," said the metamorph in a cold tone.

"B-B-But that’s my husband!" Molly screeched.

"Ex-husband, and now under our protection, Molly Prewitt," came the cold reply.

Molly skidded to a halt and considered her options. There really wasn’t much she could do. Arthur’s divorce and disowning of Ronald had come as a shock to her, but there was no appeal. He had allotted her one third of his income and the Burrow as alimony. If she pushed too hard Arthur had the option, as the Head of the Weasley family, to further reduce that amount.

Trying to ignore the impending fight between Molly and Arthur, Hermione led the Outcasts onto the train. Harry followed, his hood still up and concealing his identity. Ron broke free from Molly’s grasp and sprinted up the same stairwell as the Outcasts. Arthur, seeing Ron and Ginny board the train, apparated back to his office at the Ministry. A public fight with an ex-wife was the last thing he wanted.

Onboard the Express, Ron had caught up to the Outcasts who were filing up the car looking for an empty compartment to occupy. Ron shoved the hooded figure in front of him. The figure went sprawling to the ground and skidded a foot. Every one of the Outcasts turned and pulled their wands.

"Big fucking deal, this Brotherhood of yours. So Ginny, you’ve joined the rest of these whores then, have you? Do you spread your legs for all of them? Is Hermione teaching you to be a good whore?" Ron sneered.

Harry climbed slowly to his feet and turned to face Ron. His cloak started to billow and flap wildly as if in a heavy wind and he pushed the hood off his head.

"Ron, you have an inferiority complex and it's fully justified. Run away, little boy, before you get hurt," Harry said in a voice cold enough to freeze steel. Ron backed away from the group and he would have gotten away free, but before he could turn he was hit with a Bat Bogey hex from his sister.

As Ron grabbed his nose in a vain attempt to contain the bogies, Luna muttered softly under her breath and a purple light shot from her wand.   When it hit Ron, he shouted and reached for his head.   As the Outcasts watched, a twisted, crumpled looking horn grew out six inches from the center of his forehead.

"Crumple horned Snorkack?" Draco asked her clinically.

"Mmm," Luna confirmed dreamily.   "It would look better with the Snorkack’s feathered legs and scaled rump, though."

Draco and Hermione eyed each other for a moment. Then Draco pointed to Ron, then to himself and mouthed the word, "Feathers." Hermione nodded and they both turned back to the screeching Ron. As one, they pointed their wands at the redhead and muttered softly.   As the two spells hit him, he stopped his caterwauling and stared at them in shock, before looking down at his feathered legs and scaly arse.

"Much better," Luna said approvingly.

Neville cocked his head and stared at Ginny’s brother.   Ron, shocked beyond the ability to speak, stood in the aisle of the Hogwarts Express with wide spread, feathered legs, his bum covered in large, green scales and exuding over-large bogies that attacked him soon after they emerged.   But something was missing.

Stepping forward, Neville mumbled under his breath, but not quietly enough.   Ginny began to laugh before the spell ever hit her brother.   Once it had, the others joined in.   Ron’s chest began to swell and, when it was finally done, he sported a fine set of DD breasts.

The aisle of the train car had filled rapidly when Ron had begun to yell, and it was now filled with laughing, howling students as they stared at him.   Ron’s eyes began to narrow, but he soon found that too painful, as it pulled on the skin around his horn.   "You’ll pay for this," he told the Outcasts.   "I’ll make sure of it!"

"Run away, Ron," Harry said, softly.   "Unless, of course, you’d like a nice pair of hooves to go with your horn?"

"Or maybe a pair of wings," Ginny said dangerously.

"A winged Crumple Horned Snorkack?   How intriguing," Luna said, excitedly.

Ron stared at them in impotent fury.   There was nothing he could do at the moment and he knew it. He turned abruptly, or tried to.   Instead he found himself jammed between the walls.   "What is this?" he said in a shrill voice.

"You know, I never noticed how large Ron’s arse really is." Ginny said conversationally as she eyed her brother.

