Content Harry Potter
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Standard Disclaimer:

Harry: "HEY! You guys don’t own me!"
Bob: "They know that Harry, but we’re going to torment you anyway!"
Harry: "B-B-But that’s unfair! I won’t allow it! Only JK Rowling owns me!"
Bob: "Silly teenage wizard! Here, let me stick your toe in this pencil sharpener!"
Harry: "Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!"

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 3

Padfoot Manor, in the foyer…

Returning home from Pico’s, Harry had one burning question on his mind. "Tonks, why did you insist both wrist and leg holsters for Hermione and myself?"

Tonks looked at him impishly and pulled up her sleeve, showing off her wrist holster with wand firmly in place. Then, she lifted up her skirt enough to reveal another holster, with a second wand!

Remus seemed more interested in her leg than the second wand, but Harry ignored him. "Do you think we can get second wands, Tonks?" he asked quietly.

"I’m not sure, Harry, but the two holsters give you options, depending on your clothing. For now, get comfortable with the wrist holster. I’ll talk to Director Bones about a second wand permit when I think you’re both comfortable with them and ready for a second wand, all right?"

Both Harry and Hermione nodded eagerly.

Padfoot Manor, the Granger’s bedroom…

Hermione knocked on the door to her parent’s bedroom and waited before entering. The door opened and Emma smiled at her daughter.

"Come in, dear. There was something I wanted to talk to you about," she said.

Hermione slipped into the room and took a seat near the fireplace while Emma poured them both some tea, then sat in another chair

"Dear, tell me about the Boy-Who-Lived," Emma said softly.

"B-b-but Mum, you already know Harry," she protested, throwing a glance over at her father, who was sitting on the bed, watching them curiously.

"That’s just it, Hermione.   I know Harry.   I want you to tell me about the Boy-Who-Lived."

Hermione stared at her mother in confusion. Emma sighed. She was inordinately proud of her daughter, but sometimes her impressive intellect was a liability.

"Hermione, I asked you because you don’t seem to be seeing the whole picture. Harry grew up abused and unloved. Then suddenly he’s thrust into an environment where he’s a hero simply because he survived a terrible attack that he barely remembers. The Wizarding world cannot make up its mind about him. One year he’s a villain, the next he’s a super hero. In some ways, they’ve placed the Boy-Who-Lived onto a high pedestal, an icon of hope for dark times. Then they do their best to knock him off that pedestal."

Hermione sat back and thought for a moment. "Alright Mum, I see that. But what’s your point?"

"I watched tonight as you explained to Director Bones about Harry’s last year at school and it occurred to me that, as much as he hates to be thought of the Boy-Who-Lived, he still feels the need to try to live up to that image. No matter how impossible it may be he tries anyway because he thinks people expect it of him. That damn prophecy hanging over his head doesn’t help either."

Hermione felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up, she saw her father smiling at her. "Your mum’s right, sweetheart. Harry has an incredible sense of responsibility. For all his problems, he’s the most mature teenager I’ve ever met. Everything he does, whether it’s studying with you in the morning, or dragging you outside in the afternoons to relax, seems to be geared to increasing his strength and endurance. He takes you swimming and, while you relax by the poolside, he’s doing laps. After you’ve gone to bed, he’s still awake, reading. I’ve even seen him out late at night jogging around the grounds. He may hate being famous, but he’s trying to live up to that image. Tonight, when you explained to Director Bones about his last year at Hogwarts, it was, to Harry at least, like you were pointing out every time he’d failed to live up to being the Boy-Who-Lived. It hurt him deeply, Hermione."

Hermione frowned. "Should I go talk to him about it? I wasn’t trying to hurt him, Dad. I just wanted Director Bones to know what happened last year."

"I think it would be a good idea to clear the air with him. He’s a fine young man, but he’s still healing. He needs to know you didn’t mean to hurt him," her father replied.

Hermione was about to get up when another thought crossed her mind. "Dad, what was that ‘Brotherhood’ business about today?"

Dan chuckled. "That? It was nothing, sweetheart. I just thought it might be funny to toss your dear Professor an illusion made up of a single word."

Hermione grinned and shook her head.   Standing, she kissed her parents and left the room quickly. She wanted to talk to Harry before he went to bed.

Grimmauld Place…

Tonight’s meeting was not open to the full Order. Only the executive council was called to meet, with a few other selected members.

Alastor Moody sat next to Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape. Snape had just finished his report about his encounter with Lupin and his anger was still seething. The charmed evening gown had not been amusing. Nor had the laughter that followed him to Ollivander’s shop for a new wand.

Dumbledore rapped on the table to gain their attention. "I have reviewed Severus’ memory in a pensieve. A couple of factors struck me immediately. Remus was surrounded by five figures, all bearing the same strange, curious rune on their cloaks. At least one of those figures performed several impossibly strong feats of wandless magic."

The information caused those in the room to fidget nervously. Both Dumbledore and Voldemort could perform wandless magic, but only barely. It was a dying skill in the Wizarding community and it suggested that the Brotherhood contained at least one member who was more powerful than Dumbledore.

"Now, I’ve traced the rune and found that it is tied to an organization that, as far as I know, exists only in legend. There is a reference to a group who wore similar cloaks. They called themselves the Brotherhood of Druidic Knights and they existed long before the age of Merlin. Legend has it that the Brotherhood was firmly entrenched on the side of the light, but their methods were somewhat unorthodox. While defenders of the light, the Brotherhood of Druidic Knights never took prisoners. They simply slaughtered any dark wizard or witch they came across.

"If the Brotherhood still exists and has taken over the protection of Harry Potter, we must make contact with them, get them to ally themselves to our cause and convince them to return Harry to us. But I must caution you, if the legends are true, the Brotherhood contains highly skilled wizards, trained in the arts of war both magical and muggle. We must be cautious in dealing with them.

"I will talk about this again at the next general meeting so all our members can help look for the Brotherhood. We will adjourn for this evening, but I’d like each of you to do what research you can regarding this group and how we may approach them," Dumbledore said, standing.

Everyone else stood and filed from the room.

Padfoot Manor, Harry’s bedroom…

Hermione walked quietly up to the door of Harry’s bedroom. There was a light under the door so she knew he must still be awake. She knocked softly and waited. When no answer came, she gathered her Gryffindor courage and, hoping Harry was decent, opened the door and peered in.

His nightstand, table and bed were piled high with books, but that wasn’t what caught her attention. Harry was standing in the middle of the room, moving fluidly from one position to another, and the sight nearly took the breath from her lungs. The leashed power of his form and the innate grace of his movements held her spellbound. He wore only a pair of black jeans and a light sheen of sweat covered his naked torso.   As he moved, she noted that his eyes had an unfocused quality to them, almost as if he were looking inward.

She inhaled a breath of much needed air and slipped into the room, quietly closing the door behind her.   Harry seemed to be unaware of her presence as she moved to one of the chairs near the table and sat down. With her head cocked to one side, she watched him for several minutes, trying to figure out what he was doing and soon became frustrated with the puzzle.

Unable to contain herself any longer, she stood, walked to his side and touched him on the arm. He blinked a few times and shook his head.

Turning, Harry frowned when he noticed her standing there. "Hermione?"

"I’m sorry to disturb you, but I wanted to talk to you. Every time I see you though, you just make me think up more questions. What were you doing?"

Harry motioned towards the table she’d just left and they both sat down.

"It’s called Tai Chi, Hermione. The Chinese call it meditation in motion. It helps with my Occlumency and a few other things. I can start up a routine and, while doing it, work on my shields, or scan the surrounding area. It’s actually quite relaxing, actually. I could teach you, if you like."

"How did you learn it?"

"Well, I was wondering if there were any forms of meditative techniques that could help with my Occlumency, so I went down to the library and found a book that mentioned Tai Chi. Wanting something a little more in-depth on the subject, I checked the shelf again and found…" Harry paused in thought for a moment. "Hermione I’m going to tell you something and I don’t want you to laugh at me, but I think there’s something strange about the library downstairs."

"Strange? How do you mean? I haven’t noticed anything."

"Every time I’ve needed a book on a particular subject, I’ve found it in the library. All of these," he said, waving his hand at the stacks of books around the room, "came from one particular shelf marked ‘Miscellaneous’. Even with all these books missing, the shelf is still full, or appears to be at any rate. It seems to always have the same number of books on it. You remember the Room of Requirement?"

Hermione knitted her brow in confusion. "Yes, I remember it very well. Why do you ask?"

"Is it possible that the library contains a shelf that might do the same thing as the Room does? A Shelf of Requirement?"

Hermione’s eyes lit up and he shook his head. Merlin, but the girl did love her books!

"I suppose it’s possible. Why don’t we check it tomorrow and see if that’s the case?"

"Sounds like a plan to me. We spend several hours in the library every day anyway so it won’t be like we’re going out of our way to do something different."

"Harry… about today. When I told Director Bones about last year…" she started.

When Harry frowned, she folded her hands on the table and stared at them.   "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you with what I was saying," she finished quietly.

She stopped when Harry put his hands on hers. "I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but I can’t help the fact that it did. Don’t worry about it. I know you didn’t do it deliberately, it just happened. I’ve come to realize that even the people you care about can accidentally cause a person pain. The difference lies in the intent, not the pain itself, and you had no intent to hurt me," he said softly.