"I may have added something to the spell," Hermione admitted, her lips twitching. "Perhaps I shouldn’t have."

"No, I think it’s an improvement," Ginny said, cocking her head and examining Ron. "In any event, it should be amusing to see how he gets himself off the train. What do you think, Harry?"

Harry turned to Ginny and smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes.

Hermione watched him, her eyes narrowed, and vowed that she was going to pin him down and get him talking.

Most of the trip back to Hogwarts was uneventful. Few people wanted to interact with Harry or his friends. But Hermione could see that with each furtive look a student gave them, the wall Harry was building around himself grew taller and thicker. She scowled and planned her own form of intervention to bring him back to her and his friends.

Luna and Draco…

After the welcoming dinner, the Outcasts split up to go to their respective houses. Draco escorted Luna part way back to Ravenclaw when he made a decision that had been plaguing him all day.

He abruptly turned and pulled Luna by the hand into an unused classroom. It was enough of a surprise that Luna broke from her dreamy state.

"Dray? What are you doing?" asked Luna breathlessly.

Draco pushed her into a chair and then he started to pace in front of the bewildered Ravenclaw. Finally, he stopped and turned to face her for a moment. "You puzzle me, Luna. I still don’t understand you. I once thought that I knew all about women. My father used to let me play with the women he brought home to entertain him and, believe me, I don’t mean we played exploding snap or gob-stones. I find myself confused and I don’t know what to do about it. I have no wish to treat you the way my father treated his doxies, or the way he wanted me to treat them. You make me feel things I’ve not felt before and I don’t understand it all."

Luna smiled gently at him and he shivered at the wash of intense emotions as they wreaked havoc with his nerves. Then she assumed her normal, vague look. "You know, Draco, you’re more like Harry than I thought. You see love staring you in the face and fail to recognize it for what it is," she said dreamily. "But don’t worry, I’ll be here waiting for you to make up your mind."

Draco stared at her for a moment in surprise, then decided to show her exactly what it had taken him all day to decide. He offered her a hand and she took it as she stood up, then she gasped as Draco swept her into his arms. He kissed her more gently than she’d ever imagined he could. It was like snowflakes brushing her lips. Then he buried his head in her shoulder and held her tightly to him. He trembled with a desire that he held firmly in check, while Luna smiled up at the ceiling, her own arms around him.

"There’s hope for you after all, Dray," she said, sighing happily.

Headmaster’s Office, After the Welcoming Feast…

Albus pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to stave off a headache.   He had no time to go to the infirmary for pain-relieving potion. He’d received an owl from Moody with some disturbing news and he needed to inform Severus. It was something he wasn’t looking forward to.

Once Peter Pettigrew’s death had been confirmed, the Ministry had moved quickly to clear Sirius Black’s name.   As the man was dead, it made little difference to Dumbledore whether his name was cleared or not.   But Severus was another matter.

The man simply could not accept that Black was no longer officially thought of as a vicious killer, but rather a man who had served twelve years in hell for a crime he didn’t commit.   That wasn’t to say that everyone believed the Ministry in its pronouncement of Black’s innocence.   But then again, the story had been buried in the Daily Prophet and the Ministry wasn’t exactly standing up and flaunting their mistake.

And all that business in the Prophet about Hogwarts teaching its students dark magic had caused him nothing but trouble. The howlers he’d received from angry parents who believed the newspaper article had swamped him.   It had finally taken a statement by the entire Board of Governors to calm the situation and to say that the Board was less than pleased with him would be an understatement.   First there had been the business with Ron Weasely and now this.   Oh no, they were not pleased at all!

He grimaced in some pain when his office door slammed open. "Good evening, Severus."

Snape nodded. "Albus.   I don’t know why you insisted on calling me up here.   You already know how I feel about Pettigrew’s death, not to mention Black," he sneered.   "Can you believe they cleared the bastard? I’m not saying that Peter didn’t need killing. Merlin knows he did.   But what is the Ministry thinking in proclaiming Black innocent? I’m telling you, Headmaster, no good will come from this.   That Potter brat will…"

Dumbledore closed his eyes tiredly as the Potion Master paced the office, ranting.   Severus’ unreasonable hatred for Harry was getting more out of hand every day. There was some justification for his feelings about Sirius, but Black was dead and Snape’s continuing tirades about the man were becoming tiresome.

"Enough, Severus!" Albus cut in finally.   "I did not ask you here to discuss Sirius Black.   We’ve worn the topic through.   The Ministry cleared his name and made the announcement before I knew it was happening.   There is nothing I can do to change it.

I asked you here because I received an owl from Alastor Moody.   He was at King’s Cross Station today, keeping an eye on things as the students boarded the train.   He tells me that Arthur Weasley appeared, surrounded by Brotherhood members.   A lot of them."

Snape scowled.   "Weasley’s changed sides?   What of Molly and Ron?"

Molly tried to approach Arthur, but was warned away by one of the Brotherhood.   The interesting thing is that, according to Moody, she was addressed as ‘Molly Prewett’, rather than Weasley," Albus said, carefully scanning Alastor’s note.

"Does this mean Arthur’s left the Order?" Snape asked.

"I’ve not heard from him yet, but I would assume so," Dumbledore replied.   "I do know that he’s left the Burrow and his wife."   Glancing up, he noticed Severus’ shocked look and knew just how the man felt.   "Surprising, isn’t it?" he asked.

"Surprising?   It’s impossible.   It can’t be true, Albus.   Arthur has always done as Molly’s told him.   There’s no way he’d leave her unless…" he trailed off.

"Unless he’s under the influence of the Brotherhood?   Yes, I had thought of that myself," Albus replied. "But what could they possibly gain by subverting Arthur Weasley?"

"A way into the Ministry?" Snape asked.

"Perhaps, but I had assumed Miss Tonks had fulfilled that roll."


"She quit the Order and has become Harry’s guardian, Severus.   It would make sense."

"Maybe, but Tonks has no real power at the Ministry.   Arthur, at least, is a department head," Snape replied.

"It is puzzling."

"Puzzling?   Are you mad?   This is disastrous, Albus.   The Brotherhood is subverting Order members every time we turn around.   Lupin, Tonks, now Arthur?   Who’s next? Minerva?   She’s been acting strange, lately."   Snape’s eyes narrowed in thought.

"True, but until we know for sure, there isn’t much to be done about it.   I will keep an eye on the situation and let you know if anything changes, Severus.   I only wanted you to be aware of what had happened," the Headmaster said, clearly dismissing the Professor.

"What?" Snape said, refocusing his attention on Albus.   "Oh yes, well, goodnight then, Headmaster."   Turning swiftly, he exited the room still thinking of Minerva’s odd behavior of late.

When the door closed, Albus removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose again.   The headache he was hoping to avoid had struck during Severus’ rant.   There was no help for it, he would need a pain-relieving potion if he wished to get anything done tonight.

Slytherin Head of House Private Quarters...

Severus growled and cursed at the thought of Dumbledore letting the Potter brat walk all over them. He paced the living room of his quarters and considered his options. Dumbledore was a fool to think that Potter would not react badly to their attempt to keep him in the castle. And he knew exactly what needed to be done to get that arrogant bastard out of their hair. If Dumbledore didn’t have the stones to do it, then he’d take matters into his own hands.

The real question, at least according to Snape, was dare he defy Dumbledore in taking this action? It was true that Dumbledore wouldn’t know for sure that he had a hand in this matter, but then again, no one could call the Headmaster stupid, not in most things, at least. However, his skill in Occlumency would keep Dumbledore from pulling the information out of his mind. Besides, his involvement would be minimal, just writing and sending a simple letter.

Snape stopped pacing and whirled, his cloak billowing out behind him as he walked over to his desk and pulled out a piece of parchment. Yes, he thought. An anonymous letter should do the trick nicely.