Hermione leaned towards him and smiled. "Harry, what’s happening between us?" she asked carefully.

Harry leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. "Honestly, I’m not sure, Hermione. I think it’s more than just friendship, but I don’t know. It scares me. You scare me. I have feelings for you that I’ve never felt before for anyone, or from anyone. I don’t think I’d be a good boyfriend. I don’t even know what a boyfriend does! Merlin, you frighten me more than Voldemort sometimes…" he trailed off, realizing he was rambling.   Taking a deep breath, he looked into her eyes and said, " I don’t know what this is, Hermione, but I know I don’t want it to stop."

Hermione’s eyes softened. "I don’t think I want it to stop either, Harry. I don’t have a lot of experience in relationships, but I promise you that I’ll try to help you over the rough spots. Alright?"

Harry nodded and they smiled at each other, both feeling lighter somehow. When Hermione stood and moved towards the door, he followed her. Before she slipped out, he embraced her, a little embarrassed and she kissed him on the cheek.

Plans in Motion…

Michael Landsbury stood before the door of number four Privet Drive. He carried two briefcases, one supplied by his client and his own. Placing his own briefcase on the ground, the well-dressed man rang the doorbell and waited for it to open.

"Yes?" asked the corpulent, red-faced man.

"Mister Vernon Dursley?" asked Landsbury.

"That’s correct, I’m Vernon Dursley."

"Mister Dursley, my name is Michael Landsbury, solicitor. Might I have a word with you and your wife please? I am here on behalf of a client and wish to discuss a rather lucrative offer my client would like me to tender towards you."

Vernon’s eyes lit up at the word ‘lucrative’ and he motioned for the man to enter. Leading him into the kitchen, he introduced Landsbury to Petunia.

"Would you like some tea, Mister Landsbury?" asked Petunia politely.

"Yes, tea would be fine thank you."

Vernon leaned closer to Landsbury. "I do believe you mentioned a lucrative offer?"

"Ah yes, cutting to the chase then," Landsbury said as he put on briefcase on the table and opened it.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, my client is willing to offer you 150,000 pounds, cash," he said, turning the open briefcase around so the Dursley’s could see that it was full of money.

"All my client requests in return is your signature on these Emancipation papers for your nephew, Mrs. Dursley, one Harry James Potter, age 15, nearly 16. Of course, my client is planning on paying for all court costs and filing fees as well. Just sign the papers and I’ll leave the briefcase with you."

Vernon’s jaw dropped open and he reached with trembling hands for the offered papers. Petunia swayed and nearly fainted in shock at seeing so much money.

Vernon looked at her and handed her the papers with a pen. She signed them quickly before giving them back to her husband.

"This means that abnormal brat won’t be coming back next year, right?" Vernon asked.

"Oh, quite correct, Mr. Dursley. My client has decided to see to the care of young Mr. Potter from here on," replied Landsbury smoothly.

Vernon quickly added his signature to the papers, and then Landsbury signed them as a witness. He handed them a copy of the papers and pushed the briefcase towards Vernon.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, I appreciate your prompt cooperation in this matter. Oft times these things take weeks or longer to sort out."

The three of them sat in an awkward silence as Landsbury finished his tea. The Dursley’s never looked away from the cash in the briefcase.   It was almost as if they were afraid it would disappear.

When he noticed the naked greed in their eyes, Landsbury felt ill.   Standing quickly, he said his goodbyes, nearly choking on the pleasantries. At the door, Vernon shook his hand and all but shoved him out.   On the stoop, hearing the door close behind him, Landsbury did his best not to shudder in revulsion. Walking quickly to a local store a few blocks away, he ducked into a public restroom and never came out again.

Once the door had closed at number four Privet Drive, Vernon rushed back to Petunia and gave a whoop of triumph.


Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

The owl came through an open window and dropped a locked container in the "IN" basket before flying back out the window again. An aide picked up the container and noted the priority routing for the Director’s eyes only. Standing, she rushed off to deliver it.

Amelia opened the container once the aide had left the room. She extracted one sheath of muggle paper and one parchment and examined them carefully. Chuckling, she could only shake her head in admiration. Remus Lupin had been correct in his assessment. He had provided Landsbury, a retired Auror turned Solicitor, with enough muggle money to buy the Dursley’s signatures. Between the two groups of documents, they represented the complete and total emancipation of Harry James Potter in both the Muggle and Wizarding world.

Remus had told her about Sirius Black and, while she didn’t relish the idea that the escaped prisoner had been held for twelve years without a trial, or that he had died, she was pleased that his efforts had helped bring this about. Black had left behind a briefcase, which contained his "mad money" as he called it. It was muggle money, 150,000 pounds worth, which he’s planned to use if he needed to go on the run again. It was this money that Lupin had used to buy Harry’s emancipation in the muggle world.

Still chuckling, she copied the documents, and then sent the muggle papers via hand held courier to the Muggle Ministry for official filing. Once that was done, she filed a copy with her Ministry in the form of a sealed record. As a final act, she crafted a letter to Gringotts, requesting special handling in the matter and that they contact her.



Ragnok, Director and Chief Executive officer of the Goblin Nation and Gringotts looked over the letter from the Ministry’s Department of Magical Law Enforcement again and considered his options. With the coming war, the Goblin nation would eventually have to pick a side. Right now it seemed, at least according to the letter, that the Ministry was firmly backing Harry Potter.

Word had filtered up through the ranks of the goblins that Mr. Potter, one of their biggest depositors, harbored no prejudice against the goblins, unlike so many other wizards. It was even rumored that he was quite fond of Griphook, a minor Gringotts employee.

Snapping his fingers, he summoned an aide.

"Take care of this immediately," he ordered, handing over the letter.


Padfoot Manor, several days later…

Sirius fell backwards. Harry watched and felt like he was encased in concrete. He yelled in slow motion, the words long and drawn out. Then the scene shifted and they were in the room with the strange time turner. Dolohov cast his spell and hit Hermione, cutting her from her shoulder all the way down to her hip.

He fell to his knees next to her and begged her to get up. Another shift and he was back in the Death Chamber, watching Sirius walk into the veil, then Remus, then Hermione, Fred, Susan, George, Ginny, Hermione’s parents, his parents. Each person looked at him before they entered the veil, as if to accuse him of causing their death.

It was three A.M. when Harry bolted from his bed and sighed. Another nightmare. They were happening more and more frequently and waking him up earlier every night. His Occlumency seemed to have blocked Voldemort, but it was doing nothing for his nightmares.

Getting up from his bed, he decided he might as well start his day early with a jog around the grounds. He threw on some clothes and opened the door to his bedroom, only to skid to a halt. Hermione stood in the doorway wearing a robe over her pajamas, her arms crossed over her chest and glaring at him, angrily.

She poked him in the chest. "Going somewhere, Potter?" she hissed.

He started backing up. "Hermione, what are you doing up at this hour? You should be in bed, asleep!"

"I could say the same thing about you," she retorted. "Now I’ll ask you again, where do you think you are going?"

Harry tried to brave it through, but he knew he was busted. "Out for a jog?" he finished lamely.

Hermione glared at him and pushed him further into the room until he had fallen back on the bed. When she stepped closer, she felt the silencing charm in place as she passed over the threshold.

"Silencing charms? Your game is up, Potter. Dobby tells me you don’t even try to sleep until well after midnight. Then you get up most nights around four A.M. The Aurors tell me you’re up early, jogging around the grounds, and then you go for your morning swim. You’re not getting enough sleep and I want to know why."

Harry sat up on the bed and looked at her for a long moment. Hermione was like a badger when she was working on a problem and he knew she wasn’t going to let him brush her off. Sighing, he looked away from her before he started to explain.

"It’s the nightmares, Hermione. They’re always the same, every night, even if I nap during the day. I can’t get rid of them, so I just try to avoid sleeping, that’s all, no big deal."

Hermione sat on the bed next to him. "Everyone has nightmares, Harry…"

"NO! Not like this! Every damn night, it’s always the same things. Sirius falling into the veil, then watching you get hurt by Dolohov, then watching friends and family members willingly walk into the veil but, before they do, they stop to accuse me of causing their deaths. Every time I sleep. I’ve tried lucid dreaming, I’ve tried directed dreaming, and I’ve even tried magical methods. Short of getting myself addicted on dreamless sleep potions, there doesn’t seem to be a solution. Bloody Merlin, Hermione, I can’t even be a normal teenage boy and dream about girls. No, all I can dream about is death."

Hermione watched him impassively as he got more agitated while he described the problem. Then she reached up to touch the back of his neck with her hand. He flinched from her touch for a moment before relaxing into it.

"Harry, you have a house full of people who want to help you, but you have to let us in to help. Will you promise me that you’ll stop using the silencing charms? We can’t help you if we don’t know you need it."

"Mmmm hmmm," he responded.

Hermione realized that her simple caress on his neck was relaxing him into sleep. She helped him get back into the bed and pulled off his shoes. A few minutes later, he was sound asleep.   Hermione remained at his side for half an hour, watching him. She desperately wanted to help him, but she couldn’t do it alone. As much as she might be willing to admit to herself that climbing into his bed and holding him might help, she doubted her parents would approve. No, this was something she needed to get the other women involved in. Tomorrow, she’d speak to Tonks and her Mum.