Scribbling quickly, he penned a letter, keeping the information to the barest minimum. Rolling up the parchment, he addressed it, and then swept out of his quarters heading for the school Owlery. As he walked, a cold smile twisted his lips. It was enough to give a group of fourth years nightmares as they passed him on the way back to their house from the library.

Gryffindor Head Boy’s room…

Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he finally entered his own room. The last few days had left him feeling exhausted and depressed. He kept trying to tell himself that he was use to the wizarding public turning against him, but this most recent turn had been swift and savage.

He stripped off his outer clothes and debated changing into pajamas or just sleeping in his boxers. He intended to try some more Tai Chi before he went to bed. His preferences for bed clothes was changing and he wasn’t sure why. Lately he had split between boxers and pajama bottoms. The tops he had discarded a long time ago. Shrugging and deciding to go with boxers, he stepped into the center of the room and began his breathing exercises as a prelude to the first set of meditative moves.

Unlike most muggles who practiced Tai Chi, Harry really did slip into a trance as he began his meditative moves. It was during these sessions that he reorganized his thoughts and worked on his mental shields. And so, unaware, he never noticed when the door opened slowly and a figure entered the room.

The figure pulled a wand and a familiar voice said, "Incarcerous!" A stream of rope erupted from the tip of the wand, striking him and wrapping him tightly in a cocoon from his feet to his shoulders. He broke from his trance too late and teetered in the center of the room. He glared at the figure still in the shadows by the door.

"Wingardium leviosa," Hermione said and Harry was lifted off his feet. She then floated him over to land gently on the bed. Then she conjured a chair next to the bed and sat down, ignoring his glare.

He opened his mouth to say something and she gestured with her wand. "Silencio," she murmured. Harry’s eyes flared in anger.

"Settle down, Harry. Don’t force me to cast a cheering charm on you as well. Now, if you’re going to behave, nod your head," she told him sternly, pulling her best McGonagall impression.

Sullenly, Harry nodded.

Hermione leaned back, smiling, and put her feet up on his bed. "Wonderful, now we can talk. You see, I have this problem and it’s really starting to hurt me and I’m just not sure what to do about it. My best friend, the man I love, is hurting and, instead of letting me help, he’s shut me out. He’s also shut out all his friends. I know he’s hurting and I know he’s pretending to be happy when he isn’t.

"Now, through no fault of his own, my best friend was raised to believe his problems weren’t worthy of the attention of others. He’s wrong, of course, but he doesn’t think so. He’s also got this whole nobility and silent suffering thing down so pat it makes my hair hurt! I suppose I could let him go off and sulk by himself, but I don’t think it would be good for him and I know it wouldn’t be good for us.

"So, as I see it, my best friend has two choices. He can either continue on the path he’s on and risk losing his friends and his girlfriend, or he can stop being a prat and actually start talking to me."

Hermione had been so involved in her planned speech that she never noticed that Harry had dispelled the ropes and her silencing charm. He now lay on his side, one hand propping up his head as he watched her with a smile. She gasped and looked at him in shock.

He reached out with one hand and took hers in his. "I hope, with all my heart, that my best friend is always around to kick my noble and silently suffering arse when necessary," he said softly.

"Oh! You… you… prat! You dispelled my hex and I was just getting to the best part of my speech too. It’s so not fair that you’re able to do things wandlessly, soundlessly and without any gestures!"

He chuckled. "Would you like me to rebind myself so you can continue with your speech? It was quite good, really. You’ll always be the smartest witch I know and I’ll always need your help and advice. I can’t help it if I have a few advantages now days."

Hermione smiled a little at the flattery, but she knew deep down some of the changes his Matura brought about in him had placed him on an equal, if not smarter level than she was. Still trying to maintain a light tone she asked, "So, are you ready to talk to me or am I going to have to get really mad at you?"

"I’m sorry about the way I’ve been treating you. Things just got so intense I started shutting down," he replied seriously. His expression became pained. "It’s hard to explain what it feels like to know that most people either hate you, or fear you, or both. There are people in our world who don’t know me at all, but they hate me just the same."

Hermione sniffed in disdain. "Those people aren’t worth worrying about. Harry, I love you dearly, but you’re going to have to learn that you can’t solve anything by holding all these emotions inside. Part of my job is to help you, just like you’re supposed to help me. Where would we have been if I held in all my emotions after Ron attacked me?"

Harry nodded in agreement. "I see your point. How about this? Let’s say we set aside an hour before bedtime each night to just talk? I’m not used to sharing my feelings with people, Hermione, even with you. Maybe that would make it easier?"

Hermione smiled. "That’s a brilliant idea! We’ll do exactly that," she said, then she yawned. Gathering herself up, she stood and kissed him lightly before heading for the door.

Just before she stepped from the room, he called out to her. "You know, one of these days I’m going to surprise you by inviting you to stay the night."

She turned and smiled impishly at him. "And one of these days I’m going to stay the night, invite or no. Good night, Harry."

Harry chuckled as she left the room. As usual, she’d managed to get the last word in, and Merlin did he love her for it.

Malfoy Manor, the Next Morning…

Lucius awoke to a tapping sound. Startled, he stumbled out of bed and looked around wildly before he noticed a brown, non-descript owl at his window. The owl looked a lot like the standard owls used at Hogwarts.

"Maybe my son’s finally come to his senses," he said to himself as he opened the window and let the owl in. It flew to the dresser and dropped a rolled parchment before it turned around and flew back out the window.

Unrolling the parchment, Lucius read quickly. His initial reaction was to grit his teeth and snarl at the writer, but as he read on, his began to smile. This was something he needed to show the Master immediately.

Dressing quickly, he grabbed the letter again and descended the stairs to the Master’s chambers. This was too important to delay.

Voldemort looked up in surprise when Lucius entered his chamber without being summoned. Rarely did one of his servants come unbidden into his presence and when they did, it usually was for the most interesting of reasons.

"Lucius, what news do you bring?" asked Voldemort, trying to appear indifferent.

"My Lord, this morning I received a most unusual communication from a former servant of yours. It is, I believe, worthy of your attention."

Voldemort would have cocked an eyebrow, if he had an eyebrow, but the evil wizard lacked any hair at all. "So tell me, what does out dear former Potions Master have to say to me?"

Lucius bowed low before Voldemort and offered the parchment to him. Voldemort grasped the parchment in one bony hand and started to read it. A few moments later he was cackling evilly.

Voldemort reached out and handed the parchment back to Lucius. "Excellent idea! Give this to Nott and tell him to take half a Death Squad to take care of this. If this works out, we may owe Severus a quick and painless death. Yes, that sounds about right."

The Great Hall, the Next Morning…

Harry stumbled down to breakfast, his mind cloudy and foggy with sleep. Hermione had left the suite earlier, laughing at his inability to get up. He sighed inwardly. He knew that tonight, in one of their ‘talk’ sessions, he’d have to admit to the new nightmares that were plaguing his sleep.

Taking a seat next to Hermione, he looked over the choices for breakfast and opted to go straight for the coffee. Hermione frowned when she saw him pour a cup and didn’t bother putting anything on his plate.

Harry leaned back, sipping from his cup and waiting for the caffeine to kick in. As he did, his robe opened, revealing a t-shirt.

Ginny had fallen in love with the t-shirts Harry had been wearing and had started her own shirts of late. She leaned across the table. "Alright Harry, let’s see it," she ordered.

He chuckled and opened his robe to reveal a shirt that read, "Voldemort: An inspiration for birth control."

Ginny turned an interesting shade of pink, while Hermione nearly spewed her orange juice all over Draco. Harry grinned at her then poured himself another cup of coffee.

"Harry," began Hermione worriedly.

She was cut off with the arrival of Errol, who crash-landed on the table, knocking several platters and their contents all over the place. Harry raised an eyebrow when Errol stumbled over to him and dropped a smoking red letter. Harry cringed.