The next morning while Harry was doing his laps, Hermione explained his problem to the adults. Emma suggested Harry try a dream journal, where he could describe the dreams and the emotions behind them. Hermione warned them that with the silencing charm gone, he’d probably wake people up at night.

Later that day, Hermione gave Harry a journal and explained to him that it would be private and no one would read it without his permission. She told him what they hoped he’d do with it and how it might help with the nightmares if, when he woke up, he’d record his dreams before trying to go back to sleep.

Since nothing he’d tried before seemed to help, he told her he was willing to try the journal.


Tripping with the Dursley’s…

In the Dursley’s bedroom, Vernon Dursley pried up a loose floorboard and pulled out a neatly bound bundle of money. Petunia looked at him, questioningly.

Vernon shrugged. "Can’t hand it over to a bank Pet, then we’d have to report it and have it taxed. It’s safe here. I’m going to pull out enough to arrange for us to have a nice holiday. Why don’t you and Dudley start packing while I see about arranging a week at Euro Disney?"

Petunia smiled broadly, knowing that Dudley would be pleased! Nodding she went to break the news to her son while Vernon went downstairs. He had a travel agent to see.


Grimmauld Place…

Dumbledore rapped his knuckled on the table, gaining the attention of those around him.

"Please everyone, settle down so we can get on with this. The first item I need to discuss tonight is, once again, the issue of Harry Potter. Young Harry has been missing since mid June. To further cloud matters, Remus Lupin was spotted in the company of the Brotherhood of Druidic Knights in Diagon Alley. Therefore, I believe it’s safe to assume that they have Harry Potter.

"The Brotherhood is an ancient order predating Merlin and is made up entirely of Wizards and Witches, trained in the arts of war both magical and muggle. Their membership is unknown, but is undoubtedly extremely powerful. I must caution everyone present. Their methods can be extremely brutal. When confronted in battle, they do not take prisoners. It is vital that we make contact with the Brotherhood and get them to release Harry Potter back to us."

Dumbledore conjured an image of a gray cloak with a Celtic cross on the right breast. The image floated down the long table, rotating slowly.

"As you can see, a Druidic Knight can be identified by their characteristic cloak. Note the design over the right breast. That’s the symbol for their organization. If you spot someone wearing that cloak, approach him or her cautiously. Do not make any hostile moves! We want young Harry back and, beyond that, we’d like them to join us in our cause," Dumbledore concluded.

Tonks sat in the back of the room, puzzled about this ‘Brotherhood’ business, until she saw the image of the cloak. Putting the pieces together, she knew she had to get out of the room quickly before laughter got the better of her. She motioned to Kingsley Shacklebolt that the Ministry was summoning her. He nodded and made way for her to move by and out the door.


Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

"Auror Tonks is here asking to see you, Madam Director."

"Please send her in," replied Amelia.

Tonks walked into the room carrying a cloak and trying very hard not to laugh. She took a seat when the Director motioned for her to do so.

Amelia looked at the young woman strangely. "What is so funny this evening, Auror Tonks?" Amelia asked, clearly confused.

"I’m sorry, Director. As you know, I’ve just come from an Order meeting and something rather amusing has happened. Do you remember my report about meeting Snape in Diagon Alley?"

Amelia thought for a second before recalling the written report. Nodding, she motioned for Tonks to continue.

"Well, it seems the Order took Dr. Granger’s a little too seriously. He told Snape that the ‘Brotherhood’ protected Harry Potter now. That simple word, and these cloaks that Harry charmed with a simple protective rune, has the Order believing that some mysterious, ancient cult is now protecting the young man! Dumbledore is instructing the Order membership to seek out the Brotherhood to get Harry back, and to get them to join their side!"

Amelia chuckled and looked at the cloak Tonks offered her. It never ceased to amaze her how simple coincidences could make all sorts of things happen in her line of work.

"I think I will borrow this cloak for a while, Tonks. We can work this mistake to our own advantage. Now, tell me, how fares Harry?"

"He’s well, Director, but he’s been plagued with nightmares. His responsibilities weigh heavily on his conscious, I think. We’ve been trying to help him as much as possible, and it seems to be helping, but I dare say it will be some time before his nightmares go away altogether. Mrs. Granger has been especially helpful in this, as well as her daughter, although I suspect for different reasons. I do think he likes Hermione quite a lot, he just isn’t sure what to do about it yet.

"The protective detail has settled in quite nicely. Both Harry and Hermione often spend part of the afternoon training, with the help of at least one Auror. It’s tougher on Harry because the power behind his spells is truly remarkable. He has to practice using dummies for targets when using offensive spells. When he’s dueling with one of us, he relies strictly on defensive magic.

"As I’m sure you know, Miles Pickerton has been to the manor house several times now. He’s been tutoring Hermione and Susan in the basics of Occlumency and helping Harry improve his existing techniques. Miles is also teaching Harry two new techniques, Reflective and Deflective Occlumency. According to Miles, he’s been picking up the technique at an astonishing rate.

"Harry’s been getting owls every other day from Dumbledore. Each letter is getting more and more demanding. He’s annoyed that he can’t reply to them. I’ll ask him if it’s all right for us to start screening out those owls.

"Finally, he’d like to know when it would be alright for him to assume ownership of Grimmauld Place. His birthday’s in three days and he’d like to assume ownership by then, if possible. Remus Lupin seems to think that, once Gringotts issues the eviction notice, Dumbledore’s spells on the place will be superceded by older, far stronger spells from the Black family," she concluded.

Amelia considered the information for a few moments. "You know… I have an idea that would really throw some confusion into Dumbledore and his Order. Ask Harry to wait a few days. He’ll definitely be able to take ownership before the first week of August is out, but I think that, with your Metamorphmagus ability, and a cloak, we can really sow some useful confusion…"


Privet Drive, two nights later…

With Harry still missing, the Order had removed its watchers from Privet Drive. There was no one around to notice when ten Death Eaters apparated to the location. Sealing all the windows and doors, they set fire to the house. Once the blaze was solidly burning, the Death Eaters apparated away.

The second floor of Privet Drive had collapsed into the first by the time the fire department had arrived on the scene. An hour and a half later, the fire was extinguished.

As with all structure fires, the burned out home was examined for hot spots, flare-ups, and the cause of the blaze. Tearing through some of the debris, one of the firemen noticed something strange; neatly bound bundles of money, which had suffered only mild fire and water, damage. He quickly called his supervisor, who examined the money briefly before grabbing his radio and calling in a request for police investigative support.

By morning, technicians from the National Crime Squad were examining the burned out building. All in all, some 130,000 pounds of currency had been found in the wreckage.


A Subdued Birthday…

Harry awoke feeling better than he had in weeks. Emma’s idea of a dream journal seemed to be helping. So was the fact that, for the first couple of nights after he had taken the silencing charm off his bed, someone would check on him if he awoke from a bad nightmare.

After he had his morning swim he went back upstairs to change. The Grangers had made some changes to the pool to keep it clean and Harry disliked the smell of the chemicals they had used in it. It wasn’t bad when he swam in it, but afterwards it seemed to cling to him.

Harry changed into one of this bright yellow t-shirts and a black pair of jeans. He thought about the t-shirt for a moment, and then cast an imprinting charm on it, adding his own personal touch to the shirt. Hermione actually suggested that his personalizing the t-shirts was a form of release for him that might also be helping with the nightmares. However, she did make him promise never to wear one of the yellow monstrosities while out in public with her.

Exiting the house and heading to the table out back, it was Remus who first spotted him. Remus nearly choked on his tea when he read the words, ‘Voldemort 0, Potter 5’ stretched across Harry’s chest in fiery red letters.

Hermione rolled her eyes when she spotted the shirt. She admitted, to herself at least, that it wasn’t as bad as the shirt that read, ‘Harry Potter, Boy Hero, Reasonable Rates, Available for Weddings, Bar mitzvahs and Dark Lord Slaying’.

"So, what books am I to read today, Hermione?" he asked innocently. Every morning Hermione would rummage through their Shelf of Requirement and pick out four books for him to read. He didn’t mind her selecting the reading material as she usually picked out some good books. Shortly after he told her about the shelf, she had picked out books in spell creation, Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, which he found fascinating. He had advanced to the point of making his own spells, mostly charms and a few hexes so far.

Amelia had arranged for him to take his OWL tests in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes in early August. If he passed them, he’d be allowed to take those subjects when he returned to Hogwarts. Hermione was sure he’d pass since he was already doing post NEWT work in both subjects.

Hermione looked at Harry strangely. "Harry, don’t you remember? We’re not going to study today. I thought I told you about that yesterday."

"Oh… I thought you were putting one on me. So why aren’t we studying today?" he asked perplexed.

"It’s your birthday. We all thought you might like to do something special today, like maybe go to muggle London for a movie, and dinner?"

"I don’t know, Hermione. It’s not like it’s something special," he replied, trying not to grimace.