The Howler levitated an inch off the table and opened itself.





As soon as it was done, the letter exploded, sending confetti showering down upon him. A hush fell upon the Great Hall as the students watched Harry for a reaction. His eyes flashed with magic and he conjured a parchment and a quill.

He wrote a short reply, then spent five minutes casting something no one could see upon it, before he rolled it up and gave it to Errol to deliver. The poor bird eyed him reproachfully as it picked up the scroll and unsteadily rose into the air.

Ginny watched Errol as the owl nearly flew into a group of students at the Ravenclaw table before he managed to make it safely out of the hall.   She then turned to Harry. "Alright Potter, what did you send to my mother?"

Harry looked at her for a moment before shrugging. "I just sent her a note thanking her for her kind letter and expressing my profound desire that she not send me any more."

"And the spells you cast on the note?"

"Oh that," he replied looking sheepish.

"Yes, that!"

"Well, I thought that if your mum had enough energy to send me a howler, she might be able to apply that to another orifice. She’ll have a wonderful and quite uncontrollable case of flatulence when she reads my note. Should last all day too," Harry replied with a shrug.

Ginny stared at Harry for a long time before reacting. The real surprise was Neville, quiet, shy Neville. He started laughing a deep, booming laugh that he couldn’t seem to control. Ginny joined him a minute later.

Hermione watched the two, and then frowned again at Harry. Over his protests, she filled his plate with food, daring him to defy her and not eat. Sighing, Harry started in on the meal, knowing full well what tonight’s ‘talk session’ would be about.

Amesbury England…

Norma Brown looked up as a non-descript post owl landed at her window. She walked over from her breakfast to let the small owl into her kitchen. The owl landed on the back of one her kitchen chairs and waited with a leg outstretched. Norma carefully removed the slip of parchment from the owl’s leg. The birth then sprang aloft and flew back out the window.

Unrolling the parchment, she was pleasantly surprised to see the letter was from her friend, Molly. She felt sad that Molly had fallen on hard times. Her husband divorced her for another woman, his son disowned because his father had become irrational. Shaking her head in pity for her friend’s plight, she started reading.


I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I’ve not heard from Arthur since the divorce decree, but I suspect he’s still sniffing around, maybe even hoping I’ll take him back. I heard that the witch he left me for has lost all interest in him. Ron is taking all these changes in stride, but he’s becoming a very angry young man and I worry about him all the time. Ron finally admitted that most of his troubles at school stem from the fact that he leads the kids who oppose Harry Potter and his group of dark students.

Well, I sent that little snot nosed prick a howler. It’s funny, really. Over the holiday when the truth about Harry Potter was coming out, you couldn’t send him any mail. Now that he’s back in Hogwarts, however, you can send him anything you want.

Well dear, this is just a short note. I simply must run today, but you take care and tell Lavender to stay close to Ron and his friends. They’ll protect her from people like Potter.

All my best,

Molly knew full well that by sending a post to Norma she would be tapping into the parental grapevine of Hogwarts. Norma was nearly as big a gossip as Lavender, but she was better organized than her daughter. By noon, most of the parents had learned that the post owls could reach Harry Potter and he really was teaching dark arts. Molly’s letter had served its purpose.

Chelsea District, London…

It was a newer office building, only a few years old. It was small enough however, that the lobby was unattended as with so many small office buildings scattered around the city, and no one was there when seven hooded figures entered. The directory in the lobby gave the men the information they needed. With a small amount of confusion over muggle technology and a bit of muttered swearing, they were soon in the lift and moving towards the third floor.

The group quickly made their way to Suite 307, ignoring the sign that read, ‘Granger Pediatric Dentistry’. One man pulled out a wand and blasted the door to pieces. It was lunchtime and the Granger’s and their staff were the only people in the office, the only people on that floor, in fact. Within two minutes everyone was herded into the waiting room.