"Alright, alright. But instead of a movie, how about going to the British Museum? One of the books I read said they have an excellent magical section…" he stopped talking as both Emma and Hermione grinned and Dan buried his face into his hands.

"Harry," Dan said from between his hands, "you are truly doomed, did you know that?" Looking up at the young man and seeing his puzzled expression, he explained. "You’ve heard the old saying about the quickest way to a man’s heart? Well, the quickest way to a bookworm’s heart is through the museum. I made a similar comment over twenty years ago and look where I ended up…"

Harry stared at Dan in horror while everyone laughed. Everyone, that is, but Hermione, who looked at the adults as if they’d gone insane. As far as she was concerned, a museum trip was a wonderful idea! And that the suggestion came from Harry warmed her to the core.

After breakfast everyone, including the two extra Aurors, donned the gray concealment cloaks. Tonks was officially in charge of the security detail, so she checked everyone before they entering the foyer of the Manor to portkey to the Leaky Cauldron. She had Harry add Celtic crosses to the cloaks of the two Aurors before they left. Tonks had explained to Harry and his friends what the Order thought, causing a great deal of amusement.

From the Leaky Cauldron they entered Muggle London and used the Underground to make their way to the museum. Standing in front of the building, Harry had to admit to being awed by the sheer size of it. Hogwarts was impressive, but the muggles had built a building of enormous size!

They spent nearly the entire day in the museum, with Hermione dragging Harry from one exhibit to another. The magical exhibit was fun, especially when they got to view the remains of Samuel Splinch, the first and worst case of an apparation accident recorded.

The Egyptian exhibit, however, fascinated Harry. Had it not been for Remus and Tonks, he and Hermione would have had a rather loud debate over whether the Egyptian gods were real or merely wizards, pretending. Harry was convinced they were wizards and Hermione was sure they were mythical.

At the end of the day, they returned to Padfoot Manor to change into their evening clothes for dinner, as the restaurant’s dress code required wizarding robes. Remus had reserved a private room at Starry Knights, the most famous Wizarding Restaurant in all of England.

Harry frowned seeing his robe laid out for him. Dobby selected the robe of the head of the Black Family. It was made of acromantula silk, jet black with silver trim. The Black family crest was embroidered over the right breast, with his rank marking along both sleeves. Harry had protested to Remus about the robe, but older man was firm. He was not allowed to wear his Potter family colors until he had returned to Hogwarts, at the earliest.

From the noises coming from the rest of the household, Harry was sure he wasn’t the only one having trouble with his robe. Emma had gone into Hermione’s room seeking help putting on the complex garment. And Remus had to come to the aid of Dan, who, from the sounds of things, was clueless. It really wasn’t that the robes were all that difficult to wear but, without magic, both Emma and Dan needed minor sticking charms to help the robes stay on. On a wizard or witch, the built in sticking charms activated automatically when worn.

Tonks and the two Aurors had the least amount of trouble finding something to wear.   They had only to change into their official uniforms for the trip.

Harry waited for his friend in the foyer, having dressed quickly to escape the chaos of muggles trying to put on Wizarding robes. Tonks and the two Aurors joined him a few minutes later.

Tonks looked him up and down and whistled in appreciation.   She then tried fixing his hair. He was used to people, especially women, trying to fix what he knew wasn’t fixable.   "You know Harry, another inch or two and you’ll be able to tie it off into a pony tail. Without the added weight, I don’t think your hair will ever be presentable. It seems to have a mind of its own," she complained, giving up on his hair in disgust.

"It’s always been like that, Tonks. I’m beginning to think I’d look better in a buzz cut," he replied.

"Nah, Harry. Long hair is very wizard-ish, and the girls think It’s really dishy," she said with a sly grin.

Harry rolled his eyes and grimaced.

Remus came down next, dressed in a metallic gray robe that made him look younger than he was. Harry couldn’t help but laugh as he watched Tonks eye Remus and bite her lip. Dan and Emma followed, both in matching dark blue robes.

All of the adults laughed when Hermione appeared at the top of the staircase. Harry and Hermione had spotted each other simultaneously and had frozen in shock. Hermione was the first to move and she descended the stairs nervously. Just before she reached the last few steps, Harry reached up shyly, offering her his hand.   She accepted it with a smile and stepped down into the foyer.

With everyone present, they donned their concealment cloaks once again and portkeyed to the Leaky Cauldron for the short walk to Starry Knights. The restaurant was unique in England. The ceilings were charmed to show a starry night sky and each table within the restaurant looked as though it floated over a rolling landscape on its own cloud. When the Maitre d’ escorted them to their private room and opened the door, Hermione gasped and paled. She had not yet overcome her fear of heights.

Harry removed her cloak and hung it next to his.   Then, he took her hand and forced her to meet his eyes. "Hermione, don’t look down. It’s just an illusion. There’s a solid floor. Concentrate on keeping your head level or look up at the stars," he said softly.

He stepped out onto nothingness while she stood in the doorway. He felt her hand tremble in his grasp, so he stepped back into the doorway and wrapped an arm around her waist. Then he tilted her head so she was looking at him again.

"Trust me, Hermione. I’ll hold onto you and steer you to your chair. You’ll be fine once you are at the table," he whispered to her encouragingly. She nodded and let him guide her to her chair.

The meal was excellent. Hermione was fully relaxed throughout the dinner, even before her parents allowed her some wine. Harry thought about having a glass as well, maybe even something stronger, but something his Occlumency tutor told him kept running through his head.

"Magic," Miles had said, "is powered by the mind. A very strong wizard or witch like yourself should avoid anything that would impair your thinking or judgment." Remembering that advice he stuck to Pumpkin juice and tea.

Remus arched an eyebrow at Harry when he turned down the alcohol. Harry shook his head, feeling as though he was turning down a Marauder tradition. "It’s the Occlumency, Remus…"

Remus nodded and stopped him with a sad smile. "No need to go further, cub. I’m sure Lily would approve."

Remus, like Sirius before him, was finally coming to realize that Harry wasn’t James, but a balance of both his parents and a tremendous sense of responsibility.

Later that evening back in Padfoot Manor, Hermione joined Harry for a cup of tea in one of the upstairs sitting rooms, before turning in. She sat on the couch while he stood, staring out the window. The only light in the room came from the flickering of the flames in the fireplace.

"What’s bothering you, Harry?" she asked gently.

"I’m not sure. I look out the window and sometimes I have to ask myself if the world I’m supposed to save is worth it."

Harry ran a hand through his hair, a sure sign of his tension. "Look at our world, Hermione. Everyone looks up to the great Albus Dumbledore, yet we know him to be a scheming, dangerous man, little better than Voldemort in his manipulations. Corrupt politicians, rampant racism, ethnic purging of ‘tainted’ creatures like Remus… Is it worth saving? I don’t know, and I wish someone could tell me. Sometimes… sometimes I wish I could take all my friends and run away to someplace safe."

Hermione stood and walked over to the window to stand with him. She placed a hand on his shoulder.   "I’m not sure what to tell you, Harry. I know you’ll be at risk if you face Voldemort, even with your additional power. I don’t want you to fight him. I’m selfish. I don’t want to lose you. It’s something you need to decide for yourself. But don’t let the actions of a few cause you to condemn everyone to death and misery. You’re so very strong Harry, and you have this ‘people saving’ thing. But you don’t want to face him until you’re ready and on your terms, not his," she said, looking up at him.

He smiled gently down at her and slid one arm around her waist.

The next morning, Hermione awoke to a horrible sound. It sounded as though someone was slowly feeding Crookshanks into a meat grinder. Crookshanks, however, was laying on the bottom of her bed, looking up at her, as annoyed by the sound as she was.

Throwing on her robe, she walked to the door of her bedroom and stuck her head out. She noted that her mother was also looking out her door. The sound seemed to be coming from Harry’s room.

Steeling her nerve and wondering what Harry had gotten himself into this time, she walked over to his door and opened it. She didn’t bother knocking, there was no way he could hear her over the screeching.

Harry sat on the floor holding a strange looking metal pipe in his hands and he seemed to be blowing through one end of it. She walked over to him and he looked up at her in surprise.

"Harry, it’s almost seven o’clock in the morning! What are you doing? And where did you get that thing from?" she asked in an annoyed tone.

"I’m sorry Hermione," he said. "It came a few days ago from Hagrid, but I forgot to open it until this morning. He sent it for my birthday. He said he was cleaning up some boxes for Mr. Filch when he found this. It belonged to Sirius and he thought I’d like to have it. It’s a flute of some kind, but Hagrid says it’s called an Irish Tinwhistle."

Hermione stared at him a moment. "Don’t move and don’t play that thing until I get back!"

With that, she dashed from the room. She returned a few minutes later, after having visited the Shelf of Requirement, and handed him a book.

"Read that before you blow through that thing again, Harry. Oh and two words. Silencing Charms. When you practice at seven A.M. use silencing charms," she snipped before walking out of the room and back to her bed for another hour or two of sleep.

Heathrow Airport, London…

Air France, flight 47, Paris to London to New York, set down at Heathrow for its hour layover while the aircraft was prepped for the overseas flight. Quite a few people used the flight as a quick means of getting from Paris to London and the Dursley’s were no exception.