The Granger’s themselves were pulled out of the lineup of five people. With shouts of "Avada Kedavra," the Granger’s lost their staff of three. Two more spells were cast and the office fell eerily silent as the black-cloaked men portkeyed away, leaving a demolished door, and three dead muggles.

The Great Hall, Dinner time...

Harry sat with his friends at dinner and Hermione watched to make sure he ate properly, which he did. He was really of mixed mind about her watchfulness. In one way it felt very good to know someone cared, and in another it really was quite annoying. If he were asked, he thought he’d come down on the side of being annoyed, more often than not.

He was half heartedly listening to Terry relate an amusing tale from his summer holiday about being stuck out on a sailboat that had broken its keel-board, when a large, old crow flew into the hall and directly to Harry. Crows were almost never used as delivery birds because of their unreliability and the general belief that crows were dark creatures. Taking the parchment from the bird, it took wing with a loud squawk. A hush fell on the Gryffindor table as Harry read the note. Crows were traditionally harbingers of evil news and more than a few of the Outcasts shuddered in fear over what the message might bring.

Without warning or a word of apology he stood and walked up to the Head table. Dumbledore glanced at him, but since Harry seemed to be approaching his Head of House, he figured it mustn’t be important. Dumbledore had been talking to Professor Sprout and hadn’t noticed the arrival of the black bird.

McGonagall looked up in concern as Harry approached. He was clearly angry about something, his eyes were alight with magic and she could feel his presence battering at her senses. His robes billowed out eerily behind him.

He leaned over the Head table and spoke to her in an urgent whisper. "I need to see you in the Head suite right away. We have big trouble."

She nodded and then turned to Dumbledore. "Excuse me, Headmaster, a minor House matter to attend to."

Dumbledore waved her off and returned to his conversation. McGonagall walked around the table and followed Harry towards the exit. As he passed his friends, he spoke softly. "Hermione, come with me now," he commanded, never slowing down.

Startled, Hermione fell into line with McGonagall and followed Harry from the hall.

Harry moved quickly and, once in the suite, he passed the letter to McGonagall. "Read this. I’ll be in my room changing my clothes. I won’t be but a moment."

McGonagall read the letter, while Hermione stood on her toes and read over her shoulder.


We have the parents of your precious mudblood whore. If you want to see them alive again, you’ll do exactly as you’re told. We’ll exchange them for you at precisely nine A.M. tomorrow in the Hogsmeade Train station. Come alone or the muggles will die.

My master is looking forward to having a long talk with you before he kills you, you half-blood bastard.

Theodore Nott Sr.

Hermione gasped, her face paled and her lower lip began to tremble. McGonagall put a hand on the young woman’s shoulder in empathy.

A moment later Harry emerged from his room. He’d discarded his school robe and muggle clothes in favor of a set of new robes he’d recently bought. The robes were not special in any way except for the cut, which gave a greater degree of freedom and an excessive amount of pockets. Over the robe he wore horntail scale vest that Tonks and Remus had given him for Christmas. The horntail vest was the wizarding version of Kevlar body armor and it would reduce the damage done by most spells.

Hermione took one look at him and collapsed in a chair. "No! Harry, you can’t!"

"Watch me," he growled in reply. Then he turned to McGonagall. "She needs to go home, Professor. She’ll be gone at least for tonight, possibly for the next couple days."

Harry didn’t give McGonagall a chance to respond as he picked up a piece of parchment and created a portkey.   "Here, Hermione," he said, handing it to her. "Tap your wand against it to activate it. Tell Tonks to get a hold of Danni. We’re probably going to need her tonight."

"Mr. Potter, I can’t let you leave the castle unescorted," McGonagall said quietly.

"Well, you can’t escort both of us since we’re going in different directions. Go with Hermione, Professor. She needs you more," he replied, reaching for his invisibility cloak.

Hermione leapt from her chair and grabbed him. Burrowing into his chest, her small frame was wracked by her sobs. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and closed his eyes, resting his head a top hers.

After a few moments she pulled partially out of his embrace. "You come back to me, Harry Potter! No stupid heroics! Do you hear me?" she demanded of him.