Vernon, Petunia and Dudley stood in line with their luggage, passports in hand, waiting for their turn at the customs gate, when a man dressed in a customs uniform approached Vernon.

"Passport, please," the man said.

Vernon handed his passport to the man and tried to look important.

The customs agent looked it over, and then consulted a list on a clipboard. He shot Vernon a quick smile.

"I’ll be right back, Mister Dursley. Won’t be a moment."

The man walked to a door and quickly stepped in while Vernon, Petunia and Dudley shuffled forward in line. A moment later, the man returned with two other customs agents, one in a much more ornately decorated uniform.

"Mister Dursley, would you and your family follow me, please? It appears there is a discrepancy on your passport and we’d like to iron it out. Don’t worry about your luggage, one of my men will see to it."

Bewildered the Dursley’s followed the man back through the door. Inside they found a typical office. One man sat behind a desk, with several other people standing about the room, watching as the family entered.   A door to their right led deeper into the building and, glancing around, Vernon became annoyed.

"Vernon C. Dursley, of number 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey?" asked the man from behind the desk.

"Yes. Now see here, I’m a loyal subject of her Majesty! I have a right to know what’s going on." Vernon sputtered, finally losing his patience with these low-level government flunkies.

The man looked up, his expression cold. Vernon swallowed hard and fidgeted nervously. Obviously the man behind the desk wasn’t going to be intimidated.

"Mr. Dursley, Mrs. Dursley, I am Inspector Boffington from the NCS. You and your wife are under arrest for possession of counterfeit money with intent to launder. I suggest you cooperate fully. Right now, you’re looking at twenty-five year sentences.

"I should also warn you that we are investigating the disappearance of your nephew, whom we understand was ill while under your care," the man said coldly. Crimes against the state were bad enough, but crimes against children were the absolute worst, as far as the inspector was concerned.

Two other men in the room moved to put handcuffs on the Dursley’s.

More Plans in motion…

At the Ministry of Magic, a secretary placed a file in front of a Child Protective Services Magistrate.

Due to an ongoing criminal investigation involving this particular child, his or her name was magically obscured from the document. The Magistrate saw that the request for emancipation came originally from the child’s guardian, now deceased and that the child was currently under the protection of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. His eyes widened when he saw a personal note in the file from Minister Fudge himself, urging prompt cooperation to all department heads in dealing with the case.

He checked that the documents were properly filled out, going through each page thoroughly. Then, picking up the self inking stamp on his desk, he used it to mark the documents as approved before placing them in his outbox, where they shimmered briefly before disappearing, as they were magically filed away.

4 Privet Drive…

A policeman was still on the scene of the burned out building. He sat, trying not to doze in his car and drinking black coffee, trying to stay awake. Guarding a crime scene was, in his opinion, one of the most boring duties a policeman could draw.

When the wards around 4 Privet Drive came crashing down, the policeman, being a muggle, never noticed the light blue shimmer in the bright sunshine.

Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…

A lone figure walked slowly up the approach road from Hogsmeade. He was an old man, tall and thin and he carried a staff with a glowing gem embedded in the top. Hung from one shoulder was a leather carrying case. The cloak concealed his face, but his hands were withered and gnarled with age.

As he approached the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts, the massive doors swung open. If Minerva McGonagall seemed surprised to see the tall, cloaked visitor, she didn’t show it. She stepped up to him firmly.

"I am Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts. How may I assist you?" she asked in her usual stern tone.

"I bring a letter," the tall figure intoned in a hollow voice. With those simple words, he reached into his leather carrying case and removed one sealed envelope, handing it to her.

As he turned away, McGonagall tried to stop him. "Wait… Please, how can we contact your Brotherhood?"

The hooded figure turned back towards her for a moment. "If there is further need for communication, the Brotherhood will initiate it," he said coldly.

With that, he turned and walked back down the approach road, leaving a very frustrated Deputy Headmistress behind.

Minerva quickly looked at the letter. It was addressed to her.

She spun on her heel and moved as fast as she could back into the castle, heading for the Headmaster’s office.


Grimmauld Place…

Arabella Figg, Mrs. Weasley, Ron, Moody and Mundungus Fletcher sat at the kitchen table of Grimmauld Place. The Weasley’s had relocated to Grimmauld at the beginning of August so that Molly could better provide for the needs of Order members cycling in and out of the old building.

Arabella had been called off her watch duty on Privet Drive since Harry had gone missing. She and her cats had relocated to Grimmauld Place in order to help out the Order in the search for the boy.

They were sitting down for a noonday meal when all of the portraits in the building suddenly started screaming. Alarmed, Ron ran out to the foyer to look around. The front door slammed open and Ron found himself flying over the threshold. A few moments later Moody, Mundungus and his mum joined him. Arabella, it seems, was thrown out the back door.

As they picked themselves up painfully, they turned and were shocked to find the house snap into sight. Several second story windows banged open and twelve howling cats were ejected from the upper floors.

Gasping, they watched as first the Fidelis charm, then the wards, came crashing down one by one in a brilliant display of magical pyrotechnics. Ron charged back up the stairs to the front door, only to be thrown a good twenty feet into the street.

With a sudden tearing sound, the house started to shimmer like a heat mirage. The shimmering grew more violent and the house slowly faded from sight, leaving the Order members staring at a vacant lot.

"What the bloody hell was that all about?" shouted Ron.

His mother ignored him and turned to Moody. "We must contact Albus, immediately."


Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts…

Dumbledore sat going over some dispatches from Order members when Minerva interrupted him. An owl had just arrived with a new letter for him so he waved at her to take a seat.

"Albus, we just had a visitor from the Brotherhood. He stayed only long enough to deliver a letter addressed to me. I tried to find a way to communicate with them, but he brushed me off entirely," she said.

Dumbledore nodded and motioned for her to open the letter while he removed the letter from the owl.

She was surprised to discover the communication was from Harry Potter.

Dear Professor McGonagall,
I hope this letter finds you fully recovered from your ordeal at the end of last year, and I hope you are enjoying your holiday as much as I am. Enclosed you will find my course selections for my coming two years at Hogwarts. You will also find copies of additional OWL results, which I took recently, allowing me more course choices.

I regret that I will not be able to play Quidditch this year, even if my lifetime ban is lifted. I would appreciate if you could see fit to return to me the Firebolt that was confiscated by Delores Umbridge, however. It is one of the few things I have from my godfather and I treasure it, for sentimental reasons.

My course selections for this coming year are as follows:

(NEWT) Potions
(NEWT) Defense Against the Dark Arts
(NEWT) Transfiguration
(NEWT) Charms
(NEWT) Arithmancy
(NEWT) Ancient Runes

I look forward to seeing you again this coming September. Until such time, I hope you enjoy your holiday.
Harry James Potter

Scanning the extra papers, she could see that they were Ministry documents, showing Harry had achieved Outstandings in his Arithmancy and Ancient Runes OWL tests.

"It’s a letter from Harry Potter, Albus. He’s writing about his course selections for next term and he asks for us to locate his broom, which Umbridge had confiscated last year," she said, handing the note over to the Headmaster.

Dumbledore read quickly and gave it back to her, smiling. This was the first piece of good news he had heard all summer!

Looking over the letter from the owl he noted it was from Gringotts, Department of Property Management. Tearing it open, his smile vanished. Reading further, his expression grew stormy.


This notice of eviction is hereby given to the occupants of 12 Grimmauld Place. Since you hold no lease, verbal, written or magical, there is no course of appeal available to you. Said property is to be vacated forthwith of all persons and other entities.

The owner of the property does retain the right to contact you further to discuss payment for any damages that might have been incurred to the property during your occupancy. The owner will arrange for any belongings to be sent to a suitable storage facility for you to recover.
Ripgut, Properties Manager
Gringotts Wizarding Bank

Dumbledore moved back in his chair to stand when his floo erupted in green flame and Moody and Molly Weasley entered his office.

"Albus," Moody began, "we’ve been thrown out of headquarters and can’t get back in! The building ejected us, the wards went down, and then new ones came up."

Dumbledore slumped back in his chair. "It is as I feared, then," he said heavily, passing the eviction notice over to Moody.

The old man quickly read the notice, then passed it to Molly before facing Dumbledore again.

"How is this possible, Albus? What are we going to do? All our records, our agent reports, they’re all in there," Moody growled, concerned about the lost information.

"If Sirius did not leave a will, and I do not believe he did as I would have known about it, then his mother’s will must have gone into effect. She probably left the building to Narcissa Malfoy, as the last remaining Black family member. Moody, we must take steps to see our undercover agents are protected. I will call for an emergency general meeting this evening to discuss the matter…" he trailed off as alarm started shrieking in the office.

Looking surprised, Dumbledore stood and walked to a shelf where he kept his gadgets. One of them was spinning madly, making a shrill, hooting sound. He waved his wand over another device, which shot up a puff of black smoke. Shocked by the result, he staggered backwards until he hit his desk.

"Albus, what’s wrong?" asked Molly. She couldn’t remember ever seeing Dumbledore looking so ashen faced before.

"The blood wards on Privet Drive have fallen," he gasped.

"How is that possible?" asked Minerva, her face paling.

"There is only one way. Harry Potter has been declared an adult in both the muggle and Wizarding worlds. I think it’s time to send someone to see what’s happening at Privet Drive and find out why the Dursley’s have done this," Dumbledore replied.

Turning quickly, he addressed those in the room. "Minerva, please check on the Dursley’s. Molly, I’ll need your help getting a classroom ready for tonight’s meeting. Moody, get messages sent off to our people while I summon the others to a meeting here tonight."

Everyone jumped into action, leaving Dumbledore alone in his office.

Harry, he thought, what have you done? How did you manage this? And what role does the Brotherhood play in all this? They are the unknown and perhaps most dangerous element in all this...

Padfoot Manor…

Over the next few days, things progressed as normal. Tonks had sent in Hermione’s course selections for her via a regular post owl. Hermione continued to select books for Harry to read and he went through them at a tremendous speed. Harry’s list of learned spells was growing rapidly, and he was crafting some truly unique spells of his own

He surprised Hermione one day out by the pool.   Giving her an old hat and telling her to put it on, he then reached for an old Cleansweep 5 leaning against the table.   Pulling a ragged old hat from his back pocket, he told her to sit down.   Once she’d done so, he mounted the broom and placed his hat on his head.   With a wicked grin, he kicked off from the ground and shot upwards, quickly.   Over the roar of the wind in his ears, he heard Hermione scream.

Bringing the broom into a hover, he looked down to see Hermione clutching the arms of her chair and staring at him in horror.   Ripping the hat from his head and descending quickly to the ground, he dropped the broom and rushed to her side.

"Hermione!   Are you alright?" he asked, panicked.

"What was that?" she whispered.

"Um, well…I charmed the hats."   At her puzzled look, he grimaced.   "I should have warned you first, but I wanted it to be a surprise.   I know how much you hate to fly, so I charmed the hats to transfer what I saw and felt to you.   I thought that, if you could feel what it was like to fly without actually leaving the ground, it would help you get over your fear of it."

"And you didn’t warn me?" she asked, still ashen.

"I wanted it to be a surprise," he mumbled, watching her hands tremble as she took off the hat. "I guess it wasn’t such a great idea."

"It surprised me, I’ll give you that," she said with a shaky laugh.

Taking the hat from her, he removed the charm from both.   When he apologized for frightening her, she waved it off, but stared at the two hats on the table with mistrust.

The Occlumency lessons were going well for Harry, Hermione and Susan. Susan joined them three days a week for the lessons, then usually stayed at the Manor the rest of the day, enjoying the pool or training with them. In the beginning, there was an unspoken rivalry between Susan and Hermione, which left Harry confused and dazed, especially when they both hugged him for the silliest of reasons. Eventually, the two girls became fast friends. Susan seemed to think that Hermione had laid her claim and she didn’t intend to poach on that territory.

While the two girls learned regular Occlumency, Harry was taught two new techniques and he had started to practice Legilimency as well. That lead to a minor fight between Harry and Hermione as she wanted him to help her with her Occlumency in the evenings and Harry refused.

"I don’t see why you won’t help me with this, Harry. Miles said you’re one of the best Legilimency students he’s ever seen," she said one evening.    

"Hermione, you don’t understand. I know you’ve been learning Occlumency, but I won’t ever use Legilimency on you. Not now, not ever," he replied heatedly.

"Then why are you learning it if you refuse to use it?" she asked, throwing up her arms. She paced a few steps away from him. Remus and Tonks, as well as her parents, were sitting nearby, listening.

"I’m learning it," he said through gritted teeth, "so that I can understand it and avoid a repeat of last year!"

"But you would be able to help me, Harry. It would be so much easier," she pleaded.

Remus was about to say something when Tonks placed a hand on his arm, stopping him. He looked at her and she shook her head slightly.

"Hermione, you don’t understand. I’ll do anything to help you, but please, not this…"

Hermione paused and looked at Harry curiously. He wasn’t angry anymore but he was clearly upset about something. Walking to him, she stopped a foot away and looked up at him and saw the pain in his gaze.

"Alright, I won’t ask you to help me with this. But please help me understand why… Please?" she asked softly.

She led him over to a love seat and curled up next to him. He sat so long without speaking that she wasn’t sure he would say anything at all.

"Last year," he began suddenly, speaking softly, "just after Christmas when Snape was supposed to teach me Occlumency, he didn’t do it the way Miles does it, with meditation and exercises. Miles is a gentle teacher. He’s patient and careful. Snape simple shouts ‘Clear your mind’ and attacks with the full brunt of his Legilimency abilities.

"Every night I’d attend those sessions and make no progress. He never told me how to clear my mind. He just said I had to do it. And every night he’d dredge through my mind, looking up memories I had buried so deep I had forgotten them.

"You remember how I’d be after those ‘lessons’, Hermione, weak, shaky, what little mental defenses I had managed to build were destroyed every night by Snape. I think he was doing it on purpose to make Voldemort’s job easier.

"But that wasn’t the worst part of it. The worst part is the feeling of being violated. The Legilimencer can’t control which thought he brings to the fore, so he looks for them by group. Snape saw every memory that embarrassed me, every memory of being hurt, or betrayed. If I helped you and went looking for, say, a happy memory, I’d see them all, including ones that might embarrass you to know I’ve seen it. And as I see those memories, you relive them. You feel what you felt then, be it pain, or joy, shame, anger or fear. When I backed out of your mind, you’d feel violated, even from happy memories.

"It’s… it’s kind of a mental rape, Hermione. I won’t do that to you. Ever. So please don’t ask. You know I’ll help you anyway I can. But I will never willingly put you through that," he finished, staring into the fire.

Remus and Tonks both looked angry after listening to Harry. Hermione reached out and took his hand, squeezing it gently. "It’s alright, Harry. There are plenty of other things you can help me with."

Dan Granger exploded. "RAPE! Well, it’s the right word for it! How the hell Dumbledore allows that man to continue to teach at that school is a mystery to me. That man might be useful as a spy for the Order, but he’s a bloody rotten teacher with a cruel streak in him."

Remus nodded in agreement, "Snape does has a mean streak in him, but I didn’t think it was that bad. What he did to Harry was unforgivable. Almost as bad as the generations of student’s he’s ruined career choices for."

Harry stood, announcing he was going to go check on Hedwig. Hermione offered to join him, but he told her to stay and enjoy the time with her parents. He hadn’t spent much time with Hedwig of late. She watched his retreating back worriedly as he headed out of the room.

Up in the owlery, Hedwig flew to his shoulder in greeting and playfully nipped at his ear. Like most female Snowy Owls, Hedwig rarely hooted, although she would make doglike woofing sounds when greeting those she was fond of. There was a unique bond between Harry and Hedwig. Her intelligence seemed to far outstrip other owls.

During some of Harry’s darker days among the Dursley’s, the one shining beacon of light in his life was his Snowy Owl. She was the one creature on the planet that loved him unconditionally during those dark days.

He sat on the top step of the stairway talking gently to Hedwig and playing with her. And she, sensing her friends’ melancholy mood, sat on his shoulder, nudging him playfully until he broke into a smile. From a darkened corner further down the stairs, Hermione watched him for a few minutes more before creeping back down stairs.

Later that evening, Harry was sitting at the table in his bedroom when Hermione knocked at the door. He was in what he liked to call his pre-bed attire. Cut off jeans, a tight t-shirt and no shoes.

He smiled at her when she stepped into the room. Like him, she had taken to the habit of wearing more comfortable clothing before going to bed.

He waved her to a seat at the table. Something he had read had sparked an idea and he wanted to bounce it off her. The two were getting used to meeting like this for an hour or two before bedtime. They’d sit and talk about the day, or the things they had learned. Hermione was a little jealous of Harry’s newfound ability to absorb the contents of a book at such incredible speeds, but he made sure to lessen that by continuing to rely on her judgment and opinions. He knew she took pride in her intellect, and so did he for that matter. His boost seemed artificial, while hers was due to her own fierce determination to be the best she could be.

"Hermione, I ran across an interesting light ritual in a book of ancient rites yesterday. It’s been driving me barmy. It’s not something I think I should use for myself, but we might want to consider it for you," he said.

"What kind of ritual, Harry?"

"It’s a power boosting ritual. If it works, it would increase your power by half again."

She arched an eyebrow at him in question. "Why would I want that? Those rituals can be dangerous. If you make a single mistake you can end up dying, or worse."

He fidgeted nervously. "I know. All I’m suggesting at the moment is that you read the book and tell me what you think. I’m worried about you. We’re going back to Hogwarts, surrounded by people who aren’t one hundred percent friendly and, while I can do a lot to protect you, I can’t protect you all the time. You’re a powerful witch, but there are stronger people at school. Read the book, and then ask Remus for his opinion. You’d be surprised how smart he is."

Hermione took the book he offered her and nodded after thinking about it. She flipped it open and started to read, while Harry pulled a book from the pile on the table.. Neither of them really noticed when she reached out to hold his hand.

Emergency Order Meeting at Hogwarts, that same evening…

After seeing the number of people streaming into Hogwarts that evening, Dumbledore opted to move the meeting from a classroom they’d prepared to the Great Hall. He sat impassively as people continued to file into the hall and noted that some people, like Tonks, were missing.