"I won’t promise that, Hermione. They might not be my parents, but I love them almost as much as you do. I’ll bring them home or die trying. That I can promise."

McGonagall stepped next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Harry could see that his professor was torn between pride and fear for what this night would bring. He nodded to her and gently passed Hermione into her waiting arms.

"How will you find them, Harry?" asked McGonagall still not believing what was unfolding before her eyes.

"Hermione can explain that, Professor. Believe me, if they’re alive, I can find them. Alright you two, get moving," he said. "I’ll meet you at Grimmauld as quickly as I can."

Harry turned away from the two of them, picked up his invisibility cloak and wrapped it around himself. Then he closed his eyes and concentrated on Emma, preparing for a person-to-person apparate.

Behind him, McGonagall reached over and picked up the portkey Harry had made and looked at Hermione grimly. Hermione grabbed hold of the parchment and McGonagall tapped it with her wand. With a tug behind their navels they were gone from the Gryffindor suite.

Grimmauld Place…

Arriving in the foyer of Grimmauld Place, Hermione called out loudly for Remus and Tonks.

Remus came rushing out from the kitchen area, surprised, his wand drawn.

Hermione grabbed hold of him and started to babble at him, which only added to the confusion. Dobby appeared and handed Remus a calming draught that he somehow managed to get the distraught witch to drink. As Hermione calmed, McGonagall handed Remus the ransom note.

Remus paled and his hands shook with anger. "Where’s Harry?" he asked carefully.

"He’s gone to rescue mum and dad," whispered Hermione.

"But how? Does he know where they are?" demanded Remus.

"No, but Harry can do something he calls personal apparation. He’s able to apparate to a person, rather than a place or a coordinate. He said to get Danni here and that he’d meet us here with my parents."

Remus ran to the fireplace and made several calls. Slowly people started to trickle into the house. Danni arrived with a full medical kit a few moments before Tonks and Amelia stepped out of the floo.

Remus quickly recapped the situation. Once the initial shock wore off, everyone took a seat in the main living room while Dobby and Winky served tea. A grim silence descended on Grimmauld Place as they waited. It was all any of them could do now.   Next to the wall, a large, old-fashioned Grandfather clock ticked loudly. To Hermione, it seemed as though every tick grew louder and she bit her lip attempting to hold back the sob that threatened to break free.

Authors Note:


This is a cliffie alert. You have been alerted.

A note on the rating of this story. This story is going to get darker, more violent, the language more vulgar and more graphic. And YES, eventually there will be sex. If any of that bothers you, don’t read this story.

Bob stopped reading HBP because Bob felt that JKR dropped the ball entirely on Harry’s reactions to the loss of his Godfather etc… and that’s the last I’m going to say about HBP. (Alyx here: That may be, that it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop bugging you about it!) (Shaddup you!)

Excuse me? Skipping over the Harry/Hermione scenes means you’re literally skipping over 90 percent of this story. Why would anyone want to do that?

Harry’s leg is so bad because even magical medicine can’t fix everything. Besides, we wanted it that way.   Do we really need to remind everyone out there that, as the authors, we could have REMOVED his leg had we wanted to?   Nah, we didn’t think so!

Just a note about our updates. Yes this is being written as you read this. We try for a faster update, but we’ll be happy if we can get out at least one chapter per week at this rate. There is a lot of stuff going on, and a lot of detail to keep track of. Also, as summer comes to an end, our garden is bursting and we have to harvest and process our veggies. So please bear with us on the updates.

In regard to our Yahoo group, we love getting reviews, but if you really want a question answered, and it’s not a spoiler, ask your question over there, rather than in the reviews.

Pet Peeve of the week:

The authors that use review space trying to justify why they do the stuff I hate. Let’s be a little realistic here. Most of my Pet Peeves aren’t personal attacks against particular authors. If anything they’re common sense writing methods that you’d probably get dinged for in a creative writing class if you didn’t follow.

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