At the appointed time, Dumbledore stood and a hush fell over the crowd. "Thank you all for coming on such short notice. We have several important reports that everyone needs to know about. First and foremost, it appears that, with the Ministry’s recognition of the death of Sirius Black, his mother’s will has gone into effect. As a result, we have been evicted from Grimmauld Place, leaving behind all our records and potions, as well as other equipment.

"While we do not know for sure who the new owner is, we suspect it was ceded to Narcissa Malfoy, which means the Malfoy family now controls our former headquarters." He paused for a few moments, allowing the whispers and nervous shifting to die out.

"According to Arabella Figg, 4 Privet Drive, Harry’s old home, has been completely destroyed by fire. Strangely enough, muggle authorities are now investigating the location. From what we know, muggle authorities are now holding the Dursley’s on serious charges. We have been unable to locate them.

"Also today, the blood wards that remained on Privet Drive collapsed. That can only mean one thing. Harry Potter has been emancipated in both the wizard and muggle worlds. How and why this has happened, we do not know. What this means is, if we find Harry, he must come willingly. Any attempt to take him and he will be within his legal rights to use magic to defend himself and press charges against you.

"I must stress caution here. Harry is now legally an adult, despite what we might think."

Dumbledore stopped to let the Order digest the information. He didn’t notice that in one corner of the room Bill, Fred and George were all grinning at each other.

"Headmaster, this is preposterous. Let’s just find the Potter brat and stun him," exclaimed Snape.

"Now Severus, we talked about this. If he’s truly under the protection and influence of the Brotherhood, and I firmly believe he is, we would end up with a major fight on our hands," replied Dumbledore.

"What reason would this Brotherhood have to protect the brat, Headmaster? Sure, Lupin was with them, but that’s not proof that he’s under their protection. No, find him and drag him back here. If necessary, snap his wand. But get him back if he’s that important. Once in Hogwarts, we can keep him locked up with little difficulty," sneered Snape.

"Today we received a letter from Harry. It was hand delivered to the castle by a member of the Brotherhood, Severus. His letter contained little information, other than wishing Professor McGonagall a nice holiday and his course selections for the coming years. It should please you to note that Harry will be attending your NEWT level potions class," the Headmaster said with a twinkle in his eye.

"Potter received an outstanding? IMPOSSIBLE! I will not permit it! I refuse to have that arrogant Gryffindor in my class!"

Minerva, sitting next to Snape, bristled at his comments. She might not have been happy with Harry’s behavior this summer, but his marks were a matter of record. The more she heard about Harry and what was being done, the less happy she was. She couldn’t quite shake the feeling that Dumbledore was treating Harry extremely harshly.

"Severus," Dumbledore said sharply, "he will attend your class and that is my final word on the subject. Harry Potter will be returning to Hogwarts this year and, once he returns, we can take steps to make sure he is adequately protected and under our influence from that point on."

Dumbledore looked over to Kingsley Shacklebolt. "I notice you’re alone tonight. Do you think it would help if we requested assistance from the Ministry in locating Harry?"

Kingsley scratched his bald head for a moment, "I suppose you could file a missing persons report. That might get some help on our side. And as to Tonks, she’s on assignment tonight, from what I understand. It’s part of that secret investigation they’re running. She’s been assigned to it full time. No one who isn’t involved in the investigation knows what it’s about."

"I will speak with Amelia tomorrow then about filing a missing persons report," replied Dumbledore.

"Now if there is no further business, let us all return to our homes…"

Padfoot Manor…

"Remus," Harry said, "I’ve been thinking about Grimmauld Place. Once Hermione and I head back to school, Dan and Emma need a safe place they can stay and it’s close to their surgery. The problem is Grimmauld is about as pleasant as a graveyard. Why don’t we start fixing it up? You and Tonks can stay there as well, while we’re in school."

Tonks eyed Harry, while Hermione started choking on her tea. Harry had told her about Tonks and Remus, but she’d never expected him to bring it up as breakfast conversation.

"Harry, why would I want to stay with Remus? Once you’re back in Hogwarts, I’ll be freed up," Tonks said archly.

Harry snickered before answering, "Tonks, not only have I seen you sneaking into Remus’s room, but when I’m doing my meditations, I can sense your presence there. I’m not a kid anymore, so don’t tell me you’re visiting him to play exploding snap," he said with a grin.

Remus blushed and tried to look away from Tonks while she stammered and her hair fluctuated wildly between blond and black. Dan leaned over to Emma, saying, "Someone is busted!"

"So what do you think, Remus? I’m sure that Emma here wouldn’t mind helping decorate the place. Dobby and Winky can do most of the work," Harry asked.

Hermione frowned at the names of the two house elves. Harry could see she was winding up for another house elf lecture when he cut her off at the pass. "Hermione, you and I both know they are paid employees, and magical as well. It’s not like they’ll be physically moving beds. They’ll levitate them. They get time off and they get paid, so they aren’t slaves."

Hermione huffed at him a few times before settling down. Everything Harry said about the two house elves was true.

Harry turned back to the Grangers. "Well, would you be interested in helping redecorate a place you’ll be able to stay in safely and still go to work? I imagine it won’t require much more than looking through catalogs and picking colors. Hermione and I will look into powering muggle technology so we have a TV, stereo, that sort of stuff."

Emma looked positively ecstatic over the idea. Dan, on the other hand, seemed more interested in the idea of running muggle technology with magic.

Later that same day Tonks was helping Harry, Hermione and Susan. She was teaching them the basics of apparation. Harry had already read the book on wizarding transportation and understood the theory behind apparation and other methods like Portkeys and the Floo network, but he had never purposely tried it before.

"Alright gang, I know you’ve all read the book, but let’s go over this again. There are two types of apparation, memory and coordinate apparation. Both are essentially the same, the big difference is memory apparation is easier because you’re apparating to a spot you already know. Coordinate is harder because you are going to a place you’ve never been. Don’t worry about the sound you make when you apparate for now. Everyone makes a loud noise in the beginning and it takes concentration and practice to reduce it.

"Now, I want everyone to think carefully about the pool in the back. Picture it firmly in your mind. Try to remember every detail. When you’re ready, picture yourself in that location and make the jump."

Tonks watched the three teens close their eyes. Susan seemed to be struggling with it. Hermione shimmered for a moment and then solidified again. As a first attempt, it was wonderful. Although she had failed to apparate, the attempt nearly worked.

Tonks turned to look at Harry. Harry?

"HARRY!" Tonks shouted and sprinted towards the back of the house with the two girls on her heels. Coming around the back, she skidded to a halt when she saw Harry climbing out of the pool. Then she doubled over, laughing.

Scowling at her, he cast a drying charm on himself.

"Harry, when I said picture the pool, I figured you’d picture yourself on one side or the other, not in the pool!" she said, as her knees buckled and she fell to the ground trying to control her laughter.

The girls weren’t much better.   They leaned against each other, laughing merrily.

Harry grinned evilly at the three of them, and then conjured a large balloon filled with water. In a split second, he had apparated to a spot right next to Tonks and dropped the water balloon on her head, then apparated back to the poolside. There, he conjured two more water balloons. Susan shrieked and dove for cover, while Hermione whipped out her wand and sent a spray of water hurtling in his direction.

Laughing, Harry apparated out of the way of Hermione’s water spray, dousing her with a water balloon in the process. Then he nailed Susan with his last balloon before apparating back to the pool. Tonks hit Harry with a blast of wind from her wand, pushing him backwards into the pool again. Then she called for a timeout in the water war.

Dragging the two girls with her, they went to the poolside and waited for Harry to climb out again.

"Harry, I want to try something. Apparate to the front of the house, then come back please," said Tonks.

He nodded and vanished, only to reappear a moment later.

"That’s amazing. You make no noise at all! Even Dumbledore can’t do a soundless apparation!" she exclaimed.

"Hermione, you nearly succeeded with your attempt. I bet you’ll be apparating in a few days with no problems. Susan, I’m afraid you’re going to be like me and take a bit longer. It took me nearly two weeks before I could do it. I’ll work with you now on some exercises. Harry you work with Hermione, since she’s nearly there."

By late afternoon Hermione was apparating around the house, although, to her annoyance, she made a rather large popping sound when she did. Susan had come close a few times, but still hadn’t achieved a successful apparition. Tonks promised she’d continue to work with her on it.

Azkaban Prison, a few days later…

It happened so swiftly that the human guard force was overwhelmed in minutes. One moment all was quiet on the island, and the next, over two hundred dementors attacked and kissed the thirty human guards.

Afterwards, it was a simple matter for Voldemort to send in a few of his Death Eaters by boat to release his followers. Once done, they offered the chance of escape to the remaining prisoners. A surprising number agreed to join Voldemort, rather than remain behind. All in all, some ten Death Eaters and nearly forty condemned prisoners escaped to join the Dark Lord’s ranks.

Padfoot Manor, Morning…

It was the sound of laughter that brought Harry down to the main dining room, Hermione close on his heels. Remus was literally rolling on the floor, laughing uncontrollably. Tonks was watching him, grinning widely. Dan and Emma sat looking at the two, completely perplexed by the sudden turn of events.

Spotting Harry, Tonks shoved a muggle newspaper at him. He started to scan it, Hermione reading over his shoulder. One small headline caught his eye.

Surrey Couple Charged in Counterfeit Laundering

A couple from Little Whinging, Surrey were charged today in her Majesty’s court with the crime of possession and laundering counterfeit money.

Vernon Dursley, age 40, and his wife, Petunia Dursley, age 39, pleaded not guilty despite the discovery of over 130,000 pounds of counterfeit money found in their home shortly after the home was destroyed in a fire.

Investigators from Scotland Yard are also looking into the mysterious disappearance of their fifteen-year-old nephew. Neighbors claim that, for years, the Dursley’s had told them that the boy attended St. Brutus’ School for Criminal Boys. The school has informed investigators that the boy is not listed as a student. In fact, a national record check shows that their nephew, Harry, has not attended any school…

Harry grinned. While it was poetic justice, he still didn’t understand why Remus was laughing so hard.

"I don’t understand… Remus, it’s good news in my book, although I don’t know why they are being charged. Wasn’t the money we gave them any good?" he asked.

Remus looked up at Harry from the floor and wiped the tears of mirth from his eyes. "Harry, don’t you see? Sirius pulled his last and greatest prank! When he was on the run he probably got his hands on a single one hundred pound note. Then he used magic to replicate it, one note at a time. The Dursley’s are being charged with counterfeiting because we never bothered to really look at the money. Every note we gave them had the same identical serial number!"

Harry’s lips twitched and he looked down. A single tear rolled down his cheek as he thought about his Godfather again and his last prank. Hermione put an arm around his waist and smiled up at him. He wiped away the tear and smiled back. Sirius was gone, but he’d never be forgotten.

Later that evening, Harry and Hermione were once again in his bedroom, reading. Dobby had returned from Grimmauld Place and had just served them tea and biscuits. Harry was reading an ancient book on spell creation when he glanced up at Hermione. She was staring out the window instead of reading her book.

"Hermione, what’s wrong?" he asked her gently.

She shook her head slightly and refocused on him. "I guess I’m just worried, Harry. No, ‘worried’ is an understatement. For the first time in my life, I’m afraid to return to school. Ron’s going to try to slip me a potion and I don’t know who I can or can’t trust, other than you, Ginny and Neville. We go back in less than two weeks and suddenly school seems like it’s not that safe a place anymore…"

Harry looked at her carefully. He could see the fear in her eyes, and it forced him to make a decision. Standing, he went to the dresser and pulled out a small, gift wrapped package.

She watched him curiously as he approached her and held out the package. Harry now seemed to be the one worried.

"I got this for your birthday, Hermione, but I think it’s best you know about it now. I was going to give this to you on the Express, which is still early for your birthday…"

She grinned at him and carefully undid one end of the wrapping paper. Then she slid out a long velvet covered box. Opening it, she gasped, for within the box was a heavy gold bracelet with two charms, a book and a snitch, attached to it. She looked up at him in surprise.

"I had Tonks pick it up for me, Hermione. I then enchanted the bracelet with several spells. There’s a minor shield and minor healing charm, like a pepper up potion. Both need to be recharged after they’re used. There’s also a tracking charm that you can activate just by thinking the words, ‘Harry Help’. It will tell me that you’re in trouble and need me. I promise you, if you need help, I’ll be there as quickly as I can. The little book and snitch don’t do anything, except perhaps remind you of some of the good times we’ve had this summer…" he finished, feeling foolish with himself.

He looked at her, expecting some sort of reaction. Maybe anger for buying her an expensive gift, or annoyance because he’d mastered the difficult art of enchanting objects with spells.

She fumbled with the catch for moment when she put the bracelet on. She could feel the magic pulsing through the metal and it was a comfortable warm feeling for her. Once she had it secured, she looked up at him and her eyes were wet with tears. He blinked in surprise at her reaction, but before he could say anything she hurled herself at him.

She completely bowled him over and they both fell to the soft carpet. Not quite sure what to do, he did what come naturally when a man had a soft, comfortable woman lying on top of him. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly to him. A minute of comfortable silence led to the realization of their positions.

In an embarrassed rush, Hermione rolled away from him.   He stood up and helped her climb to her feet.

Both were blushing furiously and neither knew how to talk about what had just happened. Hermione grabbed her book and the box, and then dashed over to Harry. She gave him a quick hug and whispered, "Thank you," in his ear. Then, to his surprise, she kissed him lightly on the lips before running from the room.

Harry stood, his mind blank. It was another few minutes before the shock wore off and he climbed into bed.

His last thought of the evening was one echoed around the world by teenage boys everywhere. I’ll never understand girls!

Authors Notes:

How did Snape see Remus through the concealment cloak? As Ollivander said, the cloaks are nice, but cannot fool a keen mind.   Snape may be a bastard, but he’s not lacking intelligence (at least in most things!).   Remus was closest to him, and by the time Snape tried to see through the other cloaks, he had a few other things on his mind.

Mental Note: Don’t quote movie lines in the Author’s Notes anymore! Dumbledore’s Schwartz?   Nope, we’re NOT going there.   Bad mental image…baaadddd!

We know some of you aren’t thrilled with the ship, but let’s be fair, folks.   Several people who hate the Harry/Ginny ship read our other stories.   You can do the same, right?  We promise to make it as pain free as possible for you.

Why are Ron and the others so hateful, and why wasn’t it known before now?   You’ll learn that later in the form of a back-story included in a coming chapter. However, we’d like to point out that Ron’s turned against Harry before, if you’ll remember.     As for Harry not knowing about the theft from his trust account?   Why would he?   He’s only visited and taken money from his Gringotts account twice (first and second year). For the past three years, someone else has made the trip to Diagon Alley for him.   He’s never been told where the money comes from, or how much he has.   We put a slight twist on it and made the vault he visited a trust account, not the Potter account.   Hope that clears it up for you.

For the many people asking about Dumbledore going "dark", I’d like to quote a reviewer, Princess-Fictoria — "…one does not have to be dark, read evil, to be and do wrong".   Thank you, Princess-Fictoria, for understanding what we are trying to do with Dumbledore!

How will we portray Draco?   Yes, it’s true we hate him, but we’re not going to tell you our plans for the little ferret.   Patience, dear readers! It will be a surprise. Perhaps we’ll enroll him into a Tibetan convent.

Charlie’s still in Romania and unaware of what’s going on at home.   That may or may not change.

Harry’s trust in Amelia at the meeting was kind of an interesting situation.   First, he trusted her because she brought Susan along.   She wouldn’t have done anything to him with her niece there.   Second, Harry’s come to the realization that he has to trust someone other than the people around him at Padfoot Manor.   He trusted Tonks because Remus did.   He trusts Amelia, at least marginally, because she’s Susan’s aunt, and he trusts Susan. Tonks trusts Amelia, and Harry’s learned to trust Tonks.   Time will tell if that trust has been misplaced.

Don’t worry about the Brotherhood comment.   As you can see from this chapter, it’s causing a bit of chaos for the Order.   I think we should all thank Dan for that, don’t you?

Professor Sprout wasn’t at the Head of House meeting.   She’s off collecting rare plants in Borneo. :D

Sirius is dead and we’re not bringing him back.   It’s difficult to do in an original, yet believable way, and we have too much going on in the story to throw that into the mix.   Sorry!

Dumbledore the Gray?   The next thing you know, we’ll have elves running around.   Oh, wait.   We DO have elves running around.   Hmmm. A few Hobbits, a Ringwrath or two and perhaps a cameo by Wormtongue?   No, no, we’re not going there.   This isn’t an HP crossover! Personally Dumbledore the Pink sounds nice to me.

Will I take a second husband?   Do I strike you as an insane person?   I have my hands full with the one I have, thank you very much.   It took me years to train him, but at least he now takes the dishes out of the sink BEFORE he pee’s in it!   (I think I’m going to be in trouble for that remark!) (Bob here, GRRRR Woman!)

Longhaired Harry being "cool"?   Long or shorthaired, Harry isn’t cool.   He’s awkward, shy, can be bad tempered (with reason, granted), solitary and often brooding.   Cool?   We think not.   He IS endearing though, isn’t he?   However, if it makes you feel any better, his hair won’t be THAT long.   He’s simply grown it out a bit so it doesn’t stick up in the back all the time.   The whole "ragged and unkempt" thing was getting a bit tiresome for us.   Besides, it’s a great way to annoy the hell out of the teachers of a stuffy school like Hogwarts :D (Bob again, Personally I thought he was cool with his sharpened toes from our disclaimer)

SeekerTLK:   Boo, hiss.   Bad pun, there :p

That’s it folks.   Sorry for the long AN, but we wanted to address your questions.   I’ll (Alyx) be editing the next chapter (it’s already written) as soon as I’m done typing this.   HBP comes out tomorrow and we know many of you will leave us to read it.   We hope it brings you a few hours of pleasure and you return to us when you’re through.

Pet Peeves:

This chapter’s pet peeves. Stories with author’s notes interspersed in the text. If you have to put an author’s note into the middle of your storytext to explain something, you’ve not done your job right. If you’re putting a note in to make a snide comment, then you must think your story is pretty boring.

~Bob and Alyx~

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